onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Because sometimes life sucks and people are a**holes

I am a very ritualistic person. I always have been. I like structure. Rituals and structure have always made me feel safe. But since I got my eating under control, one of the things I had to learn was to create rituals and structures that allow me to feel safe when my rituals and structures get interrupted. Because life will be life. And sh*t will inevitably hit the fan. Maybe not today. But some day. And life will keep moving forward. And it will take me with it.

When life used to move forward, it took me kicking and screaming. I insisted that it drag me. There was a kind of heroic martyrdom to it in my twisted eating disorder brain. I was going to be unhappy on principle! It was how I showed that I was principled. That I was dedicated. It really did occur to me as noble to be so stubborn. It never registered for me that I was dedicated to my own unhappiness. And to making other people unhappy by my drama and complaining.

And I took everything personally. I took the weather personally. I felt like anything that didn’t go the way I intended, or really even just the way I wanted, was a slight from whatever poor schmuck happened to be involved. And if nobody was involved, it was a slight from God. I was incredibly self-centered, in case you hadn’t gathered that by now.

So now I have a very important ritual that I do every morning. I call it my morning meditation. And sometimes I do actually meditate. But the point of this ritual is very specific. It’s a time when I be still and remember that life is going exactly the way it is supposed to. That there is only one way for life to go, and that is the way that it is going. If there were any other way for it to go, it would be going that way instead. (I know. For someone who doesn’t spend much time actually meditating, it’s a very Zen philosophy.) There are a few different ways that I do this. But I do it every morning. Because it helps to keep me from martyrdom, panic, resentment. You know, all the things that make me want to eat a chocolate cake.

Sometimes I make a promise to God that whatever happens that day, I will honor it as His will. I don’t promise to like it. I just promise to honor it. To accept that it is what it is. And that if it’s yucky, or upsetting, or painful, to not take it personally. That life is not always easy. That it’s like that for everybody.

And that includes everything. Train delays, people being rude, losing things, spilling coffee on myself, making mistakes. Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes people are a**holes. Sometimes I’m one of them.

The making mistakes/being an a**hole thing is the hardest for me to deal with. Since I have gotten control of my eating, I find it relatively easy to be philosophical when I have done my best to plan and prepare, to do good work and be a good person, and things just don’t work out anyway. But it’s not so easy for me to be calm about things going wrong when I have fallen short on my end. My first reaction is still to look for someone else to blame, or to torture and shame myself. But when I agree to honor whatever happens as God’s will, my only option is to accept it, fix it as best I can, and move on. To let it be and let it go. I am not always good at this. But by making this promise to God in the morning, I give up the right to get all dramatic about it. I’m not saying I never do. But I give up the right. I agree that there is no justification for resentment, martyrdom, or self-pity.

Sometimes I say the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.  There are a few versions of it. But this is the one I say:

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace – that where there is hatred, I may bring love – that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness – that where there is discord, I may bring harmony – that where there is error, I may bring truth – that where there is doubt, I may bring faith – that where there is despair, I may bring hope – that where there are shadows, I may bring light – that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted – to understand, than to be understood – to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.

The reason I like it is that it reminds me that if I want peace (and I do want peace), I have to bring the peace. That it’s my responsibility to bring the good stuff. Not to sit around and judge everybody else for not doing it. Not to try to micro-manage the world and point out how everybody else is doing it wrong. It is not “Lord, make everybody else peaceful so I don’t have to deal with their bullsh*t today.” It’s “Lord, make me a channel of thy peace. That where there is hatred I may bring love.” Again, I don’t always succeed at this. But when this is how I start my morning, I have a better chance of bringing something worthwhile into the world.

And sometimes I just be quiet and trust that God is taking care of me. And remember that God has always taken very good care of me when I have let Him. When I have stopped fighting, resisting, being angry. I remember that when I don’t insist on being dragged, kicking and screaming, there’s no dragging, kicking, or screaming. That there’s peace. And that I lead a pretty sweet life.

My morning meditation doesn’t take a lot of time. Between 5 and 15 minutes. Nothing really in terms of my time. But it makes a huge difference in my life. It helps me manage my feelings instead of eating them. Or drinking them. Or smoking them. And in case you are wondering, I have not had a cigarette since my birthday on the 6th. So hooray for morning meditation for that too!
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Commitment, surrender, and God’s totally effed up sense of humor

There were two things that I had to figure out before I could make a lasting change for my life around food: commitment and surrender.

Commitment was where I had to agree, between me and God, that  circumstances and situations had no bearing on whether or not I would stay within my food boundaries. I had to recognize that there would always always be some reason to cross them. That even the most paltry excuse could be rationalized. That even the most valid reason would still lead me straight back to bulimia, 300 lbs, misery, and insanity.

And I have kept my food boundaries through some crazy things. 2 years ago my grandmother, who was the love of my life, got sick. She passed away about 4 months later. About a week after that, my favorite aunt, who was also my godmother, and way too young to die, was diagnosed with cancer, and again, was gone within about 4 months. That was a hard year for me. From April to November I did a lot of crying. But I stayed within my food boundaries. While they were in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice care. During regular updates from my parents about their rapid deteriorations. At their funerals. Throughout the traveling back and forth to my hometown. It didn’t matter that I was sad. It didn’t matter that life sucked. The only thing that mattered when it came to my food was that I had boundaries and a commitment to stay within them.

Would you have blamed me if I had eaten a chocolate cake? Probably not, right? But I had made an agreement with God. That circumstances and situations have nothing to do with my food. That my feelings have nothing to do with my food. That my life has nothing to do with my food.

The other part was surrender. Surrender was when I stopped asking why. Why me? Why do I have to give up sugar to be happy? Why do I have to have boundaries? Why can’t I just eat like a normal person? I stopped complaining. It’s not fair. It’s hard. It’s too much. It’s too rigid. Nobody else has to do this. People are going to think I’m weird. I stopped looking for it to be easy. I stopped wishing for it to be convenient. I accepted that I had been given a solution, and stopped trying to renegotiate the terms. I surrendered to it exactly the way it was. And surrender brought me peace. Is there something better or easier or more convenient out there? The truth is I don’t know. And I don’t care. I have no desire to give up my solution for even a moment in order to find out. That’s what I mean by surrender.

So let’s get to God, and His totally effed up sense of humor.

If you don’t know, I quit smoking 11 days ago. I made a commitment to myself and God. And I surrendered to the fact that smoking is just not something I do anymore. I think having a point of reference with food probably made it easier to do it with cigarettes. But commitments get tested. That’s actually the definition of a commitment if you think about it. If it didn’t take something, some strength or honor, to make and keep it, it would be called something else.

Ok, backtrack two weeks. I was still smoking at the time. One night, I was physically threatened, by a man I was becoming friends with. He told me he had no reservations about punching me in the face. (Over this blog, actually. Which I still don’t understand…) Needless to say, I walked away. It was obvious that we weren’t going to be friends, and I didn’t think too much about it after that.

A few days later, on my 35th birthday, I quit smoking, as was the plan. The smoking itself wasn’t so hard to give up. I didn’t miss it. I had already changed my thinking about it. I had committed and surrendered. But the feelings were pretty awful. Just regular life feelings. But they were hard to deal with. It became clear to me that I had been smoking those feelings. And now I didn’t have cigarettes to numb them anymore.

And then a week after I quit, I got a text message from the guy who threatened me. He wanted to know if we could reconcile. I was gracious. But I told him no. And I went to bed.

I woke up to a series of progressively more upsetting texts from him. Amorous texts. Too forward. Too intimate to come from someone I had never touched or kissed or even been on a date with. Or whose last words to me had been violent. The texts scared me. So much that I went to the police station after work. (After dinner actually. Because food first. Always.) I filed a harassment report.

But I could practically hear God. “It’s only been a week. So I’m wondering. How committed are you, Kate? How about if I make you scared for your safety? Those are some pretty intense feelings, huh? You still not gonna smoke?”

Yes, God. I’m still not gonna smoke. But you do realize that you are totally twisted, right?

“Oh, yeah. I know. But I’m proud of you, Kate. I honor your commitment and surrender. You’re doing good work.”

Part of me wants to tell God to go to hell, of course. But there is another part of me that is grateful. Because this experience has actually been an opportunity. Because by honoring my commitment not to smoke in the face of real fear, I get a look at how powerful I am. I get a boost to my self-esteem. And I get to recognize that I can make the choice that no circumstance, situation, and maybe more importantly, no person, gets a say in how I live my life.

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If I love food so much, why don’t I marry it?

I love to eat. I love to eat now even more than when I was eating sugar. Because now I eat without guilt or shame. I am not one of those people who used to “live to eat”, but learned how to “eat to live”. I still live to eat. I did not suddenly stop caring about food. I’m pretty sure that I will never become indifferent to eating. It’s just that now I eat within my strict boundaries. Besides not eating sugar and simple carbohydrates, one of my rules (I have many food rules, by the way) is that I eat 3 meals a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s it. I don’t eat in between those meals. So in between those meals, I have a life. Usually that’s good. Sometimes it’s hard. But whether it’s good or it’s hard, my life between meals is not about being obsessed with food. And that is a miracle. That affords me the opportunity to absolutely love to eat! When it’s time to eat.

When I was eating compulsively, food and I were in an abusive relationship. I let food be my best friend, my lover, my closest companion. But it made me miserable. It made me hate myself. The food I was eating gave me a body that I hated and was ashamed of. But I “loved” my food. I couldn’t live without it, even though it was beating me up emotionally and physically. So every time I ate, I was simultaneously comforted and tortured. Relieved and anxious. Quieted and tormented. And I ate constantly. Or if I wasn’t eating, I was thinking about eating. So I was in a constant state of confusion. I was having a love/hate relationship with both food and myself. 24 hours a day.

And then there were the rare “diets”. I didn’t go on many of them in my life. But I did go on a few. When you grow up morbidly obese, you end up getting “put” on a few diets. And they always occurred to me as a punishment for being fat, not as an opportunity to be healthy. I never felt like I was being offered help or kindness. And I always hated the food. Partly because I wanted sugar to get me high. I was used to getting high from eating. And partly because eating a diet consisting almost entirely of sugar and simple carbohydrates for most of my life deadened my palate. Fruits and vegetables had no taste. In fact, for much of my life, fruit was not sweet. I didn’t just eat grapefruit with sugar, I ate strawberries with sugar. When people would say something was “too sweet”, I couldn’t understand what that could possibly mean. Sweet was the most important trait of a food. That was like saying something was “too delicious”.

Plus, on these diets, it was often explained to me (by doctors or nutritionists, etc.) that I didn’t have to give up sugar.  I just had to eat it in moderation.  But I could never eat sugar or simple carbohydrates “in moderation”. That is a skill I do not possess. So once I ate a moderate portion of something, it was followed by…well, basically, a chocolate cake. And the diet was over.

It took a while for my palate to change back to normal when I stopped eating sugar. Eating real food was not entirely satisfying, flavor-wise, in the beginning. I think the reason I stuck with it was that my head started to clear and the obsession with food lifted. But, of course, the longer I went without sugar, the better real food tasted. By now, six plus years later, vegetables have become food-orgasmic.

But you know what? I still refuse to eat lettuce, celery, or raw carrots. (Cooked carrots are another matter. Cooked in butter? Roasted maybe? Ahem, I digress…) Maybe it’s psychological, and they still occur to me as “diet food”. But I don’t like them. And you know what else? I don’t have to eat them. If I want a delicious salad, there are radishes, mushrooms, arugula, artichokes, onions, cucumbers. There are so many foods that make my mouth water. And I’m not on a diet. I’m not being punished. I don’t eat anything because I “should”. Because it’s “healthy” or “good for me”. I eat foods that I love. I eat meals that make me happy. And this time really happy. Not some weird combination of trepidatious happiness and shame. There is no guilt in my pleasure. All because my meals are within my set boundaries. The three times a day that I eat are pure bliss. I don’t answer the phone. I don’t worry about the future. I just enjoy eating. Wow!

My point in all of this is that boundaries have created freedom for me. It’s a cliché paradox, I know.  But if you have experienced it, you know how profound it is. Living within a strict set of rules has made it possible for me to not only not have a bad relationship with food, but to have a fan-freaking-tastic relationship with food. I don’t just get a life in between my meals, but I get to glory in eating three times a day.

 

It’s true that there are things about the way I eat that are inconvenient. I can’t just grab a slice of pizza on the go. I can’t just walk into any old restaurant and order off the menu. But I am not sorry. Because what I get instead is self-respect, a body I love, and to eat with gusto three times a day anyway. Not too shabby for the “poor girl” who had to give up sugar.

As always, I would love it if you would share this blog. Or follow me on twitter @onceafatgirl5

I have to grow up? Again?!?!

Basically, I have 3 vices left. Sunbathing (in the natural sun), artificial sweetener, and cigarettes. And for my birthday, I’m going to quit smoking. Because 35 seems like a good age to grow the eff up.

I started smoking pretty young. By 16 I was a full-on smoker. I quit once before, when I was in my late 20s. For a year and a half. But I quit while I was eating compulsively, and about a year later, got control of my eating. My first Halloween with my food under control was when I started again. That was six years ago. I don’t think I expected to go back to being a smoker. I think I thought I would stop smoking again the next day. Or I wasn’t thinking about the consequences at all. But everyone was drinking and eating, and I couldn’t do those things. And it was a party, and I wanted to feel like I wasn’t missing out. So I had that first cigarette that night, and it took the edge off. The food edge. The urge to eat edge. And I never stopped.

I did a lot of things to take the edge off the food cravings in the beginning. Diet soda, coffee, tea, sugarless gum. Cigarettes. Anything I could put in my mouth that wasn’t food. And it helped. It got me through. And I still do that. Besides smoking, I drink herbal drinks with artificial sweetener all day long.

But in my life, I have learned how to give things up. I gave up sugar, of course. Grains and starches and alcohol as well, because my body reacts to them like sugar, and once I start I can’t stop. Then I stopped eating foods that I loved (like tomatoes and peppers and certain soy products) because they make me break out or give me indigestion. I stopped doing drugs. I stopped drinking diet soda and chewing gum. I stopped drinking caffeine after noon. I stopped staying up all night. (I did that before I stopped drinking caffeine after noon, not because. I could (and did) drink coffee from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep and still get 8 hours a night.) I stopped biting my nails. I stopped watching TV.

And every time I gave something up, I fought it. I have fought growing up at every turn. I was always terrified of what I was going to miss out on. How I was going to suffer. How my life was going to suck because there was something I didn’t have anymore. Because something would be missing.

And every time, I got more life. More peace. More freedom. Every time I grew up, I was grateful that I did.

There is a bit of chatter in my head right now. And I need to name it. I need to tell on myself. It is about fear of losing control of my food. It is about how smoking takes the edge off. And what if I can’t handle the void and I pick up sugar. And I need to acknowledge this as bullshit. I need to say that I don’t need to smoke to keep my food under control. And also, that if I were to renege, and not quit smoking, or to pick up cigarettes again with the excuse of not wanting to eat compulsively, it would still just be an excuse. It would just be bullshit.

And I want to say I have another fear. A fear of gaining weight. Not because of over eating. But because I have heard that smoking speeds up your metabolism. Frankly, I don’t know if it’s true. But I’ve heard it. And the part of me that doesn’t want to quit smoking keeps bringing it up. What if I gain weight? What if I get fat? Better keep smoking and not risk it. But if I keep my food boundaries (which I am committed to doing no matter what, in spite of what I just said above, because that’s just BS anyway…), then rational Kate knows that any weight gain would be negligible. 2 lbs? 5? Not worth considering really. And not worth feeling like I need a crutch to get through my day.

So I need to declare to you that all of this “fear” fidgeting around in my head is actually just me being a whiner and a drama queen. But I don’t stand for whining and drama anymore. So my head makes it seem like a justified fear. Oh no! Oh no! It’s scary! You could lose everything! Cigarettes are holding your life together!

Right…Here’s what’s really underneath all that panic: But look at everything I’ve given up already! Why me? Why do I have to? You can’t make me! I won’t! Poor me…

And I don’t have to. It’s my choice, after all. I’m quitting because I want to. I’m quitting because I’m vain. Because being a smoker is starting to feel pathetic. Because instead of making me feel like a bad-ass, like a super-cool, caution-to-the-wind, it’s-my-life-and-I-do-what-I-want rebel, it’s making me feel like a grown woman who doesn’t have her shit together. (You can say what you like about the health consequences of smoking. But you should know that my health has never moved me to make a positive change in my life. So far, the only thing that has ever been an effective kick in the ass to me is vanity. And that is ok with me. As long as I get there in the end, I don’t worry so much about how I got there…)

So rather than bolster my righteousness, and dig my heels in, and weave a story around how it’s just the way I am, and you can’t stop me, I would rather be happy. And free. And peaceful. I would rather not be a slave.

I’m going to use the patch. I don’t need to be miserable just to prove that I’m strong enough to do it on my own. I don’t need to do it by willpower, which I don’t have much of anyway. I don’t want to be a martyr. I happen to know that only makes me resentful. And that resentment is a short road to me punishing myself. Possibly with more cigarettes. And I don’t deal well with discomfort. Which is ok with me. When confronted with the question “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?”, now I always choose happy. Ok, almost always. (Still stuck with this humanity of mine…) So I’ve decided it’s better to be a non-smoker than worry about how I quit.

I’m big into baby steps. I like doing one thing at a time. Gently. Slowly. I find that that’s what works. So maybe someday I’ll start walking around with an oversized sun hat and using stevia, but for right now, quitting cigarettes seems like an appropriate means of continuing my journey into adulthood. And I’ll say, for a girl who didn’t start growing up until she was 28, I’m not doing so bad.
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