Body Image Week: Using Food and Weight to Take Yourself 'Out of the Game'

Have you ever used your weight or food issues as an excuse to take yourself out of the game of life?

I’m on vacation this week in California—my sister’s getting married!—so I’ll be re-publishing a series of body image posts from the HealthyGirl.org archives. This one is by Morgan, my old research assistant, and originally ran in February of 2010.

I’ve been watching the Olympics this week, seeing all of the strong, brave athletes and thinking about all sorts of games. Using food and weight as a “distancer” and a way to take myself out of the game has been an idea I have gone back to multiple times in my recovery. When I say “game,” I am referring to a whole lot of things and you can insert your own personal concept of game, but really it’s living your life and letting yourself really have a shot at things without self-handicapping…A few examples: the social game, the relationship game, the employment game, the taking a risk game, the buying pretty new clothes game, and the list goes on and on.

Sometimes I think it is really easy to use food, weight and body hatred as a shield to take myself out of the game without even thinking about it. “Everyone at the party will just be staring at my thighs, so I may as well not go.” It’s a protective measure perhaps gone too far. In a way, it’s safe and easy, but it also causes a lot of pain and suffering as well.

Here’s a little example that isn’t my favorite to admit to, but I’m just going to share. In the past I think I have used food and weight to take myself out of the the relationship game and being close to someone. I let insecurities about myself and my body get in the way and start a really unfortunate situation. It was a terrible cycle that sort of went like this (very much abbreviated): “I don’t think I’m skinny enough for him to really like me like that. He always dates skinny girls. Why would he want to be with me?”…Then my insecurities about all of my own body stuff lead to me sort of pushing him away and not feeling like myself around him…Then things didn’t really go the way I wanted them to (how could they have?!)…Then I used my body as an excuse (“See, it’s true! I knew he wouldn’t actually like me!) and blamed my lack of self-esteem, and ultimately felt badly and then emotionally ate.

To further this extreme case, the emotional eating, overeating or bingeing then lead to more feeling uncomfortable in my body so then I didn’t even want to try any more or put myself out there. This then creates the irrational thought of, “No one likes me!” but really, I haven’t even given anyone the chance to–I took myself out of the game before it had hardly even begun! Thinking like this can perpetuate the self-image that I am not good enough and only further reinforces the negative feelings. It also completely disregards all the other (more important) parts of me like being smart, strong, kind, and funny that I should really be focusing on. It’s important to recognize and interrupt the cycle!

Fortunately this was quite a while ago and I have built up a lot more confidence and love for myself throughout my recovery, but it wasn’t always that way and sometimes I need to give myself a gentle reminder to not slip into habits of taking myself out of the game, whether it be with someone I want to be with, or applying for a job I want, or going to a challenging yoga class. Next time you hear yourself saying “Well, I can’t do blah blah blah, because of my body, or weight,” it’s sometimes worth checking in a little deeper about what’s really going on.

Can any of you relate to this? Have you ever taken yourself out of some sort of game? –Morgan

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6 Responses to Body Image Week: Using Food and Weight to Take Yourself 'Out of the Game'

  1. JAH says:

    I definitely sabotage myself like that…its a vicious cycle. You feel bad about yourself so you isolate yourself, then feel bad for letting people down and so you sit alone and eat and feel bad. (At least that’s what I tend to do.) I’m not always successful, but sometimes it helps me to repeat to myself a quote that I recently read “Get up, dress up and show up” no matter whether you feel like it or not (I think it was in a list about living life to the fullest). It encouraged me yesterday, so I hope it might help someone else!

  2. Nancy says:

    I didn’t realize there were other people who avoided social events because they felt their weight was unacceptable. I have done this my whole life. This last year, I lost a lot of weight that needed to come off, and I’m at a healthy size, but I am still not patting myself on the back because I don’t feel toned enough. Your post is helping me realize there’s something deeper happening here that’s not weight related.

  3. Hope says:

    Wow, thank you for verbalizing (or I guess typing) my thoughts in this article.
    I can definitely relate. I think that’s a large portion of why I’m struggling to recover. It’s like I think I don’t deserve to do anything fun because I hate my body, and because I don’t do anything fun I stay at home and eat my misery. Which obviously never ends up allowing me to do anything fun, having a life, etc.

  4. Carolyn says:

    Oh my goodness!!!! I think you just verbalised the one thing I’ve been struggling w/ all my life. I can’t even tell you how you’ve opened my mind to exactly what I’ve been thinking and fearing. I love your blog and I always appreciate your constant honesty; keep it up and thank you.

  5. Nina says:

    I completely relate to this – a lot of my eating disorder was about isolating myself from people. I would avoid social situations because I was either on a strict diet or in the middle of a binge and purge session. The disorder replaced all relationships and in some ways that was comforting to me – not having to face life.
    One of the biggest leaps of faith in my recovery was eating OUT with people and saying yes to social situations. Today I have been free of the eating disorder for several years and food is no longer my primary relationship. But I always have to watch for other things that I try to put in the way to sabotage relationships and isolate myself from the world.
    This is especially true around the holidays

  6. Chelsea says:

    It’s such a vicious cycle. I remember feeling I just can’t go out, I’m hugeeee! Then I’d be sad that I was at home, then I’d start to plan to binge ….. the cycle sucks. I’m glad I’m out of it. The medical consequences of having an eating disorder are huge, too, and I still suffer from some even though I’m recovered: http://www.carolinaeatingdisorders.com/medical_complications.php

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Sunny Sea Gold

About the Author

Sunny Sea Gold is a media-savvy advocate and commentator specializing in binge eating disorder, cultural obsessions around food and weight, and raising children who have a healthy body image.