onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the category “Life”

The real cost of pork chops

Yesterday my husband made dinner. It was a pork chop recipe. And it was delicious. But after I took a bite he sat up straight and said, “I used a new kind of canned tomatoes and I didn’t check the ingredients!”

So I stopped eating. He fished the can out of the garbage. I read the ingredients. Everything was fine and I got to finish my delicious dinner. But for a moment there, I had a spike of panic.

Look, there is nothing wrong with making a mistake. And if there had been something I don’t eat in the tomatoes, either sugar or starch, I would have made a phone call to tell someone what happened so that I could not have to think about it anymore, and I would have made myself something else for dinner. No big deal. 

But if I didn’t check, and decided to eat it without knowing for certain, I would have stewed on it. For who knows how long. And if I had found out that it had something I don’t eat, and I had eaten it anyway, or even just not talked about the bite I had taken, that would have lived with me too. 

My addiction certainly lives in my body. I have a physical reaction to sugar, grains, and starches. Putting them in my body sets up a cycle of craving. But my addiction lives in my head too. And for as much as I don’t miss sugar and carbohydrates, there is something deep down in me that is always looking for an out. 

My addict is dormant almost all of the time. After all, it has been over 13 years since I gave up sugar and the longer it has been, the less of a hold sugar has on me. But every once in a while, when I am extremely emotional, or worried, or stressed, she comes out. She wants cake. She wants something. She often wants something someone else has. And some high fructose corn syrup in some tomatoes kept secret because “how big of a deal could it be anyway” is an excellent little crack in the door. Big enough for my addict to stick her fingers through and grab hold. Given time and energy, given the proper motivation, she could yank that door right open.

If you think a bite is no big deal, you probably don’t have the same experience that I do of food being your own personal hell. So I will fish a can out of the garbage to read the ingredients. I will throw away a whole meal if it comes to that. I don’t care how much that pork chop cost. It isn’t worth letting my addict in. 

Also, I want to note what a hero my husband is for, not only cooking dinner, but when he realized his mistake, not hiding it from me. He knows what is important to me and he not only knows my rules, but he accepts them without question. That is incredibly important to me, and I am grateful for it. Plus, did I mention that dinner was delicious?

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I won’t be haunted by the ghosts of things I left incomplete

I seriously wonder how people function in the world sometimes. There are things that I am excellent at, some of them even crises. I can keep it together and not panic during some particularly difficult times. When things go wrong at work, I can handle it. When my father-in-law got sick, I was able to be calm and be of service. But sometimes, just regular life things can throw me for a real loop. 

This week I had to drive 10 hours to Chicago to go to jury duty. And I was a wreck. On my way there, my “low tire pressure” warning light came on. And I had a bit of a panic. I want to be clear, this has happened before a few years ago. I keep a mini compressor in my car for just this reason. I have done it myself before on one of my many solo long distance drives. But I was afraid to do it this time, and called my husband to basically see if he would give me permission to not do it. Guess what. He did not. He told me I should do it. For my own peace of mind. So I did it. And it was fine. Quick and easy. 
And then I was distraught that I might get picked for a jury, and be away from my husband and my job for over a week. And have to deal with my food in a kitchen that was not mine. And be away from my routine. I mean actually distraught. I cried. I was miserable and my heart was pounding so hard. I did not get picked. Thank heaven. 
And then on the last stretch of my drive back home to my husband, I was debating if I should get gas or just get home and get it in the morning on my way to the grocery store. I was emotionally exhausted and my butt hurt from the 10 hour drive and knew I had enough gas to get home…until I missed my exit. And then I panicked and got scared that I wouldn’t get to a gas station in time. And I called my husband having a panic attack. I am sure being so stressed out for the previous 2 days didn’t help. He calmed me down and stayed on the phone until I was able to get gas. And the truth is, I should have known that I would find a gas station in plenty of time. But I got scared and I just lost it. 
When I was eating compulsively I was regularly paralyzed. I didn’t do things if they were scary or hard. And because of that, a lot of things didn’t get done. And that, the things not being done, made my life extra stressful. If my homework felt overwhelming, so I didn’t do my homework, I then had to deal with the consequences of not having done my homework. That was stressful. But I could get high on sugar and forget, temporarily, that I was unhappy, or stressed, or overwhelmed. 
But now I have to sit with those feelings. I have to feel overwhelmed. I have to freak out. I have to panic. But in feeling my feelings, I always choose to do something about it. The pain of the anticipation of fear is almost always worse than the thing I am worried about. But if you’ll notice, when I got super scared, I called my husband. I have other people I call too. People I know can talk me through. People who will give good advice and be generous with my fear. 
The bottom line is that I am sensitive. My feelings are vast and deep and unwieldy. Even now as a grown woman. My fear is big. My anxiety is big. But I have tools to deal with them. I have a commitment to living. And I can make friends with this aspect of myself.
I do not want to harden my heart. I don’t even know if I could. I do not want to crawl back into a sugar shell to be inert. I want to feel all of the inconvenient feelings and do all the hard things. Not because I like to. I don’t. But because I love the freedom that comes with the doing. Because the only way to leave those difficult things in the past is to go through them. The things that I avoid never really go away. They hang around like ghosts, haunting me. In a lot of ways, what I had been eating for so long was the ghosts of the things I had left incomplete. 
But my eating is under control now. And there is nothing to numb the fear and the anxiety and the worry. And because the hell of active food addiction is worse than the fear of a difficult situation, I will feel the fear, and the panic. I will cry when I must and make a call and ask for help when I can. And I will also know that 3 times a day, I will be able to turn it all off, and eat a delicious meal within my eating boundaries. And that when I deal with my life, all things are temporary. And this, too, shall pass.

Love for myself and my fat sisters

The internet is a fascinating place. And I am in an unusual position. I am a person who grew up fat in the 80s and 90s, when being fat was less common. And I lost my weight just at the rise of smartphones, when the internet, and more specifically, social media, became prevalent. 

In this blog over the years, I have had the opportunity to get over a lot of the feelings I had about being fat. I got to learn to separate my eating disorder from my body. I got to learn to separate how I felt about myself and my body from how I was treated by others. 
But in the 80s and 90s, there was really only how *I* was treated. Fat shaming was just a person to person experience.

On the internet, now, in 2019, we have these self made soap boxes and anyone and everyone gets to spout an opinion about all things. And I get to see a lot of nasty, fatphobic, self-righteous ranting about the wrongness fat people, very specifically fat women. Some of it from men, but so much more of it from women. 

There were, for so long, so many things tied up together in my own brain,  that I now understand shouldn’t have been. Like how I hated being fat, and how others hated me being fat. The first is my business and nobody else’s. The second is none of my business and not my problem. Or how I hated my fat self so much for being disgusting and a failure and I transferred it on to other fat people. As if now that *I* had the solution to my own self-hate problem, those without it were foolish, or lacking, or disgusting. Just like people used to treat me.
It took years for me to untangle these messy feelings. For example, I had to give up any notion that I could convince someone to do what I do with food, or that I knew better. I had to give up any notion that I was helping anyone by forcing my story on them with the expectation that it would save them. I had to give up the idea that fat me and straight-sized me were different people. I had to learn to love and appreciate my young fat self for all of the things being fat taught me and created in me. And I had to forgive the mean girl I was when I first got my eating under control, who fought so long to hate that fat Kate. 
But being in my forties, and very happily married, and so much less self-conscious than the skinny 30-something woman who was getting so much attention, while getting used to fitting into a socially acceptable body for the first time, has given me a new perspective on what it is to be a fat woman. And not being skinny, but still feeling sane, happy, and beautiful, has changed what I want for fat girls and women. 
I do have a dog in this fight. I have a little girl/young woman inside me that could still use some healing. And my guess is she always will. Because she was hurt a lot, by others and by myself. I wish my young, fat self had been available to be liked and loved. But I was not. I wish my young fat self was told she was amazing as often as she was told she was lacking. And I wish that for all of the men who were attracted to me then, some of them would not have acted like it was a shameful thing. But I should take some responsibility for that as well. Because just because I was offered crumbs, doesn’t mean I had to take them. I wish my young, fat self knew her worth. 
It’s a mine field out there for fat women. And there are more and more fat women out there, and they are facing discrimination. As soon as someone tells them they are OK, someone like Bill Maher says, “Fat shaming doesn’t need to end it needs to make a comeback.”
Being shamed is a part of life for fat people. And perhaps the Bill Mahers of the world will never entirely go away. (Though a girl can dream…) But I am not going to be one of the people talking about the shamefulness of being fat. Did I hate being fat? Yes. Do I love keeping boundaries around my eating so that I can maintain a weight I am comfortable in? I do! I absolutely love it. But I am nobody but myself. And I think how much better my life would have been if I had not been ashamed. So I am not interested in shaming, myself or anyone else . I want to be an example of love. Self-love, and love for my fat sisters. 

The meaning of fat

I read something interesting on Twitter this week. It was a fat woman asking for thin women to stop saying they are fat when they have recently stopped their restrictive diets, when they have gained a few pounds, or when they feel ugly. This woman lamented the fact that we don’t use (or really have) different words for these things. 

And this was of particular note for me because I have been 300 lbs, I have been a size 28 (the largest size in the plus size stores at the time) and even after maintaining a weight-loss of over 100 lbs for over 10 years, I still talk about being and feeling fat all the time. Just like this person said, if I gain a few pounds I think of myself as fat. If I eat heavier than usual (let’s say I have pork rinds twice in one day or a few days in a row) I may say I feel fat. I may actually *feel* fat. It doesn’t matter if I know that I am not fat. That word, that concept, is ingrained in me. In many ways it haunts me.

Now some of that is because the experience of growing up fat in the US has shaped me. It has created the basis for how I see myself and how I see my culture and society. The name of this blog is a nod to the idea that “Once a fat girl, always a fat girl.” Having grown up fat is an irrevocable part of me. It cannot be taken away. I cannot unsee the ways that I was treated. I cannot forget that I was judged, and often humiliated, for the size of my body. 

I also cannot forget that as I grew up, I was inundated with images of thin women. And that over the past 35 years, those women became thinner and thinner and those images more and more impossible, and that inundation more and more inescapable. After all, I am writing this from a mini computer connected to the whole world, that fits in my hand and goes everywhere with me. 

But when I think about it, it seems a little obnoxious to me that I want to be able to use the word “fat” as I want just because I was fat in the past. And I know what actually fat Kate would think of me right now complaining about my weight or feeling fat. She would roll her eyes so hard she’d get a glimpse of her own brain. She would cheat, steal and kill for the opportunity to shop in regular stores, fit in a seat, not have strangers make remarks about her weight in public. So it seems a little cruel to her, and to fat people in general, to deny the fact that fat doesn’t mean “not skinny.” And fat doesn’t mean “bigger than before.” 

I don’t have an answer to this right now. I am just thinking about my language and how I want to think about and express my experiences. Because I may not be skinny but I am not fat. And it is worth it to find language that fits my personal situation as well as the situation of others. Society is not getting skinnier, for all of our glorification of it. And language creates our world as well as describing it.

Your brain is in your hands…wait…not literally

Someone asked me last week how I deal with eating compulsively when I am not hungry. And it’s a great question. Because I didn’t eat because I was hungry before I put boundaries around my eating. I ate to soothe my difficult feelings. I ate to get high. I ate because it was something to do, and it was my favorite thing to do. I ate because I had cravings, and the foods I ate when I had cravings were foods that gave me more cravings. I am addicted to sugar, grains and starches, and eating them sets me up to “need” more.

But it was more than just a physical craving for me. I spent my life thinking and acting in certain ways, and in doing that I wired my brain for more of the same. In other words, I was wired to think about food and to eat constantly. It took something to rewire myself differently. It took, and sometimes still takes, *actively* changing my thoughts. Though if course it is much easier now. When I have a thought, I have the power to stop having that thought. I have the power to stop a thought in its tracks. It takes practice and intention, but it is possible.
I used to have this experience where I would think something like “I want chocolate cake.” And I would have to tell myself that I don’t eat that anymore. And then not 10 minutes later I would have that same thought. And I would have to tell myself again. And sometimes, my brain would be so insistent that it would phrase it for me like a brand new idea. “Oh hey, I know! Why don’t I have some chocolate cake!?!?” Like I hadn’t just had the same thought over and over. 
It takes time to retrain your brain. It takes effort. It takes doing something that you weren’t doing before.
Eating 3 meals a day with nothing in between is a huge part of how deal with the behavioral part of my eating boundaries and how I don’t eat compulsively. There are times to eat: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Every single other moment is not time to eat. That makes it uncomplicated for my brain. It makes it easy to rewire my brain to those ends. It takes away the grey areas and the sneaky thoughts. It’s simple, even if it’s not easy to do in the beginning.
For me sugar addiction is very clearly physical. Eating sugar makes me crave sugar. But my being an addict is also about behaviors that my physical addiction made me do compulsively too. I could not have stopped eating compulsively if I did not change, not only what I ate, but when, and how, and how often. I had to change the ways I thought. 
But I will say that this rewiring comes slowly, and in baby steps. And the best way to change yourself this way is to start. To change one thought. To take one action. To not take that bite. 

On making friends with a new devil

I consider myself pretty good at change. I have a lot of experience with it. From all of the kinds of jobs I have had, to all of the moving I have done to different homes and different cities and towns. And I have learned to give up things. Like simple sugar and carbohydrates. And smoking. 

And I have an experience. That life will always give you the opportunity to go back to the way it was before. It will always let you choose to go back to the *you* you were before. Because when you make a commitment, you change your life’s trajectory. You set yourself on a new, unknown path. 
When I was single, and it didn’t work out with a man, he would inevitably show back up in my life just when I had moved on. Within a week of the day I quit smoking, I had a neighbor stalk me and I had to call the police and my landlord. It was very stressful. Exactly the kind of emotional upset I used smoking to soothe. 
It comes back to that old saying: “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” I find that life always gives me a chance to escape the unknown and return to that comfortable misery. 
Now, I don’t believe that the devil you know is better. And I have known plenty of devils. When it comes to change I agree with Mae West. “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.”
There was the devil of significant weight gain when I quit smoking. And wow was that difficult and painful. And there are, of course, lots of devils to keeping boundaries around my food. There is the time it takes to shop, prep, cook, and pack. There is the navigation of the feelings and expectations of people who don’t understand. There is the planning involved in having my meals be complete and accounted for daily, while still having a life. There is all of the extra work involved in eating out, when for most people, eating out is when they *don’t* have to do any work. And there are all of the *feelings* that can be painful, overwhelming, scary, uncomfortable, unwelcome, or just plain yucky.
But when I was eating compulsively, I already knew a lot of devils, and they were shame, self-hatred, self-doubt, crippling anxiety, an inability to move forward with my life, fear of failure, fear of humiliation, regular emotional paralysis, and physical pain and difficulties.
I promise, those devils were worse. But if you asked that Kate, who was suffering under all of those devils, she would most certainly have told you the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. And if you had told her that she would spend a huge portion of her time shopping and prepping and cooking, and also feeling uncomfortable feelings, she would have said that sounded like the worse devil! Who would want something like that?!?!
But now, I have reached a point of no return. I am not saying I could never go back into the sugar. I am still an addict and it is still as dangerous to me as it ever was. When I put sugar in my body, it sets up a craving for more. That is biological and inescapable. But I know all of the devils now, and I’ll never be able to think of the difficulties of food boundaries as worse than the prison of self-loathing.
I hated myself when I was eating sugar and carbohydrates. And I hated myself so much and for so long that I didn’t even know I hated myself until it stopped. But the point is, it did stop. And I found that in doing all that work, and feeling all of those feelings, I came to love myself, to like myself, to trust myself, to enjoy my life, to have fulfilling relationships, and to respect myself and others.
And I want to say something about this regarding fat acceptance. I hear a lot on social media about how society has socialized us to hate ourselves if we are fat, and to internalize that bigotry. And I don’t think it’s necessarily untrue. There is certainly an aspect of being taught that we are less than. But I want to note that after quitting sugar, grains, and starches, I did not loose weight all that quickly. And there have been many times in which I have gained weight keeping my boundaries. But my self-hatred has been stilled ever since I started. And when I was thin, but eating compulsively, I hated myself as much as when I was fat. Perhaps more, because I felt like the body I was in was a lie. I don’t want fat people to hate themselves. I don’t think it’s healthy, or helpful, or right. And it is certainly my wish for you to love yourself in whatever body you are in. But for me, it is very clear that my eating, not my body, or my weight, is what made me miserable and ashamed. And in taking care of my eating, I learned how to love my body and my life. So consider that just maybe there are angels hanging out with the devil you don’t know.

Shamelessness: A Highly-Recommended Life Skill

There is a thing that happens when you put and keep boundaries around your food. You have to learn to get what you need, and that usually means asking for what you need even if it looks ridiculous from the outside. I have literally had to ask a waiter for more vegetables when I needed less than half an ounce. But I needed that portion. (I usually carry backup with me but this particular time I did not.) And I got what I needed. 

You can’t be a people-pleaser and keep your food under control. You have to be a commitment-keeper. Because what normal eating, non-addict would bother a waiter for a ramekin of cherry tomatoes after they have already been so incredibly particular about what they are ordering and how it is cooked and how many they need. And when there is still over half an order of spinach on the table, but that is cooked in oil and they need vegetables with no fat. “And may I also have an extra plate, please? No, bigger. A full sized plate.” 
You pretty much have to be shameless. Which, by the way, is an incredible life skill that I highly recommend.
So as I mentioned last week, my husband and I are renovating our permanent residence in the suburbs of Chicago. And we agree on most things but the flooring has been difficult. It is the primary thing we tend not to agree on. And there is a very small window where we do. So I did a lot of research, and gave him a lot of options. But once we *finally* agreed on a floor, our contractor came to us and told us it was on backorder, and would not be available until our home was complete. Or maybe a little before. And he sent us some samples of floors that his supplier considered “similar.” 
My friends, *I* didn’t consider them similar. In fact, I positively hated most of them. And found one of them tolerable. But I did not want tolerable if I could help it. 
So I did it again. I looked up floor samples, and found pictures of them actually laid in a room. (Bless the Internet!) And gave my husband a bunch of options. And this time I had him eliminate what he did not like (only one this time – clearly I got a better sense of what he likes) and *rank* the others. And then I called the contractor and asked him what would be better, if I gave him a list of what I want, or if he gave me a list of what I could have. And he asked for our list, and I gave it to him ranked. And we got our first choice. Easy. 

A different Kate might have been given some suggestions of “similar” options and picked the one she hated the least. And then she may have been resentful if she didn’t *love* her floor. But this Kate, who knows how to ask for less than half and ounce of vegetables even when there is a plate of sautéed spinach in front of her, knows what she wants, what she needs, how to ask, and how to be gracious about asking.
I did my homework. I searched my options. I found the pictures. I asked my husband to rank them. I asked my contractor what was the best I could do for him to help me get what I want. I was proactive in knowing what I wanted and needed. I knew how to take care of the people who are helping me get what I want. I planned. I prepared. 
Every time I take care of myself by knowing what I want and asking for it, I become more my authentic self. I become more of the me I stuffed down with food for so much of my life. I become less the person who takes what she is given because she thinks it is what others want her to be, that they will be pleased with her, and how compliant she is. 
I can see in retrospect that my contractor and his supplier offered me those suggestions to make it easier for me. Not to limit me. They were doing me a favor, and it was up to me to choose one of their suggestions, or choose something else, as I saw fit. And I can imagine that many people don’t know what they want. I bet many people would be grateful for a recommendation, rather than feel stifled. 
So I am grateful to my food boundaries for teaching me to ask for what I want, to be clear about what I need. To know what will make me happy, and then to *be* happy when I get it. And just to be clear, now that I know that my floors are taken care of, I am most definitely happy!

A kitchen fit for a cook. (Or two.)

A few weeks ago when we were home, I stepped into my closet to get a dress for the wedding I was going to, and my bare feet squished in the wet carpeting. Blech! Obviously, no carpet should be wet, but especially not in a closet. So I told my husband we had a problem. And we sure did.

But in many ways we were lucky. We first expected the damage to cost upwards of $10,000. Oy! But the leak itself got fixed for well under $1,000! Hooray! And then we had to decide what to do with the wall that had to be broken into, the floor now that the moldy carpet had to be removed, and the bathroom behind the closet where the leak originated.
The truth is, that house had not been in good shape anyway. We had been talking about renovating it for years. And the kitchen was not fully functional, with no dishwasher, old, splitting cabinets filled with decades worth of scratched up cookware, and Tupperware lids and bottoms without matches, expired spices, and too many cans of cooking spray to count (since I would grocery shop on our way home before I knew what was already in the house, and I always bought one “just in case.”) That we didn’t spend much time there didn’t help with the overall shabbiness of the place.
But in many ways, we didn’t spend much time there because it was not fun for me! The kitchen was small and as I said, there was no dishwasher. I cook a lot. Like a lot a lot. And I eat off of real plates, and use metal utensils. So every time I went home I had to spend hours of my time doing dishes. Hours when I was also expected to see people and do things. Hours I never have to spend in our homes on the road because *those places* always have dishwashers.
So I am extra excited about a new kitchen! With a double oven! (Because my husband wanting to bake something at 425* -usually potatoes, which I don’t eat anyway- at the same time I am roasting/baking our meat at 325* is actually a problem that comes up pretty often in our house.) And a fancy dishwasher! And water and ice in the door! 
I am looking forward to a modern kitchen made for people like myself and my husband, who cook daily, and who care about the food we are eating. Plus, we are a pretty technologically modern couple with a run-down kitchen from the 1980s. That just seems wrong.
So this leak was no fun. But it was a great motivator for us to get our home updated. And especially to give us a functional kitchen I want to cook in. Because I love my food. And I don’t want to resent cooking. I can’t *afford* to resent cooking. Especially when that can be fixed by updating with a dishwasher. You know, technology that has been around longer than I have been alive.

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.

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