onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “August, 2019”

Tight food, loose life, and for today, nothing to give up.

One thing that happened when I put boundaries around my eating was that I (slowly and gradually) got better at going with the flow of life. I got better at dealing with unexpected problems. I got better at dealing with difficult feelings. I got better at having peace when people did things I didn’t like, and situations didn’t work out the way I had hoped and planned.

But I got way way *way* worse at not having what I wanted when it came to food. I had given up all of my “favorite” foods when I gave up sugar and carbohydrates. I had basically deadened my palate with sugar for the first 28 years of my life and hated almost all vegetables. I thought fruit was bland. I thought nourishing foods were boring at best, and disgusting at worst.
So when I quit sugar and got boundaries I was told to love my food. Not tolerate it. Not “eat to live.” I was told to eat foods that made me gloriously happy. I have a few time periods in my life that I identify by the foods I ate, some specially made by me to be sugar and carb free and fit my portion requirements. I had my summer of turnip fries and coffee shakes. (This was a labor of love. It took forever, and I still did it almost every day because I was so obsessed. After cutting them into fries, which gave me weird calluses from so much knife work, I would salt the turnips overnight so they would sweat out all the bitterness, and they were better than real French fries, I swear!) I had a winter of homemade custards. I mean I actually used a bain-marie. I had *years* of homemade carrot cake. I had deep fried onions from a favorite New York burger joint 2-3 times a week for about 3 years, and deep-fried Brussels sprouts from a fancier New York restaurant about once a week for a year or so. (I used to go get those take-out, since I wasn’t interested in the fancy ambiance, just the sprouts. I still get these and the onions when I visit New York.)
For the past few years I have been making chocolate ice cream (ok, frozen yogurt, since it’s whole milk and full fat Greek yogurt.) And today, I opened a new bottle of the sugar-free, grain-free, alcohol-free chocolate flavor that I use. And it was *different*!!!! It was a different color and had a different smell! 
This scared the hell out of me. Of course, the first thing I did was read the ingredients list printed on the bottle I had just opened. Because if the color and smell had changed, perhaps the ingredients had changed. I still occasionally read ingredients on things I use regularly, even if there doesn’t seem to be a change, just in case. And I have occasionally caught changes that were not indicated or advertised. But when something has so obviously changed, of course I had to look immediately. 
Hallelujah! It was fine. The ingredients were still within my boundaries. And the taste was delicious, though different. 
But I have had to give up things before. And that is a change I am very bad at. It is hard for me to go with the flow of losing a food I love. For those of you who may remember, in 2014, a company whose vanilla flavor I had been using for years changed their recipe from alcohol-free, to non-alcoholic, where it had alcohol, just significantly less than an extract. I had to give it up. I literally cried. Then a friend found a tutorial on how to make my own at home. And I have been doing just that for over 5 years. (And mine is way better than the stuff I was buying, so hooray for that.) That company discontinued its walnut flavor a few years before, and I cried about that as well. Sadly, I have never found another walnut flavor I could use. There was a restaurant in New York that used to make Chinese food specifically for people with the same eating boundaries as I have. And they would make deep fried tofu. It would come to the table like a crispy, golden cloud of deliciousness. I cried when they closed. (Are you sensing the pattern here?)
I keep my food tight so my life can be loose. But my food being tight means being a bit of a control freak. Obviously. And that means a certain amount of attachment. So it’s hard for me when my food changes in any way. 
But ultimately I am committed to my boundaries, not to my food loves. I did give up the walnut flavor. And in giving up the vanilla because of the changed recipe, I got something even better in return. If I had had to give up my chocolate flavor, I would have. I would most certainly have cried. I would have had to mourn. But I would have done it. Because it’s the boundaries, that “tight food,” that keep my life loose. 
And here’s another important truth. There is always something out there, waiting to be my new favorite food thing. Something that fits my boundaries, and makes my eyes roll back and my mouth water. There is always some new thing that I am going to be overwhelmed with excitement to eat. In its proper portion. When it is time to eat. And I’m excited for that too. Even if I don’t know what it is or when I will find it.

Kurbo Your Enthusiasm

Buckle up, my friends. It’s a long one.

Let’s do it. Let’s talk about Kurbo, from the Corporation Formerly Known As Weight Watchers. *Sigh…*

I did a little reading, especially after all of the backlash that came up on my Twitter feed. Kurbo is an app. The app is free, but for $69/month you can get 15 minute coaching sessions with a coach. It’s aimed at children aged 8-17. It’s a “traffic light” system, with red foods being foods to eat only occasionally, yellow foods being foods to be cautious of, and green foods being fruits and vegetables which you can eat as much as you want of. It shows pictures of these kids with their “results.”  Some of these results are based on BMI. (Don’t even get me started.) And they claim it is “a scientifically-proven behavior change program designed to help kids and teens ages 8-17 reach a healthier weight, derived from Stanford University’s Pediatric Weight Control Program.” 

When I look up Stanford University’s Pediatric Weight Control Program, I find a link to the program, itself. And there are two things I particularly took note of. 1) That the program is for *families.* And 2) this quote on the programs site: “Since 1999, more than 80% of participating children and adolescents have achieved age-appropriate weight reduction.” Which tells me nothing about whether or not they have gone on in the future to maintain the lifestyle, or if they lost the weight while in the program only to gain it back. Because every dieter I know has lost weight. The question is always “did they gain it back?” For some of us, we have gained and lost hundreds of pounds. Successfully losing weight does not add up to a “scientifically-proven behavior change.” If it did, WW would already be out of business. But they already know that.

The biggest issue I have heard about this is that it is setting children up for eating disorders by forcing them to see certain foods as good or bad. I don’t disagree. Though I am not 100% on this bandwagon. There is a saying I am fond of. “Genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.” I am not saying that every kid will have a warped view of food because of this. But my guess is that it is parents who are upset about a child’s weight, who have already made an issue of it, that will be acquiring this app for their children to “fix” what they see as a problem. It will teach children that green foods, of which you can have as much as you would like, are “diet foods.” To this day, I refuse to eat celery or raw carrots. These two foods are so ingrained in me as diet foods, and I always felt so punished when eating them when I was fat, that I have given them up completely and have never looked back. They are the foods that will make you skinny and socially acceptable. And those red foods are “special,” and “something to look forward to.” I never would have been able to love vegetables the way I do, if I were just eating them as the means of “earning” cake. When I was fat, vegetables were my punishment for being fat. Cake was for “good girls” who could get and stay thin. 

Another thing I took note of was having a coach help you “set goals.” And by goals, they seem to mean weight loss goals. This screams “DIET!” to me.

When I changed my lifestyle, one of the first things I was told was to stop worrying about my weight. That in changing my eating, my weight would take care of itself. That I needed to lose my diet mentality. That I was not supposed to count calories. That I was not supposed to eat diet foods. I just had to get my eating under control, by giving up sugar and carbohydrates, because I was addicted to them. And by putting boundaries around portions and times of eating because my ideas about eating were making me feel crazy. I was encouraged to eat things I loved. I was told to eat the biggest and the best. To eat decadent meals. To use butter and oil. To find a 1 lb apple! That I get a cantaloupe bigger than my head and eat half of it for breakfast. That the problem was not with my weight, but with the fact that certain foods set up cravings. It was recommended that I quit those foods entirely. That saved my life.

I was told I did not have to exercise if I did not want to. That I was tackling my eating disorder, not my “weight problem.” Eventually I wanted to exercise, but not because of my weight. I didn’t start jogging to lose weight. I started as an act of love for my body, not an act of penance for being unattractive. 

And what is this idea that you can and should be able to eat as much as you want of certain foods? Yes, I was told I could eat a giant apple. But once the apple was gone, and the meal was over, it was time to move on to the next part of my day. In my experience, this concept that I should be able to eat all day, was a big part of my problem. And I had to relearn that I not only did not need, but also did not want, to eat constantly. That the idea that I should eat all day if I wanted to, but let it be pickles and lettuce instead of chips and cake, simply reinforced my craziness around food. I needed food to cease to be my dearest companion. And that meant not eating constantly. That meant finding things to do with my time. It meant learning to sit with situations, experiences, and feelings, and not eating.

It has also occurred to me that Kurbo is putting the burden of food choices on children at a time in life when food choices should be coming from parents as a means of offering children an “eating culture,” at least for younger children. I mean, seriously, you’re going to make an 8-year-old be responsible for what they eat? Oooooooor, you could be a parent that makes meals of whole foods with lots of vegetables and fruits and who loves them and gets excited by the prospect of eating them. Perhaps one who doesn’t keep sugary drinks or sweets in the house as a regular occurrence. You could be a parent that lives a particular lifestyle and passes it along to your children. 

What I am asking is what are the parents of these children eating at home? Are they unwilling to give up their soda and chips and cake, because they don’t have a “weight problem?” (I’m sure that would never mess a kid up…*eye roll*) Or they do, but they can’t live without their treats? Is this a case of “do as I say, not as I do?” And do I really need to explain to you how effective that is in practice? 

But here is the kicker for me. If a parent is not willing to change their lifestyle for what they claim is the health and well-being of their child, then they need to quit it with the judgement about the child’s weight. If a parent is putting it on a child to change themselves within the family, and the family culture is not changing, the parent is just going to make that child an outcast. Because of their physical appearance. And that hurts my heart. 

And of course, for me, we have to talk about sugar addiction and the “red foods.” Because one thing that I specifically read was that you are *supposed to* eat some of those red foods. And that is an excellent way to keep an addict addicted.

Just a little. Just a taste. But *nobody* can give it up entirely. That would be ridiculous/crazy/unfathomable! 

What would a doctor say if you told them you had quit alcohol, cocaine, meth? Certainly not “Oh no! You still still need to have that every once in a while. Who can live without alcohol? What a terrible pressure to put on yourself.” 

Look. Our country and our culture has been creating addicts for a while now. An opioid crisis. A subsequent heroin crisis because of the opioid addictions our medical community has created. And our food industry has created what is nearly an entire generation of addicts. With ultra-processed foods specifically/scientifically designed to make you want more. And we have let them. And belittled and shamed the people who have become fat as a result. 

And of course it is children who have been raised on this junk who are deeply affected.  So now we want these children to be shamed? Sure. What better way to ensure the next generation of weight loss, fitness, and beauty industry customers? 

Ultimately my problem with Kurbo is twofold. That it seems to be a diet being sold as a lifestyle. And that it is aimed at children. 

There are ways to really change your lifestyle. There are steps to take and choices to make. But I, for one, am not going to put my faith in a corporation that has made its money off of diets and selling “thinness” as an ultimate goal. And I am saddened that it has targeted children now. It’s an excellent business strategy. It is a great way to teach children early that they are lacking based on their size, and keep them paying money to achieve social acceptability. And when it doesn’t work long-term, because of sugar addiction, or an eating disorder, or because it’s really just another diet, it will probably keep quite a few of them coming back again and again. Because that one time they lost weight. And maybe this time, if they are just a little better, work a little harder, are a little more worthy, maybe *this* time it will work.

I’m just here for everything except the food

I went to a wedding last night. I brought my own food. It was the smallest, least exciting meal I could have made. I didn’t dislike it. I don’t eat meals I dislike. But on a scale of 1-10 it was probably a 6. I don’t usually eat a meal below an 8. 

I was not there for the food. I was there to celebrate with a friend. My husband and I are friends with the father of the bride, and only know the bride a little. So we did not know many people at the event. 
But I had a great time! I got to dance. I got to spend time with my friend. He was beaming the whole night. The bride and groom were radiant with joy. And I got to enjoy the fun and excitement of a life celebration. 
But here is the other thing. I was not self-conscious. I was not worried about what I looked like physically. I did not worry about if I looked like I fit in. It didn’t matter if I did fit in. It was not my celebration. I was offered an opportunity to be a part of someone else’s joy, and I took it.
I am sure I looked like a weirdo to the other people at the table. I was passing up lovely hors d’oeuvres and a nice dinner spread to eat a paltry meal I brought for convenience. I brought it up briefly when the subject came up. I didn’t talk about my sugar addiction. I didn’t talk about my weight loss. I just said I have a crazy food thing and it was easier to just pack the smallest dinner I could. The only thing my vanity insisted I point out was that I usually ate much more delicious meals. (God forbid these strangers not know that I really love food, and that I’m usually a decadent eater.)
But here’s the other thing. When my food is under control, I can be “right-sized.” I don’t mean physically, though I do believe that when I eat within my boundaries, my body is the right size for me. But I mean, I have a realistic sense of how much something is “about me” and how much is not. 
When I was eating compulsively I was obsessed with what I looked like, physically and socially. And that had me constantly jockeying for better position. It had me forever trying to get people to think better of me than I assumed they already were. That is exhausting. 
But at last night’s wedding, I was very clear what was “about me” and it was almost nothing. And that was very freeing. The part that was about me was in witnessing and sharing in my friend’s great happiness. And I got the gift of experiencing the love and fun of a community celebration. I did not feel awkward to know so few people. I did not have to try hard to be interesting or liked. 
Having my food under control at this event meant that I had a blah dinner and an amazing night. To someone for whom food used to be the only amazing part of the night, I am so grateful I got to experience the beauty and fun of that kind of joyous celebration. 

Specific and measurable is what gets results

Last week a lot of people read my post. Thank you all for reading! I am grateful! And I heard second and third hand about some comments. And one idea stood out in my mind. That I must be really sick if I have to weigh my food.

I want to say first off that I am an addict, and I am addicted to sugar and simple carbohydrates. So yes. I am pretty sick. I was deeply unhappy when I didn’t have boundaries around my eating. I was unhappy with my body, I was unhappy with my behavior, I was unhappy with the state of my life. And only a portion of that was about my weight. 
Weighing food is a way to take a specific, quantifiable action that leads to a specific and measurable result. I am not just eating less. I am eating a specific number of ounces. How much less is that? I don’t know. I never measured before when I was eating everything whenever I wanted. 
Is it common to weigh food? It is not in general. But the idea that what I do is an indication of how sick I am is not necessarily fair. It is an indication of how committed I am. It is an indication of how much I want something. And how willing I am to get it. You might say that weighing my food is an indication of how well I am. How not susceptible to whims I am when it comes to eating. How steadfast I am.
Athletes weigh their food. Movie stars who are training to shape their bodies weigh their food. These are people who want something for and from their bodies and are willing to do what it takes to get it. I want something for and from my body too. I mean, it’s a lot less sexy than winning a gold medal or being a physical embodiment of a comic book super hero, but it’s still pretty satisfying. 
Making a quantifiable commitment is a great way to meet goals. It’s a great way to change your life. Writers have daily word count commitments. Marathon runners have scheduled practices with mileage goals they have to reach. Weight lifters have weight goals. Even sales people have a specific number of cold calls they have to make. Nearly every person who wants to achieve something does it by doing specific things. And specific means being measurable. Even dietitians will say things like “vegetables the size of your fist, meat the size of your palm, fat the size of your thumb.” Which is a way to do a less precise version of the same thing I do but not have to get out a scale.
When I was eating compulsively but wanted to lose weight, I fought very hard against measurement of any kind. But most certainly precise measurements. I wanted to “eyeball” things. And I did. And my portions got bigger and bigger over time. Because I wanted to pretend I was doing what I needed to do to get the results I wanted, without having to actually do the things. And guess what. I did not get the results. And guess what. I got to blame it on everything but what I was doing. I got to blame it on my “broken” body, or my genes, or the way the world is. I did not have to blame it on how much I was eating. And when I did not get results “eyeballing” my portions, I got to quit because it didn’t work and I would rather eat cake anyway. So then I was back to cake.
This is not exclusive to me. Humanity is made up of this. Reasons why we can’t. Reasons it’s not worth it. Reasons we shouldn’t have to do what needs to be done to get the results we want. Maybe the reason is because someone who has to do “that” is “really sick,” and we’re not that sick…
So I disagree that the reason I have to do something as “extreme” as weigh my food is that I am *so* sick. I am sure I could get through life without it. The question is not could I live without weighing my food, but could I be this happy, free, content, joyful, and available for life if I didn’t. 
I always say that I am not telling anyone what or how they should be eating. And I am not today either. But I will say that I was not any sicker than a lot of people, especially Westerners, especially Americans. I am just that interested in being well. Interested enough to do something very specific to get a very specific result. 

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