onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the category “Personal Growth”

Art and my noisy brain

I have been working on a crochet project for a few weeks, and I am in an uncomfortable but predictable place with it. I am a good portion of the way done and I have not been working on it almost at all for weeks, because I have begun to wonder if I actually hate it and have made a terrible mistake in trying to make it.

This is predictable because it happens every time I make a project that is an original idea and not based on a pattern. Every. Single. Time.

I know that this is the way of art. That there is nothing to do about it but keep going. And I even know somewhere in the back of my mind that it will probably be amazing, even if it is not perfect. And I know that I can alway frog it back (the common term for pulling out rows of stitches, because you rip it, rip it) and try again if I am so inclined. But knowing all of this does not particularly help me move in one direction or another.

My mind can be a bit of an echo chamber. Thoughts and ideas can bounce around in there for long periods of time, and grow or change shape in all kinds of unpredictable ways.

When I got my eating under control, an important early lesson was how I am “only as sick as my secrets.” That the things that I was afraid or ashamed of were amplified by my reluctance to talk openly about them. And once I found people on whom I could rely to be lovingly honest and nonjudgmental, I started telling my “secrets.” It turns out that the ghosts that can haunt me in my own mind are just shadows and dust bunnies when I shine a light on them. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

But art (and yes, I do consider myself an artist, and the kind of crafting I do art) is not merely an idea or a concept. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say. (I know, they don’t say that. But they should.) And art is not about ideas, but execution. So even if I were to wax poetic about my current project, which I occasionally do, it still doesn’t change the fact that it is not really anything until it is finished. It is not the idea that is haunting me, but my ability to make the idea tangible, and the reality of whether I can, in fact, manage to do that.

What I have learned about making in the 16+ years since I put boundaries around my eating is to trust the process. To fully embrace this place where I am stuck. To make friends with the rattling jumble of noise in my head. To honor the uncertainty and fear, and then, eventually, push through. To recognize that the idea and the object that is born from it are never the same. That art and craft are different, and that my art will only ever be as good as my skill in the craft. That there will always be more craft to learn, so make the art now anyway. 

Like I said before, I have this experience every time I create something from my own mind. And everything I have ever hated half way through, I have come to love upon completion. So I will probably make a few smaller projects or try some new techniques, and give myself a little distance from this major creative undertaking, and then I will come back to it and power through. And we shall see what I end up with.

Driving my meat car with the low fuel light always on

I was talking to a friend yesterday who forgot to eat for a long time and didn’t understand what was wrong. And it reminded me that there are a lot of us who don’t have bodies that function like other bodies.

My friend was raised with intuitive eating. (Not that it was specifically called that, but she was taught to only ever eat when she was hungry.) And that worked for her sisters and her parents. But my friend was feeling stressed out last week, and she did not feel hungry, so it never occurred to her to eat. So she didn’t. And it made her sick. Obviously.

And it reminded me that some of us don’t have the bodies with properly functioning “indicator lights.” My “hungry light” never goes off. My “full light” never goes on. For my friend, her “hungry light” never goes on. She usually takes her cues to eat from people around her, so when she is not around people, she can forget.

Before I got my eating under control, I thought hunger lived in my stomach. But since I have put boundaries around my eating, I have learned that my feelings live in my stomach. So any feeling used to feel like hunger. Unhappiness occurred as hunger. Anxiety occurred as hunger. Excitement occurred as hunger. And joy, and fear, and worry and dread. 

It turns out that actual hunger doesn’t really *feel* like anything to me. I’m more irritable, and my thinking less cogent. I am more likely to be scattered and not know what to do next. And I might, under extreme circumstances, feel wobbly or lightheaded. But none of those things *feel* the way I always thought hunger felt. They don’t feel like much of anything.

So I am grateful that I found a solution to my eating problem that doesn’t have anything to do with “listening to my body.” And I am grateful to have a point of reference for *not* listening to the feelings I have when it comes to food. 

I am not opposed to intuitive eating. I think that when all of your indicator lights function properly, it’s a smart way to nourish yourself. But here is to all of us driving around in our meat cars with the “low fuel” light always on (or off.) May we all find the best way to keep ourselves on the road.

Having a travel plan

My husband and I flew home for the weekend. I hate flying. I know that it doesn’t make sense to drive 12 hours both ways for a weekend, so of course we flew. But I have hated flying for as long as I have had my eating under control. 

I always travel with meals. At least a day’s worth. Sometimes 2 days or more. Because when it comes to food and keeping my eating boundaries, I make sure I am prepared. And TSA makes me anxious and stresses me out.

I have lots of little tricks I do to fly now. I have learned that certain food items, like glycerin-based flavorings, will automatically get flagged, so I don’t travel with food that has them. I don’t use foil to package things, and try to use transparent plastic bags and containers . I keep plastic and non-metal utensils to travel. I keep all food, along with my scales and batteries for my scales in separate carry-on that fits in my bigger carry-on, so when I get to the conveyor, I pull the smaller bag out of the bigger bag and put them on the belt separately.

Most of the time, I am traveling with more than I need. That is, as long as everything goes according to plan. But I will not leave my food and my eating boundaries to the chance that nothing will go wrong. Obviously, I am always pleased and grateful when nothing goes wrong! But when it does, I am even more grateful to have had the foresight to make a plan and prepare ahead of time.

A Shot At Resilience

Over the past few weeks I have been obsessing over plans for a character doll. (Yes it’s more Bridgerton. Do you not know I am an obsessive person? I am!)

There are two parts of art/craft for me. There is what I can imagine and envision, and what I am capable of executing and delivering. And my friends, those are so rarely in alignment.

Capability is very emotionally loaded for me. It always has been. Perhaps because I was a very capable child. I always liked being good at things. I liked the effortless way I did things early in my life. I liked the praise I received. I liked the feelings I got for being naturally good at things. I did not like the feelings I got from failure.

I avoided things I was bad at. I was easily paralyzed by fear, not only of being incompetent at something, but also of the accompanying shame, frustration, worry and guilt. So I ate. But in not even attempting new or difficult things, I experienced another kind of shame and embarrassment. Somehow knowing I should at least try, and being disgusted with myself for being stuck, and how that made me feel lazy. So I ate.

I ate to be numb. I ate to get high. I ate to forget about all of the ways I was ashamed of myself. I ate to find oblivion.

Here is the thing. Oblivion makes it really hard to learn anything.

One thing that changed when I put boundaries around my eating was that I ended up with a lot of time. A ridiculous amount of time. Cooking took up a lot more time than it had, but eating took up so much less. Once I put eating boundaries in place, the act of eating took up, at the very most, 3 hours of my day. And that was a stretch. In reality I probably spent an hour and a half, total, eating every day. But I had been used to eating all day. So what was I supposed to do with all the rest of this time?!?!

I decided to learn things.

I tried (and still occasionally try) lots of things, and I have made all different kinds of art. I tried drawing. I have designed and created clothes and even made an award-winning cosplay (awarded by a small, since-defunct English language manga magazine.) I have written prose and plays and poems. But perhaps most zealously, I threw myself into yarn craft. I learned new, advanced crochet techniques. I taught myself to knit from YouTube videos. I tried more and more complicated methods and processes. And I built on those skills, and used them to acquire new, even more Intricate ones. You know…learning.

I still don’t like learning curves. I still growl and swear and occasionally throw crochet hooks and knitting needles. I flex my toes and grit my teeth and make angry faces. And I definitely cry. But I still have all that time that is not being used to eat. So I do it anyway.

This week I did a thing I had never done before. I crocheted a doll body without a pattern. It took some math (a surprisingly necessary skill in yarn craft.) And lots of written notes. And a few stops and starts. And definitely some ripping back trying again. But it’s good. Really good. I am proud and pleased. Accomplishment unlocked!

I am grateful for this learning. Not eating helps me learn, true. But learning also helps me not eat. It gives me pride in my accomplishments. And something to do with my hands and my head. And a frame of reference that shows me that failure is not the end of a thing but the middle. It gives me a shot at resilience. Whether or not I choose to take it.

The ability to just exist

My whole life growing up and even a few years into having my eating under control, I was obsessed with my weight. I thought about my weight all the time. I don’t mean that figuratively. If I was awake, some portion of my mind was occupied with thoughts about my body, specifically my fatness. I was constantly on the lookout for potential shamers. And I mean always and everywhere, since many of them were in my own family. Someone asking me if I was sure I wanted to eat that. Someone making a roundabout fat joke. Or a blatant fat joke. Someone assuring me that I was somehow lacking. Lacking willpower, lacking proper pride, lacking beauty, lacking sense. 

Even when I first lost weight after I gave up sugar and carbohydrates, I was still very much obsessed with my body. With its new thinness. With the (often, though not always) exciting attention I was getting as a suddenly conventionally beautiful woman. But also, with what occurred to me as a kind of lie. Beneath my clothes there were stretch marks and loose skin. I was not smooth and lean and perfect. Beneath my clothes was the evidence that I was not a “regular girl.” There was a fat girl under there.

That is one of the meanings of the title of this blog. Once a fat girl. Once, as in the past. But also, there is more to that saying. Once a fat girl, ALWAYS a fat girl. There were things about growing up fat that will never go away. There is a kind of trauma to it. And that trauma is not about what I did to myself. It’s not about eating or food addiction or the ways I dealt with or felt about my own body. Because in getting my eating under control, I got to work through those things. I got to confront myself, and look at my own soul and mind and life.

But in many ways I am still not over the trauma of the way I was treated by others because I was fat. So let me say it clearly. It was abuse. I was traumatized. I was harmed. It was not OK. 

The greatest gift of putting boundaries around my food is guilt-free eating. But right up there is the fact that I don’t have to think about my body. Almost ever. I don’t walk into a room wondering who is going to shame me. I don’t have to look around for potential abusers and make a plan for how I will escape. I don’t have to think about how I am going to be judged. I get to just exist. 

Fat people don’t get to just exist. And I think that is a terrible thing for everyone.

A Case of Unshaken Identity

For a long time now, years, more often than not, it is hard to think of a topic for this blog. Committing to write weekly is a lot. And more than once I have wondered if it is time to put the blog down. For one, the name, which I thought was so clever when I started, hasn’t aged well for me, since my journey has steered me well away from weight and more into food addiction. And I definitely consider myself more interested in fat liberation now than in teaching someone else how to lose weight, which is not how this started for me.

But then I think about how keeping my eating boundaries is the most important thing in my life. And how not eating sugar, and honoring that there are behavioral aspects to my addiction, has led me to a life I love and to me being a person I respect. Which was not the case when I was eating compulsively. 

Being a sugar addict, and specifically being a sugar addict in recovery, and abstaining from foods that turn into drugs in my system, is my primary identity. More than knitting and crochet. More than fantasy novels. Even more than audiobook versions of fantasy novels! The first thing I do every day is know what I am going to eat, and when, and how. And writing this blog every week is just one more reminder that my eating boundaries are my first priority always. 

So for now, I will keep writing posts. And I will keep figuring out something to say. Because while I hope you get something out of it, mostly I do it because I am positive that I get something out of it. To claim my identity.

Panic! At the Grocery

On Monday last week I dropped my phone in the grocery store (I do basically everything on my phone including keeping my shopping list) and it broke. The screen did not work at all. 

It was very upsetting for me. Number one, how was I going to remember what I had on my grocery list? (And yes, I did, indeed, end up missing a couple of important items that day in my panic. Yes I managed anyway.) But also, as I mentioned above, I do everything on my phone. So I was totally out of sorts. 

There was a store from my service carrier in the same parking lot as the grocery store, though. So I went in there to discuss my options. And friends, they were anything but helpful. Two of the three employees in particular were rude, gave me condescending looks and side eyes, and made it clear to me that I was interrupting their conversations. They basically told me that I needed to take it up with Apple. Even though I had insurance through them. 

But I had not eaten lunch. Which would have to be my first priority because keeping my eating boundaries is alway my first priority. And I had promised my husband that I would do laundry that day because he was running out of work clothes. And I had just made a promise to my career coach that I would get him my first draft of my cover letter and a revised resume by the end of the week. And now, on top of that I needed to find an Apple repair place and everything would be more difficult until I did.

I was pacing around my apartment, on the brink of hyperventilating, too distracted to do one thing at a time. Making part of my lunch, but then walking away to sort laundry. And then looking at the time and realizing I still hadn’t eaten any lunch. Too worried about getting everything done to get anything done with any grace. Too muddled to finish a task. 

This is a default setting of mine. When things seem too complicated and unthinkable to process, I just don’t process them. I shut down.  

And then I made a decision. I was not going to deal with my phone that day. I just made the choice and let it go. I made lunch and then sat down and ate it while watching Bridgerton. Again. (Don’t ask how many times. You really don’t want to know. Or at least I don’t want to admit it to you.)

In making the choice, I was able to stop my mind. I decided that when my husband got home, I would use his phone. I would call and make an appointment at an Apple repair place for the next day. And I would manage for the following 24 hours. 

And moving forward, everything went smoothly. I used my husband’s phone to make an appointment. The next morning I ate breakfast and packed myself a lunch. I got there on time. They took my phone and told me to come back in an hour. And I had Apple Care so they fixed my phone for free. I got back home with a working phone in time for lunch.

The ability to pause, to actively make a choice, to *accept* that it is always life on Life’s terms, is a gift of having my eating under control. My default may be to pace and mutter and flit from unfinished task to unfinished task, but I now have the option to *choose* something else. 

Does that take something? Some effort? It does. I had to learn how to do it. I have to continue to practice it. All the time. And even after 16 years of having boundaries around my eating, that panic still pops up first. But in having priorities, especially when my first priority is that of self-care, I can change the way I think and act in any moment.

I love convenience only slightly less than getting what I want

I went to a new grocery store yesterday. And I ended up hating it. Which was kind of unexpected. It was significantly bigger than the one I have been frequenting. It was fancier. I drove farther to get there. The parking lot was packed. I had high hopes. But in the end, it was just really frustrating.

Both the meat and frozen vegetable selections were bigger, but didn’t have the things I specifically wanted. The produce was no better, but noticeably more expensive and several things I needed were sold out. The layout was confusing and sprawling, and frankly, a little maddening.  And in the end, the smaller grocery store closer to me is the owned by the same company as my local grocery store in my Chicago suburb neighborhood. So I already have a discount account for it, unlike the big fancy one. 

But there were actually 2 things I wanted that I can’t find at the closer store. My very favorite yogurt, and fresh half sour pickles. So that means I will almost certainly stop by that grocery store every couple of weeks to stock up on them.

Because I love convenience. But not as much as I love getting what I want. Especially when it comes to food.

I eat within my eating boundaries. I am fastidious. But I can be because I don’t feel deprived. I am not struggling against a diet. I am not struggling at all. And part of not feeling deprived and not struggling is giving myself those things I have the power to give. And fancy yogurt and fancy pickles are definitely in that category.

Right or Married?

This week was my sixth wedding anniversary with my husband. We have been together for 9 years. I am still madly in love with him too! And I am positive that it is because I have my eating under control.

When I first put boundaries around my eating, I lost a lot of weight. And I had always believed that my fatness was why I was single. So I really expected the man of my dreams to show up right away. I was gorgeous! (I had always been gorgeous, but then I was thin and gorgeous and in a socially acceptable body.) So where was my husband?

In the end, it would be over six years of having my eating under control and a pretty significant weight *gain* before I found (was reunited with) the man of my dreams.

My husband has always been supportive of my food boundaries. He bought me a refrigerator full of vegetables the first time he flew me out to stay with him. But he told me early on that he would not care if I were fat. That if I wanted to give up my eating boundaries, it would be OK with him.

I believed him that he didn’t care about my weight. But I don’t think he knows what he would get personally, spiritually or emotionally if I gave up my eating boundaries. 

We argued just yesterday. It happens. We are humans in a relationship. But we are not still in an argument. Because having my eating under control allows me a certain amount of clarity. What is worth standing my ground on, and what is better to let go? What is my fault and my responsibility? What are his triggers and fears, and how can I not rub up against them?

I never cared about anyone but myself when I was in the food. I didn’t know how. And I didn’t trust that anyone would care about what I wanted. So I lied, cheated, stole and manipulated. 

In putting boundaries around my eating, I learned how to take care of myself so well, that it was not a burden to care for another person. I was so nourished personally by my own hands, that I had more to give. More time, energy, compassion and grace. 

I really believe that all of these things are dependent on my eating being under control. So yes, I am so grateful to know that my weight is not an issue for my husband. I am happy to know that he can see my beauty as not directly linked to thinness. But I like my insides as calm and peaceful and happy as they are now. Because that peace extends to all aspects of my life. Including, and especially, my marriage.

Priorities and Resentments

I am good at change because having my eating under control taught me about priorities. I often say that my eating boundaries are the most important thing in my life. What I am really saying when I say that is that taking care of myself is the most important thing in my life.

In many ways that can be seen as a weakness, or at least a mark against me. Shouldn’t my husband be the most important thing in my life? Shouldn’t I be focused on others? Isn’t that where my worth as a woman comes from? Even in 2022, I see messages every day across all kinds of media that tell me what my priorities should be. And in general, they are not, apparently, supposed to be me.

But my life is better because I do have priorities. And my husband’s life is better because I am my own first priority. And it comes down to one word. Resentment.

I am madly in love with my husband. He and my marriage are absolutely my second priority. But a big part of that is that I don’t put myself in a position to resent him. I don’t put his needs above my own. I take care of myself first. I take care of him second. Everyone and everything else falls into place when I act on what is most important to me.

I used to poison myself with people pleasing as much as sugar. And the sugar facilitated the people pleasing. I wasn’t even very good at people pleasing, for all of the numbing I did with sugar and drug foods. I *did* the thing to please, but I did it in such an unpleasant way, that everyone was unhappy. And then I ended up with a resentment on top of everything.

In getting my eating under control I learned to say no. It started out about food. No, you can’t have any of my food. No, I won’t eat the thing you are offering me. But it grew to be something more. No, I can’t help you. No, I am not available. No, I don’t have time.

And eventually I even stopped feeling guilty about it. I could say no with joy! And no hard feelings. At least on my part. And I learned how not to worry about hard feelings on other people’s parts too.

Putting boundaries around my eating created a ripple effect that has ended up transforming every aspect of my life for the better, letting me set boundaries, and honor my own priorities. I get to say how my life goes. And frankly, it goes pretty smoothly.

Post Navigation