Secrecy is the lifeblood of addiction. Whatever the substance is, any addiction gleefully cloaks itself in secrecy, then seals it in shame. For me, that shame became the impenetrable lock I refused to open for sixty years.
I was used to “discussions” of my weight being a lecture directed at me, filled with “should’s” and “need-to’s” along with the occasional “just stop eating so much.” Those talks were a misery for everyone. I endured them, huddled in a pool of shame and guilt, shut down and shut in. Why would I have ever considered talking about what my life as a fat person was like? I believed that would only add more fodder for the lecture to continue.
I felt completely disempowered. I think that’s important to understand. You can lecture me all day long about how to do heart surgery, but I am sure not going to don my scrubs and jump in on a case. I didn’t know how to lose weight and keep it off, so telling me to lose weight only made me feel like a failure.
I didn’t tell anyone about what it was like to be fat all my life. I didn’t talk about the taunting of other kids or the horror of seeing my body stuffed into a bathing suit. I didn’t talk about how I tried, each and every day, to control my appetite and my bingeing. I never mentioned how much I hated my body and I certainly never talked about those episodes of bingeing.
Make no mistake. I was a food addict and I had no idea how to help myself. So I held all these secrets inside of me and never talked about them with anyone—not even my husband Marc. For the first thirty-two years of our marriage, I wouldn’t even tell him what my weight was, let alone how I felt about it.
I realized that would have to change if I wanted to get my manuscript about my transformation published. I started the manuscript as a way of journaling my progress, and as a way to work through my emotional and spiritual fat-ness. I wanted to be candid—and I was.
I can’t tell you how nervous I was when I asked Marc to read it. He was going to see my heaviest weight spelled out on the first page. He was going to learn about the depth of my insecurities and shame. He, who loves me, yes—but who has never had to think about his own weight or what he eats.
I asked him what he thought after he finished reading. Was my writing style okay, did it have good flow, did it hold together well? I remember he didn’t look me in the eye, which I took as a bad sign.
“I am shocked,” he said. Just like that. My world dropped away a little bit.
“What do you mean?” I asked. He looked at me then, his eyes solemn.
“Margie, I had no idea you were going through all of this. In all our life together, I had no idea how—everything—your weight was to you. I just never really understood that it really is a disease. I mean, I knew it was logically, but I didn’t have any understanding of the pervasiveness of its impact.”
Understanding. Not disgust, not rejection. Understanding.
In that incredible moment, I realized the price we had both paid for my secrets. I decided there would be no more. So, shame was shouldered out of the way, by both of us, and after all those years, it became okay to talk about my struggles with obesity. No, that’s not right. It wasn’t just okay. It was healing and it created a new trust and intimacy in our marriage that was one of the most singular transformations in my weight loss and fitness journey.
So, if you struggle with obesity, I hope you have someone—a friend, a relative—someone in whom you will place your trust to tell them your story. To work through the pain of it. To learn how to heal, and how to come to peace.