Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “May, 2016”

Another day of freedom

There are a lot of things about having my eating under control that don’t baffle me on a regular basis, but every once in a while, will hit me like a semi. Today I had to run out to the store and buy salt. And while I was there I bought a bunch of junk food for my husband. Like really a lot. And none of it is for me. Not a bite, not a lick not a taste. And that is amazing.

The thing about the stuff I bought him is that if I had bought it for myself when I was eating compulsively, I may have told myself that I expected it to last for a certain amount of time, but it wouldn’t have. I would have eaten some, and the cravings would start, and I would have eaten all of it. I mean that day. I mean even if I didn’t want to. I mean even if I said, “Okay, one more piece of candy and then I am done,” I would not have been able to stop at one more. I was not able to stop eating, even if I was desperate to. It would haunt me until it was gone.

My husband doesn’t have this problem. At all. The last time I bought him cookies, I threw half of them away after probably a month. The last time he had a box of cereal, I threw half of that away too. And I am not talking about grownup cereal. I mean sugar and more sugar and artificial flavor. I’m talking Red 40 here.

Now I think throwing away half a box of sugar food is amazing for any human. My husband, and all “normal” eaters are pretty amazing to me. But more than that, I am totally flabbergasted that I live with sugar food all around me every day, and I don’t eat any of it.

I don’t want it. I don’t feel like I’ll die if I don’t eat it. It doesn’t haunt me. It doesn’t call to me. It doesn’t matter to me at all. It’s not mine. I can buy it. I can give it as a gift. I can serve it to someone else. And it has no hold over me. 

Addiction is something owning you. Sugar owned me for so many years. If I ate it, I would be a slave all over again. Immediately. But every day I don’t eat sugar, I ensure another day of freedom. And I love my freedom.


The kind of stuff I want to buy

I will admit that I have a terrible click-bait problem. Ok, it’s not that bad. But I have a morbid fascination with plastic surgery before and afters and “no makeup” selfies. I swear I do it just to get myself riled up….Did you notice how I put “no makeup” in quotes? Yeah. Because more than half of these “no makeup” selfies are really makeup-that-is-meant-to-look-like-you-are-not-wearing-any-makeup selfies. Which, frankly, pisses me off.

I know that this is an eating disorder blog. But part of my having eating disorders is having these fun and exciting body image disorders. You know, the kind where you don’t really know what you look like, and perceive yourself as deeply flawed because you don’t look like the imaginary women in advertising. And how even knowing this intellectually, and being a highly intelligent woman doesn’t make it any better. Right. Those kinds of body image disorders.

If you don’t already know, I have a HUGE problem with the beauty industry. And with us as consumers. I am angry that we collectively agree that what is really beautiful is this elusive woman who can’t possibly fit all of her internal organs into her torso. The unicorn woman who doesn’t exist. Even underwear models get their images “fixed” by eliminating things like puckered skin under a bikini strap, or slimming down their thighs. Seriously! Slimming down supermodel thighs!

And if you also don’t know, I have a (slightly less huge, but still pretty darn) huge problem with internet culture and the way so many people only show the best sides of themselves, or in the case of trolls, the worst sides of themselves, because they feel protected by anonymity. 

That never impresses me. I know better. I mean, I have a pretty darn spectacular life in ways that I cannot begin to explain. And still there are so many things that go wrong, ways I get upset, times I am miserable for no reason. Or for some reason. It’s not all trophies and accolades. Nobody’s life is. And anyone who says differently is selling something. (Yes, I know that is a Princess Bride quote.) Selling something like no-makeup makeup. Like a meal replacement shake. Like an album. Like themselves. Like me on Facebook. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter! I’m going to make my Snapchat public!

So I look at the fake “no makeup” selfie, and I think “What a bunch of a**holes!” See, I thought the point of the no makeup selfie is to say “I’m imperfect too! You can’t be perfect because nobody is perfect!” But instead, it has become just another trophy. “Look! I’m the unicorn woman who wakes up looking like a supermodel. Too bad you can’t be like me. But you can worship me! And buy all of the things I am selling!”

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I, personally, do not wear makeup. I think I have worn it twice in the past in the past 5+ years. Both times to other people’s weddings. (I was conspicuously, yet unselfconsciously bare-faced at my own wedding.) But this is not about makeup. I have no problem with makeup, or women who wear it. I wore makeup for many many years. And I did not stop because I have some sort of moral issue with makeup. I still wear nice clothes and get my hair cut, and pluck my Groucho Marx eyebrows and Italian woman chin hairs. (I am an Italian woman, so I come by the chin hair honestly.) I really stopped because I was single and I noticed that I got hit on way more without makeup. And very early in our relationship, my husband said that he, too, liked the fact that I didn’t wear makeup. 

So this is not about makeup, it’s about lying. Deceit. This is about yet another way that we as women judge and disparage one another so that somebody can make money off of our insecurities. 

But I want to end with a shoutout to all of the women who post pictures of themselves with really no makeup! (Tyra Banks and Teri Hatcher, I’m high-fiving in your direction!) 

I know that these women are selling something too. But what they are selling is authenticity! Honesty! Womanly solidarity. And that’s the kind of stuff I want to buy. 

When enough becomes too much. (I’m talking about giant fruit.)

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that, for me, it is not about my weight. Don’t get me wrong, I am living in a lovely body that I am (usually – damn body dysmorphia) comfortable in. But my weight is not, ultimately, the point for me. This is hard for people to grasp. Some of the ways I eat can be confusing to people. I can think of a few examples, mostly over apples believe it or not, where random people told me point blank to my face that what I was doing was “cheating” or “didn’t make any sense.”

When I eat an apple, it can be any size. I can only eat one, but it can weigh over a pound. No, that does not mean that I can eat two eight ounce apples. One is one. One eight ounce apple, or one one pound apple are each considered one fruit.

This confuses people. And the reason is because they think I am trying to deal with my weight. (For the most part, people can’t fathom why anyone would manage their food, if it didn’t have to do with weight.) They are thinking in terms of calories. They are thinking I am “on a diet” and that choosing an apple that weighs over a pound must be cheating. 

But what I am really dealing with, of course, are my eating disorders. And sometimes a giant fruit makes me feel safe. Because when I was eating compulsively, along with a general craving for sugar and carbohydrates, there was a constant sense of missing out. I didn’t just want a cookie. I wanted all the cookies. Not just in that moment because I was hungry, or craving. There was an obsession to “own” food. There was a kind of aching fear that I would not be the one to eat something. (That’s not a joke. And it sounds funny when I write it, but I promise it’s not.) As if there were not an unlimited supply of cookies. It was as if I were afraid there would not be enough for me.

Eating a giant apple makes me feel like I’m getting enough. It makes me feel nourished and taken care of. Without having to eat all of the apples in the world.

Now something has started to happen in the past few years. I have started thinking that giant fruits are too much. Too much food! (Huh?!?!?! I know!!! I looked for pods in the basement too. No, it’s really just me.) I never thought I could think there would ever be enough food, let alone too much.

I’m not saying I will never eat another apple that weighs more than a pound. I almost certainly will. If I need some comfort. Or if I am feeling particularly hungry, as happens from time to time. But there is some peace in knowing that I can be satisfied with an average apple, or 8 ounces of berries. There is a little extra cushion of comfort knowing that less is still more than enough. 

Historically, I have always wanted more. A large drink is better than a small. Two tea bags are better than one. You name it, bigger was better. Getting my eating under control and coming to a place where my food was enough was a miracle. So It’s funny to come to a point in my life where I can see “enough” cross into “too much.”

I like it, but it’s a little scary. I’m boldly going where no man, (alright, fine, plenty of normal people have gone there…) where have never gone before. 

Look, the reality of writing this may scare me into looking for a cantaloupe bigger than my head so I can have half for breakfast. And that’s ok too. Two steps forward, one step back is the dance of life. (Cha cha cha.) But knowing that I have reached this new place around food, even after 10 years of food boundaries, is a little more peace. And peace is one area of my life where I will always think more is better. 

The Biggest Winners of The Biggest Loser are The Biggest Industries: TV, Beauty, Fitness, and Food

So perhaps you saw the article about how contestants on The Biggest Loser have a lot of trouble maintaining their weight losses. It turns out that over the course of the show, their metabolisms slow way way down. Contestants had faster metabolisms when they were overweight than they end up with after the show. Now here is what pissed me off about the article. The conclusion of this article seems to be that a body has a “natural” size or a “true” size, and that any body will work hard to go back to that “true” size. The implication is that the people on The Biggest Loser are just “meant to be” overweight. And that’s where I call bullshit.

In the article, it clearly states that these people lost huge amounts of weight by exercising for at least 6 hours a day. (!!!!!) There is a name for that in the eating disorder community. It’s exercise bulimia. Bulimia is any of the ways that people try to rid themselves of food after they eat it. Because they cannot keep themselves from eating it in the first place. Some people force themselves to throw up, some people purposely take too many laxatives, and some people exercise themselves for hours a day. I know. I have been an active bulimic. (I say active because I still consider myself a bulimic, even though I have not done any of those things in the past 10+ years, since I put boundaries around my eating. I don’t believe bulimic thinking is something that ever really goes away. Thankfully, mine is dormant at the moment.)

See, my point is that there is this television show that is promoting exercise bulimia as the smart, even honorable thing to do. We promote an idea that people are overweight because they are lazy or sloppy, so we cheer for them for “finally” doing something about it. And then when that doesn’t work, science steps in and, instead of saying “6+ hours of exercise a day doesn’t lead to long-term weight loss,” it says that when overweight people lose weight, their body does everything it can to gain the weight back. 

Here’s a thought: Maybe if you lose weight 3 times faster than is natural or normal because you are exercising excessively, then your body does everything it can to gain the weight back.

Perhaps long-term weight loss requires a much more significant change in eating habits and a more moderate view of exercise. Of course, that is not as exciting as watching someone drop 100+ pounds in 6 months, But maybe long-term weight loss can’t be jammed into a 13 week television season. 

It takes years to lose weight naturally. And no, exercise bulimia is not natural. Who naturally has time to exercise for 6 hours every day? How do we not look at it on television and see that it is ridiculous? 

I, personally, lost my weight without any more exercise than walking. And not for hours and hours. I am taking about walking to the store instead of taking the train. I am talking about using the stairs instead of the elevator. 

I want to be clear that this is not about the contestants on The Biggest Loser. If I had not already found my solution, I would probably have loved the opportunity to get on a show like that. I was willing to do anything to lose weight. In fact, I tried exercise bulimia. It didn’t work for me either.

For me, this all comes back to the big money to be made off of those contestants. These are people who are desperate and suffering, and they are being used by the television industry, the beauty industry, the fitness industry and the food industry. And they are not getting anything in return except for broken metabolisms and a “scientific” conclusion that they were never supposed to be thin in the first place.

Yeah…And people say what I do is extreme.

Poor sugar. If only all of those fat people would push away from the table, it could stop being persecuted!

When I gave up sugar in 2006, I was single and poor. It was hard, but I managed because it was more important to me than anything else in the world. I was in the throes of bulimia and exercise bulimia. I felt crazy and angry and I did not think I would ever be able to dig myself out of the hole I had dug with food and sugar, lies and manipulation. But I wanted to. My desperation was even bigger and more powerful than the impossible.I was single. And I had the luxury of only looking out for myself. And since I didn’t eat bread, or pizza, or pasta or rice, which are cheap and easy, and since I ate mostly vegetables, I spent almost all of my money on food, and my time on shopping and cooking.

Eating a diet free of sugars, grains, and starches is expensive. Not just expensive, but exorbitant. (Ask my husband. He’ll tell you.) What I pay for a piece of fruit, which is only part of my breakfast, can often buy two cheeseburgers at a fast food place. Of course the fruit is nutritious, but it’s hardly as filling as two cheeseburgers. And it doesn’t get you high, the way fast food cheeseburgers will.

It’s interesting how framing something can shift your whole outlook. I read an article this week that said that what we call “obesity related illnesses” are really “sugar related illnesses.” There were some compelling arguments. No, I don’t know if it’s true. But it makes sense to me. And it created a change in the way I think about the subject of obesity.

It makes sense to me that what we have been doing is exonerating sugar and the food industry that adds it to everything, while we disparage the people who are victims, for being fat, shameful, and totally lacking willpower. (Don’t blame sugar. Calories are calories. If they would just push away from the table and stop shoveling food into their faces, we wouldn’t be spending so much of my taxes on medical treatment for slobs.) We treat sugar as the victim and people as the problem.

I read labels. When I shop, I almost always buy the same things. And even then, I have to read the label from time to time, because ingredients change.

And most often, they change by having some form of sugar added. Because sugar is cheap. And, if you ask me, addictive. And it’s not like they put a big splashy notice on the front, NEW FORMULA! NOW WITH EXTRA SUGAR! It’s added in secret, so to speak. So you don’t know you are eating more sugar unless you read the label. (Which I happen to do as part of my food boundaries, which have been described before as “extreme.” So because I am “extreme”, I know what is going into my body.)

I cannot tell you the number of times I had to give up a food I loved because it made financial sense to some company to add sugar. To wheat germ. To fish. To meat. To flavorings. To spices. Why would it make financial sense? Because sugar is cheap. And addictive.

So as a culture, we take foods that don’t have sugar in them, secretly add sugar to them, shame people for being obese, and complain about “obesity related illnesses” costing tax payers so much money.

Look, I am a person who climbed out of the deep hole (a kind of grave, if you will) of sugar addiction. And I did it by making some pretty serious choices about how I would spend my money and my time (like reading labels and cooking from scratch). And it was not easy but I did it. 

But what happens to poor people with kids? What happens to poor people who don’t have time to read labels and cook fresh food? What happens to people who work two jobs and don’t get enough sleep? I’m not saying it’s impossible, because I know it is not. What I am saying is that it can look impossible to the poor and tired and that is almost the same thing.

I don’t know the answer to our health problems. I believe in free will and I don’t believe in telling people what they can and cannot eat. I don’t believe that everyone has a genetic predisposition to sugar addiction (as I believe I have). But I think I am going to stop looking at obesity, a human condition, as the problem, and start looking at sugar. Humans have hearts and souls and minds. They need love and freedom and friendship. Sugar doesn’t need to be cared for and honored. And it sure as hell doesn’t need even more people defending  it. But people sure do.

Post Navigation