May 18, 2016

How Weighing Myself Daily Taught Me About Self-Acceptance

When I was ten years old, my grandfather began abusing me. Not long after the abuse began, food became my go to strategy for comfort. I remember even playing "sick" so I could stay home to avoid going to school where I felt so out of place. I would sit it in front of the TV and eat -- completely dissociating (of course, I didn't know that word then, but that's what I was doing).

As so many survivors of abuse do, I turned to food as a way to distract myself. Had beliefs that, "If I am just fat enough, he will stop touching me" or "This extra layer of me is what's being hurt, not the real me on the inside".

In my adult years, I felt like each day was a constant battle with food. Feeling guilty and wrong for eating one thing (ice cream), feeling like a winner if I ate another (salad). 

It didn't help that I ended up in an abusive marriage with a man hellbent on making me his "trophy" and so I had to look the part, and if I didn't was quickly called every body-shaming word in the book. This caused me to hugely rebel (never have liked being told what to do) and I gained 60 pounds.

When he and I divorced, the weight melted away and yet, I still struggled everyday -- absolutely uncomfortable in my own skin, worried about my weight, constantly monitoring what I was eating.

I'd make some progress and then throw it all away by eating everything in sight, often as a result of someone noticing or complimenting me on my slimmed down body. It was so jarring and triggering that I pretty much made a beeline for the ice cream aisle.

Despite any reassurance from my lovers that I was beautiful, I couldn't absorb it. I refused to believe it. In fact, all during this time of my life, the scale was my only real judge. If I hopped on and the number was down, I felt great. If I hopped on and the number was up, I felt like shit. And I got on that scale every day to determine how I should feel, to be validated (or invalidated).

Then one day it hit me, "I am hitting the reset button on my self-acceptance meter every damn time I step on that scale!"


I realized that I had fallen into a terrible trap of looking to external information for validation and acceptance (I did it with a scale, maybe you do it with people, money, career).

The question that came up for me then was, "How do I love and accept myself completely in each moment, regardless of the external things that will always change anyway?"

See, I didn't want to be on a rollercoaster of acceptance and un-acceptance! This is so painful and exhausting, because the weight is ever changing, the wrinkles and gray hairs staking their claim, the money comes and goes (and so do people). If loving ourselves is tied to such transitory things -- well, the outcome is a total and complete lack of self-love.

So, I had to learn how to have standards for myself (eating healthy, exercising, movement, taking care of myself) without tying it to my value or worth or self-acceptance.

This has been a long road to be sure, but one of the very first steps I took was to create an acceptance mantra (this is one my favorite things to teach clients these days). 

Here's an example:

"I am beautiful and deserve to be cherished." 

Notice how I don't say, "... if I am ______, or if I do _________, or if I achieve ____________."

As a result, I've come to see that self-acceptance is a declaration of value that stands, is unmovable, is absolutely independent of anything external.

So, if I eat ice cream everyday, I am beautiful and deserve to be cherished. If I eat ice cream once a week, I am beautiful and deserve to be cherished. Now, one might think, "Oh no Rachel! You must be eating ice cream all of the time now then!"

But actually, when I stopped tying what I eat to my value, food became about nourishment, community, and pleasure, and so I was able to give food it's proper place in my life!

What would be the benefit today for you of separating your value from meeting certain standards?






5 comments:

  1. Great post!! My abuse started at 4 and I went through a chubby stage that lots of kids go to around 8-10. Most of my teenage and adult life I was thin and extremely promiscuous. When I got married I put on weight, I have very good eating habits always have, but I think a part of me believes if I loose weight will go back to my old ways. Any Suggestions...

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  2. Hi Anonymous, thank you so much for sharing a bit of your story. My favorite person who offers support around these sorts of things is Toni Genovese, strongatthecore.com -- please reach out to her -- she's amazing!

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  3. This post struck home and I have read it more than once. My abuse by more than one perpetrator began around 5. I did not share my secret until about 4 years ago, after nearly 50 years of marriage. Needless to say, it caused a lot of grief in all aspects of my life and I continue to struggle with memories of it all. Thank you for what you do. HUGS! ~Kerry

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  4. Hi Kerry -- thanks so much for your comment and I totally get it! I'm so glad what I shared was helpful to you and happy to be here however I can as you continue your healing journey. Maybe check out my monthly support group! www.rachelgrantcoaching.com/asca

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