onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “June, 2019”

“Follow Me” and change

I was very excited this week to get to see a documentary I am featured in about sustained weight loss. It’s called Follow Me, and it features 12 people who have lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off for 5 years or more. I am honored to be a part of it. You can visit the website and see a trailer for the movie at www.followmefilm.ca
What I particularly like about the film is that it features a bunch of different approaches to sustained weight loss. But they all have one thing in common. We each had to change our lives. 
One of my biggest problems with losing weight when I was still eating sugar, was that I wanted to do what I had always done, and have it be different. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was not eating so I could eat later. The reward was the same. Just less often. And someday. Until I couldn’t wait anymore and I ate again. And I couldn’t put it off anymore, and it went back to being the norm, not the exception. 
I could never stop eating sugar when I was eating sugar. I could never *want* to refrain, because I craved it. My brain and my body told me I needed it. And when I first *really* gave up sugar I experienced a lot of physical and emotional pain. The cravings were intense. The feelings I had been numbing with sugar were overwhelming. I was cranky. I felt high from not being high. I had to cope without my primary coping mechanism. Like learning to swim by being thrown in the lake and told “don’t die.”
But I did learn to “swim.” I learned a new way to live. And it was a life I never knew I wanted. But I did. 
One of my many (many) problems with the fitness/diet/beauty industry is that so much of what it is advertising is something that will do the change for you. Hell, even the medical industry is selling that. Take these “vitamins,” they will melt away fat. Drink this shake, it will make you want to eat less. Get your stomach removed/constricted. It will make it impossible for you to overeat. Except it doesn’t. Not even the medical/surgical solutions. I have met people who have stretched themselves a new stomach after gastric bypass. They are not the solutions they promise to be. (Oh great. Now, I am going to be singing Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina all day…)
I am not saying that surgery is necessarily “bad.” Eating as a coping mechanism worked for me until it didn’t anymore. A gastric sleeve might save someone’s life. But  if one’s problem is eating, like mine, and weight is a symptom of that problem, I don’t think anything outside of oneself is going to help. 
And I am not saying that anyone “needs” to change their eating. I want to be friends with fat acceptance, body positivity, and fat pride. I want to make this a conversation about choice. 
But I hated being fat. And I *wanted* a solution. And I was doing all sorts of self-harm and acts of self-hatred in order to try and wrangle my body into a certain shape and size, hoping that one of those awful, painful, and shameful things would be the solution to my self-loathing. And none of them were. 
But finally I found a real solution. One that doesn’t require sustained starvation. One that doesn’t require hating myself into submission. One that is abundant, delicious food, plus a body I actually love, and love to live in. 
So I am honored to be part of this film, Follow Me. I am honored to talk about the fact that sustained weight loss is not a fictional fairytale. That it can be done. And that it’s not about being special or being a specific kind of fat person. That it’s about choices and change. And that if you want something else, there is a way to have it. 
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Beautiful. But still not skinny

When I got my eating under control 13+ years ago, I expected to find my husband right away. I thought that the only thing keeping him away was my being fat. Because even when I wasn’t fat while I was still eating compulsively, any hold I had on staying the size I was was tenuous at best. I could always feel it slipping away. 

But when I put boundaries around my eating, and especially when I stopped eating foods I am addicted to, like sugar and carbs, I lost my weight, and it was staying off. And I wasn’t afraid of gaining it back. At all. I didn’t feel like it was a fluke. I wasn’t what they call “white knuckling” it. I was in a regular sized body and fully expected to stay that way. 
But he didn’t show up. For years he didn’t show up. I went on dates. I got pretty hair cuts from a salon. (The kind where you needed an appointment!) I regularly got my nails done, fingers and toes. I wore pretty clothes. For a few years there in the beginning I even wore makeup every day. (I would stop after about 5 years of having my food under control.) But no husband.
I went on dates. I went to bars. I talked to men on the subway and in Starbucks. But he did not show up. 
And then I quit smoking. And I gained weight. I gained a lot of weight. After the first 30 lbs, I stopped weighing myself. I had my food under control, but my weight was out of control. I was terrified. I was miserable. I felt betrayed by my body. But I kept my boundaries around my eating, even in the face of that weight gain and insecurity. 
And I thought “I missed my window. My husband didn’t show up while I was skinny. And now that chance has passed.”
And then my husband showed up. When I was not skinny. When I was, in fact, the heaviest I had ever been with my eating under control.
And I had to come to terms with the fact that being skinny was not what made me beautiful. And it occurred to me that having my eating under control is actually the thing that made/makes me beautiful. The clarity. The kindness. The confidence. The good judgment.
So here I am, a woman with her food under control, who is not skinny. I am fit, and present, and growing, and happy. And still in love with my husband who is still in love with me. He still thinks I’m beautiful. (I still think so too. Because…humble.) But still not skinny. 
And I am so grateful that I got to learn that lesson. That my beauty is not determined by my physical size. That my size is fine, whatever it is, as long as I have my eating under control. Because it was the compulsive eating that made me feel ugly and crazy and unlovable. And in having my food taken care of, I am showing my body that I love it. That I think it is worthy of love. And that opened the way for my husband. Love opened the way to love. Not being “skinny and perfect.”

The “doing” and the “having done.”

I have been feeling particularly lazy the past few days. And today is, of course, my day to get stuff done. It’s the day for laundry and cooking and writing this blog. It’s my day to prep for the coming week. And I will do what needs to be done. In fact, the laundry is already in the washing machine. And I will start my cooking as soon as this is posted. But already I am looking forward to being done and sitting on the couch with a yarn project. 
It has been a long time since I have picked up a yarn project. And this one is particularly ambitious. I am attempting to make two dolls without a pattern. Or rather, I am starting with the base of another pattern and attempting to change it to fit my own specifications. It’s complicated and is taking a certain amount of blind faith. 
In my life in the food, everything scared me. Anything that was not an obvious win for me was a no-go. And even some of those “obvious wins” turned out harder than I imagined and I would quit. Everything was so serious. And nothing got done.
Or if it did, it would get done in the least healthy way possible. I have mentioned before that I went about creating like a crazy person. I would work like a machine through the day and night. Unable to stop. Unable to evaluate. And at some point things would get done half-assed because I couldn’t break my momentum but I was too exhausted to keep going properly. I had to see the end. I had to get that hit, that chemical reward. And it was usually mixed. Because it was done, but it was never perfect. And not perfect was never good enough. Now things get done with more care and attention, *and* I don’t need perfection. Wow!
I have always enjoyed the idea of creating. I have always enjoyed having created. I have always enjoyed the beginning and the end. The idea, and the finished product. I have never enjoyed work. Until I got my eating under control. 
In the food I was always interested in knowing, but never learning. I was always interested in having, but not acquiring. 
In getting my eating under control I learned to sit with difficult feelings. And feelings like realizing that I might fail at something are particularly difficult for me. Also, work, with it’s long-game potential rewards, as opposed to instant gratification, also fills me with difficult feelings. 
These are some of the feelings I ate. I mean, I was eating pretty much all of my feelings. But these feelings that forced me to evaluate myself, these were the ones that probably scared me the most.
Since I put down the food, I am no longer afraid of work, especially the work that creating entails.  I am not saying I enjoy it all the time. Ask my husband. I get frustrated. I swear, and growl. And sometimes I even throw down the yarn in a huff. But I pick it back up again. I learn. I acquire new skills and techniques. I add them to the list and seek out newer and even more difficult skills. 
Not being afraid of work is one of the biggest gifts of getting my eating under control. Not having to care that things be good enough is another gift. I am allowed to fail. I am allowed to make bad art. I am allowed to work really hard and have nothing to show for it. 
Putting boundaries around my food has always meant freedom. Freedom from the food itself. Freedom from living in a body that was difficult to live in. And freedom from my own ridiculous expectations. So today I will do the things I don’t want to do, so I can sit on the couch and attempt to do things I still don’t want to “do,” but will find immense satisfaction in “having done.”

My anniversary of the other side

My birthday is Thursday this coming week. I will be 42. It’s pretty nice. I feel great. I look great. I have no complaints. Not about my life, and not about my age. 
It was on my birthday 12 years ago that I came out of the fog of giving up sugar. 
For most of the first 28 years of my life, I lived in a sugar fog. I was addicted to sugar and carbs from a very young age. And I was high on sugar the majority of my waking life. 
And then at 28, I gave up sugar, and went from being high on sugar all the time to not being high on sugar at all, and that felt like a different kind of high. It meant cravings, and a general slowing down of my brain function,  the adjustment of my digestive system, and a kind of low-level exhaustion basically all the time. My body and brain needed some time to heal. And then one day, my 30th birthday, about a year and a half after I gave up sugar, I noticed that I had woken up. 
In that year and a half of foggy time, I was learning to keep the boundaries around my food. From friends who wanted a bite and I had to say no, to bringing my own food to a wedding and the mother of the bride being mildly offended, to people wanting to make things especially for me and having to politely refuse.
Someone once told me that when you make a commitment, you change the course of your life. 
After that I was learning about how to keep other boundaries. Saying no to people who knew me as eager-to-please. Standing by my “no” when people wanted to coerce or manipulate me into doing what they wanted. Making life choices that made me happy, rather than choices I thought would make others happy. Making choices that I had to then stand by, because they were mine, and right or wrong, I could not pawn them off on anyone else.
If there is a hard part to change, I believe it lies in our relationships with others. I have been a relatively bold nonconformist for most of my life. I don’t particularly care what others think of me. And if I do, it is often a streak of defiance. I dare you not to like me. I dare you to judge me. 
But good lord, even with my devil-may-care attitude about fitting in, when it came to setting new boundaries with people in my life, boundaries I *had to* set to keep my eating under control, it was hard. People want us to be who we have always been. And when we make life-altering changes, like entirely revamping our food life, we will, out of necessity become different people. 
I see it all the time when people decide to do what I do with food. If they want to lose weight but they don’t want to change, they will not last long. They may lose weight. They may even lose all of the weight they want to. But then they inevitably return to old ways and old patterns. 
I have heard when women let their mothers-in-law insist they eat the special dessert made just for them. Or let their husbands convince them that they should have a glass of wine because they used to be fun. Or let their sweet grandmothers feed them that special dish. 
Refusing the homemade lasagna made by my most beloved grandmother (she made it  for Christmas and Easter and it was by far my favorite food in the whole world – in my life, it was what love tasted like) may have been the hardest thing I ever had to do. It was terrible to have to do to both of us. It hurt her. It hurt me. But I had to say no. So I did. 
I do not regret a single moment on this journey. I am grateful for all 42 years of my amazing life. And especially grateful for the past 13 and a half, where I have been learning slowly and steadily how to be my truest self. And even more for that moment 12 years ago, when I looked up from that year and a half of introspection, and pain, and discombobulation and discomfort, and saw that there had been an “other side.” And that I was on it. 

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