onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “August, 2017”

The strictly proverbial icing on the nonexistent cake

This week was an exciting food week for me. First, I found my favorite winter seasonal flavored coffee, cinnamon sugar cookie. (It’s even better than gingerbread, and frankly, blows pumpkin spice out of the water.) Now I usually hate it when companies start selling a season months in advance, and I certainly found it ridiculous that there was a “fall scents” display in my local grocery store this July. And if I were in New York or Chicago staring down an actual winter, I might be more annoyed than excited to find this coffee. But on the other hand, it is reaaaaaaaally good, and I’m in southern Texas where I will not have to wear four layers of pants to leave my house. Ever. So yay yummy coffee!

And then I found a meat market that will custom make me mild Italian sausage with no sugar, grains, or starch. I have not been able to find an Italian Sausage I can eat since I left the Chicago area. In fact, I was buying a bunch of it there when we traveled home to visit family, and driving it back to Kentucky in a cooler and freezing it. Now, we don’t go home by car. So we have not had sausage in months! Months I say!

And then somebody told my husband about a meat market, and I called and asked about the ingredients in their fresh sausage, and of course, it had sugar in it. But the guy told me that he could make custom orders. And he talked me through all of the ingredients one at a time, seasonings and spices, hog casing and pork, to make sure that I could have everything on the list. I had to order 25 pounds. It’s a lot. But I will freeze it, just like I did before. And it’s Italian sausage! I get to eat Italian sausage again!

Look, this has been a rough week for me emotionally. Possibly for you too. I have been heartbroken, frustrated, furious and disgusted. These kinds of emotions, and the kind of fear and anxiety about the future that I have been experiencing, are what I ate over when I was eating sugar and eating compulsively. Now I don’t eat those feelings.

But eating still makes me happy. Happier now because it is guilt free and still keeps me in a comfortable body. So I am grateful for yummy seasonal coffee, and sausage I can eat. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for so many little things, laughing with my husband, making new friends (human and animal), the time and ability to make Star Wars amigurumi (crocheted dolls), but for this recovering food addict, the food ones don’t hurt. In fact, they are the strictly proverbial icing on the nonexistent cake.

Like with most things, “free” foods aren’t really free

Last week I wrote about my belief that if you are fat and you want to lose weight and keep it off, I recommend giving up your binge foods for good. For me, my personal binge foods are specifically sugar, grains, and starch. I do sometimes eat high sugar vegetables like onions or winter squash, but I eat them in smaller quantities than if I were eating cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts or broccoli. I do also eat fruit for breakfast every day, but I even watch what kind of fruit I eat. I don’t eat bananas, cherries, or grapes, to name a few. I don’t eat any foods that will trigger my cravings.

I wanted to bring this up again because I want to say that what I do is simple, but not easy. But that it is possible. The problem is that it sucks. Only in the beginning, but the beginning lasts a long time. My beginning lasted a year and a half.

But I want to say that it was worth it to get past the suck. It was worth it to suffer through the pain of it for 18 months. I have never been happier.

When people ask me how I lost my weight, which they do (I get it – 150 Lb. weight loss is noteworthy) , and I tell them I gave up sugar, most people are already not listening. If I get to tell them that I also gave up grains and starches, and I eat specific quantities, most people are now half way down the block heading to some appointment they suddenly remembered. Some even look at me in shock, or think I am joking when I say that I not only control the portions of my proteins and fats, but also the vegetables that I eat, including salads.

We live in a culture where we have been sold an idea that we should be able to eat with impunity. That we should never be hungry. That we deserve a reward in the form of a cookie or a donut for doing the most basic tasks (also known as “adulting.”)

So when we are on a diet, we want foods to be “free.” I have been on those diets before. Pickles are free. Salads are free. Celery is free. You can eat as much of those things as you want on many diets and food programs. I, personally, see two problems with this way of thinking. 1) If the vegetables are “free,” that means that what we are saying is that food that “counts” is, at least in part, empty calories. The cake counts, the bacon counts, the ice cream counts. But the broccoli doesn’t count? Vegetables are food! They count. Why are we, as a culture, acting like they don’t? Why are we calculating and shifting and moving and negotiating to put crap in our bodies every day, and as much as our diet allows? And 2) I needed to stop eating. Eating was making me miserable, and not just because I was fat. I needed to learn to be in any given moment and not be shoving something into my face.

Part of the reason I was fat was because I could not stop, and here I was being told how to eat all day, and lose weight. Now, it may not “matter” in terms of my weight if I was eating celery all day (which, by the way, I would never do, because I hate celery with a passion), except that I was eventually going to go off that diet, and I was going to continue to eat all day, except that time I was going to eat sugar, and carbs, because those were the foods I wanted, and I already had this idea that it somehow made sense to eat non-stop. This idea that we could eat all day, and eat all of the foods we “love,” and still lose weight and keep it off is fascinating to me, because why haven’t we already been doing that all along then? Because those of us who haven’t, probably really can’t.

In putting boundaries around my eating, I learned that being “hungry” is not the end of the world. (If you have enough to eat in the first place. Please note that I am not talking about real hunger. I am not talking about people who live in poverty and who do not have enough food to live.) Learning to get from breakfast to lunch without eating something in between was a gift in ways that I could not have imagined when I was eating compulsively. Realizing that most of my eating was either to get high, to avoid feeling a difficult feeling, or to stave off boredom, was a revelation that changed my life. And I would never have had that revelation without going without food for a few hours at a time. I couldn’t have learned the lessons I needed to learn without letting myself be uncomfortable. There’s a saying that goes, If you want to know why you eat, stop eating. Being “hungry” and “wanting” to eat, and not eating, meant that I had to sit with all of the things that were making me “hungry.” And when I was confronted by them, and yet didn’t blot them out with food, I could see what they were, and I had a chance to do something about them. And, in terms of pleasure, being hungry meant that when I got to eat my nourishing, abundant meal, I enjoyed it in ways that I never enjoyed eating before. Even when I had been eating chocolate cake, or donuts, or pizza.

I do not get hungry very often anymore. It happens occasionally, but for the most part, the meals I eat are enough to get me to the next one happily and comfortably. From time to time I am ravenous by breakfast time, since the time between dinner and breakfast is often around 11 hours, and usually includes a 2-mile jog. But for the most part, I don’t think about food, unless it is to plan tomorrow’s delicious meals. And I am sure that it’s because I am eating real, whole, nourishing foods, not empty calories. And because all of them count. And because I am dealing with my eating problems, my mental obsession with food, and my addiction, rather than my weight.

 

If I end up in the political correctness slammer, please don’t sneak a file to me in a cake…

Perhaps you read the article in the New York Times this week called Losing It In the Anti-Diet Age. If not you can read it here

I found it interesting. Especially because the author is, herself, a fat person who can tell you first hand what it’s like to be a fat person in America. I too know what it’s like. I know how it feels to go on a diet, and lose weight, only to gain it all back, even though you don’t want to, don’t mean to, would literally do anything to not, from sticking things down your throat to make yourself throw up (something I did personally), to, say, getting your stomach removed (something I did not do, but know people who have). I know what it is like to be made fun of and have people talk about you as if you are a thing, with no feelings. To have them question your goodness, your honor, your worth; a fat person must be lazy, stupid, careless, and pathetic, or they would deal with their weight. I was struck hard by the author’s mention that a commenter on another article she wrote said, “Why doesn’t she stop eating so much?” As if we hadn’t effing thought of that ourselves already. There is talk of willpower. A doctor talked about getting an individual down to a goal weight with medication so that they could make a fresh start, but then they were going to have to get willpower. (Seriously? Screw you.)

All of this sounds to me like thin people who have no idea what it is like to be fat, trying to solve a problem they don’t even understand in the first place. Thin people don’t need to figure out how to stop eating. They already don’t overeat. That’s like having a person with a lot of hair try to cure baldness just because they have hair and bald people don’t.

But another issue in this article that I wanted to address is the change in the language of dieting in the culture. Words like “diet,” “dieting,” and “weight loss” are becoming taboo. We want to talk about “health,” and “strength.”

Except that we only want to talk about them. Ultimately, we want, as individuals, especially fat individuals, to not be obese. I didn’t want to be fat. I still wanted to be treated like a whole, worthwhile human being, fat or not, but I did not want to be fat.

Perhaps this is where the disconnect lies. See, I hate this new cultural phenomenon that I call “the feelings police.” We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, so we don’t talk openly and honestly about difficult subjects, for fear of being branded politically incorrect, hence heartless and out of touch.

But not facing these things head on is not helping anyone. Strike that. It’s helping the sugar and junk food industries. And it’s helping companies like Weight Watchers. Who are still selling a diet, but are marketing it, in true politically correct fashion, as a program for getting healthy.

Here’s the problem: Weight Watchers never changed the barometer for how you would know it was working. It’s the same barometer. Did you lose weight? If we were truly having a conversation about health, we would have a different measuring stick. Stress test results, for example. Getting off your diabetes medication. Being able to run with your dog in the morning. If you are calling your program “Beyond the Scale,” perhaps you should measure success with something other than the number on the scale.

But I am not actually condoning that; I am merely pointing out the problem with consistency. If you want to be healthy, and you don’t care what your weight is, and you use some benchmark other than weight for your own happiness, good for you! You go! Do it! I am all for fat acceptance. I will not judge you for loving yourself at any and every size. In fact, I encourage it. I truly believe that it is in loving ourselves without caveats and conditions that we can begin to make changes that are both healthy and lasting. But I think that if you want to lose weight, really, you are going to have to look at it for what it is. You have to stop worrying about political correctness. You may have to deal with a late night knock on your door from the feelings police telling you that you have violated statute whatever-whatever stating that you will not say anything that could, intentionally or unintentionally, hurt the feelings of any person, or group. You are going to have to get real.

The author talks in the article about going back to Weight Watchers for a third time in her life. And perhaps you are asking why. She already knows from her own experience that it does not work, so why yet another attempt? I don’t have to ask why. I already know all too well why. Because if you hate being fat, you will do whatever you can, whenever you can to stop being fat. And you will hold out hope against hope that this time will be the special time where the thin “sticks.” And also, because, in my experience, programs like Weight Watchers tell people that if they are “good” they will get results. If they get some willpower, they will be thin. As if willpower is out there to be had, if you are lucky enough to run across some, like a perk in a video game. You have acquired willpower. Lose 100 pounds and level up.

But here’s the thing that I found lacking in the article, perhaps because the author doesn’t have a context for it: when she talks about going around the Obesity Week conference she says, “…it [made me sad] because if you have this many hundreds of smart and educated people trying to figure this out, and nobody has anything for me but superfood and behavior modification and an insertable balloon and the removal of an organ, it must be that there is no way to solve fatness.”

To this I say, abstinence from processed, and sugary foods. Or, perhaps it is better to say, abstinence from your personal binge/trigger foods. (I know a man who knows that his personal trigger foods are “the guy foods,” like barbecue ribs, as opposed to me and cake.) Total and complete abstinence. To my mind this is not behavior modification, because that term seems to imply that the problem is with my hand, rather than my brain. “Doctor, my hand just keeps grabbing donuts and shoving them into my mouth! What should I do?” This article in no way addresses food as an addictive substance, or mentions any modification in diet (specific foods as opposed to portions) as a lifestyle change. The author talks about Thanksgiving as a kind of food hell for dieters. But of course it is! It’s a room of foods that trigger our reward centers and create a craving for more. If you go to Thanksgiving and you eat the things you have not been eating for the past week/month/year, and they are back in your system, so are the cravings.

I cannot think of a person that I have met who has had long-term weight loss by “managing.” In fact, I believe it is exactly this “managing” that keeps us in the cycle of losing and gaining it all back, feeling like this time we can do it, and then feeling like failures. If you cannot or will not give up your binge foods, then I recommend that you either get comfortable with that cycle of yo-yoing, or you stop trying to lose weight in the first place.

I am not talking about thin people. We all know that thin people are not having these problems. They can, as the author ends the article noting, lovingly lick the icing off a cupcake with impunity. They already are managing without having to think about it. I am talking about people who are fat and don’t want to be. Eat whole foods, in moderation, and abstain from foods that make you want more of them.

Perhaps you are thinking, “But cupcakes are so good!” Or “I could never give up barbecue ribs!” Cool. Then get your fat acceptance on! Work that! Eat your cupcake and love your beautiful, fat self! But if you want to lose weight and keep it off, chances are you are going to have to give up certain foods forever.

That is an unpopular opinion. Feel free to call the feelings police. I may get sent to political correctness jail, but I’ll be there in a comfortable body with my dignity intact.

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