onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Not a night owl or a vampire, just a sugar addict.

I used to think I was a night owl. I loved to stay up into the wee hours of the morning. I kept what people call the vampire hours. I would read, write, watch movies, and sometimes even do things like sew, crochet, or make some kind of DIY project. I would be happily awake until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any more.

But of course, I had a terrible time getting out of bed. I would get 4-6 hours of sleep most days, and then sleep for 12 or more hours wen I had a day off. I regularly overslept for appointments. And I was unhappy to be awake. The daylight hours were a burden. And because I hated it so much, I had a lot of disdain for people who loved the morning.

I have come to realize in the past ten years that I am not a night owl by nature. I am a sugar addict. All of that energy that kept me awake was from sugar, from being high on sugar. That’s how I stayed up all hours of the night. And when I couldn’t keep my eyes open, I wasn’t falling asleep, I was passing out.

When it comes down to it, I have a love/hate relationship with people. I’m fun and funny and charming (and humble, as my husband would point out.) But I am an addict. And addicts are, by definition, bad at relationships. I am anxious. I want to be liked. I am afraid of humiliation. So, along with being hopped up on sugar, I was probably awake in the middle of the night because it was time when I could be alone. Being alone in the dark with a chocolate cake and a pack of cigarettes was always easier for me than being out in the world where the other humans were wandering free. (By the way, I still love to be alone. To this day I spend a lot of time in solitude, and it is a necessity for my happiness. I may not be a night owl anymore, but I am still, and will probably always be, a loner.)

So when I gave up sugar and put boundaries around my eating, I stopped getting the energy at night from the sugar, and wound up sleeping at night. And because I was eating nutritious food, I wasn’t passing out from my drug, but actually sleeping. So I would wake up refreshed.

And then I realized that I love the morning. I love the quiet and the stillness (or relative stillness when I was in New York City.) It’s funny, because it was really a gradual change. 10 years ago, morning was 8 a.m. (Hey, for a girl who couldn’t drag her butt out of bed before noon without threat of death, 8 was pretty freaking early. I was impressed with myself.) Eventually morning became more like 7. And then was really 6 or 6:30. And now, in the past 5 months, I get up every day at 5:30.

I take my jog early, have breakfast, run errands, do a silent knitting meditation, and write for 3 or 4 hours. I get all of these things done in a day before the sugar addict night owl I used to be would even have gotten out of bed.

But there is another reason that I can love the morning, another reason I can happily wake up at 5:30 and not be cranky and angry. I go to bed. I regularly sleep 8 hours a night. It’s important to me. I don’t hate going to sleep like I used to. I don’t fight to keep my eyes open a little longer. I am not afraid I am going to miss anything. I look forward to the end of the day, when I lay on the couch and read a little. Maybe I still want to read one more chapter, but I know that the book will be there tomorrow. And there is something satisfying about another day done.

I really believed once that being a night owl was an unalterable part of being me. I thought it was the way I was made. And it made my life harder. It’s hard on a person’s spirit to always be late, or worried about being late. It’s hard to live in a body that is in physical pain from lack of restful sleep. It’s hard to be cranky and angry because it’s daytime. So I am glad to be a morning person, even if young Kate would look at me with disdain. She can think what she likes.

Let’s not spread it around like germs

It is hot here in Kentucky. For the past few days, it has been in the nineties, but the heat index has it feel like 100-105 degrees. And yet, I am not suffering. In fact, I am enjoying it. (Though I could do with fewer bugs, thank you.) In recent years I have found that I am always cold. Sometimes I sit out on my porch in the morning and if it’s only in the high seventies, I need to put on a sweater. Seriously. Always. Freaking. Cold. So I am absolutely loving that I can go sit outside in as few, teeny tiny clothes as possible.

 

When I was eating compulsively, I was basically always hot. I was so generally warm that I didn’t wear a coat in the winter in Chicago. I would sweat pretty much constantly, no matter the season, no matter the temperature. And on top of that, I was so ashamed of my body that in the summer, I would keep myself covered up. I would wear jeans under long dresses no matter how hot it got; so that was even more sweating.

 

I would guess that between the ages of 14 and 22, I didn’t own a bating suit. If I did, I don’t remember, and I would guess that I didn’t use it very much. The idea of being seen in a bating suit was terrifying to me. I want you to think about that. I was more comfortable wearing layers of clothing in the scorching heat than I was letting people see my legs, arms and shoulders. I probably didn’t get in a pool, lake or sprinkler for eight years because it was more comfortable to be oppressed by the sun than it was to be oppressed by the potential judgment of strangers. I was both ashamed of myself, and afraid that others would shame me as well.

 

And here is the thing about body shame: it doesn’t go away easily. It didn’t go away because I lost 150 pounds. In fact, it was never just going to go away. It had to be dismantled and I was the one who had to dismantle it.

 

I still have to dismantle it. Here’s the thing, I am not fat. I am 5’6 ½”, I wear a size 6/8. But I am curvy. I have wide hips and round thighs and a belly. And those things can make me feel fat. My thighs rub together. For various reasons, one of which is being fat during my formative years, I am knock kneed. (It is actually a pretty common phenomenon among women because we tend to have wider hips than men.) My upper legs lean toward one another while my lower legs lean away. Because of this, my thighs have always rubbed together. Even at my very thinnest, probably 20 pounds lighter than I am now, when I was wearing size small clothes, my thighs rubbed together. The only way they would stop rubbing together is if I became skeletally thin, and frankly, maybe not even then. Sometimes that makes me feel fat. I have a lot of extra skin and stretch marks and sometimes that makes me feel fat. I have broad shoulders, I have large calf muscles, I have flabby arms. Sometimes every single one of those things makes me feel fat.

 

And it’s not just because I used to be fat. It’s definitely not just me. The other day, on Facebook, there was a picture of a friend (a real natural beauty by any standards) and she made a comment about looking “pregnant” (which I read as fat.) Just to be clear, she did not look either pregnant or fat. And I commented on it, because frankly, it freaked me out. I will admit that it was none of my business, and I probably shouldn’t have made a comment, but I did. In my wishful thinking, I hoped that at least she would acknowledge that like me, while she might feel fat, she at least understood intellectually that she was not. But she declined. She said that at least we could agree that it was an unflattering picture. At that point I had already overstepped my bounds, so after that I kept my opinion to myself, but you know what? No. I am telling you, my lovely readers, that I refuse to agree that it was an unflattering picture. It was a picture of a real woman with a real body, doing real things. What is unflattering about having a body big enough to actually house a full set of human internal organs?

 

I refuse to accept that the only beauty is the hyper-specific set of characteristics that the beauty and fitness industries acknowledge. I refuse to accept the idea that what I am right now at this very moment is anything less than enough. I refuse to look a beautiful woman and agree with her when she tries to convince me that she is lacking.

 

I know that I cannot change others. But I can change myself, and the best way to do that is not always by changing my body, though obviously as a woman who lost over a hundred pounds, I am a proponent of that as well. Sometimes, the best way for me to change is by loving and accepting my body as it is. And what that often looks like for me is to take small actions that make me feel uncomfortable, until they are comfortable. And then I can take another small action that makes me uncomfortable.

 

I can think of so many examples of little obsessions that I managed to let go of. When I was overweight, I never wore a top that didn’t cover my butt. Even after I lost weight, it took something to get over this. It was burned into my brain that by not hiding that I had a lower body, I was somehow being rude to others. When I first started working out about 15 years ago, I wouldn’t wear spandex workout clothes; I would only wear things that were loose fitting, never mind that they might be less comfortable or might even make it more difficult to move around.

 

Several years ago, when I was my thinnest, I started wearing a bikini when I went to my (mostly) secluded New York City roof to sunbathe. I would never have gone out in public like that, but at that point just putting on a bikini was a huge step for me. That I owned a bikini felt daring. Years later, and thirty pounds heavier, I started wearing my bikini in public. And not in a shy, apologetic way. I didn’t hide. I didn’t avoid talking to people (I am a friendly person.) I was just being myself, with more skin showing. It was uncomfortable the first few times, but when I did it often enough, it became “just the way it was.” In fact, I have four bating suits right now, but I only wear two of them, because the others are not bikinis and I decided that I prefer bikinis. My running clothes are spandex now. I wear them because they are made of moisture wicking material. Do they look great? I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t wear them to dress up, I wear them to run.

 

I’m not saying that I am totally free of self-judgment, especially around my body. I have some super-serious body image disorders that I expect will dog me my whole life. But I refuse to kowtow to them. I refuse to spread them around like germs. I refuse to accept them as truth. And I absolutely refuse to prioritize my life around hiding things that some people call flaws, which are really just the realities of living in a human body on the planet Earth.

Perseverance, exhaustion, and bedroom slippers

I used to spend a lot of time trying to decipher what things meant. Why I felt a certain way, why circumstances were what they were. I thought that everything was significant. And I needed to understand it all If I was going to crack the code of life. What I have come to understand since I got my eating under control is that it is not my job to crack the code, if there even is one. 

In the past few weeks, I have been writing for five hours a day as part of my daily routine. And it has pointed something out to me about myself: perseverance exhausts me. 

On certain days of the week, I might end up staring at a blank document on my laptop for what seems like an eternity, typing a few sentences, and then just discarding the whole thing. I might do this over and over again for much of the day. On days like this, nothing productive is going to get done after that. Because after hours of fulfilling a commitment for the sake of my integrity, I’m just plain spent. I’m going to do something escapist for the rest of the day, like read a novel or some manga, or watch TV.

But other days, the writing seems to pour out of me. I get my hours in, I make some notes about what more I have to say when I pick back up, and I feel particularly accomplished. On those days I still have the energy to do whatever else. Maybe I do some laundry or run an errand or work on knitting my sweater. The other day, I managed to clean the whole house, including mopping and vacuuming, after an easy writing session.

But here is the lesson, as I see it. The me before I had my eating under control would have expected to always be able to write easily and then clean the whole house. If it was possible once, it should always be possible. But those kind of expectations lead to burnout. Just like eating within my boundaries, or jogging 2 miles a day, or almost anything I do in my life, the goal is consistency, not perfection. The goal is to be able to do these good things for myself for the rest of my life. One day at a time, yes, but hopefully forever. Which is why I make sure that my food is delicious as often as possible, even if it’s not particularly low in calories, and why I focus on running my committed number of miles, rather than working to get faster or run longer or some other method of upping my running game.

When I first put boundaries around my eating, people who had boundaries around their eating told me that if the only thing I could do in a day was eat my meals and not eat anything else, that was enough. They told me that everyone needs a “bedroom slipper day” once in a while. They told me that I should be gentle with myself.

Which was something new to me, frankly. When I couldn’t stop eating, everything in our society and culture told me that I was lazy. The media and the people around me, knowingly or unwittingly, told me that I was not working hard enough or doing well enough, because if I had been, I wouldn’t have been fat. I was cruel to myself. I was hateful to myself. I expected perfection from myself, and when I failed to be perfect I quit. Just one more log on the not-good-enough fire.

But finding out that I could give myself a commitment, and that it would be a benchmark of daily accomplishment, was a revelation. Suddenly there was a minimum that I could do that was attainable, and it would be, by definition, “enough.” This made everything so much less scary. And so much less significant. 

I believe in perseverance. I believe in it because I believe in commitment. Because of my willingness to persevere, I have learned a lot about myself, how powerful I am, and what I can accomplish. But for the sake of peace and sanity, I also have to admit that it takes something out of me. And that I need to replenish before I can move on. 

I have had to learn that replenishing myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, is just as important as the perseverance itself. I have had to realize that just because I have the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé, doesn’t mean I can accomplish what she can. And I’m A-OK with that, my friends.

They won’t all be handed to me.

There is an experience I have had throughout my life. Whenever I have been interested in accomplishing something, the first step has always been easy. Not just easy, kind of a joke. In my first attempts at almost anything, I have generally been handed a win. When I was in college, I took a playwriting class. I wrote the first act of a play and got rave reviews from both my teacher and my fellow students. I ended up getting a D in that class, my only D ever in my entire school career, because after that first act, I never wrote another line for that play. Or for that class at all, as a matter of fact.

Then, when I was 20 years old, I had dropped out of college and wanted to be a professional stage actor. I was working at a restaurant, and a man walked in, approached me, and asked me to audition for a long-running, famous stage show. I showed up and got the part.

This is not normal or common. If you or someone you love is an actor, you probably know that the process of getting a professional acting job is not generally that quick or easy. A professional actor puts in a lot of work just to get an audition, let alone a part. Being an actor is not all developing a character, having a genuine moment with a fellow actor, or transforming into someone else to the joy and awe of an audience. There are head shots, cattle calls, cold reads, agents (if you are lucky enough to get one) and just generally lots of fruitless pavement-pounding. The whole thing is full of work that is not glamorous or exciting. I never auditioned for another professional acting job again. (Though I did dance with a company a few years later, but I never auditioned. And though I was paid, and took it quite seriously – I really love to perform – it was not a job, and I never thought of it as one.

Last week, I submitted my first article to an online publication. Within days I got a response saying that my piece was accepted for publication. (You can read it here.)

It was a first attempt at something, and it was, once again, handed to me.

Please don’t misunderstand; I know that I am a quality writer. I know that I have a gift for expressing complicated ideas, and for illustrating how things work in relation to other things, both mechanical and interpersonal. But there is a way of things with that kind of writing, very much like the way of things with acting. There are query letters, and résumés where you explain why you are qualified to write on a topic. There are rules about simultaneous submissions of the same piece to multiple publications, and protocol to follow if you need to “unsubmit” a piece from various publications because that piece has been accepted at one particular publication.

And then there is self-promotion. I can’t even tell you how I hate self-promotion.

Perhaps it has a lot to do with my Good Girl, who just wants to be liked. Or maybe it’s my Fat Girl, who is afraid of drawing attention, and thereby ridicule.

And there is something else. It’s a thing I sometimes forget. I am easily overwhelmed. If I step back, and look at the whole picture, it is always too much to take in. And yet, it is my default setting. 

I am a huge fan of the grandiose. Maybe that’s why it seems right to me to take three giant steps back and take in the whole wide world at a glance. But I need to remember that after that first sense of wonder, what seeps in is paralysis. 

By getting my eating under control, I learned two really important lessons about achievement.

1) all I have to do is take the next right action. And the next right action is usually small. Sometimes, it is literally eating my lunch. 

And 2) Sometimes the next right action is unclear, and all there is to do is wait for the moment when I know what the next right action is. One of my favorite sayings is, “when you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.” 

This second one, especially, is not particularly popular in our hyper-active, results-based culture of “winning.” But I find that the answer always does come, eventually. And for me, even if I fail, I feel that an action born from following my heart is always worth my time. An action born of the fear of not taking action generally leads to a lot of messes I have to clean up before I can move forward again.

I don’t know what to expect from choosing to write professionally. (But hopefully it includes lots of money and renown.) At this particular moment, the whole thing seems fraught with pitfalls and traps. Every set of submission guidelines occurs to me like it was written by a frosty, snooty schoolmarm with a too-tight bun who would like to know just who in blazes I think I am. 

But I have to remember another thing I learned when I got my eating under control. Any time I tackle something new, there is always a learning curve. Even if that first experience was easy peasy, there will always be a set of necessary skills that I lack. And it will always take time to acquire those skills. If I choose to do the work at all. 

The little girl in me who is terrified of failure would choose a chocolate cake over any work every time. But I don’t let her make decisions anymore. So I will figure out what the next right action is eventually. And in the meantime, I will keep doing the fun part. I will write, and read, and deconstruct the genius of what is already out there. I will do my part to acquire the skills that I lack. And I will take all of the next right actions, one at a time. And I will particularly look forward to the moments when the next right action is lunch. Or dinner. Or breakfast.

Please read my article in elephant journal! (Yay!)

Hello there! I know, it’s early in the week for me to post, but I have just gotten an article about food addiction and knitting published in elephant journal! Hooray! Please check it out!

You can read it here!

Please read it, share it on social media, and just generally be really happy for me!

Thanks!

Kate

Different priorities when the situation calls for them

The husband and I went home for a few days this week. We had to see the new baby in the family. I sure do love a newborn. She had that new baby smell.*swoon*

The thing about traveling, especially when we go home for a visit, is that the tastiness of my food is is less important while I’m there. I make sure it’s within my eating boundaries, and that I don’t hate it, and that is about it.

There is always so much to do when we go home. We have people to see and errands to run. And cooking the way I like to cook is time consuming. Fresh food cooked daily, or every two days is a lot of work. And after all of the running around and the visits we have to make, I would rather have something easy that I can mix up and pop in the microwave for a few minutes. 

When I gave up sugar and stopped eating compulsively, I gained a new kind of experience of being with people. Prior to that, parties, get togethers and visits were always colored by what there was to eat. Food was more important to me than people or events. And, more than that, I was embarrassed about being fat. I didn’t want to be seen or judged for how or how much I ate. So not only was food more important, but people could be a burden. 

But when I gave up the food, company and experiences became the point of life. After all, I wasn’t going to eat the birthday cake at all anymore. I might as well enjoy the relationships I was in.

So I spent the last few days eating mostly mediocre food (though in truth, I did take one afternoon to cook two days worth of delicious lunches) and being with friends and family. 

We also had a friend bring us with him to a baseball game, and we got there just as a crazy storm rolled in. I had such a great time anyway. I had eaten an efficient dinner on the way, and was able to just be available for whatever happened. I got soaked, the crowd was crazy, we ended up leaving early, and it was still a wonderful time because it was exciting and we were with friends. Instead of being a disappointment, it was a fun adventure.

I am so grateful that, when it’s just for a short time, having delicious food is not the most important thing. I couldn’t do it forever, because I am not neutral about food. I love eating and I am sure I always will. But it’s nice that I can have different priorities when the situation calls for them. 

My built-in forgetter

I had gained some weight a few weeks ago. Not too much, but I had noticed it. And I knew what it was. It was soy nuts.

Soy is a protein that is within my food boundaries. And I almost never eat it for a few reasons. It gives me indigestion. It makes me groggy. And it makes me gain weight. But when I do eat it, I have a hard time stopping.

The truth is that I have had this problem with soy products (specifically soy nuts, soy nut butter, and soy flour) ever since I started putting boundaries around my eating. And yet, every few years, I buy these soy products, eat them, they make me sick, stupid and unhappy, and I quit. But not before I fight it. I never want to quit. But somehow I always manage to, and then, after some time passes, in my head, I’ll start to negotiate with myself about if, when, and under what circumstances I can have soy again. It will go something like, “soy nut butter is a problem, but soy nuts are ok. If I just have them once in a while it will be fine. An ounce once or twice a week wouldn’t make any difference.”

But I am not good at having a little bit of soy once in a while. I will mean to have one ounce, but then while I am making dinner, I will rationalize that it would be okay to have two, as long as I don’t have any later in the week. But of course, later in the week I will rationalize myself into another two ounces. In other words, I will end up having at least twice the amount of soy I wanted to have. And here’s the thing that I know and I don’t like to admit: soy nuts get me high!

That’s what the grogginess is. It’s me being high. That’s why I can’t stop eating them. That’s why I continue to rationalize why it will be okay to eat just a little every once in a while, even though I always end up eating more than I mean to. I don’t eat more than I am allowed within my eating boundaries, but I eat an amount that I know will make me gain weight, all the while lying to myself that the amount I am eating will not make me gain weight. I rationalize and renegotiate with myself so I can get my fix. I am telling you that I behave like an addict when I eat that stuff.

Some people say that addicts have a “built-in forgetter.” Why else would someone who has experienced the very worst of addiction firsthand, and managed to quit, ever use again? But we do. Staying sober is easier than getting sober, and yet all the time, people get sucked back in to something they know is disastrous for them.

Non-addicts have a lot of judgment about this. They think that knowing oneself should be enough. They think that being rational should be the answer. But addiction is not rational.

I will assure you that my soy nut addiction is in no way as bad as my sugar addiction. Yes, there are levels of addiction and there are things in my life that maybe aren’t the best choices for me, but I am willing to live with them. (I’m looking at you artificial sweetener.) If I “fall off the wagon” and eat soy nuts in a couple of months or years, it will not kill me. It will not ruin my life, the way sugar would. It will not send me into a spiraling depression, like sugar would. But it would still be a burden of sorts.

I want to note a few things. I am not saying that soy nuts are bad. I am saying that they are bad for me. And I am not really judging myself for eating them. They are within my boundaries, and I never have to feel guilty for anything I eat that is within my boundaries. I am simply saying that I am an addict through to the core of my being, and I need to be conscious of the ways that I act out addictive behaviors.

I threw away the soy nuts this last time. Probably almost two pounds of them. Whatever they cost, they were not worth nearly as much as my peace of mind around my weight. And I am still trying to lose the weight I gained from them. Because I don’t know if you have ever noticed, but a human body can gain in two days what will inevitably take a month to lose.

But there is something else I am besides an addict. I am recovering. And in some ways, that makes me a spiritual powerhouse. Because I know how to look at myself honestly, make choices about how I want to live, and make commitments that keep me in line with those choices. And even if I manage to forget everything I know today, and pick up those soy nuts one more time, I have the tools it takes to put them back down. Again. And again.

 

What you see when you put down oblivion

Since this blog is an eating disorder blog, I generally keep my writing personal, and if I am going to touch on a topical issue, it’s usually one related to eating disorders. And while that is still sort of true today, I’m going to venture a little further out.

I want to talk about how the past few days have left me feeling crazy. I want to talk about rage. I want to talk about the serenity prayer. I want to talk about justice, and I want to talk about peace.

I quit sugar, grains, and starch, and put boundaries around my eating ten and a half years ago. When I did that, I put a kind of change into motion. My entire transformation was not immediate. I had a lot of stuff to clean up with myself and others. I was then twenty-eight, and had lived a life of fear, dishonesty, manipulation, and self-loathing for as long as I could remember. I was pretty far down the Anakin-Skywalker-becomes-Darth-Vader road. You know, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering….But within surprisingly few years of getting a handle on my eating, less than five, I had become someone I liked, loved and respected. I had changed the way I lived my life to point where I had found serenity.

So lets talk about The Serenity Prayer. I know that I have included it in past posts, but I am going to include it again, because it’s worth knowing:

 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

 

When I first learned this prayer, the people who taught it to me explained some things to me. They wanted me to understand the “wisdom” part. They wanted to clear up what I could change and what I could not. The things I couldn’t change included people, places, and things. I have no control over anyone else, or their thoughts, words, or actions. I have no control over past events. And I have no control over world leaders, natural disasters, or grotesque acts of violence. The things I could change were always me. I can change my beliefs, my thoughts, and my actions.

There is something else about the “courage” aspect of this prayer that I want to note. It’s about solutions. If I have a problem, there is a solution, and it is inside me.

But here’s my problem today. I am filled with rage. I am filled with rage at humans murdering other humans. But more, and more, and most, I am filled with rage at those of us defending the murders, defending the violent acts that ended the lives of others of us. I am filled with rage that fear of change, fear of losing privilege, fear of “otherness” has lead us to act, not simply believe, but ACT in a way that declares that some humans are worth more than other humans. I am filled with rage over people, places and things that I cannot control.

And it’s impotent rage. Because for as much as I want a solution, I am not a human being killing my fellow human beings. And I am torn between wanting serenity, and fearing that my serenity will simply be a lack of action that overlooks injustice.

When every Miss America ever said that she wished, more than anything, for “World Peace,” she made it sound like a thing. Like a book, or an apple, or a hobbyhorse. Something she could unwrap under the tree on Christmas morning. Or perhaps like a magic spell that would render us docile, a planet of seven billion Snow Whites and Ned Flanders (Flanderses? – whatever….)

But what world peace would really look like is seven billion people choosing love instead of hate. Daily. Hourly. Moment to moment. It would look like seven billion people answering violence with forgiveness. It would look like seven billion people liking and loving themselves enough that they didn’t have to lash out in anger and hate, and then blame the ones they lashed out at.

In my experience, when you wrong someone, in order to live with what you have done, you have to do one of two things. You can make an amends to them, or you can justify your cruelty by making them the bad guy. In your own mind, and often, in the minds of others. Making amends is hard. Amends take the courage. Making amends is the “courage to change the things I can.” Making someone else the bad guy is easy. It’s terrible, and toxic, and leads to the kind of shame that ruins loves and lives and families, and even whole societies, but you never have to have that hard conversation. You never have to humble yourself. You never have to admit when you are wrong. And maybe most of all, you never have to experience the pain and shame and horror of what you have done. You just have to live with the incompleteness of it for the rest of your life.

I don’t know what I can do. I don’t know how to change the things I can. I have been thinking about it and thinking about it for days. I’m exhausting myself. And I have to do something with this rage, MY rage. Because it is toxic.

But whatever I do, I cannot cover my eyes and pretend that I don’t see. When I put down the sugar, I put down the oblivion. It turns out, there’s no sugar-coating when there’s no sugar. When I put down my addiction, I agreed to look with both eyes open, and acknowledge the reality of things. So I’m acknowledging reality, and the sad truth that sometimes, it f*cking sucks.

This just in: Control Freaks Suck!

So, remember how in last week’s post I wrote about how sometimes people who love me offer me food I don’t eat because they feel bad for me? And remember how I don’t mind because I say no, and I know that they love me and I love them? Yeah, well sometimes people don’t want you to say no, and they push and push, and it’s abusive and inappropriate. And that is what this week’s post is about.
Last weekend, my husband and I had people over. I knew some of them, but some were new to me. This is a story about one who was new to me.

Everything was all fine for hours, and then it happened. This visitor had brought Italian beef from Chicago. She really wanted me to eat some. And I briefly told her thank you but no.

That is usually all it takes. I smile with genuine gratitude and say “no, thank you,” and people graciously honor that. 

But that is not what happened this time. This woman did not honor my no. She pushed. She pushed for about 5 full minutes. 

So you can understand a bit about some of my food boundaries, you should know that I need to know the exact ingredients. I need them in the ingredient list. Ingredient lists are written in a specific way, descending order of quantity. Sometimes there are parentheses in the list when one ingredient, for example salsa, can be broken down into more ingredients, like tomatoes, peppers, and potentially things like corn syrup. These parentheses mean something to me. They matter. 

Now, this woman didn’t have an ingredient list. For me, that made it an automatic no-go. 

There is another important part of this story in my mind. And it’s counter intuitive, but hugely important. This person has her own food boundaries. I know because we talked about them. And I thought that would make her an ally. She also avoids sugar, though she does have it on special occasions. We laughed about it because I bought sugar for coffee because I didn’t think a guest would want artificial sweetener, especially the one I use. And I found out that she actually uses the same one I do. And we even talked about what it’s like when people try to get you to eat something you don’t eat. So, you can imagine that her pressuring me seemed to come out of left field. 

This woman who had her own experience of being pressured and abused over her own food choices was being relentless with me! She told me that I was being silly not to try the beef. That if it had flour, it was just a little. (It doesn’t matter, I can’t eat it.) Well, of course it matters. The percentage would be practically nothing. It’s just a thickening agent. It’s just…It’s only…It’s nothing to worry about. 

For about 5 full minutes she pushed me. She did it in front of other guests. She was pissing me off. And I could tell that every time I closed my eyes and took a deep breath to calm myself, she thought she had won, and was even more forceful. 

I want to be clear about something. What this woman did to me was controlling and abusive. Because she is the wife of my husband’s coworker, I had to be friendly. So I did not say “Back the f*ck off, b*tch!” But I had every right to. Nobody, and I mean absolutely NOBODY gets a say in what goes in my body but me. Not my mother, not my husband, not my doctor. If I didn’t eat the lasagna of the greatest love of my life besides my husband, my sweet grandma, there is no way in hell I’m going to appease some control freak I’ve never met before, whom I have graciously welcomed into my home.

When people refuse to honor your no, they are trying to control you, and that is a form of abuse. I want to say that, because so many of us are people-pleasers. We want to appease our spouses, our parents, our mothers-in-law, our bosses. And some of us even want to please strangers, to be considered nice. 

Like I said last week, I love it when my father-in-law offers me food. He offers out of love, and he honors me when I say no. It is a beautiful thing to be offered food as a sign of love. 

But when we are pressured repeatedly to the point of frustration, it can be easier in the moment to give in. But at what cost? That is a serious question. There is a cost, and you are the one paying it.

I once met a woman who was a recovering bulimic. She ate a food she was addicted to in order to please her mother-in-law. She was sent back into bulimia because of it, and it took her months to stop again. She said one of the most profound things I have ever heard. She said “My mother-in-law wanted to be there when I ate the pastry she made, but I’m alone when I’m in the bathroom afterward. She’s not there holding my hair back while I stick the toothbrush down my throat.”

The control freaks don’t have to live your life after they have convinced you to hurt yourself. They don’t have to deal with your consequences.

I’m hoping that this story gives you strength. I hope that if something like this ever happens to you, you can remember that you don’t have to harm yourself to please someone else. I hope you remember that it is a form of abuse. I hope you remember that you are in control of your body and your life, even if someone is trying to control you. But mostly, I just hope it doesn’t happen to you. Because it sucks, and it’s not OK.

What I’m missing 

Last weekend, my husband and I were home for a few days. On Father’s Day we went to my husband’s parents house. I ate lunch long before the party, and I wouldn’t eat dinner until the evening. I drank water and black coffee with artificial sweetener. I went there knowing I was not going to eat. I had a really nice time.

But of course, there was a lot of food. And of course, people use food to show love. So my father-in-law, who really doesn’t understand my food boundaries, assured me that there was vegetarian pizza if I wanted it. Now, I think this is hilarious. Partly because meat is a thing people regularly assume I don’t eat, when in fact, meat is a huge staple of my diet. And partly because pizza of all things is almost entirely bread, which is definitely something I can’t eat. I’m not poking fun at my father-in-law. I already knew that he doesn’t understand, and that he probably never will. I never mind. I love him, and I love his hospitality. And I have known for a long time that for so many people, the extreme nature of what I do is difficult to wrap their minds around. 

But that is not really the point of me telling you this story. The point is that whenever my father-in-law offers me food, which he does all the time because we genuinely like and love each other, I can tell that he feels so incredibly sorry for me. I can tell that he really wants me to accept, not because it’s a gift, but because he really believes I must be suffering. It has occurred to me that this may actually be the reason he doesn’t understand my food boundaries. Because he thinks it must be painful for me.

That weekend we also took my dad out for lunch for Father’s Day, and when I called the restaurant to make the reservation, I flagged myself as an allergy. (I do this regularly when I eat out.) The woman taking the reservation asked what specifically I was allergic to, and when I told her it was sugars, grains, and starch, the phone went quiet for a second and then she said, “Wait, wow, really?” I laughed and I said “I know. It’s intense.”

People think I must be miserable. People think it must be horrible. So many people feel sorry for me. Even people who know me and know how happy I am. 

I will tell you something. If I didn’t get something out of it, I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t be able to. 

I don’t believe in willpower. I don’t have any. And I think that expecting anyone else to have it is silly. I believe that we as humans do things that offer us something more. I have said it before. I have never given up something to lose something. I have only ever given things up to gain. I have gained freedom, self-respect and trust in myself, every time I have let anything go from my life.

So today, we are having company again. Some are people I have never met. I have bought them a kitchen full of food that I won’t eat myself. There will probably be questions and incredulous looks. But all is well. I already know what it is I’m missing, which is to say, I’m not missing anything at all.

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