onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “December, 2016”

Happy whatever it is you celebrate!

You are getting me short and sweet today, since it’s Christmas, and even the grinchiest Scrooge (like myself) has things to do and places to be.

I will say that after not having sugar for nearly 11 years, (8 days until my 11th anniversary) being in places with big spreads of food I don’t eat is not a test of courage, or fortitude. It was once, but not anymore. I don’t crave it. For the most part, I don’t even see it. I know that it’s there, but it doesn’t register. That’s as it should be. It’s not for me.

I understand that for many people, holidays and celebrations are “cheat days.” And if that works for them, then it’s good. It never worked for me. I need rules. Rules saved my life.

So if you are a person who needs rules, and are struggling with food at this time of year, here are a few tips on how to keep your eating under control at holiday parties from someone who has been there.

• Eat before you go. If you have a party to go to and the place will surely be bursting with foods you avoid, don’t go hungry.

• Bring your own food. Who knows what’s in Aunt Marjorie’s special dish, and she’s not talking. So pack up your Tupperware and have your next meal close by. It has always made me feel safe.

• Eat your favorite meals. Don’t make steamed broccoli and boneless, skinless, tasteless chicken breast when everybody around you is having party food ( unless that is your idea of party food. Then go for it!) Having your eating under control is meant to be a blessing, not a punishment.

• Have phone numbers with you of the people who can talk you off of a ledge, or more likely, away from the dessert table. I know the numbers are programmed into your phone, but your phone is a delicate machine. Write them down. On paper.

• Don’t hang around the food. Don’t stand by it. Don’t purposely go smell it. If someone is talking to you around it, ask if they mind moving, or excuse yourself. You may or may not be strong, but even if you are, you don’t need to prove it.

• Have an exit strategy. Drive yourself, take public transportation, or bring money for a cab. Don’t be entirely dependent on someone else to get you out of there. And remember it’s okay to leave. Take care of yourself first. I know it’s the season of giving, but charity begins at home.

That’s it for me today. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Joyous Festivus. Happy Solstice. Or whatever it is that you celebrate, I hope it is a peaceful and happy one.

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Resenting other people’s metabolisms is making an ass out of you and me

There is a saying among the people I know who keep boundaries around their eating: Keep your eyes on your own plate.

I have mentioned before that I don’t watch food porn. I never watch the Food Network. If one of those recipe videos comes up on my Facebook newsfeed, I click that little arrow in the corner and choose to “see less from” and “hide all from.” I don’t want to see things I don’t eat. I don’t want to see cookies and cakes, and all manner of sugar bombs.

In the beginning of getting my eating under control, I felt like the Holiday Season was hard for me because I was a compulsive eater, and there was food everywhere. But the older (and more clear-headed) I get, I realize that the Holiday Season is hard for everyone. Fine, maybe not children. (Who am I kidding? Has there ever been a single child who did not have at least one meltdown in the overwhelm of the end of the year festivities? I’m going to go with no.)

Holidays are overly emotional times of year where we obligatorily visit with the people in our lives who know best how to upset, enrage, and mortify us. I am not saying that we don’t love our families. I am saying that family is difficult. For everyone everywhere. And for many, it’s sugar (or sugar’s delinquent brother alcohol), and not music, that soothes the savage beast.

Overeating is the rule and not the exception from Thanksgiving to January 2nd. Basically everyone gains weight over the holidays. It is so pervasive it is the topic of much holiday humor and the reason practically everyone’s New Year’s Resolution is to lose 5-10 pounds.

But there is something else I want to note, that I don’t think I understood until I got my own eating under control. People who don’t have eating disorders or weight problems might gain some weight over the holiday season, they might even be doing some comfort or binge eating to deal with the stress, but most of them are still managing their food. They give themselves a little leeway, but they are not eating whatever they want whenever they want. Some do this management unconsciously, and some do it in their heads, and some might even keep a log of it. But they are actively thinking about what they are eating, and what effect it is having on their bodies.

I have spoken about this with compulsive eaters who have boundaries around their food, or I have heard them speak of it, or read their writing on it. Many of us used to think that “naturally thin” people were eating the way we were eating and not gaining weight. We decided that we were unfairly cursed. But what was often happening was we were seeing people eat the way we were eating, but we were never seeing what they weren’t eating behind closed doors.

I might pig out with someone at a holiday meal, and not realize that they were not eating the rest of the day. Or they were going home to have, as a friend’s sister would say, “a bowl of chicken soup and half a cup of dry popcorn.” While I would have another meal, plus all of the leftovers that the host sent me home with.

People with a healthy relationship with food do not “eat whatever they want and not get fat.” Or if they do, it’s because whatever they want is a salad. Or a single piece of fruit, not dipped in chocolate. Eating high-sugar, high-calorie foods and not gaining weight is not the way life works.

I suppose there are people with crazy metabolisms, but they are few and far between. If you know someone you think is “naturally thin,” chances are that what they really are is “naturally conscious” of what goes into their bodies.

As an addict, I know that I cannot handle my sugar. I am incapable of stopping at one, or a taste, or a little. And I might mistakenly think that nobody else can stop after one, or a taste, or a little either. And if I hold onto that assumption, and look around, I might mistakenly believe that life must be incredibly unfair because they are not physically large.

But that would be a lot of mistaken assumptions. So I make a point to keep my eyes on my own plate. And there is something else I do, especially over the holidays. I make sure that my food is amazing. I make sure it’s decadent and delicious and abundant. I make sure that if, by accident, my eyes happen to wander onto another plate, that when I look back at my own, I am positively enraptured.

Three sentences and a pretty picture

I read a meme the other day that said “Make yourself a priority once in a while. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary.”

It seemed innocuous enough, but good golly did it get under my skin. Let me tell you what frustrated me about it.

First, we should always make ourselves a priority. Not once in a while. Not when we are on the brink of a nervous breakdown. As a way of life, we should be making it a point to meet our own needs. I am talking about self-care. You could call it “radical self-care,” but that is simply an illustration of the way so many of us think we have to be some sort of revolutionary extremist to love ourselves.

Many of us (especially, but not exclusively women) put a kind of grotesque value on diminishing ourselves for the benefit of others. And for the most part, society praises us for this. I do not. I do not honor or cherish this. You will not get a high five from me for neglecting yourself for someone else.

If our own health, happiness, wellbeing, and life are our real priority, as the rule and not the exception, then we will be exponentially better equipped to handle a situation where we have to help someone in real need. And we will be better able to deduce when it is time make someone else a priority, and what exactly it is that we can sacrifice that will help our loved ones without harming ourselves.

Second, self-care is not ever selfish. For some reason, the way this meme is worded, it feels more like it reinforces the idea that to care about one’s self is actually selfish (unless you only do it “once in a while”, then it’s necessary. *blech*) When I say self-care, I am not talking about getting everything you want. But I don’t think this meme was made for people who choose to live out a perpetually drunken party life rather than spend quality time with their children. It is almost certainly for the people who can’t manage to eat a balanced meal, or make time to work out, or give themselves 20 minutes a day to meditate, or pray, or walk outside, or just pause, because their schedule is full of everyone else’s errands, needs and appointments.

I would like you to consider that all of the time that we spend making someone else a priority is time that the other person is not exercising their ability to be, or experiencing themselves as being, capable and self-sufficient. And regarding children, they do not learn by hearing what we say, they learn by watching what we do. So when we make everyone else a priority at the expense of our own health and wellbeing, we are teaching our children to do the same.

No matter what is going on in my life, I eat within my boundaries. It is my primary act of self-care. It keeps me nourished, grounded, clear-headed, and peaceful. Nobody’s wants, needs, feelings, or agendas come before that. I don’t allow anyone to get in the way of it. And it goes beyond that. I am constantly gauging what I can give and what I can’t, in every area of my life. I am always looking out for myself first. Not only, but first. And what the people in my life get in return is a healthy, confident, happy woman who is available for them. I am able to help, guide, nurture, and love, because I take care of myself. And my ability to make myself a priority, and even say “no,” means that when you get me, you get me 100%. You get me present, capable, efficient, and useful.

Third, on the surface, these acts might seem like acts of love and sacrifice, but I have played this game, and for me, and I think for many, they were, and are a scam. When I have made everybody else’s life a priority, I was actually making myself a priority. But not in the obvious way. Not in the way I was selling it. I was making my drama the priority. I was saying “I put your life first, constantly put your needs in front of my own, and sometimes even at the expense of my own needs. And now you owe me.” Maybe I want martyrdom, a holy place where I am lauded for having done the most, but in return have gotten nothing but pain and suffering (and maybe even a nervous breakdown.) Or maybe you owe me everything done exactly my way. Or maybe you owe me your feelings of guilt, shame and misery. Or maybe you owe me staying forever and never being able to leave, even if the relationship is terrible for both of us. Or maybe you just owe me “the right” to be mean and cruel, a free pass to crap all over you when I feel like it. Like when I’m on the verge of a breakdown. But make no mistake. You owe me, and I plan on collecting.

When I put myself first, you don’t owe me anything. Why not? Because I am already taken care of! So if I make myself a priority, and I help you, it’s because I have something to give, and I get to enjoy being generous. And I am able to be generous because I am giving from my surplus.

And finally, I really hate the phrase “once in a while.” It is so non-specific. I know it’s a meme, but it’s still wishy-washy. “Every once in a while” is a limp handshake (along with it’s cousins “more” and “more often,” as in I’m going to drink “more” water, and exercise “more often.”) And the vapidity of it means one gets to feel like one has done something, without ever having to actually change.  When I hear “once in a while,” what I think is “Not today.” Phew! Dodged that bullet! (*wipes sweat from brow*) And then I forget about it. I am not out in my daily life looking for that “once in a while” moment. I am business as usual.

If you want to take care of yourself, for realsies, then figure out what you can do to nurture yourself, every day, or every week, as a practice. Perhaps it’s making time to cook every day so you eat less fast food, or carving out 20 minutes for yourself to journal so that you can get your thoughts out of the echo chamber that is your own mind. Find one thing that makes your life happier and more fulfilled, or more peaceful and less stressed, and don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of it.

So what is my contribution? What would my meme be?

If you want to live in a world of love, love yourself first. Self-care keeps us whole and healthy. And a world of whole, healthy people must necessarily be world of love.

img_1948So, fine, it’s not catchy. But it makes my point in 3 sentences with a pretty picture.

 

I trust my gut (except about cake)

I have had a couple of things happen in the past week or so that have made me question my savvy.

The first incident happened late last week. I jog my two miles in the morning, and I usually start before sunrise. On this particular day, it was drizzling. (In case you are wondering, I wear one of my husband’s reflective vests so I can be easily seen.) At one point on that route, I would run for about a quarter mile with no houses nearby. There are some buildings, but they are set back about a block from the sidewalk where I would run, not to mention that the whole area is fenced off.

While I was approaching an intersection on that houseless stretch the other day, I noticed a black pick-up slow down, and then stop. I was wary. I veered off a little to run farther away from the truck, when the man inside it got out. Now I know that southerners are friendly, but this was a huge red flag for me. I yelled at this guy to “stay the f*** away from me,” but he kept approaching and just smiled at me and asked if I wanted a ride. Now I don’t care where you are from, if a woman tells you to stay the f*** away from her, the next right action is always to immediately leave her alone. So I veered even farther away from him and yelled at him that I was going for a run, he was scaring me, and “don’t get out of your f***ing car!” At which point he got back into his truck and sped off, clearly furious, tires squealing.

This man set off my fight or flight reaction. Do I know that he was up to no good? I don’t. But do I think so? I sure do.

When I talked to my husband about it later that night, he said that he suspected that this man was just flirting with me. But we agreed that I would change my route so that there are houses around me the whole time. Plus he got me a whistle and a can of pepper spray.

Then this week, a man knocked on my door and said that he was from the local fire department and he wanted to check that my smoke detectors were working properly. I believed him, but I told him that I was not from the south and that where I am from, we do not let people into our houses. Then I posted about it on Facebook, and a handful of people I know from New York and Chicago freaked out. They thought it was a scam. They were sure this man was dangerous, or at least out to rob me. But this man did not set off my fight or flight reaction. I was simply being cautious. However, I did call the fire department and it turned out that the guy was legit. I live in an apartment that is attached to another apartment, and in those circumstances, the fire department here does, indeed, send someone out to check the smoke detectors.

The man who answered the phone at the fire department was very nice. We joked and laughed a little, and he said that it was fine that I did not let the man in the house. That my safety should be a priority and that I did the right thing.

When one lives in places like New York City, or Chicago, one acquires a set of skills for reading the atmosphere. I have long prided myself on my street smarts. But the truth is that living in a smaller town, especially a southern one, is different. People tend to be more trusting, and friendlier. And because of that, the way official business gets done is in a friendlier and less “official-feeling” way. I’m sure that the people who were born and raised here think it’s better this way. I’m sure they appreciate the neighborly ambiance of their culture. But to a Chicagoan and a New Yorker, yeah…not so much…

So these two incidents, and more specifically, other people’s reaction to them, had me start to doubt myself. They started to make me feel crazy, or at the very least, like I was losing my “instincts.” My husband thought I was overreacting to the man in the truck. My city friends thought I was not being vigilant enough regarding the man at the door. And I started to question myself. Am I losing my street smarts? Am I not seeing things clearly?

I often talk about the clarity and confidence I get from keeping boundaries around my eating. One of my favorite benefits is that I don’t doubt myself. I always felt that getting my eating under control only made those atmosphere-reading skills stronger and more reliable. But when my reactions were repeatedly called into question, especially after years of small town living, I began to call those skills into question.

When I first put boundaries around my food, people in my life (and strangers too) had a lot of opinions. People questioned whether it was healthy to give up carbohydrates. They thought I was losing too much weight. Or losing it too quickly. They thought it was “crazy” to give up sugar forever. They said I should eat it once in a while. They said I should have a cheat day. They said it was okay for my birthday, a holiday, a special occasion. They said it was just one bite. Thankfully, at that time, I had the wherewithal to realize that I was experiencing, from my strict boundaries, a peace and freedom that I had never experienced from moderation, or just one bite, or sometimes. I trusted my gut. (I mean my instincts, not my stomach. My stomach was still campaigning for cake then.)

I think what happened in the past week or so was an important lesson for me. It was a good reminder that I am still clear-headed and perceptive. It was a good reminder that I not only can, but should, trust my instincts. It was an opportunity to reaffirm for myself that, while I may ask for help sometimes, or for a sounding board sometimes, or for someone else’s opinion sometimes, I don’t have to doubt myself or question my clarity. That I am just as savvy, even after all this time in small town America. And it was a chance to recognize that I do not have to listen to the chatter that tells me to question myself.

The truth is, I was pretty sure that the man from the fire department was who he said he was, and I still did not let him in the house. You can take the girl out of the city, but it’s a damn sight harder to take the city out of the girl. But I am grateful that these incidents brought something to my attention; it was not that my instincts were getting eroded, but my confidence in them. And now I feel pretty confident. I know that the people who questioned and doubted did so out of love. And I can be grateful, and honor that. But I don’t have to trust them more than I trust myself.

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