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    Body Addiction (part 1)

    Over-Identification with anything in our life, be it our job, our looks, our mind, our status, our.........pick your a prescription for suffering. For years, I over-identified with my body and my looks as a big source of my self-esteem, my masculinity, my confidence, and my MoJo. I was aware I was doing it, but I couldn't stop. It was, in every sense of the word, an addiction.

    Hanging my hat on how I looked grew from being a fat kid, being teased for it, and having to buy special pants ("Huskies", a great marketing name for kids with expanding waistlines). At an early age, I developed a poor body image. I wasn't a fat kid for very long, between about the ages of eight and twelve. Unfortunately, those are probably the absolute worst years to pack on pounds, for a number of reasons. 

    First of all, it's around then that the opposite sex stops becoming the enemy. Actually, I developed crushes on girls from as early as I can remember. I had the hots for my second grade teacher, Ms. Lindsey, Big Time. One of my babysitters, when I was about seven or eight, had the pleasure of having her long ponytail stroked by me whenever she would let me. She even let me tie her up in her bikini on the beach, and I wouldn't let her go until she promised my twin brother and I ice cream (I was a naughty, kinky outlaw from jump street).

    Biologically, it's also at around that age that we gain more access to our pre-frontal cortex (the "upstairs brain") which is the part of the brain that does the thinking, is logical, and sees the world more for how it is. Although we have more access to it, the pre-frontal cortex is still very immature, and it starts making connections between itself and the lymbic system (the "downstairs brain", or the emotional center) that are't real. Like "I'm fat, it doesn't feel good, I must be defective". These neural pathways are very strong, and it takes a lot of work redirecting them when we get older. But if you put the time and effort in, it gets done. Meditation, Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, and a host of other techniques are making it possible to get to the root of the trauma and create new neural pathways; to basically re-wire our brain.

    The bad timing double whammy regarding biological brain developmental and the shifting sands of social engagement meant that for me to get fat at that age had the potential to cause the most damage to my fragile ten year old ego. And it did. The scars of being a fat kid have stayed with me all through adulthood.

    There are gifts in that wound, however. It motivated me to change my body once I learned how. It gave me the discipline and the motivation to work hard and persistently to get and stay in great shape; to have a physique that looks better than most men half my age. I doubt this would be the case if it wasn't for the pain I felt being a fat kid and never wanting to feel that pain again.

    When I entered into treatment, I didn't look very good. I was thin, twenty pounds lighter than where I looked and felt best. I looked drawn, having lost a lot of muscle and too much weight in my face. For a man who could be guilty of hanging his hat on how he looked to define his sense of self, my coatrack had completely disappeared. I wasn't fat, but I certainly didn't like how I looked.

    This was a blessing. No, I didn't like how I looked. I saw that fact in the mirror every morning. But I was so ready for something new; I knew that way of over-defining myself just did not work anymore. Before I even entered treatment, something in me knew I could not keep doing it that way. Something in me knew that I was slowly killing myself, and this fixation, this addiction, to how I looked had something to do with that.

    The universe had severely limited my options. I couldn't go to my body or my looks to bolster my self esteem. I couldn't use substances to run away from the pain. I couldn't turn to an intimate relationship to get a sense that I'm indeed worthy of love. All I had was relatively emaciated me. 

    But, as I soon found out, that was more than enough.

    Join me for part two.


    ©2107 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved.



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