onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Until I can melt back into my couch 

Tomorrow morning I am back on the road. To Corpus Christi. Yet again. First, to a kitchenette hotel for 2 weeks until our apartment becomes available. My husband went ahead of me today to get to the job earlier. This time, hopefully, we will be settled down there for about a year with only occasional weekend trips home for family visits. I’m looking forward to that. Because I’m tired. Being on the move, driving 9, 12, 14 hours at a time, sometimes for days in a row, is exhausting. Or flying home from a trip and turning right around to go fly to be with my sick husband…also quite tiring. And every time is preceded by at least one day of cooking and packing. And this type of travel situation has been going on pretty consistently since early September. So I’m really really tired.

But also, it’s been pretty amazing. There is something for me in gaining all of these new experiences. Being out in the world, being around people. Because I could melt into my couch sometimes. I could happily never leave the house. I could read, and make stuff, and cook, and not think much about the world out there. I love my boring routine. Sometimes too much. 

This travel has been sometimes stressful, of course. And I am offering you the “bright side” but I want to be perfectly clear that I really can’t wait for it to be done. But it has also been a lot of fun. 

My trip to LA was a ridiculously good time. And I feel like every time my husband and I move around, we get better at it. And I, personally, get better at it. Better at cooking faster, better at packing more efficiently. We make better time, just have better travel. And I like that part of it to. I like attaining new skills. I like leveling up. In any situation. 

So tomorrow I hit the road, and drive half way. And then wake up to do it again. And I will enjoy the enjoyable parts. And I will happily take my experiences as they come, because not too long from now, I’m sure I will happily melt back into my couch. 

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What makes for a pretty damn sweet life

I am back in the airport again right now, heading to South Carolina to meet up with my husband who has been there for about a week for work. I could have waited another week at our Chicago home for him to return on his own. It would have saved me yet another day of cooking and packing. It would have saved me a ton of airline points. But I have my priorities straight, and being with my husband is one of my top priorities.We will be heading back to Texas (again) next week when we get back from South Carolina, and I will be working when we get there. And my husband asked me, when will you run? I have been asking myself the same questions. And he didn’t ask, but I have also been wondering, when will I write?

One thing that I learned when I got my eating under control, is that we all have priorities, and they come down to action, not thoughts or beliefs. I could say that my food is my priority, but if I say eff it when it gets hard, or inconvenient, or I just don’t feel like it, then in practice, it’s not. 

My food is my first priority, always. But spending time with my husband, and my workout, and my writing are all pretty high up on the list. 

So I told him I don’t know when I will run. When I get there I will find out if there is a gym in our apartment complex, or if there is a good place to run outside, or if I have to join a gym. And I will see what my work hours are. So I can also fit in time to write 5 days a week. I will figure it out. Because I have my priorities straight. And that means *doing* something about them. 

When I was eating compulsively, I had things I wanted to be my priority, but in terms of what I *did*, shoving food in my face was number 1. And numbers 2 and 3, too.

I am grateful for the clarity that I have from having my eating under control, because when I keep my priorities where they should be, I actually get the life I want, not the life that circumstances dictate for me. And that makes for a pretty damn sweet life.

You have no power over me

The other day, for the at least second, or possibly 3rd time, I had a particular guy from junior high pop on my Facebook feed. Not by mutual junior high friends, but by people that I don’t think know him personally. He is the significant other of some social media personality that I don’t follow, and whom I am not interested in. And this woman sometimes tags this guy, and waxes poetic about how wonderful he is. But this guy stands out in my mind as the fat shaming bully of my junior high years.

So, when I was seeing friends of mine reacting with thumbs ups and hearts to some woman going on about this guy being the hero who changed her life, I wanted to write to my friends privately, tell them my story, stop them from liking and loving, and fawning over someone who humiliated and shamed me. I wanted to tell the world, or at least my small corner of it, that I hate that guy. That he is a bully and an arrogant jerk.

What? Am I twelve?

Well, actually, yes. The girl who wants to do that is absolutely twelve. And fat, and awkward, and bad at navigating the world. And she wants to shame and humiliate a forty-year-old man that she has had absolutely nothing to do with for the past 27+ years, just like he shamed and humiliated her.

I decided to take a step back and look at my part, my mess. Acknowledge my own dust and debris, and sweep around my own front door, before I go sweeping around this guy’s. (A shout out to the friend who posted that song this week.)

When I try to think back to specific incidents where this guy shamed and humiliated me, I can only think of one. And the truth is, in retrospect, it was not earth shattering. And it was not directed at my weight, but at my weirdness. Which is something I can’t deny. And which, at 12, in the company of other 12-year-olds in the homogenous south suburbs of Chicago, was not the cute, quirky asset that it would come to be in my adult years. Being a non-conformist didn’t make adolescence any easier, I’ll tell you that.

There is that quote that is attributed to many people, but as far as I can find was by a guy named Carl W. Buehner.

“They may forget what you said – but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Did this guy make me feel ashamed of myself and my body? Absolutely. I still very clearly remember those feelings. Enough so that I wanted to rant about him at people who don’t even know the guy. Do I really think he was a jerk? I sure do. But he could not have affected me the way he had, if I had not already hated myself so much and been so ashamed of myself. Perhaps I projected my own fat shaming of myself onto him. I don’t believe so, but it’s a possibility. Or perhaps I remember the experience of his meanness clearly, and I have blocked out the more painful and humiliating particulars and incidents. (I have discovered over the years that I have blocked out many of the more traumatic parts of my childhood.) But either way, the only reason I was having such a strong emotional reaction was because I was not complete with myself, or him, in my own heart and mind. And I don’t need him to hear me or see me or acknowledge me in any way, in order to get complete. This is between me and me, and it always was. Especially since I have had zero to do with this guy at all for nearly 3 decades.

But it’s still hard. Because it still hurts a lot. So much that it has made me cry more than once in the past days. Less when I think about his cruelty, and more when I think about how scared and alone I felt those two years that I was in junior high. I think that those two years were the very worst, most miserable of my entire life. I would say that they were even worse than the years just before I got my eating under control, when I was in the throes of my most destructive eating disorders. Ok, maybe it’s a tie…

So I expect that my problem is not really this guy as a person at all.  It’s what he represents in my memory about those years: the loneliness, and fear, the feeling that nothing would ever work out, or be right. The fear that I was forever going to be shameful and ashamed. And that there would always be someone, like him, who was eager to point it out.

And I don’t know. Maybe he’s changed. I certainly did. I changed myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Maybe he really is an amazing partner and father. Maybe he is a good, kind man with a heart filled with love and honor. Or maybe he’s not. Maybe he’s still a jerk and a bully and this woman doesn’t know the difference. Maybe he’s just better than her last one. Maybe she posts only the good and never the bad. She’s a social media personality, after all. I already know not to compare my insides with other people’s outsides. I, too, made sure I looked like I had my shit together when I definitely did not.

In the movie, Labyrinth, there is a line from a book that the heroine can never seem to remember. It’s a declaration, the kind of thing that most of us forget, conveniently or inconveniently, all the time when we are dealing with difficult people or situations. It’s a line I also forget, yet would do well to remember.

You have no power over me.

Totally unprepared 

Ah! I did not write a blog this week. 

I have had one brewing and stewing in my head for days, but I never sat down to write it. I’ve been a little busy.

And now I am rushing through a breakfast before 2 days on the road with my life in boxes again, and a cooler of all of my food for those days packed and ready to eat sitting on my passenger seat.

So my bad. I don’t love screwing up on a commitment. But I am taking the time right now. Because there is effing up, and there is saying eff it. I don’t believe in eff it. It’s what you say when you want to pretend you don’t care that you screwed up but you did.

I screwed up. I care. I’ll be back next week.

Not as convenient as it seemed

I fly relatively often. It’s part of my life on the road. And even when we are not flying home from my husband’s job for a family visit, I still go to New York about once a year.

I have noticed in the past year or so that I have been getting stopped by TSA and they have been swabbing my bag every time. Every single time. Even after I got TSA Precheck. I have asked why, but in general, TSA is not very forthcoming about the reason for these stops. I get it. They don’t want to make it easier for people to do bad things by telling the public what they are looking for.

But thankfully for me, one woman at the San Antonio airport, before my most recent flight to Chicago, told me that my food looks like explosives in the x-ray machine.

Ooooooooooooohhh!

I have mentioned before that I tend to travel with complete meals made into compact little loaves. They are generally made of eggs, wheat germ, pumpkin or carrots, cinnamon/spices, sweetener, sesame oil, and sometimes sesame seeds. And when I cook them in the microwave, which I usually do (as opposed to a conventional oven) they become a chewy, rather wet muffin of sorts. And I can imagine that in an x-ray machine, they look like the kind of thing you would see wires coming out of in an 80’s terrorist movie like Die Hard.

So when we left Chicago to fly back to Texas, I decided to try an experiment. I opted against easy to carry, compact loaves in favor of slightly more bulky and cumbersome meals of cooked vegetables and proteins packed in leak-proof Tupperware.

And I did not get stopped at all.

I had been thinking all this time that I was doing myself a favor by having these tiny little meals that were easy to carry. But every time I got stopped, I was frustrated, And more than that, I was afraid that someone was going to take my food away from me. (I know. I need to get a doctor to write me an official letter stating that I have special food needs.) It was slightly less convenient to pack a meal of cooked vegetables and protein. But the benefits of not worrying about losing my precious meals far outweigh the extra prep time and carry-on space used.

I am not saying that I will never get stopped again. I have been stopped for other things as well. My food scale, and my knitting needles and crochet hooks all come to mind. But it had been worrying me that I was being stopped every time I flew. And that is a stress I don’t need. Any stress is stress I don’t need.

And to be honest, I was packing those particular meals because I thought they were convenient, not because I found them particularly delicious. (Not that they were terrible…But they were dense. A lot of food in a little loaf.) I eat different things when I am at home than I do when I am travelling, either by plane or car. Some foods just don’t travel well. But I now know that those little loaves are not as convenient as they seemed. And now that I have that information, I can adjust accordingly.

 

Life doesn’t care if I am comfortable with change.

Because of the trouble with the hurricane in Texas, we had to come back to Chicago for a stretch. We were told on a Tuesday and had to fly out on a Wednesday. And we thought that we would be here for another week at least, but found out we will end up having to head back to Texas sooner than we had planned. No complaints. Chicago is cold right now. But the quick turnaround has meant being able to fly by the seat of our pants. It means being able to be flexible.

When we got here to our home in Chicago, we noticed that we had some stray kittens living under our deck. They had been abandoned by their (stray) mother, and were starving. They were not going to survive long, and most certainly not a Chicago winter. So I fed them until a friend of mine could help me capture them and take them to a shelter to be taken care of until they were old enough to be adopted. It meant being able to do something that I had not expected or planned on. It meant being able to fly by the seat of my pants yet again.

I hate flying by the seat of my pants. I like plans. I like routine. I do not get bored easily. I can read the same book over and over. I can eat the same foods every day. I can listen to the same song on repeat. I can find something new in old things. I like nuance; I am interested in fine distinctions. I understand that variety is the spice of life for some people. I very often find variety to be the source of anxiety, and worry. But I have my food under control, so I can go with the flow. Or roll with the punches, but I prefer flow to punches…unless it’s zero calorie fruit punch. That I like a lot…

If I were in the food, I would not have had the energy to take care of those kittens. I would not have had the wherewithal to deal with them one step at a time. First feed them, then call the shelters, then catch them, then bring them in to be taken care of. I would have gotten 500 steps ahead of myself wondering how I was going to get them to the shelter, would have gotten completely overwhelmed, and I wouldn’t have fed them in the first place. It’s not that I am a more caring person now that I have my eating under control; I am simply much much better at dealing with unexpected situations.

Then, as I said before, on Friday, my husband called in the middle of the day and said that we had to head back to Texas a week earlier than we expected, as in, we had two or three days to be ready. I told him I would be ready when he needed me to be ready.

I can do that because when I have my eating under control, I can do one thing at a time, and take care of the next right thing. I can think straight and think ahead, without getting ahead of myself. So I am writing this blog, and then I will go to the store and make sure I have enough food for my trip back.

It turns out that life does not particularly care how comfortable I am with change, especially at a moment’s notice. And I don’t have to take that personally. But I do have to deal with it. And I am grateful that I am able to do that now.

An apology to the managers

I was talking to my dad the other day and he mentioned that in another post (this one here) I wrote that if you have never been able to successfully lose, or keep off weight, that I recommend that you give up sugar, or your personal binge foods for good. I said that I didn’t know anyone who had once been fat and both lost weight and maintained that weight loss by “managing” their binge foods. And he said that I knew him, and that he manages his food.

This is true. I know that he was bigger when he was younger and is not now. And I know that if he notices that he is gaining weight, he restricts his food intake; he stops eating dessert. I said to him that I wasn’t talking about “naturally thin” people, and he said that he did not consider himself “naturally thin.”

So I felt like I should touch on this again. At least clarify. Because perhaps what I am talking about is the ability to learn a new lifestyle. My dad had the ability to lose weight because he changed the way he ate every day. I had to change the way I ate every day in order to have a new body, and I am pretty sure that is true for everyone. If the way you were eating before your diet made you fat, then if and when you go back to that way of eating, you will be fat again. You actually have to change your entire eating lifestyle to maintain a long-term weight loss. Getting the weight off once does not “stick” unless you “stick” with the new food plan.

For me, when I was eating compulsively, I had two modes, dieting or eating. (Mostly eating, by the way.) When I was dieting, I was restricting the number of calories I was taking in. I was eating boring, bland food. I was eating everything steamed, and low fat, and “lite.” I was eating foods I hated, because they were “diet” foods. And then, when I was off the diet, I went back to eating the way I had eaten before because I hated the way the food I had been eating on a diet tasted. So I gained the weight back. And then some.

If you lost weight by changing the way you ate, and then never reverted back to the old way of eating, then you would have successfully changed your relationship with food. You would have successfully taken on a new lifestyle. If, in that new lifestyle, you let yourself eat like crazy on Thanksgiving, but then spend the rest of your time eating balanced, nutritious meals, and don’t take “Thanksgiving eating” into the New Year, then you could be said to be “managing” your food, it’s true. If you eat a sugary, or “binge food” treat twice a week, and the rest of the time, your food is clean, and your weight is steady, you could be said to be “managing” your food. And I do know a handful of people who have learned to do this.

But I would say, that if you have lost 30, or 50, or 75, or 100 pounds, only to gain it back, possibly more than once, then I am going to guess that you have a problem with sugar, or a problem with your binge foods, and that the answer is abstinence.

I, personally, have never been able to manage. And I would suggest that if you have been on Weight Watchers, or Nutrisystem, or any other diet, lets say 3 times, and you have not learned how to eat in any way that helps you maintain a weight that you are content with, then perhaps you cannot manage either, and you should consider abstinence. If it doesn’t register for you that you have to change your eating habits as a whole in order to maintain your weight, then perhaps you are an addict, and you should consider abstinence. If you know that you don’t want to gain weight, and you know that you should not eat that cookie, but you cannot not eat that cookie, then perhaps you should consider abstinence.

Ultimately, my point is that in order to lose weight and maintain that weight loss, a lifestyle change is necessary. But I could not change my lifestyle because sugar kept sucking me back in. It was only in choosing abstinence from sugar, grains, and starch that I was able change my eating as a whole, and maintain my weight long term. So if you can manage, then by all means manage. But if you have given managing a good, hard try, and you repeatedly fail, then perhaps you should consider abstinence.

And an apology from me to all of you “managers.” Just because I could never do it, I ain’t mad at ya!

Food is the problem. The hurricane is just a situation.

I am in Corpus Christi, hunkering down in anticipation of Hurricane Harvey. I am writing this on Friday, even though I will schedule it to post for Saturday. There is some worry about winds, but really, my biggest worries are flooding, and what will happen when we lose power, internet and cell service.

I went out early Thursday morning, made sure I had enough food and water to last a week. But the truth is I didn’t need to buy much for myself, because being prepared “for anything” in terms of my food boundaries, is how I roll in general. I already had a house full of non perishables for my food plan. I mostly had to make sure that my husband wouldn’t starve. We even have a propane grill, if we need to cook. But frankly, he has enough bread and PB&J to last the duration.

Keeping a house full of food has long been a means of calming myself and creating a sense of peace. For me, knowing that my food is taken care of means that I can take care of anything else. There’s a woman I know and she says “I only have one problem: Food. Everything else is just a situation.” I love this saying because that is my experience. Food was always my problem. I was miserable being fat, I wanted to stop eating but I couldn’t, and both my body and my obsession with food were a constant source of pain and shame for me. Eating compulsively colored every aspect of my life. It affected how I thought about myself, what I said to myself in my inner dialogue, and how I treated myself. It was a problem. And it created a million other problems for me.

When I got my eating under control, slowly but surely, I had fewer and fewer problems. Which is not to say that things didn’t go wrong. Life is still life. But I could get out of my own way. I was causing myself less trouble. And when something happened, I could deal with it with clarity, and a modicum of self-respect. Coming from a place of self-respect drastically changed the kinds of actions I took in the face of trouble and hardship.

So I am not in the best situation right now. It’s a little stressful. I have had an eye twitch pretty much nonstop since Thursday morning. (That’s the most common way my body deals with stress.) But I am doing my best to make good, rational decisions, and take proper care of myself and my husband. (And the neighborhood cat that was left out in the storm. No seriously. My husband brought the cat in…not that I am complaining. I like the cat.) But it’s not a problem. It’s not debilitating. It doesn’t feel like a horrible hole that I have fallen into and cannot get back out of, the way food did. It’s just a situation. And I will deal with it, moment to moment, with humor and grace. Or humor and grace is the plan anyway. Either way I will deal with it. And this too shall pass, like everything, good and bad alike.

The strictly proverbial icing on the nonexistent cake

This week was an exciting food week for me. First, I found my favorite winter seasonal flavored coffee, cinnamon sugar cookie. (It’s even better than gingerbread, and frankly, blows pumpkin spice out of the water.) Now I usually hate it when companies start selling a season months in advance, and I certainly found it ridiculous that there was a “fall scents” display in my local grocery store this July. And if I were in New York or Chicago staring down an actual winter, I might be more annoyed than excited to find this coffee. But on the other hand, it is reaaaaaaaally good, and I’m in southern Texas where I will not have to wear four layers of pants to leave my house. Ever. So yay yummy coffee!

And then I found a meat market that will custom make me mild Italian sausage with no sugar, grains, or starch. I have not been able to find an Italian Sausage I can eat since I left the Chicago area. In fact, I was buying a bunch of it there when we traveled home to visit family, and driving it back to Kentucky in a cooler and freezing it. Now, we don’t go home by car. So we have not had sausage in months! Months I say!

And then somebody told my husband about a meat market, and I called and asked about the ingredients in their fresh sausage, and of course, it had sugar in it. But the guy told me that he could make custom orders. And he talked me through all of the ingredients one at a time, seasonings and spices, hog casing and pork, to make sure that I could have everything on the list. I had to order 25 pounds. It’s a lot. But I will freeze it, just like I did before. And it’s Italian sausage! I get to eat Italian sausage again!

Look, this has been a rough week for me emotionally. Possibly for you too. I have been heartbroken, frustrated, furious and disgusted. These kinds of emotions, and the kind of fear and anxiety about the future that I have been experiencing, are what I ate over when I was eating sugar and eating compulsively. Now I don’t eat those feelings.

But eating still makes me happy. Happier now because it is guilt free and still keeps me in a comfortable body. So I am grateful for yummy seasonal coffee, and sausage I can eat. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for so many little things, laughing with my husband, making new friends (human and animal), the time and ability to make Star Wars amigurumi (crocheted dolls), but for this recovering food addict, the food ones don’t hurt. In fact, they are the strictly proverbial icing on the nonexistent cake.

Like with most things, “free” foods aren’t really free

Last week I wrote about my belief that if you are fat and you want to lose weight and keep it off, I recommend giving up your binge foods for good. For me, my personal binge foods are specifically sugar, grains, and starch. I do sometimes eat high sugar vegetables like onions or winter squash, but I eat them in smaller quantities than if I were eating cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts or broccoli. I do also eat fruit for breakfast every day, but I even watch what kind of fruit I eat. I don’t eat bananas, cherries, or grapes, to name a few. I don’t eat any foods that will trigger my cravings.

I wanted to bring this up again because I want to say that what I do is simple, but not easy. But that it is possible. The problem is that it sucks. Only in the beginning, but the beginning lasts a long time. My beginning lasted a year and a half.

But I want to say that it was worth it to get past the suck. It was worth it to suffer through the pain of it for 18 months. I have never been happier.

When people ask me how I lost my weight, which they do (I get it – 150 Lb. weight loss is noteworthy) , and I tell them I gave up sugar, most people are already not listening. If I get to tell them that I also gave up grains and starches, and I eat specific quantities, most people are now half way down the block heading to some appointment they suddenly remembered. Some even look at me in shock, or think I am joking when I say that I not only control the portions of my proteins and fats, but also the vegetables that I eat, including salads.

We live in a culture where we have been sold an idea that we should be able to eat with impunity. That we should never be hungry. That we deserve a reward in the form of a cookie or a donut for doing the most basic tasks (also known as “adulting.”)

So when we are on a diet, we want foods to be “free.” I have been on those diets before. Pickles are free. Salads are free. Celery is free. You can eat as much of those things as you want on many diets and food programs. I, personally, see two problems with this way of thinking. 1) If the vegetables are “free,” that means that what we are saying is that food that “counts” is, at least in part, empty calories. The cake counts, the bacon counts, the ice cream counts. But the broccoli doesn’t count? Vegetables are food! They count. Why are we, as a culture, acting like they don’t? Why are we calculating and shifting and moving and negotiating to put crap in our bodies every day, and as much as our diet allows? And 2) I needed to stop eating. Eating was making me miserable, and not just because I was fat. I needed to learn to be in any given moment and not be shoving something into my face.

Part of the reason I was fat was because I could not stop, and here I was being told how to eat all day, and lose weight. Now, it may not “matter” in terms of my weight if I was eating celery all day (which, by the way, I would never do, because I hate celery with a passion), except that I was eventually going to go off that diet, and I was going to continue to eat all day, except that time I was going to eat sugar, and carbs, because those were the foods I wanted, and I already had this idea that it somehow made sense to eat non-stop. This idea that we could eat all day, and eat all of the foods we “love,” and still lose weight and keep it off is fascinating to me, because why haven’t we already been doing that all along then? Because those of us who haven’t, probably really can’t.

In putting boundaries around my eating, I learned that being “hungry” is not the end of the world. (If you have enough to eat in the first place. Please note that I am not talking about real hunger. I am not talking about people who live in poverty and who do not have enough food to live.) Learning to get from breakfast to lunch without eating something in between was a gift in ways that I could not have imagined when I was eating compulsively. Realizing that most of my eating was either to get high, to avoid feeling a difficult feeling, or to stave off boredom, was a revelation that changed my life. And I would never have had that revelation without going without food for a few hours at a time. I couldn’t have learned the lessons I needed to learn without letting myself be uncomfortable. There’s a saying that goes, If you want to know why you eat, stop eating. Being “hungry” and “wanting” to eat, and not eating, meant that I had to sit with all of the things that were making me “hungry.” And when I was confronted by them, and yet didn’t blot them out with food, I could see what they were, and I had a chance to do something about them. And, in terms of pleasure, being hungry meant that when I got to eat my nourishing, abundant meal, I enjoyed it in ways that I never enjoyed eating before. Even when I had been eating chocolate cake, or donuts, or pizza.

I do not get hungry very often anymore. It happens occasionally, but for the most part, the meals I eat are enough to get me to the next one happily and comfortably. From time to time I am ravenous by breakfast time, since the time between dinner and breakfast is often around 11 hours, and usually includes a 2-mile jog. But for the most part, I don’t think about food, unless it is to plan tomorrow’s delicious meals. And I am sure that it’s because I am eating real, whole, nourishing foods, not empty calories. And because all of them count. And because I am dealing with my eating problems, my mental obsession with food, and my addiction, rather than my weight.

 

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