Weight Loss & Self Abuse: It’s Got to Stop

Ten years ago, I truly believed that happiness lay at the other end of the scale. I thought that so much of what made me unhappy in life would be fixed by changing numbers: the one on the scale, the one on the tag of my pants. And, for eight years now, my life has been consumed by numbers: Points, PointsPlus, calories, carbs, sugar, protein, fiber, fat.

My brain is full of numbers. I can tell you there are 73 calories in an egg, that 100 calories usually equates to roughly 3 Points on the old Weight Watchers plan, that a typical serving of fries at a restaurant is about 400 calories. I’ve had so many numeric goals: 100 carbs or less; 1,500 calories..1,200..1,000…800 calories a day; 200, 180, 150, 145, 135, 125, 120, 115 pounds on the scale. As you may have guessed, some of these goals were not healthy; some of these goals were not even safe. I didn’t care. I cared about numbers: I cared about making the numbers smaller and smaller and smaller.

Then, I had a daughter, and she was more important than the numbers. And, for a time, I thought that was it: I was fixed. My relationship with food, with the numbers, it was all OK now. Pregnancy had taken me back from the brink of underweight, and as long as I didn’t get back there, then what I was doing was healthy. I could let go of the shame of knowing that “After picture” was really just the outcome of an eating disorder.

But, over time, the numbers have crept in on me again. They’ve wrapped their claws around me. And, I look back now and see that all of those numbers have taken something away from me: I am less happy because of them.

Ten years ago, I thought weighing less would make me happier. But, now, I weigh less, and I don’t feel any happier. I don’t feel accomplished and content; I don’t feel any safer. All I feel is like I’m on the edge of losing all control of a bunch of numbers. And, that losing control of those numbers will bring destruction and failure and loss. I am afraid of the very numbers that I thought were making me better and happier.

So, you see, perhaps, why I have not written in this blog in a very long time. I have been too wrapped up in the numbers — in making them smaller (even while they have become HUGE in my mind), keeping them steady, trying to control them all the while knowing, deep down, that they are controlling me.

But, tonight, I am back. And, I’m here to say that I am going to be trying something new: I am going to try to break up with numbers. We’re in an abusive relationship, and the only way to end an abusive relationship is to cut it off.

To say I am scared would be an understatement: I have no idea what I am doing. I am terrified that I am going to regret this decision. I am terrified that all of this will be, in the end, just a bunch of words. I am afraid that I will ultimately go right back to my abusive relationship with numbers. I’m also carrying the fear of those numbers still — I am afraid of them changing, of them increasing. I’m scared of gaining weight. I am so so scared of gaining weight. And, I’m telling you this, because I just want to be honest. This blog is about honesty. Raw, open, unfiltered honesty. And, I’d like to use it again while I go through this breakup.

Now, I hesitate to share this next bit, because I don’t do endorsements or gimmicks or fads — ESPECIALLY here in this blog — and I do kind of fear that’s what this next thing I’m going to share might be. But, as I am committed to transparency, I will just blurt it out: I’ve decided to start this break-up by doing Whole30. There. I said it. Ugh. That was hard. I’ve no idea if it’ll be a good choice for me or not; I’m choosing to do it this way, because it feels right to me — it feels “safe” to me. I do want to say this though: if, at any point, any of you see this becoming some sort of act of restriction, please call me on it. Because, that is not what this is about, and if it goes that direction, I need to stop the program immediately.

Also, let me be clear, this is pretty much the only time I plan to mention this program’s name. I’d like to use this blog to talk about what this is really about: processing my breakup with numbers and working on my relationship with my body and food. Because, I’ve realized that not only am I in an abusive relationship with numbers, but I’m in an abusive relationship with my body. Only, in that relationship, I am the abuser.

I have both physically and emotionally abused my own self. And, right now, I’m not entirely sure why…or how to stop. I do know that my abusive relationship with with numbers feeds my abusive relationship with myself, so, it seems to me that cutting that off is step 1. I hope you’ll hang with me while I try to figure out steps 2 and beyond.


53 thoughts on “Weight Loss & Self Abuse: It’s Got to Stop

  1. I’ve missed you, your honesty, your openess. I am right here with you. So glad to see your post. Dont forget the pictures. Until next time, sending good thoughts your way.

  2. I’m so interested in your journey. I’ve also had an abusive relationship with numbers. I’ve had to stop weighing myself completely, trust my body to feel right. To exercise and eat so that I feel connected to my body.
    I’m not even close to goal weight, but everytime I would weigh myself and I’d lost, my eating was out of control for two or three days. Then I’d go into self loathing, panic and stop. It’s just a vicious cycle.

    • Ohhh man you’ve no idea what a sore spot “feeling connected to my body” is 🙂 but, you’re absolutely right that it’s pretty essential to being able to let go of all this. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thank you so much with this post. It is so honest and so real; you are not alone with what you are feeling, it’s just that not all of us are brave enough to share it…
    But we are doing this and I’m supporting you! It is not an easy road, but I’m sure we’ll get there: we’ll break the cycle and the relationship. We will build new roads and better, healthier relationships with numbers, food, those around us and of course, with ourselves.
    Good luck with everything! You have a supporter!

  4. Lisa–Your journey is so familiar to so many, me included. Some time ago, I started a weight loss diet and lost 42 lbs. That was a lot of hard work for me, but I did not keep it off. So I am back to once again working at getting it and a whole lot more off. While I was losing weight, someone gave me a book entitled, “Made To Crave” by Lysa Terkeurst. I don’t know what your belief in God is, but this book was a very big encouragement to me. It showed me that my hunger was misplaced. If you want some encouragement and help, consider getting this book, available just about anywhere. God bless you on your journey. Love yourself, and know that you are made in God’s image, and He loves you very much!!

  5. It’s so hard. I had to throw the scale away.
    My personal experience is that a whole 30 is too restrictive and it wakes up the voice of self destruction and criticism I’ve spent so much time quieting. My anxiety goes up. I become agitated.
    Tread carefully and listen to your own intuition.

    • Thank you! I feel like I hit that point – where my anxiety went up and I got agitated…and I seriously, seriously questioned if I should be doing this. My brain went to extremes… but, then, it wound up calming down. Now, I’m content doing this, but I’m also optimistic about sitting down with a nutritionist next week to work out where to go from here, because it won’t be this for forever.

  6. You might try to change the abusive relationship you have with your body by learning to be your own best friend. Think about what you would tell a dear friend in your same situation. Really think about what you would tell them. Then say it to yourself. You are worthy of love no matter the numbers!

  7. I’ve also recently given up on the numbers and also find it a bit scary. I try to visualize as an exercise, but I find that I’m aware of picturing my body by a number. So, I’ve tried to be okay with that. But I realized, perhaps like you did, that I’d been using numbers as a mask–sometimes I’d celebrate them (with food). Sometimes, I’d give up (with food). Sometimes, I’d think “Why bother?” (with food). And I realized that I was basing success and failure on that number. The truth is, I know what to eat to lose weight, and doing well with that is what I need to focus on–not the number on the scale, because as I’ve suggested, I allow that number to let me lie to myself. So, I’ll enjoy hearing about your wrestling with something new. To me, it’s not your food that interests me so much as you wrestling with it. We all know different things work for different people. So, thank you for sharing your journey with us.

    • “To me, it’s not your food that interests me so much as you wrestling with it. ” … this sounds like literally something my therapist would say, lol (I mean that in the BEST way possible). Thank you for this 🙂

  8. Thank you so much for this raw and honest post. I have been where you are and still struggle with it. About six years ago I lost a lot of weight (on WW PointsPlus) and got to the point where my doctor told me I was underweight. I have since regained about 20 pounds and my BMI is in the healthy range. However, I still struggle with feeling like the biggest person in the room (even though I’m not) and with thinking I need to lose “just a few more pounds.” I know intellectually that it was not healthy to be so thin but after an adult lifetime (I’m 54) of being obese, it is hard not to be seduced by the memories of how it felt to be able to wear a size 2 (and I’m almost 5’7″). Plus menopause has reared its ugly head and I’m battling the weight re-distribution that comes with it.

    I stopped weighing myself except for about once a month and that has helped. I have also changed my eating habits but this time with a focus on maintaining a good blood sugar and reducing cholesterol. I do not count calories, points, macros, etc. It feels freeing a lot of the time but the fear of regaining all the weight still lurks and I am still working to curb the voice in my head that tells me how fat I am, how worthless I am, etc. Reading your post makes me see how I am being abusive to myself and I really need to work harder on stopping that. If someone told me that a person said to them what I say to myself, I’d recognize the abuse in a second. Funny how when we talk to ourselves it’s so hard to see that.

    Good luck with your new plan. I look forward to following you on your journey. Like someone else said, I follow you not because of your weight loss but because of the way you struggle and process and ultimately have such great insights. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Sue. It sounds like you know exactly where I’m at. I told my therapist last week that I will ALWAYS be “overweight me” no matter what I look like on the outside. It’s just so much a core part of my being…

  9. So great to hear your voice again! The first post I read from you was the After myth” and it slayed me. A suggestion of a book that friend stands by is Intuitive Eating. Definitely does away with numbers and addresses us as whole humans. I wish you well in your next phase. I’m still on the quest of the happy “after picture” myself – but recognizing that peace and self-love and respect are more important in the interim.

  10. I have a similar relationship with food/numbers and can so relate to your post. Especially the raw terror of letting go of one of your crutches. Just wanted to send a quick word of encouragement and of appreciation for your willingness to share your journey, struggles and victories alike!

  11. I have been on your journey my whole life. Eventually I joined Overeaters Anonymous which actually helps change the focus from food to life. The obsession I had with numbers, with points, with calories and fat grams and fiber grams and “good” foods and “bad” foods and therefore whether I was “good” or “bad” was my FULL time job. There was not a single moment of my life that was overshadowed with food, my body size, and my feelings of worth about them at that moment.

    I’m grateful to see your new blog entry. I’ve thought about you often. Hope you and your baby are well (and your husband too!).

  12. Life is a work in progress. Each time we try , it is an opportunity for growth. We often put a put a name of fail or win to a task. I feel that is a mistake and sets us up to fail. Just enter and move through it as a learning experience. Glad you felt up to posting. My daughter deals with these issues and she bases her self worth on the way she looks and numbers, also recent first pregnancy. She is a good mother, so much more important then a number! If she could feel this instead of just being able to verbalize it , she could move in the direction of contentment.

    • It really starts hitting you when your own daughter starts saying things about being “pretty.” One of the daycare teachers must say something about making mine “pretty” whenever they braid her hair, because she’s started saying that I’m “making her pretty” whenever I pull her hair into a ponytail. I’m forever saying “You are ALWAYS pretty,” but, she’s 2, so she’s no idea what I’m saying…yet.

      • I realized belatedly how my obsessing about my weight was rubbing off on you. We were out back floating in the hot tub when you said “I’m fat”, which you were not. But you heard me saying the same thing about myself, and started saying it about yourself. I’m so sorry….love you…

      • @lklinela – Mom, I promise you that you have never once in my whole life made me question my appearance. I may have mimicked your words as a child, but I did not emotionally connect with them. Your house was always my safe house body image-wise. In fact, I’ve borrowed from you and your “you can always have an apple at any time of day” when it comes to my own parenting: I plan to have an “anytime snack” drawer in our fridge with apples & other fruits and veggies that Emma can eat at any time without asking permission so that she will always know that she never needs to go hungry.

  13. You are doing great, being honest is such a huge part of life, recovery and moving forward. I had gained a bit of weight from medication a few years back. I went from wearing a size to to needing a size 8. There was no way I was buying an 8!!! Waited till the meds were done and wore tights and skirts. I was completely obsessed with the numbers and not on my heath. I applaud you for recognizing the under-lying obsession and dealing with it. You’re a champ!!

  14. Beautifully honest post, I wish you all the luck in the world on the next step of your journey. If Whole 30 helps you that is great, but if it feels restrictive or frustrating, stop doing it and do not count it as a personal failing- all it would mean it that it isn’t right for you. Remember to be kind to yourself.

    • Thank you! I have actually thought about your comment a few times in the past few weeks: “if it feels restrictive, stop doing it, and do not count it as a personal failing.”

  15. Hey Lisa

    I’m not sure how you landed in my inbox but I’m glad you did. I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your honesty because there are so many women struggling with this and they need to know they aren’t the only ones. This is the work I do with my clients day in and day out. Learning to release their addiction to the numbers, the scale etc and truly accept, love and value their bodies. Things we love we take care of and you are correct in recognizing that the relationship you are having with yourself on a deep belief level is being reflected in your body and your struggles with food, your weight and attachment to what you’re making it all mean.

    Just keep going. Stay curious Ask yourself the big questions you’re afraid to ask and release attachment to the stories. You are the thinker of your thoughts and can change ANYTHING. Your circumstances don’t have to rule you. Your body is doing it’s best to work with you and NOT against you.

    Accepting where you are doesn’t mean you have to let go of wanting more, but it does allow you to feel peaceful with today and move forward with more love and compassion.

    Sending you virtual high fives and support.

    ~ Lisa >

  16. Pingback: Whole30 Did Not Make Me Whole | Can Anybody Hear Me?

  17. The first step is admitting you need to change, and wholeheartedly jumping into the deep end to fix what’s broken. You’ve got this, mama!

  18. Well done on making a positive step like this. It will have taken so much out of you, but well done! Truly, the first step is the hardest. The others will be hard as well, but not as hard as this one. I dare you to be proud of yourself for every step that you take. We tend to get lost in the goal that is always changing, and forget to celebrate the journey. In the end, the journey is really all that we ever had.

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