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During the last 5 years, I've gained about 70 pounds. (I'm 5 ft 6 in and 215 pounds. the overweight is not in my head as it is with many people) I've tried several diets, and ended up putting on more in the long run than I lost. For the last several months I've been trying to figure out why I can never seem to stick to a diet anymore. I can't stick with it for more than a day or two before I "fall off the wagon". I had an epiphany the other day, the reason I can't stick to a diet is because I'm actually afraid to lose the weight. Right now, I use my weight as a scapegoat. I feel that men don't check me out or pay attention to me because I'm ugly, and I'm ugly because I'm fat. I'm worried that if I lose the weight and get back to my original size (+/- 144 lbs, and a size 10-12) and men still don't notice me, then I'll have no explanation for it other than that I am in fact, just plain unattractive! . So for now, my weight serves as a buffer for my fear that I'm not pretty. If I lose the weight, I lose my buffer, and my fear will be realized. It's not so much my weight that I dislike (which is what I thought was the issue for so long), it's the fear that I'm just not pretty.

I am currently engaged to my boyfriend of 5 years. He's not that great looking, I guess I'd say he's average. Ever since I was young teen one of my biggest wishes was to be one of the "beautiful people" (you know the type: popular; cheerleaders or jocks, the prom queen, etc.) and to be "swept off my feet" by a gorgeous guy. I had crushes on the "popular really hot jocks" in school, and always wanted at least one of them to tell me I was pretty. My fiancé tells me I'm gorgeous quite frequently, but because he's only average looking, I don't believe what he says (What would an average looking guy know of beauty? Of course he's going to think I'm pretty, he doesn't know any better). For some reason I will only believe the words "your beautiful" if they're spoken by one of the "beautiful people" (Beautiful people know beauty).

What could have caused this problem in me? Can it be "cured" or resolved, and how would I go about taking care of it?

Thanks in advance,


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Dear Amanda--

Thank you for your question which often arises in psychotherapy. When I say that this question often arises, I do not mean specifically the question about beauty and weight gain, but rather questions about how to live a life within ones own limitations (which we all have), and how to life a life that is based not on the values of a decadent culture which overvalues physical appearance, wealth, status, and power, and fails properly to recognize the far more important virtues such as compassion, honesty, openheartedness, intelligence, etc.

Somehow you were sold, and swallowed hook, line, and sinker, the idea that physical appearance and the power it gives are the most important things in the world, and that those who have pretty faces are somehow superior to those who do not. And that is really sad for two reasons. First it is sad because it is shallow--in other words, it reduces the human being to a skin deep presentation instead of noticing and valuing the miracle of having a human life at all, having, in other words, the possibilities of learning, enjoying, giving, receiving, and loving. Secondly, it is sad because it indicates that, like so many people, you yearn for what you do not have, and never will, instead of enjoying and using what you do have, which I am certain is a lot.

I do understand that being "beautiful" in the sense that you use the word does confer certain benefits in society, but countless people who lacked that particular asset have lived lives that were interesting, fulfilling, and even, although you probably doubt this, very sexy.

In a question from a man who is afraid that his penis is too small (another "beauty" issue, if you see what I mean), I addressed some of these issues in detail, and I suggest you refer to that answer which is also here on my website.

You ask if this problem can be cured or resolved, and, if so, how to approach that. Here is what I suggest:

1. Since you are not happy with your boyfriend's looks, and since looks are so very important to you, even to the extent that you do not trust his opinion about your own appearance since he is not "beautiful," I suggest you let your boyfriend go so that he can find a woman who really will like him as he is (and may even find him sexy). He deserves that consideration, in my opinion. After all, Amanda, to hold onto your boyfriend simply because you need a security blanket while denying him the space to look for real love in this life--a love which you are unwilling or unable to provide--to me seems unethical and terribly selfish.

2. Start eating right immediately. A proper diet will help you emotionally, psychologically, and physically. Check my website for suggestions.

3. Begin to study the word "beauty." Try to see that your use and understanding of that word is a bit constricted and small, and that your obsession with just one particular meaning of that word keeping you from noticing the beauty in yourself and the people you meet in this life.

4. Consider some personal psychotherapy. Your self-image is not working for you; it needs revision. Please look for a psychologist or other competent psychotherapist who can help you to reframe your understanding of your own value--not your value as you compare to others, but your value as a sentient being, someone who feels things, that is.

This is your one and only life. Please learn to live it more fully.

Be well.

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