onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “September, 2016”

Fat Girl Sh*t

My best friend, like myself, is a compulsive eater who has had boundaries around her eating, and has been a healthy weight for over a decade. Sometimes we will be talking, and one of us will say something and the other one will say, “No, no. That’s not true. That’s just old fat girl shit.”

“Fat girl shit” can be any number of thoughts that I have about myself that are rooted in how much I hated and was disgusted by my body when I was fat, and how I assumed others judged me based on my expectations that they also hated and were disgusted by my body. It does not matter how long I have been a healthy weight, or had my eating under control. These are old old thoughts. These are paths I’ve worn into my brain by thinking them consistently for as long as I can remember. This is exactly the kind of thing that I have to dismantle on a regular basis.

This week, I got back in touch with a High School teacher that I haven’t seen or heard from in over 20 years. The first fat girl thought I had was that he wouldn’t remember me at all. I have this thought a lot. I have it in my head that I was not memorable, because who would want to recollect such an unattractive person. And then, if for some strange reason he did remember me, I would be remembered as the fat girl. Because being the fat girl has always been my first identity. Even now, when I can get out from under my fat girl shit, being a person with boundaries around my eating (essentially, the opposite of being a fat girl) is my primary identity. In other words, I have always been either a fat girl, or the woman who overcame being a fat girl.

But this teacher does remember me. He remembers me even though my name has changed. Not only that, he remembers, and still quotes (!?!) a line from a poem I wrote that was published in our school’s student art and literature magazine. He remembers me as “wicked funny.” (Hell yes, I will take that compliment.) He remembers me laughing a lot. But here’s the thing that threw me for a loop. He does not remember me as fat. At all. I mentioned it briefly, and he was surprised. 

I bring this up because it’s bittersweet. I am grateful to know that I was more than just a fat girl to people. And yet, I wish that my teenage self had known it too. I am sorry that Kate could never see herself as just a person first. And I am sorry that even looking back now, I have a hard time seeing that Kate as just a person first.  

I am not sorry to have found a solution to my eating problems, nor am I sorry to live in a healthy body that is easy to move around in. And my zen-like way of living reminds me that there is no other way for things to have gone except for the way they went. But I would like to make amends to that Kate for never really acknowledging her. I would like to start remembering that Kate as something more than fat. I think I’ll go with “wicked funny.”

Advertisements

Just because you won’t look at it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there

The New York Times apparently thought I’d be surprised by how many foods contain added sugar. The New York Times obviously doesn’t know me very well. Or read my blog. Which is fine…I guess…

But really, do people not know?

I know that I read labels and not everybody does. So maybe I know that there is sugar or starch added to all sorts of things you wouldn’t expect, like pork and fish. And maybe people who don’t read labels don’t realize that. But in the grand scheme of things, if you are not addicted to sugar the way I am, maybe in small amounts it’s not enough to affect you. (Though, seriously, fish? Why does anyone need to add sugar to fish?)

But do people really not know that if something tastes like candy, it has sugar in it? Seriously. Do you, as an adult, really still think Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch is part of a balanced breakfast, just because when we were kids they said so in the commercial and printed it on the side of the box? (Alright fine, it does have 25% of your recommended daily riboflavin.)

Here’s the thing. I’m not talking about everybody quitting sugar. I am sick around sugar, but I don’t pretend that everyone is. And I am a firm believer in freedom. Like I think that people have the right to smoke. But nobody is pretending that cigarettes are good for you. I was a smoker for many years, I knew what I was doing, and I did it anyway. Smokers know that smoking is dangerous. And if you tell a smoker that smoking is bad for them – which people sure do like to do for some reason – and you get a shocked response, it is sarcastic. Because everyone knows and you’re being a moron.

But we pretend that certain sugar foods are “packed with nutrition.” And we let people be shocked when somebody says that a granola bar is not that healthy; it’s mostly just sugar. But have you had a granola bar? If it tastes like an oatmeal cookie, that’s what it is. Even if it’s rectangular, and says “organic” on it. As a culture, we say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but we eat doughnuts and Pop-Tarts. Or frosted cinnamon rolls. Or various kinds of bread with syrup.

Again, the judgment is not about what we are eating, but how we are lying about it. If you want to eat sugar for breakfast, I will not try to stop you. More power to you. But you know that doughnuts are just cake. Breakfast cake, yes. Sure! But still just cake. And if I see you “look shocked” when you “find out” that the snack that you bought at the health food store, which totally tastes like a candy bar, is just a candy bar, I am going to have to call bullshit.

But here’s the thing. I get it. Because when I didn’t want to give up sugar, I also pretended that health food store candy was not candy. And I pretended that healthy meant it wouldn’t make me fat. But I wasn’t losing any weight. And I wasn’t interested in looking at the truth if it meant that I was going to come face to face with my relationship with sugar.

As a culture we are playing dumb for one another. We’re a bunch of enablers. And I think it’s ridiculous. Eat what you choose. I hope you enjoy every bite. But I also hope you have your eyes open. Not looking at the sugar, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Even Eskimos eat dessert

Yesterday, my husband decided at the last minute to go to home for a celebration that we were originally not going to attend. It was 8 in the morning and he asked how long it would take for me to get ready if I wanted to make the almost 6 hour drive. I didn’t have any meals prepared, and I was not interested in spending the next 2 hours cooking and packing, to spend 6 hours in the car, just to go home for a day and turn right back around. So he went and I stayed at our apartment. Yes, I miss him when he’s gone. Yes, even for just a day. This is just one example of how my eating boundaries can be inconvenient.

Earlier in the week, we were talking about how hard it must be on a relationship to have someone put boundaries around their food in the middle. He said he wondered how many marriages had ended because of it. He said that for him, he knew what he was getting into from the start. I had boundaries around my eating for seven years when we started dating. But even knowing that ahead of time, it is still inconvenient for him that I am sober from sugar. It is inconvenient for me to put boundaries around my food every day without exception, and I’m the one whose life is getting saved. We don’t eat out a lot, because it can be difficult for me to get what I need. We can never just order a pizza, or drive through a fast food joint. He can, but we can’t. (By the way though, I cannot imagine that being affected by my food boundaries is more inconvenient than being married to an active addict…just sayin’.)

And then he said something that I think is really important. He said that he (as I know, because I do all the grocery shopping) has a cabinet full of bread, snack cakes, starchy sides, sugar cereal and candy that I never touch, but what happens when people are already married, and one of them suddenly gives up sugar and can’t have it in the house anymore?

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it talks about avoiding alcohol as a means of staying sober. “[Some people say]…we must not have it in our homes; we must shun friends who drink…we mustn’t think or be reminded about alcohol at all.”

But the Big Book’s reply to this is that it can’t work that way. “[The addict’s] only chance for sobriety would be some place like the Greenland Ice Cap, and even there an Eskimo might turn up with a bottle of scotch and ruin every­ thing!” 

The truth about sugar, like alcohol, is that it is everywhere. I was never going to outrun it. I was never going to escape it. So I had to change my mind about it. That started with my thoughts and my words. I stopped talking about “loving” sugar. I stopped thinking about eating it. If I do think about eating it, I stop having that thought. I remember that it is poison to me. 

I don’t romanticize drinking bleach. I don’t think about how nice it would be to slit my own throat. So I also don’t think about how great it would be to harm myself with sugar now, because eating sugar would always be self-harm.

Yes, in the beginning, it is easier to keep oneself away from tempting situations. While one is still detoxing, it is a great idea to keep sugar out of your home. It is probably not the best idea to walk into a bakery in the beginning. But ultimately, one has to muster some immunity, because there is nowhere to hide. Grocery stores, coffee shops, movie theaters all have sugar foods. Even just walking down the street in some places we are bombarded with smells. Where could we go? Even Eskimos eat dessert.

So my husband gets a cabinet of sugar and carbohydrates. He gets a freezer of ice cream and pizza rolls. I pack his lunch every morning with pizza, doughnuts and Mountain Dew. It’s not mine. And the way I eat may be inconvenient, but it’s the way I eat, not the way he eats. I don’t have to be afraid of sugar. It turns out it is not going to jump into my mouth.

What goes into and comes out of my mouth

When I was eating compulsively I spent a lot of my time plotting revenge. I am not saying I necessarily carried it out, but I thought about how best to hurt the person I was angry with. I had a lot of conversations in my head where I used my razor sharp wit to cut someone down or shut them up. I thought about ways to bother and upset people who bothered and upset me. It was exciting. It gave me a self-righteous rush!

When I got sober from sugar, I had to give that up. The desire for vengeance is a byproduct of resentment. I cannot afford resentment. It is as poisonous to me as sugar itself. Resentment is one of the ways my addiction uses to convince me that I “deserve” a fix.

The truth is that there are ways that I am being treated right now that I don’t like. I consider them abusive and controlling. And there is nothing for me to do about it. I didn’t do anything wrong. But if I seek revenge, even just in my head, even if I am just cultivating disdain, I will have done something wrong. And when I have done something to wrong someone, whether or not they abused me first, I will feel the guilt of my own actions. And that will make me particularly hungry. 

But eating my feelings, especially stuffing them down with sugar, is no longer an option. So if I did retaliate against a fellow human, I would have to apologize and make amends for my actions, even if those humans have hurt me, but won’t make amends to me. It is all about me. It is only about me. Not what I want or deserve, but how I have impacted the world and the humans in it.

The good and bad news of personal responsibility is that I am accountable for all of my actions, in all ways, on every level, regardless of outside circumstances. In other words, I am responsible for what both goes into and comes out of my mouth. 

Post Navigation