Archive for the tag - sexual abuse

A Dark Secret Behind Weight Loss.

sad-alone-boyToday’s guest post is by Davey Wavey’s good friend and spiritual weight release coach, Diane Petrella. Diane is also one of the contributors to The Davey Wavey Weight Loss Program.

Were you sexually abused as a child or teen? Do you struggle to lose weight as an adult? If this applies to you, you’re not alone. Sexual abuse is a hidden secret behind weight loss difficulty for many people. While rarely discussed, without this information even the most well-intentioned weight loss advice falls short. But once you understand the deep connection between sexual abuse and carrying extra weight, you’re no longer held back by experiences from your past. Releasing weight can begin to feel more manageable and feeling confident about your body becomes possible.

Studies show that one in four women and one in six men have experienced some form of sexual molestation before the age of eighteen. Depending on the level of the trauma experienced, it’s not unusual for a child victim to later struggle with addictions, poor body image, eating disorders and obesity.

Barbara’s Story

Obese most of her life, Barbara worked with a dietician to help her lose weight for good. She learned about eating healthfully and mindfully, began an exercise program, and took steps to improve her lifestyle. Whenever she made progress, however, her motivation waned. Rather than feel excited about weighing less, she felt a vague discomfort. Anxiety set in. She felt vulnerable and used food to cope. Realizing emotional issues blocked her client’s progress, Barbara’s dietician referred her for counseling.

In our first session, I learned that Barbara’s grandfather sexually abused her for years during her childhood and adolescence. Her weight gain, as well as turning to food when depressed and lonely, began during that time. It became clear that exercise and nutritional guidance alone were no match for the monstrous weight of underlying fear, anger, and shame that Barbara held deep inside.

A Confusing Paradox

Barbara wanted to be thinner but the frightened child inside her didn’t. While Barbara was afraid she’d never lose weight, her subconscious mind was afraid she would.

Let me explain. On a subconscious level excess weight offers emotional protection from unwanted sexual advances. For example, Barbara wanted a thinner body but felt safe in a large one. She often said, “When I get thinner, men notice me and you know what that means.” She associated being thin with being sexually vulnerable even though, on a conscious level, she desperately wanted to lose weight. Once Barbara understood how the sexual abuse trauma she experienced influenced her weight loss attempts, she felt liberated. She then embarked on a journey that not only helped her come to terms with what happened to her as a child, she began to love her body for the first time in her life.

The subconscious fear of unwanted sexual advances is but one aspect of how childhood sexual abuse creates obstacles to successful weight loss in adulthood. Other issues include compulsive overeating to cope with overwhelming feelings and memories, shame about being abused which exacerbates shame about being overweight, and feeling disconnected from one’s body.

Here are five strategies that helped Barbara begin her new path. Perhaps they will help you, too:

  1. Safety First: It’s essential that your home and work environments feel safe. Before embarking on your weight loss journey, seek help to resolve or leave any physically or emotionally abusive relationships. You can’t help your “inner child” feel safe if you’re not safe.
  2. Visualize Small Steps: As you release weight, subtle insecurities may develop, especially in summer months when wearing fewer clothes. Underlying fears about being thin may make it hard to even imagine yourself at your ideal weight. That’s OK. Use visualization to see yourself three to five pounds lighter, then three to five pounds lighter after that. Develop safety in your imagination first to help you feel safe in your body later.
  3. Take Yoga Classes: Because your body was the object of abuse, experiencing body image issues or feelings of disconnection from your body, is common. Yoga is a gentle and powerful way to help you feel more connected with your body. Over time, as you develop confidence with your body, underlying fears about releasing weight begin to lessen and distorted images about your body begin to improve.
  4. Nurture Your Soul: Trauma leaves behind so much internal chaos, that it’s often hard to trust your intuition. Spend time each day, even ten minutes, to do something calming that soothes and grounds you. Whether you listen to soft music, read inspirational articles, or write in a journal, create a daily habit of reflective “me” time to quiet your mind and nurture your soul. This helps you hear the whispers of your own authentic voice guiding you along your journey.
  5. Get Support: Don’t travel this road alone. Seek out support from a trusted friend or relative. Talk to a professional who can assist you in ways your friends cannot. To find a psychotherapist in your local area, use this therapist finder tool at Psychology Today.

It’s not easy to have a history of sexual abuse and be struggling with weight loss at the same time… but healing does happen. Other people, including Barbara, have overcome these issues and also reached their weight loss goals. With the right approach and support, you will, too.

I’m Afraid to be Thin.

Hi Davey,

I’m a long time Blog Buddy, having watched your videos and read your blog for about four years now.

I finished my workout the other day and saw the tiniest of contours starting to form around my abs and got so excited! But then kind of nervous… and I couldn’t pinpoint the source of that concern for the life of me. I thought you might be able to shed some light on why we get scared of physical progress.

From,
Anonymous

OvercomingFear222Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for asking this question.

Through the lens of fitness, let’s ask the question: What are you afraid of? Some obvious answers might boil up. I’m afraid of being fat. I’m afraid that I’ll fail at the gym and not get results. I’m afraid that I’ll never be able to successfully manage or control my weight.

But there is a much deeper fear for some people, and it’s one that your answer points toward.

In her book A Course in Weight Loss, Marianne Williamson says it perfectly:

Your deepest fear isn’t of being fat; your deepest fear is of being thin. Your deepest fear is of being beautiful.

It’s a powerful hypothesis – and, of course, it’s not true for everyone. But consider the example of sexual abuse. As Williamson notes:

The number of women whose excess weight can be almost directly traced to sexual abuse is significant. When I was beautiful, I was molested. Or, when I’m beautiful, I don’t know how to handle the sexual attention. Such thoughts run rampant through the minds of many who are overweight, men as well as women.

Diane Petrella, a spiritual weight release coach, notes that excess weight is a “sexually abused child’s solution to the fear of unwanted sexual advances. Wearing layers of flannel pajamas to delay the inevitable transformed into layers of protective fat in adulthood. Compulsive overeating was the only way to self-soothe when no one was available for support.”

To replace fear with love isn’t easy – and it’s not always something that you can do alone. Assuming that your environment is safe and secure, Petrella recommends confiding in a trusted friend or family member and giving yourself the gift of professional help.

It also takes time. Petrella continues:

Have patience and realize that this process isn’t just about releasing weight. It’s about releasing your fears and your pain. The longer it takes to release weight the more you can trust that an inner shift is happening… Your developing inner strength then becomes the foundation that will help you release weight with confidence and self-love.

Whether or not this advice resonates with your personal experience, it’s an important topic that’s rarely discussed – so I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given us to bring it into the light. For further exploration, I recommend this article on weight loss and sexual abuse and Marianne Williamson’s book, A Course in Weight Loss.

Love,Davey

Weight Loss and Sexual Abuse.

Today’s guest post is by Davey Wavey’s good friend and spiritual weight release coach, Diane Petrella. Diane is also one of the contributors to The Davey Wavey Weight Loss Program.

It is estimated that one in four girls and one in six boys will have experienced some form of sexual abuse by the age of eighteen. These exploitative behaviors range from exposure to more invasive forms of sexual assault. If you were sexually abused as a child, and have had difficulty releasing weight and keeping it off, you are not alone. Chances are your ongoing weight loss difficulties stem from your subconscious mind still wanting to protect that little girl, or that little boy, you once were.

I’ll call her Anna. She believes her weight gain started when she was in the fourth grade. That was the year she moved into her stepfather’s house and he began sexually abusing her. She remembers it was then because she loved the little purple flowers on the wall paper in her new bedroom. She methodically would count the purple petals hoping he would stop touching her by the time she reached one hundred. When I saw her in my office some thirty years later, she was depressed, overweight and didn’t realize her obesity had anything to do with being sexually abused. It was only when she realized her weight gain was her incredibly resourceful way of trying to protect herself that she understood. She then began to set herself free.”

On a subconscious level, gaining excess weight was the sexually abused child’s solution to the fear of unwanted sexual advances. Wearing layers of flannel pajamas to delay the inevitable transformed into layers of protective fat in adulthood. Compulsive overeating was the only way to self-soothe when no one was available for support.

Your attempts at losing weight may be fraught with repeated failures. Not because you lack willpower, but because on a deep level you are afraid. If this reflects your experience, here are three suggestions to help you release weight in a way that is emotionally safe and self-loving.

1.  Safety

Before beginning any weight loss plan, it is important that your current home environment is safe and secure. If you are in a difficult or abusive relationship, or in a strained family situation, deal with this first. Create for yourself an atmosphere of love and support. Before you can release excess weight, your inner child, and the adult that you are today, needs to be safe.

2.  Support

Make sure you have at least one trusted friend or family member that you can talk to about the sexual abuse you experienced. Let them know that this may emerge for you as you begin to release weight. Give yourself the gift of professional help. It is not unusual to feel anxious as you lose weight because you are letting go of something that on a deep level has served to emotionally protect you. It may feel very scary. A skilled therapist can help support you through this process and help you to manage overwhelming feelings that may emerge.

3.  Patience

Take your time. Have patience and realize that this process isn’t just about releasing weight. It’s about releasing your fears and your pain. The longer it takes to release weight the more you can trust that an inner shift is happening. You need that time to transform your thinking and your beliefs so you can develop an emotional readiness to release weight. And to feel safe. This reassures your inner child that the comfort and familiarity of excess weight will not be taken away from her before she is ready. Having patience will help you adjust to small, incremental weight loss shifts and the feelings that go along with that. Your developing inner strength then becomes the foundation that will help you release weight with confidence and self-love.

Do you know someone with a weight issue who was sexually abused? What helps them to feel safe as they release weight?