A Weighty Issue: A personal story about emotional abuse

Publication Date: 
Resource Origin: 

My aunt's husband beat her. Early in their marriage, he held her over a bridge and threatened to drop her off and kill her.

After having children, she gained weight. We all saw him berate her about her size. She cried when he called her fat and ugly, said she was unattractive and that he didn't want her anymore. He threatened to leave her if she didn't lose weight. Believing him, she dieted over and over. Her husband always participated by 'supporting' her to eat less. But no matter how strictly she followed her diet, she always gained her weight back - and more.[1] And then her husband blamed her for becoming fat again and insulted her even more.

She became so desperate that she agreed to have intestinal bypass surgery. This surgery caused most food to pass through her body without being digested. She was in constant pain as a result. But she still remained fat and her husband continued to degrade her.

Then she agreed to have her stomach stapled. This surgery involved making her stomach so small that it was only able to contain several mouthfuls of food. She lost a great deal of weight as a result. But she also involuntary vomits after every meal because of trauma to her stomach, and malnutrition has caused severe bone degeneration.[2] Her husband doesn't make fun of her size anymore…he finally got his thin wife - mutilated and ill, but thin.

I am compelled to share my aunt's story so that others can understand how the pain of emotional abuse can make a woman believe she is wrong or undesirable the way she is. If a woman tells you she is fat, hates her body, and/or is dieting - look deeper. Emotional abuse may be behind her body hatred.

Relentless social pressure to be thin gives abusive men a convenient tool for control and intimidation, and leaves women highly vulnerable to abuse. I encourage service providers to examine their own biases and attitudes about weight and size [3] and to become informed about issues facing large women [4]. This can only strengthen your ability to help abused women have free, fully embodied lives.


[1]  For more information about dieting, see Laura Fraser, Losing It: America's Obsession with Weight and the Industry that feeds it. (Dutton, 1997); Glen Gaesser, PhD. Big Fat Lies: The Truth About Your Weight and Your Health (Fawcet Columbine, 1996) and National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) at http://www.naafa.org.

[2]  For more information about the health risks of weight loss surgery, see: http://www.naafa.org.

[3]  For information about working with fat/large clients, see: NAAFA's "Guidelines for Health Care Providers" and "Guidelines For Therapists who Treat Fat Clients" at http://www.naafa.org.

[4] Some size-positive organizations for in Toronto, Ontario include: Sheena's Place: A Support Centre for people with Eating Disorders: (416) 927-8900; Regional Women's Health Centre Body Image Project: (416) 586-0211 and National Eating Disorder Information Centre: (416) 340-4156 or www.nedic.ca. Print and web resources: Radiance: The Magazine for Large Women, PO Box 30246, Oakland, CA 94604. Phone: (510) 482-0680. Website:  www.radiancemagazine.com, e-mail: info@radiancemagazine.com. The Health At Any Size Web Ring : www.BodyPositive.com. BBW Magazine, PO Box 1297, Elk Grove, CA, 95759. Website: www.bbwmagazine.com. FAT!SO?, Box 423464, San Francisco, CA, 94142. Website: www.fatso.com

This project received support from the Ontario Women's Directorate and does not necessarily reflect the view of the Government of Ontario.