The Blame Game

I receive some interesting messages in response to my blog posts. A lot of them come from the helpful haters who love to tell me that my low carb diet will kill me. Some are from strangers who just want to lecture me or sell me something. I ignore those. Some are from friends who genuinely care, and believe the bad things they’ve heard about low carb. I thank them for their concern, and then I ignore them too.

A surprising number of messages come from people who think I’m blaming my mother for my weight.

To be honest, this is something that has concerned me since I decided to write Goodbye to the Fat Girl. I have two younger brothers, who I rarely talk to, and haven’t seen for a couple years. One has no idea that I’m losing weight and writing a book. The other knows, but based on some things he recently said to a friend of mine, he doesn’t really believe it. In my mind’s ear, I can hear them both accusing me of blaming Mom, and taking no blame myself. I imagine the book being published and my brothers stepping forward to call me a liar and declare our mother a saint.

Why? Because all families have mythologies about who we are and our relationships with each other. Mine is no different. To be honest, Mom was a conundrum, a narcissist with a terrible self-image. She turned that internal conflict against herself and her family. We all lived on the edge, fearful of upsetting her, but never admitting it or giving voice to the problem. And here I am now, telling the truth about my mother in order to tell the truth about myself.

So do I blame my mother for my weight? Not at all. I take full responsibility for every piece of food that made me fat. What I do hold her accountable for is her behavior and the words that caused my brain to create my Inner Fat Girl. She didn’t mean well; she was taking out her personal frustrations and body image issues on me. The voice of my Inner Fat Girl is mine, but the words are Mom’s.

Because of the Inner Fat Girl, I made all sorts of less than optimal choices in my life. And every one of those choices was mine. Of course, I also made some excellent choices in spite of the constant negative chatter in my head. I had a great first career, largely due to talent and a determination to succeed in an industry where women are often told to “get out.” I’m well into a second, still evolving career, and am happy with that choice. I now realize I didn’t have to listen to the Inner Fat Girl all those years, but what’s done is done. Time to move on.

I’m not sure I could or would be losing weight and writing about it, if Mom was still alive. I suspect I wouldn’t. She kept the negative comments coming until the very end. I lived with Mom during most of the last year of her life, and for the last four months was on the Atkins diet. As I made our weekly grocery list, prior to starting the diet, she said quite seriously, “make sure to put some candy on the list for when you cheat on your diet.” It’s impossible to quiet the inner voice, when there’s a real person saying that you’ll fail. The Inner Fat Girl didn’t die when Mom did, but I do think the two are connected.

So I take responsibility for my fat. But there’s a bonus. I also take full credit for losing the fat. No doctor or medical condition scared me into doing it. No one lives in my house with me to encourage me and keep me on track. It’s all my doing, and I’m proud of myself for sticking it out this long, and until I reach my goal.

When we own our failures, it feels so sweet to also own our successes.