onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “July, 2019”

It doesn’t matter how you say no, as long as you say it.

I am the member of a Facebook group for people who do what I do with food, and one of the newer members asked about how she was going to explain her food to someone new. And a friend of mine recommended I make a blog post about it. And it’s a great idea because it’s a huge part of having a specific lifestyle. Especially a food lifestyle like the one I have.

People have a lot of questions. They have a lot of thoughts. They have a lot of things to say and stories to tell. They are full of “helpful” information. So it helps to have a plan when it comes to how we are going to deal with people in our lives around our eating boundaries.
The first thing I want to say is that you really don’t owe anyone anything in the way of an explanation. Truly. What you put in your body is not up for debate. Nobody is going to shove food in your mouth. And if they do, spit it out. And then file a restraining order. You have the right to eat or not eat whatever you want in whatever way you want. 
But none of us lives in a vacuum, and chances are, there are going to be people that you want to make comfortable around your (possibly weird, or at least perceived as weird) food lifestyle. You want to be comfortable around your friends and family, and maybe your boss or your clients. 
My first piece of advice is to be honest. How in depth you want to get is up to you, and will probably vary based on your relationship. 
The person I end up seated next to at a wedding, who I will never see again, will probably get the bare bones of the matter. “I do this crazy food thing. There are lots of rules. Mostly I don’t eat sugar or carbohydrates.” They will most likely say something like “Good for you. You have so much willpower. I could never do that.” And then they will be handed a piece of cake or a drink and they will forget about your crazy food thing. Because chances are, they really don’t care.
Sometimes, when I am in the middle of weighing out my food in public, strangers want to know what that is and what I am doing. Let me tell you, I hate this. Weighing my food is of grave importance to me. I weigh my food because then the portion is exact. It is as much a mental thing as it is a physical thing. Yes, I am doing it for portion control, but also because I can spin my wheels when it comes to food. When I see an exact number on a scale, there is no doubt as to whether I had too much or not enough. I could plan a whole binge around how I possibly under ate and now I can “make up for it” with something else. So when someone comes along and they want to know all about what I am doing with a scale, they are taking my attention away from this action that requires my full attention. Most importantly, I don’t answer until I can safely remove my attention from what I am doing. I don’t need my scale turning off on me, or to accidentally hit a wrong button when I don’t know what is going on. And when I do have a moment to answer, I usually say something like “I can answer your questions later, but right now I am in the middle of something.” Sometimes those people are offended. I highly recommend not caring about that. Also, when they are not watching you do it, they never come back and ask. My experience is that people don’t actually care. 
When I get invited to go out to eat, there are a few ways that can go.  
If it is something I should participate in, namely family celebrations, I tell them I need to choose the restaurant. I go on line and scope out menus, and then call ahead and ask how certain dishes are prepared and how big portions come. If necessary, I ask them to put portions aside for me so that they are not prepped with foods I cannot eat, like flour or certain marinades. And then I ask them to let the waiter know I have special food needs. Also, I make sure I have enough backup food on me so that if I don’t get enough food from the restaurant, my portions are taken care of. Is this a pain? Of course it is. But I usually get a great meal and I’m there for the company anyway. 
And there are plenty of people who do what I do with food who love to eat out. They don’t mind the questions and the calls and bringing extra food. 
In other circumstances, I sometimes recommend people come to my home for dinner and I or my husband will cook. Our boss has come to our home for dinner quite a few times now. He always asks to take us out. And I alway request that he let us feed him. Especially in the south, it can be hard to find what I need in a restaurant. (A vegetable in the south is often a potato, or if it is a vegetable I would eat, it is breaded or cooked in wine or honey or some other sugar or starch.) The last time he was here he said he felt bad that we were always cooking for him. But I let him know that I prefer it, and he has seen me eat enough times to understand what I do. 
Sometimes, I go out, but don’t eat. I either eat before, or after, and I spend my time drinking iced tea or diet soda and enjoying people’s company. 
When people want to know why I am not eating, I usually say I ate earlier, or I will be eating later. I make sure they know I came for them, and it’s worth it to me to spend time with them. It’s not about food.
There are a lot of people, well meaning, loving people, who will think you are punishing yourself. In some ways, this is the hardest group to deal with. They think you won’t eat a piece of cake because you don’t like yourself. They think that not eating the cake is terrible for you. They truly do not know that *eating* the cake would actually be terrible for you. “Why don’t you live a little?” is a very common phrase. 
I recommend you be firm but gentle with these folks. Say no, clearly. “No thank you.” “I don’t eat that anymore.” “I’m great but I appreciate the offer.” “I don’t eat sugar.” “I don’t miss it.” “Quitting sugar is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
I sometimes have to go more in depth. Be more clear about how sick I am with food. “I have a pretty serious eating disorder and this is how I take care of it.” “I was really miserable and desperate before I gave up sugar.” “This is a matter of life and death for me.” I don’t say these things dramatically, but I do say them seriously. And usually that is enough. 
It can be a struggle to deal with the expectations of people when it comes to food. For so many people, food is how they express love. It is how they show hospitality. It’s how they offer fun.
The most crucial thing I can say is “set boundaries.” Better to set a boundary and offend someone than to betray yourself. Set boundaries that are graceless and clunky. Sounding like a jerk is better than going back to food hell. Your boundaries will get smoother, kinder, more graceful. But don’t worry about that as much as you worry about taking care of yourself, being true to yourself.
Many years ago, I knew a woman who had let her mother-in-law guilt her into eating a dessert she made “especially” for her. And it sent her into an eating disorder relapse. And she said “I will never do that again, because she sees me at that party, but she isn’t going to come into the bathroom to hold my hair back when I go make myself throw up.” 
Nobody else has to live with you in your body. Nobody has to go home with you and see the repercussions of that one bite. The way it affects your job, your relationship with your spouse or your kids, your self-esteem.
So say no however you need to say it. Just say it. 

Impossible is just another word for “don’t stop eating junk food.”

Of course. Another article on how it’s “nearly impossible” to lose weight. An article about how there are receptors that help/hider weight loss on a molecular level. It even brought up the contestants on The Biggest Loser. Again. 

There was at least one thing about the article that I wholeheartedly agree with. Calories are not the answer to weight. Losing weight is not about creating a “calorie deficit.” 
And as for the study of the participants of The Biggest Loser television show, who had their metabolisms shut down, causing them to gain back their weight, along with not being able to lose weight any more, can we please remember that those participants were exercising for 6 to 9 hours a day. Which is a great way to create a dramatic physical change in a body for a reality TV show. But is not a practical practice for people who have to, say, go to work, make dinner for their family, have a life. And it is not a lifestyle change that facilitates long-term maintenance.
I am not saying the science talked about in this article isn’t valid. (Though I do not know who funded it and that always makes a difference.) But I take issue with some of the things the article implies. 
The most important one, I think, is this quote from an endocrinologist at Columbia University:
“These data are quite interesting, and are consistent with the hypothesis that the obesity epidemic is in part due to evolutionary pressures to prevent starvation in stress,”
So we are just evolving to be fat?
Guess what was not mentioned. Food. Processed food. In the past 45 years, my lifetime, Americans (and people in general worldwide) have gotten bigger and bigger. Americans have stopped eating at home. We have stopped cooking fresh food for ourselves and our families. We have started buying and consuming packaged, processed and “ultra-processed” foods, most with added sugars, on a daily basis. We eat and snack all day, as opposed to having meal times. We have no concept of portions, and when eating at a restaurant, we feel cheated if we do not get a full plate. We eat the whole bag, the whole box, the whole pint. In the past 45 years, we have gone from a society that ate junk food as an occasional treat, to one that considers junk food a reasonable meal choice. And we’re talking about evolution to explain why so many more people are fat in that same 45 years? 
I feel like this is an example of Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation is probably the valid one. We have told “Big Food” that it can get us addicted to its poison with impunity. We have agreed that rather than call out chips, and microwave snacks, and soft drinks, and granola bars made with “all natural” ingredients, as processed junk, we will say it’s evolution that is the problem. That it’s our bodies that are betraying us, as opposed to the food industry. 
I can’t say this enough. I do not care what you choose to eat! I do not care if you are fat! I do not care if you are fat and sick! I do not care if you are fat and sick and still want to eat ultra-processed foods all day every day! I do not care! You do you!
I care that seemingly everyone in the scientific and medical communities wants to talk about every effing thing except food. They want to talk about how close they are to creating the magic pill. Or the magic procedure. They want to say that it is either too hard, or too silly, or too strict, to give up processed foods and sugar. 
No doctor has ever told me to give up sugar and carbohydrates. They told me moderation. Because I wouldn’t be able to do something so extreme. That it was crazy. That it was impossible to give up cake on my birthday. 
Eat what you want. Whenever you want. But if you are miserable in your body, and you want to lose weight, for yourself – not a spouse/partner, or your parents, or society in general – don’t believe that it is evolutionarily impossible! Don’t believe that there is no hope. Maybe try not eating crap. Maybe try eating whole food that still looks recognizable as what it was in the wild…
My bottom line is this. Can we stop pretending not to see the problem with our food? Can we stop pretending that food we eat and serve is not addictive? Can we stop pretending that we can’t possibly imagine what has changed in the past 45 years to create what we are calling “an obesity epidemic?” 
We should really be calling it a “malnourishment epidemic” or a “toxic food epidemic.” We should not be vilifying the people who are reaping the consequences of a consumerist culture gone awry. An obesity epidemic seems to me to imply that fat people are to blame for not “putting the chips down” and “pushing away from the table.” But companies are making an awful lot of money on these same people. Food companies, and medical/drug companies. They sell us the ultra-processed microwave meal, with an “Organic/All Natural/No GMOs” label slapped across the front, and tell us it’s healthy. And then they get us under the knife for a procedure to “help us” out of the horrible bind we’ve gotten ourselves into by not having enough willpower. (I hope the eye roll implied there was not lost on you.) Those lap bands and gastric bypass surgeries aren’t free, you know. And we all know that insulin is so expensive some people are going bankrupt to stay alive. 
Do not believe them when they say it’s hopeless or impossible. Do not believe that evolution alone has made us fat. We have certainly evolved to have the bodies we have, but I firmly believe that evolution is not making us as fat as our addictive food choices are. 

And I say that as someone who has maintained over 100 lb weight loss for over 13 years. That is not a fluke. That is not an anomaly. That is over 13 years of not eating addictive foods. I *know* that it is not impossible. I am living proof.

Maybe it just starts with wanting what seems impossible

I am particularly happy in my body lately. I want to note that I have not lost any weight. Or at least nothing noticeable. It is not about being thin, or thinner.  Not about “finally” looking like something. I am just extra comfortable and feeling particularly beautiful.

I want to say that this comes from practice. I practice self love. I actively look to love my body. I do things that create that love. Like keep my eating boundaries and drink my water and go for my jog. But also, I say nice things about myself. Even in my head, where I am the only one who can hear. Especially there! I am grateful to my body for being an excellent vessel. For being strong and healthy. For all of the ways I can move and all of the things I can do. Without pain. (Mostly without pain. I mean, I *am* in my 40s and spent much of the first 28 years of my life carrying more weight than was comfortable on my joints.)
I like being in a place like this. I like that I have created this kind of place as my norm. Because it is not the societal norm. There is little money to be made from me being happy and comfortable in my body. I may buy a refillable water bottle, and some workout gear. But it means I am not buying supplements, or workout machines, or surgeries or injections or anything else I hope will make me feel good about myself. 
What makes me feel good about myself is knowing that I can be trusted to treat my body with love. Tough love. (Kind of.) The kind of tough love where I go for that jog even when I really want to stay in bed a little longer. The kind of tough love where I drink that water even when all I want is another cup of coffee. (And another. And another.) The kind of tough love that makes me feel like I took care of myself when it’s done, even if it sucked while I was doing it. And so many of theses things still suck. After years. 
I think I used to think that one day I would come to “like” most of these things. That people who took care of themselves liked the acts of taking care. And certainly I have come to love vegetables, which is something I would never have expected. But now I can see that most people would rather hit the snooze button just like I would. And that whether or not someone does hit it has nothing to do with “liking” exercise or “wanting” a nourishing breakfast they have to prepare instead of a donut. It has to do with commitment. 
And one thing I learned early on after putting boundaries around my eating is that commitment comes before results. Not the other way around. That practice, that the doing of a thing, day in and day out, like a ritual or a prayer, is the best way to get somewhere you are not now. That results come in their own time and in their own way. 
About 14 years ago, I was doing some volunteer work at a self-help seminar. And the leader asked me what I wanted to get out of the seminar. And I said “I want my body to be a non-issue.” Because my body was always an issue for me. No matter my size or weight. And in the time of that seminar, I had a bunch of personal setbacks that made my body more and more of an issue I could not let go of. But by the last day of that seminar, I had my current boundaries around my eating and my body was slowly losing all of its charge as a “problem” in my life. 
I didn’t know what it would look like at the time to have my body cease to be an issue. And I certainly had no idea how to make that happen. But here I am writing a blog to tell you that I am happy and comfortable in that body. More than that, that I love and admire it. I didn’t have any idea what I would be getting myself into when I asked for that outcome. 
And that is probably for the best. Because that Kate who wanted to not worry about her body all the time would probably not have been ready to give up sugar and carbohydrates. But she didn’t have to be. She just had to want something that seemed impossible.

Independence Day too

This week was Independence Day here in the US. So I decided to write a bit about my personal freedom from food addiction.
As a kid and teenager, through my mid 20s, food was the most important thing in my life. I thought about it constantly. I thought about my weight constantly. I hated my body constantly. I wanted and obsessed over sugar and carbs constantly. Almost all of my thinking was around my issues with food. It used up so much of my brain that I am surprised I managed to do or achieve anything else with my time. Also, I didn’t achieve that much.
Here’s the thing that makes me clear that I was a slave to food. I ate when I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to eat in front of people, but I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t want to be fat and I wanted to lose weight, but I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t want to eat certain foods because I didn’t particularly like them, but if they were all there was in the house, I still couldn’t stop myself. Compulsive. Obsessed. Miserable. Enslaved.
I stopped being a salve when I stopped eating man-made sugar and carbohydrates entirely. And I did it with the intention of not going back.
When I dieted in my early life, I gave up sugar long enough that I could be thin, and therefore not judged for eating sugar. I *wanted* to eat sugar, but not hate myself and my body. I thought that being thin would make me love my body. I thought that being thin and eating sugar would be the perfect life.
It didn’t work. When I was thin but eating sugar and carbohydrates, I still hated my body. Judged it. Abused it. I thought my body was not treating me right, instead of the other way around.
When I quit sugar and carbohydrates, I started to love my body. Whether it was skinny or chubby. I no longer needed my body to be thin to love it. I loved it by treating it well, with nourishment and care. With food first. Later with sleep and hydration. Later still with quitting smoking. Eventually with exercise. I am sure there will be more. And more still. This food addiction journey is a lifetime journey of self-care. It was the actions I was taking that lead to love. It was “fake it ‘til you make it” that made me so happy with my body and my life. It was treating myself like a precious thing first. Not feeling like a precious thing and then acting accordingly. 
Freedom didn’t come for me. It did not seek me out. But it was there all the time, waiting for me to take it. It was waiting in all of the moments I played a long game with my life. It was every bite of cake I chose not to take. It was every “obligatory” meal I politely refused. It was in every time I put myself first, even though my body and mind were screaming and begging and tempting. 
Until the day that sugar stopped calling. Until the begging and the screaming and the tempting all stopped. And the freedom settled in. And the freedom became the norm. 
That did not come quickly. Or easily. It came a little at a time with a lot of pain and difficulty. Until it was just there. And now it’s just there. Freedom is just a part of my life now. Independence Day is today too. 

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