onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “July, 2016”

They won’t all be handed to me.

There is an experience I have had throughout my life. Whenever I have been interested in accomplishing something, the first step has always been easy. Not just easy, kind of a joke. In my first attempts at almost anything, I have generally been handed a win. When I was in college, I took a playwriting class. I wrote the first act of a play and got rave reviews from both my teacher and my fellow students. I ended up getting a D in that class, my only D ever in my entire school career, because after that first act, I never wrote another line for that play. Or for that class at all, as a matter of fact.

Then, when I was 20 years old, I had dropped out of college and wanted to be a professional stage actor. I was working at a restaurant, and a man walked in, approached me, and asked me to audition for a long-running, famous stage show. I showed up and got the part.

This is not normal or common. If you or someone you love is an actor, you probably know that the process of getting a professional acting job is not generally that quick or easy. A professional actor puts in a lot of work just to get an audition, let alone a part. Being an actor is not all developing a character, having a genuine moment with a fellow actor, or transforming into someone else to the joy and awe of an audience. There are head shots, cattle calls, cold reads, agents (if you are lucky enough to get one) and just generally lots of fruitless pavement-pounding. The whole thing is full of work that is not glamorous or exciting. I never auditioned for another professional acting job again. (Though I did dance with a company a few years later, but I never auditioned. And though I was paid, and took it quite seriously – I really love to perform – it was not a job, and I never thought of it as one.

Last week, I submitted my first article to an online publication. Within days I got a response saying that my piece was accepted for publication. (You can read it here.)

It was a first attempt at something, and it was, once again, handed to me.

Please don’t misunderstand; I know that I am a quality writer. I know that I have a gift for expressing complicated ideas, and for illustrating how things work in relation to other things, both mechanical and interpersonal. But there is a way of things with that kind of writing, very much like the way of things with acting. There are query letters, and résumés where you explain why you are qualified to write on a topic. There are rules about simultaneous submissions of the same piece to multiple publications, and protocol to follow if you need to “unsubmit” a piece from various publications because that piece has been accepted at one particular publication.

And then there is self-promotion. I can’t even tell you how I hate self-promotion.

Perhaps it has a lot to do with my Good Girl, who just wants to be liked. Or maybe it’s my Fat Girl, who is afraid of drawing attention, and thereby ridicule.

And there is something else. It’s a thing I sometimes forget. I am easily overwhelmed. If I step back, and look at the whole picture, it is always too much to take in. And yet, it is my default setting. 

I am a huge fan of the grandiose. Maybe that’s why it seems right to me to take three giant steps back and take in the whole wide world at a glance. But I need to remember that after that first sense of wonder, what seeps in is paralysis. 

By getting my eating under control, I learned two really important lessons about achievement.

1) all I have to do is take the next right action. And the next right action is usually small. Sometimes, it is literally eating my lunch. 

And 2) Sometimes the next right action is unclear, and all there is to do is wait for the moment when I know what the next right action is. One of my favorite sayings is, “when you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.” 

This second one, especially, is not particularly popular in our hyper-active, results-based culture of “winning.” But I find that the answer always does come, eventually. And for me, even if I fail, I feel that an action born from following my heart is always worth my time. An action born of the fear of not taking action generally leads to a lot of messes I have to clean up before I can move forward again.

I don’t know what to expect from choosing to write professionally. (But hopefully it includes lots of money and renown.) At this particular moment, the whole thing seems fraught with pitfalls and traps. Every set of submission guidelines occurs to me like it was written by a frosty, snooty schoolmarm with a too-tight bun who would like to know just who in blazes I think I am. 

But I have to remember another thing I learned when I got my eating under control. Any time I tackle something new, there is always a learning curve. Even if that first experience was easy peasy, there will always be a set of necessary skills that I lack. And it will always take time to acquire those skills. If I choose to do the work at all. 

The little girl in me who is terrified of failure would choose a chocolate cake over any work every time. But I don’t let her make decisions anymore. So I will figure out what the next right action is eventually. And in the meantime, I will keep doing the fun part. I will write, and read, and deconstruct the genius of what is already out there. I will do my part to acquire the skills that I lack. And I will take all of the next right actions, one at a time. And I will particularly look forward to the moments when the next right action is lunch. Or dinner. Or breakfast.

Please read my article in elephant journal! (Yay!)

Hello there! I know, it’s early in the week for me to post, but I have just gotten an article about food addiction and knitting published in elephant journal! Hooray! Please check it out!

You can read it here!

Please read it, share it on social media, and just generally be really happy for me!

Thanks!

Kate

Different priorities when the situation calls for them

The husband and I went home for a few days this week. We had to see the new baby in the family. I sure do love a newborn. She had that new baby smell.*swoon*

The thing about traveling, especially when we go home for a visit, is that the tastiness of my food is is less important while I’m there. I make sure it’s within my eating boundaries, and that I don’t hate it, and that is about it.

There is always so much to do when we go home. We have people to see and errands to run. And cooking the way I like to cook is time consuming. Fresh food cooked daily, or every two days is a lot of work. And after all of the running around and the visits we have to make, I would rather have something easy that I can mix up and pop in the microwave for a few minutes. 

When I gave up sugar and stopped eating compulsively, I gained a new kind of experience of being with people. Prior to that, parties, get togethers and visits were always colored by what there was to eat. Food was more important to me than people or events. And, more than that, I was embarrassed about being fat. I didn’t want to be seen or judged for how or how much I ate. So not only was food more important, but people could be a burden. 

But when I gave up the food, company and experiences became the point of life. After all, I wasn’t going to eat the birthday cake at all anymore. I might as well enjoy the relationships I was in.

So I spent the last few days eating mostly mediocre food (though in truth, I did take one afternoon to cook two days worth of delicious lunches) and being with friends and family. 

We also had a friend bring us with him to a baseball game, and we got there just as a crazy storm rolled in. I had such a great time anyway. I had eaten an efficient dinner on the way, and was able to just be available for whatever happened. I got soaked, the crowd was crazy, we ended up leaving early, and it was still a wonderful time because it was exciting and we were with friends. Instead of being a disappointment, it was a fun adventure.

I am so grateful that, when it’s just for a short time, having delicious food is not the most important thing. I couldn’t do it forever, because I am not neutral about food. I love eating and I am sure I always will. But it’s nice that I can have different priorities when the situation calls for them. 

My built-in forgetter

I had gained some weight a few weeks ago. Not too much, but I had noticed it. And I knew what it was. It was soy nuts.

Soy is a protein that is within my food boundaries. And I almost never eat it for a few reasons. It gives me indigestion. It makes me groggy. And it makes me gain weight. But when I do eat it, I have a hard time stopping.

The truth is that I have had this problem with soy products (specifically soy nuts, soy nut butter, and soy flour) ever since I started putting boundaries around my eating. And yet, every few years, I buy these soy products, eat them, they make me sick, stupid and unhappy, and I quit. But not before I fight it. I never want to quit. But somehow I always manage to, and then, after some time passes, in my head, I’ll start to negotiate with myself about if, when, and under what circumstances I can have soy again. It will go something like, “soy nut butter is a problem, but soy nuts are ok. If I just have them once in a while it will be fine. An ounce once or twice a week wouldn’t make any difference.”

But I am not good at having a little bit of soy once in a while. I will mean to have one ounce, but then while I am making dinner, I will rationalize that it would be okay to have two, as long as I don’t have any later in the week. But of course, later in the week I will rationalize myself into another two ounces. In other words, I will end up having at least twice the amount of soy I wanted to have. And here’s the thing that I know and I don’t like to admit: soy nuts get me high!

That’s what the grogginess is. It’s me being high. That’s why I can’t stop eating them. That’s why I continue to rationalize why it will be okay to eat just a little every once in a while, even though I always end up eating more than I mean to. I don’t eat more than I am allowed within my eating boundaries, but I eat an amount that I know will make me gain weight, all the while lying to myself that the amount I am eating will not make me gain weight. I rationalize and renegotiate with myself so I can get my fix. I am telling you that I behave like an addict when I eat that stuff.

Some people say that addicts have a “built-in forgetter.” Why else would someone who has experienced the very worst of addiction firsthand, and managed to quit, ever use again? But we do. Staying sober is easier than getting sober, and yet all the time, people get sucked back in to something they know is disastrous for them.

Non-addicts have a lot of judgment about this. They think that knowing oneself should be enough. They think that being rational should be the answer. But addiction is not rational.

I will assure you that my soy nut addiction is in no way as bad as my sugar addiction. Yes, there are levels of addiction and there are things in my life that maybe aren’t the best choices for me, but I am willing to live with them. (I’m looking at you artificial sweetener.) If I “fall off the wagon” and eat soy nuts in a couple of months or years, it will not kill me. It will not ruin my life, the way sugar would. It will not send me into a spiraling depression, like sugar would. But it would still be a burden of sorts.

I want to note a few things. I am not saying that soy nuts are bad. I am saying that they are bad for me. And I am not really judging myself for eating them. They are within my boundaries, and I never have to feel guilty for anything I eat that is within my boundaries. I am simply saying that I am an addict through to the core of my being, and I need to be conscious of the ways that I act out addictive behaviors.

I threw away the soy nuts this last time. Probably almost two pounds of them. Whatever they cost, they were not worth nearly as much as my peace of mind around my weight. And I am still trying to lose the weight I gained from them. Because I don’t know if you have ever noticed, but a human body can gain in two days what will inevitably take a month to lose.

But there is something else I am besides an addict. I am recovering. And in some ways, that makes me a spiritual powerhouse. Because I know how to look at myself honestly, make choices about how I want to live, and make commitments that keep me in line with those choices. And even if I manage to forget everything I know today, and pick up those soy nuts one more time, I have the tools it takes to put them back down. Again. And again.

 

What you see when you put down oblivion

Since this blog is an eating disorder blog, I generally keep my writing personal, and if I am going to touch on a topical issue, it’s usually one related to eating disorders. And while that is still sort of true today, I’m going to venture a little further out.

I want to talk about how the past few days have left me feeling crazy. I want to talk about rage. I want to talk about the serenity prayer. I want to talk about justice, and I want to talk about peace.

I quit sugar, grains, and starch, and put boundaries around my eating ten and a half years ago. When I did that, I put a kind of change into motion. My entire transformation was not immediate. I had a lot of stuff to clean up with myself and others. I was then twenty-eight, and had lived a life of fear, dishonesty, manipulation, and self-loathing for as long as I could remember. I was pretty far down the Anakin-Skywalker-becomes-Darth-Vader road. You know, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering….But within surprisingly few years of getting a handle on my eating, less than five, I had become someone I liked, loved and respected. I had changed the way I lived my life to point where I had found serenity.

So lets talk about The Serenity Prayer. I know that I have included it in past posts, but I am going to include it again, because it’s worth knowing:

 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

 

When I first learned this prayer, the people who taught it to me explained some things to me. They wanted me to understand the “wisdom” part. They wanted to clear up what I could change and what I could not. The things I couldn’t change included people, places, and things. I have no control over anyone else, or their thoughts, words, or actions. I have no control over past events. And I have no control over world leaders, natural disasters, or grotesque acts of violence. The things I could change were always me. I can change my beliefs, my thoughts, and my actions.

There is something else about the “courage” aspect of this prayer that I want to note. It’s about solutions. If I have a problem, there is a solution, and it is inside me.

But here’s my problem today. I am filled with rage. I am filled with rage at humans murdering other humans. But more, and more, and most, I am filled with rage at those of us defending the murders, defending the violent acts that ended the lives of others of us. I am filled with rage that fear of change, fear of losing privilege, fear of “otherness” has lead us to act, not simply believe, but ACT in a way that declares that some humans are worth more than other humans. I am filled with rage over people, places and things that I cannot control.

And it’s impotent rage. Because for as much as I want a solution, I am not a human being killing my fellow human beings. And I am torn between wanting serenity, and fearing that my serenity will simply be a lack of action that overlooks injustice.

When every Miss America ever said that she wished, more than anything, for “World Peace,” she made it sound like a thing. Like a book, or an apple, or a hobbyhorse. Something she could unwrap under the tree on Christmas morning. Or perhaps like a magic spell that would render us docile, a planet of seven billion Snow Whites and Ned Flanders (Flanderses? – whatever….)

But what world peace would really look like is seven billion people choosing love instead of hate. Daily. Hourly. Moment to moment. It would look like seven billion people answering violence with forgiveness. It would look like seven billion people liking and loving themselves enough that they didn’t have to lash out in anger and hate, and then blame the ones they lashed out at.

In my experience, when you wrong someone, in order to live with what you have done, you have to do one of two things. You can make an amends to them, or you can justify your cruelty by making them the bad guy. In your own mind, and often, in the minds of others. Making amends is hard. Amends take the courage. Making amends is the “courage to change the things I can.” Making someone else the bad guy is easy. It’s terrible, and toxic, and leads to the kind of shame that ruins loves and lives and families, and even whole societies, but you never have to have that hard conversation. You never have to humble yourself. You never have to admit when you are wrong. And maybe most of all, you never have to experience the pain and shame and horror of what you have done. You just have to live with the incompleteness of it for the rest of your life.

I don’t know what I can do. I don’t know how to change the things I can. I have been thinking about it and thinking about it for days. I’m exhausting myself. And I have to do something with this rage, MY rage. Because it is toxic.

But whatever I do, I cannot cover my eyes and pretend that I don’t see. When I put down the sugar, I put down the oblivion. It turns out, there’s no sugar-coating when there’s no sugar. When I put down my addiction, I agreed to look with both eyes open, and acknowledge the reality of things. So I’m acknowledging reality, and the sad truth that sometimes, it f*cking sucks.

This just in: Control Freaks Suck!

So, remember how in last week’s post I wrote about how sometimes people who love me offer me food I don’t eat because they feel bad for me? And remember how I don’t mind because I say no, and I know that they love me and I love them? Yeah, well sometimes people don’t want you to say no, and they push and push, and it’s abusive and inappropriate. And that is what this week’s post is about.
Last weekend, my husband and I had people over. I knew some of them, but some were new to me. This is a story about one who was new to me.

Everything was all fine for hours, and then it happened. This visitor had brought Italian beef from Chicago. She really wanted me to eat some. And I briefly told her thank you but no.

That is usually all it takes. I smile with genuine gratitude and say “no, thank you,” and people graciously honor that. 

But that is not what happened this time. This woman did not honor my no. She pushed. She pushed for about 5 full minutes. 

So you can understand a bit about some of my food boundaries, you should know that I need to know the exact ingredients. I need them in the ingredient list. Ingredient lists are written in a specific way, descending order of quantity. Sometimes there are parentheses in the list when one ingredient, for example salsa, can be broken down into more ingredients, like tomatoes, peppers, and potentially things like corn syrup. These parentheses mean something to me. They matter. 

Now, this woman didn’t have an ingredient list. For me, that made it an automatic no-go. 

There is another important part of this story in my mind. And it’s counter intuitive, but hugely important. This person has her own food boundaries. I know because we talked about them. And I thought that would make her an ally. She also avoids sugar, though she does have it on special occasions. We laughed about it because I bought sugar for coffee because I didn’t think a guest would want artificial sweetener, especially the one I use. And I found out that she actually uses the same one I do. And we even talked about what it’s like when people try to get you to eat something you don’t eat. So, you can imagine that her pressuring me seemed to come out of left field. 

This woman who had her own experience of being pressured and abused over her own food choices was being relentless with me! She told me that I was being silly not to try the beef. That if it had flour, it was just a little. (It doesn’t matter, I can’t eat it.) Well, of course it matters. The percentage would be practically nothing. It’s just a thickening agent. It’s just…It’s only…It’s nothing to worry about. 

For about 5 full minutes she pushed me. She did it in front of other guests. She was pissing me off. And I could tell that every time I closed my eyes and took a deep breath to calm myself, she thought she had won, and was even more forceful. 

I want to be clear about something. What this woman did to me was controlling and abusive. Because she is the wife of my husband’s coworker, I had to be friendly. So I did not say “Back the f*ck off, b*tch!” But I had every right to. Nobody, and I mean absolutely NOBODY gets a say in what goes in my body but me. Not my mother, not my husband, not my doctor. If I didn’t eat the lasagna of the greatest love of my life besides my husband, my sweet grandma, there is no way in hell I’m going to appease some control freak I’ve never met before, whom I have graciously welcomed into my home.

When people refuse to honor your no, they are trying to control you, and that is a form of abuse. I want to say that, because so many of us are people-pleasers. We want to appease our spouses, our parents, our mothers-in-law, our bosses. And some of us even want to please strangers, to be considered nice. 

Like I said last week, I love it when my father-in-law offers me food. He offers out of love, and he honors me when I say no. It is a beautiful thing to be offered food as a sign of love. 

But when we are pressured repeatedly to the point of frustration, it can be easier in the moment to give in. But at what cost? That is a serious question. There is a cost, and you are the one paying it.

I once met a woman who was a recovering bulimic. She ate a food she was addicted to in order to please her mother-in-law. She was sent back into bulimia because of it, and it took her months to stop again. She said one of the most profound things I have ever heard. She said “My mother-in-law wanted to be there when I ate the pastry she made, but I’m alone when I’m in the bathroom afterward. She’s not there holding my hair back while I stick the toothbrush down my throat.”

The control freaks don’t have to live your life after they have convinced you to hurt yourself. They don’t have to deal with your consequences.

I’m hoping that this story gives you strength. I hope that if something like this ever happens to you, you can remember that you don’t have to harm yourself to please someone else. I hope you remember that it is a form of abuse. I hope you remember that you are in control of your body and your life, even if someone is trying to control you. But mostly, I just hope it doesn’t happen to you. Because it sucks, and it’s not OK.

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