- Eva Tenuto
#2: Fuck Secrets and Shame
Updated: Aug 8, 2019
I just finished The F*ckIt Diet on Audible and for me, listening to Caroline Dooner read her words, was liberating as f*ck. I don’t know if I agree with every single word she said, even though, to her credit, Christiane Northrup, MD, New York Times bestselling author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom said, “The F*ck It Diet is not only hilarious, it is scientifically and medically sound. A must read for any chronic dieter.”
But, come on. Sugar isn’t addictive? You can be healthy and fat at the same time? When you’re hungry, you should EAT? Say what?!? How can I take in these messages as truth when I’ve been brainwashed by the diet industrial complex my entire life? However, whether I can currently agree or not hardly matters. Simply taking the messages in slowly, one by one, savoring the discomfort and resistance, illuminated many dark crevices that stubbornly still store trauma from a life eaten up by diet culture and an obsession with thinness.
I work for an organization I co-founded, TMI Project, a non-profit whose sole purpose is to get people to tell the stories they’ve been keeping secret due to shame. Yet, there are still so many things I don’t want anyone to know, stories I’m still so resistant to sharing because I feel like if you find out, I will shrivel up and die.
That, my friends, is how we know shame is alive and well.
Here’s what I don’t want you to know about me because of deep-rooted shame:
I don’t want you to know I was a closeted binge eater at the age of 11. I ate to stuff down secrets. I ate to develop a secret that could contain my own shame. If I focused on the shame of binge-eating, I forgot about the shame-fueled secret my mom was keeping. I ate to nurture myself because my mother transformed so quickly from the mom I knew, who took care of me, to a woman whose palpable trauma felt like it was mine to take care of. I changed too, from a beloved daughter to a devoted confidant. But, I still needed mothering, so I ate.
I don’t want you to know I was the fat kid who was mercilessly mocked every day, from the time I stepped foot on the bus, to the time I returned home, for all of 7th and 8th grade. It was traumatizing. So much so that every time I push myself into a bigger arena or step on a bigger stage, I have to face my fear of public humiliation, and work my way to the other side.
I don’t want you to know that this indelible scar has remained on my heart into adulthood. Into the present moment.
I don’t want you to know that I was sent to fat camp. Not once but twice. I don’t want you to know that despite my parents best intentions, and what they thought was an investment in my well being, I felt like I had been shipped off to be fixed. That there was something so wrong with me, and my body, that it was worth spending thousands of dollars to send me somewhere to starve and over-exercise for the summer, just so my body would return smaller and more acceptable to others.
I don’t want you to know that when I returned home I was immediately put on diets and spent my teen years staving off hunger and attending weekly weigh-ins. The scale determined my value. Every fucking week.
I don’t want you to know that I still hate having other people weigh me because that’s how I grew up. I have anxiety before every doctor’s appointment.
I DO want you to know I was a good dieter. Because being in control was praised, even if the control came from a teenager in the midst of a growth spurt who was under-nourishing herself. For some strange reason, it made people proud. I don’t blame my parents for any of this. The heart-wrenching torture of having to bear witness to their child incessantly crying after being ridiculed at school, day in and day out, made them take action. Out of a genuine love, they were desperate to make my pain melt away. Even my aunt, a tried and true member of OverEaters Anonymous, donated money to the cause. But, truly, this is not their fault. The diet industrial complex had already convinced my mother and my aunt they were also too fat to be acceptable. The brainwashing was already in full swing, and was simply being passed down. So, I was strict. In addition to wanting to make the adults in my life proud of me, I didn’t want to be publicly humiliated anymore. I stuck to my plan. I followed the rules. When I discovered alcohol and drank with wild abandon, I made myself throw up, so I wouldn’t imbibe the extra calories.
I don’t want you to know about what happened to me when I was in a thinner body. Strict dieting taught me how to ignore my body’s natural cues, to silence my intuition, to feel a gnawing pain in my body and convince myself it wasn’t there. However, this denial didn’t apply only to dieting. It took over. If I felt danger; I ignored it. I told myself it wasn’t there. I dissociated and moved forward. I abandoned myself and my body.
I don’t want you to know that after years of being tormented and teased for my body, I craved these messages:
Your body is good.
Your body is beautiful.
Your body is attractive.
I don’t want you to know that I did whatever was necessary to generate those messages. Since I was accustomed to abusing myself, it wasn’t at all alarming when someone was intent on abusing me. My thinner body was still a danger magnet, just in a new form. I was groomed. I was raped. I didn’t even know either happened until decades later, just a couple of years ago, when through the help of somatic therapy, I finally sank into my body again, and had unbearable panic attacks.
I don’t want you to know that no matter how strictly I restricted, no matter how hard I tried, I was never able to become thin enough. Even at my thinnest, when I attended acting school in New York City at 18, I was still told to lose another 10 pounds. Always, I remained some unreachable number of pounds away from perfection. I had a protruding collarbone and my hair was thinning but that didn’t matter. My thighs still rubbed together, my backside never failed to fill out a pair of jeans and my belly was always round. I never fit the mold.
I don’t want you to know that I was on Nutri-System, The Atkins Diet, The South Beach Diet, The HCG Diet, The Anti-Inflammatory Diet, The FODMAPS Diet, The Mediterranean Diet, Dr. Oz’s Ultimate Diet, The Crazy Sexy Diet and so many other crazy cleanses and bullshit diets. Do I know how the Keto Diet works? Yes. I know how they ALL work. You know what not one of them taught me? How to listen to my body, how to eat when I was hungry, eat what my body craved, and how to stop when I was full. Not one of these diets ever taught me how to process my grief, how to nurture myself in ways that didn’t backfire, how to get rid of the unrealistic and unattainable perfectionism that kept me trapped, and paying lots of money for another promise of a body I genetically wasn’t ever meant to have.
And, you know what else I don’t want you to know? I’m still fat. You know why? Because diets don’t work. They don’t fucking work. I have a curvy, thick, fat, juicy body (thank you for everything, Lizzo!) and no diet or amount of exercise is going to change where I always seem to return.
I lived in perpetual fear of getting bigger, but now, I’m focused on taking up my share of space in the world. I'm cleansing myself of every cleanse I’ve ever been on, to rid myself of the shame I still carry, because I’ve been brainwashed into thinking there is something wrong with me that needs to be fixed. I’m letting go of work on shedding weight and instead working on shedding shame. Shame for any of it. All of it.