onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “October, 2016”

This is not a vacation 

I am in New York City for my usual yearly visit. I come this time of year because there is a big convention (for lack of a better term) for people who don’t eat sugar and who keep boundaries around their eating. These are my people. These are the people I can look in the eye and talk about eating a box of ice cream bars in one sitting and they don’t laugh. Or if they do, it’s not because they can’t imagine, but because they can. They probably have too. But I lived in the city for just shy of 15 years, so I have lots of other people to see here and catch up with too. And I can’t fit them all in, which is a big disappointment.

Plus, it’s exhausting. I get 8 hours of sleep a night pretty religiously. But I have been out with friends I haven’t seen in at least a year, and maybe more, so it’s hard to leave laughing and catching up just to go sleep. I even ended up out past midnight last night with a good friend. It was fantastic. But that’s two nights in a row with less than 8 hours. And I’m feeling it. 

Basically, this is fun. But it’s not relaxing. I am so happy to be here, but I’m looking forward to getting back home to my routine. And my husband. I miss him while I’m in New York, and though I love New York, I don’t miss it when I’m with him.

Crazy for sugar

When I was growing up and I was active in my food/sugar addiction, everything was about food. Now that the sugar is down and I keep strict boundaries around my eating, everything is about feelings. In retrospect, it was always about feelings, but the food masked that.The craziest I have ever felt in my life, the sickest around food I have ever been, was when I was 27-28 years old. I was in a socially acceptable body, maybe even thinner than I am now. (I am a healthy weight now, but I am not skinny.) But my feelings were out of control, my eating was out of control, and the things I was doing to keep the weight off were absolutely out of control. I was constantly tormented. 
Around this time of year is when I have the most memories, or more like flashbacks, to that time, now 11-12 years ago. At that time, I was essentially starving myself. But I wasn’t losing weight. And then, my period stopped. 

I had the whole thing twisted around. I wanted my body to work like normal while I did abnormal things to it. I didn’t want to fix my eating because I couldn’t imagine a fix for it. The idea of giving up sugar never ever crossed my mind. That would have been crazy to me. It was what I lived for. It was my joy. So I wanted to eat what I wanted to eat, not have it affect my weight, and have my body be healthy. And I was getting none of those things. I was eating mediocre “diet” substitutes (lower calorie, but still full of sugar) for the things I really wanted, I was exercising to the point of hurting my body, my period had stopped, and I was still in a body that I hated.

I went to the doctor, and she asked me about what I was eating, and I lied through my teeth, and she put me on birth control. Basically, we were going to force my hormones to start working again. But what happened was I started to have these emotional outbursts that I could not stop, even though there was a little, rational voice in my head telling me that I was acting crazy. It would say things like “Don’t yell at this cab driver, it’s not his fault.” “Don’t throw a fit in the grocery store. They are just out of something, it happens.” I could see very clearly that I was being crazy, but I could not stop being crazy. This was, without a doubt, the worst time of my life. I could not imagine a way out. I truly feared that I would end up institutionalized.

The way out would turn out to be giving up sugar. Exactly the thing I was trying to keep by doing all of these crazy things. The starving, and the exercise bulimia, and the regular old stick-a-toothbrush-down-your-throat bulimia, and birth control pills that made me scream and cry like a mad woman.

The other day, I had a rough day emotionally. I was filled with a lot of anger. I was frustrated, and riled up. I did a lot of praying, and a lot of calming exercises, and a little talking to sane people, and even a little crying to get it out. But I didn’t eat over it. And the next day I was all better. 

Those feelings could have been anything. They could have been hormones, or SAD, or just a bad mood. But they did not get fed sugar, or mean-spirited acting out, or emotional outbursts, and they passed.

That is the gift of having my eating under control. My feelings are in their proper place. I get to look at them sincerely, and see if there are things in my life that I want to examine and change. But they don’t get a say in what I do, what I eat, if I keep my commitments, or if I behave kindly. They get to read the map, but they don’t get to steer the vehicle. 

Way too close to chocolate cake

I have to say that I am so ready for November 9th. Seriously. I am having a hard time emotionally. Every day, the political noise gets louder and angrier. And more than once I have been sucked in. But I don’t want to be sucked in. 

I want peace. Today my husband was watching something and I had to get up and walk away from it. It brought up so much hate and rage. 

I hate these feelings. They scare me. I am ill-equipped to handle them. And I can’t dive head first into self righteous anger. It’s a sick place for me. It’s a dangerous place for me. Each toxic, hate-filled thought I entertain is a paving stone on my personal highway to hell. And not the cool highway to hell that AC/DC was on. I’m talking more like Illinois expressways during summer construction. I’m talking about picking up my substance. Because do you know what would numb all of these uncomfortable feelings? Cake.

Consumerism in the U.S. is all encompassing, and that includes the news. I believe that people, in general, like to get riled up. It’s exciting! They like the way their heartbeats quicken. They like to yell, and berate, and accuse. They like it so much they are willing to pay for it. And somebody will always sell what everyone is willing to buy. 

I used to be one of those people. I loved to get angry. I loved to argue. I loved to show how clever I was in mean spirited ways. (I still love to show how clever I am. I just try to keep it light and friendly now.) But that kind of thinking is like peeing your pants. It feels good at first, but soon it leaves you cold and uncomfortable. 

Addiction is also like that. I would eat a cake. I would feel like I didn’t have a care in the world. For a little while. But then I would come to, and I would feel fat and gross. And the only thing left to do, the only way to get rid of that feeling, was to eat another cake.

I don’t know that I won’t get sucked back into the mire of heinous depravity that is this election season. But no matter what, I can’t take it lightly. I can’t say “that’s just the way it is.” I have to protect myself. Because It’s too close to temporary oblivion. It’s too close to resentment and righteous anger. Because it’s way too close to chocolate cake.

Misogyny and the politicians who love it

I generally try to avoid political talk. I have opinions. I vote. I occasionally get riled up enough to speak up. But I find that most political “discussions” are just an opportunity for people to get their righteous anger up and running. And I make a concerted effort to maintain my personal peace. I actively avoid the kinds of situations that will cause me to feel rage and resentment. I know that they cannot always be avoided, but I don’t go looking for a fight. But today I want to touch on something that borders on political. I want to talk about misogyny. 
When I was fat, everyone and their brother thought they had a right to talk about my body. Strangers harassed me on the street. Men I went on dates with said things like “I bet you couldn’t give that shit away.” (That is a direct quote from a blind date I went on with a good friend’s cousin!) People compared me to elephants and hippopotamuses. Blew out their cheeks and put out their arms to mimic my big belly.
I didn’t really understand that it was inappropriate for people to do that because I was so ashamed of myself. I knew it hurt, but I did not have enough self-esteem to recognize that my body, my life choices, and my level of attractiveness were nobody else’s business.

When I lost weight, people (mostly men, though some women) still thought they had the right to talk about my body. They would yell on the street that I was sexy. They would tell me I was dressed like a whore. They would grab me by the arm and try to force me to talk to them. Men would touch my ass as I walked along minding my own business. Or masturbate next to me on the train.

If you live under a rock, you may be confused as to why I am bringing this up. Well, one of the U.S. Presidential candidates has a lot of things to say about women, and what he is saying is either about their weight, attractiveness, sexual viability, or about how he believes he can assault them because he’s famous.

So I want to take this time to remind all women of some very important things. (And gentlemen, you feel free to take this advice as well. Because I love you guys too!)
1) Your body is nobody else’s business, unless you request their support. 

I have people in my life that I talk about my body with. But I choose who they are. Nobody has that right unless I give it to them. Not my parents, or my relatives, or my friends, or even my husband. I need support to help with my eating and body image disorders, so I have a small (teeny tiny, frankly) loving circle of people with whom I speak openly and honestly about my weight. I welcome their opinions and honor their suggestions because I believe in facing reality head on. I am certainly not looking for anyone who is going to help me come up with excuses to eat cake, or tell me I haven’t gained weight when I have. I am looking for true friends who help me find peace around my food and body. That doesn’t mean I welcome any and all opinions and suggestions. I don’t.

2) You are not only valuable for what you can contribute to male pleasure. 

I love to wear beautiful clothes. I like to feel beautiful. But I am not doing it for the pleasure of men. Or even women for that matter. Please don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoy respectful flirting. When a gentleman tells me in a gentlemanly way that I am looking nice, I very much enjoy it. I like that kind of friendly acknowledgement. I love seeing well dressed people feeling fine and walking with a spring in their step. I also really like being pretty. But I don’t owe being pretty to anyone. I lost 150 pounds because I hated being fat. I did it because eating was killing me. I did it because it was painful to live in a hard-to-get-around-in body. I’m saying I did it for me. Only me. Nobody else.

3) Your body is yours. Period.

I don’t care what you look like, what you are or aren’t wearing, how or if you have makeup on, or what time of day or night it is. Your body is yours and you have the right to your autonomy. There is nothing you can do to forfeit that. Nobody is allowed to touch you without your permission. 
4) You are your body, so love it no matter what size, shape, color, or age. And don’t let anyone tell you you shouldn’t love it until it’s “perfect” or “better.”

I used to pretend I was not my body. I was ashamed of it. But I was smart, clever, funny, and interesting. I liked to think that I was these things. I wanted be my mind alone. But the honest-to-god truth for all of us is that we cannot be separated from our bodies. Well, that’s not true. Of course we can, and eventually will be. It’s called death. But while we are alive, we are tied to the vessel we live in. So I decided to love my vessel. I love it with my stretch marks, and flab and so much extra skin. I love it with my crooked legs and squarish hips. I love it in spite of being bombarded with photoshopped images of impossible women. 

5) Love is not something you earn.
Love is a gift. If it is not a gift, freely given, then it’s not love. You are worthy of love, right now, exactly as you are. I didn’t feel worthy of love for a long time. And it was all tied up with being fat. So in a lot of ways, I felt unloved. But when I put down the sugar and got some clarity and self-esteem, I realized that I had been loved all along. Not by everyone. And often not by society. But by the people who mattered.

Obviously, I am a woman who lost 150 pounds, so I am a proponent of weight loss for people who are overweight. But not because I think they are lacking. I wish it for them because I know first hand that life is so much easier. I wish it because I wish everyone the kind of peace and joy and self-love that I have. I don’t want people to choose it for me, or for their potential (or current) mates, or for society. I want them to choose it as a form of self-care. And if they don’t, I hold no judgment. I have love. And I wish peace. That’s all.

Living in fog (and I don’t mean San Francisco)

I am coming to the end of a big knitting project, my first adult sweater. I have made baby sweaters before using the same techniques, but a baby sweater doesn’t take that long. An adult sweater is a task that requires time. Weeks or possibly months.

Now that the end of this one is in sight, I have decided on my next project, and it is also an adult sweater. But this one is an ambitious undertaking. It uses techniques I’m less familiar with, and is constructed differently than any of the other sweaters I have made. But most significantly, it has a complicated cable pattern that is shown in a chart. And on certain rows, you have to read the chart both backwards and opposite (knit stitches are purl stitches, and purls are knits.) I wanted to make sure that I could actually make the sweater before I bought a bunch of fancy yarn, so I took yarn I had laying around and worked the cable pattern. And while it is hard, and gave me a few hand cramps, I can absolutely do it, and do it well.

But while I was doing it, I realized that I wouldn’t have been able to if I were still eating sugar. I would not have been able to wrap my mind around it. I wouldn’t have been clear headed enough to make sense of it. Or if I could have made sense of it, the food would have made me indifferent enough to fail to take the time or spend the energy. Why bother knitting when I could just eat? Besides you can’t knit and eat at the same time.

I am really smart. And it’s a good thing. Because as a sugar addict, I was never firing on all cylinders. I got by in life by being so smart that I didn’t have to be all there. 

I stopped eating sugar on January 2, 2006. But it wasn’t until June of 2007 that My head cleared. It took a year and a half for me to come out of the fog. A fog that I had been living in since I was a child. It was such a constant presence in my life from such a young age that I didn’t even know it was there until it was gone.

I used to think that everybody else got an easier life than I did. Now, of course, that is certainly not true. (That’s just the whiny addict talking.) But I had no idea how much harder I was making it on myself by essentially being drunk on sugar all the time. I never realized how I was limiting myself, or just how muddy and muddled my thinking was. 

I know that this new project is not going to be easy. I am a great knitter, but I am stretching myself here. I am sure I will come up against things that I don’t understand, or things that are harder to do than I expect. I can anticipate that at some point, I will get confused. I am positive I will get frustrated. But I will not be incapable. I will not be incapacitated. I may be taking on a demanding task, but I will be my super smart self on top of my game. And I will enjoy every moment. Okay, maybe not the hand cramps.

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