onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Food and friends

My husband and I are having company for dinner tonight. I like having company for dinner because I don’t love eating out at restaurants. Not only is it hard for me to get food I can eat in the quantities I need without spending a fortune, (have you seen what restaurants charge for two clumps of broccoli or 4 asparagus stalks?) but it’s also not very very exciting food. Steamed broccoli isn’t one of the worst 10 things in the world, but it’s not one of the 10 best either.

So tonight I am making filet mignon, roasted Brussels sprouts, and French green beans sautéed in garlic and olive oil. I will also make corn for them, and my husband will make roasted red potatoes. I even managed to find individual serving desserts for them so I can feel like a good host, without having the stuff in the house for an eternity.

Which is not to say that it bothers me having food I don’t eat in the house. My husband has a veritable hoard of sugar and carbs. But it’s a hoard basically because it lasts for freaking ever. I may buy him candy, and throw it away 6 months later because he never finished it…I know. I know. What is that? I couldn’t keep candy in my home for six hours, let alone six months.

I am not opposed to going to restaurants to be with people. I am happy that others eat well and happily. And I’ll do it as part of my Christmas celebrations this year. But when I do, it’s about the people and not the food. Which is great. I am grateful that my life doesn’t revolve around food anymore. But I’m excited to cook for company so it can be about both food and friends.

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There are more options than surgery and moderation

I have been struggling for the past few hours to write a post. I read part of an article on bariatric surgery that made me so mad I had to put it down. The beginning of the article says that since it is already established that diet and exercise don’t work, people should be turning to weight loss surgery. And that they don’t because they wrongly believe that obesity is a problem with willpower.

Now, I absolutely agree that obesity is not a character flaw, nor do I believe it is the result of a character flaw (i.e. lack of willpower.) I could never “just push away from the table.” And boy did I want to. In fact, if you think you have “the answer” to the obesity epidemic and it begins with the word “just,” like “just stop eating so much,” I promise you don’t have the answer.

But one factor that I do believe is a problem is our culture of prizing and romanticizing junk food. By everyone, including the medical and scientific communities.

I keep reading over the past year that “diet and exercise don’t work.” But I am not convinced that this is “already established” as a truth. It is my personal experience that diet does work. Just plain diet all on its own works. No exercise necessary. And I personally know hundreds of people for whom this is true.

Is this true for everyone? Of course not. But to come to the conclusion that diet doesn’t work, is ridiculous. And I have to question the science that claims it. Especially when the biggest change in the past 40 years, the years leading to our current “obesity epidemic” has been a significant increase in the amount of sugar, carbs, and processed food we eat.

So changing the American diet made us fat, but changing our diet won’t fix the problem?

Of course, the “problem” for most people is the extremity of NEVER! I never eat sugar, or simple carbohydrates. The only carbs I eat are fruits and vegetables. And not even some of those that are high sugar/high starch. Because “in moderation” has never been a viable option for me, but “never” worked immediately, and changed my life for the better.

See, I’m pretty sure that is what the medical community and the media mean when they say “diet and exercise don’t work.” They mean they have told people to eat junk in moderation, and people fail at that. Because it is hard to eat junk in moderation. *That* is what does not work. And part of the reason it does not work for society as a whole now is that food companies are working at making their junk more addictive. They want people to eat past the point of hunger. They want us to eat as a reward, and a cure for boredom. They want us to crave and salivate. They have scientists in their labs working to eliminate that “full button” normal eaters used to have. And they are seemingly succeeding.

I was never one of those people anyway. Nobody turned off my “full button.” Mine never worked in the first place.

Does surgery help some people? I’m sure it does. But it is not a solution. It is a harm reduction technique. And if that is good enough, then that should be an individual’s choice. Not everyone has the proverbial stomach for giving up junk foods. But I think it is a problem that the people we should be able to trust, specifically the medical community, are not even offering complete abstinence from sugar, junk, and processed foods as an option. They are saying right off the bat that it doesn’t work.

I want you to know that it does work for some of us. And I think before you have dangerous and invasive surgery, you might want to give it a shot.

Life is fast and I am slow

I feel like I need to write about the fact that I am still not writing, aside from my weekly blog post here. But I am definitely not writing fiction. I feel like I have to mention it because it is exactly the kind of thing that easily fades away from my own mind if I don’t keep talking about it, if I don’t keep it fresh. It has happened before and I have let my writing fall through the cracks. My world has changed significantly in the past month, and I am getting my bearings and finding my footing.

It’s interesting to me how I forget all the time that this is the way life works. Yes, I have a particularly mutable lifestyle. I am very happy with it. But change is the only constant in life for everyone. It has always been this way. I just didn’t recognize it until I got my eating under control.

And I probably didn’t recognize it because I was holding on to things too long and too tightly. Sometimes long after they ceased to be.

I sometimes think about the ways my physical self and my emotional self mirror one another. I literally have a hard time remembering to physically put things down. I will hold on to objects, even when they are getting in my way. For example, sometimes at the grocery store, I will have my wallet in my hand while I am trying to load an entire cart full of groceries onto the conveyor belt. Obviously this is a task that would be better done two-handed. All I would have to do is put my wallet in my pocket or my purse. But it does not occur to me. The wallet is already in my hand.

This is also how I find myself acting in life. A few months ago, I already had a routine. And instead of rearranging my life, I have been trying to fit 40 hours of work into the routine I already had. Needless to say, it’s not working out as well as I had expected. (No, I have no idea why I would expect that to go well.)

I have a quick mind and wit, but emotionally, I am slow. Slow to recognize. Slow to get comfortable. Slow to decide. Slow to change.

When I got my eating under control, I started to understand what it meant to “go with the flow.” I learned about “life on Life’s terms.” I learned to accept things the way that they were, and most importantly, that when I accepted them fully, exactly as they were in the moment, it was only then that I had a chance to change them.

I read something the other day about sayings that people hate. (I read a lot of random stuff on the internet.) And one person hates the phrase, “it is what it is.” I, personally, love that phrase. It may be obvious, particularly linguistically, but to a past version of me, it was frustrating if the way it was didn’t match the way I thought it should be.

Right now, I am not writing fiction. And that is what it is. But I want to. And I am slow to change. So I am going to keep talking about it, and writing about it, and meditating about it. And I don’t doubt that something will shift. That I will notice that I am trying to load a cart of groceries with my wallet in my hand and finally manage to put it down. Because life is full of changes anyway. And did I mention I’m slow?

Grateful I didn’t have to eat myself sick

Another non-Thanksgiving is under my belt. My husband joined some friends for a pot luck dinner at his local bar, and I showed up for about 45 minutes and had a diet soda. But I didn’t cook, which I don’t do anyway. Cook Thanksgiving dinner, that is. Of course, I cook all the time. Mostly every day. Just not the stuff Thanksgiving is made of.

Obviously I don’t eat the traditional sides. No potatoes. No sweet potatoes. No glazed carrots. (Nothing glazed, as a matter of fact. Though I do enjoy roasted or steamed carrots.) No stuffing. No casserole. No fruit except at breakfast, so no cranberry sauce. (I do sometimes make apple cranberry or orange cranberry compote this time of year for breakfast, by the way, though not lately.) No dinner rolls. No cornbread. And I don’t like turkey.

I could make a sugar-free version of pumpkin pie, or cheesecake. But I don’t love pumpkin pie. And I already make my sugar-free cheesecake when I crave it, so I don’t need it specifically for Thanksgiving.

Basically, Thanksgiving is a food holiday and it is not for me. Am I grateful? Of course I am. I have a beautiful, happy life. But this particular holiday is not filled with non-edible traditions. We don’t exchange gifts, wear ugly sweaters, put up lights. Who has ever heard of a Thanksgiving Carol? We don’t wear costumes, go dancing, put on pageants, exchange cards, or give flowers. There is football, but I care about football only slightly more than I care about food I don’t eat.

So I did not participate in Thanksgiving, but I did not miss it at all. And I certainly hope yours was lovely. I hope it was cozy and sweet and filled with love. And I hope all of you “normal eaters” enjoyed gorging yourselves that one day a year you let yourself go crazy with food.

I, personally, am grateful that I didn’t have to.

A new learning curve

I have been working for about a month now, and there is a learning curve when it comes to time management and priorities. Finally this past week I started jogging again. But I have not been writing. And frankly, I am too exhausted.

But ultimately, that is not good enough for me. I have a novel that I have been working on for about a year. And I love it. I’m proud of it. I want to finish it and get it published. And right now, the way things are, that is not an option. So I have to change the way things are.

I forget that it takes time to get my bearings after a major life change. More than just a week or a month. I forget that I have blind spots where I can’t see the pitfalls, or recognize what can be changed. Change is so scary to me, often it feels like nothing can be changed safely. That all change is the potential for ruin.

And there are things that must get taken care of. First and foremost, I still have to take care of my food. Every day. No matter what. And what that means in practical terms is grocery shopping for the whole week in one go, and spending hours of my time packing breakfasts and lunches in advance for the week ahead. It’s an area I cannot cut corners in.

Food addiction is my problem. Really the only problem I have. Other things go badly and need to be remedied or cared for or dealt with, but they are not “problems” like food is a problem. When my food is out of control, my entire life is out of control.

The truth is, I like my job. The work is interesting. I like that I am good at it. I take pride in it. I like learning new skills. My difficult co-worker has calmed down and returned to behaving in a normal, respectable, and respectful manner. (I have also remembered that people in the world, especially in the workplace, have a wide range of personalities, but that I honor my principles in the face of difficult personalities.) But in all honesty, right now, I am not very happy. I’m just too tired. And I am having a hard time imagining how I can change my circumstances in order to both, not be constantly exhausted, and still do all of the things I want to do.

This is a luxury problem. If I were eating compulsively, I would have already given up on writing. I would not have figured out how to get my jog in 5 days a week. I would not have made time for it. But then again, if I were eating compulsively, I would already have been looking for a way to not jog, to not write, to not take care of my head and heart and body. I was always waiting for any excuse to abandon my goals and dreams, or really anything that was work, anything that took something, but made me feel good about myself.

There’s one more thing that I haven’t been doing that I need to get back into, and that is meditation. I think my first priority this week will be to get back into that habit. If any practice will help me figure out the next right step, and how to get the things I want, that’s probably it.

It turns out I’m positively treacherous. Who knew?

At work this past week, someone in a higher position than myself has been giving me a hard time. I say a hard time, but it is abuse. Low-grade abuse, but abuse none the less.

This was hard for me at first, because I was 1) trying to be professional, and 2) trying not to be affected by it. So I took it. With a smile. And at the end of the day, I went to my car and cried before I drove home. And I thought about how much more I could take before I would have to quit.

And then I talked to my best friend who is wise, and also has her eating under control. And she said, “Stop smiling. Stop pretending it’s all OK. You wouldn’t smile like that at an abusive boyfriend.” She said, “Bullies are terrified. If you push back, even just a little, they will get scared, and change their tune.”

Now I will be honest. I had a hard time believing this. Because this person has all the power. They have been in their job for many years, and are high up in the company. I am just an office worker. And relatively new at that. Also, I didn’t even apply for this job. I was asked to take it, so from where I stand, I could just as easily be asked to leave.

I will say that I am good at my job. Really really good. But on paper, I’m nothing. I don’t have a degree. I don’t have any accounting experience. All I have is the fact that I am smart, I have integrity, and I’m a good worker. I’m not saying that those things are not valuable. I am saying that their value depends on the person doing the evaluating. And for the most part, my experience is that bosses evaluate based on what you look like “on paper.”

So here I am with no power, but I’m tired of crying in my car before I drive home. So I take my friend’s advice and I start pushing back. I openly sneer when I am berated for not knowing something I was never taught in the first place. I sigh exasperatedly when I am second guessed without being allowed to explain. I walk away when this person implies that I am not explaining something to a coworker properly. I let them do it themselves.

And you know what? Every time, this person really does change their demeanor. Not long-term. But in the moment, I can see them become afraid of me. And soften their stance. And try to explain away their bad behavior. This person is terrified of being called out by me.

So it turns out I have all the power. But here’s the secret. I only have all the power because I am sure of myself. More sure of myself than this person with so much clout in the company. My power is all in my confidence. In that relationship, even though that person has all of the hard power, I am the scary one.

But I’m only sure of myself because I have integrity. And I only have integrity because I have my eating under control.

Could this person get me fired? Absolutely! Here’s the other reason I have all the power: I have no attachment to keeping this job. I like the job. It’s rewarding. The money is terrific. I really hope I don’t get fired. But I refuse to live in fear of losing this job. What happens happens. And that makes me positively treacherous to an insecure person. Even an insecure person with all the power.

Not much more to ask for

Last weekend, after a months-long stretch of moving around, and being up in the air, we moved into our new sublet. And it is amazing. We have a fully furnished “open concept” living space (can you tell I watch a lot of home renovation television?) with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, cable and internet included, washer/dryer in unit, and a terrace facing the bay. As in the bay is literally my back yard.

Before we found this place, we had another place lined up. It only had one bathroom, and did not have a dishwasher. I told my husband I wanted to keep looking. He did not like this idea. I don’t blame him. We were tired. He had been sick. We had been travelling non-stop. We had been working full time. He wanted to be done. I wanted to be done too. But I was also filled with dread every time I thought about the idea of working 40 hours, plus all the meal prep I would have to do to bring my food to work every day, and not having a dishwasher. Not to mention having two people who need to get to work at the same time having to deal with one bathroom in the morning.

It was not fun to tell him I wanted something else. It was a difficult conversation. But having my food under control makes it possible for me to have difficult conversations. If I had not, I would have been unhappy and resentful. And I cannot afford to be resentful. Resentment is just 2 steps away from eating a cake. Not to mention, it’s bad for a relationship.

I ate my unspoken truths for most of my life. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to coast under the radar. I wanted to not make waves. Until I was angry and felt put upon. And then I would explode. This is also not good for a relationship.

So in the end, I had the conversation I didn’t want to have. I got a place better than I could have expected. And my husband and I are both happy. All because I said something it would have more comfortable in the moment not to say. I don’t know what more there is to ask for than that.

Arguing with the voice in my head 

We are finally in our new place here in Corpus Christi. And it’s mostly great. But there are still details that need to be ironed out, and everything has not gone smoothly. Which is not to say it never does. My life goes smoothly much of the time. This time is not one of those times. We had trouble with the water heater, and the internet, to name a few things. And everything we brought is all around the place in disarray. But mostly, all is well.And through all of it, the good and the bad, I didn’t have eat over difficult situations.

This morning, I was laying in bed thinking about the internet trouble, no, worrying really, and worrying about how to possibly fix it. And this little voice popped into my head, the voice that I associate with God, or Life, or The Universe. And it said “Don’t things always work out? Always?” And of course, the answer is yes. It doesn’t always work out the way I am expecting, but it always works out, and always as well as or better than I think I want it to. 

I will admit that I argued with that voice a little this morning. It took until after my husband reassured me, and a cup of coffee, for me to really relax about it. But we got there in the end. 

So it’s one thing at a time. Get the place comfortable and livable. Trust that is all going the way it should. And enjoy my life. 

My new job is rewarding. The money is a nice addition to our finances. And my new kitchen is big with a dishwasher, so taking care of my food is convenient. Which is important, because convenient or not, it’s got to get done.

So I will trust Life, and I will make a point to relax when I start to worry. And even if I do argue with the voice in my head, I know that it will always argue back that life is good, that I am taken care of, and that everything always works out in the end.

Irrational thoughts about value

So work. It’s a thing for me again. I started working for my husband’s company (again) this week. 
First, there is the whole food thing for me. I have to make lunches in advance so I can grab them in the morning and go. But, of course, that is something that I have been doing to travel a lot lately, so this has been, in some ways, on a smaller scale. I haven’t had to prep every single meal for days. I have just had to make lunches. And I have worked before. I was single for 35 years, after all. So I know how this goes.

But the first few days of work have been bumpy. Mostly, it’s just that there is some sort of problem with my work computer that the company sent to me. And instead of sending me a new one, they are trying to fix it remotely. For days. Several days.

But all of my work is to be done on this computer. In other words, there is nothing for me to do without it. So they are just not having me come in. So my first week of work has barely included any work. And I still have no idea when the computer, or at least computer, will be available for me. And nobody is telling me anything.

Needless to say, I’m frustrated. 

But there is something else. I am having a hard time not feeling like should be doing something about it. Or it is my fault, or my responsibility.

Rationally, I know that this is stupid. I didn’t build the computer. And I didn’t break it. I have done everything I could to help the IT people fix it. I have offered information. I have stayed on the phone and helped with lost internet connections. And I have stayed home and not worked when I was asked to. 

But there is this nagging feeling like I could do more. That I should be doing more. 

And I need to squash this feeling. Because it is false, and blaming myself for things beyond my control is not only silly, it’s destructive to a person like me.

Work is an area in my life where you could say I still have a lot of fear. It’s not that I haven’t been a good employee. I certainly have. I am smart and capable. And I am willing to take direction, and I love to learn new things anyway. 

But I have issues. Value issues. Worth issues. I have had them all my life. And I am sure that in some ways they are tied to the fact that I am an addict.

My inability to control my eating for so long made me feel worthless and ashamed. How could I expect to succeed in anything when I couldn’t even take care of my own body? How could I fix or help others when I couldn’t even fix or help myself? What does a person like that, a person like me, even deserve? Money? Money for services rendered? 

Of course, the answer to that is yes. If I do the job, I deserve to get paid for it. But even as I write yes, there is a part of me that says “just for doing the job? Don’t you have to really prove your worth?”

I am talking about the irrational here. If I do the job, I am worth the money. Obviously. But that is not always obvious to the shamed, embarrassed, sorry compulsive eater that lives in me. 

I am sure this will change. Slowly, but surely. Already it is changing. It’s changing because I am writing about it right here. And saying the scary things out loud, and shining a light on them is the surest way I know to start a shift.

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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