A few years ago, when I was fat, I thought the only real issue in my life was that I couldn’t lose weight. And at the time, I used every excuse for why I was overweight: I had a bad metabolism, it ran in my family, I had hormone problems, etc. The truth was, I had a deeper issue at play: I wasn’t happy in my life or my marriage and I was numbing myself with food and alcohol. But I didn’t want anyone to know that! So, I pretended I was happy and didn’t tell anyone what was really going on in my life. I was skilled at not telling people my true feelings.
Now, why was I unhappy? I didn’t really know back then what was going on. I was so disconnected from myself that I barely knew what day it was. I was coasting through my life on autopilot and not caring about much of anything. And I was getting heavier and heavier. The wildest thing about it? As I put on more and more weight, none of my family or friends spoke to me about it. I had become, almost literally, the elephant in the room and no one said a word.
Actually, I noticed that the heavier I got, the more people in general would leave me alone or ignore me. When you’re very overweight and walk into a room, people typically don’t make an effort to talk to you. They stay away because they are uncomfortable about your weight and don’t know what to say. There was a part of me that liked that. I had close friends whom I cared about, but I kept most people at arm’s length. The weight was like a shield that was keeping me safe from so many other things that scared me in my life: true love, expressing myself, feeling emotions, going after what I really wanted, dealing with my past and truly connecting with people. When I was overweight, I didn’t have to deal with any of those fears. I could hide from them. And that’s exactly what I did. I used my weight to hide from the world and myself for years.
Being overweight was a result of other, deeper issues in my life.
When I first started working with my life coach, I didn’t know what to expect. I figured she would put me on a diet and we’d talk about food. I didn’t realize we were going to dive deep into my life and find out what was really going on. Remember, I was almost unaware of any issues beyond my physical weight, but she knew my weight was a symptom. My coach gave me a homework assignment to look at my life and write down any events that “haunted” me or bothered me from my past. I sat down and wrote a very LONG list of events. Here are a few of my hauntings.
Five of My Hauntings:
1) When I was six, I went off to play with an older boy in the neighborhood. At some point I didn’t want to go with him anymore, but I was afraid to say anything and went off with him anyway. I had nightmares about the abuse that happened that day for 30 years.
2) When I was eight, I wanted to speak at the dinner table with my family. Everyone was staring at me, waiting for me to talk. I froze. I was afraid to speak. Nothing came out. Everyone went back to eating dinner. I sat there silent for the rest of the meal.
3) When I was in high school, I had to recite a sonnet from Romeo and Juliet in front of the class. I froze and couldn’t speak. I ran out of the class upset.
4) In my twenties, there was a man I loved very much. We were talking on the phone and he said he wanted to be with me. I sat on the phone silent. I was so scared of love that I didn’t tell him how much I cared about him. The moment passed. We went our separate ways.
5) On my wedding day, I didn’t want to get married. I was afraid to tell my fiancé the truth. I married him anyway.
As my coach and I looked through my hauntings, we saw a pattern: they weren’t about my body or my weight. Actually, none of my hauntings addressed my weight, yet I had a weight problem my whole life. My real issue was that I was afraid to speak my true feelings to people. I never knew that until I worked with my coach and looked at my life in this way.
As a matter of fact, I was so good at not speaking that I made sure I surrounded myself with people who wouldn’t speak to me about my weight. I even used my weight to keep people away from speaking to me or making me have to speak to anyone about anything. I had a thick wall around me that kept me away and protected my fear.
As humans, we are very talented at hiding and protecting our issues. Most of us have particular issues and lessons we are repeating over and over again without even knowing it or seeing the pattern. While working with my coach, I was able to see my patterns and what I really needed to change about my life in order to be happy. Mainly, I had to learn to speak up. Through a very specific process, what the Handel Method® calls an unraveling, I went through every haunting to figure out the lesson I was supposed to learn from it. Through this process, I cleared up every mistake and unresolved issue I remembered from my entire life. Because of that, I got to break my pattern.
For so many years, I used to numb myself with food and alcohol when I didn’t want to deal with my life, or when I wanted to express something to someone and was afraid to speak, or when I was afraid of love or connecting with someone. Now, instead, it’s my policy to express myself and tell my truth. Actually, I put in a promise to make sure I speak up: if I need to say something to someone, but walk away without saying it, I have until the end of the day to find that person and tell them the truth. It’s a great promise for me. It keeps me from repeating my patterns because I’m being true to me rather than stuffing myself silent. It keeps me free and connected to everyone in my life. Now I know nobody can ever silence me. Now I know I’ll never let someone I love walk out of my life again without knowing how I feel. Now I’d rather be vulnerable and alive than safe and silent.