onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “May, 2021”

Build the muscle to change a mind

Yesterday my husband and I had friends over for dinner for the first time in forever! And it was awesome! 

My husband is a great cook and he loves to do it. But when we have company he usually makes things I can’t eat. So I either eat the parts I can, and supplement the rest of my meal, or I just eat my own food.

Last night my husband made pasta, so that was a no-go for me. And the fancy sauce he made was also not one I could have. But I cooked up some of our homemade Italian sausage, which is a personal favorite of mine. And he made, for lack of a better term, an Italian salsa for bruschetta as an appetizer. And while you probably already know, I don’t eat bread, I did get to have the salsa itself which was super delicious. 

I am grateful that I no longer look at the things I can’t have as “missing out.” My dinner was delicious. And guilt-free. But that took something. It took a conscious choice to take control of my own brain and stop certain thoughts. To recognize them, and stop thinking them. To change the channel. And that did not happen today. It happened a little at a time over years and years.

If I have one piece of advice for people who want to start abstaining from their drug foods, it would be to understand the nature of their own thoughts. It would be to become aware of how much control we each have over our thinking, which seems, at first, like something we have no choice in.

I am a completely different thinker than I was when I was eating compulsively. I had been thinking a certain way for 28 years when I finally put boundaries around my eating. I had worn certain paths in my brain. Certain thoughts necessarily lead to other particular thoughts. All of those thoughts, all of the paths they created, led directly to the foods that made me feel miserable and out of control. 

It takes something to leave the path. It takes a kind of bravery. It takes a kind of fortitude. And it takes practice. It’s like building a muscle. You don’t start being able to do 100 push-ups. You do a few with bad form and much heavy breathing at first. But you get better and stronger every time. And if you do it regularly, you build the muscles to the point that a push-up is second nature. Your body remembers. It knows. 

I also understood that I was never going to get anywhere different while I was walking the same paths. If I wanted to change the way I ate, I had to change the way I ate. If this seems like an obvious truth to you, let me assure you I tried for many many years to change the way I ate without having to change anything. I quite literally wanted my cake and to eat it too.

When I got my eating under control, people who went before me told me to change my language. Not to call things “favorite foods” anymore. To remember that they were poison to me. To refer to them as such. To stop romanticizing them. To stop thinking of them with longing. To stop thinking of them at all. To build that muscle.

So much of changing my life was in changing my mind. One thing at a time. One word at a time. One wishful thought at a time. And the gift of changing my mind about sugar also gave me the option to change my mind about other things. To know that the thoughts in my head were not “me.” They were merely thoughts. And I was in control of all of them, because once upon a time, even when I was really bad at it, I was willing to change my mind.

It’s not really food I’m craving. My stomach might not know.

Lately I have been having cravings. I don’t necessarily mean food cravings, though food would do it if I still did that. I have been craving “more” or some “soothing.” In other words, my addict wants something to drug her so she doesn’t have to feel uncomfortable.

I am grateful to have a history of, and a point of reference for abstaining from most sugar, grains and starches, my personal drug foods. Saying no is easier when I have already said no and found that the world didn’t end. It’s easier when I know what to expect and have tools to manage and deal with the feelings.

My work life has been up in the air for a while. One job fell through. Then we were told we would be assigned to another job. Then told we were not. Then told we were again. And at this particular moment I do not know the truth of the situation. And I don’t even feel like I can just ask, outright. I feel like I have to tread lightly. Manage management’s expectations of who knows what about want. It’s frustrating. I am frustrated.

That is one of the specific things about the culture of the company I work for that makes me a rather crappy match. There is a lot of secrecy that necessarily leads to gossip. And let me assure you that grown-ass construction workers are every bit as gossipy as we accuse teenage girls of being. In fact, some gossip about me (totally untrue, by the way) made its way to my husband and back to me.

When I got my eating under control, I had to stop lying. But I could not stop lying about food while I continued to lie about other things. (Oh believe me, I tried!) I had to stop cheating, stealing and hiding. 12 steppers often say “we are only as sick as our secrets.” 

I am also committed to authenticity. Being myself is another form of honesty. I am straight forward and blunt. I am kind, and I am likable, but I am also interested in getting to the heart of things. I am interested in honoring other people’s time and energy. And I am very bad at smiling in the face of people whom I know are lying to me or cheating me. And in my experience, what most people call “diplomacy” is disingenuous and underhanded.

So I am uncomfortable about work. And about my future. And that affects both my self-esteem and my money. And those are exactly the kinds of things that I ate over when I was eating compulsively. Am I good enough? Will I be able to pay my bills? Being uncertain about these things masquerades as hunger. Luckily, at this point in my life, I can spot that uncertainty and the discomfort it brings, even when it’s in a full mask and a billowing ball gown.

So now I am in the position of asking myself if I should stay, or look for something better suited to me. But that is also an anxiety inducing prospect. My job may be a devil, but it’s a devil I know. And there are aspects to it that I love. I love working with my husband. I love my coworkers. I love how good I am at what I do. I love making good money. But I also know from experience that when I keep my eating under control, my life gets better, even when I thought it was getting worse.

Years ago, I got this job shortly after I applied for a different job, a writing job for a different company, where I was the only person being considered. I thought that I was a shoo-in. I was even told as much. But in the end they eliminated the position, rather than hire me. At the time I was devastated. And I was depressed. But in retrospect, it was a gift. I can see now that I would have been unhappy there. And I would have never gotten the chance to learn this new set of skills, and find that I excel at them. I would not have made as much money as I have at my current job. I would not have been able to support my husband in doing the caliber of work he does. My support (I mean practical, data and spreadsheet support, not emotional support) allowed him to grow in his job too. And I loved that for both of us.

So I am uncomfortable and worried about my job and I have been having cravings over it. And I don’t know what to do. (About the job. I know exactly what to do about the cravings. 1. Don’t eat outside of my boundaries. 2. Make sure I eat *really* well at meal times.) But I do know this. When I keep my eating under control, Life always gives me something better than the thing I thought I wanted.

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