Mimi was proud of the ten pounds she had lost on her new diet and exercise regimen. It was easy and enjoyable. A few days later Mimi was part of a decision making team at work. Arguments and insults flying around made her afraid of giving her opinion. Right then Mimi sensed something was ...
Mimi was proud of the ten pounds she had lost on her new diet and exercise regimen. It was easy and enjoyable. A few days later Mimi was part of a decision making team at work. Arguments and insults flying around made her afraid of giving her opinion. Right then Mimi sensed something was missing. She grabbed a pillow and put in on her abdomen. What a relief! During that stressful moment Mimi missed the ‘padding’ that her fat had provided. The cushion blanketed the messy feeling. Driving home she felt demeaned and diminished. Why was it okay for her colleagues to vent, but no space for her views? Anger frothed up. Her rage felt like a ball of sharp nails ready to lacerate her insides causing a bloody hemorrhage.

She stopped at a store and bought a quart of chocolate ice- cream and a large bag of potato chips. That combination was the her most trusted and true numbing device. Those sharp nails became frozen with layers of reassuring and calming comfort food. No chance of any disgusting leaks of weakness. Keeping her cool was rewarded by yummy admiration and scrumptious respect.


Mimi’s body weight represented both the burden of her undigested emotions and those she swallowed from others by choosing not to be assertive. Mimi believed that she kept her close relationships with friends and family by being an ever absorbing sponge for their awful feelings. They perceived her as tough and indestructible. Keeping it all in was a badge of honor. Emotional constipation was Mimi’s sign of power and resilience. She dealt with overflowing gunky confused emotions by converting the trash into fat. That weight smothered her instincts to express her individuality. The heaviness paralyzed her so she couldn’t take risks with being herself.

Her weight went up and stayed up despite her punishing splurge with personal fitness gurus, coaches, nutritionists and all the advice in the best diet books.

Eating anesthetized slimy feelings. The weight she carried acted as armor against feeling abused, taken advantage of, and dismissed. Her fat was the one part of her she could trust. Her fat camouflaged her need for love, support and acceptance. Life was a breeze when she didn’t have to ask for those basic things and risk rejection and ridicule.

Mimi was successful with diets when she felt strong and an equal player in the world. As soon as that fragile mood was threatened by words of conditional love, put downs, and a dismissal of her opinions Mimi felt naked and vulnerable. Food was the comforter and the weight she gained became a shield against the abuse. The thicker the armor the less chance there was of being destabilized and out of control. The armor plating was solid enough to deodorize the stench of her own chaotic and stinky feelings. The armor did such a good job that she couldn’t distinguish between her own mess and that of others. It also bypassed her emotional thermostat so that she never knew when she couldn’t take any more of other people’s trash. At the point of overflow food was the best way of resetting the switch and lowering the temperature.

Did she focus on feeling physically attractive by losing fat, or feeling emotionally strong and protected by keeping the fat? Either way, she had to abandon one part of herself - a no win situation.


1. Mimi should begin by asking herself the following questions:

 Why won’t my family and friends like me if I show my feelings?
 Why is it weak for me to show my feelings and get support?
 Why am I so good at tolerating everyone else’s overwhelm, and yet disgusted by my own?
 Why is emotional constipation the only way of feeling strong?

2. Mimi needs to build a more flexible barrier between herself and others.

 Armor is rigid and insensitive. Mimi’s boundaries need to have a fine enough mesh to allow some mixing of feelings on both sides. That is mutual empathy and support.
 A barrier that opened and closed as needed would prevent overwhelm and allow Mimi to distinguish between her stuff and other people’s mess.
 Giving herself the right to have bad feelings, show them and still receive love and acceptance (just as her friends and family do) will create a balance inside her emotional digestive tract. No more constipation.
 Distributing the responsibility for relationship regulation and maintenance means that the weight is not dumped on Mimi.
 Mimi will be attending to all parts of herself without abandoning any aspect.
 Mimi’s emotional balance and flexible barrier means that she won’t need food to do the job. Her weight will be more consistent and natural for her size.
 When Mimi is comfortable with herself, her weight will reflect it by getting to an optimum place and staying there.

These tasks are difficult to do alone. Friends and family are part of the problem and cannot help at the outset. An objective professional such as a licensed psychotherapist can be helpful to get Mimi started on her journey and support her through the yo-yo’s until she has the right barriers set up for herself.

© Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Jeanette Raymond is a licensed psychologist and psychotherapist. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology and a masters degree in child, adolescent and educational psychology. She has 20 years experience working with adults, couples, adolescents, children and families. She is the author of several articles on the uses of anxiety, depression, and anger. The way your body speaks for you when you don’t express your true feelings is an area Dr. Raymond emphasizes. She has also written on the value of tuning into your dreams, perfectionism, need for validation, power struggles in couples, the sexiness of conflict, and self-sabotage among other topics.

Dr. Raymond’s blogs include

Dr. Raymond believes that the most important relationship you have is with yourself. She sets the stage for you to begin taking care of your most precious gift and ally - yourself. When you can do that, all else falls into place.

Her specialties include distress that shows itself in the body, feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled, fear of intimacy and loss, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-sabotage. If you mask your unhappiness with food, alcohol, drugs, or sex you abandon yourself. If you try to control it by working all hours, with excessive exercise, being busy, cleaning, and over-achieving you are ignoring yourself. Dr. Raymond helps you speak the turmoil that makes you want to go numb, and helps you find the fertile soil to plant your true seeds and flourish. http://www.drjeanetteraymond.com

Dr. Raymond helps parents and children understand one another, and provides adult couples with a platform for having their conversations out loud rather than silently in their individual heads.

Dr. Raymond runs groups and conducts workshops on dream interpretation. She enables individuals to find their voice so that their bodies don't have to speak with back pain, gastric complaints, hair loss, skin breakouts, panic attacks and sleep disturbances. While emotional wounds can debilitate and prevent you from living a full life, Dr. Raymond collaborates with couples, family members and individuals to gain strength from it. She offers the opportunity to rewrite the internal dialogue that may be self-sabotaging and putting obstacles in the way of having meaningful relationships. She honors you and teaches you to honor yourself in a non-threatening environment, allowing you to unfold.