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.

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12 thoughts on “The Blame Game

  1. zeewhoo says:

    Hey, Karen. I have a real hard time with the word and concept of assigning or accepting blame for obesity. I absolutely believe it is a complex nature and nurture disease, and not a moral failing. From that perspective it would be like blaming someone for their own breast cancer or multiple sclerosis, or alcholism. I don’t know why so many folks insist that obese people take responsibility when not asking the same of the cancer patient. It is not a simple matter of “push away from the table.” Most people understand that you can’t tell alcoholics to just stop drinking or smokers to stop smoking. There are complex nature/nurture things going on there, too. That does not in any way negate your accomplishments, however. Congratulations to you!

    • Zee, obviously our feelings about fat and the way we’ve dealt with it are different. I’m not here to tell anyone how they should feel or behave. In this case, it really is all about me. For me, it’s empowering to say, “I messed up and didn’t take care of my body, but now I’ve taken control and am fixing it.” While there are outside events that lead to the inner voice, no one, including nature, made me fat. I did that. It would be a cop out to say it was done to me or that I had no responsibility for it.

      And no, I don’t think that obesity that’s not caused by a medical condition is the same as cancer or multiple sclerosis.

      • zeewhoo says:

        I hear you. But for the record, I’m not talking about feelings, but rather science. 🙂

      • I’m pretty sure science doesn’t say behavior has nothing to do with obesity. Of course, that’s just my experience. Maybe everyone else had the fat magically deposited on their bodies.

      • zeewhoo says:

        Actually, science is discovering that the brains of obese people are often quite different, as well as their ability to process various hormones (like leptin and ghrelin), MTHFR gene defect, and other stuff. Start watching Dr Sara Stein, MD’s FB page. She’s way up on the science. https://www.facebook.com/SaraLSteinMD Then there’s the whole environment thing….

  2. toddbrad says:

    Cool. Sorry my brain isn’t working better right now to compose a more coherent reply, but I like what you wrote.

  3. zeewhoo says:

    If it works for you to take the blame for it to process and get where you’re going, that’s cool, too. Whatever works to get you there! I’m just saying that for most people who have problems with obesity, there can be significant biological issues (some can be genetic, some can be driven by environment) that drive the behavior that results in over eating. I am adamant about educating the public that obesity is not about moral failing and lack of willpower because most of the time, it’s not that at all. It is a symptom, not the cause, most of the time.

  4. gaildstorey says:

    Karen, your posts are unfailingly illuminating, thanks! I always learn a lot from them, and from the comments as well.

  5. Karen: Fat is such a complicated issue. When I was younger, going on the Atkins diet was like a miracle. Cutting out useless carbs made the fat melt off my body. As I got older, and my carb cravings increased, I made it more difficult to cut out the junk food. Since menopause, it’s been a new ballgame. Even low-carb barely moves the number on the scale. I haven’t given up, though. I find low/no carb eating to be the easiest for me to stick to, so I’m back on the wagon. I’m sorry your mom was so unsupportive. That had to make things a million times harder. But we both know what a good feeling it is to succeed in spite of early programming! Yay to you!

    • Thanks, Lynda. Low carb is easiest for me to stick to too. I’ve made real attempts with low calorie diets in the past, and I was angry, mean, and most of all, hungry. One of the hardest things about losing weight for good (besides my decision to be public about it and write the book), is saying that I’m proud of myself. A lot of us were raised not to express pride or talk about our accomplishments. Hmmm, there may be a blog post in that.

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