onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “February, 2021”

To be filed under: This too shall pass.

Remember a few weeks ago when I lost my shit on a work superior? (Oh, me too…) Well, this week I was told that my husband and I are leaving that job and going on to another. And I could not be happier.

We are going back on the road. This time we head to Connecticut. (Amazon distribution centers aren’t going to build themselves.) And I am so excited for a lot of reasons!

First, people! I will be an hour away from one very close friend, and 2-3 hours away from my friends in NYC. Now, I don’t know what socializing will look like. I have been taking COVID very seriously for the past year. And that means that I have done precious little socializing since March, and none at all since about September. But at least some of my friends have gotten their vaccinations, and my husband and I are eligible for them because of the work we do. (Though currently we have not been able to get an appointment.) So I have high hopes for safe hugs with friends while we are there.

But also, I didn’t want to be on a job for over 2 years working under someone whom I don’t respect and who clearly does not respect me. One of the blessings/curses of having my eating under control is that I see things so clearly. I cannot fail to see them clearly, even if I want to. And my emotions are also front and center, and they are also clear sign posts. That job was either frustrating me with the bureaucracy, angering me with the lack of accountability and leadership, or filling me with dread over the general expectation that we (my husband and I) would turn a bad job good. 

Look, my husband is pretty damn magical at what he does, and he can take something good and make it great. I have seen him do it over and over. But it’s a lot to ask, and an entirely different thing, to take something bad and make it good. And now we don’t have to attempt that anymore. 

A few years ago, I stopped meditating. It was too hard to sit quietly because I was constantly afraid for the future. It was too hard to trust that Life, or the universe, or God, or whatever you want to call it, really was looking out for me. I was terrified all the time. And that made me angry at Life/God.

For a whole decade before that, I had built a life of peace and joy around trusting that Life/God had my back and was giving me only the best. Even if the lesson was painful, I trusted it. I wasn’t afraid of pain anymore. I knew how to sit in it and work through it. But over the past several years, I didn’t trust the pain, or the lessons, or that Life/God was right. I managed my fear, but that was all I could do. 

In probably April of last year, I made a commitment to start meditating again. And it was hard. And I had a hard time being still and trusting. But I did it. Because meditation is meant to be a practice, not a solution. 

The past few months have been a slow release of pressure for me. Not because of meditation. But because of circumstances. And slowly but surely I feel like I am easing back into peace. And easing back into trust. After all, I learned a lot about myself in these past few years, and a lot about who I want to be. And I learned what I wanted to change about myself for myself. This time was a crucible. And I have come out on the other side with much of my past thinking burned away. In other words, Life/God was right. And was giving me the best all along.

And now, being taken off of this particular job is one more piece of the peace puzzle. But the truth is I should have known that peace would return. At least eventually. Because all things pass. And it would do me good to remember that that includes this new found peace. At least for a time.

I’m giving away social currency.

Over the past 9 years, this blog has been an excellent catalyst for my growth. It is a whole thing to not just have thoughts, but to also send them out into the world. When they rattle around in my head, they are a lot more like blunt objects. Imprecise. Doing a lot more harm than good.

The other day, I was writing a post for this blog about social currency. It was, if I do say so myself, an interesting topic. It’s one I think about a lot. I am a conventionally attractive, still young-ish (43) white woman in a socially acceptable sized body. That is a lot of social currency. 

The thing that made me put it down was that I was having a hard time saying that I want to devalue thinness. 

I am not skinny. I say this all the time in this blog. I am about a size 14 (US.) A L/XL. But I also need to point out that I have been a size 28 (US) and that is objectively fat. 

So at 33, when I was skinny and young and white and just plain gorgeous, I was socially rich in a way I had never experienced before. (Maybe when I was 4. I was a really beautiful little kid.) And now I am the equivalent to upper middle class social currency wise. Still beautiful and white and kind of young. But not skinny anymore. But also not fat.

So I guess what I want to call myself out on today is that so much of what is going on in my head is about my social currency. And how I want to keep what I have. And also how I do not want to be that girl. Because there is another girl, who is also me, who would have had an easier, better, more peaceful life if thinness were not of so much value. And I don’t want to throw 12 and 16 and 18 and 23-year-old Kate to the wolves so that 43-year-old Kate feels like she can keep some societal leverage before she is too old to be “attractive” anymore. And it’s not just young me that I want to protect. I don’t want to throw all of the current fats to the wolves either.

The last several years, but especially this past year has taught me a lot about who I want to be. It has made me ask if I want things at the expense of others. Or if, on the contrary, I am willing to have less than I currently have so that others can have a share. 

I don’t want wonderful things at the expense of others. That, in fact, if it comes at the expense of another person, it is not wonderful. Of the very many things I have learned from having my eating under control, one of the most important is that I have my journey, and everyone else has theirs. That not everything is for me. That life is not a zero sum game. That I don’t need to look at others as competitors. That there is plenty to go around. And that just because some will grasp and claw to get the biggest piece, doesn’t mean I will. Or that I want to. Or that the biggest piece will make me happy. The biggest piece will not, in and of itself, make me happy. That I am very clear on.

When I am thinking rationally, and not out of fear of deprivation, I remember that I *do* want to devalue thinness. Because humans are worthy and lovely and lovable by virtue of existing. Not based on what they eat or if they exercise. I can love a person who is unhealthy (though I am *not* saying that being fat is unhealthy) just for being alive and near and available to be loved. I don’t need people to earn my love with thinness or the desire to achieve thinness, or perceived health. (Though not being an asshole helps a lot!) And I don’t want to live in a world where that makes me weird. So that means I have to devalue thinness myself. For myself. About myself and everyone else.

I also want to reiterate that I love my eating boundaries. That I do not want to give them up. This is not me angling to get some cake. I am happy to live without cake. I just want the fat people who *do* want cake to be able to have it and eat it too.

Also also, this has made me want to go back and revise my post about thinness as social currency. So maybe you’ll see that in the next few weeks?

I already have romance and I don’t eat chocolate.

It’s Valentine’s Day. I used to really really hate Valentine’s Day. And now I don’t. I don’t particularly care about it. I bought my husband some chocolate that I know he likes, because I passed it at the grocery store. But that is it. And even that was on a whim.

Valentine’s Day is caught up in a whole lot of muddy cultural mess. It comes with high expectations of Romance and Passion. It comes with a kind of female competition; who can get the most romantic gift, or the most expensive. It comes with an underlying theme of grand gestures and commitment!

I am currently in the only committed romantic relationship of my life. About a month from now my husband and I will have been together for 8 years, and married for 5. And I am 43. Let me do the math for you. I was single until I was 35 (almost 36.)

There are a lot of reasons I was single for so long, both internal and external. And I can see in retrospect that I had created certain barriers to me finding someone, based on a kind of negative, self-loathing chatter that went through my brain constantly. 

But another big factor is that I was fat. And being fat meant that I was not desirable by societal standards. It doesn’t help that I am a straight woman. Straight men made it very clear to me throughout my life that they were not interested based on the fact that I was fat. Even the ones who were attracted were not interested.

I hated Valentine’s Day because society told me every day, all year long that I was not worthy of love. In fat jokes in movies and on TV. In the things people said to me on the street. In the way boys and sometimes even grown men would whisper to each other and laugh. And then once a year it had a huge, in-your-face celebration in pink and red for at least two full weeks that was clearly not for me.

We tell women all the time in our culture how they deserve to be loved, and why. Or if they deserve it al all. And a lot of us get told that we don’t deserve. And for a lot of us it is about our bodies. Always if we are fat. But sometimes if we are other things. Skinny. Black (or just not white.) Or sexually aggressive (not “pure.”) Or not feminine enough, whether that is “too butch” or “too buff.”

I used to hate Valentine’s Day because it was a reminder of all of the ways that I was considered less-than and unworthy. But I don’t need to hate it anymore. I mean, I don’t like it. And I don’t celebrate. But I don’t need to prove that I deserve the kind of love that it promises. I don’t think I even want that kind of love. 

I have a husband who honors and accommodates me in my very complicated and time consuming food life, and who knows how to fight to fix the relationship, and not to win the argument. And who has the same ideas about money and time and togetherness that I do. And who is a partner in all things. (We even work together!) 

I don’t need to be a pampered princess because I am the woman. And I don’t need material gifts to feel wanted and appreciated. I don’t even eat chocolate, obviously! And I don’t need a day on the calendar to tell me it’s time to celebrate my romance. I do that over and over, year round. Just maybe not in ways someone else would recognize as romantic.

Maybe all along the real treasure was the boundaries I put around my food!

Today I want to just briefly touch on vanity and how getting my eating under control shifted that for me.

When I was eating compulsively and fat, I hated myself for being fat. I thought about my body constantly. It took up a corner of my brain every waking moment starting from the time I was maybe 9 or 10. And at the time, the 80s and 90s, through to the mid 2000s there was a lesser, but still huge diet industry. There were Jane Fonda workout tapes and home exercise equipment setups. There were shakes, and pills, and meal supplements in the form of chocolate chews. 

And I was fat, and hated my body, and thought that there was something so incredibly wrong with me that it was inalterable. I believed that I had a willpower problem. I believed that I had a morality problem. I believed that I had a broken body and a broken soul. I knew in my heart that I was being punished by God.

When I was 28, I put boundaries around my eating. I did it to prove that it would not work. I did it to show that even if I did everything I was told to do, it still would not work. 

I also want to note that I had done everything I had been told to do before. And it had not worked. I went to doctors and nutritionists, like I was expected to. And there I was told to moderate. I was told that I should eat a cookie. But only one. And I had never ever been able to eat only one. More proof of my moral failings.

I did occasionally have something like success in my early and mid 20s. Certainly the diet industry would say I did. I could manage my eating and workout. I could get down to a socially acceptable weight for a limited amount of time. But I was always miserable. I was obsessed with eating and also with not gaining weight. I was obsessed with putting the food in and also getting it out, before it showed up on my belly or thighs. I was a laxative abuser, an exercise bulimic and eventually had a short stint as a regular, old fashioned bulimic.

But at 28, I agreed to some guidelines. To weigh my food. To only eat 3 times a day. To give up most sugars, grains, and starches. And I felt a pathetic combination of smug and sad, because I had tried everything else and I could not imagine this would work. Because I could not imagine anything would work. I was irrevocably broken! Couldn’t everyone understand that and leave me alone?

But, of course, I was wrong. And it worked! I limited my food and I was able to do it continuously, even though I had never been able to before! The answer was sugar. That when I ate sugar, I could not stop eating sugar. When I gave up sugar, I ceased to crave it. It turned out that I was (am) addicted to sugar. It is a drug for me. So when I gave it up and it stopped having a hold on me, the weight dropped off and I was skinny and now considered really beautiful by the world’s standards. And I loved it!

And I learned then that different kinds of stress affected my weight. I found out the guy I was seeing was not as interested in me as I was in him, and I gained weight. And then my beloved grandmother got sick and was sick for many months before she died and in that time I lost weight. 

After that I quit smoking. And that made me gain the most weight yet. And then after 3 years, that weight just fell away, and I got back to being quite skinny. And then the political climate in the US shifted. And I got stressed out in a whole new way. And I gained weight again. 

The whole time, I was maintaining my eating boundaries. I was not eating more. I was eating the same. And sometimes even less! And my weight still fluctuated.

When I was eating compulsively and eating sugar but in a body smaller than the one I currently inhabit, I was still miserable. I still felt ugly. I still felt broken. I still felt fat! But in getting my eating under control, I stopped feeling fat. I stopped hating myself. I stopped feeling broken and pathetic and hideous. It was the eating, and not the body, that was making me feel the way I did. 

With my eating under control, I don’t hate my body. Whatever body I happen to be in. When I am chubby, but have my eating under control, I still think I am beautiful. I still think my body is beautiful. I still like myself. And I can see that people find me attractive. It does not matter what my body actually looks like. And I can tell you that was unexpected.

Today, when I look at a picture of a model or see an actress on my TV, I am not comparing myself to her. I am not thinking about the ways that I can wrangle my body into “behaving.” I am not thinking about my body at all. And that is a miracle and a gift I have no interest in giving up.

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