onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

What I *don’t* want for my birthday is Botox

My birthday is coming up. I’ll turn 35 the first week in June. And…Yay! I’m really excited! I love my birthday. And I love getting older. No, seriously. My life (and my looks) get better and better the older I get.

For several years now, I have been noticing the people in my life start to freak out about getting older. More and more of them every year.  I can almost understand it. Almost. I mean most of my friends are in their 30s, like me. But it does not escape me that we live in a culture that glorifies youth and shames aging. As if we have any control over it. Like if we were good boys and girls time would stop at 23. (By the way, you could not pay me to be 23 again!)

When I was 30, I was a personal assistant. My boss and I were shopping at a fancy department store, when this woman walked up to me and spread something on the lines around my mouth. It started to burn. As I tried to wipe it off, I demanded, “What is that!?” She said it was a wrinkle reducer. Botox without the injection. Then she asked how old I was. When I said I was 30, she looked surprised. “You look good!” I was appalled! I wanted to yell at her You think I’m in my 20s and you want to give me skin irritant to reduce my wrinkles!?!? Are you out of your effing mind!?!? But I was at work. So I held my tongue.

Shortly after that I had a conversation that had me start to understand why this was a thing. Why so many people didn’t like getting older. And why I didn’t get it. I was dancing with a modern dance company. I was back stage with one of the other dancers. We were about the same age. She sighed and asked, “Remember when you were 16 and your body was perfect and the world was yours?” Of course I laughed. I said, “Um yeah, no. That’s not how my life went.”

That was the first time it had occurred to me that not everybody’s life gets better and better. Because, personally, entering my 30s was the second greatest thing that ever happened to me. (Getting control of my eating was by far the greatest.) I had finally come into my own. I was finally understanding who I was and what I wanted. And I was suddenly capable of getting what I wanted. Emotionally and physically capable. Plus I got hot! Who knew!?!? So this passing comment from a fellow dancer was a wake-up call as to how lucky I was. While I was better at 30 than at 16 (and better looking), most people were having the opposite experience. At least they felt like they were.

And I don’t know if it’s their perception or the reality. Or if their perception is creating the reality. Because I keep getting more beautiful. No, really. I wasn’t just better looking at 30 than 16 because I had been fat and got thin. I was better looking at 33 than 30. I’m better looking at (almost) 35 than 33. And I even asked a friend to make sure I wasn’t crazy. “Am I better looking now than I was when you met me 2 1/2 years ago?” Her reply was “Absolutely!” (And I trust her. She’s not the kind of friend who blows sunshine up your ass.)

So I started to think about why. What is it about my life that makes me get better with age? And I have decided that it’s several things. But, (in case you couldn’t guess) they all come down to getting control of my eating.

First, of course, my body works better. At 16, and probably about 270 lbs (the truth is, I don’t know what I weighed then. Not quite 300 by that point, but not too far off), living in my body was a chore. An exhausting chore. To be thin and beautiful now is an incredible gift. And to be more fit, more agile, and stronger at 35 than 16 makes me feel great about my body. I don’t see all of the things I can’t do (or can’t do as easily) anymore. Everything is easier. Everything feels better. Everything about my body is improved compared to 19 years ago.

Also, I eat really well. Real food. Lots of it. Protein, fruit and vegetables. And lots of fat. Real fat. Butter, olive oil, egg yolks, whole milk, bacon. My body is nourished. Regularly. Not over fed. I’m quite thin. But not under fed, either. I’m not “on a diet”, I have a diet. I eat. I just don’t eat compulsively. And I think that eating well keeps me looking young. Don’t get me wrong. I have laugh lines (that I love) and worry lines (those I could do without) and some gray hair (meh, it doesn’t bother me) but I am regularly told that I look younger than I am. And I’m very open about my age. I earned my age. I’m not about to cheat myself out of even one year!

But there’s something else that I think contributes to me looking young, and it, too, is a direct result of getting control of my eating. I have a sparkle. You can see it in my eyes. I glow. And I think it is a combination of being present, confident, and free. Carefree.

I am present because I don’t live in a sugar fog anymore. I don’t even visit the sugar fog. I’m confident because I love my body. I love my life! Because not eating compulsively allows me to maintain my personal integrity. Keeping control of the food gives me self-respect. And liking and respecting myself makes me feel beautiful.

And my heart is free. I am not a slave to food anymore. Or to self-loathing. Of course, I’m still neurotic. I am a New Yorker after all. I’ve got a lot of chatter in my head. About all of the things that could possibly go wrong in the next moment, or the forseeable future…or the unforeseeable future. But getting a handle on my eating changed the frequency of that chatter. Now it’s like a radio tuned between stations. Sometimes it comes in clearly, but sometimes it’s just scratchy noise in the background. I reclaimed my innocence when I stopped eating compulsively. Or rather, I acquired a whole new innocence. A kind of trust in the benevolence of life and the world. I got peace. So sometimes when people are surprised by my age, I think more than my face and body looking young, it’s that my heart looks young. That my aura looks young. I think they are seeing my freedom.

I was in a lot of pain growing up. I had a very unhappy life. But I think there is something of a gift in having your joy, happiness, confidence and peace work Benjamin Button style. (And beauty! Yes, I’m vain…) When I think about the fact that so many people in my life are sorry for their age, and pining for their youth, I can’t regret that my own youth made aging a blessing. I don’t expect to look young forever. I’m not a fool. But I do expect to grow old gracefully. And to be beautiful for the rest of my life. And I don’t think that’s expecting too much.

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I need to take this…it’s my calling calling

My life eating compulsively was like an extended childhood. Not in a good way. I didn’t have a particularly enjoyable childhood. What I mean is that I didn’t really start growing up until I got my eating under control. Sugar made it possible for me to let my life slip through the cracks for the first 28 years. That was why I used it. Not because it tasted good. But because it made me not have to feel my overwhelming feelings. That was useful when I was small and too vulnerable to process them. But as I got older, it became a detriment. It inhibited me. It allowed me to be numb enough that I could refuse to look at issues and responsibilities that needed to be dealt with. That I needed to deal with. Until they became emergencies. And then I dealt with them by throwing them into someone else’s lap. Someone who loved me. Usually my mother. But anyone would do.

And the truth is that I would become so incapacitated by the time something positively had to be dealt with, that people would feel sorry for me.  They would feel compelled to help me. Not help. That’s not the word. Because I ask for help now. In a healthy, responsible way. I love help! I am grateful for help. I can accomplish so much with help. But when I was eating compulsively and burying my head in the sand (really more like burying my face in a chocolate cake) other people were assuming responsibility for my failures and ineptitudes. And letting me off the hook without my having to live with the consequences of my actions, or inactions. At the time, this was a relief. Or it seemed like a relief. It wasn’t, really. It fed the thoughts that told me I wasn’t good enough. That I wasn’t capable. It reinforced my ideas about my worthlessness. But I didn’t have any other context. Neglecting my life until the looming consequences left me in a state of paralyzed terror, and then having my cookies hauled out of the fire by somebody else, was all I knew. It took the immediate pressure off, but it never made me wise. First, because I was selfish and couldn’t have cared less that someone else was being deprived of something (time, money, resources) for my benefit. And second because I was numb. Getting high on sugar made it possible for me to never feel the impact of my choices. Sugar made it so that I never had to feel anything.

There was a strange paradox to my life when I was eating compulsively. I was simultaneously disgustingly arrogant and pathetically low on self-esteem. I felt totally entitled without feeling like I should have to honor my word or my commitments. Because I “couldn’t”. Because that required being worthwhile and able. Which I “obviously” wasn’t.

When I got a handle on my food, it became a necessity to start dealing with my responsibilities. Not being numb from sugar meant actually feeling the pressure to maintain my integrity. It meant caring about my future. About my reputation. About my relationships. Having clarity made me feel bad about hurting and abusing the people in my life. It made me want to be someone I respected and liked, because feeling like the asshole I was being made me uncomfortable. And there was no more cake to numb the discomfort. And besides, being someone I liked was suddenly an option. And then I discovered that I loved it! It wasn’t just a relief. It was joy.

I am slow. Not intellectually. But personally. I change slowly. I need a lot of time to adapt to new things. I need to sit with things for a long time before I can integrate them into my thinking and actions. Before I can get acclimated to them. What to do in a situation is rarely obvious to me. Maybe this is the result of living in fear and stagnation for the vast majority of my life. But it doesn’t matter why, really. It’s what is so. And I have learned to accept this about myself. I am learning to be patient with myself. To be still and present and listen to my inner voice. With its long silences and pauses. With its string of I-don’t-know-yets. (How ’bout now? Nope, not yet.) I am learning not to rush, or to judge myself. Because when I look back at where I was, (not just at 19 when I weighed 300 lbs, or 7 years ago when I was bulimic and food obsessed, but even 3 years ago, or 1 year ago, or 6 months ago) I can see that I do change. That I am changing. And that it’s ok that it takes years. I have learned that there will never be a “done”. So what’s the rush?

When I started writing this blog, I did it for me. I wanted to let my crazy out. I wanted to get the poison out. I wanted to say, out loud, that there were things about my past and my thinking that kept me living in fear and shame. Even though there was nothing to be afraid or ashamed of anymore. But recently, I’ve found that my inner voice, the one that speaks to me when I’m still and quiet, is telling me it’s time to think bigger. After years of simply dealing with my responsibilities and my integrity, one situation at a time, one moment at a time, it’s telling me that just honoring my word is not enough. It’s important. It’s huge. But it’s not enough. That there’s work for me to do. That this is my work. My story. My learning to honor myself and my body. My life, honest and uncensored. The sad and the joyful and (hopefully) the inspiring, on the page for you. That it’s time to hustle a little. To take some initiative in sharing it with the world. And what’s more, just as my inner voice started telling me it was time to expand my horizons, as if right on cue, life sent opportunities. And help. Information. Advice. Encouragement. Support. Reinforcements. So much love! And right now, you are participating in my work. You are witnessing my calling. So thank you. I am honored. I feel so blessed. I’m so incredibly grateful. I’m scared shitless, by the way…But grateful…

I am not clear yet where this will lead or what it will end up looking like in the future. That’s still another I-don’t-know-yet. But I can be with the I-don’t-know-yet. I can trust it. And honor it. I can listen for the next thing I’m supposed to do. I can wait patiently to find out what that is. But if you’d like to help me share my work, feel free to share this blog. Or follow me on twitter @onceafatgirl5

Can I pick my pedestal?

There’s something that I have been thinking about regarding this blog. It has probably become clear to you if you’ve been reading a while, but it’s on my mind, none the less. My blog is called onceafatgirl, and I regularly talk about the fact that I’ve lost 165 or so lbs. And that’s important. But it’s not really the point. For me, it’s not about going from fat to thin, but more about having been fat. And why I was fat. And what being fat meant to me. And what it did to me. And what it was like. And what I had to go through to get my eating under control. And how growing up fat and with food addiction affected my head and my heart and my life. And still does.

Most people consider losing that much weight impressive. People are impressed. It’s not like I hold it against them. But from my point of view, it’s misguided. My weight loss does not particularly impress me.

I am addicted to sugar. The way crack addicts are addicted to crack. When I eat it, my body wants more. It thinks it needs more. It thinks it will die without more. And I also have eating disorders that are about my thinking. Before I got control of my eating, I was obsessed with food. And also my weight and my body. At first, my body obsession was about how horrible it was to be fat. But eventually, after I lost a lot of weight counting calories and working out (which was not control of my eating the way I refer to it now), it was about how to eat and not get fat again. How to eat so that nobody noticed. What to eat and when. And how to get the body and life I wanted without having to give up eating the way I wanted to eat. See, I have never really had a weight problem. Being morbidly obese was just a symptom. It wasn’t like I was lazy and just hadn’t gotten around to getting thin. I had a food problem. I still do. It’s just arrested.

I am very open about my eating disorders, and hence, my weight loss. Not just in this blog, but in my everyday life. I kind of have to be. It comes up a lot. And I am not ashamed of having eating disorders. It’s just the simple truth.

It may not occur to you if you don’t have food issues, but people talk about food constantly. They want to know if I’ve tried that new restaurant. They want to know why I don’t want a free sample of cake. Why I don’t want the piece of chocolate they are offering. They want to wax poetic about what they ate recently. With many adjectives and sound effects. They want to know what I’m eating. (They’re called vegetables. They are a kind of food. I’m eating food.)

Sarcasm aside, it’s really fine with me. I get it. I don’t mind people talking to me about food. I don’t worry about what anybody else is eating. I don’t get offended or upset if people eat in front of me. Or offer me foods I don’t eat. Even if they know about my food boundaries. People forget. It’s second nature for most people to be hospitable with food. I don’t need to make a big stink about saying no. “No thank you” usually suffices. (If it doesn’t, and I get harassed about it, well, yes. That annoys the hell out of me.) But I don’t crave the foods I have stopped eating. I don’t pine, or feel deprived. I have entirely altered the way I see food. It is now either mine, or not mine. If it’s not mine, it’s just not. I keep my eyes on my own plate.

But there is a thing that I’ve noticed because I am so open about my food issues. Most people don’t register that I have food issues. Even if I tell them I do. What they hear is that I overcame a weight problem. It doesn’t occur to them that I was fat because I was eating my own self-hatred. They don’t have any concept of the kind of punishment I was inflicting on myself with food. They cannot fathom that I lost weight because I made a decision to stop abusing myself. And they look at me and see a beautiful, happy woman, and they have no idea that there’s a fat girl who lives in my head who wants me to hate myself again so she can have her cake back. (I am not condemning them. How could they know?)

There is one thing in particular that I hear a lot that makes it clear to me that most people don’t understand. That they think it’s about weight. And in the past tense: “You should be really proud of yourself.”

I am not proud of myself for losing 165 lbs. I am not even proud of myself for getting control of my eating. Not that it was a breeze. Not that it didn’t suck to give up sugar. (No, seriously. It sucked. The withdrawal was excruciating. I sincerely pray that I will never have to do it again.) But being proud is the last thing I need. It implies that it’s done. Whew! Glad that’s over! (Yes. That’s more sarcasm.)

Being proud is a dangerous place for me to hang out. Pride goeth before a fall and all. I can’t afford to start believing I’m too good for my food boundaries. That I don’t need them because I’m special. That I accomplished something great, so I shouldn’t have to be so strict anymore. If I get proud, I might forget that I don’t have any willpower. (That’s not sarcasm, just so you know.) If I get too big for my britches figuratively, I will surely do so literally.

What I really do, every single solitary day, is protect my relationship with food. It is an ongoing, never-ending process. So I am not proud. I am humbled. I am grateful. I am so effing relieved that I don’t have to eat compulsively today, that I do whatever it takes. I do the work. And then I do it again. And again. It is not glamorous. But it is the most important thing I do in a day.

I didn’t get peace in my heart because I got thin. I got thin because I got peace. I didn’t start loving myself because I lost 165 lbs. I lost 165 lbs because I started loving myself. I guess my point in all of this is that if I got to choose what impressed you about me, I would not choose my weight loss. I would choose for you to be impressed by how I learned to honor myself. And how I continue to cultivate that honor every day. How I do the work even though it can be inconvenient. Even though it is not fancy or sexy. Because it gives me a joyful life. That I figured out that I deserve to have a joyful life. That I went from being a girl who was killing herself with food and self-loathing, to being a woman who celebrates herself with love and kindness. At least that is what impresses me about me.

My place or yours?

There is a joke that I have heard many times. It makes me cringe with shame every time I hear it. Yes, even now. How are fat girls like mopeds? They’re both fun to ride as long as nobody sees you.

As a fat girl, I always knew my place. There are rules that fat girls live by. We all seem to understand these rules, though they are rarely expressed openly. The general gist is “You are an embarrassment. Take what you are given, be thankful, and don’t expect anything more. You don’t deserve it.” This is a fat girl’s place. A friend of mine refers to it as “taking crumbs.”

The first lesson I remember about knowing my place came when I was 13. I was friends with this guy. He was 14, QB of his HS football team, popular, and really good-looking. I had a big crush on him. We used to hang out a lot that year. We’d sit around his house, or wander the suburban streets. His mom and little brother loved me. I remember going to his games and sitting with them. And then one day, alone in my house, he kissed me. Really kissed me. You know, we made out. I was so shocked and so pleased. I told 3 girls. But they didn’t believe me. Because he was hot and popular, and I was…well…fat. One of them asked him if it were true. He denied it. And there it was. Fun to ride (not quite…I was only 13), as long as nobody sees you. I, of course, still wanted to be his friend. (Apparently I was glutton for all sorts of things!) But he drifted away until his mom sent him out of state to go live with his dad. I thought he stopped talking to me because he was mad at me for telling people and humiliating him. Which, to a 13-year-old fat girl, seemed well within his rights. I was sorry for him. Sorry that I was so fat that he had to hide the fact that he kissed me. Sorry that I wasn’t the kind of girl he could brag about. Or even just tell the truth about.

But when it came down to me, I was not sorry that I had been abused or mistreated. I didn’t blame him for lying at the expense of my feelings and honor. I did not feel outraged that he had denied my humanity. I didn’t see my own humanity. I didn’t think it was worth honoring.

I learned my lesson well. I didn’t kiss anyone else until I was in college. And even then I knew my place. I knew not to tell anyone. I knew not to embarrass any man who was gracious enough to throw me crumbs. I shut my heart down. I was prepared to keep it idle forever. After all, I didn’t like me. I certainly didn’t expect any man to like me either.

When I look back on that experience over 20 years later, I can see that boy differently. I can imagine that his embarrassment about kissing me stemmed from his own insecurity. And I can imagine that he stopped being my friend because he didn’t want to face me after throwing me to the wolves. But his lie seemed so legitimate at the time. I was fat and he was cool.

At 34, I can finally look back at 13-year-old Kate and see that she didn’t deserve that. I didn’t deserve that. That it was cruel for him to lie at my expense. To make me seem like a liar so that he didn’t have to admit that he had kissed a fat girl. That he was attracted to a fat girl. (Of course I was a liar. Just not about that.)

But when it comes to liking someone, even as a beautiful, sane woman, I still occur to myself as an embarrassment. And while I managed to change the size and shape of my body, my brain still remembers that I have a place, and it reminds me that when I forget my place, I am punished with shame. And there are feelings that accompany those thoughts. Despair and fear and a kind of pathetic resignation toward the futility of loving.

I don’t know how to unthink those thoughts and stop feeling those feelings yet. With regard to love, I don’t know how to see myself as a human being worthy of being honored. I have stopped taking crumbs. Which rational Kate knows is an important first step to being loved. But the fat girl in my head doesn’t know how to accept actual love. She doesn’t see how actual love could be a possibility for her, and subsequently, me. She keeps telling me that I have two options. Crumbs, or eternal loneliness. Which is redundant, really. Because taking crumbs is its own kind of eternal loneliness. Worse than a life alone, it even keeps me separated from myself.

I do not want to be alone forever. I have a ridiculous amount of love to give away. But neglecting my own heart and humanity for a little affection is not a channel for love. Charity begins at home.

I wish that I had loved myself growing up, even though I was fat. I wish I had not spent my life continually putting myself back in the place I was told I belonged at 13. But if I had loved myself then, I wouldn’t have been fat, and I wouldn’t have been put in a fat girl’s place. I ate to numb the self-loathing and disgrace. Self-hatred and food have always been tied together in my life. Or at least as far back as I can remember. I don’t know which came first, the hatred or the eating. But I suppose it doesn’t matter. I cannot change the past with wishes. And today my food is under control, and my body is beautiful. Because I did the work. Because I continue to do it every day.

In order to change what I did with my food, I had to change what I did with my food. It stands to reason that in order to change what I do with my love, I will have to change what I do with my love. I don’t really know how to do that yet. There are things about my life that exist in my blind spot, and I don’t know how to see them. But I guess the first step is knowing that I have a blind spot. And that I want to look at those things I can’t see so I can create something better for myself. So I can change how I see myself, my humanity, and my love. So I can stop living like my place is small, dark, and hidden. I want to start walking in the sunshine. It’s my sun too.

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