Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “May, 2015”

It’s not the salad, so much as the principle…

I have been eating a lot more raw vegetables for several weeks. I have been having big salads at least once, and often twice a day. Colorful, delicious arugula salads with radishes, onion, mushrooms, bean sprouts, cucumber, and a handful of steamed broccoli and canned artichoke hearts.

I haven’t generally thought much about raw versus cooked vegetables, but I have noticed that my body dysmorphia is in what seems to be a dormant phase. And it makes me wonder if the two are connected.

I eat my vegetables every day. I have done so for over 9 years. I have been regularly consuming fresh produce like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, onions, bok choi, Swiss chard, cabbage and green beans. Mostly roasted or sautéed. But since I have started eating so much salad, I have been feeling significantly calmer about what I look like.

And I have not lost weight. That’s what makes it interesting.

I have questions about why. Is it chemical, and physiological? Is it all psychological? Is it a combination? Or is the whole thing just coincidence? Am I just in a good phase regarding my body image issues?

There is a part of me that wants to say that it doesn’t matter if the two are connected. What matters is that I am mostly well now. But ultimately, it does matter. It is the difference between peace and torment. And I need to admit that I do not believe it is a coincidence. But I don’t want to, because I love eating lots of cooked vegetables. And if I admit that is having an effect on my mood or my happiness, it means I will have to moderate how much of my food is cooked.

I am a compulsive eater. I might have my eating under control, but I will never be neutral around food. If I ever had the ability to be indifferent, that ship has sailed. And then it sank. I like my food, and I like it decadent.

It’s not that my big salads are not delicious. They are wonderful. I love every bite. But I can often forget how much I will enjoy them when I am not in the actual process of eating one. There is a kind of mental block I have around salad. And I know that I am not the only one. I have talked about this with lots of other people.

And there is that part of me that doesn’t want any more limits. Whenever I think it might be time to make a change, my first reaction is always to be a crybaby-whiner. But I already gave up sugar and grains, and I quit smoking, and I limit my coffee, and severely limit my diet soda. Don’t take anything else away from me! I mean, they are just sautéed Brussels sprouts? Can you really find fault with Brussels sprouts? Seriously?! (Can you hear the whining?)

The first thing I have to remember is that moderation does not have to mean The End. I do not have to give up my Brussels sprouts forever and always. I can limit them to, say, three or four times a week. But the more important thing I have to remember is that I don’t have to do anything. It’s one of my Jedi Mind Tricks. It takes away a lot of my initial instinct to rebel when I remind myself that I’m a big girl who lives her own life and makes her own decisions. If I want to fight and make a fuss, I can eat cooked vegetables every day on principle. Who is going to stop me? But just like every other action I take, I will reap what I sow. There is no escaping that.

In the end, I always want the gifts. If limiting my cooked vegetables means more days of peace and sanity, I will choose that. It’s how I roll. But I don’t always choose that first. Sometimes I take longer to get out of my own way than others. But ultimately, I want what I want. And I have learned over the years that I want sustainable happiness more than I want instant gratification.

I am still interested in the ways you take care of yourself and the gifts you get from not harming yourself with food. Use the hashtag #betterthanchocolate and share your experiences. I want to hear from you!

Also, follow me on twitter @onceafatgirl5.

And please feel free to follow, share and repost my blog!


Hashtag! You’re it. #Betterthanchocolate

This week, I took my Twitter app out of a folder of apps I never use. I decided it was time to use it. I always post Onceafatgirl there. But honestly, I have it set up so that WordPress does that for me. All I have to do is hit “publish,” and each post goes out to my social networking sites. Easy-peasy, as the kids say.

But now I have decided I wanted to use Twitter to hone my comedy writing skills. And I don’t know what has shifted, but I am suddenly not afraid of it anymore.

When I started writing Onceafatgirl, a friend told me to get on Twitter, and start using hashtags to grow my audience. It was good advice. I did it, but I didn’t do a very good job. And then I gave up. I wasn’t ready. Partly because I didn’t have an audience in the beginning and I didn’t know who they would eventually be. I didn’t know what this blog would end up being. I didn’t know that I actually wanted to hit the blogosphere big time. Really, I just wanted to share my story. But also, and importantly, I didn’t understand Twitter. And that made me fear it.

I didn’t want to feel foolish. Or worse. People on the interwebs can be vicious. Especially when they don’t have to look you in the eye while they tear you down, beat you up, and bully you. And this is a brutally honest blog. Brutal for me. It can be intense to admit some of the things I think and say and do to a group of friends and strangers. It is a deeply personal look at myself. Stretch marks and all.

But I am feeling better about Twitter. I have been tweeting this week, and it has been a confidence-boosting experience.

One of the things I really came to appreciate when I got my eating under control, is that boundaries are a fantastic catalyst for creativity. I put some serious rules around my food choices and portions, and ended up with more enjoyable meals than when I could eat whatever, whenever, wherever. 140 characters is an exciting limitation in the same way. I have loved being forced into brevity. It is a delicious exercise in how to put the entire context of a joke into the joke itself. It is an invaluable lesson in editing for a particularly wordy person, like me.

But I want to try something else too. Because this is a very personal blog, I have been protective of myself. I love the feedback I receive, but I am not sure how much I should do about it. I have noticed that I haven’t responded to any comments on any posts for a long time. I have felt uncomfortable with the idea of constantly saying, “Thank you. That means a lot to me.” It’s not a lie. It does mean a lot to me, but it is starting to feel hollow after 3 years.

So I have registered a hashtag. #Betterthanchocolate

Peace is #Betterthanchocolate is the tagline of this blog. For me, it’s about the gifts that I got when I started taking care of myself and stopped hurting myself with food.

Now I want to know what you think. And not just me hearing from you. I want to create this conversation.

If you are a sugar addict like me who has given up sugar, let me know the gifts you get every day that are #Betterthanchocolate. Here are some of mine:

Not being afraid of a flight (or 6) of stairs is #Betterthanchocolate

Dancing the night away without wanting to die is #Betterthanchocolate

Having shoelaces not be an issue is #Betterthanchocolate

But even if you are not a recovering sugar addict, let me know the gifts you get from taking care of yourself that are more important to you than eating. Or the things you love to do that are #Betterthanchocolate.

You get the idea. Let me hear from you! Let you hear from you! You can post them on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or wherever you are using hashtags.

And if you want, follow me on Twitter @onceafatgirl5

You are what you eat. Or are you what’s eating you?

I have been thinking about self-identification. What makes up our identities. How we choose to see ourselves, and how it feeds our choices and behaviors.

I think there must be something in the air. Friends of mine have been mentioning to me their own struggles and triumphs with identity. And over the past two weeks, I have been confronted by some decisions I made about myself that I would like to reconsider. And I have been working to get them disentangled from my identity.

I have a lot of experience with this.

Being fat was a major part of my identity when I was growing up. It was given to me by my family long before I was aware of it. It was given to me so young, that by the time I came to the age where I could make decisions about who I wanted to be, “fat” was not an “option,” it was an “incontrovertible truth.”

This idea of not only me being fat, but of fat being me, led to a lot of the lifestyle choices I made. Not just around food. But also around grooming and clothing and general self-care.

I didn’t care/I was above being a slave to fashion. That was the stance I took on my appearance. At least that was the image I wished to project. I wore all of my clothes too big. I often dressed like a boy. I wore pants all the time. If I did wear a dress, I wore jeans under it. I grew my hair out and never got it cut. I stayed indoors as much as possible and hated the sun. (I know! I hated the sun?!?! What was up with that?)

But I did care. I wore big clothes to hide my body. I wore heavy makeup because I was afraid I was ugly. Not getting my hair cut became part of my non-conformist identity. And I avoided at all costs any scenario where shorts or bathing suits were involved. It was not the sun I hated, but the idea of showing my flesh.

I had this idea that I could never be anything but fat. So even the handful of times I lost some weight, I didn’t have any confidence in keeping it off. That would be the opposite of who I was. Having “fat” as an identity also led me to make all sorts of excuses about why I couldn’t do what needed to be done to lose weight. It’s genetic. I’m just a person who was born not liking vegetables. Diets don’t work for me. I’m not the kind of person who does things like count calories. I can’t eat rabbit food. I’m just hungry all the time.

When I got my eating under control, I was so focused on the very clear and specific boundaries I set around my eating, that I didn’t have to confront these garrisoned identity outposts until they had been substantially weakened. All I had to do was eat my three meals a day within my set of clearly defined rules.

That has become my new identity. Eating three meals a day within my boundaries. Being a woman who has her eating disorders under control. It is an identity that I am proud to have. It works for me.

There is another result of this way of life, and that is the ability to recognize and let go of identities that don’t work for me anymore. In other words, part of this identity, is to be less caught up in my identities. For example: being a smoker, being a morning-to-night coffee drinker, being a girl who wears makeup, being too cold/protected to fall in love. All of these were major parts of my identity that I was willing to give up because they didn’t work anymore.

There are two identities that I find myself shifting lately.

The first is about being sexy. Or more specifically, what kind of sexy I am.

I’m a sexy woman. I know that. (Even 30 lbs heavier than I prefer.) And I like having “sexy” as part of my identity. But recently I have been thinking about what kind of sexy woman I am. And if I’d like to be a different kind of sexy.

Lately, I have been finding myself drawn to more classic styles. Fitted cuts and cleaner lines. A linen dress. A crisp white button down. A pencil skirt. A fit and flare. A boyfriend cardigan. These are things I shied away from in the past. Somehow, I decided that they didn’t fit some decision I made about myself. Now I think that idea is outdated. For me. And I want to give it up.

I’m not saying I will be giving up my strapless mini-dresses this summer. Or My leggings and knee-high boots this fall. But my heels are already getting shorter and I am interested in making room for something new. In my identity and my closet.

And the other thing that I am making room for is writing as my calling and career. And this one goes a little deeper. It took some action and some healing to be able to change this self-imposed identity.

In the early 2000s, I was a writer. The funny thing is that I didn’t know it. I not only wrote two versions of a play that went to the stage in New York and San Diego, but I was writing freelance for an online newsletter, and doing side writing jobs for a handful of individuals. But I did not think of myself as a writer.

There was something I had as part of my identity. It was something like “unworthy.” Or “unreliable.” Or some other version of “not good enough.” I had this idea about myself from the beginning (possibly, the beginning of time). Couple that with being in the throes of my food addiction, and that was exactly how I behaved: unworthy, unreliable and not good enough. I proved myself to be what I had always feared I was, and took that on as a personal truth. I spent the next ten plus years with the identity that I did not have what it takes to make it as a writer.

This past few weeks I have been applying for writing jobs. I was communicating with a potential employer, and in an email, I mentioned that I used to write freelance health articles. But I realized that wasn’t on my resume. And when I asked myself why, it was because I ended that job like a jerk. I was given a writing assignment much like a slew of previous assignments. I was supposed to set up an interview with an expert on some health and wellness subject, and then write an article. I don’t remember who the expert was, or the topic I was supposed to write about. Either way, I never did it. And I was so deep in my food addiction, and its accompanying shame, fear and paralysis, that I never contacted the editor, never apologized, never made it right. I just disappeared, and let my freelance writing job go with it. And in doing that, I made a decision about my identity that I didn’t even recognize until today. I am not dedicated or reliable enough to be a writer. I can’t be counted on to follow through as a writer.

Even though that was who I was in 2003, that is not who I am today. After over nine years of food sobriety, I am most certainly reliable, worthy, and good enough. I can absolutely be counted on. I have made my integrity a priority in my life.

This afternoon I searched on Facebook and I found the woman who had been my editor. I sent her a private message asking for her forgiveness, and what, if anything, I can do to make right what I did in disappearing on her. I certainly hope that she gets back to me. But no matter what, in pinpointing the decision I had made about my identity, and the behavior that created it, and in offering an amends for my wrongdoing, I was able to shake something loose and get myself a little more free.

I believe that amends are the kind of thing that can shift your whole life. This one, whether or not it is accepted, has already let me get complete with myself, and remove an identity that has been holding me back for over a decade.

I prefer shopping alone, but my body dysmorphia insists on tagging along.

Today was my cousin’s wedding shower. It was a lot of fun! And I love celebrating love! I am a huge fan of love!

I got a new dress for the shower. Nothing too fancy. A sleeveless linen dress with a tasteful abstract pattern. Very flattering. Very spring-bridal-shower-appropriate.

But when I was shopping for it, I was terrified. Of what, you ask? Of being a size 14 (American).

This is a very specific, very strange fear. 

First, I want to say that there would be nothing wrong with being a size 14. It is a perfectly lovely size. 

But I am not a size 14. I am a size 10. And I can’t seem to grasp it. Even when I am looking at my body in the mirror. Even when I have just tried on a size 10 dress and it fit. And looked great! I even brought two of the same dress into the dressing room, one a 10 and one a 12, thinking that the 10 surely wouldn’t fit. And then I worried that even the 12 would be too small.

I also ordered a dress online for another upcoming wedding, and they gave measurements in the description to determine what size to buy. My measurements coincided with a size Large. And yet I really wanted to order the X-Large. Because I was positive that a Large would be too small on me. And when it came, I still tried it on expecting it to be too small for me. They gave me the measurements! I didn’t believe them!

This is body dysmorphia. This is how sick I can be with my body image disorders. There is nothing wrong with my body. But my head is a disaster area!

I am grateful to have my eating under control. If I didn’t, I can’t imagine the kinds of torture I would be putting myself through. At least right now I don’t have to obsess over what to eat, when to eat it, where to eat and in front of whom. Especially in order to fit into a dress I already fit into. After all, with all the clarity I have because I am not high on sugar or preoccupied with the next thing I will put in my mouth (or refrain from putting in my mouth), I still don’t know what size I am. Even when I am actually wearing that size at the moment.

My body dysmorphia is one of the things I have agreed to make friends with. Not good friends, mind you. But I choose to tolerate it. Because I am pretty sure it will never go away. (Though I am always grateful when it is in a dormant phase.) So I will take too many clothes into the dressing room. And I will be afraid of being sizes I am not. And I will not believe the measurements posted in the description. But I will still look just as good in the dress, once I manage to get it on. So there’s that. 

Some unsolicited advice to unstick my proverbial craw.

I was reading an Internet forum for people who have their eating disorders under control, and a woman said her husband, who recently lost a lot of weight because of a medical issue, started speaking judgmentally about her weight and how much she was eating. 

I wanted to write about that issue here because it sticks in my proverbial craw.

I write this blog for myself. I write it as a means of getting thoughts out of my weird, dangerous, sick, and sometimes brilliant mind. Once they are out into the open, I can see what is sick and what is brilliant. I am always honored if someone gets something out of my writing. And I love hearing about it in the comments! But I am not writing an advice column. And certainly, if you want to try my ideas for yourself, you are welcome to, but I’m not promoting anything here. 

OK. That’s kind of a lie. Peace. I am actively promoting self-acceptance as a means of attaining inner peace.

But both here and in life, I get a lot of people giving me advice. Unsolicited and unwelcome. Lately, it is usually when I talk about the weight I gained when I quit smoking, but it has been going on for many years.  And yes, it is hard for me to be with the extra weight. But this is not a weight loss blog. It is a blog where I share what it is like to be a woman who lives with eating disorders.This is a whole blog where I talk about how I was miserable (and yes, fat) because I couldn’t stop eating. And now MY EATING IS UNDER CONTROL! (Yes. I am yelling that!) 

And even more frustrating, I find that this unsolicited advice often comes from people who are riding the wave of being high on whatever diet/exercise/quick-fix food scheme they have discovered within the past year. And I will be blunt (and judgmental), sometimes I look at what they are suggesting to me and all I can see is them acting out an eating disorder because their eating is not under control. And I think, Oh, sweetie, been there, done that, when I was an in-so-deep-I-couldn’t-see-the-surface addict. So thanks, but no thanks. But I only think it, and I don’t say anything. Because they are not looking for advice. And I don’t do unsolicited advice.

I have been doing what I do for over 9 years. 9 years and 4 months. 3,407 days! I am past the “pink cloud.” I am no longer “high” on losing weight and eating well. I have stuck to this through life tragedies and screwball comedies. I do it when it’s boring. I do it when I don’t want to. I do it every day always. No matter what.

Yes. It makes me mad when people tell me how to do it “better.” I know it shouldn’t. I know they are just excited about something. Or they are trying to help. Or even if they are not, even if they just want to feel superior, because they have managed to wrangle their body into a socially acceptable shape and size, I should be grateful that I have my own solution. And that I know it without a doubt. I mean, how many things work for over 9 years? And since it has worked for over 9 years, I am confident that it will continue to work.

I will close with this. A lot of people want to know “how I did it” (referring to losing 150 lbs), but when I tell them that I have not eaten any grains, starches or refined sugars for over 9 years, they tune out. They want an easier way. But I have tried that “easier way,” and it  looks like exercising to the point of exhaustion and injury. It looks like starving myself for long periods so I can binge on sugar. It looks like being miserable in my body and life because I can’t stop eating. It looks like being obsessed with food every second of every day. 

We have a saying in the community where I keep my eating under control. “Keep your eyes on your own plate.” Today I’m giving you unsolicited advice. And that’s it.

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