onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “April, 2017”

A short post about planning ahead and letting go

Today’s post is going to be short and bare bones. In fact, I totally forgot about this blog until I got out of the shower and a weekly alarm was going off on my phone asking “Did you post a blog yet?” Crap!

On Monday afternoon, my husband told me we were moving to Corpus Christi, Texas. The rest of the day, I made apartment arrangements and started preparing meals for the next several days. A breakfast, lunch, and dinner each for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. On Tuesday we packed up from morning until evening with breaks to FedEx our deposit for the apartment, email various paperwork, and return our DVR and modem to the cable company. On Wednesday, we spent the morning completing our packing and cleaning, and got on the road a little after 10 in the morning. My husband in the moving truck, towing his car behind him. Me following behind in my own car. We drove until evening through a dust storm, the makings of a tornado, and then a heavily raining thunderstorm.

On Thursday, we got an early start and drove all day. We attempted to stop at about 5 so I could attend a weekly video conference meeting with some fellows who keep boundaries around their food, but that didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. We were in the middle of nowhere Texas and the motel we stopped at didn’t have fast enough WiFi for a video conference, and I didn’t have good enough service to turn my phone into a hotspot. Alas. So we just kept driving straight on through to Corpus Christi.

Here’s the deal. I never once worried about food. I had my meals prepared and in a cooler. When it was time to eat, we stopped off at a rest area and I filled up my tank and my car’s. Every evening, I put my future meals in the hotel fridge and refroze my ice packs. My days were jam-packed, and sometimes stressful, but my food was taken care of. I made a plan, prepared, and took care of my food ahead of time. And that meant that everything else was just life. A dust storm in Arkansas was life. Traffic in Houston was life. The nasty lady at the front desk of the crappy Texas motel was life. I was able to play it as it lays (laid?) because I had my food taken care of. There was no need to worry.

We pulled into our new apartment complex at 9 AM on Friday, signed the lease, and had the truck unpacked by 1. Now we have been spending our time getting used to our new surroundings, finding the grocery stores, slowly unpacking our boxes, and getting used to driving here.

All in all, the whole thing went smoothly. But it turns out I still had to write a blog. So here it is. If you want to keep your commitments, plan ahead, prepare ahead, and then just let life be life. It’s going to be life anyway.

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Let’s make normal the new normal

Let’s talk about “normalization.” It’s a buzzword right now, of course. And I understand why. For the past fifteen to twenty years, until quite recently, certain ideas about racial, religious, and gender superiority have been taboo. They were only ever uttered aloud by your crazy uncle, while drunk, at Thanksgiving, and nobody thought much about it except to roll their eyes, shake their heads, and (hopefully) send him home in a cab.

The reality of life is that people who fall on the fringes of society usually don’t feel safe, and because of that, they hide. At different periods in history it’s different groups hiding. For a long time in the United States, it was members of the LGBT community. Until about a year ago, it was the men’s rights movement, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis.

I am not a fan of the movement to “stop the normalization” of hate and hate speech. I like my white supremacists to feel safe enough to show their true colors. I like my hate where I can see it. And I have a lot of room for free speech. I am not saying I will like you. I am not saying I will respect you. And if I am in a position to withhold my money from you, I will certainly not put it in your pocket. But I am saying that I believe in your right to be a repulsive, bigoted, disgusting excuse for a human being, as long as you do not harm, or infringe upon the rights of those you encounter in your travels.

But this is not a blog about politics, and this is not a political post in my eating disorder blog. I want to talk about using normalization in our own lives for our own benefit. I want to talk about the upside of normalization.

According to the article on Wikipedia entitled Normalization (sociology), Normalization refers to social processes through which ideas and actions come to be seen as ‘normal‘ and become taken-for-granted or ‘natural’ in everyday life.”

Every day, most of us see images that promote unattainable beauty goals. We are inundated with pictures of women and girls who are already thin, sometimes unhealthily so, and those images are altered to make these women look even thinner, not to mention that they are made to appear that their skin never puckers under straps, they have no hair except for their eyebrows, and a silky mane on the top of their heads, and that hair is thick, shiny, and can seemingly defy gravity. We, as a culture, have “normalized” women (and men) who do not even exist, while vilifying ourselves for being unable to meet these literally impossible standards.

The reality is, the more we see something, the more comfortable we are with it. That’s one beautiful, fascinating function of the human brain. The more ads we see of Photoshopped supermodels, the more that occurs to us as normal. But while that can be frustrating and sickening, I would like to say that we have the power to do something about it for ourselves in our daily lives. We can take control of our own ideas of normal. But we have to actually do something if we want to “do something about it.”

In October of 2010, I stopped wearing makeup. I have maybe worn it 3 times in the past 6 ½ years. Before that time, I would not, and in my own mind could not, go through my day without makeup. I had a million excuses. I had acne, or acne scars. I had dark circles. I was single and I needed to look my best in case the man of my dreams showed up next to me on the subway.

And the first few days were hard. I was particularly self-conscious. And I felt that I must certainly be missing the love of my life. How would my beauty captivate him if I was all cystic acne and eye bags?!?! The reality, however, was that I got hit on more than ever. And after that initial period of OH GOD! WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?, I got used to my own face. And I started to recognize that there was nothing wrong with it exactly as it was. I understood that it didn’t need enhancement, and that the people telling me it did were the people who wanted to sell me concealer.

Now, I actively spend time normalizing myself to myself. For all of my eating and body image disorders, I recognize that I am way more well-adjusted than the average American woman, because I embrace myself, and look at my self in my natural state all the time. I don’t necessarily mean naked, though that too, because my body is just a body, like everybody else’s. I mean I still don’t wear makeup. I don’t dye my grey hair. I don’t wear shapewear. I don’t wear padded bras. I wear a bikini in public even though I have stretchmarks. I wear strapless and sleeveless tops even though I could probably glide a good distance if the hanging skin under my arms caught the wind just right. I don’t take pictures of myself, and then filter and adjust them until I look like a generic, washed-out, homogenized version of “woman.” I look at myself in natural states regularly and without judgment, and I look totally normal to me. Also, I avoid beauty and fitness industry ads with Photoshopped models as much as possible. (It’s hard. That sh*t is pervasive.)

So I recommend that we all start normalizing ourselves to ourselves. Let’s stop collectively averting our eyes from our bellies. Let’s stop putting on makeup to workout or walk the dog at 5 in the morning. Let’s stop untagging ourselves from every picture on social media that shows us with a double chin or a zit. Let’s start making normal, the new normal.

 

I say second-guessing, you say control freak. Tom-ay-to, tom-ah-to.

I have noticed lately that I am spending a whole lot of time and energy second-guessing myself. To illustrate, I have already written and scrapped two other blog posts for this week. This has happened before, so I don’t know if I am doing it again, like a relapse, or if I’m uncovering and dealing with a new, unexplored layer. In other words, have just reached a deeper level fear and anxiety? I don’t mean that like a burden or a problem. I live with a certain amount of fear and anxiety. I’m OK with that. You get what you get and you don’t get upset…Being aware of it like this is an opportunity to do something about it.

Perhaps upping my meditation in the past few months has brought it to my attention. I always think of life lessons as a spiral staircase. I keep coming back to the same spot, but each time on a different level. I have my issues and I revisit them again and again, but each time I am building off of the last time.

How “significant” my choices are is one of my particular lessons. What I have come to believe over the past several years is that any one choice is not so significant. But every choice is connected to, and layered upon, every other choice. So when it comes right down to it, the average of all of my choices equals the life that I have.

All in all, I have a pretty sweet life. But it could be better. And it could be worse. All depending on the choices I make.

But there is something else that I have come to believe as well. And it’s that I have to leave the results of my actions to Life (capital L.) I do the best I can in every situation, and then I have to let the chips fall where they may, because that’s what the chips are going to do anyway. I sometimes get so caught up in the minutia of my day-to-day decisions that I can forget that I’m not in charge of life, the universe, and everything. It’s always life on life’s terms, even when I am being a control freak. And this second-guessing is just me trying to control every outcome. In the moment, I am not thinking about it like that, but ultimately, that’s all it is.

When I was eating compulsively, I also thought that everything I did and said was significant. And to a certain extent it was. Because the majority of my choices were unhealthy, dishonest, fear-based, and frankly, kind of mean. And those kinds of decisions not only affected my life, but they also haunted me. Of course I was second-guessing myself. The truth is, I regretted my choices because they were regrettable. I was an addict. Making poor decisions was like my job.

When I put boundaries around my eating, I changed my choices in a pretty revolutionary way. I became honest, my word meant something, I started to consider others, and to consider myself, and what I wanted for my health and wellbeing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I made these changes because I had to if I was going to keep my eating under control. And keeping my eating under control was (still is) the most important thing I could do in a day. Addictive eating, especially sugar, was the most “significant” thing I was doing, because I was doing it all the time. It was those choices, layered on each other, day in and day out, that led to my miserable life.

Right now, the choices I am worried about, the things that are taking up room in my head, are if my niece will like her birthday gift, or if my wording was not gentle enough when I told a friend who bailed on an appointment 2 days in a row that I needed her to keep her commitment. These are not issues that need more thought. Truly, the gift is fine. I hope she likes it, but it’s a gift. It’s not something I owe anyone. And if she doesn’t like it, there’s always Christmas. And I was not harsh or mean to my friend. We had a plan, I arranged my schedule. I did not yell, or shame her. I was not passive-aggressive. I simply said, “I need you to keep this commitment because I am making time for it.” That’s a simple boundary. There is nothing to think, re-think, or over-think about.

The answer to this second-guessing is pretty simple, if not easy. It’s to let it go. It’s to stop thinking about it. It’s to trust that everything is turning out as it is supposed to. And I can do that today (probably) because my addiction is being kept at bay by keeping my eating under control. And when my substance is down, I stand a chance of making choices I can be proud of, not to mention finding and keeping my inner peace.

Somewhere between fat shaming and the feelings police

The other day I was talking to some women who, like me, keep boundaries around their eating, and also like me, happen to have had significant weight losses. And one of the things that came up was fat shaming. Not being fat shamed, but more specifically, the relatively new idea that not being fully supportive of an overweight person’s weight is necessarily fat shaming. 

I, personally, have so many conflicting feelings about this. I have so much personal experience around it. And I think that to a certain extent, we have gone too far.
First, I want to say I don’t care how fat or skinny you are if you are happy and comfortable. Frankly, I don’t even care if you’re healthy. We all make choices every day that affect our health. I am not going to shame you for smoking, or drinking alcohol. I’m not going to ask if you drink water or floss daily, or exercise. That’s all none of my business. So the idea that what you eat, or what you weigh is my business is ridiculous. 

But I was miserable when I was fat. Partially because I was an active sugar addict. But also, I hated my body. I was also especially ashamed because I felt like being fat meant that I was bad, and everyone could see it written all over my body. I hated myself. I hated myself so completely for so long that I didn’t know how much I hated myself until it stopped. And it didn’t stop for me until I quit sugar, put boundaries around my eating, and lost a significant amount of weight. 

Growing up fat, I did not believe I would ever live in a body that was easy to move around in, or easy to shop for, or that I could feel comfortable in public in. I believed that I was broken, that my body was shameful, and that I was born that way. But I was not born fat. I was born with a predisposition to be allergic (addicted) to sugar, grains, and starch. And I became an addict, and it was, indeed, written all over my body for everyone to see.

I am not interested in shaming anyone. I am not interested in fixing anyone who is clear that they are not broken. But I am more grateful than I can express that when I felt that I was broken, there was both a solution, and a person in my life who was politically incorrect enough to point me in the right direction. 

Sometimes people tell me that there was never anything wrong with me when I was fat. But I would like to respectfully say that they’re wrong. I was sick and suffering. I was crazy, and angry, and in unimaginable pain. 

I am not saying that fat shaming is ever OK. And I know from experience that loving and accepting yourself exactly the way you are is the first step to making real, lasting lifestyle changes. But I would like to make sure that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I don’t want to be so interested in being the “feelings police” that we let people suffer and hate themselves because we are afraid to speak openly and plainly about sugar addiction, eating disorders, and self-care.

When the most exciting thing to happen is that nothing exciting happened

One of the hardest things about writing a weekly blog about a specific topic is sometimes nothing interesting happens in a week. This past week was one of those weeks.

It’s not that nothing happened. At the mall I found a spring jacket I had been longingly imagining. My mouth is healing nicely from my pulled tooth last week. I did my writing and my jogging and my meditation. But the food and body image and eating disorder parts of my life were pretty much non-issues.

I guess the only thing I have to say about that is this is not the time to get complacent.

I am vigilant about my food boundaries all the time because easy weeks don’t mean I’m “fine” now. I don’t have a healthy relationship to food all of a sudden just because at this particular moment in time I don’t hate my body and I am happy and peaceful. It’s true that I almost never worry about eating foods that I am addicted to anymore. After over 11 years, the way I think about sugar and carbohydrates is certainly different. I do not desire them in any way. I do not think nice thoughts about them, or wish I could have them. I think of them as poison. 

But here is the point: It is not only that I am vigilant with my food boundaries because I think of those foods as poison, it is also the other way around. I think of sugar and carbohydrates as poison, because I am vigilant about my food boundaries. The two feed one another. They are a virtuous cycle. They are the opposite of how I used to use foods I am addicted to to mask how I hated myself, which made me fat and crazy and made me hate myself even more, which made me eat foods that I am addicted to.

For whatever reason, pity or discomfort or whatever, many people really want to believe that so many years with my food under control means I have proven that I am all better now. They think surely I can eat like a normal person now, after proving my willpower year after year. 

But I have to remember that I have a physical allergy to sugar, grains, and starch. That eating it sets up an unnatural craving for more of the same. I have to remember that one bite would set off a wild ride of physical, mental, and emotional turmoil, not to mention, most likely, a 150 pound weight gain in less than a year. That’s not an exaggeration. 12 or 13 years ago, before I gave up sugar, after I relapsed on a diet I was on, I gained 60 pounds in 3 months. That’s how I eat when I don’t keep strict boundaries.

Don’t be fooled by 11+ years of respite. The food addict in me is still there. She’s on a tight leash, but only because I am meticulous in my food life. 

But having said all that, it’s still nice to have a peaceful week where the most exciting thing to happen around my eating is that nothing happened around my eating. 

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