onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Eating like a queen will have to be good enough for now

My self-imposed quarantine will technically come to an end Tuesday. It will have been 14 days since I was out in a public space. In my case, to buy groceries for two weeks. Since, I have only been to the outdoor track across the street from my apartment complex by myself.


And people were sometimes there. And, to my chagrin, often refused to try to keep 6 feet from me, which meant I had to take all of the responsibility for keeping the distance. So I did. Because one of the most important lessons I have learned in 14+ years of keeping my eating boundaries is that I am responsible for taking care of what is important to me. If 6 feet of distance is important to me and not to other people, then it’s my responsibility. So I did what I needed to do. But it made me angry.


Because I am scared. Here’s the thing. I am in a small town in Oklahoma. And where I am is a “hot spot” in terms of per capita spread of the coronavirus according to a recent map in Scientific American. In other words, there aren’t enough people here to be a hot spot like New York or Chicago, but in terms of percentage of the population, we have a rapidly growing problem. And my expectation is that in a week or two, it will be a crisis here.


And the other thing is that starting on Monday, my husband goes back to work. It will be 14 days since he was on a plane or in an airport, so they will let him back on his job site now. The work we do here is considered essential. Which is nice in one way. I am grateful to have money coming in. I am grateful to not be worried about money when so many people are.


But it also means my husband will be going out into groups of people. And then coming back home. While we are in an area with a rapidly growing number of cases of the coronavirus. And I am going to have to manage my stress over it.


But so much of my life is the same. And can be the same. My food is the same. My exercise. My work. And that is a blessing. It keeps me grounded and sane. Or as sane as I can be when I am worried and stressed.


I am grateful I am not face first in the food today. Because while food certainly helped me deal with a lot of feelings and fears as a kid, it only worked until it didn’t anymore. And when it didn’t work anymore it was a powerful burden. So eating compulsively cannot help me now, and I am grateful that my food is under control. My three meals a day keep me grounded. They keep me in the moment as much as possible. And that keeps my stress levels at a minimum.


I don’t know what will happen. And I am allowed to be worried if I want to be. I am probably not going to leave the house until next Saturday’s grocery shopping, except to jog . Because while my 14 days after the airport is just about up, I don’t want to go out into a busy store in a hot spot.


Today I will cook some frozen vegetables for the week, instead of fresh. And I thankfully had the foresight to buy 5 jars of some really delicious pickles, along with lots of bacon, when I was in the Chicago suburbs two weeks ago. So I will still be eating like a Queen for the next week. And that is going to have to be good enough for now.

It was always life on Life’s terms, but now I accept it

I am sitting home on the 6th day of my self-quarantine after traveling Sunday and Monday. I am feeling well.


The thing is, my life has not changed from my life before this corona virus outbreak in any noticeable way except that I didn’t go to the grocery store yesterday.


Yes, I have more than enough food and supplies to make it the coming week. Maybe maybe at the end I will need more water. The water in this town doesn’t agree with me, and gives me a bad stomach. But other than that, my food supply is fine.


And in general, things are much the same. I go on my jog alone in the park across the street from my apartment complex, like always. I work from home, and thankfully still have a job, like always. I, apparently, am one of those actual introverts (which might surprise people who know me since I am a friendly, loud, social being when I am around people), because I wasn’t leaving my house more than once a week before and I am certainly not leaving it now. And this in no way upsets me. And I am apparently not the rebel I sometimes believe and sometimes fear I am, since I am not itching to go anywhere simply because I have been told not to.


But I am not peaceful. I am not calm. I am maintaining an admirable level of outward calm, but my body betrays me.


I am having a hard time focusing on work. I am not doing any crafts. I can’t even seem to read or listen to audiobooks like usual.


And I have a lip twitch.


I have known for many years that I live with a steady, manageable stream of low-level anxiety. I learned to make friends with it about a decade ago. I think it’s helpful to know what you can change, and what you have to manage. Like I can’t change my addiction to sugar and simple carbohydrates, but I learned to make friends with that and manage my eating. I also had to make friends with my anxiety, and learn not to give it the microphone. It can chatter away all it wants, but I don’t have to listen.


But I also know that stress lives in the body. And because I know how to manage it, sometimes when things are particularly intense, I get an eye twitch. It’s my body’s way of letting go of the stress without me crying and screaming and stomping. (OK, sometimes I cry. But usually over fiction, and it’s an excellent catharsis, even if it is not strictly about my own life.)


But this lip twitch is new. And it is particularly uncomfortable. And a little scary. Probably because it is new.


I don’t want to pretend everything is “fine” because my life looks the same as it did a month ago. Things are changing. And I am not immune from the heightened sense of fear that everyone is experiencing right now. And I would not be doing myself a favor if I acted as if nothing is wrong. Even if nothing is “wrong” in my life at the moment.


And the last thing I want to say is that having boundaries around my eating has created a structure for me that is invaluable in an upside down world. I learned 14+ years ago how to do things “no matter what.” Like my 3 portion controlled meals a day. Like my jog. Like my wake up and bed times.


Aside from not eating myself into oblivion out of anxiety or boredom, which I am particularly grateful for, I am not ruled by circumstances. It feels great to go about my life. To feel the fear but not be overwhelmed by it. To know that this too shall pass, as all things pass. To understand that no matter how the world changes, that I know how quickly I can adopt a “new normal.” To know that having my food under control has taught me how to adapt and change. The world has always been “life on life’s terms,” but it wasn’t until I got my eating under control that I could understand how to accept that. And once I learned how to go with the flow, even when the flow is like white water rafting, I can hang on and, if not enjoy the ride, certainly make it to the shore.

Just a short one about being prepared

Another short one for this week.


I just want to talk about being prepared. Again. Because obviously, the world is a crazy place right now.


Our original flight from Florida got cancelled, and we had to spend an extra day in paradise. (Poor me…oh the sarcasm!) But with plans in general so subject to change at this time, I spent the extra time before we left to pack 2 full days worth of meals. I only need the one, but I wanted to be fully prepared and not worry about if my eating boundaries could be met. Packing 2 days meant that if we got to the airport and we could not get a flight out and had to go to a hotel for the night, my food would still be taken care of. And that was a load off of my mind.


I don’t want to be a person who panics in general. And I most definitely don’t want to worry about how I am going to meet my food needs.

All of the nothing I have to do

Today’s post is going to be short. Because I am in the Florida Keys, and there is a beach chair calling to me.


But here is an important story about my food. When my husband and I travel, we book hotel rooms with kitchens. That way I can go to the grocery store and cook for myself, and have dishes and cooking tools there. Even when I am on vacation, I don’t take a vacation from my eating boundaries.

Well they booked it so that the smaller room for 1, my husband’s mom, got the kitchen. And we didn’t. And that was scary. But they agreed to move us to a room with a kitchen today.


But the thing is, I had a dinner with me last night. Because when I travel, I always have the whole day’s worth of meals with me. Because things like this happen. And this morning I weighed my yogurt for breakfast on a paper plate and used yesterday’s wiped-off spoon. But again, things like this happen.

Today I am getting my kitchen. And other than keeping my eating boundaries, I don’t have anything to do. And it is really nice to be able to relax and do all of the nothing I have to do with a peaceful heart, because I planned ahead and was prepared. Because the only thing I take more seriously than my relaxation time is my food.

Nothing to do but relax and eat my delicious meals

Folks, between today and my next post, I am leaving for Florida! I am spending a week in the sun and I could not be more excited!

But also, my food boundaries are a thing I do always, and no matter what. So when I travel, there are some things I need that most people don’t. I need a kitchen where I can cook. I need access to a grocery store. I need to bring at least one food scale with me. 2 is better. And on the day I travel, I need to bring all of the food I am going to eat that day, already prepped, portioned out, and ready to eat at meal times.


If we are going somewhere for a short time, and especially if we are driving, I can just bring the whole trip’s worth of pre-prepared meals with me. I did that to go to New Orleans several years back. And I prefer that. But when we travel to far places, and we fly, it’s impossible to bring a week’s worth of meals. So we spend more on hotels than most people in order to get a full kitchen.


Also, flying with food regularly gets me stopped by TSA. Even though I have Precheck. And that can be a little stressful, to be honest. OK, more than a little stressful.
But ultimately, knowing that my food is taken care of is the most important thing to me.

After my eating disorders are taken care of, everything else is just a situation to deal with between breakfast and lunch. And I can do that. Especially if dealing with it gets me on a plane to Florida with a week in the sun with nothing to do but relax and eat my delicious meals.

There is no perfect configuration of hoops, so I stopped jumping.

When I am on social media, I block all diet ads. And not just the scams, like the supplements and diet shakes. I block the exercise and weight loss tracking apps as well. And the Meal delivery services. I block anything that says that if I hit on the perfect equation, I will get exactly the body I am told is the perfect, most beautiful, most desirable body.

Because for the past 42+ years, the body I have is exactly my body. Sometimes it has been fat. (300 pounds. U.S. Size 28.) Sometimes It has been skinny. (133 pounds. U.S. Size 6.) And all manner of weights and sizes in between. But certain things never change. And never will. The boxy shape of my butt, for example. The fact that my thighs touch and will never not touch. (They touched when I was my skinniest. There is just no way around it. It is about the position of my bones.) How short my very wide hips are, especially compared to my long torso. I don’t have that long graceful curve from waist to thigh. And I won’t. Because the only way to change these very specific things is with cosmetic surgery and 1) I have more important thing to spend my money on than meeting some made up ideal of feminine beauty. And 2) I really like my body. Exactly the way it is.

It took me a very long time to realize that most people who have “perfect” bodies, (bodies that fit neatly into the aesthetic of modern beauty standards) and faces, have had some form of cosmetic work done. The richer they are, the harder it is to tell, because the work is of such good quality that it looks natural. But ultimately, very few humans will ever just naturally fall into that “ideal Western beauty model.”

I once saw a post that had a side-by-side picture of a famous model (who was just recently, and with plenty of controversy, called “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World According to Science”) before and after what is obviously extensive cosmetic surgery, with the caption “No one is born ugly. Only poor.”

I am not judging people who choose cosmetic surgery. I think it is a choice, just like any lifestyle choice. And it’s none of my business.

Also, cosmetic surgery can’t keep a person skinny. That is most definitely a combination of lifestyle and genetics. I expect that people who get that kind of cosmetic surgery spend a lot of time exercising and actively not eating. (Probably actually starving, frankly.) My guess is that a lot of drugs are also involved. Or at the very least lots of cigarettes and Diet Coke.

But to be told that if I jump through some series of hoops, indeed, if I figure out the *exactly right configuration of hoops* for my body type or blood type or lifestyle type or whatever else nonsense, that I will then mold my body into exactly the “ideal beautiful body” as seen in magazines and on TV, is cruel, offensive, predatory, and blatantly false. (And that’s not even touching on Photoshopped images.)

The other reason this is so particularly offensive to me is that this myth gives society leave to judge bodies, especially women’s bodies, as a kind of character judgment. Because if [insert name of woman you would like to judge] had any willpower/self-respect/shame, she would figure out her hoops and jump through them.

I, of course, don’t believe in willpower. It has never helped me control anything to do with my weight or my eating disorders. And I have not eaten sugar for over 14 years. So as someone with the experience of abstaining, let me assure you, willpower has nothing to do with it. It has been about support, community, and the gift of desperation to stop eating constantly. I am not in possession of any moral high ground, just a deep sense of humility around my eating.

I choose a particularly specific eating lifestyle to keep my eating disorders in check. It’s no man made sugar, starches, and no grains except some wheat germ. It’s 3 meals a day with strict portion control with nothing in between but black coffee or zero calorie drinks. The boundaries I keep also help keep my weight/size within a certain range. And I am grateful for that because it means that I live mostly pain-free. I am free from the emotional and spiritual pain of addiction, free from the pain of weight on my joints, free from the pain of exertion while doing mundane things like climbing stairs or walking long distances. In other words, if you consider them hoops, I jump through them for my personal peace, not to live up to anyone else’s standards.

And I love my body the way it is. And I don’t just mean that I tolerate it. I don’t only love it for being my vehicle. I think it’s beautiful, not just useful. And I treat it like the precious thing it is.

Freedom isn’t free. And what would I do with a toaster?

Last week I waxed poetic about the amazing freedom that I get from putting boundaries around my eating. This week I want to talk about one of the less savory (though still really important) aspects of having my eating under control.
I feel all of my feelings. ALL of them!
And this week has been a difficult week for feelings. My husband and I not only live together, but we work together and we travel together. And we have both been under a ridiculous amount of stress. Tempers have been running high. We have been fighting about work. And we had an emotionally “frosty” drive home on Friday.
And then a person commented on a post of my blog last week saying, “Talk about deprivation!” And I was frustrated and angry. Because my post was all about how I am *not* deprived in the slightest. And I had to decide if I wanted to respond.
I didn’t. Because this blog is not about being “right.” And it’s not about getting people to do what I do. I’m not promoting an eating lifestyle. I am sharing my experience. I want to be a beacon. I hope I help someone who needs to hear that there is a solution to what they are suffering.
But it’s not like I get a toaster if I convince people to try my way of eating.
Also, what the hell would a person who doesn’t eat bread do with a toaster?
My point is that I felt all of those feelings this week. And more. I did a lot of crying. I did a lot of talking it out with trusted friends. But there was no escaping the reality of those feelings like there was when I was eating sugar and eating compulsively.
The thing about feelings that I learned early in putting boundaries around my eating was that you don’t get to pick and choose. It’s all or nothing. And even when you choose “nothing,” it’s not really nothing. Those feelings still live inside you. It’s just that they are twisted, and corrupted. When I finally put down sugar, I had to feel 28 years worth of feelings. 28 years worth of feelings that spent all of that time bouncing around the echo chamber of my sick, sad mind. And wow did that suck.
So now I have to feel them as they come, one at a time. But I also get to feel them as true, pure feelings. Not warped and amplified after years of pushing them down and in.
There is that saying: Freedom isn’t free. It’s usually meant to be political and patriotic. My experience is that it’s true spiritually as well.
I had to make sacrifices to get this freedom. I’m not talking about giving up cake. I am talking about giving up the numbness that accompanied my eating cake. It may not occur to you that there is a difference, but to me this is not a subtle distinction. It’s glaringly obvious to me.
So I am happy, joyous, and free. But in order to be that, I also have to be sad, frustrated, humiliated, angry, or any other feeling that comes upon me.

Something I cannot recommend enough

In the past months I have been shifting the way I frame things in this blog. I am talking less about weight loss and more about food. I don’t want to play into fat phobia with this blog. I want it to be about recovery, not judgment. About emotional and spiritual wellness, not physical size, or “health” or moral “shoulds.”

Because giving up man-made sugars, and most grains and starches, and weighing my food, is without a doubt the best thing that has ever happened to me. The fact that I am not “on a diet” is so important. I eat delicious, decadent meals. I enjoy every bite. I’m a weirdo about it too. I totally talk to my food. I clap excitedly when I am about to dig in. I do little dances in my seat when we have a particularly delicious meal. Like when my husband makes carnitas or when I make bacon lamb burgers. (No. No tortillas or buns. No. I do not miss them.)
I certainly chose my eating boundaries in order to lose weight when I started this journey 14 years ago. But what is it they say about the best laid plans? 
The truth is I did lose weight. And there was a period of time when I was skinny. But life had other plans for me. Plans I didn’t get a say in. If it had been up to me, I definitely would have stayed skinny. But it was not up to me. 
In some ways I am grateful for not staying skinny. Because it let me know how much of my choice to stick with my eating boundaries was based on my emotional and spiritual life. 
If skinniness were the only goal, I would have quit when my weight fluctuated, and I gained weight while eating less. If that were the point, I would have gone and looked for something else. Or I potentially would have said “screw this” and gone back to sugar. Because if I couldn’t “control” my weight with this “extreme” eating plan, I might as well let it all go and eat cake. (Spoiler alert: I did *not* say “screw this” and go eat cake. And thank the heavens!)
The gifts of my eating boundaries are about how I feel about myself. I like and love myself inside and out. Not because I am a certain size. Not because I fit into a specific, socially acceptable category of feminine beauty. But because I am free from cravings and compulsion. Because I have a clear head. Because I spent my life lying and sneaking and hiding food, and lying sneaking and hiding all sorts of other things as a result. But being deeply honest about my food allowed me to be deeply honest in all areas of my life. And that honesty is freedom. And because honoring my body by caring about what I put into it has allowed me to honor my body is so many other ways. To quit smoking. To exercise regularly as a practice. To drink water and limit caffeine, and floss daily. And to like and love what I see in the mirror. Even with all of the flabby parts, and the parts with stretch marks, and wrinkles and spots. All of it. And that complete love started with me getting control of my eating, which was out of control for so much of my life. 
And I have to tell you that I don’t know a lot of people who have that. And I don’t think a lot of us exist in the world. Not even women who are thinner and younger and live in more socially acceptable bodies than I do. I think even most of them still don’t have the kind of deep-rooted peace around their bodies that my chubby, middle-aged self does. 
So keeping my eating boundaries may have started out being about losing weight and being thin, but it is not that anymore. Now it is about extreme self-love. Loving all of myself exactly as it is. And that is something I cannot recommend enough. 

Nothing to prove. Not even to myself.

Toward the end of last year, my husband and I found a leak in our closet from our bathroom. And because of it, I had to throw away the majority of my clothes due to a serious mold infestation. And now that we are going on a trip to Florida next month, I realized I needed a summer wardrobe. 

When I quit sugar 14 years ago, I did not lose all of the weight that I would at first. It definitely went in phases. But eventually I was quite skinny. And in those years of thin to really skinny, I bought a lot of clothes. I bought a lot of really cute, eclectic, crazy, fashionable, fun clothes. And I looked amazing all the time.

And when I quit smoking 7 and a half years ago, I gained 30+ pounds. And since then, my weight has fluctuated. Sometimes I have been thin, sometimes not so much. And in that time I bought a lot of clothes. To fill in any gaps in my “skinny” wardrobe. 

At first not being skinny anymore was devastating. Now it’s just life. 

So a lot of my clothes didn’t fit the same way they did before. Some didn’t fit at all and got given away. Some fit better the more I filled them out. Some fit less well. But there were a lot of them. And they were stylish. And I enjoyed looking in my closet for something fun and funky to wear.

And then they were moldy.

But I have to admit there is something so freeing about getting rid of all of those old clothes. Because I am different. I bought so many of them when I was single. When I was a New York City girl. When I had different hobbies and different goals. And frankly, when I was more willing to be uncomfortable for beauty.

There were very few things it hurt me to throw away when we went through that moldy closet. (Though that Black House White Market long cardigan with the granny square cuffs and collar hurt like a bitch to get rid of.) Because they were for a woman with a different shaped body, and a different shaped life. 

It was nice to be able to make new choices and choose different styles in this past month or so. I am less likely to want my skirts particularly short or my heels particularly high. I am leaning toward more classic styles with a funky twist, as opposed to really funky stuff. (Though, to my husband’s dismay, I still love all things strapless. He calls them tube tops and they are not his favorite. But I have a really spectacular neck and shoulders. And luckily, he doesn’t have to wear them.)

But I guess this is the point for me. When those clothes were in my closet, I felt in some ways like I had to live up to them. They were purchased because I could fit into whatever style I wanted. I could be wild and daring and not be given the side eye or be shamed, as happened a lot to me when I was fat. I am not saying I wore clothes I didn’t love. I loved them! They excited me. I felt beautiful and gorgeous and stylish in them. But they were also a point I had to prove and a statement I had to make. 

Now, I have a different statement I want to make. That my 42 and a half year-old body is totally perfect. It’s beautiful and healthy and I can dress it however I want. And I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. Not even myself.

Two roads diverge, and I took the one less traveled by

I have been thinking a lot lately about fat acceptance and addiction. How they intersect, and where they diverge. 

As a person who grew up fat in a fat phobic society, I have a lot of experience with the shame and humiliation that comes from not being able to control so many things, especially my eating, the size of my body, and the way I was treated. I was miserable growing up because of all of those things. 
I am addicted to sugar and carbohydrates. Certainly man-made ones. But also some natural ones. I don’t eat honey, or maple syrup, or agave nectar. Yes they are natural. But they are pure sugar, and I am an addict.  I don’t eat potatoes. I don’t even eat sweet potatoes. When people think it’s “over the top” that I don’t eat sweet potatoes, which are also natural, I remind myself that there was a time when I was binge eating sweet potatoes. Sometimes 5 or 6 at a time. Sometimes cooking 2 at once thinking surely that would satisfy me, only to put 2 more in the oven immediately because I was not satisfied. And then again. 
Perhaps once upon a time, if I had never become an addict in the first place, I would have been able to eat sweet potatoes with impunity. But that ship sailed long ago. And now I cannot eat them without diving back into food hell. Because for me, eating sugar and carbohydrates is hell. It is filled with lies, betrayals, paralysis, shame, desperation, and all manner of self-loathing. It’s not just a sweet potato to me. It is the door to my worst self.
When people talk about the moral neutrality of food, I have mixed feelings. Not for the people eating it. But for the people making it. Because corporations know what they are doing when they make addictive foods. They have hired scientists. They are doing it on purpose. They are *designing* foods to be addictive. Because a food company could not continually increase profit if we only ate food for nourishment. Money dictates that we, consumers, need to eat as a hobby, as a distraction, as time-waster.
Fat people get the shaming, but we can see the results in other ways. A 17-year-old boy is permanently blind because he only ate chips and French fries. And nobody took it particularly seriously because he “wasn’t fat.” 
I know that not everyone who is fat is a food addict. I know that not everyone who is thin is not. 
I have heard people in fat communities talk about “sugar truthers.” It’s a kind of mocking term, meant to bring to mind conspiracy theorists and tin-foil-hat-wearers. The idea that sugar is a drug is ridiculous to a lot of people. 
Or that if it is a drug, so what? I even saw one person say that even though sugar was like heroin in the brain, love was like cocaine in the brain, and nobody wanted people to give up love. 
Except we would expect them to give up cocaine. And heroin. And if you spend enough time in 12 step rooms, you know that some people need to deal with their addiction to love too. Or at least to unhealthy and obsessive relationships that occur like love. 
I sometimes hear about eating disorder programs giving people sugar and junk food, telling them not to be afraid of the cupcake. That in moderation, a cupcake is just a little treat. 
I, personally, need to be afraid of the cupcake. Not because it will jump down my throat of its own accord. But because if I choose it once, I will lose my ability to choose. Because I am physically incapable of moderation. That is what addiction is. And whether the people in those programs are skinny or fat or somewhere in between, if they are sugar addicts, then they have also lost the capacity for moderation, and that program is probably harming them, not helping them. 
So what scares me is that sometimes it looks to me like the food industry has exactly the people it is using and harming carrying its banners! 
“There is no such thing as bad food!”
But for some of us, there is. For *me* there is. There are foods that make me miserable and crazy. 
I am not against harm reduction. I wish the best for everyone, whatever that “best” looks like. But I am grateful that I got abstinence, personally. Because I am free. Because I am deeply content. Because I love my life. And I don’t believe I could have that with my addiction in my life. 

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