Changing the narrative, Part II

It happens this way …

I never know what’s going to resonant with readers when I post a blog. My original intent was to share whatever comes up in my life that may be of value to others. Because the personal is the universal, last week’s theme of changing the narrative proved that to be true.

One of the most personal, therefore universal, narratives that challenge many women deals with body image. Back in the ‘70s, I knew a talented, educated young woman who was beautiful – Sandra-Bullock-like beautiful. However, when she looked in the mirror, she saw “ugly.” That was what her brothers called her during childhood and that was the narrative she carried into adulthood. No argument to the contrary could change her mind.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman who was happy with the way she looks. Ask her about the childhood stories she was told about her body and you’ll discover those narratives still color her self-perception – detrimentally ­– today.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve chatted with a number of women friends – ok, five to be exact – about body image. One friend says she’d like to lose some weight so she can feel better, but childhood memories of being thin and sickly give her pause. Her narrative? Thin = sick. Who would want that?

A few remember how their mothers required they live up to high social standards in their attire because, of course, daughters are a reflection of their mothers. Self-conscious about how they appear in public, they still put unnecessary pressure on themselves to live up to those standards.

I grew up being taunted by my slender brothers and father for being overweight. I often left the table in tears and found myself sneaking food from the refrigerator when no one was home. Although I slimmed down when I was in the convent, I gradually gained more and more weight over the past 20 years. Last May 14, I weighed a whopping 200 lbs.

Maybe it was part of my adolescent rebellion still playing out, but I had settled on the narrative that I was fat and that’s the way it was going to be. For some reason, I was inspired to share concerns about the “elephant in the room” with my doctor during that May visit. She recommended I try phentermine, a pill that would reduce appetite. But, I said, I don’t eat because I’m hungry – I couldn’t remember the last time I felt hunger pains. I eat to allay stress or anxiety or to reward myself for something or another.

The upshot is I tried the pills. To date I have 13 of the 30 pills still sitting in a drawer and I have lost 40 pounds. The miracle for me is my narrative has changed. I love that I feel ten years younger and have more energy. I’m not on a diet – been there, done that dozens of times. For me, diet = deprivation = failure. With the initial jump-start of a pill I no longer need, I’ve transformed my eating habits and the pounds are still slowly slipping off 6 ½ months later.

I write about this experience knowing it’s a big risk. What if I fail again? What if I have to go back to the mall and upsize my clothes after spending so much time and effort and money downsizing?

Here’s hoping I can stick to the new narrative and I promise I’ll be honest with you if I don’t. Lessons will be learned no matter what!



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