This is the eighth part of a nine-part series chronicling Iris' 46-year battle with bulimia. To read the rest of the series, go here.
Years ago, "Glamour Magazine" did a three page body-image survey. The most striking finding of the survey was the universality of feeling too fat -- no matter what your actual weight was.
Married or single, employed or not -- at all ages, education and income levels -- a steady 75 percent of the respondents felt they were too fat.
That was me.
Feelings about the differences 10 fewer pounds will make to the quality of one's life leads to a pervasive feeling of dissatisfaction. "There isn't a day I don't wish I were thinner" is a typical comment.
Symptomatic with the near obsession with weight, when asked what would make a person happiest -- losing weight, hearing from an old friend, a date with a man you admire or success at work -- far more respondents checked losing weight (42 percent) then dating (21 percent), work success (22 percent) or hearing from an old friend (15 percent).
Over the years, the fashionable ideal, as portrayed by media stars, fashion models and beauty contest winners, has changed from the Lillian Russell/Marilyn Monroe standard, which was frankly female and curvaceous, to the Unisex Slim template. Miss Sweden of 1951 was 5'7" and weighed 151 pounds; in 1983, she was 5'9" and weighed just 109 pounds! Betty Cantrell, Miss America 2016, is 21-years-old, measuring 5'7" and looks to be as thin as my index finger.
The concern for fashion and the determination to try and attain an unrealistic body type have turned many women into chronic dieters.
That was me.
Do our genes determine the size of our jeans?
Different people can eat identical meals and some will gain more weight than others. Studies show that some people tend to store unneeded calories as fat; others lay them down as muscle. Studies published in the "New England Journal of Medicine" contain the strongest evidence to date that the genes a person inherits are the dominant factor determining whether that person is fat, lean or in-between.
That was me. (Genetically doomed. Thanks, Dad.)
Is Thin still In? Apparently. In April 1994, Rosie Daley, the personal chef responsible for helping Oprah Winfrey lose 72 pounds in just eight months, published a low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar cookbook. Oprah swears Rosie's recipes for such things as mock Caesar salad and un-fried French fries changed her life. (It certainly changed Rosie's!)
In The Kitchen With Rosie: Oprah's Favorite Recipes rang up sales of 1.4 million copies even BEFORE its official publication date. Barnes and Noble Bookstore Chain sold 20,000 copies in a single day. Book sellers scurried to keep it on the shelves and people everywhere were trying out the new recipes in their own kitchens nightly.
Alas, as Oprah has recently confided this year, the battle of her bulge continues and she has now bought into Weight Watchers. Her search for the perfect weight loss formula persists. And she's got a coterie of faithful followers trying to crack the code too.
Weight lost tends to creep back on.
A bite becomes a sliver. A sliver becomes a slice.
Time between Weigh-Ins lengthens.
Exercise is not quite so vigorous -- or often.
Non-fat leads to low fat leads to ice cream.
During therapy, I give a lot of thought to why I spent so many years stepping on and off the scale. Why did I count calories obsessively and critique my body flaws at every juncture? Why did I serially fixate on one restrictive diet after another? Why were my bookshelves oversaturated with weight-related how-to guides -- each one showcasing the "perfect" way to shed pounds? In all those years, I only bought one book on disordered eating and it remained unopened and hidden away under my bed. Why?
Not surprisingly, I stayed stuck. I was embarrassed to seek help as the bulimia continued unabated. I was ashamed. As a mature woman of a certain age, I should have known better.
Now I realize my incessant preoccupation with where the scale registered kept me from focusing on real life issues that called for thoughtful prodding. For example, I didn't come to terms with the fact that my reproductive life was over or that I never would have a daughter. Who had the time for those ruminations? I was too busy perusing magazines and websites for the newest diet craze/program.
I didn't have to grow into my self -- face my lack of confidence and my unfocused sense of my own essence. I didn't have to probe into why I felt unworthy. I didn't have to learn how to channel my anger into more appropriate behavior patterns. And I didn't have to tackle the field of conflict management. All I had to do was find the perfect diet program; then all would beautifully fall into place, as the pounds peeled off.
As the years passed, I slowly became more accepting of my weight, my body image and my natural physical build. I became more comfortable in my own skin. As I succeeded professionally in myriad endeavors -- sales, writing, broadcasting and speaking -- my skills grew along with my self-confidence. I learned how to manage and make positive use of my conflicting emotions, tolerate ambivalence, embrace the "not neat and not tidy." And as my children, one by one, left the nest, I realized I was a woman with valuable knowledge and life lessons to impart through my writing and motivational speaking.
The shortcomings I had possessed -- the shortcomings that long ago launched the binge/purge cycle -- no longer existed. They had morphed into strengths. I no longer needed the bingeing and purging as an outlet for the angst and the uncertainties of life. Over the years, I had become empowered, confident, secure and self-knowing. ED's power now lay in its habitual nature.
ED was now a bad habit I had outgrown and wanted to break. Forever.
Could I do it?
As always, I welcome your comments, your feedback, your thoughts.
If you want more information about my forthcoming book Tales of a Bulimic Baby Boomer, or to sign up for my weekly newsletter, visit www.irisruthpastor.com or follow me on Twitter @IrisRuthPastor.
I am also available to speak on a variety of topics and issues. Please visit my website www.irisruthpastor.com for additional information on my topics and past speaking venues. I can be reached at email@example.com
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