onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “December, 2020”

Problems vs Situations

It is the last post of 2020! And thank heaven! 

On January 1st this year, my husband made our favorite meal, carnitas! And as he took it out of the oven, we heard a weird creaking, and the Pyrex dish that we had been cooking our carnitas in for years, kind of imploded and covered our delicious nuggets of melty, crispy, perfectly seasoned pork with glass. And I had a thought. “I hope this is not an omen for the whole year.”

My friends, it was.

I have been very lucky this year. I have not suffered financially, or been personally sick, or lost a loved one to sickness. I have not personally minded being stuck at home. I like home. Even more than most people. It’s where I wear jammies and read books and comics. And I’m kind of antisocial.

But it has still been a hard year for me. Emotionally. I am an anxious person. I am an emotional person. I am a peri-menopausal person. And it has also been a year of clarity. Of me seeing some things clearly for the first time and having to come to terms with them. Or failing to come to terms with them. All of those things have meant that I have been on a rollercoaster ride of feelings for the majority of this year.

But I did not eat compulsively and I ate all of my strictly portion-controlled meals. Even when I didn’t want to. Because food and eating for me cannot be about my weight or my body. And I cannot safely decide to not eat any more than I can safely decide to eat compulsively.  And that very clear set of boundaries and rules to eat by has made this year bearable. 

There is a saying I like. “Food is my problem. Everything else is just a situation.” 

I can deal with anything as long as I have my eating under control. And I can know that I don’t have to “deal with” everything. Or I can deal with it on my own terms and in my own time. I can get through the day and the week and the month and the year without hating myself. 

I don’t know what will happen in 2021. Let’s face it. The coming year could be worse than this one. There is no guarantee that things will get better. And there is nothing magical about January 1st. Calendars are a man-made construct, obviously. The “new year” used to begin in March for the planting season.

But one whole trip around the sun is still noteworthy. And as this last trip has been a bumpy ride, I’m willing to hope for a better year ahead.

But of course, my point is that no matter what this new year brings, the most important thing for me is to keep my eating boundaries. That way even if Elon Musk hires Carol Baskin to train an army of murder hornets to drive cars, that will still just be a situation to deal with. And not an actual problem.

The Eternal Holiday Without the Fun

Since I gave up sugar, I have started to care less and less about holidays. 

When I was growing up, I looked forward to holidays. I mean really looked forward to them. There would be parties with special foods, and lots of people. My cousins would all be there to run and play and make an ungodly noise with. Both sides of my family were boisterous. There was always a lot of laughter and funny stories. But child Kate often forgot that those times were also, inevitably, too much. That I would become overstimulated, overwhelmed, overemotional, and overindulged.

As a grownup with her eating under control, I love the ideas of holidays more than I love the days themselves. A holiday is a way to acknowledge certain universal experiences we have because we are humans in bodies living on Earth. Christmas is the celebration of the return of the sun. If, as centuries and cultures, and empires have risen and fallen, it has taken on some other aspects, for example, the return of “a son,” well that is all well and good too. It is still about getting through the long darkness and trusting in the promise of the return of the light and the warmth. The promise that we won’t *all* starve to death. 

And a holiday is a day to forget our personal troubles and celebrate the enormity of life. It is a time to raise our consciousness above the idea of self and embrace humanity.

Addiction is a lot like trying to live in an eternal holiday. You’re trying to ride the same wave as Christmas, but every day, while nobody else is celebrating, and you don’t get the time off of work and school. It is like trying to forget your mundane self, and only live in the ecstasy of universality. But that is just too much for an individual to maintain. Trust me. I did the research for you.

When I gave up simple sugars and carbohydrates, I had to come to appreciate the simplicity of the day-to-day. I had to come to appreciate when nothing special was going on. I had to get comfortable in the calm. And I came to discover that I loved the calm. Once I had exorcised my demons, anyway. 

I realized that I had hated the peace of daily life because I didn’t have any peace. If I were calm for a moment, I would think about the wrongs that I had done. I would be haunted by the things I was ashamed of. And the ways I had hurt others and disappointed myself. But I had done a lot of those things *because* of my addiction. It was a vicious cycle and I didn’t know where it began or ended. And I could not seem to unravel it.

It turned out that giving up my drug foods was the answer. Or, at least the first step. There would be many other things to do about it. Acknowledge my wrongdoings, make amends for them, change my actions, shift my thinking. But all of those things started with getting my eating under control.

So now my eating is under control. And I love my day-to-day living. I am happy with my integrity, and my willingness, and my life. And I don’t need to live like every day is a holiday. In fact, I don’t even need to live like holidays are holidays. 

I will miss my nieces and nephews this year. I will miss tickling babies and reading books to the bigger ones. I will miss exclaiming over dollar gifts from the elementary school‘s Santa’s workshop. But I will still be perfectly happy laying around in my adult-sized onesie and drinking coffee and doing nothing this year. There will be more Christmases to come. And as for this year, I don’t have any shames or fears or worries that I need to numb.

Still a pillar, just a little wobbly

The other day I went into my boss’s office and I said (cried in frustration, actually – thank God she’s a woman, because, let’s face it, a man would not have been able to deal with that) that I was overwhelmed. I said that I felt like I was the only person who knew what was going on for one of the 3 jobs I was working on, that I was already in over my head and that I felt like I was set up to fail. I told her I could not do everything that was expected of me well or gracefully.

And the first thing she said was. “Nobody expects you to do this gracefully. We expect you to fuck up.” (It’s construction. People swear a lot.) “And there is nothing you can mess up that could be worse than people have messed up before you. You were given this job because we have faith that you can do it well.”

And then she told me that one of the other ladies in the office will familiarize herself with the job I was so worried about, so that at least 2 of us know what is going on.  And she took one of my jobs away and told me to work on the other 2 and stop worrying about the 3rd.

When I was in the food, I was a terrible employee, like I was a terrible student. There is a saying I appreciate. “How you do anything is how you do everything.”  And when I was in active addiction, how I did everything was how I did food. Lots of sneaking, lying, cheating, manipulating, and blame passing. So the idea that I could be vulnerable, go to my boss, tell her my fears honestly, tell her I felt overwhelmed, tell her that I didn’t know what to do but that I knew I needed support, was the opposite of that. It was exposing myself, letting her and the company know that I was not the unshakable pillar of excellence I often feel like I am, and that I regularly offer.

So to be told that I was not expected to be great or graceful was a blessing. 

The truth is, I am a pillar of excellence. Much of the time. And I pride myself on it. And the fact that I am overwhelmed or unhappy or feeling under qualified does not negate that. 

When I was in active addiction, I was obsessed with what things meant. Especially what things meant about me. Because like I believed that my fatness meant I had a broken body, I believed that how easily I became paralyzed by fear and overwhelm meant my character was also broken.

But in getting my sugar addiction under control, I started to recognize how much of my life didn’t *mean* anything at all. Things were simply the consequences of specific actions (or inactions) I had taken. And I started to see how many of my choices and actions were fueled by these beliefs I had created about myself because of the ways I fed, and floundered in, my addiction.

Being free of the food let me know that I not only could be, but was, say, both a pillar of excellence and an overwhelmed worker in over her head. That those things are not mutually exclusive. That those things are both valid at the same time. 

And the other thing I learned from giving up sugar is that being a pillar of any kind is not particularly useful if I don’t know how to keep myself standing. And the trick to that is *I* can’t keep myself standing. At least not alone. I need help. And that is why the best tool I have to keep my addiction under control is a community. And that is true for work as well. When I need support, I reach out for support. That way I stay upright, like the pillar of excellence that I am.

For those in the “giving things up” stage, hang in there!

It’s a hard thing to give up foods. When I first realized I was an addict, which is a sort of weird, fluid time between 2005 and 2007 (a little before and after I gave up most sugars grains and starches in January 2006) I was constantly shocked and saddened by the things I couldn’t eat anymore. Not just cake and cookies and bread and potatoes. But also nuts and nut butters, and extracts with alcohol in them, or  random things like imitation crab meat. And seemingly healthy foods like sweet potatoes and corn. 

It felt in that time that everything was being taken from me. That all of my joy in eating was coming to an end. That I would be one of those people who “didn’t live to eat, but ate to live.” And I was so sad for myself. Because I was sad for those people who didn’t have joy in eating. Eating was one of my favorite experiences, and I thought I was going to have to mourn that part of myself.

Spoiler alert! I still live to eat. Even more than before. Because now my eating is guilt-free. And joyful. Not just on holidays or at celebrations. Now I love my food all the time. I take the time and do the work so that every meal, every bite, every taste is decadent and delicious. Summer tomatoes with mayonnaise! Half sour deli pickles! Homemade Italian sausage with giardiniera, homemade sugar-free ice cream, filet Mignon, and caramelized onions! 

The beginning of the giving up and letting go is the hardest part. I had to mourn. Yes, even though the foods I was mourning were drugs and poison to me, and were ruining my life. I had to be sad and sorry. That was normal and natural. But once I got past the mourning, everything was better. Every aspect of my life shifted to something sweeter and happier, peaceful and content.

If you are in the “giving things up” stage, and you are mad and sad and frustrated and suffering, that is normal and natural. And it will pass. But here is the thing, if you look at the things you *can* have, it’s not so bleak. Don’t forget to look at the baked apples with cinnamon, and the pork carnitas with fresh salsa, or the eggs fried in butter, and strawberry and peach smoothies. And don’t think you have to be one of those people who subsists on dry chicken breasts and steamed broccoli. That may be one path, but it is not a path I, personally, would have been able to walk for any amount of time.

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