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Julie Fanning LCSW

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women

My Rant on Being Fat!

I am fat.  I’ve been told this my whole life by both friends and society.  Sometimes I will look at a photo of myself from when I was young and will wonder why everyone thought I was so fat.   Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophesy but I am fat and that has been part of my identity as long as I can remember.  At times it has determined what risks I have been willing to take and what experiences I participated in.  I would blame it for relationship troubles or truly believe it was one of the reasons for general unhappiness at different times in my life.   As I’ve gotten older I am able to more often recognize that I am not just a fat person and my weight doesn’t determine my happiness.   Also – and this important for people to remember about themselves too – what I weigh does not determine my worthiness as a person.  I am going to repeat that.  Our weight does not determine our worth as a person.  The value I have as a human and my happiness are not dependent on numbers on a scale.   Each of us is worthy of love, happiness and kindness,  regardless of how much or how little we weigh or our physical appearance.

Right now I am doing the whole30 challenge.  I get accolades about how great it is that I am doing this.  If I lose weight, I will get praise for losing weight.  People will say “You look so good.” Or “It is so great you are hanging in there.”  I soak up any praise and it it is a motivator to keep eating healthy. However,  when it comes down to it, if I choose to live healthier, if I lose 40 pounds or if I end up gaining 40 pounds – it makes no difference in who I am.  I am a not better person if I weigh 40 pounds less.  I will not be less worthy if I gain 40 pounds more.

In my private practice both women and men come in and virtually with each and every person there will come a time where there is a discussion about weight and negative feelings surrounding it.  I have worked with so many teenage girls who have issues around their weight.  They tell me “My mom (or my grandma) told me I need to lose weight.”   These are teens who are active and within the norm of weight for their age and they will cry and ask why their parents can’t accept them if they don’t weigh the right amount.

Then I have adult women come in and tell me the same stories of family members and friends telling them they needed to lose weight.  They are told they will be all alone in life because they are fat or if they didn’t lose weight they would never find happiness.  Generally, these messages are well-intended.    You want the people you love to be happy.  Only, the feelings these messages induce don’t go away.   It sends a subtle implication that you are not quite good enough because of your weight.  You might not even notice you are saying these things to others or yourself because it is such a part of our culture.  It is difficult to step away from thoughts about weight because American society is filled with the messages everywhere telling us that thinner is better.

      Julie in first grade   "Too fat to have friends"
Julie in first grade
“Too fat to have friends”

When I started first grade there was a girl who told me she wished she could be my friend but she couldn’t because I was too fat to have friends.  I wasn’t even six years old.  Now, almost 40 years later I remember this and I know it became part of my identity.  I don’t remember the girl’s name or face but I remember the conversation.  Probably one of my brain’s first lessons on starting to believe “don’t be fat or you will be all alone.”     How much more will words about heaviness stay with someone when it is a family or friend saying them.  You might say “I worry about their health, I want them around for the grandkids” or a hundred other very valid reasons why someone would be better off losing weight.  You are just trying to help.  I would argue that if the person is an adult – they are very aware of how much they weigh.  It only amplifies the shame to be reminded that your fat bothers others and you are not quite good enough because you don’t lose it.   There are ways to be encouraging and supportive without adding to pain.  It is up to the person to decide how they want to tackle their weight.  People have very complicated relationships with food and weight.  You can be pithy and say “just don’t put it in your mouth” but there are often many factors at play.  It is not necessary for you to let someone know they need to lose weight.  Even disguising it with “I worry about you” is still saying “you are not good enough because of your weight.”

I’m not saying you shouldn’t help your children be active and maintain a healthy weight.   I would just say consider how you promote it with your children.  Eat healthy and be active yourself.  Don’t hold others to expectations you aren’t able to sustain.  Live by example.  Which also means recognize that each time you put yourself down for your weight or your eating or exercise habits you are teaching your children and others that your importance has something to do with your physical looks.  You are even reinforcing your own beliefs.  “See I’m not good enough because my body isn’t perfect.”  Stop yourself when you find yourself putting yourself down.  Stop comparing yourself to others.  I bet virtually everyone who reads this has thought at one time or another “at least I’m not as fat as that person.”  I have thought it.  Unfortunately it just reinforces the idea that if I weigh less I am better.  Being a little healthier than someone else does not give us the moral high ground.

Not making your weight be such a huge factor in your identity doesn’t mean someone can’t make changes and be healthier.  I want to live healthier.  I want to lose weight.  I want a better relationship with food.  These are reasons why I am doing the Whole30 challenge.  However, this is my journey.  If I don’t succeed I will be disappointed with myself but it doesn’t make me a failure at life.  Conversely, if I complete the challenge it won’t make me a better person.  Happiness, love, money and opportunity won’t just fall out of the sky to me because I shed a few pounds.  My life will still be my life.  If you are working on changing your weight do it for you and not because you think it will make others accept or love you more.

I want to note that it is OK to accept yourself at whatever weight you are.  You don’t owe anyone explanations on how much you weigh.  You are allowed to be happy and enjoy life and it is not dependent on your size.  You are worthy of love and joy and you will find the people who really matter don’t care how much you weigh.

I know as someone who is heavy that it is easy to forget to live life because you are waiting to lose weight.  Just don’t do that.  I am working hard at living the life I choose, embracing opportunities and not letting my weight stop me from living.  Whatever we are on the outside does not determine our happiness unless we let it.  I know that it is easier said than done, but my hope is that instead of focusing on our perceived shortcomings that we instead embrace life.  You are worthy because you are alive.   Instead of feeling shame over your weight focus on embracing experiences, loving those dear to you and being kind to all.

Julie- July 2015 Living Fully Pacific Ocean
Julie- July 2015
Living Fully
Pacific Ocean
With BFF Karen Campbell Embracing Life Accepting Me
With BFF
Karen Campbell
Embracing Life
Accepting Me

Busy Busy Busy

Busy, busy, busy.  You have a list of so many things you want to get done.  Cook healthy meals.  Take me time.  Get a promotion at your job.  Clean out your closet.  Go to yoga.  Take your kids to that show.  Figure out your life.  Find a significant other.  Paint the fence.  Paint a masterpiece.  Floss.   Go rock climbing. Saving your marriage.  Walk your dogs.  What is on your list?

The question is – “What are you prioritizing.”  You will always be busy.  There will always be work, responsibilities, carpooling, classes, responsibilities and duties.  Things you ‘have’ to do will always be there.   Is it possible that making time for the things that mean living and life are more important than cleaning your home?  Is it possible that prioritizing having happy, healthy family relationships is more important than making sure your child is in every activity possible?

Prioritize what is important to you.  Your priorities illustrate who you are.   Take a moment and review your priorities.  Are you putting your relationships, friends and family at the top.  (Keeping in mind quality not quantity.)  It takes time and work to keep nurture our relationships.   “I’m too busy, “is really just a convenient excuse for us to use.  You can always find to time to do what is important to you.  It is just figuring out what is really matters to you.

“It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?” ~Henry David Thoreau

Yes, I still have a ton of Doctor Who quotes to share.

Previous posts (and explanations) with Doctor Who Quotes:

http://wp.me/p2zuu5-6m

http://wp.me/p2zuu5-75

“A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.” – The Third Doctor, The Time Warrior

 

Making lists, checking off tasks, moving ahead – all good ways to reach your goals.  Just don’t forget that being better than and having more than is generally not the purpose of life.  It is ok to take a bit of a side trip.  Think of all the things you miss by strictly adhering to a schedule.  You might miss talking to the older couple at the gas station telling how they just hit their 60th anniversary and their secrets on keeping a marriage together.  Maybe you will miss seeing that gorgeous waterfall that is a bit off the beaten path.  Maybe you’ll miss hysterically laughing with your family as you somehow get lost in a parking garage when you swear you were just driving down a street.  Maybe you’ll miss a deeper connection with family and friends because you skip that 15 minutes of coffee in the morning with your significant other or you go and run errands rather than have a picnic with the kids.  Like many of you I want to move forward, meet my goals and live fully.  I just know the times I remember are not the times I completed my tasks in an orderly manner (get up, get ready, feed everybody, go to work, run errands, get dinner on the stove, network a half other, do a load of laundry, play on the internet, get ready for bed, go to sleep.)  The times I remember are the other times.  The times I jumped a bit off the scheduled path.  The days I remember are the days I say “let’s totally do this instead.”  I remember the days I said “well I was planning on doing this but I can be flexible.”  I know we all have responsibilities and duties in our lives but is that really it?

I believe life is not meant to be a series of tasks but interesting.  I want to enjoy interesting things, interesting places and interesting people.  Next time you feel yourself stressed out about sticking to your schedule – maybe ask yourself if you’d rather open yourself up for all sorts of interesting things to happen and give yourself permission to take a step out of your to do list.

I am going to admit that I’ve never seen the third doctor but that would be the beauty of the internet.  You can find anything!  Here is a clip with the Third Doctor.

Three Quarters of the Way

I’ve been thinking about friendships and relationships in general.  There is a fine line between letting someone walk all over you and accepting a person for who they are.  I believe I am basically a good friend.  I care about people, am loyal and can make a friend laugh.  However, there are times in the past when I’ve acted badly or hurt a friend.  There are times I’ve reached out to try to mend a friendship and it wasn’t well received.  There are other friends who hang in there all of the time (You know who you are (Karen and Kristin to name two) but other people don’t seem to want to be bothered.
Looking back on some of my friendships that I harmed, I can see that I just didn’t have the skills I needed to mend fences.  I wonder how much richer both my life and some other people’s lives could have been if they took my overtures as they were intended.  I might have learned the skills at that time of how to strengthen a relationship.
How often do you cut people out of your life?  Have you ever seen someone trying to make up with you but for whatever reason you don’t think it is enough.  Maybe you tell yourself that you’ll meet them halfway but they need to work at it.  What would happen if you met the other person three quarters of the way?  Maybe they don’t have the skills necessary to do what you need.  Maybe they really don’t know what to do.  What if you role modeled how to patch up a relationship.  It is normal for people to come and go in our lives but there is such a thing as continuity and having history with someone. 
I just think that if sometimes a person isn’t so rigid or unwilling to give a little more than they think they should, they might benefit from the richness of relationship.  If you are able to do go a bit farther for someone then maybe people will be able to do it for you.
People and relationships are not disposable.  They are often worth going that extra mile.

“If one does not wish bonds broken, one should make them elastic and

thereby strengthen them.” ~ Ardant du Picq

goddess quiz

I admit it.  When I have time or am procrastinating, I might take a personality or fun quiz or two.  On a board I watch someone put out a goddess quiz which is apparently based on the book “Goddess in Everywoman” by Jean Bolen.  Sometimes it may feel like none of the answer fits but if you just stick with it the explanations of the goddess are interesting.
What I like about a quiz like this one is that I believe it lets us look at ourselves a little differently.  Maybe consider what are our strengths and struggles.  I’m all about self reflection.
The highest answer when I took the quiz was Persephone by quite a bit.  She is someone who had quite the struggles in mythology.  Her mother is involved, Hades is involved, the underworld, mystery and violence all present.
However, she is also known for being a reminder that after winter spring comes.  Some places describe her as offering hope and renewal at the time we are in the most despair.  She helps us bring us back to light and helps us transform to new.
As a therapist one of my greatest wishes and hopefully skill is to help you keep hope that change is possible and help you see that darkness isn’t all there is.  I wish that you could all remember that hope isn’t a horrible word and that even your darkest moments will pass.

Informed Woman Month

April is Informed Woman Month.  I have no idea what it is all about but I am completely for woman being informed.  (When looking up information I saw several links about it also being National Car Month with a lot of encouragement for woman to learn some basics about maintaining their car.) 
Information and knowledge give us the ability to make good decisions, to develop insight and live a fuller life.  One of my favorite quotes which I’m sure I’ve mentioned on this blog before is “in the times of change, the learners will inherit the earth while the learned are prepared for a world that no longer exists.” (Eric Hoffler).
So get on out there and learn something.

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