Kummerspeck. Noun. German word defined as “grief bacon” or “sorrow fat”
A few days ago, I received an unexpected call from Gwen, a woman I’d known for years in AA meetings. She’d heard of my recent divorce and wanted my new address so she could send me a Christmas card.
“How’s it going?” she asked.
In a move that surprised myself, I told her the truth. “Not great.”
I shared about my post-divorce feelings of confusion and disappointment, my permeating sense of “now what do I do with my life?”
I told her I’d been having trouble with my food, sparing her the details of eight horrific months of off-and-on binging, but giving her the general picture. Finally I told her I’d gained weight and was very upset about it.
Now I have no idea why I shared all this: Gwen is drop-dead gorgeous.
I’ve often sat across from her in AA meetings and thought that, with her porcelain skin, wide-set eyes, and lithe body, Gwen really should really be immortalized as a winged angel in an oil painting rather than sitting in a circle of ex-drunks reminiscing about hangover mornings.
Gwen’s response shocked me. “Me, too.”
Turns out, she and I are living the same reality.
Gwen is still processing the shock and heartache of an unexpected breakup from a now ex-fiancee, who literally stopped calling her after what she’d considered a minor argument over dinner. She, too, has turned to the sugar and had gained weight.
“Do you have any suggestions on what I should do?” she asked.
Again, I was taken aback by my own answer.
“Please be compassionate with yourself.”
Now, I am a “can-do” kind of gal. I fix it myself, by myself. And the word “compassionate” is rarely in my vocabulary.
“The sugar is back in your life for a reason,” I said. “If you think of the food as a way you’re self-soothing, I think it will help move you out of self-hatred.”
I realized I was talking to myself. I needed to hear that I was trying to soothe emotional pain. I needed to hear that the extra weight was a misguided attempt to protect myself from more heartache.
I needed to hear that what I was going through was normal – and maybe even healthy – for woman whose whole life had exploded, leaving her – me – standing in the dust and very, very heartbroken.
“Of course you’re eating,” I said to Gwen, with whom I now felt a new connection. “Of course you are.”
Suddenly I realized that the extra weight on my body was kummerspeck, a word I literally learned two days ago.
Well, if there was ever at time in my life I needed “sorrow fat,” it was now.
In the course of the past two years, I left my husband of 12 years, moved from a three-bedroom house in a well-established beach neighborhood to a studio apartment, became distanced from our large group of friends, got romantically involved with – and severely hurt by – a man affiliated with my work (don’t do it, ladies), had a falling out with my best girlfriend, and started smoking.
No wonder I began compulsively eating after 15 years of recovery. No wonder I had amassed approximately twenty pounds of “grief bacon” that I was attempting to camouflage under brightly colored muu-muus and black yoga pants.
They say knowledge is power and I don’t always belief it, but in this case I do.
Since having these realizations, I feel more at peace than I have in a year.
When I look in the mirror, I am training myself to view the extra weight not as the disgusting result of a weak will, but as a misguided attempt to soothe a bruised soul.
Every pound I gained is a tear I didn’t shed, a hug I didn’t request, a phone call I didn’t make because “I don’t want to bother anybody.”
This new perspective has led me to make different choices.
Instead of isolating this weekend with several half-gallons of ice cream and boxes of cookies, I instead spent time with friends, went to meetings, exercised, made phone calls, journaled, and meditated.
Actions that brought me real comfort.
Which leads me to now see the truth is something I heard years ago: “Those comfort foods … how comfortable do they make you, really?”
Today’s Action Plan
- CEA-HOW phone meeting
- Show up to work holiday party even though I’d rather stick needles in my eyes
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Kummerspeck info and image take from this site.