Food restriction in childhood can lead to weight issues (and others) in adulthood

sine nomine writes:

i’ve been in therapy most of my adult life because of Bad Things in my childhood. some of the Bad Things involved food restriction; the woman my father married a few years after my mom died was extremely controlling about everything, including food. we were only allowed to eat specifically what she said we could eat when she said we could eat it. she decided that we couldn’t have breakfast anymore because we didn’t need it. she did things like baking cookies and counting them every day to be sure no one had had an unauthorized cookie.

i left home after graduation on a national merit scholarship to baylor. i underestimated the amount of my student loan (i forgot about books) and so the second semester could only afford the “lunch five days a week” boarding plan. i flunked out because i was a complete mess and i spent most of the following summer living on very little money and so not eating much. when i married, i ended up buying way too much food we’d never eat because i needed to have it around, and i gained a lot of weight. i think part of it was that i could finally actually eat what i wanted when i wanted. when we divorced and i was incredibly poor, i lost weight because i didn’t have enough to eat.

a lot of my weight issues are related to the repeated episode of food deprivation. it’s something i acknowledge.

i was referred to my ex-therapist bill by a friend’s shrink. i did not realize until the first session that was considered himself a weight-loss coach as well as a counselor. when he mentioned that, i made it very clear that my weight was not part of why i was seeking help.he pushed, i resisted, we dropped the subject, although at least once i got very angry at him for pushing me about my weight.

fairly early on i was talking about this dialectic i have: i want to hide and to be noticed all at once. he said something about how it would be hard for me to hide, so obviously the desire to be seen was stronger. i was confused and he said that obviously because of my size, everyone was noticing me. i don’t remember exactly what he said but the implication was that i was so fat that people couldn’t help but notice and judge.

a few months later i realized that i’d been being really really self-conscious in public for a while. it was because before he said that, i hadn’t really thought about how other people perceived my size. i’d been naked in public before. after he said that, i started wondering which of the people i passed was thinking, “what a disgusting fat cow.”

that’s why i fired him. some day i will get up the nerve to email him and tell him why i stopped showing up.

Leave a comment


  1. Here’s something that helps me when I worry about others judging: If someone is looking at you and thinking “fat cow”, what does that say about them? If someone would look at you and judge you based entirely on your weight, then they are not really the sort of person whose opinion you should value.

    The fact is that you are a human being, and that makes you infinitely valuable, whatever your size. Certainly taking good care of yourself is important, but make sure you are actually *taking care of yourself*–for real–physical and mental–not trying to force yourself into the cultural definition of acceptable. And taking care of yourself includes accepting yourself.

    Who declared that those people should be the experts on YOUR body? They are just glancing at you across the sidewalk. They don’t know who you are. They don’t even know your name, much less what you enjoy doing or who you love or what your talents and interests are. They have no clue, and no basis for making any judgments at all. Their “authority” to judge you is as ludicrous as my cat’s authority on quantum physics. And while he’s a smart cat, he really isn’t a physicist.

  2. That’s horrible, Sine Nomine!

    Encouraging words: you’ve already done something brave, and stuck up for yourself, by breaking off the relationship with that noxious therapist. (I cannot get over how he apparently *gave you* anxieties about how people see you! That is some serious harm!!)

  3. jaed

     /  September 4, 2012

    Dear Therapists,

    Do not say things in therapy that will do predictable harm to your clients’ mental state. No, not even if you’re concerned – CONCERNED, I tell you! About their health!

    Love, Everybody


     /  September 13, 2012

    hi. I in many ways you. And here is an issue that I am struggling with but haven’t seen addressed too much on the fatblogosphere. What to do NOW with our children of large size? My son is markedly bigger than others in his grade… we encourage him to exercize which he does, and eat healthy, but try so hard not to drive him crazy like our folks did us.

    • I’d recommend looking at Ellyn Satter’s website and the feeding doctor’s website (you can google “feeding doctor” and find Dr. Rowell’s website). They both focus on teaching your kids healthy food and body habits, which it sounds like you’re on the path on already, so it may just be a reinforcement of the good habits you’re helping to establish.

      I was forced to diet from such a ridiculously young age and it had negatively effected my entire life. Bless you for choosing a different way.

  5. Jane

     /  October 3, 2012

    “I want to hide and be seen all at once”–astounding self-awareness! Imagine the good that therapist could have done, if he was willing to meet you halfway. So glad to hear you fired him.

  6. What a deplorable excuse for a therapist.
    I very much resonate with wanting to hide and be seen all at once. I’ve always wanted to be noticed–in a positive way–for my achievements. And yet at the same time, to be noticed makes me extremely uncomfortable.


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