Bioethics Blogs

The Image in the Mirror

By Susan White Bowers

The image in the mirror shifted in and out of focus, appearing distorted, with undefined areas around the edges. I hardly recognized the seemingly blurred figure. My reaction to the reflection was one of uncertainty. Lately, I’ve had trouble recognizing myself. After a ninety-pound weight loss, I’m no longer sure who that person is in the mirror. 

What started out as “chubbiness” quickly spiraled into obesity, after I was sexually abused as a young child. Not able to confide in anyone about the abuse, nor comfort myself, I turned to food to soothe my fears and calm my anxieties. Eating allowed me to stuff down my angry feelings, guilt, shame and pain.


Being traumatized as a child made it hard for me when the time came to start grade school. I was afraid of everyone, so I ate more. It never seamed to matter what the kids at school said about my weight. I felt comfortable and safe in my oversized body.


As a teenager and on into adulthood, I used obesity as a psychological defense to maintain distance from everyone. Determined no one would hurt me again, I wore my weight as a concrete barrier to the outside world. At age nineteen and depressed, I sought psychotherapy to work through the abuse related fear, anger, guilt and shame. As a medical professional, I knew permanent weight loss would not occur until I uncovered the reasons for my emotional eating.


Year after year in therapy, I worked through the emotional issues that lead to my weight gain.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.