5 Scientific Reasons Why Abuse Survivors Are Fat

Self love starts from self acceptance 

There're many misconceptions not just about why survivors stay in abusive relationships, also about how trauma affects the body.

This combined with the pressures of diet culture and impossible beauty standards mean survivors, especially female survivors, the ones who also have to deal with patriarchal ideas of visual beauty and a provider of sex as the most important qualities a woman has, are the largest victims of this triangulation.

I am here to debunk some myths. 

1. A lost of appetite is common for survivors. The body needs nourishment no matter how stressed out or relaxed we're, so she must eat, usually after her hunger pangs have gone beyond the moderate range, not slightly hungry but very hungry, like a animal clawing inside her stomach, basically 1 or 2 on this scale. 

Taken from Alissa Rumsey's blog post 

This results in frantic eating, which is eating rapidly without tasting or chewing, imagine a shovelling motion, her body is in alarm mode, telling her to get food in there NOW NOW NOW!!!!

Or it can result in binge eating, she eats a lot more than her body can process at once. Both leading to indigestion and bloating. The discomfort of bloating and indigestion, the guilt and shame that comes after then destroys her experience of eating. 

2. Cortisol, the main stress hormone, is usually high for survivors. Cortisol is best known for its involvement in the “fight-or-flight” response and this switch is always on, even when she's not around the abuser, it doesn't always turn off by itself.

The longer she has been in an abusive relationship (which for abused kids is at least 16-21 years), the more this switch doesn't work automatically, she has to consciously watch her triggers and turn it off. It is only after a period of healing that the body reaches homeostasis, it turns off by itself. 

One common CPTSD or PTSD trigger is loud noises, so if someone is yelling or she walks past a noisy construction site or she walks in crowds, she can be triggered. So it's common for survivors to start withdrawing from life and isolating as a way to cope. The lack of socialisation could mean other pressures, such as loneliness, feeling stifled and trapped, physically, emotionally and mentally. 

When cortisol is released, it means your body gets the signal there needs to be a temporary increase in energy production, at the expense of processes not for immediate survival. This means priorities goes to the extremities such as arms and legs, also to the heart and brain, away from the digestive system, to prepare for battle, just like the olden days of hunters and gatherers. 

3. Erratic cortisol release can result in insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don't respond well to insulin and can't use glucose from your blood for energy. So this is how cravings for sugary things kick in, it isn't processed the way it should.

This is also why the general idea of healthy eating doesn't work, no matter how healthy your diet is, as long as your digestive system isn't cooperating, it doesn't matter, you're not absorbing the nutrients the way you should, it is not going where you need as well. 

It's important to look at it holistically. 

That's me with CPTSD, in black pants, during a 2010 habitat for humanity trip

4. Insulin resistance also causes fatigue, especially after meals, so the relationship with food is further destroyed. This means less energy to exercise as well. Long term insulin resistance can cause diabetes, diabetes is so common due to the high stress modern lives we live. The good news is if caught early, it can be reversed, there're many successful cases of not getting diabetes.

5. Survivors also have to deal with the complexity of fat shaming, people accusing them of being weak or being lazy, assuming they're pregnant (bloated stomach) when their bodies are simply out of sync, not working like those without trauma.

What's worse is when she does have a strong work ethic in general, she will beat herself up for not applying that to exercise, but she is just SSSSOOOO tired. This was the old me, I was so motivated in all areas of my life and somehow this area left me stumped, until I could gain enough knowledge to understand the body, mind, trauma and food connection, the puzzle didn't unlock. 

Being in constant fight or flight mode is exhausting for the mind and body, basically it's someone being afraid constantly, it happens in the subconscious mind and might not always be obvious to the person experiencing it.

She could also develop other illnesses, be on medication for those things, a common side effect of medication is weight gain or fatigue, so that makes it worse.

If she uses caffeine, smoking or dieting to give her a boost, she becomes addicted to different things, which complicate matters further.

I'm guilty for using caffeine for a morning pick me up and smoking to wake me up after a lunchtime slump. I have to remind myself how far I have come, from victim/survivor mentality to thriver mentality is a triumph I must never forget.

It's easy to revert back to negative self talk, hang on again to false beliefs, after all, like so many, I did that for a lifetime, people enable each other to stay stuck all the time, often unintentionally. 

It's because people without trauma can also be stressed out out, stress is something everyone have to deal with, however the stress levels for survivors is nowhere close to others. Survivors are often misunderstood by people around them, the stigma and the lack of knowledge causes stress as well. 

They might then be ostracised, viewed as crazy or abnormal for reacting to things others won't.

I still jump at sudden loud noises sometimes, my level of being startled is nowhere close to people without a history of abuse.

I understand myself, doesn't mean I'm always understood by others. So making peace with ourselves is understanding we all have different life stories, there is no such thing as better or worse, strong or weak, strength can be under duress in a way not many understand but we know, we have conviction about our rise, how we kept integrity through the storm, that's enough. 

When survivors try to articulate their experiences, they're often met with disbelief, people assuming they're exaggerating, which makes them less likely to socialise with people from fitness and wellness communities who stigmatise them, they have fitness or wellness experience but they do not have trauma recovery experience. They're not trained to deal with people with trauma, that means they might mistake their tiredness as lack of determination, intentionally shunning exercising. 

I had several lousy experiences with fitness instructors, even supposedly zen yoga teachers and the like, it's all terribly disillusioning, how when you're fat and try to exercise, it's as if you committed a body crime. I had yoga instructors conduct weigh ins at the start of a trial session, I had fitness instructors push me to the point my legs were jelly and when I said I needed to adjust, I was too tired to do other things, I was chastised for being lazy.

It was a private instructor so no excuses, he is suppose to tailor make it for me and LISTEN to me most of all. It's also I don't want to make my life about being an abuse survivor, I am much more than that, it's that these occasions often do require telling a story of pain if I really want them to understand. 

This was before I found out my misdiagnosis but even then it's nuts to expect someone to open up like that. I think instructors need to have some basic knowledge of trauma, as part of their work experience, not always see the surface and jump to conclusions. 

The thing is who the hell wants to tell a stranger such things? I can't see myself telling a new instructor of any kind such serious personal things. Even one on one sessions with therapists take time to cultivate trust. And we're trained in trauma already! 

Can't say much for their lack of inner beauty though.

As an expert meditator, veteran spiritualist, their lack of compassion means they have the certifications, they still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding who they really are, to gain lasting confidence of the spirit. 

Custom diamond superwoman crown for my friendly hairy belly 

She has been through so much with me and I love her dearly 

Abuse places a tremendous burden on someone's overall wellbeing, including their biological functions. When survivors do not have clarity about this, since they're also used to abusers accusing them of being worthless, a burden, lazy, useless, etc. They often pick up a defeatist mindset, they believe they're hopelessly defective, start to develop a "I must constantly fix myself" mentality, instead of living in the now, leaving some room for enjoyment, which means the quality of life is usually pretty low. 

This idea they really are as such is reinforced through various kinds of social discrimination as well, their lives feel out of control already, so controlling food through diet culture is a way to be socially accepted as well as a form of socialisation, since women often chat about it. It can bring them out of isolation, just to drop into the pit of yo yo diets that eventually despairs them, staying in that self hate loop.

Since dieters often put on more weight post diet, the frustrations pile on as their self hate with each failure increases. 

Diet culture is about external appearances and not internal functionality, as long as someone looks skinny on the outside, all the praise and attention she gets becomes intermittent reinforcement, she sinks deeper into that hole.

There're also of course practical rewards for being skinny, you get more attention, people think you're more intelligent, dating is easier, to name a few.

Dieters are often so entrenched in it, they're stuck in their ways and can react with hostility when challenged, therefore deterring well intentional been-there-done-that people from helping them.

Survivors are often praised by others for weight loss they didn't ask for, this can become a crutch for her to feel good about herself, since her inner world is full of pain, it's easy to latch onto a ray of something/anything when you're feeling oh so vulnerable.

This then becomes the emotional/controlled eating cycle, which can escalate into eating disorders. 

No matter what size you're, remember that you deserve respect, your worthiness has nothing to do with how you look. Your worthiness has everything to do with your ability to stick to your principles and values under siege, especially your sacred divine higher mission to be loved and to love. 

By practicing self kindness and other kindness, we all contribute to making the world a more compassionate place. 

Eshet chayil, God is a She



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