onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “June, 2014”

Think before you google.

I did something today that I shouldn’t have done.

I googled.

If I were a friend of mine, I would give myself a good, stern talking-to. I even have a specific good friend whom I have (lovingly) made promise me that she will not google. Because no good can come of it.

Let’s face it, when you google, everything you see convinces you that all hope is lost. You have cancer. Or a sexually transmitted disease. Or dementia. Or whatever. But never anything good.

I googled: When will I lose the weight I gained from quitting smoking?

And all it did was piss me off.

Apparently I didn’t gain weight from quitting smoking. Or if I did, it’s because I ate too much. And there is nothing wrong with my metabolism. And quitting smoking didn’t change my body in any way except to make it healthier.

In other words, if I can’t lose weight, it’s my own damn fault.

This makes me feel like a big, fat loser. And rational thought doesn’t help. Because I will give you the rational low-down.

When I quit smoking, I had had boundaries around my food for 6 ½ years. I started gaining weight. First slowly, but then 10 lbs in a month. And then the weight gain slowed down again. But it didn’t stop until after about 10 months. So all together, I gained 30 lbs in 10 months.

I eat an exact amount of food. I had for 6 ½ years before I quit smoking. And I have for the 2+ years since I quit. And after I gained 10 lbs in a month, I (with the help of a sane and loving friend) significantly reduced the amount of food I eat every day. Still exact. Just less. And I continued to gain weight. Until it stopped.

And I have not lost the weight.

I suppose I could be extreme, even within my food boundaries, with the hope that I would lose weight. That I could choose skim milk and fat-free yogurt instead of 2%. That I could stop eating bacon once a week. That I could stop eating steak and carrots and squash. And eat steamed broccoli. And chicken. And lettuce. (I hate chicken. And lettuce.) With the hope that I might lose weight. But even in that there is no certainty. I went from full-fat to 2% and still gained weight. From bacon 3 times a week to once, and still gained weight. From full portions of carrots and squash, to half portions, and still gained weight. I went from cooking in fat, to fat on the side and still gained weight.

I did the smart and obvious things to lose weight. I did the science and math things. So it makes me angry to read that my truth is perceived as a lie. Or at least as a misguided and mistaken notion.

But why was I even googling in the first place? Why do I need to know if I can lose weight? If I will? When and where and why and how? Why do I need to be something I am not? Why do I need it to be different than it is?

And why still? Why, after a year and a half, am I still not content to live in this body? Why can’t I just be peaceful? Why can’t I just let it go?

When I read all of those posts that pissed me off, I did eventually get the message. The message from God to me. That I should mind my own business. That it is none of my business when, or how, or even if I lose weight ever again. That I should trust the way my life is going. That it’s a great life.

And it is a great life.

Of course the answer to why I googled today is Because I am a woman with eating and body image disorders. And I always will be. And just like I’m sick around food, I’m sick around my body and how I think and feel about it.

But it has occurred to me that there might be another reason. Maybe I needed to write my truth for the people like me who gained weight when they quit smoking, simply because they quit smoking. And are being told that they did not. That there is something that they are doing that is making them gain weight. And they feel crazy. And angry. And like nobody is seeing or hearing them.

Well, I do. I see you. I hear you. I believe you. Because in my heart, my head and my soul, I know my truth. And no amount of googling can make my truth false.

Though I’d still do better not to google in the first place.

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Glamour is pain. Beauty is something else.

I have been thinking about beauty lately. Not just prettiness, though that too. But beauty. And where it comes from. And what it means. And what it is.

When I was a very small child, I was stunning. No, seriously. At 4 years old, I was positively striking. I had unusual coloring. My skin was on the darker side, and my hair on the lighter. Big deep brown eyes. I was a beauty. And I knew it, but not in an obnoxious way. In an innocent, 4-year-old way. It was just the way it was. And it was nice.

And then I started being told that I was fat, or that if I wasn’t careful I would get fat, or even if I was careful, I would get fat. And then I eventually did get fat. Really, truly, and undeniable fat.

I come from a fat family. In my childhood, the people I grew up around either were and had always been fat, had been fat and would be fat again but at any given moment might not be fat, or were fat, but had once been quite thin.

We were all scrutinized from a very young age. There was no accounting for growing and changing. There was no recognition that growing bodies look awkward. That bellies and thighs plump and elongate and shift as little people grow into big people.

And let’s face it, I would get fat. 300 lbs fat. But sometimes I have seen pictures of myself at some time or another and I see that I was not fat yet. And I can think back to that time and know that I believed I was. In truth, I think that 4-year-old beauty was the last me who didn’t think she was fat. I think by 5 I was ashamed. It’s a sad thought, really.

Because it was also never my experience that my fat family believed that you could be big and beautiful at the same time. The attractive ones were the thin ones. And the ones who went up and down were attractive when they were thin and not when they were fat.

I sometimes wonder if starting out so pretty made being fat such a hardship for me. Perhaps if I had been plain, or even just merely “cute enough”, I wouldn’t have devastated me the way it did. I wished so desperately to be beautiful, and at the same time, shunned all things pretty and girly. I wore men’s cologne and men’s clothes. I hated pink. It infuriated me whenever people called me Katie. Because Katie was a pretty girl’s name. (I still don’t love to be called Katie, by the way. But more because I am Kate. It so obviously suits me better than any other name.)

So yesterday, I had a group of ladies come over to my home for lunch. We are all women who work every day at keeping our eating disorders under control. And we are all beautiful. We are different ages, different sizes, different styles. But we all sparkle.

I remember years ago meeting the mother of a man I was seeing. And she loved me. And I loved her. (Frankly, she liked me more than her son did…) I think she liked me because I sparkled the way she did. I certainly liked her because she sparkled the way I did. And that sparkle was her beauty. She was a very pretty woman too. But it was her sparkle that made her beautiful.

And then I think about the women that I have known or met or just encountered who are beautiful, but not pretty. And conversely, the women that are very pretty, but in no way beautiful. I am very clear that prettiness and beauty are not the same.

So I have a theory about what that sparkle is. I believe it is self-care. Not just the physical part, like eating well, and keeping hydrated and getting enough sleep and exercise. Though, of course that’s a good part of it. But also taking care of yourself in other ways. Like taking care of your integrity. Doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. And being honest. So you can look God and yourself in the eye. And being confident. Not just in the way you look, but in your thoughts and actions. Doing things whole heartedly. Being bold. Knowing that it’s OK to be wrong, and get it wrong. Knowing that all will still be well if you fail. And feeling free to be yourself. Without regard to people and their judgments.

In other words, I believe beauty is peace.

In retrospect, I can see that I was still pretty when I was fat. In a different way, of course. My face was pretty. Rounder than it is now, but still pretty. And I had an hourglass figure. Just a very big one. But I was not beautiful. Because I hated myself. And because I had no confidence. And because I believed I was ugly.

I was not beautiful because I had no peace.

If you’re happy and you know it, eat all of your breakfast yourself

My boyfriend and I are in Chicago for the weekend. So as usual, it’s a short blog this week.

I have two things I want to mention this week. The first is eating out. And the second is not sharing food with a two-year-old I really love.

While we were in town, my dad wanted to take me out to eat for my birthday. So we went to a really nice sea food place.

I had called ahead, and talked to someone. I asked lots of questions about portion size, ingredients and preparation. I figured out how much I was going to need and what to order ahead of time. And when it came out, the steamed vegetables had butter on them. It’s funny to me, because I made such a point of making sure they’re just plain steamed vegetables and they come out with butter on them? So I sent them back. I made sure they came back without fat on them. Which they did.

Because my rules tell me that I can have a certain amount of fat. And I wanted drawn butter on my crab legs. So I had to send the vegetables back, or not have butter for my crab. (Yeah, that was not going to happen. Crab without butter is just wrong.)

There is a small part of me that wants to explain. But I didn’t. I don’t owe anybody an explanation. I have my rules. They are mine. And my responsibility.

And even with having to send food back, it was an easy dining experience. And so delicious! I don’t usually love steamed vegetables. But they were so fresh that they were lovely. And the crab with butter would have made even subpar steamed vegetables all worth it.

It’s nice to remember that things don’t need to go perfectly for them to be stress-free. It was a good reminder that being upset is a choice.

The other thing I want to talk about is not sharing my food. With my boyfriend’s granddaughter. Whom I love. And who is sweet and adorable.

See, it’s easy with grown ups and older kids. You can explain it to them. And if they don’t like it, oh well. Too bad. But with a toddler. They don’t understand. You can’t explain.

The truth is, I don’t want her to be sad. And I want to give her whatever. Because I like her. And I love her. And I want her to know that. But I also need to remember that not getting everything we want is just a part of life. For all of us. And it doesn’t mean anything to tell someone no. No just means no. It doesn’t mean “you aren’t worthy.” Or “I don’t love you.” Or “you should be ashamed for asking.” Just no.

And I would also do well to remember that taking care of myself is teaching a little girl to take care of herself.

Most women have been taught that being womanly and nurturing means being “selfless” and “a good girl” and taking care of others at their own expense. And I don’t want to be a part of perpetuating that.

If anyone learns anything from me, whether it’s my boyfriend’s granddaughter, or a grown up reading this blog, I would like it to be that you are allowed to take care of yourself. Not just allowed! You should! You should take care of your peace and your needs and your own happiness.

So the sweet thing did not get any of my cantaloupe this morning. And she lived. And we still love each other. In fact, at this very moment, she is singing “If you’re happy and you know it” and jumping and dancing around the house. So all is well. And I still have my integrity around my food.

Do you want to be right, or do you not want to get scalded by boiling oil?

Welp, There’s another year.

All in all, one of the best I have ever had. As of yesterday, I am 37. Happy. Content. Not complacent, content. And isn’t that basically the Holy Grail? It is for me, anyway. Peace. Loving my life without it having to be perfect. Accepting it exactly the way it is.

I have been thinking about responsibility lately. What it actually means. What it actually looks like. And I can recognize that my peace is a byproduct of my responsibility.

I used to do a lot of what you might call self-help-y kinds of things. I read books and went to seminars and courses of varying sorts. In general, I didn’t get staggering breakthroughs those years that I was reading and taking seminars. I would eventually learn very many of the things I had been taught. I even mean that I learned them from those very courses and books. But years later, after I got control of my eating. Many of those teachings swam around in my head for all those years in the interim. Occasionally peeking out and popping up. Until I was ready and clear enough to learn them. And then they were just there. Obvious.

I was in a seminar once, I don’t remember what the theme was. Maybe creativity. Maybe designing your life. It doesn’t matter. The woman leading the seminar was talking about responsibility. She said something like If you are standing on the sidewalk, and you look up and notice that somebody on the 8th floor directly above you (I lived in New York City at the time) is pouring a pot of boiling oil down on where you stand, it is your responsibility to at least TRY to jump out of the way. If you are scalded and grievously injured, you can blame the person who poured the oil. You can even sue them. And I’m not saying that you would not be entitled to compensation for that. But in the end, you will be one who has to live in that burned body. You will be the one who has to suffer the pain. So do you want to shake your fist at this person on the 8th floor, and be righteously angry, and yell at them for doing something so dangerous, while the oil comes down on your head? Or do you want to jump out of the way and try to save yourself?

Now perhaps this is obvious to you. But for me at 23 or whatever age I was, this was a little epiphany. I had spent my life up until then incredibly certain about the way things “should be.” And deeply interested in complaining about the things that “shouldn’t have” happened to me, that did. And instead of dealing with them the way they were, I wanted to be righteously indignant about the general unfairness of life. And continue to expect life to be the way it “should be” in the future. But even after this little epiphany, I still had a hard time applying this idea of responsibility to the specific situations in my life. Probably because I didn’t have any personal frame of reference.

The first real responsibility I ever took in my life was getting my eating under control at 28. It was actual responsibility. No, it wasn’t fair that I couldn’t eat sugar like a “normal” person, but there it was. It didn’t matter if I thought it “shouldn’t be” that way. That was the way it was. The boiling oil was falling out of the 8th story window directly over my head. So I made a commitment to jump out of the way. I chose to follow some specific rules about food.

I didn’t only do it when it was easy and convenient. I didn’t only do it when people approved and were supportive. I didn’t only do it when grocers and wait staff and family members did everything the way it “should be” done according to my new food boundaries. I did it all the time. No matter what.

If somebody made it more difficult to do what I needed to do, I did the more difficult thing to meet my own needs. If waiters gave me food prepared or served in a way I could not eat it, I sent it back. If food companies changed their recipes so that a food I loved was no longer within my food boundaries, I gave it up. If people insisted on either my eating something they offered, or their taking great offense, I let them be offended.

And since then, slowly over the years, I have learned to apply that same lesson to other aspects of my life. I have learned to look at decisions I’m making and actions I am taking. And to decide if I want to change those decisions and actions, or find peace with their outcomes.

See, now that my addiction is under control, I have big girl problems. Problems that don’t have obvious fixes or black and white solutions. Life is full of unfair circumstances and hard choices. It always has been. For everybody. You might even say that as a middle class woman in 2014 in the United States, I’m living cushier and easier than most people anywhere ever before. So who am I to curse the oil coming down if I am not even willing to jump aside?

I didn’t know where I was going, but I got there in the end.

This week was a mixed bag.

At work, I spilled coffee on my computer while some IT guy was setting up a remote file sharing system for me. So I now have a remote file sharing system set up on a computer that I can’t use. I am waiting for the main office to send me a new computer. And in the mean time I am using a really crappy computer that is difficult to maneuver, saving all of my work on a flash drive so I can print from a printer in another room of the office, and file sharing by emailing my work to my colleagues.

It was upsetting to break my computer. It felt shameful. I was embarrassed. And then all of the inconvenience that resulted was a moment to moment reminder that the cause was my “stupidity” or “failure” or “inadequacy.”

There is a joke that I find particularly funny. When a normal person goes to their car and sees they have a flat tire, they call AAA. When an addict goes to their car and sees that they have a flat tire, they call a suicide help line.

The problem is that I have a lifetime of abusing myself for mistakes. As if natural consequences were not punishment enough. It’s a habit that is hard to break. My body and my brain are very familiar with the knee-jerk reaction of thinking I’m terrible and worthless, and feeling ashamed and humiliated.

The simple truth is that if you spill coffee on your computer, it will not work. And you will have to make do with other, less convenient, means of doing what you had done before. That is all. And it’s enough.

But I have a default setting of thinking everything is a moral issue. It’s like I’m living in the Middle Ages. My sinful existence has angered God and I am being punished with faulty electronics.

But then yesterday, I had a group of friends come over. All of them women who put boundaries around their eating. And that was wonderful. I got to spend time with people whose company I enjoy, and laugh and talk and tell stories and hear stories. And I also got to talk about the way my life has changed over the past 8 ½ years.

9 years ago, breaking my computer would have been the end of the world. Of course I would have eaten a chocolate cake over it. But back then I was going to eat that chocolate cake no matter what. I was at a point where I didn’t need a particular excuse to eat. Life was enough. And that particular chocolate cake that I had eaten after that particular incident would have let me be paralyzed in relative comfort. I would have been high enough that I wouldn’t have worried about what to do next. Until I came down. And then that end of the world would be even bigger and scarier because I wouldn’t have done anything and it would have been even later. So I would eat more cake. Or perhaps make a rash decision. Do something. Anything! Even if it was not logical or well thought out. Even if it just made everything worse and more complicated. And then I would eat more cake. And eventually life would move on. And it would drag me along with it.

I got dragged a lot for the first 27 years of my life.

The sad thing is that there might not have even been something to “do next.” I had a habit of making uncomfortable situations into all out problems. By not looking straight at them. Or making rash decisions without thinking about them.

And as I write this, it occurs to me that I have been making decisions too quickly lately. Not necessarily rashly. But without giving them the kind of time I would prefer. Because people want answers now. And I have been wanting to please.

I have forgotten that I am allowed to ask for time to think. I have forgotten that I am allowed to take time to think. Even if the person asking doesn’t want to give it to me. I have forgotten that I am a slow processor. That I need time to figure out what I want and need. That I need time to make decisions about what I should do next. And that nobody else has to like it. That I can be myself. That I don’t need anybody else’s permission.

I guess that’s the lesson of this blog, even though I didn’t know it when I started writing it. Even though as I look back at how it started, it seems like a complete non sequitur.

I suppose it doesn’t matter how I got here. It’s where I ended up. And it feels right.

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