Wednesday, May 8, 2013

obsessed about weight (a post about secrets)



I recently watched the co-host of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski, discuss her new book about her secret struggles with food and it made me think of Miss Elegant.

 I refer to her as Miss Elegant 

because she used to come to our sessions directly from her job at a stylish boutique wearing chic, size two outfits. She wore lots of big jewelry and tailored white shirts and she had impeccable taste.

But even now this woman’s story tugs at my heart.  Miss Elegant was a third generation eating disordered woman who grew up watching her mother leave the dinner table each night to “use the bathroom,”  which was code for throwing up.

Except no one dared talk about this secret in her family.


After all, her grandmother had been anorexic.

One day she asked me, “Leslie did you hear from my insurance company yet? They have to approve my treatment. They have to!”

When I told her I’d be advocating her case with a mental health reviewer the next day, she told me what I should emphasize. At five feet four inches she was worried that her current weight of 102 pounds might be mistaken for health.


“Can you please explain it? Tell them I’ve weighed 140 pounds and I’ve weighed 80 pounds, and nothing changes, not-inside-me! They have to know it’s not about my weight. It’s what’s going on in my head, can you please make sure they understand this, Leslie?”

After she said these words I remember pausing. It such a riveting moment of truth and I suddenly wished other women could hear this; even though Miss Elegant was still vomiting several times a day she realized there was no magical number on the scale anymore.

I share this story because this morning when I listened to Mika Brzezinski and Diane Smith discuss their latest book,  Obsessed: America's Food Addiction -- and My Own, I was reminded of how easy it is to become fixated on a certain dream weight. And how common it is to keep this obsession about weight a secret.

Like Mika.


Mika Brzezinski

I’ve been watching Mika’s news show for years now and her rants against junk food are legendary.  She talks openly about her physical work-outs and her dedication to running and jokingly complains about the eating habits of her co-hosts. But until this book, I didn’t realize she had a secret obsession with her weight and food. From the outside, she looks like the epitome of physical health.

Of course eating disorders are tough to spot from the outside. In fact, one frustration for women who are at a low weight, is how many compliments they receive from those around them. They can be vomiting like crazy, abusing laxatives, running ten miles as punishment for eating a piece of pizza (Mika’s example) and filled with shame,

but as long as they’re thin, they continue to get admiring comments.


Mika and her co-host Joe Scarbough

On the show Mika shared her struggle to maintain an unhealthy weight of 118 pounds (she’s 5 feet  6’½ inches ) but talked openly about all the compliments she got when she was “too skinny.”

Eventually her close friend Diane Smith confronted her on Labor Day weekend 2011.

Diane, who was 5 feet 8 inches  and weighed 250 pounds admitted to Mika that she never knew what to cook when Mika was a guest, calling her the “food police” and admitting how self conscious she felt about her own weight problem around her. Diane’s honesty led them both to an in-depth conversation that prompted Mika to share the truth.

“You really don’t know how much I struggle with food?” she asked her long time friend.

“You’re fat. I’m skinny. But we have the same problems.” Mika told her.

 And although initially it was hard for Diane to believe that someone who wore a size two could feel a similar torment over weight and food, it was this discussion that led to their collaboration on this book.


During the writing process Mika offered Diane the advance money of the book to finally get help and lose her weight. And to deal with the emotions that were being masked by the focus on food.

And at this time, Diane has lost 70 pounds and is still losing more with the help of a personal trainer and healthy eating. And Mika is now 132 pounds and a size six.



Mika and Diane in the studio

Together they’ve written a book that includes some of the latest science on sugar, salt and fat, and how these three substances promote an addiction to unhealthy foods. 

I’m definitely adding this to my book list.

can you relate to having a love-hate relationship with the bathroom scale?





I’m sharing this post with these friends:





The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy said...

Okay I confess I'm an ex-anorexic. I know the minute it started, and I still have those thoughts in my head. I don't 'go to the bathroom', but I'm unable to eat junk or mess up my insides. I need to see muscles on my arms and thighs and a flat stomach to feel normal. Although I should say that when people say You're too skinny! I do get depressed. And yet, if my weight went over a certain number, I would freak out!

I watch my daughter with careful eyes.. I don't want her to have the same twisted ideas! xx

marty (A Stroll Thru Life) said...

Great post and one we all need to know and understand. A healthy weight is beautiful. Hugs, Marty

White Weathered Hutch, said...

Oh yes I continually have a love hate relationship with our scale.
I believe that as long as you are healthy any weight can be beautiful!!

Leslie Harris said...

Catherine thanks for sharing so openly. That's why I love your blog, you're so real.
Although I never had a diagnosable eating disorder, I spent my twenties focused on a lot of the same things you describe. Muscles on my arms and a flat stomach with way too much emphasis on my appearance. I'm so glad you're sensitive to your daughter's feelings about her body and weight now. I read that Mika also has two teenage girls that helped motivate her to move beyond her food issues. Sometimes our growth happens because we're motivated by our love for our kids.

Daniela @Frugal Aint Cheap said...

I was anorexic and then bulimic for 7 years...that ended over 10 years ago. I agree it's in the head, but the eating disorder is not the "problem", but the result of something much bigger. When I dealt with issues and traumas in my life, I overcame the eating disorder. It's hard to explain with few words, and for some maybe even hard to believe, but the healing I got from my past resulted in complete healing of the eating disorder. The eating disorder is how some women cope with trauma in their lives, it's not about the weight, it's about the pain we carry. I am free of the bondage, there is freedom, there is hope.

Debra Oliver said...

I can relate to a lot of this. I'm petite so every pound shows. I've run the gamut on all of this myself, but never found answers until I committed myself to God's plan and how to deal with my "issues". I've counseled so many women that have tried unsuccessfully for years to gain a new mindset and find freedom from eating disorders, but I've only seen lasting results when God empowered them to start seeing themselves through His eyes. This is the condensed version of 40 years. Such a wonderful post, Leslie. Please come link up over at Be Inspired, if you haven't already. xoxo

Chicatanyage said...

Thanks for popping by my blog and leaving a comment. You have some great posts.

Leslie Harris said...

Daniela. You are so right. The eating disorder --and all the obsessive focus on weight and body is really masking important feelings inside. Feelings that need to be understood. For some women that means dealing with past traumas and hurtful experiences so there's a sense of resolution. It's amazing what happens when we deal honestly with our emotions. Thank you for sharing such a hopeful message.

Leslie Harris said...

Thanks so much for sharing your view. I'm headed over right now to link up. I always feel a bit hesitant to link up my non-decorating posts, not sure if they "fit" in or not. But I sure appreciate the invitation.

Heather - New House New HOme said...

Thank you for writing this, Leslie. We are all so obsessed with what number shows on the scale - myself included. I have a "benchmark" that I don't like to go over and get obsessed with it - that "benchmark" is on the heavier side for me and I AM NOT skinny - but when I'm over that mark, I obsess and weigh myself 3 or 4 times a day just to make sure I'm headed in the right direction.

Good for Mika for sharing her story - I'm sure it will inspire many.

And thank you for your insight.

Anonymous said...

Totally can relate. I never had weight or eating issues till I hit 40 and was diagnosed with FM. It has been a constant struggle of up and down on the scale. I really don't know what to eat anymore and I am stuck in a food rut of too much info and really probably eat too much of any one food group at a time. Hate being overweight and that is me talking, which translates into really do not like my looks. I stay home a lot and clothes shop only when I have to. Patty/BC

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

I don't own a scale. I realized that when I was feeling good about how I looked, if I weighed myself I didn't feel so good anymore. So I got rid of it several years ago, and figure if my clothes fit that's good enough. For me, it is about being healthy...I have thyroid problems that make me gain weight, and I would like to lose that weight and feel better. I've always been an average sized woman, and whenever I am too thin, it's usually because I haven't been well, and I don't look healthy then either.

Anonymous said...

Thank You, Leslie! This post is the reason I love your blog.... each and every subject is helpful! I weigh myself everyday, I know I shouldn't. I do agree that this is a generational thing. My mother and grandmother (I suspect) were both emotional eaters. My mother even took diet pills when she was pregnant with me 50+ years ago! I'm with've got to give it over to God!

Bless you!

Ladies Holiday said...

this is such a potent topic, thank you for opening it up for discussion and awareness on your blog.

Gypsy Heart said...

This is an excellent article, Leslie! I think it's so sad these days that "looks" and a number on the scale determine whether females are attractive. I do worry about my granddaughter and all young teens re: the messages they get via TV, internet, magazines, etc. My d-i-l is extreme as far as exercise and eating. Being healthy is #1 in my book.

I am NOT at a comfortable weight nor am I doing anything about it. Stress affects me in this way. I do try to eat healthy and walk more so that's a "good thing". :) I will put this book on my list to read.


Leslie said...

Leslie! This is wondrerful and such an important subject to talk about. Women that suffer from obesity are the mirror image of a person with an eating dissorder. Having worked with these folks in the past, I will say its a tough road that requires careful monitoring and long term therapy. Many of us have issues with or surrounding food that can create a dissordered eating pattern or an eating dissorder such as anorexia or bullemia.

Christie Tate said...

I'll be reading this too!

Designs By Pinky said...

For the pst few years I have had a Hate/hate relationship with my scale because it will not BUDGE. I am 65 and try to eat healthy and exercise but........ It is an every day struggle.

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

Sometimes I think that thoughts about weight take up way too much of my time and energy! I step on the scale every morning before I get in the shower. I have about a five pound range of up and down. I know that doesn't sound like much. But when I'm at the low end of that range, I'm happy. When I creep towards the top end of the range, I start to stress out. It's an ongoing battle with those same five pounds over and over - kind of crazy!

Art and Sand said...

I love bread. When I give up flour, I am thinner and feel better. When I give in to my love of bread, I am heavier and don't feel as good. And I can't go for a run to assuage my guilt of eating the bread because I am no longer young and my body argues with me (and usually wins).

Sometimes I wish our bodies were machines we could program into the size and shape.

I am feeling bad about the bread we ate at our favorite Italian restaurant tonight. Not because I ate it, but because now I feel bloated. Kate Moss says "nothing tastes as good as thin feels" and in my case tonight, I have to agree with her. It isn't the compliments as much as feeling better.

If I don't make much sense it is due also to the sugar overload - the PTA made my favorite cookies and brought cheesecake today.

Diane said...

This is a wonderful post and should be read by every teen-age girl. I gave up dieting a few years ago and my weight has actually maintained itself. I could lose a few pounds, but why? I am healthy (so far!!) and not crazy worrying about my weight! Thanks for sharing this message. None of the people who have influenced my life and helped me become the person that I am was that kind of skinny!!

Curtains in My Tree said...

I have been reading a lot about weight and weight loss this week after Governor Christie came OUT with his ban surgery, I thought thats what i'll do . I am 224 and size 18w
I have been up and down the scales. If I could just wear a size 14w I think I would be so happy
At 160 lbs I look good, well use to LOL


Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

I have been thinking about this post for three days...I think weight is something all women think about at one point in their life or another. I know I am not alone when talking about struggling to get on a scale or worrying about eating. But when I turned 45 I decided that I had had enough of dieting and deprivation.

I have been worried about my weight since I was 14 when my sisters boyfriend said I had a big butt and waddled like a duck. Can I tell you that all these years later I hear that voice each and every time I put on a pair of pants or jeans. By the way, I did not have a big butt nor did I waddle like a duck.

I decided to enjoy life, and worry about the important things and for me it is not a number on a scale. I am healthy and happy...finally.

I hope you have a fabulous weekend and mothers day!

Lori said...

Love - Hate is not the word for it ~ more like hate hate. I know I am a smart responsible woman but when it comes to my weight I am not very smart. But I also realize that I am "the captain of my own ship" and only I can change things ~ I should start sooner than later.

LouBoo said...

Hi there...I was recommended to follow your blog and frankly I don't know why I have never visited before! It's a place I know I am going to like! Lou x

Bethany Lee said...

Awesome, thought-provoking post! I think often about how it would be nice if I could be happy with my body the way that it is. Well, for that matter, if all women could. Other people say that I'm thin, and I know in my head that I am, but when I look in the mirror my problem areas--my rear and thighs--just stick out to me. I eat what I want, but I do feel bad about that, and I don't exercise. I do want to get healthier, but I'm going to work on being happy with the body I have now. :)

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