onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “August, 2016”

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I was taking to a friend the other day about compromise. She was confused about why someone was acting a certain way when a compromise would be easy. I told her that this person most likely didn’t want to compromise. My friend asked, “then what do they want?” It was funny to me because the answer was obvious to me, but because of the nature of my loving and generous friend, she could not imagine it. She could not fathom that people want what they want. They want to win. They want complete and total victory.It’s perhaps obvious to me because I lived like that for so long, wanting what I wanted, feeling defeated or put upon if I had to let go of my (often grand and exorbitant) expectations. Feeling cheated and wronged by anyone who got even a fraction of what they wanted at the expense of the total of what I wanted.

Addiction makes most of us self-centered in the most unhealthy ways. We believe we should have all the good, and yet we expect everyone else to deal with the bad. We decide that we deserve our good fortune, but in the face of bad fortune, or even just the consequences of our bad decisions, we condemn life as completely unfair, and others as wicked, cruel, and out to get us.

This ultimately comes down to our attachment. Attachment to the way we want things to be. Attachment to our expectations.

In recovery, I had to learn non-attachment. Non-attachment is a spiritual idea that I have known about for some time, but was unable to practice until I got my eating under control. When I was younger and searching for a spiritual practice to make me feel whole, I read a slew of self-help, spiritual, and religious books. Zen Buddhism books talk a lot about non-attachment. But I was never able to fully grasp it until I put boundaries around my eating. I am sure that had something to do with the fact that addiction is attachment. It is attachment to one’s substance, the belief that you simply cannot live without it.

In recovery, I had to learn that I could only control my own thoughts, words, and actions. Of course this started with the food. I was no longer going to eat cake. Ever. And I was going to have to come to terms with the fact that other people were. And that I could not be resentful of that, or I would be in danger of ending up back in food hell. Even if They weighed 300 pounds and were diabetic. Even if I thought they were sugar addicts like me. I made a choice for myself and the only person I could expect to live the way I wanted to live was me. And soon, it became clear that this needed to be true in all areas of my life.

I do not get a say in what others think, say, or do, and (here’s the kicker) that is exactly as it should be. It was confronting to realize that I was not the center of all of my dealings in the world. It was painful to accept that I, not only would not, but should not always get everything I desired. But there is also something very freeing about recognizing someone’s autonomy as sacred, rather than inconvenient. 

I do not claim to be a guru. But I am good at non-attachment. Not because I think it is holy, but ultimately because it is convenient. I live a happier life knowing that other people’s choices and behaviors have nothing to do with me. Of course I still want things. And yes, there are things that are important to me that I do not get. But that’s life. And that’s another thing I have found since I put boundaries around my eating. When I don’t fight against other people’s choices, trying to force the outcome I think I want, in the long run, life always gives me better than I thought I wanted in the first place.

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Not a night owl or a vampire, just a sugar addict.

I used to think I was a night owl. I loved to stay up into the wee hours of the morning. I kept what people call the vampire hours. I would read, write, watch movies, and sometimes even do things like sew, crochet, or make some kind of DIY project. I would be happily awake until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any more.

But of course, I had a terrible time getting out of bed. I would get 4-6 hours of sleep most days, and then sleep for 12 or more hours wen I had a day off. I regularly overslept for appointments. And I was unhappy to be awake. The daylight hours were a burden. And because I hated it so much, I had a lot of disdain for people who loved the morning.

I have come to realize in the past ten years that I am not a night owl by nature. I am a sugar addict. All of that energy that kept me awake was from sugar, from being high on sugar. That’s how I stayed up all hours of the night. And when I couldn’t keep my eyes open, I wasn’t falling asleep, I was passing out.

When it comes down to it, I have a love/hate relationship with people. I’m fun and funny and charming (and humble, as my husband would point out.) But I am an addict. And addicts are, by definition, bad at relationships. I am anxious. I want to be liked. I am afraid of humiliation. So, along with being hopped up on sugar, I was probably awake in the middle of the night because it was time when I could be alone. Being alone in the dark with a chocolate cake and a pack of cigarettes was always easier for me than being out in the world where the other humans were wandering free. (By the way, I still love to be alone. To this day I spend a lot of time in solitude, and it is a necessity for my happiness. I may not be a night owl anymore, but I am still, and will probably always be, a loner.)

So when I gave up sugar and put boundaries around my eating, I stopped getting the energy at night from the sugar, and wound up sleeping at night. And because I was eating nutritious food, I wasn’t passing out from my drug, but actually sleeping. So I would wake up refreshed.

And then I realized that I love the morning. I love the quiet and the stillness (or relative stillness when I was in New York City.) It’s funny, because it was really a gradual change. 10 years ago, morning was 8 a.m. (Hey, for a girl who couldn’t drag her butt out of bed before noon without threat of death, 8 was pretty freaking early. I was impressed with myself.) Eventually morning became more like 7. And then was really 6 or 6:30. And now, in the past 5 months, I get up every day at 5:30.

I take my jog early, have breakfast, run errands, do a silent knitting meditation, and write for 3 or 4 hours. I get all of these things done in a day before the sugar addict night owl I used to be would even have gotten out of bed.

But there is another reason that I can love the morning, another reason I can happily wake up at 5:30 and not be cranky and angry. I go to bed. I regularly sleep 8 hours a night. It’s important to me. I don’t hate going to sleep like I used to. I don’t fight to keep my eyes open a little longer. I am not afraid I am going to miss anything. I look forward to the end of the day, when I lay on the couch and read a little. Maybe I still want to read one more chapter, but I know that the book will be there tomorrow. And there is something satisfying about another day done.

I really believed once that being a night owl was an unalterable part of being me. I thought it was the way I was made. And it made my life harder. It’s hard on a person’s spirit to always be late, or worried about being late. It’s hard to live in a body that is in physical pain from lack of restful sleep. It’s hard to be cranky and angry because it’s daytime. So I am glad to be a morning person, even if young Kate would look at me with disdain. She can think what she likes.

Let’s not spread it around like germs

It is hot here in Kentucky. For the past few days, it has been in the nineties, but the heat index has it feel like 100-105 degrees. And yet, I am not suffering. In fact, I am enjoying it. (Though I could do with fewer bugs, thank you.) In recent years I have found that I am always cold. Sometimes I sit out on my porch in the morning and if it’s only in the high seventies, I need to put on a sweater. Seriously. Always. Freaking. Cold. So I am absolutely loving that I can go sit outside in as few, teeny tiny clothes as possible.

 

When I was eating compulsively, I was basically always hot. I was so generally warm that I didn’t wear a coat in the winter in Chicago. I would sweat pretty much constantly, no matter the season, no matter the temperature. And on top of that, I was so ashamed of my body that in the summer, I would keep myself covered up. I would wear jeans under long dresses no matter how hot it got; so that was even more sweating.

 

I would guess that between the ages of 14 and 22, I didn’t own a bating suit. If I did, I don’t remember, and I would guess that I didn’t use it very much. The idea of being seen in a bating suit was terrifying to me. I want you to think about that. I was more comfortable wearing layers of clothing in the scorching heat than I was letting people see my legs, arms and shoulders. I probably didn’t get in a pool, lake or sprinkler for eight years because it was more comfortable to be oppressed by the sun than it was to be oppressed by the potential judgment of strangers. I was both ashamed of myself, and afraid that others would shame me as well.

 

And here is the thing about body shame: it doesn’t go away easily. It didn’t go away because I lost 150 pounds. In fact, it was never just going to go away. It had to be dismantled and I was the one who had to dismantle it.

 

I still have to dismantle it. Here’s the thing, I am not fat. I am 5’6 ½”, I wear a size 6/8. But I am curvy. I have wide hips and round thighs and a belly. And those things can make me feel fat. My thighs rub together. For various reasons, one of which is being fat during my formative years, I am knock kneed. (It is actually a pretty common phenomenon among women because we tend to have wider hips than men.) My upper legs lean toward one another while my lower legs lean away. Because of this, my thighs have always rubbed together. Even at my very thinnest, probably 20 pounds lighter than I am now, when I was wearing size small clothes, my thighs rubbed together. The only way they would stop rubbing together is if I became skeletally thin, and frankly, maybe not even then. Sometimes that makes me feel fat. I have a lot of extra skin and stretch marks and sometimes that makes me feel fat. I have broad shoulders, I have large calf muscles, I have flabby arms. Sometimes every single one of those things makes me feel fat.

 

And it’s not just because I used to be fat. It’s definitely not just me. The other day, on Facebook, there was a picture of a friend (a real natural beauty by any standards) and she made a comment about looking “pregnant” (which I read as fat.) Just to be clear, she did not look either pregnant or fat. And I commented on it, because frankly, it freaked me out. I will admit that it was none of my business, and I probably shouldn’t have made a comment, but I did. In my wishful thinking, I hoped that at least she would acknowledge that like me, while she might feel fat, she at least understood intellectually that she was not. But she declined. She said that at least we could agree that it was an unflattering picture. At that point I had already overstepped my bounds, so after that I kept my opinion to myself, but you know what? No. I am telling you, my lovely readers, that I refuse to agree that it was an unflattering picture. It was a picture of a real woman with a real body, doing real things. What is unflattering about having a body big enough to actually house a full set of human internal organs?

 

I refuse to accept that the only beauty is the hyper-specific set of characteristics that the beauty and fitness industries acknowledge. I refuse to accept the idea that what I am right now at this very moment is anything less than enough. I refuse to look a beautiful woman and agree with her when she tries to convince me that she is lacking.

 

I know that I cannot change others. But I can change myself, and the best way to do that is not always by changing my body, though obviously as a woman who lost over a hundred pounds, I am a proponent of that as well. Sometimes, the best way for me to change is by loving and accepting my body as it is. And what that often looks like for me is to take small actions that make me feel uncomfortable, until they are comfortable. And then I can take another small action that makes me uncomfortable.

 

I can think of so many examples of little obsessions that I managed to let go of. When I was overweight, I never wore a top that didn’t cover my butt. Even after I lost weight, it took something to get over this. It was burned into my brain that by not hiding that I had a lower body, I was somehow being rude to others. When I first started working out about 15 years ago, I wouldn’t wear spandex workout clothes; I would only wear things that were loose fitting, never mind that they might be less comfortable or might even make it more difficult to move around.

 

Several years ago, when I was my thinnest, I started wearing a bikini when I went to my (mostly) secluded New York City roof to sunbathe. I would never have gone out in public like that, but at that point just putting on a bikini was a huge step for me. That I owned a bikini felt daring. Years later, and thirty pounds heavier, I started wearing my bikini in public. And not in a shy, apologetic way. I didn’t hide. I didn’t avoid talking to people (I am a friendly person.) I was just being myself, with more skin showing. It was uncomfortable the first few times, but when I did it often enough, it became “just the way it was.” In fact, I have four bating suits right now, but I only wear two of them, because the others are not bikinis and I decided that I prefer bikinis. My running clothes are spandex now. I wear them because they are made of moisture wicking material. Do they look great? I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t wear them to dress up, I wear them to run.

 

I’m not saying that I am totally free of self-judgment, especially around my body. I have some super-serious body image disorders that I expect will dog me my whole life. But I refuse to kowtow to them. I refuse to spread them around like germs. I refuse to accept them as truth. And I absolutely refuse to prioritize my life around hiding things that some people call flaws, which are really just the realities of living in a human body on the planet Earth.

Perseverance, exhaustion, and bedroom slippers

I used to spend a lot of time trying to decipher what things meant. Why I felt a certain way, why circumstances were what they were. I thought that everything was significant. And I needed to understand it all If I was going to crack the code of life. What I have come to understand since I got my eating under control is that it is not my job to crack the code, if there even is one. 

In the past few weeks, I have been writing for five hours a day as part of my daily routine. And it has pointed something out to me about myself: perseverance exhausts me. 

On certain days of the week, I might end up staring at a blank document on my laptop for what seems like an eternity, typing a few sentences, and then just discarding the whole thing. I might do this over and over again for much of the day. On days like this, nothing productive is going to get done after that. Because after hours of fulfilling a commitment for the sake of my integrity, I’m just plain spent. I’m going to do something escapist for the rest of the day, like read a novel or some manga, or watch TV.

But other days, the writing seems to pour out of me. I get my hours in, I make some notes about what more I have to say when I pick back up, and I feel particularly accomplished. On those days I still have the energy to do whatever else. Maybe I do some laundry or run an errand or work on knitting my sweater. The other day, I managed to clean the whole house, including mopping and vacuuming, after an easy writing session.

But here is the lesson, as I see it. The me before I had my eating under control would have expected to always be able to write easily and then clean the whole house. If it was possible once, it should always be possible. But those kind of expectations lead to burnout. Just like eating within my boundaries, or jogging 2 miles a day, or almost anything I do in my life, the goal is consistency, not perfection. The goal is to be able to do these good things for myself for the rest of my life. One day at a time, yes, but hopefully forever. Which is why I make sure that my food is delicious as often as possible, even if it’s not particularly low in calories, and why I focus on running my committed number of miles, rather than working to get faster or run longer or some other method of upping my running game.

When I first put boundaries around my eating, people who had boundaries around their eating told me that if the only thing I could do in a day was eat my meals and not eat anything else, that was enough. They told me that everyone needs a “bedroom slipper day” once in a while. They told me that I should be gentle with myself.

Which was something new to me, frankly. When I couldn’t stop eating, everything in our society and culture told me that I was lazy. The media and the people around me, knowingly or unwittingly, told me that I was not working hard enough or doing well enough, because if I had been, I wouldn’t have been fat. I was cruel to myself. I was hateful to myself. I expected perfection from myself, and when I failed to be perfect I quit. Just one more log on the not-good-enough fire.

But finding out that I could give myself a commitment, and that it would be a benchmark of daily accomplishment, was a revelation. Suddenly there was a minimum that I could do that was attainable, and it would be, by definition, “enough.” This made everything so much less scary. And so much less significant. 

I believe in perseverance. I believe in it because I believe in commitment. Because of my willingness to persevere, I have learned a lot about myself, how powerful I am, and what I can accomplish. But for the sake of peace and sanity, I also have to admit that it takes something out of me. And that I need to replenish before I can move on. 

I have had to learn that replenishing myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, is just as important as the perseverance itself. I have had to realize that just because I have the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé, doesn’t mean I can accomplish what she can. And I’m A-OK with that, my friends.

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