Sunday, September 14, 2008

shame and fat

I had my first OB/GYN appointment for this pregnancy and I have a new doctor. My previous doctor does not deliver babies anymore and I am really disappointed with that. He is great and we have developed a rapport, somewhat aided by his great respect for English teachers. When he found out I used to teach writing, we had such a gratifyng conversation--sometimes I just like the people in my life to know that I did actually do something with my life other than birth babies. That I have an education, but that is just me and my insecurities about motherhood, etc. That's for another post some other time.

So I was really nervous about this appointment, mostly because it was a new doctor and I had to have an internal, which is second on my list of hated things I have to do for my health (going to the dentist actually wins out in this one. Way, way worse, in my opinion, even than a pap smear.) I also realized I was worried about the whole weight issue. Before I got pregnant I was about 30 pounds overweight. I have struggled with my weight for my whole adult life, and some of my teenaged years as well. I have gone up and down, but mostly, I have had at least an extra 25 pounds to lose.

As this was a new doctor, I didn't know if I would be lectured about my weight. I realized that what would be the worst for me about this lecture would be the shame I feel about being reminded that I have a weight problem. This realization was quite an epiphany for me. I had never realized that I feel really, truly ashamed about my weight. Ashamed. The more I thought about this, the more surprised I was. I don't mean to be melodramatic, but seriously, I feel like being overweight for me is something akin to having to wear a scarlet letter on my dress. This big, blazing reminder to everyone that I can't seem to ever say no to a bowl of ice cream.

Does anyone else feel this way? Embarrassed that they have issues with overeating? Embarrassed that they can't seem to exert control over themselves?

I had to seriously stop and lecture myself. I mean, yes, overeating is a bad habit with serious health consequences, but my gosh, it isn't as if I drink gallons of vodka while pregnant or have set up a meth lab in my house right next to my kids' rooms. It is just a weakness I happen to have, which I am working on, but which may always be something I struggle with.

And more than that, it isn't who I am. My weight is not me. It is just one small part of me, a bad habit, a weakness. How is it much different than the person who while thin, subsists on junk food and never exercises, or the person who struggles to quit smoking or drinking? I think for a long time, I have allowed this weakness to define who I am, forgetting that I am so much more than this weight. I have weaknesses, strengths, weird quirks and am a mother, friend, sister, daughter, teacher, a woman who happens to have a few pounds to lose, not a fat woman who happens to be a mom, teacher, etc.

I felt better after my little lecture and it turns out I love my new doctor. He did give me a short little lecture about my weight, but it didn't make me feel bad. He is hoping I will only gain about 15-20 pounds this pregnancy, which sounded totally doable. Until I got hungry. We'll see what we can do. I have resolved to continue exercising which Dr. C was so, so glad I was doing. But now when I exercise, it is actually to help with my emotions and depression, not to help me in weight gain. I have felt so much better when I exercise that I just have to do it if I want to stay sane with this pregnancy. When I exercise, I can actually get through the day without breaking down in tears three times, and without automatically assuming my life is about to fall apart. I have much better perspective when I take that time for myself and move.

So, I will try to watch the food intake. And I will try to remember what I have been learning recently about emotional eating, which is that we do it for a reason. And it works for a while, too, which is why it is so tempting and difficult to stop. Eating makes us feel better, if even for a moment. I recently regained about 20 pounds that I had lost and finally forgave myself for it. I realized after reading up on emotional eating that it was my way to deal with some enormous stress in my life (my parents' break-up, my mom's cancer, and the possibility that Danny had autism). For some reason, knowing why I did it, really made me feel better. It was not just lack of self-control; it was the way I had learned over the years to take care of myself (interestingly, I also learned that the percentage of children of alcoholics who become emotional overeaters is quite high).

I am trying to learn better ways to take care of my emotional needs, because as good as that mint brownie chocolate chip ice cream is, it doesn't really take away the boredom or stress or loneliness. It sure does taste good, though, and I am not ashamed to admit it.


Stonefox (otherwise known as Heidi) said...

You said so many great things in this post. Like our weight doesn't define who we are.

It is so tempting to look at things like our weight, or our failures or the undesirable things in our personality and be shaped by those things. But God has already defined who we are! We are loved, forgiven, bought with a price, and set apart.

I don't do it perfectly, but I try to focus on those definitions of who I am...and I find myself living out my high position!

Great post, Patty!

kia (good enough mama) said...

It's like you were in my house about two hours ago and heard what I said to Hubby, "I have so many aches and pains lately but I'm too embarrassed to go to the doctor about them because they're probably due to the fact that I'm a big, fat whale."

Ahem. I get it. Totally.

Amy Jane said...

It's so nice to hear you espousing a more positive perspective, Patty! You did say a lot of good, smart stuff in this post. Now, take it to heart and really believe it! I'm so glad you like your doctor - that is such a huge deal, even when you're not pregnant, but especially when you are!

mrsbear said...

Why is it so hard for us to get out of our own heads sometimes?

This was such a smart, thoughtful post. Weight is such a small part of who we are. I think a lot of women struggle with feelings like these.

I know I'm guilty of turning to a bowl of ice-cream for comfort on more than one occasion.

The Caked Crusader said...

It's sad that the toughest critic any of us have is usually ourself.

Don't be so hard on yourself. There are thousands of worse things in life that being a little overweight.

Elizabeth Channel said...

Well I'm excited for a healthy pregnancy!

And it sounds like your perspective on this weight thing is truly healthy. I'm also glad you like your doctor because that's so important. Sounds like your priorities are in order--very inspiring!

Anonymous said...

Sending cyber hugs your way. I know what you mean about just because you're thin doesn't mean you're healthy. I actually am thin but I haven't always been the greatest eater, and up until recently haven't exercised much. Those two things make me quite unhealthy, but I can pretend to be healthy because I'm thin. Who am I kidding though?

Your post is a great reminder how very little appearance matters.