Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “March, 2014”

High on Learning? I think I saw an after school special on that…

I have been thinking lately about patience. The nature of patience. And how I learned patience from getting control of my eating.

I spent my life as a pleasure junkie. I don’t think it’s too uncommon. Food was my first drug of choice. Drama was probably my second. Then cigarettes. Marijuana. There are others. Some more benign. Reading and daydreaming are still pleasures I indulge in regularly.

There is something else that I love. That gives me a certain kind of pleasure. Learning something.

I started crocheting since I started this blog. I am pretty good at it. I have gotten significantly better in the past few months. I find that for me, there is a tipping point to learning. Or really a series of tipping points. I learn the basics. And I practice them. Then I learn something a little more advanced. And I practice it. And I mess up. And I forget some of the things I originally learned and I have to go back and relearn those parts. And I practice. And I learn a little more. And I get good at one something and I do it over and over until being good at it loses its novelty. And then I learn more. And at some point, all of this disjointed knowledge that has been teetering on the brink over my head tips over and cohesion cascades over me. Suddenly, how it all fits together makes perfect sense, and I have reached a new level of understanding and skill.

So I decided the other day that it was time to teach myself to knit. And this was kind of a big deal. Because I am already good at crochet. And I already get a lot of pleasure from it. And there is still plenty for me to learn. And when I do it, in the end I get a product I am proud of. And knitting was going to require patience. It was going to mean a lot of messing up. And frustration. And being bad. And ugly products. For now.

Now, I am good at certain things. There are things I naturally have a knack for. That I have since childhood. I have very good fine motor dexterity. (Hand-eye coordination for things like sports and video games is something else entirely. Um…yeah, that stuff not so much…) I am also good at understanding how things fit together to make up a whole. One example of this might be how loops of yarn interlock with other loops of yarn to form cloth. Or how to reverse engineer those loops.

So obviously, I am at an advantage when it comes to something like knitting. I am sure that being predisposed to be good at it made me want to do it. I don’t know that it would give me as much pleasure if I would only ever be mediocre at it. The plan is to one day excel.

But right now, at this very moment, I am one notch above sucking royally. And that is uncomfortable. But totally ok. Because I have patience. And I have patience because I got my eating under control.

Getting the hang of something sets off my pleasure centers. While the struggle before that happens can be frustrating. And sometimes it can make me doubt myself. Or be angry with myself. But that moment that something clicks, I get a nice little buzz. And that moment of greater understanding is positively blissful.

But lets face it, chocolate cake would give me that whole blissful experience in a matter of seconds without the year+ of toiling and learning and practicing and trying. With out all of that discomfort in between.

And that’s exactly what I would have done if I were still eating sugar. I would have been excited to learn something, because the prospect of learning is exciting. And then I would have tried. And sucked. And eaten a cake. And gotten that feeling. And stopped trying. And eaten more cake.

Of course cake was killing me. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. It left me depressed. Not to mention hugely fat. It made me hate myself. It took more and more, more and more often, to get that blissful feeling. And eventually, the feeling was not so much blissful as just “not in deep pain.”

Because blissing out, and then eventually just numbing out, all the time made any kind of discomfort into “deep pain.” And getting control of my eating slowly allowed my body and brain to re-regulate. Not eating over every feeling allowed that “deep pain” return to being regular old, bearable discomfort. And not eating feelings also taught me how to bear it. Not manage it. Not mask it or fix it. But just let it be there. And live with it.

And I will say that the experience of learning, the clicking and cascading, is better than “getting high.” It is worth the discomfort. I don’t know why exactly. But I’m sure it has something to do with those feelings being real. That I earned those feelings of pleasure. That I did not steal them. And that I do not expect them to be my constant state. That life, as it is, is enough for me. And maybe I’ll get a scarf out of it. Sure, an ugly scarf for now. But I’ll be patient. And eventually I will make something pretty.


Good Girls Get Fat

On the train to New Orleans with my friend last weekend, we were talking about something that made me remember that I had written a poem. Three years ago. March of 2011. And it was relevant to what we were talking about. And I was proud of it because it was good. So I found it on my phone and I read it to her.

I am not a poet. Don’t get me wrong. I know that my style of writing can be poetic. Frankly, my style of speaking too. And I have written a handful of poems in my adult life. Because I love words. And language. And that concentration of meaning and emotional experience that a good poem offers. But I don’t spend a lot of time writing poetry. Or wishing I had the time to write poetry. Or thinking, “Gee. That would make a really good poem.”

What I am, though, is available to be a channel. For what I call God. But you can call it art, or creativity, or expression, or life. Or you don’t have to call it anything. My point is that I am available to be moved, and in turn, to move others.

But I am only available since I got control of my eating.

For one, I am no longer worried about being judged. Being a fat girl means constantly being judged. By others and by yourself. And it overflows past just the body.

I already knew that my body was being judged. People are very vocal about their judgments of fat women. But there was also a sense of other things I “should be.” Whether real or imagined. That I should be selfless. That in order to be good enough, I should be perfect. That in order to be loved, I should fully understand my worthlessness.

This made it hard to be proud of the things that I was good at. Writing, learning, teaching, among others. And not being able to be proud of these things made me not want to do them in the first place.

Also, I stifled so many of my gifts and talents by living in a sugar-induced fog.

There is this thing that used to happen to me a lot when I was eating compulsively. (So essentially the first 28 years of my life.) People would come up to me and tell me how I had said something to them that had changed something in their life and their way of thinking. That my words had had a profound impact on them. And then they would tell me what I had said, and I would think that it was, indeed, brilliant and profound. But I wouldn’t remember saying it. In other words, I was giving people gifts that I couldn’t give myself. And I couldn’t even be proud to have given them to other people because I couldn’t remember them.

I don’t remember a lot of my life before I stopped eating sugar and put boundaries around my eating. Seriously. Sometimes family members will say, “Hey! Remember that time…” And I will have to say no. And sometimes I even ask if they are sure I was there. But the truth is I probably was. And I just don’t remember because I was too high. Because I was always too high. I spent too much of my time escaping from life in any way I could. But mainly with sugar. I was so disconnected from reality that I couldn’t even remember my own wisdom. And I sure as hell couldn’t hear it for myself.

But now, I am not high. I am free from food addiction. I am sane and happy (most of the time.) I like myself. I trust my instincts. And I remember my own wisdom. And if you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I always err on the side of thinking I’m awesome.

So here is my poem. Because I am proud of it. And because I don’t care if you like it. And because it has some of my most profound wisdom.

I wrote it for me. But you can get wisdom from it too, if you like.

Good Girls Get Fat

Good girls get fat. Extra good girls, accomplished girls, starve themselves. Good girls who are just not good enough, make themselves throw up. Good girls who are just not good enough eventually get fat. Extra good girls die young. Or get fat.

I am not a good girl.

Good girls take care of everyone. Good girls manage. Everything. And be everything. All at once. And are exhausted. And are hungry. And eat the tasks that didn’t get done. And eat the leftover unkindness. And eat their own humanity. They are that hungry.

I take care of my own needs, and leave the rest to life. I am not a good girl.

Good girls give and take. Good girls give the good and take the bad. And chuck the bad. At someone they love. And that makes them hungry. And they eat their words. And wash it down with their shame. Good girls believe that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

I give it all and take it all, and get what I get. I prefer my medicine bitter. I am not a good girl.

Good girls fill the gaps and meet the needs. Good girls keep the world running. Keep themselves running. An endless string of marathons. Good girls stumble and fall. Good girls are spent. Like money. Spare change.

I run when it’s time to run. And then I rest. I am not a good girl.

I am a fucking fantastic woman.

One robe one bowl? Yeah…not so much…

This week’s blog is short and sweet.

I am in New Orleans on a spiritual retreat. With two amazing women. Who have boundaries around their eating. And it’s powerful.

Maybe because the most spiritual thing about it is that it is the opposite of ascetic. It is decadent and abundant. It is delicious. Literally and figuratively.

It’s New Orleans! We went out for a fantastic lunch together. We went shopping and bought things that make us feel beautiful. We went to grocery stores and specialty markets. We cooked fantastic meals for each other. And ate them with our fingers. The big activity this evening will be about each of us creating a vision for our future. Big, bright, shiny visions for juicy, squishy, sumptuous futures!

I am not on a diet. Not with food. Not with life. Not with what I deserve or don’t deserve. I am not interested in deprivation. And I know that God is not interested in that for me.

I believe that God wants me to be happy. And that’s why I put boundaries around my food. It’s not a sacrifice. It’s an opportunity. It’s not about less. It’s about more.

How can a girl miss chocolate cake, when she has beautiful clothes for her beautiful body? Or nourishing food and nourishing companions?

When I was 300 lbs, I was never going to be happy. So my only joy was cake. Now my joy is everywhere. Everywhere except in cake.

A beautiful word, a lesson in boiling frogs, and a mixed metaphor.

There is a word that is important to me. Insidious. It means something that is harmful, but it happens so gradually, that you don’t even notice it until it is too late.

You have probably heard about boiling frogs. Apparently, if you try to put a frog in boiling water, he will jump out. But if you put a frog in a pot of room-temperature water and slowly bring that water to a boil, he will not notice the water becoming dangerously hot and he will allow himself to be boiled to death. And you can have frog soup or whatever. Which does not sound so particularly appealing to me. But what do I know? I love brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Which I am told makes me a total weirdo…Whatever.

Anyway, I have been thinking about this idea of insidiousness today. Because I scared myself this morning. With a thought.

If you have read my blog before, you probably know that I don’t talk about what I do with food specifically. But I talk a lot about how I keep boundaries around my eating. I have rules. Lots of very specific food rules. About what and when and how I eat. And how much.

A big part of my eating boundaries is portion size. It is specific. And precise. Meticulously accurate. I have been known to cut off a minuscule piece of this or that. I have cut a slice of mushroom in half. I have literally added or taken away a speck of carrot the size of my pinky nail. And I am that precise and meticulous every time. Even when nobody else is in the kitchen. Or the house. I do not do it to show anybody else. It is for me. Between me and me. And between me and God.

So this morning, while I was scooping a pinky nail’s worth out of my bowl and back into the container, I had a thought. “What would happen if I just left it in there?”

My immediate response to myself was “Destruction. Now stop thinking about it because I’m getting uncomfortable!”

But there was something lingering in it. It gave me an icky feeling. Dirty and shameful.

Perhaps because after 8 years of keeping boundaries around my eating I think I should be immune to such thoughts. But I have had those kind of thoughts before. And they don’t generally scare me. I am generally happy with my immediate answer “Destruction.” Or something similar. Misery. Anxiety. Shame. Nothing good! That’s for damn sure. I make a point to talk about those thoughts when I have them. And I keep a healthy fear of the food. (A healthy fear. Not like I can’t go to a birthday party because there will be pizza and cake. But I don’t have to go around smelling the pizza and imagining what the cake tastes like either.)

No there was something else in this thought. And I decided to play along. To answer the question. What would happen if I didn’t take out the pinky nail’s worth? Would the world blow up?

No. No the world would not blow up.

And that would be the problem.

If the world blew up, then I would never do that again. If you throw a frog into boiling water, he jumps out!

But the world would not blow up, and suddenly a pinky nail’s worth would become acceptable. So surely a whole finger’s worth would not be that big of a deal either. And then I would not “need” rules. And I would be able to “manage” my food. And then I would be at that birthday party and I could have pizza and cake just this one time…

But I’m an addict. Eating sugar sets up a physical craving and a mental obsession. So before you know it I am a 300 lb frog who is too fat and too high on sugar to jump out of the pot of boiling water. (Yes, I know I’m mixing my metaphors. Shakespeare did it! What do you mean I’m no Shakespeare?!?!)

The other thing that might happen is that I could end up an active bulimic and exercise bulimic again. I could be running until I injured myself. I could be sticking toothbrushes down my throat. I could be taking toxic doses of laxatives.

In other words, the world would explode. Just not right away. Not until it was too late to stop it.

Insidious. It’s a good word. Both beautiful and terrible.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I recently did something I stopped doing. Years ago I stopped reading health and nutrition articles. And this week I read one.

When I was fat and thought my body was broken, I never read those articles either. Because in my head, they were for people who could be thin. And healthy. But let’s face it, mostly thin.

But when I was thin but plagued by eating disorders, I read them a lot.

For one, I was looking for that magical food experience. The one that would let me “eat like a normal person”. That would make me want to eat normally. That it wouldn’t take anything on my part. No commitment or effort. It would just happen with some diet or food combination.

For example, I read once that when one has a sugar craving, one should quench it. But with naturally high sugar or starch fruits and vegetables. That to deny oneself all sugar would make one feel deprived. I wanted a high sugar fruit or vegetable to stop me from wanting to binge eat. So I started eating a roasted sweet potato for a snack. Well, it started out as a roasted sweet potato. Within a week I was eating 4 or 5. I would finish one and put another into the oven immediately. Or eventually just cook 2 at a time.

It happened with bananas too.

Those are both foods that I no longer eat. It doesn’t matter that they are natural. They are sugar. Pure and simple. And I can’t handle them.

I also read those health and nutrition articles looking for excuses to continue my bad eating behavior. “Chocolate is good for you,” comes to mind. Um yeah…but not in the quantity I ate it…

So I don’t read articles touting the newest thing in eating. Definitely no fad diets. But not even scientific studies. I have a solution that works for me. It does not matter that dark chocolate is filled with antioxidants. I am addicted to it. It cannot do me any good. It will only make me crazy and miserable. Insane and fat.

So the other day, I read one of the kinds of articles I don’t read. It was posted on Facebook by a few people who I really respect. And I was curious. Not to learn something for myself. Like I said, I have a solution to my eating disorders and body image problems. But to see what they were giving a nod to.

What I read made a lot of sense. It was not exactly the same as the way I eat, but it was very similar. And it did not seem like a fad or a ridiculous way of eating. It seemed like good, sane, quality food advice. But there was a part of it that bothered me. It was how to “end sugar addiction in 10 days”.

My problem is with the idea of addiction. And ending it. And 10 days.

Because I am an honest-to-goodness sugar addict. That is not a euphemism for liking to eat. When I put sugar in my body it sets off a physical craving and a mental obsession. I was eating 4-5 sweet potatoes in a row as quickly as I could cook them. I am sick with food. And it took a year and a half of no sugar grains or starch just to come out of the fog that was getting sober from sugar. (Yes, I was high getting sober. It was as disorienting and bizarre as being drunk or high on drugs. Or high on sugar itself.) And that sure as hell doesn’t mean that I can eat it in moderation now because I am fixed.

Not fixed. Still addicted. Eternally.

It’s not the first time it has occurred to me that the word addict gets bandied about. Especially around food. Or maybe I just notice it about food because it’s a tender subject for me. But if you are an actual addict, someone with a physical allergy with an accompanying mental obsession, then I don’t think 10 days is gonna save you. I think you are headed for a life of constant vigilance. Or continual shame and misery.

I’m not saying that it is not possible for people to change the way they eat. Or that a person wouldn’t look and feel better by following this diet I read about. If you haven’t found a solution to your food issues, I say yes! Try one of the eating lifestyle movements out there. And maybe it will work. I found the thing that brought me peace around my food. I hope you find peace around your food too. I’m just saying that I don’t think it’s so simple if someone is an honest-to-goodness addict.

I guess what I am really asking is can we stop calling bad habits addiction? Please? It is too serious. It takes too much. Work, and hope and surrender. It’s not a 10 day fix. It’s a total alteration of the way you live your life. One day at a time. But forever. It’s treatment. It’s recovery. From a disease. And it totally sucks ( in the beginning. – Now it’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me. But that’s after years of being sober from sugar grains and starch.) It’s not something one does half-assed. I don’t know any addict who had sobriety just happen to them. And I know a lot of addicts.

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