Study after study confirms what I've lived: "Appearing in the journal Pediatrics, the study found an association of severity of sexual and physical abuse during childhood and adolescence with obesity during adulthood."
The Centers for Disease Control has found that one in four girls and one in six boys have been sexually abused by the age of 18. "National surveys indicate that more than a third of American women experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse before they reached 18 years of age. Also, research shows that such childhood abuse has consequences not only for women's mental health, but also for their physical health. In particular, many studies have documented a link between childhood abuse and later obesity, possibly because stress may cause one to overeat high-sugar and high-fat 'comfort' foods in an uncontrolled manner."
Michael D. Myers, M.D., an obesity and eating disorder specialist, estimates that 40 percent of his significantly obese patients have experienced sexual abuse. On his website, he writes: “In a sense, obesity protects a person from their sexuality since, in Western culture, obesity is frowned upon.” I'm not making this up. Check out the "Wearing Your Weight as Your Armour" blog entry:
I understand the statistics all too well. But I've learned a few things on my health journey thanks in part to the guidance and encouragement I've received from the folks at Catawba Valley Medical Center. I've learned that lots of people seek help to find a way out of their weight nightmare. But even after my gastric bypass surgery at CVMC, I realized that if I wanted to keep the weight off and keep my type 2 diabetes in remission, I still needed to work on my thoughts. I begged God through one of my favorite gospel songs, "Order My Steps," to "take control of my thoughts both day and night." Then it dawned on me, that the best way to get out of my head was to help.
Last year I was contacted by Pat's Place Child Advocacy Center to help out at their annual BBQ and Blue Jeans fundraiser. Frankly, I was relieved when I was already booked. I wasn't ready to be the face of childhood sexual abuse. I'd written about it and talked about it with friends and during one-on-one interviews.... but to stand in front of a crowd, vulnerable, staring at hundreds of judging faces....
I was contacted months in advance about this year's event. My calendar offered no excuse not to help. I toured their East Boulevard facility in Charlotte the week before the BBQ. I thought I'd pass out when I spotted the toddler-sized exam table used for the medical investigation portion of child sexual abuse claims. So, you can imagine the mix of dread of adrenaline pumping through my veins hours before the event on Saturday night. I'd asked an understanding friend to tag along because I'd made up my mind that I would "come out" as a survivor to the crowd. When we arrived Penelope, the marketing director for Pat's Place, offered me an out. She told me that if I wasn't ready to tell my story, it would be okay. While I appreciated the care and concern, it was time for me to step up. I'd already shed the unhealthy physical layers with the help of gastric bypass surgery. It was time to shed an unhealthy mental layer on Saturday. I'm proud to say I kicked that demon right in the crotch! I toasted the Pat's Place donors and sponsors, the workers and the kids... and introduced myself as one of those kids. It felt like a giant step in a healthy direction.
While the movie of my abuse still plays in my head, I've learned to acknowledge the rerun and turn it off without turning to food. Most importantly, I've learned that getting help is good and helping others is even better.