onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “June, 2022”

Reclaiming My Time

When I got my eating under control in 2006, what I ended up getting was a lot of time. Like a ridiculous amount of time. 

So much of my life before that was eating, or planning the next thing I would eat, or getting the thing I wanted to eat, or just thinking about eating. And then there was the body stuff. Trying to pick clothes that hid my body, or trying on everything I owned because I hated my body and hoped that something would look ok.

When I put boundaries around my eating, I definitely spent a lot of time meal prepping. But “a lot of time” is relative. And so I had a block of 2-3 hours once or twice a week to make all the food I would eat for the week. And eating itself took absolutely no more than 3 hours a day. And I did not have to think about my body anymore. I could just put on clothes and go about my day. And I didn’t have to think about eating all the time, because I already *knew* what I was going to eat and when.

Add to all of that the rise of YouTube, and all of the crafting tutorials everywhere, and suddenly, I had the time and brain space to get great. I leveled up in crochet, taught myself how to knit, and acquired new and more impressive crafting skills.

Well, recently I made a dress up doll that looks like a character from the Bridgerton tv show, because I am obsessed with her dresses (and her character.) And of course the show is a huge budget period piece so the dresses are complicated. I decided that I needed to learn to embroider. More specifically to embroider on crochet to make the appliqué designs. Because of course I did.

The point is, I can. I have the time. I have the brain space to learn. I have the desire to do something even if it is complicated.

The other thing that I have is the willingness to do the prep work. I spent many hours crocheting a particular dress, before the appliqué accents. And there was a time before having my eating under control, when I would have watched some tutorials, and then jumped right in and gone to work on the finished dress. And maybe it would have been ok, but maybe it wouldn’t. But I was too impatient to take my time. I didn’t have much time. There was food to obsess over and eat, and clothes to try on and take off, and a body to lament.

But getting back all of that time has made me willing and able to do my due diligence. To make a swatch (or 2, or sometimes 3) and practice. To try new techniques, and decide which worked best. To really play with it. 

Crafting makes me proud. I love what I do. I love the feeling of accomplishment. I love having an object that I can hold in my hand. I love the puzzle of figuring out how to take an idea and make it a reality.

I was always creative. I made all kinds of art through all kinds of media, my whole life. But I never had the patience or brain space to really excel until I put boundaries around my eating and took back my time.

Growing, just really slowly. (Still counts!)

I feel like every year around this time, I eat a too-big-for-comfort half cantaloupe. And about once every 2-3 years, I write a blog about it. Because I never learn. 

That is not true. I learn. Just very veeeerrrrry slowly. 

Over the years, my need for gargantuan breakfast fruit has mellowed. When I first got my eating under control, giant fruits saved me. They helped me make it through the morning to lunch without eating. Because eating was a habit, not a need. I was not hungry, I had cravings. My body did not need fuel or nourishment. I was used to eating all the time, and the things I was eating, man made sugar and simple carbohydrates, got me high. And triggered cravings for more of the same. So a giant apple that weighed over a pound, or half of a cantaloupe bigger than my head, made me feel like I could manage to get through.

But years later, I already know that I don’t need that much food. That the amount I eat is enough, and more than enough. In the past 16+ years, I have almost never been hungry. It does happen every once in a while. Maybe 1-3 times a year, I am ravenous by the time lunch or dinner rolls around. But not anything major. Barely a blip on my radar. And it never lasts.

And yet, I still occasionally find myself buying cantaloupes that are bigger than I need. And I still eat the half of it. 

In my defense, the cantaloupes I buy now are much smaller than the ones I used to buy 16, and 10, and even 3 years ago. The one I ate half of today was not only not bigger than my head, it was not even the same size. A cantaloupe smaller than my head! This is progress, people! Look at me growing and changing!

But the truth is, there is still something in me that is afraid there will not be enough to satisfy me. I expect it will always be there. 

And here is the other thing I want to make clear. Even if it does make me a little ill, it is more important to me to satisfy and nurture that thing in me that is afraid of deprivation, than it is to “eat a reasonable amount of food.” If you think the discomfort of eating too much is worse than the fear of not eating enough, my guess is that you, my friend, are not a food addict or a compulsive eater.

I eat within my boundaries. Always! And it is still possible for me to eat more than is comfortable while staying well within those boundaries. So even if I am stuffed, I have zero guilt and absolutely no shame.

I think people think about addiction, especially food addiction, as being a thing you can eventually get over. Like after 16 years, can’t I just “eat like a normal person?” But I am not now, and never will be, “normal” around food. It is still a huge part of my life and my heart and my thinking.

So I don’t expect to ever get over it. But maybe, someday, I will not go out of my way to buy too-big cantaloupes every summer. Wouldn’t that be some growth. Anyway, today is not that day.

Rewards that are not

The other day when I put on a pair of yoga pants, I realized that they were a little loose. Which meant that I have lost weight. And my first reaction was to be really pleased. 

I don’t mean that I have been trying to lose weight and taking actions toward that end, and I was therefore excited by the payoff of my work. In fact, I am personally actively against weight loss as an end goal. I do not want to consider my weight or size as deserving of notice in any way. I take care of my eating. My eating takes care of my body. Whatever my weight is while I am keeping my eating boundaries is exactly the weight I should be. I don’t need to worry about it beyond that.

But the idea that thinner is always better is wired into my primordial brain. I didn’t have a “thought” that I was happy or pleased. There were no words. An electrical pulse made its way up my spine to my brain and lit up my reward center. 

There was a time when this weight loss would have motivated me to look at what i did differently and then try to do more of that. Change my food. Change my lifestyle. Get more brain chemical rewards. Get more people to tell me I look great or better (but what they really mean is thinner.)

Society tells us (women especially, but the men are catching up) that we are in a zero sum game. That there is a perfect body. And each of us is judged based on our proximity to that ideal. And we know that this is true, because people with a lot of money pay a lot of money to get that body. Or as close to that body as they can get. And even those bodies get photoshopped to be even more in line with the ideal. 

When I was working in an optometrist’s office many years ago, there was a guy who came in, and I don’t remember how the subject came up, but he wanted to make sure that myself and the ladies in the office understood that models were not really that pretty and he should know because his job was to photoshop them to appropriate beauty. I think he was trying to be nice. But all I remember is how appalled I was. He was reducing women to their flaws. And “fixing” them for consumption. 

But I also want to say that I think it is a lot easier for me to dismantle my fat phobia because my eating is under control. When I was fat, I was also eating compulsively. And I could not stop, no matter how much I wanted to. And I hated myself for that. I felt weak. I felt like a loser. I have been the size I am now when I was in the food, but then I hated myself and my body. 

It turns out that when I got my eating under control, I could separate my eating from my body. I could really know that I was being kind and gentle to my body with food. And that meant that I could disconnect from the narrative that there was an ideal body. I had a body. It was a good one. And it didn’t need to be anything else.

If you can’t be in a body you love, love the body you’re in.

Ten years ago today I smoked my last cigarette. I had decided that I didn’t want to be a 35-year-old smoker. (Tomorrow is my birthday, in case that wasn’t obvious. And I turn 45 this time around.) It was about vanity for me. Quitting smoking felt like a really grown up thing to do. It felt like getting my shit together. So I did it. And it mostly felt great. 

Except in less than 6 months I had gained 30 pounds. Weighing all of my food. Eating quantifiably less food than I had been before quitting smoking (I know because I was weighing my food, and had already been doing so for years.) Eating less of foods like bacon and starchy vegetables. And still growing out of my clothes. 

I felt crazy! I was terrified! I had literal nightmares about stepping on the scale, about my weight going out of my control, about being fat again. Was I going to go right back up to 300 pounds again? Even with my eating boundaries?

I did not, of course, go back up to 300 pounds. My weight eventually stopped growing. But also, I have never been thin again. Ever. No more size 4s and 6s. No more tiny little dresses. No more little jeans that I held up thinking *these will never fit me*, but I was skinny, so they did. After the weight gain, I had to get rid of most of my clothes. It was hard. I cried a lot. Over the clothes, over my body, over my hormones going crazy trying to heal me after decades of being a smoker.

If I had known how it would go, I guarantee you I never would have quit. Because I cared so much about my weight. I had hated being fat and hated myself for being fat. When I had lost weight it felt like such an accomplishment. And people reinforced that idea. They were “proud” of me. They were “impressed.” They wanted me to “keep up the good work.” 

Except people didn’t want me to keep up the good work. They wanted me to stay thin. They didn’t care *how* I got there or maintained it. And in fact, a lot of them were freaked out or repulsed by the “good work” I actually did do to keep my eating under control which is what maintained the weight loss they were so “impressed” by.

And here I was *doing* this thing people wanted me to do (quit smoking) and it was making my body do this other thing people really *did not* want me to do (gain weight.)

So I did the only sensible thing, which, from the outside, to a lot of people, looked like a very stupid thing to do. I stopped caring about my weight. I made friends with the body I have. I started to dress the body I have. I started to exercise the body I have. I made a point to actively love the body I have. 

Obviously I am not sorry I quit smoking. Since 10 years later I am still a non-smoker, and I still keep my eating boundaries, even though I am not skinny. Because Life must have known what it was doing. Gaining weight with my eating under control was an excellent first step to dismantling my internalized fat phobia. It has let me see how we as a society shame and cow and control women with our body and beauty standards. And it let me heal a lot of the self-hatred that I had because I was fat in a world where fat is the worst thing a woman can be. It taught me in a practical way what no theoretical lesson could. That not all bodies can be shamed, cowed, and controlled into socially acceptable ones. At least not without the harsh and harmful methods I was now unwilling to subject my beloved body to. And that all I really need is to love the body I have exactly as it is.

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