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Living in a fat-shelter

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Old 02-16-2010, 11:08 PM   #1
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Borrowing my daughter's term, because it fits. I've seen this alluded to in other threads, and I think it merits its own.

How many of us feel "safer" from unwanted male attention at higher weights? How many of us think that maybe, just maybe, this is the reason we keep ourselves *at* those higher weights?

I've told the story of the bus ride when I was an overweight teenager. (Looking back, not even all that overweight. I was around 190.) I got on the bus and saw that there were no other passengers but one man, and I had been taught to view all unknown men as potential rapists. I was nervous until a slim, attractive young Hollywood-caliber blonde got on the bus. Then I automatically thought, "OK, I'm safe now. If he goes after anybody, it will be her."

Of course, the truth is that anyone can be a victim of unwanted attention--male, female, fat, thin, young, old, attractive or not. But many of us have that media-made imagination telling us that only women who look a certain way attract interest, good or bad.

A family therapist told my mother, when I was a teenager, that I was heavy (here again, not all that much; I was at the weight that is now my goal) because I was "trying to destroy" myself, including sabotaging my health, shortening my life, and killing my own chances at popularity. Among the messages sent in that statement: Fat girls can't be popular. A lot of us believe that, and I'm wondering if it holds some of us back.
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Old 02-16-2010, 11:35 PM   #2
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So true, and I can safely say that I identify with everything you wrote. For me, my weight was a safety net and a scape goat. I used food (and the resulting weight) as a security blanket, protecting me from the world. And my weight was my scape goat, because anything wrong in my life would have been different if I wasn't so 'fat.' I hid my true-self under the weight, and kept eating to maintain my defenses and hide. Needless to say, I had extremely low self-esteem, virtually no confidence, and an endless supply of self-doubt/criticism. I disliked myself but was too scared to change.

A year ago I couldn’t even dream of myself in this healthier place (weighing 180 lbs seemed so unrealistic that I could not even imagine it). This past year I’ve undergone a huge transformation and began to work on my personal demons, but it’s only a beginning. The fears, doubts, shame, guilt, loathing, and all the negativity is still there (not as bad, but still lingering). I joke about how my inner skinny girl is trying to break-free from the chubs, but in reality, she is clinging as much as possible trying to stay protected and sheltered from the world. I’m very much committed to living my new healthy lifestyle and losing the weight, but I am very scared at the same time. Shedding those layers/protections has not been an easy journey (and I’m not even close to finished). Physically losing the weight itself has been relatively simple, I eat healthy and exercise more. But mentally losing my defenses has been indescribably difficult, and the scary part for me is that I’ve barely scratched the surface.

As the pounds keep come off I’m slowing shedding the ‘fat’ girl and that scares me more than anything. My ultimate (formerly thought unattainable) goal is to be back in a normal, healthy body weight. But being ‘normal’ or even ’skinny’ means that I’ll be losing my identity and that is freakin’ scary.
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Old 02-17-2010, 12:09 AM   #3
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As I mentioned in the other thread, it is VERY apparent to me that I use my weight as a shelter from the world. When I first got back above 250, I used to tell friends (Edit: okay, my ONLY friend)I wouldn't go out to a club with them because I was "too fat." Truth is, I didn't want to go out because every attempt I have made at meeting new friends in the last few years has been met with failure. The fat was just an excuse to not have to try anymore.

Honestly, I STILL don't know how to make friends, but I don't believe any longer that I will have to be skinny to figure it out. I am just hoping that maybe by the end of this year, I will have one, just ONE new friend.

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Old 02-17-2010, 12:15 AM   #4
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I do remember, on one occasion after I'd lost some weight, rolling over in bed. My arm brushed across my abdomen, and I didn't feel the same amount of "fat roll" that had been there previously.

It jarred me awake. I was actually scared! I guess I felt unprotected, and about the same time, I began having nightmares about being a turtle with a broken shell.
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Old 02-17-2010, 12:19 AM   #5
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I used my fat as an excuse for many things, and as a hiding place from unwanted male attention (I have some history that makes me uncomfortable with male attention, particularly of the unwanted variety, which most of it is, since I don't like men! But after that particular incident, I did gain about 60 more pounds...I was big before, but that definitely tipped me to REALLYBIG.

I also used it to explain lots of other issues - lack of job progress, laziness, poor housecleaning, other poor health habits.
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Old 02-17-2010, 12:26 AM   #6
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There's a certain kind of invisibility that comes with being fat that only another fat person can understand. Yeah, you may take up a lot of space physically but really, it's like you're not there/don't exist. For Starters, positive male attention is scarce. I mean yeah I've been hit on before but not by many guys and they were creepy. Even with the men you know, somehow you always end up being "the friend" not the girlfriend or the friend everyone turns to to vent about their relationship issues. After all, you don't have a relationship so the conversation will most definitely be about them.

Having to put on a facade of being happy, strong or worse nonchalant to shield your loved ones from the pain or discomfort you may feel about your weight really messes with your psyche. If I lost the weight, I would need to drop the act. I would need to be me and show more of my true emotions and not try to draw attention away or to myself. Will people like the real me? If I were thinner I wouldn't be able to use my fat as an excuse. My actions would be responsible for my outcomes not my appearance. Losing weight will mean I can no longer hide behind my 'fat walls'. I will no longer be able to use my weight as an excuse to not live my best life. That's not so easy, if you're used to living in a 'fat shelter'
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Old 02-17-2010, 12:27 AM   #7
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I love this title!

I think it COMPLETELY holds me back and I almost use it as an excuse to be completely sheltered. Not neccesarily from unwanted male attention but from any type of attention. I probably wasn't like this at first but I can definitely say that's the case now.

I'm beginning to HATE living in the shelter though but perhaps its because I'm just now admitting to myself that I live in one?

I used to be thin (of course I've always said "IM FAT") But really I was only about 150. Now at 235 I find myself relieved sometimes when I go out because I think "I don't have to worry about what I wear or what I look like or occasionally how I behave- because I'm fat. I don't need to worry about male attention"

But something else I've found myself doing that has started to drive me crazy is announcing that I'm fat to people when I first meet them. Like making a joke or mentioning it somehow. Anyone else do this!? It's almost like saying "Look I know I'm fat" to avoid uncomfortable situations for myself or criticism!? I have no idea why I do it!!!!
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Old 02-17-2010, 03:30 AM   #8
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oh absolutely- i just posted about it in another thread today. i started packing on the lbs to become invisible- and it's worked pretty well for me over the years. i used to get outright harassed by men- honking cars on the street, being hit on by adults when i was like ten or eleven... being sexually assaulted twice, one at age twelve. i do have a major fear I think of men...

not just that- but I am really really good at being the "funny fat girl" and how can i keep that facade up if i lose weight. there will be no excuses that i can make... no self-depreciating fat jokes... it's scary to think about losing my security blanket.
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Old 02-17-2010, 03:38 AM   #9
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Mandalinn touched on some of it, lizziep mentioned it, and I'll be as delicate as possible. I too have some history which makes me squeamish about unwanted male attention--and would explain my automatic nervousness on the bus.

I do wonder, though, why society (including ourselves) seems to assume that only the "attractive" girls will "attract" male attention of any kind.
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Old 02-17-2010, 03:43 AM   #10
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I used my weight as a shelter.

I was lucky enough to be popular in high school, but for that reason I'm not sure how or why. I was the same size, if not bigger, than a girl in my graduating class who got picked on for her weight and was an outcast, while no one ever made fun or me or ignored me. I think because of this I have a lot of issues. I still don't understand why I was lucky enough to be in the popular crowd and this other girl was friendless.

After graduating hs, I started to use my weight as a shelter. I started to have really negative thoughts about myself, and my self worth was minimal. I wouldn't (still to this day) be friends with people, unless they made a ridiculous effort to try and be my friend. I've gotten more and more attention since losing weight, but I'm not able to stop being reluctant to form relationships. I guess when you go for so long trying to hide and not be noticed it's hard when you get the opposite intention!
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Old 02-17-2010, 09:57 AM   #11
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Fat shelter... what an interesting term! I totally get what you mean. For years I have used my fat as a way to hide from everyone, including myself. I use it to keep from getting close to people and getting hurt... and use it as an excuse not to take chances and live my life. I'm afraid of failure... but even more afraid of success. (If that makes sense.) I tried to explain this to a skinny friend once and she just looked at me like I was crazy. LOL. It's like all my issues from my youth gave me serious trust issues. I can't stand the idea of being vulnerable to someone else. The idea of dating seriously freaks me out... just allowing myself to be out there and be exposed to someone else. Eek! And yet, at the same time I am starting to get to where I think it might be nice to let someone in.

I don't know. It is definately something I am still struggling with. Every ten pounds seems like a battle. I am excited to lose but at the same time losing that barrier I have put up scares the heck out of me.

...As far as the male attention, that does sort of baffle me. I never know what to say and it makes me very uncomfortable. I don't think it is just about weight though... I think I give off this 'stay the heck away from me' vibe in general to protect myself.

...It's a process...
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Old 02-17-2010, 10:18 AM   #12
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Does anyone else here use self-depreciating humor, especially fat jokes, as a pre-emptive? "Well, it's only a matter of time before someone puts me down, so I might as well throw the first punch." I started doing that in order to disarm my opponent. They couldn't very well hurl an insult at me after I've already said it myself; most of the sting in a clever put-down is in its originality. Beating them to it, I took the wind out of their sails.

But then I started being chastised for "not having a good opinion of myself." Well, you know what? It isn't necessarily *my* opinion of myself I'm expressing. Any time I put myself down, I'm only saying what other people have at one time or another said about me. And I disguise it as humor, just as they do. ("What's the matter, can't you take a joke?")

Furthermore, even if it were my own opinion, it's hard to have a good image of yourself in the first place, if the vast majority of the people in your acquaintance have constantly told you how unacceptable you are, for whatever reason.

When I have defended myself, that I'm not really so bad after all, that maybe the other person saying such things is being mean, I've been accused of "not being humble" or "not admitting my flaws." And then when I have agreed with the negative evaluations of me ("OK, you win, I'll just stamp the word Goodyear on my @$$ and dangle myself over the next major sporting event,") I am chastised for poor self-esteem. It sometimes feels I just can't get it right. Am I supposed to like myself, and be stuck-up, or dislike myself, and be self-pitying?

Hmmm, I had a connection to my OP when I started this. But I can't find it now. Maybe it's that being fat gives me a ready arsenal of put-down humor to use on myself before someone else does.
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Old 02-17-2010, 10:26 AM   #13
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I do not use my fat as a shelter at all, no. My problem is that I have no fear of potential rapists at all because who's going to rape me? And worse, I felt like that when I was tiny and young, which is scary.

No, I don't hide at all, but wish I could. And I think fat women get hit on too, just by very strange men. I had a man in a pick-up truck follow me nearly to work honking at me and making gestures from his car and that was at my highest weight just this past year. Weird creep.
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Old 02-17-2010, 10:48 AM   #14
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[quote=LovebirdsFlying;3156880]Does anyone else here use self-depreciating humor, especially fat jokes, as a pre-emptive? "Well, it's only a matter of time before someone puts me down, so I might as well throw the first punch." I started doing that in order to disarm my opponent. They couldn't very well hurl an insult at me after I've already said it myself; most of the sting in a clever put-down is in its originality. Beating them to it, I took the wind out of their sails.

YES!! This is exactly what I was trying to explain what I do. I hate that I do it though. It just automatically comes out even when I try to make a effort to stop this habit. I don't know how to change it and am afraid I may live like this even after losing the weight Does self esteem just come back when you drop the lbs?
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Old 02-17-2010, 10:55 AM   #15
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Like others here have implied, I'm a survivor of sexual assault - both child sexual abuse and a rape as a young adult. Sexual attention, sometimes even from my husband, makes me very uncomfortable. Fat is definitely armor for me.
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