Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nothing to Fear?

For some people, extra weight is something that crept up along with age and prosperity. They were always normal weight in their youth, never really thought much about eating or diets, and then realized one day that they'd put on 15 - 30 pounds over a number of years. Perhaps the majority of people trying to lose weight fall into that category. For others, however, being overweight - no, being FAT - is as much a part of their identity as eye color. It's what they know; it's what they are. How easy is it to change one's identity?  If you live among people who already know you well, it's near impossible. It makes sense that the first time I was really successful in losing weight was when I went away to college. I dumped my childhood nickname ("Jody") and 35 pounds in the first six weeks of school. Interesting.

It's taken me many years to understand that I'm fearful of losing weight. I've even convinced myself that my body likes carrying extra weight, since it's so hard to make it come off no matter what I do, and incredibly easy to put back on. Sometimes when my efforts are paying off and I can feel myself getting lighter, I experience a strange discomfort. It almost ... hurts? At some level, being overweight has worked for me. Granted, it's a completely dysfunctional coping mechanism, but there it is. Knowing this, I embraced hypnosis as the answer to my weight problem. You've probably heard the saying, "It's not what you're eating; it's what's eating you." True enough. I knew I'd need to change my mind first, and not just about what to eat and when to exercise.

I've tried hypnosis twice now (I'm still doing it, actually). Both times it worked very well in the beginning. I lost about 18 pounds and then stalled - both times. The first time, I blamed the program. I thought it just wasn't effective enough, and then I tried another one which I liked much more, and still do! But it happened again - 18 pounds, and then ... nothing. Of course, in both cases I had regular life and it's exigencies getting in my way as always, but twice ... stalling at 18 pounds? There had to be a reason, and there is. Let me say first, though, that hypnosis is an excellent way to change one's eating habits and attitudes about weight. I think for "normal" dieters, it would work much faster. It is working for me, but it's taken eight months so far to cut through all this mental scar tissue I've built up over my lifetime. I gave up before. This time, I think I may have finally hacked a pathway through.

Anyway, the 18-pound thing: yes, there's something about that stage that trips me up. When I've lost about that much, I start to look and feel different. The waistband and "butt" of my jeans get all loose, and I love it! Yes, it's great! But it's almost like looking over a precipice. More accurately, I get that feeling you get in a roller-coaster car that is just about to reach the apex of its climb. You know this huge fall is coming any second and it's going to make you scream! After the first 20 pounds or so, the not-fat me starts to emerge. So?, you ask. Isn't that what you want? Of course it is. Isn't it?

I had a memorable experience during one of my hypnosis classes a couple years ago. We listened to a process called "Take off your fat suit." We were told to imagine a zipper under our chins, and pull it down, just like unzipping a toddler's snow suit. We envisioned the suit opening up and falling to the ground, and then stepping out of it. Then we were asked to pick it up, put it in a chair, and talk to it. We had to tell it that we didn't need it anymore; we were ready to take it off. And then something happened that I'll never forget: the hypnotist told us to thank it. Thank it - for trying to help us and protect us. With those words, tears spilled out of my eyes (and I am not much of a crier). I couldn't believe how sad and touched I was by that thought. At that moment I was so overwhelmed with sadness and shame. Why? Because that fat suit was only trying to protect me and keep me company - to love me when everyone else rejected it (me). And now I was rejecting it too. Thank you for trying to help me, but it's time to let you go now.

Then, we were asked to think about what we'd like that suit to become, or what we'd like to do with it. For me, the suit rose up and burst into hundreds of sparkling stars, which then transformed into little black dresses. It was an incredibly uplifting moment. And then afterward in discussion, the therapist asked us all what had become of our suits. I happily told my story and everyone smiled compassionately, saying "Awwww . . . !" Then a guy in the group, who was quite overweight and really sick of it, said, "I just picked mine up and stuffed it right into the shredder!!" I gasped in horror, and then we all fell over laughing.


Stephanie Frieze said...

Very interesting insights, Irene. I was thin all my life until I had babies, put on weight with each one, got skinny again when I started back to school, put on more weight when I dropped out and then had another baby, then got skinny again and now I'm back in the fat land. What an itinerary. When I've been skinny the second time I felt fat. I felt like I was borrowing someone else body, but the screwy thing is I feel that way when I'm fat, too. Weird. I haven't cracked that nut. I'm just taking it a day at a time, abstaining from my drug of choice--carbs.

I like the bursting into stars over the chipper/shredder. I didn't like Fargo.

Irene said...

LOL - you're funny. I understand about feeling fat when you're not. That's a subject I'll be looking at more. There were times when I wasn't overweight, but I always saw myself as fat. What a pisser.