onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “December, 2013”

How is an iPhone like a vegetable?

My boyfriend often teases me that he could write my blog for me. He said “This one is going to be all about how you got a new phone and you don’t like change, right?” And while he’s certainly right that I don’t like change, and this is going to be about getting a new phone, that’s not quite the gist of this post.

What this post is really going to be about is identity and how I manage to cope with change. Perhaps not in the most graceful way. But for all of his teasing, not so badly either.

When I was growing up fat, there were things that I took on as part of my identity. And whether they were good or bad, I became attached to them. I had this concept about the way things should be. In retrospect, I can see that it was a warped sense of integrity.

Some of them were positive things I identified with myself. Like being smart. Or being a singer. Or being kind. These were things that I and others associated with me.

But on the other end, if there was something about me that met with any kind of resistance, I would cling to that too. I would declare that I loved it. Or that it was “my thing.” I would start to see it as a part of myself. And I would find it incredibly difficult to let go of when it no longer served me.

I have a couple of examples of that when it comes to compulsive eating. Growing up, since I was fat and unhealthy and I knew it, I stopped even trying to eat properly. I did not eat vegetables. I called salad “rabbit food” and mocked people who ate it. I swore that I would never eat fresh food in moderation.

And I wore baggy, and usually frumpy clothes. I had declared that nice, or fashionable clothes were for stupid girls. I had decided that not caring about how you looked was ultimately cool. (Though I still wore a full face of makeup…)

Of course, I mocked people who ate healthy because I could not stop eating. And specifically I could not stop eating sugar and flour and junk in general. Because I was addicted to those things. And of course, I hated people who dressed in nice fashionable clothes because I did not fit into those kinds of clothes. Because I could not wear them. And it felt better to believe that these things were my own choice, rather than believe that I had no choice.

And both of these things were a problem when it came to getting my food under control. Before I stopped eating sugar, but after I decided that I wanted to get control of my weight, I maintained this attitude about vegetables. I hated them. I did not want to eat them. They were a punishment. They were diet food. And I was just eating them to be a good girl on my diet. Every bite was suffering. Because to enjoy healthy food would go against that declaration I had made so many years ago. It would mean denying a major part of this identity that I had created, and then convinced myself was real. Who was I going to be if I started eating proper food? What would people think of me? They would think that I was a hypocrite, that’s what!

So what does this have to do with this past week? I am a late adapter. I am a person who does not like technology. Until I am sort of forced into it. I don’t love toys and gadgets and what not. (Yes, I know that that could also simply be some made up concept of myself. But for the moment, it still rings true…)

Well, for many years, the phone I had was a Blackberry. I got my first Blackberry before the iPhone even came out. I didn’t want it at first, but a friend gave me a used one after his upgrade, and told me to try it. And I loved it. No seriously. Madly in love. I could write like a demon on my “crackberry” (as I called it). In fact, 90% of my blogs were written on it. With 2 thumbs. So when people gave me a hard time about it, especially after the iPhone came out, I got very defensive. And also, if I may, a lot of Apple customers are arrogant, pretentious jerk-wads. (It’s sort of like Christianity for me. It’s not so bad in itself, but the followers I could do without) And I was never, ever, EVER going to get an iPhone.

Can you guess where this is going? Exactly.

So I stopped getting service here in Small Town USA, and it made sense to switch to my boyfriend’s carrier and get on his plan. And Blackberry has basically folded as a company, so it didn’t make sense to get another one of those. And it turns out there are limited phones that have keyboards anymore. And none of them are quality phones. So I sucked it up and got an iPhone. The newest model. Lah dee dah!

It took me a long time of having my food under control to stop attaching to things like they are part of my unalterable identity. Many years of food boundaries had to come first. And maybe what really happened is that having my food under control allowed the major aspect of my identity be that I want to be able to accept life as it comes, without fighting, and struggling and bitching. To accept life on life’s terms. Because those are the only terms there are.

I do still miss my keyboard. I typed this particular blog post out on a computer. Which was not my favorite. But things change. Whether we like it or not. And I could resist it every step of the way, like I did with vegetables, or I could go with the flow. And being able to flow is a gift of having boundaries around my eating. Plus, I understand that as things change, we change. And as that happens, being true to yourself doesn’t mean being true to who you were 25 years ago, or 2 years ago, or yesterday. It means being true to yourself right now in this very moment.

If you know why this fence was put up, you know it’s best not to take it down

I started a new job last week. I’m back in the work force after many months of being unemployed. I like it.

I like the job itself. It’s an office job. I like working with spreadsheets and systems. I like learning new things. Plus what I’m doing is not mindless or unnecessary. It all makes sense. And I find that I’m good at it, which is rewarding.

But there is something else too. I am contributing financially in my relationship. Not as much as he is. But something. There was something slightly off-putting about not working.

Not that I minded contributing by doing the domestic things. I didn’t mind cooking and cleaning and laundry. And my boyfriend did not expect it of me. But it felt good to do things for him around the house while he was at work all day. I was going to have to do that stuff for myself anyway. And doing it for one other person, a relatively tidy adult for that matter, was no burden. But it was still hard to ask for things that I needed when I wasn’t pitching in with the money. Everything that was bought for me felt like a gift. Like something I should be grateful for because I didn’t “earn” it, rather than something I was entitled to because I am allowed to get my needs met.

For the record, I’m not talking about leather handbags and jewelry. I’m talking about food and toiletries. And for the record again, this is not to imply that my boyfriend made me feel that way. He never has. It all comes from my own head. My own fears and insecurities. It’s just that when you spend the first 34 years of your life expecting to be alone forever and having to take care of yourself until you die, it’s hard to go into your first relationship at 35 and immediately have a man take care of you financially without some serious head trips.

Needless to say, working and bringing home a paycheck, even a small one, makes me feel like I’m doing my part in my partnership.

Now if you are new to my blog, you may not know that I am a worrier. I worry all the time. Since I stopped eating compulsively, the worrying is usually just static noise in the background, with occasional spells of noticeable anxiety. But something big (like starting a new job) can trigger that noticeable anxiety. So one of the best things that can happen to me is that something that I would most likely worry about comes from out of the blue and there is no time to panic. There is only time for immediate action.

That’s how I found out I had a job. I was sitting around doing laundry and crocheting when I got a call that a job needed me to start tomorrow. There was no time get anxious about whether or not I were smart enough or good enough. I didn’t have time to worry about whether or not my new boss would like me. Or if I would like her. I had to pack breakfast and lunch for the next day and get to bed early for my 5 AM wakeup.

Of course there are still some things that I worry about with this new job. But they are mostly food related. I worry about having enough time to make and pack breakfasts and lunches for the work day. On the days that I work, I work 9 hour days with a 45 minute commute each way. It does not leave me a lot of time to do much when I get home in the evening. Plus there is still dinner to cook and eat every night. And small town Mississippi is not like New York City, where if I worked late and was too tired to cook for the next day, I could go to Fairway, or one of a number of gourmet delis, or a favorite diner to get fresh, delicious, pre-cooked vegetables in quantity to pack up for the next day. I do not have the option of grabbing something quick and easy from the nearest gas station. (Yes, gas station. It’s super small town Mississippi). Nor the option of skipping a meal entirely. I eat within my boundaries, and I eat every meal. I must. My commitment to my food boundaries is what has saved and continues to save my life. I keep those boundaries no matter what.

But I think the biggest fear I have about this new job, which is the biggest fear I have in any new situation, is what I will do if I have to say no, or walk away, or assert myself in order to keep my food boundaries. I am generally afraid of disappointing or angering or offending people, even if it’s to keep my eating under control. Of course, I try to keep my “Good Girl” under wraps, but she’s still in there. And having boundaries around food inevitably means setting boundaries with people. Any people. Family, friends, my boyfriend…and even bosses. And that’s scary.

The clear-headed, not anxious part of my mind tells me to stop worrying about the uncertain future. That such a thing may never happen. And that if it does, I will be able to handle it with grace and honor and love, and still keep my boundaries, my integrity and my self-respect. And then it tells me that even if I fail to be graceful, I will keep my boundaries. And that whatever the result of keeping my boundaries is, it is certainly the right result. Because not being fat, bulimic, crazy, miserable, angry, selfish, and self-loathing is more important than any job, relationship, or amount of money. Because I am always going to be in my own life. That’s the relationship it’s most important not to sabotage.

Don’t make me double dog dare you, 2014

I know that I am outspoken about not loving the holiday season, but there is something I do love about this time of year. I love the New Year. And I don’t just mean the parties. (Though there are aspects of New Year’s parties that contribute to it being one of my favorite holidays. Getting dressed up and dancing, traditional staples for New Year’s festivities, are two of my favorite things ever in the whole world ever.)

But what I really love is the opportunity to look back. To remember and reflect. And I love the opportunity to look forward. To anticipate and plan.

And I love when we choose to do this. That we do it around winter solstice. (Historically, the New Year has been celebrated either around the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, or around winter solstice, the first day of winter.) There is something beautiful to me about having the year end just after the darkest days are done. To make a new beginning just as the days begin to get longer again. We begin as it’s getting better. Waxing.

I have been thinking a lot lately about how different this time of reflection is for me since I got my eating under control. I was trying to remember which were the great years for me before 2006. And I thought about the fact that I don’t remember looking back on any year before then with fondness.

Not because they were all bad, I realize. But because I was a whiney, whiney complainer. Because I was always unhappy. Because I hated myself. And I hated life. And I was sure that God was out to get me. When I look back at my life, the things that I accomplished and the opportunities I was given, I can see that some of those years were pretty great. Exciting things happened for me. But I didn’t have any gratitude for them.

And then I started to think about the past 8 years and how wonderful they have been. But then I realized that they were not necessarily wonderful. They were certainly not all light, easy and fun. I realized that I had occasionally had some crazy, or terrible or painful things happen to me. But that my attitude about any particular year was never that it was all bad.

In 2007, I lost my Grandfather. He was the first grandparent I lost. I was also evicted from my apartment. I couch surfed for months before I got back on my feet. I had some incredibly generous and amazing friends come through for me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It was scary and difficult and stressful. But I also loved that year. I got a whole new appreciation for my own capabilities. And I went through that whole period keeping boundaries around my eating. I never said screw it. I honored my commitment even though I’m sure nobody would have “blamed me” if I had numbed my fear and anxiety with food. It was also the year I came out of my sugar-withdrawal fog. For the previous year and a half, I had been walking around in a daze. I had been high on sugar so consistently and for so long that being sober made me feel high. I was scared, but I was so grateful to feel empowered and in control. And loved.

2010 was particularly hard. I lost my grandmother and my aunt that year, two women who were incredibly important to me. I spent a lot of time crying. And I was not sorry to move on to 2011. But I didn’t write the whole year off as awful. I wasn’t miserable. I was sad. That’s all. Just sad. And not only sad. When I look back on it, I can remember that 2010 was a year when I gained a whole new level of confidence in my beauty and my worth. It was a year I went on a whole bunch of dates. And I went on those dates looking for a man who would deserve me, not for one who would “take me” or “put up with me.” I still had a lot of things to work through on that front. I wouldn’t even start this blog until January of 2012. But I liked myself in 2010. And I loved life. And I didn’t take the hard stuff personally. I had gratitude for all of the good stuff. That the women I lost had loved me and I loved them. That I was growing as a woman. That I had hope.

And in 2012 I fell into a depression after quitting smoking. Because it made me stop producing important brain chemicals. And because it affected my metabolism and I gained a bunch of weight. Which is hard on a woman with eating and body image disorders. But it was not a bad year. I also started writing this blog that year. And I took some risks in terms of love and relationships. And I took some new actions in terms of work and money. And depressed or not, I had quit smoking. I did a lot of growing that year. I changed a lot. For the better. And I was grateful for it.

That is one of the many things that getting my eating under control has afforded me. Gratitude. For life. It has taught me to be grateful for the gifts and the miracles. And to remember that the bummers and the upsets are not God pushing me down. They are not personal. They are life. Not just mine, either. Everybody’s life. And that they are also opportunities to be better if I want to use them.

So when I look back on this past year, and I see that it has been gift after gift, it brings tears to my eyes. I came out of that depression from quitting smoking this year. I found a love beyond my wildest dreams this year. I jumped with both feet into a new life and a new lifestyle of travel and excitement. Even though I was nervous and anxious. And I found that I love it. And just yesterday, I started a new job.

I could have found plenty to be grateful for this year. Even without love and adventure. Because I am so grateful to be in a body I love, free from my obsession with food, with my integrity intact. But 2013 has been the best year I can ever remember having. Ever. In my whole life. And while I don’t expect that every year will necessarily be so filled with so many extraordinary life altering joyous events, or so devoid of losses and pains and hardships, I can’t imagine that I’ve hit my peak yet. I fully expect for life to continue to get better.

How could life get better than this? I don’t know. But 2014, feel free to consider this a dare.

Now that I know what is possible, I am doing my best to forget it

Something came to my attention this week. Something that has absolutely nothing to do with me. But it affected me. So I am writing about it today.

A woman named Caroline Berg Eriksen, who is a famous fitness blogger (and the wife of a famous athlete) in Norway, posted an underwear-clad selfie 4 days after giving birth. She looked totally physically fit.

This made some people very angry and frustrated. Some (only some) of those people were downright mean, calling Eriksen names.

The angry people made other people angry. These other people defended Eriksen.

If you want to go look at her picture you can, obviously. But I am certainly not going to link to it myself. And if you have body image disorders, like I do, I do not recommend it.

I do not like this world we live in now. Where unless we choose to actively avoid it, we are inundated with images and stories of the daily lives of people who fit a narrow standard of beauty. And sometimes we see these images and stories in spite of our active avoidance.

I do not go out and seek pictures of other women to be told that they are beautiful. To be told what beauty is. I am an active avoider.

And I do not like this world where we as a whole global society selectively share with one another glimpses of our wins, our joys, and our successes. While hiding or glossing over our less shining moments. Asking the rest of the world to compare their whole lives to our manicured and polished outsides. Our facades. Our half-truths.

I do not like this world where we are so afraid of being inadequate that we feel the need to express ourselves to the ENTIRE WORLD, but only the parts of us that we think are adequate.

I certainly did not go looking for this story. It is exactly the kind of thing I avoid. It came to me.

Do I think the women who disparaged Caroline Berg Eriksen are right? No. But do I think Caroline Berg Eriksen has done women in general a disservice? I do.

First, people have said that this is her job. She’s a fitness blogger. She has to look good. I do understand that. So on that note, can we stop pretending she’s not selling something? That she’s “just really proud of herself.” I’m sure she worked very hard. But I’m also sure that she won the genetic lottery in regards to the modern standard of beauty. And that she is making a lot of money from that. So you’ll excuse me for not pitying her.

I think that we already put too much emphasis on women’s looks, and bodies. Their size and shape. And this is coming from a woman who lost 150 lbs. And is happy about it. You will not hear me defending my “right” to be fat. But does it really need to be put out into the world that it is “possible” to be “hot” 4 days after giving birth?

I think that men will be judging the women in their lives differently “now that they know what is possible.”

And I think that young girls will be thinking differently about who they should be in the world, and what they should expect from themselves “now that they know what is possible.”

And I think that women who are having and soon to be having babies will judge themselves much more harshly “now that they know what is possible.”

I think that all women will be judging themselves more harshly “now that they know what is possible.”

I have heard it asked why women have to be so mean to other women. There is, to me, an unspoken, underlying context in this question. They are asking why the “jealous” women are writing nasty things about the “hot” woman. Why can’t they just be nice?!

But to some of us, maybe the less cultivated souls, the less enlightened, the less peaceful, Caroline Berg Eriksen has put a limit on our options. We can either hate her, or hate ourselves. If these are my only options, I will hate her in a heartbeat.

That is not where I stand today. And that is not who I want to be. I don’t want to be a person who hates. Anyone. I definitely strive to cultivate my soul. To be peaceful. But I think self-preservation, no matter how clumsy and inelegant, is always preferable to self-hatred.

No, I don’t hate her. I can see that she has to live in the same society that I do. She just lives in it in a different way. But that picture did make me feel inadequate. And it made me sad. It made me cry for myself.

And no I don’t hate myself. But I have years of actively learning to love myself. And of not seeking out pictures of “what is possible” so I can compare myself. I have years of practice knowing I am beautiful just the way I am. And I mean practice. It takes practice.

And I still forget sometimes.

Do I think she shouldn’t have posted that picture? Who am I to say? I don’t know. Isn’t life too complicated to answer that question?

I can say that her picture hurt me. And shamed me. And that the outcry that came from so-called jealous women all over the world shows me that it hurt and shamed them too.

I am grateful that when I remember it, there is relief in knowing that the possibility of perfection is off the table. There is freedom in the acceptance of being flawed. But sometimes, like when somebody posts a picture of themselves being seemingly impossibly flawless, it’s hard to remember.

No. I don’t hate Caroline Berg Eriksen. I don’t wish her ill. But I don’t like her, either. I won’t defend her. I don’t praise her. I don’t honor her. I do not thank her for showing me “what is possible.” It wasn’t a gift to me.

Humble Pie for Thanksgiving

Wow I sure did not want to write this blog this week.

When I started oneafatgirl, I made a promise to write the truth. And to be authentic. Even when it was scary and hard. And humiliating. And I am definitely humiliated today.

I went on a mini-vacation with my boyfriend for Thanksgiving. And it didn’t go so well. And I was the reason it didn’t go so well. My food boundaries and me.

That’s hard for me to write. Especially because I know how I talk about my food boundaries. I perhaps make it seem effortless. It usually feels effortless to me. I’m good at it after over 7 ½ years. Good at parts of it, anyway. And I am afraid that a post like this will scare somebody away from making the tough decision to change their own eating.

But the truth is that it is not my job to convince people who are suffering to choose relief. I put boundaries around my eating by my own choice. I was desperate. I took desperate measures. I still do. No person made me do it, or even could make me do it. And no person is going to stop me. So I’m not going to worry about this post. And who it stops. And who uses it as an excuse to continue to suffer. And for all I know, it will help someone who is suffering find some relief.

Anyway, back to my vacation. And food. The first thing I should point out is that my boyfriend doesn’t think about food. He doesn’t look forward to eating. And he doesn’t plan it. He doesn’t have to. He will literally forget about food until he is starving, look around himself at that exact moment, walk into the closest place, and eat whatever they have to offer.

I on the other hand, love to eat. I look forward to each of my meals, and savor every bite. I have said before that I didn’t stop loving food when I put boundaries around my eating. In fact, I started to love it more, because it was guilt-free. But the boundaries themselves are the most important part. Most of the time my meals are insanely delicious, but as long as each meal is within my eating boundaries, it doesn’t matter if it is delicious or not. If lunch is not so good, dinner is not so far away.

So to go on this mini-vaykay, I packed a whole bunch of food. But not great food. Not #10 meals. Just enough easy, portable food to make sure that if I needed to eat every meal in our hotel, I could always be within my boundaries.

And then it seemed like I was going to have to eat every meal in our hotel room. And I was upset.

Here’s the thing, though. I wasn’t asking for what I wanted. And I wasn’t just taking care of it myself. I was worrying about asking for too much. I was worrying about being a “Good Girl.”

I spent my life alone. And for the last several years, I was poor but independent. I didn’t have much. But if I had something, it was because I earned it.

But now I am in a relationship and I am not independent. And I can have a hard time distinguishing what I deserve. What I contribute. And what that earns me.

In other words, do I deserve to ask to be taken out to a restaurant when my boyfriend isn’t hungry and I have a cooler full of food up in my hotel room? Even if it’s not the food I want?

I did eventually go out to lunch. I got a nice meal. But it wasn’t until I stopped worrying if my boyfriend was having a good time. (And even writing that makes me feel selfish and unworthy…)

And the other thing I need to take responsibility for, is that I have scared my boyfriend into thinking that I can never eat out easily, happily, or comfortably. Because the truth is that I have a lot of anxiety. About everything. I live with a steady stream of low-level anxiety. I don’t think it will ever go away. And the food thing is such a big issue for me that it always makes me a little anxious. But I don’t want him to think we can never go on vacation. Or that we can never go out to eat.

Look. I’m not good at it. I get nervous eating out. Especially now that I live outside of New York City. But I could get better with practice. And I would like to.

My food boundaries are not a burden for me. They are sometimes inconvenient, but they are ultimately only a relief. I am free from the obsession over food and my weight, and the fat body I lived in, and the compulsive eating and exercising and purging and laxative abusing. But I don’t want my food boundaries to be a burden for my boyfriend either. And I don’t know what the next thing to do about that would be. So I guess I’ll just let it be what it is for now, and trust the right answer to come in time…

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