onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “January, 2016”

Commitment: the cure for circumstances

The past few weeks, I have been feeling sort of like life was on hold. I wasn’t really sure what I should be doing in terms of work and writing. I couldn’t practice driving because while our car was getting repaired, we had a rental, and I don’t have a driver’s license. Plus, my boyfriend wasn’t working as much so it was a really nice chance to just sit around and spend time together.And now life is back in motion. On fast forward. 

Today, my boyfriend goes ahead of me to an extended stay hotel in Indiana, where we will be living, back on the road for the next 9 months to a year. For the next week or two, I will practice driving and get my license. Then I will drive to meet him. (But you know, no pressure.)

For the past week, my time has been spent doing the things I am committed to doing for my life: meditation, jogging, driving, and of course, as always, 3 meals a day within my boundaries.

At times like this, when all of the things I have to do can get overwhelming, having commitments makes priorities a no-brainer.

When I got my eating under control I learned that taking care of myself makes it easier to take care of the people I want to care for. If I know that my health and sanity come first, who and what comes next and next and next seem to fall into place effortlessly.

So I am cutting this week’s blog short. Because writing a blog is a priority. But making it long and poignant is not. There are clothes to pack and time to spend with my boyfriend before we are separated for over a week. (The separation part is not my favorite, by the way.) 

So cheers to commitments and priorities! It’s nice to choose them for myself, instead of being thrown where the wind blows me. 

The “addiction model” versus eternal suffering…I know which I pick…Duh.

In my post last week, I wrote about Oprah and Weight Watchers. You can read it here. I was inspired to write about it because of an article I had read that morning that basically said that if Oprah, with all of her money and power, can’t lose weight, why would you think you can? (In his defense, his point was to love yourself the way you are right now, which I FULLY support!) In response, a friend of mine wrote to him and said that if you want the success stories, look in 12 step rooms. And another reader responded that the people who succeed are the people who are giving up addictive foods like sugar.

The backlash in the comments section was very interesting (and a little unsettling) to me. So I did a little internet snooping. People, for reasons I do not comprehend, are very angry about “the addiction model.” I do not know what it is about addiction and the idea of addiction that gets people furious. They are practically screaming through the computer, “NOT EVERYONE IS AN ADDICT!”

Okay. I got it. Not everyone is an addict. But why so much anger about it?

I understand that there is not a lot of scientific evidence that the “addiction model” works. I have read articles on it. One claims that the addiction model of treatment has “shockingly low success rates.” Another claims “compelling support for effectiveness.”But I don’t do what I do because science tells me it is effective or not. I do it because it is effective for me.

So, I am not claiming anything scientific at all. I am saying that by identifying as an addict and giving up my addictive substance, I have had my weight and eating under control for 10 years now. 10 years. And I personally know people who have maintained huge weight loss for 20+ and even 30+ years. Not a person. I can think of 10 people right now who have maintained a weight loss for over 20 years. Most studies about long-term weight loss use 2-5 years as the benchmark for “long-term.” I can literally (and I mean literally literally, not figuratively) think of 60 people off the top of my head who would be considered successful. (No, really. I took a moment to tick them off on my fingers.) From all racial, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds. From all over the U.S. and the world. And that’s just the ones I can think of right now.

And yes, I can think of even more people who tried the “addiction model” and it didn’t work for them. I can think of people who tried and quit. I can think of people who struggle and have struggled for years. I can think of people who used the “addiction model” and lost huge amounts of weight and then put it right back on, like any other diet or weight loss program. And that is just the people I can remember. I have no scientific evidence that says what I do is effective in general. I don’t know what that success rate percentage is. It may well be “shockingly low.” Sometimes it feels like a revolving door. Perhaps for every person like me there are 100 who fail. Perhaps it’s closer to 1,000. But I am looking at 70+ people who have lost weight and maintained that weight loss. Each of those 70 people is a human being who feels like they have been set free.

Here’s the other thing that I find fascinating. Study findings (actual science) in 2011 said that maintaining weight loss was “nearly impossible.” The human body flooded with hormones that made people hungry and kept very low levels of hormones that suppressed hunger and increased metabolism. In other words, your body was going to make you suffer, and unless you were willing to suffer for the rest of your life to maintain what you had done, you were destined to gain back your weight.

Suffer? For the rest of my life? Seriously? If you think that I could do that, you don’t know me very well…I don’t know why my experience is different than this 2011 study. And I don’t care. All I am is grateful.

I got it. People don’t like the addiction model. Anecdotal evidence is not science. I hear ya. But why are these people so angry that the only treatment is “addiction treatment?” Maybe it’s because they are waiting for science to come up with an answer for them, and all it can offer is eternal suffering. (What? You guys aren’t going to jump on that?)

Let me be very clear here: I believe in science, technology, and medicine. I believe in facts. I do not believe in “praying” your cancer away. I believe in chemotherapy. I believe in vaccines and antibiotics. In fact, I think that people who don’t believe in science should have their technology taken away. (Do they really not see the irony of “liking” anti-science propaganda on Facebook with their smartphones? Ahem, I digress…) I absolutely believe in medical treatment. But I also believe that not every problem is a problem for science. Just like I don’t believe science has a cure for your crappy relationship with your brother, I don’t think it has a cure for your crappy relationship with food or your body.

I believe in attraction, not promotion. If you look at me and see that I have maintained a 150 lb weight loss for over 10 years, and not only am I not suffering eternally, but am truly happy, joyous and free, then you should maybe try a totally unscientific “addiction model” for yourself. And if you can’t get over the word addiction, or the idea of giving up cake forever, or anything else about what I do, then you do you.

I’m not mad about it all…

Oprah, Weight Watchers, and the burden of being fancy.

I’m going to do it. I’m going to talk about Oprah’s weight. Not because I give a shit about Oprah’s weight. Seriously, I don’t. But this is an eating disorder blog, and she’s Oprah with a new commitment to (and stake in) Weight Watchers. She’s one of the most successful humans to exist in the history of the world. And she has trouble controlling her weight. And, because she is who she is, all of the rest of humanity has a front row seat to watch, judge and ridicule Oprah’s body. (*shudder* Note to self: Never get that famous.)

I don’t know about you, but I really hate that new Weight Watchers commercial. It is the same “inspirational” music, and Oprah is using that same, low, soothing voice usually reserved for charity ads that begin “for just 70 cents a day…”

She says “Every time I tried and failed, and every time I tried again, and every time I tried again, has brought me to this most powerful moment to say, If not now, when?”

Do you know why I hate it so much? Because I don’t believe her. Not because I think she is a liar. I don’t. I think that Oprah has become as powerful as she has by being authentic. But I can see the fear. I can see the resignation. She looks to me like she is essentially saying, “This time I really mean it!” And I don’t know who she is trying to convince, us, or herself.

Behind that “I mean it” is the assumption that willpower is what she needs. That this time she is going to be committed. As if she weren’t committed every time before that. But we all know that’s bullshit. Of course she meant it every time. Not being able to be in a socially acceptable body is humiliating. Even for those of us who are not scrutinized daily on the world stage. It is one of the hardest things I, personally, have ever dealt with emotionally and spiritually. I meant it “every time.” But if I went walking in to my next weight loss experiment with the food obsession still there, and no experience that it could be any other way, I walked in defeated before I even started. The fear of being broken was still there. It wasn’t until I experienced a sense of relief, the possibility of sanctuary from the obsession, that I first believed that there was a solution at all. (I didn’t experience that relief until I surrendered to both giving up sugar and carbs all together and putting boundaries around my eating.) And more, I have seen women and men who still continue to struggle with their eating, even after they have had a glimpse of sanctuary. This disease of compulsive eating is no joke. And I do not see that telltale glimpse of sanctuary in Oprah’s eyes in her Weight Watcher’s commercial.

You may have the assumption that Oprah’s wealth and influence would make her weight loss journey easier. But from personal experience, I will tell you why I believe the opposite.

I have a very close friend who has boundaries around her eating, and has for over a decade. She is a very gifted singer and performer. She is a world traveller. She has friends in high places. She’s fancy. Now, she’s always fancy, but I have found that when she is feeling fancy, that is generally the most dangerous thing she can do for her food boundaries.

Because it takes a level of humility to say that you cannot control yourself around food. For Oprah Winfrey, it would mean the woman who flouted the conventions of race and gender and overcame a difficult childhood of abuse, would have to say that she couldn’t stop eating. She had power to change the world, but not enough power to step away from the chocolate cake. (Hey, Oprah, I don’t know anything about building a 3 Billion dollar empire, but seriously, it can’t be nearly as hard as stepping away from the cake.)

I don’t know Oprah at all, obviously. Not even a little bit. But I am going to guess that she does not have a “weight problem.” I am going to bet she has a food problem. And I am going to bet she is addicted to sugar and carbs. Because seriously, think about how many pounds of fruits and vegetables you have to eat to be overweight. And what’s more, how could a woman with enough money to buy several small countries not buy everything necessary to maintain a healthy weight? Personal trainers, cooks, dudes in suits and sunglasses with earpieces to guard the refrigerator, the freezer, and the cupboards where the cookies are kept. OF COURSE SHE CAN! But who is going to stop Oprah Winfrey from eating the cookie? I don’t care how crisp your suit is. If Oprah tells you to stand aside and get out of the way of the white chocolate macadamias, you are going to damn well do it. Because she is Oprah. Duh.

My point is that nobody is going to humble Oprah except Oprah. And if you were arguably the most powerful woman in the world, it might be a little scary to humble yourself. I am going to guess that she did not get where she is today by giving up her power. But I know first hand that power, or willpower, isn’t enough when it comes to eating. I know that it doesn’t matter how stubborn, strong, or committed you are. When the cookies and the cake are calling, if you have never experienced the possibility of peace around food, there is no escaping.

I wish Oprah the best. But I don’t expect Weight Watchers to be the cure for what is ailing her. And I hope that she can experience for herself the paradox of humility as power. Because if there is anyone who can lead by example and help people (especially women) be free and peaceful around food and weight, it’s Oprah. Duh.

Exercise as long as I enjoy it. There’s a joke in there, right?

A few weeks ago, I started jogging again after almost 10 years. Nothing crazy. Two miles a day, 5 to 7 days a week. I took it easy at first, not trying to push too hard, partially running, partially walking. It’s interesting how little time it has taken me to get back into good enough shape to jog the whole 2 miles without stopping to walk.

When I was still eating compulsively, I used jogging to control my weight. Or rather, I tried to control my weight with it. But I couldn’t control my eating, so jogging didn’t help me very much there. I was so obsessed with “getting out” the food I couldn’t stop eating, that I was pushing too hard, and not taking care of my body. I would run until I injured myself, and then I would continue to run injured. I was punishing my body for being fat. I was abusing my body to try to force it into a shape and size that I thought would be socially acceptable, without dealing with my eating. Because I could not deal with my eating. I really didn’t have a solution. I didn’t think there was a solution. I was doing the best I could. But it was painful and difficult. It was damn exhausting.

But the other thing is that I was in great shape. Look, I don’t mean to glorify exercise bulimia. It’s not pretty. I was bat-shit crazy when I was eating compulsively and running to try to control my weight. But that doesn’t change the fact that my body was capable and strong. And I never saw it that way. Or if I did, it was not enough. It was not really what I wanted. Because I was looking for something very limiting. I was looking for beauty. And not just beauty, but a narrow view of beauty. Simply put, I was looking to be as skinny as I could be.

So I didn’t enjoy how healthy I was when I was healthy. Partially because I was not totally healthy. I was so sick mentally and spiritually, that being in good physical shape wasn’t even healthy.

When I put boundaries around my eating, I had to stop a lot of the things I was doing to manage my weight, because they were just part of how sick I was with food. I had to stop eating “diet” food, and start eating real food. I had to stop counting calories, because tracking calories was how I tried to manage my weight without giving up sugar. Or it was about eating as few calories as I could in a day so I could be skinny. And I had to stop running because it was all about the size of my body. I had to give up all of those things because I had to change my thinking about the problem. The problem wasn’t the size or shape of my body. The problem was my inability to stop eating and the obsession I had with my weight. That obsession with my weight, which I was just then starting to let go of by putting boundaries around my eating, made me scared of over exercising. And it was a valid fear. I am still afraid of it.

I decided to start jogging again because I am 38 (and a half) years old. And it isn’t going to get any easier to get in shape the older I get. But I need to be in communication about this, because there is still an Exercise Bulimic Girl somewhere in inside of me, just like there is still a Good Girl, and a Fat Girl, and a Body-Dysmorphic Girl, and even an Overly Critical Perfectionist Girl with Anorexic Tendencies. All of these aspects of my eating and body-image disorders still occupy space in me, in various states of dormancy. So I went to my friend who helps me make decisions about my food and my weight, and I told her I was running 2 miles a day.

She asked me, “Are you enjoying it? Are you enjoying the endorphins?” And I thought about it, and yes. I am enjoying it. So she said, “It’s good that you are telling on yourself. Do it as long as you enjoy it. If you ever stop enjoying it, let me know.” And that was that.

I don’t think of myself as someone who enjoys exercise. But then, I was never a person who exercised for herself. I was exercising for everybody else. I was killing myself for validation by unnamed people who didn’t know or care about me, who had also bought a limited sense of beauty and beauty-connected worth. But the truth is, I do love exercising. I love the feeling of self-care. And I love the feeling of accomplishment. And I love the feeling of getting stronger. And yes, I love the endorphins.

Love for that 28-year-old, crazy, weepy, miserable, desperate girl 

January 2nd is the anniversary of the day I gave up sugar. And this particular January 2nd, today, marks 10 years.That’s a decade. A lot happens in a decade.

Ten years ago on January 1st, I was a 28-years-old bulimic and exercise bulimic who couldn’t stop eating and was back on her way up to 300 pounds. And probably more. I was miserable. I felt crazy. And I was terrified. Mostly of getting fat again. But also of the unknowable future. It was not just food and my weight that was out of control. My entire life was out of control.

The thing about food, specifically sugar, is we are just now starting to recognize it as an addictive substance. But we don’t think about it like heroin or cocaine. We don’t think about it as being destructive the way alcohol is. We don’t talk about food like an addiction that ruins lives and families. We don’t act like it kills. 

But food was absolutely killing me. Spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I was terrified for myself and my future. I could not manage my life. I was drowning. And I could not even imagine a way out. 

Now I know some food addicts are high-functioning. There are high-functioning addicts of every variety. Just so we’re clear, I am not one of those. I’m easily paralyzed. 

And then 10 years ago, I was desperate enough to give up sugar. And when I say desperate, I mean that I was willing to give up what I believed was my only source of joy. I didn’t know if I was ever going to be happy again. I didn’t know if I would ever have fun again. But I was so out of control that I was willing to give up joy in order to lose my misery and terror.

Of course, what I got was a life filled with more joy than I thought was possible, and a sense of peace that I could never have fathomed. What I got was a life beyond my wildest dreams.

I’ll tell you the process was slow. And it still is. It’s one day at a time, one meal at a time, one feeling at a time, one moment at a time. And the first year and a half of keeping boundaries around my eating is still a blur. But from that very first day, January 2, 2006, my life got better. I liked myself better. I felt like I had a shot at life.

So I want to show some love for that 28-year-old, crazy, weepy, miserable, desperate girl who was willing to give up what she thought was everything, to see if there was something better for her. I wasn’t fearless, but I was sure brave. And this day, 10 years later, I am more grateful than that girl could ever have guessed we would be. 

Happy New Year to you! Wishing you love and peace. May 2016 be a year filled with little and big steps on your journey to a life beyond your wildest dreams!

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