Cheryl, a 'fat suburban mom who doesn't care'

Cheryl calls herself a "fat suburban mom who doesn't care." Before the premature birth of her daughter, she was stylish and confident. Four years later, Cheryl's daughter is now thriving and starting school—but Cheryl's life feels stuck.

"I don't know how to pull myself out of this train wreck of a person that I've become," she says. "It's a little bit saddening to see just how far I've fallen."

"Letting ourselves speak the truth out loud," psychologist Dr. Robin Smith says, "that's part of the beginning of healing. … Everybody is in search of who they really are. Not who you were, because that person is not there anymore. Something better and improved is possible."
Oprah Winfrey

Have you let yourself go? Is makeup just a distant memory? Have you gained so much weight you don't even recognize yourself?

According to an poll, about 90 percent of you admit that you've let yourself go!

"My friends," Oprah says, "that's going to end today. We're going to help you begin to launch your own comeback ."

"My career was going well. I had lots of friends around me. I think it showed in my body and the way I walked, the way I spoke," Andrea says. "I had decided that I was going to run a half-marathon. I started training for it. I put a lot of attention to the way I looked. I wore a lot of form-fitting clothes. When I walked into a room people noticed me, particularly men. I felt beautiful, I felt fearless, I felt bold, I felt like the world was at my feet."

Life changed for Andrea when her fiancé met another woman online. He proposed to this new woman…in the house he and Andrea had bought together!

Andrea and her son immediately left the house, but, she says, the embarrassment was difficult to deal with, and she proceeded to pack on 40 pounds. "Food is my drug of choice," she says. "I eat and eat and eat until I'm sick. I felt like I lost about 80 percent of myself in that relationship."

Now, Andrea says, "When I look in the mirror, I see a fat, unhappy woman that nobody would look twice at. I see a woman who is embarrassed to be in her body. I see regret."
Andrea and Kathleen

Kathleen and Andrea were friends for a dozen years. After her fiancé left her, Andrea withdrew from her relationship with Kathleen. "It wasn't just that I pulled away because of the embarrassment of the situation, but also in the embarrassment of how I looked," Andrea says. "I felt very much like I was a failure. I absolutely didn't want her to see how I've let myself go."

Kathleen says she didn't know how deeply her friend was hurting. She had tried to contact Andrea multiple times, but Andrea never returned her calls. "I just figured she needed time and she kind of put me on hold," Kathleen says. "But I always knew that we'd eventually connect."
Dr. Robin

The reason that Andrea pulled so far away from her friend Kathleen is because of the level of humiliation she felt. "I've always been such a proud person. I've always been such an on-top-of-it kind of person," Andrea says. "When my ex-fiancé and I were happy, we came to New York and we took Kathleen to dinner. For her to see me after such an embarrassing situation was just too hard."

"You're swallowing poison every time you say that [you were humiliated]. You're still thinking that somehow you did something," Dr. Robin says. "It's one thing to say, 'I'm sorry that I forgot how much you loved me. I'm sorry that I forgot how much I loved you. I'm sorry that I let a liar get between us.' But that's so different than saying, 'I'm the loser.' Because it's not you, it's the lie and him and other parts of your story that got between the two of you."

Dr. Robin continues, "I'd rather you say to her something like, 'I'm sorry that I forgot how special our union was and that I let anybody—but particularly that loser—get in the way.'"

Nathalie used to feel like all eyes were on her. "I felt radiant," she says. "I loved my hair. I loved my face, my body. I was very confident in photographs, even in bathing suits. I was really active, exercised a lot. I took my daughter on these amazing trips. I was living this dream life."

Then she recently went from 138 pounds to about 205 pounds. One of the reasons for this weight gain, Nathalie says, is that she has tended to attract the wrong type of men in relationships, stemming from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse.

Her extra weight has become an emotional barrier. "I have such fear of being hurt again that I have gained this weight," she says. "It is my protective wall. I now can go out and be social and not have the fear of attracting dates or men. It has been my protector."
Nathalie and Dr. Robin

Dr. Robin says that we'll often treat ourselves in the same way that our abusers treated us. The abused will mirror the ways in which they were mistreated.

"You talked about being made to do sexual things that were degrading and horrible and made you feel like an object, like you weren't really a person," Dr. Robin says to Nathalie. "So guess what we do? When we don't feel like a person, we start treating ourselves like an object: shoving food in our mouths, smoking, drinking, neglecting ourselves."

Therefore, if you are harming yourself because of past abuse, it's incredibly important to understand what is going on and to put a stop to it. "You've got to get rid of that old tape—that lie—that says you are not valuable because somebody else rejected, harmed, cheated you," Dr. Robin says.

Karen once held a high-powered sales position in which she was very successful. On top of that, she says she had a flawless figure. She says she felt "sexy and powerful."

It all came crashing when Karen was laid off and gained weight. Now, she says, "I feel like a train wreck. I've just given up on everything. I just totally, emotionally let myself go. It was an emotional meltdown. I lay on the couch eating snacks and sleeping all day and watching sad movies and crying all day. It [started as] a pity party for six months. I don't even try to look good anymore. I have no reason to get up in the morning to get dressed. Having a 3-year-old and feeling old is just very difficult. I'm out of shape and I can't keep up with her anymore."
Dr. Robin

Dr. Robin says that Karen's hiding after her being laid off illustrates a serious spiritual crisis. "If we are our jobs, if we are our bodies, if we are our bank accounts, if we are our men when the relationships are working, then when those things are no longer there, or we are aging, then all of a sudden we feel like we're lost. 'I'm gone.' And so we're talking about, again, how we're spiritually injured because we're only seeing ourselves in very compartmentalized ways."

Dr. Robin also says that Karen's situation also points to the problem of self-abuse."If I get fired, does that make me the loser?" she asks. "Does that mean that my intrinsic worth and value is gone? And the answer all too often for most of us is, 'yes.'"

Karen says that this was exactly her reason for letting herself go. "I had a certain identity," she says, "and then when that identity's taken away, you don't even know where to go."
Dr. Robin

The reason these women struggle so deeply, Dr. Robin explains, is because of a disconnect they feel. "Apart of what your bodies are doing and your minds, your spirit has said no to the lie. It has said, 'No, I won't live as an imposter.' So as I'm feeding myself things, your spirit is rebelling against it because it says, 'No, there is a creation of the divine that is in here that is demanding to be heard."

"Not only to be heard, but it's saying that you have the right to a beautiful, prosperous life just because you were born," Oprah says. "That is your human right. Not because some man said, or because your mother said, or society said, or your children need…but because you were born."
FROM: Have You Let Yourself Go?
Published on October 31, 2005


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