Shame

It’s My Body. Period.

It happened yet again. A lovely, bright, charismatic young woman came to see me the other day for counselling about her relationship to food and her body. For someone’s first session I always get her story, of course. This woman started off by recounting that her issues with her weight began at age 12. I made a note of this as a point I wanted to return to. Engrossed, she carried on. When her narrative reached its natural conclusion, I began my active engagement. My first question: “I’m curious. How old were you when you got your first period?” “Twelve,” she answered. I was not surprised.

 

I was 13 when I got my period. It was January of Grade 8. I had started Grade 8 at 98 pounds. By the time I Grade 8 had ended, I was 136 pounds. Quite a change. Wait, wait! I know what you are thinking. With puberty, you gain weight. That is absolutely true. Curves, padding, breasts. All good for pregnancy. But for me it was something more than that. For most of the women who come to see me it is something more than that too. And we hate ourselves for it. Which begs the question: What is so wrong with a woman’s body?

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My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Six of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

The keys to healing.

 

Put absolute faith in the intuitive eating principles. The beauty of this approach is that it is both physical and psychological. It is most effective when you engage on both fronts. You may start with some understanding of why you eat. But that begins to look very theoretical compared to the insights that emerge when you align your eating with your hunger. I have experienced people brought to tears during mindful eating meditations that I lead. Your normal eating is like a lid on a pot. You use it to keep things down. You can guess what lies underneath. But taking the lid off, if you have the courage to, is when you really see what is going on.

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My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Five of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

In my mid-twenties I came across the books Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach and When Food is Love by Geneen Roth. They were part of my discovery of feminism and the proposition ‘the personal is political.’ Through them I realized that I wasn’t alone in my struggles with my body, and they weren’t all my fault. I began to understand that the challenges people, especially women, have with food are substitutes or masks for other struggles that we don’t have the emotional space or safety in our lives to confront. We don’t have the social will in our culture to take on. Intellectually, I connected many dots within myself. Academically, I did a master’s degree on why women use food and their relationship to their bodies to have autonomy and give meaning to their lives. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, I am still finding my way.

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My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Four of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

Suddenly, my English mind and my French mouth came together effortlessly. I was able to speak to my young interviewer passionately and forcefully (although certainly not perfectly) about my convictions: that we women use fat for protection, dieting for control and distraction; that weighing ourselves on a scale belies our desire for social approval in spite of protests to the contrary; that our physical hunger is trustworthy and our spiritual hungers are important; that the reasons we eat when we’re not hungry (or we don’t eat when we are) are the jewels that can give us insight into the most precious parts of ourselves.

 

Our personal stories of pain are planted as seeds that take root in the fertile soil of a patriarchal, fat-phobic society. And the patriarchal, fat-shaming society creates personal stories of pain. So it goes. This version of patriarchal society limits women by equating our worth with our size, and then shames us when we dare to step out of that equation. Just look at gossip magazine images and their finger-pointing headlines. We get called out both for being too big and too small, too sexy and too plain, wearing clothes that cover too little and too much. It is a contradictory, confusing, confining and crazy-making world in which to have a female body. It creates the situation where we want to run for the cover of fat and the numbing power of food. Sometimes we eat just to get out of the line of fire. We rebel through fat; we conform through dieting. Either way, we sacrifice ourselves by sacrificing the wisdom of our hunger.

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My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Three of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

There in front of me, interviewing me, was this pretty, young Parisian student maybe in her twenties, blue eyes, long light wavy hair, with what society would call an ideal body. Someone with a breathtaking air of innocence, who if you saw on the street you might assume didn’t have a care in the world. Everything about her seemed perfect.

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brene brown photo showing I am Enough written on a woman's chest

I am enough.

How can something that feels so wrong actually be oh so right?
Why you shouldn’t always believe what you’re thinking.

 

Oh my God…what have I done? What was I thinking to share my ideas like that? Who am I to think I can be on a mission to spread the word about mindful eating? I am still working through eating issues myself. Who am I to think I can be a specialist in this?

This is exactly what was blaring through my head when I woke up Monday morning after two days at the amazing workshopping weekend “The Good One Hundred Experiment” for businesses and projects out of Edmonton that focus on the social and local good. Even though I loved the weekend, got amazing feedback on what I was doing with mindful eating, and met some truly fantastic people, my overall take away at that point was that I was a fool for sharing myself like I did. I was sure that the people there were thinking what a quaint little project I had but was truly out of my league, or what I loser I was for talking so openly about something that is better seen as a private and shameful issue that only belongs to weak and undeserving people. (Underscore the word shameful–more to come.) When I was thirteen and started to gain weight, I learned pretty quickly that my ‘go to’ position on my weight gain was to give the world the impression that it did not matter to me…in spite of all the pain I was feeling inside. That way, people wouldn’t be able to use it against me. Now, here I was some thirty years later telling a room full of participants that it was my issue, and it meant the world to me. I felt naked.

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