Some years ago I heard a speaker say that whatever situation you were in, if you weren’t changing it, you were getting something from it. If you’re not losing weight, you’re getting some sort of positive reinforcement for not losing. If you’re exercising too much, you’re getting something out of it. If you’re drinking, if you’re stuck in a bad relationship, if your house is a mess, WHATEVER, you’re getting something out of it. Because humans, she remarked, are not biologically hardwired to do things we get no benefit from.
I remember thinking that she was dead wrong. I remember walking off in a bit of a huff, thinking to myself, “I don’t get ANYTHING out of being overweight! It’s horrible! I’d change it in a heartbeat if I could! And I’d do it without being compulsive about it!”
But I think she was right.
See, after I stomped off (metaphorically, anyway), I really started thinking about it. Not in a positive way, mind you, but rather in an “I’ll prove HER wrong!” sort of way. So I started wracking my brain to come up with ways that I benefitted from staying right where I was. At first, I couldn’t think of anything. And then I started thinking of reasons why SOMEONE might benefit, but not me, no sir. And then some of those reasons, as they floated up to the surface of my brain, hit closer and closer to home.
Do you ever have those moments where you recognize something about yourself, or in yourself, that you haven’t wanted to see? Have you ever had a moment where a statement came out of your mouth or a thought flew through your brain, and you were straight-up HORRIFIED to realize that it was in there, buried in your psyche, but at the same time, you KNOW there’s a part of you that really feels that way? It was kind of like that.
If I don’t lose weight, I don’t have to deal with any of my other problems. I don’t have to deal with the day-to-day stresses of life, or the disappointments or the hurt. I don’t have to deal with any leftover issues from childhood or any leftover issues from adulthood. Because everything can be attributed to hating my body: I’d be happier if I were thinner, I’d be less stressed, more athletic (THAT’S a joke, right there), more liked, more loved, more perfect. And I know from this place in my head that if I were perfect physically, that my life would automatically be perfect, too. I’d never get hurt, get betrayed, feel depressed. I’d never be lonely or sad or angry again. I’d be the perfect person, with the perfect life, riding happy shiny unicorns into the end of the rainbow.
The irony of course, is that I’ve BEEN thin, so I know first-hand that no matter what my outsides look like, my insides are still the same. I’ll never be inherently athletic, I’ll still have bad days, I’ll get angry and sad and lonely sometimes (and sometimes a LOT of times). I KNOW all that. But the memory is a funny thing. Even though I remember being thin and unhappy (unhappy in a different, ED way maybe, but still unhappy), some part of my brain REFUSES to acknowledge it. That part of my brain believes with all its might that THIS time will be different, that last time shouldn’t be an indicator of the future, that THIS time I will be PERFECT, GODDAMMIT.
And as long as I don’t lose the weight, I don’t have to deal with the reality that I still won’t be perfect. As long as I don’t lose the weight, I can hang on to my fantasy. As long as I hang on to the bingeing, I’m safe in my self-hatred. I don’t have to change. I don’t have to do any self-examination. I don’t have to do ANY of that, because I can just believe that my only problem is the number on the scale (or on the measuring tape, or on the tag in my pants). It’s a convenient scapegoat, a brilliant dodge.
Not only that, but if I don’t lose the weight, I blend in. I can dodge male attention if I want to (no, I was never assaulted and my dad never touched me – I have no idea where that particular issue comes from), I can blend into the background, I can avoid calling attention to myself. I don’t have to answer any uncomfortable questions about How I Did It (TM), or listen to people tell me how much BETTER I look (which always makes me want to go cry in the bathroom) now that I’m So Much Thinner. I don’t have to deal with the women who either badger me relentlessly for my “secret” (which in the past was, “stop eating and exercise 2 hours a day” – big fucking secret there), nor do I have to deal with the jealous women who have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight making catty, backhanded compliments (that result in more bathroom crying – I’ve gotta work on that). I don’t have to listen to people tell me how Good I’m being in an effort to have me reassure them that they too, are Good (and of course, they always deny that – what kind of fucked-up games do we play in our heads??).
All of those scenarios call up all kinds of anxieties and painful emotions, and if I don’t lose weight, I don’t have to go there. I don’t have to learn how to deal with it. I can just hide from those emotions and not have to confront them.
That same speaker said that until you figure out what you’re getting from your situation or behavior, you can’t figure out if you REALLY want to change. You have to know what you’re giving up in order to make an informed decision, because otherwise the setbacks you encounter will just unhinge your progress altogether.
I really want to change. But when I drag all that shit out into the light, the waves just rise up against the black sky and crash down over me, sending me spinning under the water.
Guess I better learn to swim in the dark. (But I really, really hate the dark.)