I have spent most of my life believing that fat was my enemy. Because I was fat, I was unhappy, lonely, afraid, ugly, undesirable and the list goes on and on. So in July of 2002 I decided I had enough. I weighed 270 pounds. I was unable to walk up the stairs from the subway without sweating and breathing so hard that I needed 5 minutes to catch my breath at the top of the stairs. At the time, depression and loneliness were my closest friends, even though I was married and had a 7 month old baby. I decided that, as usual, fat was the culprit and the only way I would be happy was if I got rid of it. Now this wasn’t a new decision for me. Fat had always been the enemy and the believed cause of all pain in my life. The difference lay in the method of removal. No more diets that didn’t work, no more pills that caused heart failure and definitely no more acceptance of my body as it was. This was war and I was ready to fight! Fat was out. Thin was in. So I jumped on the bandwagon and convinced everyone around me that the last option was here. My key to happiness lay in a few snips of my belly.
In January 2003 I underwent laparoscopic roux-n-y gastric bypass surgery. What this means is that my wonderful surgeon and his team made 4 small incisions in my belly and using a camera went into my abdomen and cut my stomach into two. What used to be the size of a football now became the size of a golf ball. And the rest of the football is floating around my stomach not bothering anyone. The weight loss was immediate. I was unable to eat more than 2-3 bites all day. For the first month I lost 20 pounds and at the end of 18 months I was down to 155 pounds. I had lost 115 pounds and at first it was exciting. All the things I wanted, I believed I would now have; happiness, a better marriage, better relationship with my family. Little did I know fat has nothing to do with any of those things. The fat was not the problem. The problem was me. I had spent so much time blaming my weight for my unhappiness, I forgot that it was the unhappiness that caused the weight.
You might ask yourself, “why was she so unhappy?” Well let me tell you. I believed that I wasn’t allowed to be happy. I wasn’t allow to take up space in the world. It seemed to me that I needed to be quiet. I felt that if I spoke up no one would like what I had to say and therefore I wouldn’t be loved. So instead of speaking, I quieted myself by eating. Instead of sharing my thoughts, I ate them. It felt to me that I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion because I was too young and too inexperienced.
So even with the weight loss I continued to struggle with my eating. Yes my portions were smaller but the compulsive eating remained the same. I continued attempting to push down my true self to fit in. This followed me through, until recently when I realized that my voice can be heard. I do have something useful to say. I am no longer a little child. I am a grown adult and my thoughts and my ideas are worthy, as am I. It was in that space that I was able to notice my desire to eat when not hungry. Sometimes, when I am aware, I can stop the eating and feel the feelings and sensations rather than push them away.
Join us in exploring this topic further in the upcoming course “Happiness Now, No Diet Needed”. Check out the course schedule for further details.
Rabbi Esther Azar