Women who spend a large chunk of their lives weighing themselves, counting calories or carbs, and filtering much of their life experience through their body size or their weight could be using their preoccupation with food and their weight as a distraction from their real emotional life. Have you experienced women who are completely obsessed with diets or exercise? These women literally cannot focus on anything else? Their worry about body and eating -- often healthy eating -- can take up an incredible amount of mindshare. This obsessive use of food and eating often distracts them from other aspects of their lives that would be authentic and nourishing. A woman who thinks that her life will be perfect at a certain weight or dress size might be substituting the focus on their body and food for other issues in their lives.
I was working with a woman I'll call Laura, who talked about diets, what she ate, and exercising to the exclusion of anything else. She would admit she was obsessed with every morsel of food she put in her mouth, dieting, and exercise. But, she said it was "okay" because she "wasn't hurting anyone." Laura looked great, but, ironically, thought she "weighed too much" and was generally "too large." One time I asked her how her marriage was, because I thought this constant diet discussion must drive her husband nuts. She told me that she and her husband were not talking that much anyway. By the time she admitted this to me, both she and her husband were mentally out of the marriage. Neither of them had tried discussing their relationship problems or working on their marriage with the other, and they soon divorced. You never know what is going on inside another couple’s marriage, and, I’m sure the marriage collapsed for a number of reasons, but the valid point is: there is only so much room in your brain and time in your day. If you don’t focus on what is important to you, the people in your life, and what makes you happy -- due to an obsession with anything -- you are not serving yourself and the people you love well.
Filtering much of your life experience through the lens of your weight or body size
How much do you think of your body size or shape and how much you weigh?
Is it a constant background noise to your day?
How much do you notice other people’s weight or body size?
Do you click on the pictures of celebrities on the internet who have gained weight or lost weight before or after having a baby to see what their body looks like?
How much space and time does your body, what you are eating, and food in general take up in your life?
A woman who suffers from anorexia thinks about her body and what she eats for much of her waking day -- all day, every day. The 2006 HBO Documentary THIN by Laura Greenfield profiled 4 anorexic women in treatment, and showed us what “100% of the time” looks like. Alisa Williams was one of the four women profiled. She was an anorexic, single mother of 2 children who decided to join the Air Force because she thought "it would be an easier place to eat" with her disorder because of the regimented lifestyle. Her eating disorder loudly took up 100% of her mindshare and outweighed the needs of her family. She had to leave her kids to join the Air Force.
For an actress or model or someone whose living depends on her being a certain size, she may have 75% of her life experience filtered through her body and what she eats – her livelihood depends on her looking a certain way. Many women spend a good deal of their lives in the gray areas between these extremes, feeling like they need to look a certain way. Many women have their body and eating on their mind 25% to 75% of the time.
How loud a voice and how much space does your worry about eating and food take up in your mind?
Does this voice live in the front or back of your mind?
Does it change position during the day or in certain situations?
What do you think would be a healthy amount of space for concerns about your body, eating and food to take up in your own life?
Kerry Egan, On Living, 2015.
Jonathan Lear, Freud, Chapter One: Interpreting the Unconscious, 2015 (2nd edition).
Hilde Bruch, Golden Cage: The Enigma of Anorexia Nervosa, 2001 (2nd edition).
Hilde Bruch, Eating Disorders: Obesity, Anorexia Nervosa, and the Person Within,1973.
Thin, an HBO documentary by Lauren Greenfield, 2006.
"You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do." --Eleanor Roosevelt