onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the category “Relationships”

Money, fame, and prestige

I just turned 41 about two weeks ago. I love my birthday. I love getting older. I love that at this age I am in the best shape of my life, and the happiest I have ever been.

In the wake of two high profile celebrity suicides, I read an article about the problem of American culture that can lead people who seemingly “have it all” to end their own lives. And the answer the article gave was that we are a culture that prizes accomplishments that reward us in the forms of money, fame, and prestige, and we believe that these things will bring us happiness. And when they don’t, we despair.

I don’t know if this is true, but it happens to be a very clear illustration of the difference between my own personal mental and emotional state as a compulsive eater, and as a keeper of eating boundaries.

Because in order to stop eating compulsively, I had to make friends with my life exactly the way it was. I had to stop thinking I should be doing “something” to make me stand out, when I didn’t even know what that something should be. I had to stop thinking I needed to be making huge strides toward some great goal, when just the thought of such a stride left me paralyzed with fear. And I had to relinquish what I thought was control, but what just tujrned out to be wanting, followed by the pain of not getting exactly what I wanted. That was the pain of thinking that if I were better, if I were “good enough,” I would have perfectly executed my plan and received full marks, and my award of money, fame, and prestige. I numbed that pain with food.

I had to learn that I can want. And that I can do whatever is in my power to the best of my ability to get what I want. But then I have to get what I get, and trust that what I get is what I am supposed to get, even if it is not what I wanted.

That is a hard lesson to learn in a culture that prizes material rewards over everything.

I also learned that I didn’t have to “accomplish” anything to like and love myself. In the beginning, all I had to do was not eat a cookie. All I had to do was keep my food boundaries. That was it. I could sleep the rest of the day and still feel good about myself, still be proud. At first, that was the sum total of how I measured my integrity. But the thing about integrity is that it grows outward, as if in concentric circles. When it butts up against a lack of itself, it feels the need to integrate it. (It’s kind of like The Borg, only benign, and unfortunately, much easier to break out of. You have to really work for integrity to keep it.)

And as for the kinds of accomplishments I wanted to accrue, I had to learn that they didn’t have to bring me money, fame, or prestige to make me proud, happy, or content. I could work out on a regular schedule. I could learn a new knitting technique, and finish a project using it. I could write a weekly blog that a handful of people read. I could crochet a gift for a friend. I could have a difficult conversation with a person, and build intimacy in our relationship.

And there is another thing that I learned by happy accident when I got my eating under control. It is that all of my satisfaction lives in my relationships with myself and other people, not in how much money or how many accolades I have. I am content in my life because I am content in my relationships. And I am content in those relationships because I am not constantly trying to manipulate people into giving me what I want, or think I want in order to accomplish things I think I should, so I can acquire money, fame, and prestige. I am content because I am offering an authentic human self (me) with a commitment to grow and change, and accepting another authentic human self, and allowing them the space to be who they are, and to also grow and change.

I learned all of these things because I got my eating under control. Could I have learned them if I hadn’t? Maybe. Probably. But it would not have been the crash course it was.

P.S. I am not done learning.

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Real hard before it gets real sweet

At my job, I am working in an office with a bunch of strangers from different companies right now, though I may be moving to a private office trailer soon.

A lot of people at work are very curious about my food. In a lot of ways it is frustrating the way they talk about it. It’s all filled with a certain kind of praise and awe, that I don’t identify with.

I don’t do what I do to be envied or put on a pedestal. I am saving my life. To me, it can be like praising someone with a disease for taking their medicine. It reminds me of a woman who wrote about having a child with high-maintenance special needs, and how everyone would say, “I could never do that.” And she always had to hold herself back from saying “Of course you could. You just don’t have to, and I do.”

That is, of course, not entirely true that I “have to.” We all make our choices. Parents of disabled kids and addicts alike. We all have to decide what our priorities are. But if you can eat a cookie with impunity, it doesn’t make me feel good that you “could never” do what I do. And if you can’t, like me, and you choose the cookie anyway, I don’t know what to tell you except that you could and can do what I do. Yes it will suck for a while. A long while. But a friend once told me what her mother-in-law said to her when she first got married.

“It’s gonna get real hard before it gets reeeeeal sweet.”

I feel that way about putting down sugar and carbs. I feel that way about playing the long game with my life. Do I like getting up at 5 to get to the gym before work? No. I really don’t. But I love feeling comfortable in my body, loving my life, feeling like I accomplished something, and like I did something toward my ultimate goal of aging gracefully.

And as someone who just turned 41 last Wednesday, and feels healthy, happy, and beautiful, I would say it is all worth it.

I put on my bedroom slippers like everyone else, one foot at a time.

Gosh am I exhausted. My job is finally ramping up, and I am back to working full time. And because of my food boundaries, that means a lot of meal planning and prepping. Not to mention going for my jog at 5:30 in the morning so I can knock it out before work. Because trying to tackle it after an 8 hour day is too much for me.

I am behind on all kinds of social responsibilities. Especially calls I owe my family and friends. But I learned something when I got my eating under control 12+ years ago, and that is “bedroom slippers.” Bedroom slippers is a code word in my community that means “take care of yourself by taking it easy.”

I have commitments I make to myself, and I have to put them first. Food is the biggest one. Sleep is a close second. It also makes the food boundaries easier to keep. Exercise is right up there.

And now that I am working 40 hour weeks, I don’t have a lot of time for other things. And I am OK with that. I have to be. I cannot kill myself to take care of other people. I cannot hurt myself to make them happy.

I wanted to be productive yesterday. I wanted to catch up on my calls, and work on my knitting project. I wanted to get things done. But after my jog and the grocery shopping, I was done. I didn’t have anything left. I couldn’t even manage to lay on the couch to read. I had to lay in *bed* and read for about 3 hours before dinner.

Today I have to meal prep for the coming week. I’m about to do that once I finish this post. And maybe I will have time to make my calls and do my knitting later. But if not, I will have hit my benchmarks. I will have done the things I need to do to keep myself happy, healthy, and sane.

I expect that I will find my groove sooner, rather than later. I have worked 40 hour weeks before, and managed to have a life. But I don’t feel any pressure. As long as I keep my promises to myself, I know that all will be well.

It’s when I start putting other people’s wants before my needs that I start running into problems. Problems of resentment, exhaustion, sickness, and unhappiness. And those are completely avoidable if I put on my bedroom slippers.

Commitments, alarms, and reminders. Oh my!

I set alarms for so many things in my life. Just now, an alarm went off asking if I posted a blog this week. And the answer was no, and I had totally forgotten. But I had an alarm set, so here I am.

Before I got my eating under control, I had people in my life, people I paid in either time or money, like a personal trainer, and a life coach, telling me to make plans, and keep those plans, regardless of how I felt. And I refused. Where was the joy in that? What about spontaneity? What about fun? What about what I “felt like” or “had a craving for?” What about eating out with friends or last-minute adventures?

When I got my eating under control, I realized how much I was self-sabotaging by clinging to what I thought was spontaneity and fun, but was really just an out to let myself not do something uncomfortable. I didn’t want to plan what I was going to eat because then, if I didn’t follow through, I might have to look at myself. If there was no rule, there was no rule to break, and no behavior to scrutinize.

The truth is that 1) planning makes it easier, not harder, to eat out with friends and take on last-minute adventures. With my eating under control and firm boundaries around food, there are fewer moving parts. The food has to hit certain marks. Once those marks are hit, everything else can be pretty loosey-goosey. And 2) the things that I was fighting against were not boredom or monotony, but long-term fulfillment.

Instant gratification and long-term fulfillment occupy the same space, so you can really only choose one. If I don’t want to go for a jog, I can think of a million excuses not to. I need the sleep, my hip is tight, I should do x instead. But what happens is it becomes easier to not jog. Every time becomes easier. And suddenly, I don’t do that anymore.

That is how every diet ever worked for me. I went on a diet. Instant gratification won once. Then it gradually became the norm. Then I was not on a diet. Then I gained back all the weight I lost, and then some.

I love my life of rules and reminders. I love my alarms. I love the sameness of people calling me every day at the same time to make a commitment of what they will eat the next day, and my call every day at the same time, to commit to what I am going to eat the next day. To have a plan and a commitment to that plan. To have a witness and to be a witness.

I won’t pretend that I am a particularly spontaneous person, though I have my moments. My rigorous adherence to my rules and reminders and commitments gives me a great sense of peace. And I cherish that peace. But also, I have made some bold choices and some daring leaps, because I am grounded in my commitments. After all, I left my home and my city about a month after I re-met my husband, to start a new relationship where I travel around the country with him, constantly moving. That’s pretty bold, if I do say so myself.

I did not used to like promising things to myself. And I used the excuse of freedom. But I was never free until I gave myself boundaries. Since I put boundaries around my eating, I have found that many things that seem counterintuitive are absolutely right. Boundaries lead to freedom. Commitment leads to spontaneity. Rigidity offers fluidity.

You are what you eat. You eat what you think.

I am a believer in language. I believe that the language we use not only expresses what we mean, but, in part, helps to create the world we live in. That it shapes our perceptions, which in turn, create our reality.

When I meet people who are trying to give up sugar and carbs, I discourage certain words and phrases. For example, I recommend they stop saying they are giving up the “foods they love,” or “favorite foods.” I recommend they not say they “miss” those foods. I suggest they not think fondly of the memory of those foods. That, in fact, they not think about those foods at all. Those foods are making them miserable. They are hurting and tormenting them. They are like an abusive partner. I believe we, as sugar addicts, need to stop telling ourselves things like “ but I love x” and “but y is so good.” These things are killing us. It’s like saying that you are bummed about having the black eye, but your abuser is a good guy. Remember all the times he bought you flowers?

My relationship with sugar and carbs seems pretty close to that kind of abusive relationship. The truth is that food was there for me at first. It wooed me by helping me get through life as a kid. I needed it to cope with a lot of unhappiness. But it turned on me pretty quickly. And by that point I was trapped. Or at least I felt trapped.

So now my “favorite foods” only include foods that I can eat within my boundaries. I only “love” foods that keep me nourished and sane. I don’t “miss” foods I am addicted to. Because peace and freedom are the most important things to me. And I don’t want to create a reality where my “favorite” things are things that are killing me and my happiness.

Where the love is

On Friday I celebrated my 2nd Wedding anniversary. I don’t really think about it on a day-to-day basis, but it’s a miracle. Certainly to my child self it’s a miracle. I felt shameful and unlovable for nearly all of my early life. I had resigned myself to being alone forever at a very early age. And to my early-teen self, it’s something more than just any miracle. Because I married the guy I had a huge crush on from about 12 to 14, until we lost touch. If you told 13-year-old Kate that she would marry him, she would have told you that you were crazy.

Of course, it took more than 20 years of separation, and a whole lot of personal change, physical, emotional, and spiritual, but it sure did happen.

And that is all thanks to keeping my eating boundaries. All of it. Period. Sometimes my husband says very sweet, romantic things about how he would still love me if I gained weight. And I believe him. Because I don’t think he understands what would actually come along with weight gain. I think he is thinking in terms of physical beauty. And I think he believes that I am just beautiful no matter what. Which I love! And I am grateful for.

But when I am eating compulsively, I am not beautiful for a few reasons that have nothing to do with size. I don’t like myself when I am eating compulsively. I get depressive and ashamed. I second guess myself. Also, I don’t have a whole lot of integrity when I am in the food. I lie, cheat, and steal. I hide truths and manipulate people. I am just generally difficult, angry, and unhappy. And I don’t think about anyone but myself. Everything is all about me.

When I started writing this blog over 6 years ago, it was to open myself to love. It was to stop thinking all of those thoughts I had about not being worthy. And there was something to do about it. I took an honest, searching look at myself, took stock of what about myself I wanted to change, and started working toward being the kind of person I wanted to be in a relationship with. There is a saying: Self-esteem comes from doing estimable acts.

But I could only do those estimable acts because I put sugar and carbs down. When I am eating sugar and carbs, I am only thinking about that. If something I want would impede my eating, I would let that thing, that wish, go. Because eating sugar is the most important thing in the world when I am eating sugar. When I am not eating sugar, my life and my relationships are the most important things.

So at this time of the anniversary of my marriage, I am so grateful for that 28-year-old Kate who decided that a life that revolved around sugar was not enough. That there was something better to be, and something better to be had. And that she was willing to go through the dark, scary world of withdrawal and uncertainty, to get to the other side. That’s where the love is.

I adjust for conflation

I was talking with a group of friends the other day about International Women’s Day, and someone mentioned movements like “fat is beautiful,” and “fat as a feminist issue.”

The truth is that I do think that fat is a feminist issue. I do think that being fat and being beautiful are not mutually exclusive. And at the same time, I absolutely hated being fat, and I never want to go back.

I think that part of the problem with these ideas is that we conflate them. Let me break it down for you. There is a difference between what you, as an individual with a body, want to believe about and do with your body, and what our society and culture tell you about what you *should* believe about and do with your body.

I have had to deal with this for myself. I had to do some serious and painful soul searching. Because I really hated being fat. I was miserable and I felt ashamed. I hated my body. I hated the way that I looked, and the way that I felt. I hated that I could not stop eating. I hated how hard it was to live in that body.

But separately, I also hated the way I was treated by others. I hated that people were given the “right” by our culture, to openly comment about my body. After all, this body is me and I am this body. Whatever its size and shape. If you shame my body, you shame me. If you disrespect my body, you disrespect me.

I have come to really understand, only after years of being in a comfortable body, a body that I am comfortable in, that just because I was unhappy with myself didn’t give anyone else the right to judge me. It was not ok that I was shamed and abused. It was not ok that I was humiliated by others. That I hated myself did not give friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers a pass for being jerks.

My food problem is a sickness. It is not cured by “pushing away from the table,” or “just not eating so much,” or “having willpower,” or “having some self-respect.” I don’t now, and never did, earn my place in the world by being beautiful, thin, accommodating, and feminine. I have always had a place in the world. I was born into it, by virtue of having a body.

And I will say that I consider myself to be incredibly beautiful (and my husband would add humble.) And I love it. And I don’t apologize for loving it. But it doesn’t define me. And I don’t owe it to others. Not to men on the street, not to my parents, not to friends, not to bosses. Not to my husband, either. I do not owe any particular body to anyone but myself.

So in honor of International Women’s Day, let me recommend to you that you love your body exactly as it is right now in this very moment. Remember that it *is* your place in the world. And if, like I once was, you are unhappy with the body you are in, love it anyway. I believe that it is only by loving ourselves first that we can make lasting change. If we are waiting to be “perfect” before we love ourselves, we will be waiting a very long time.

Back to normal, which is still not all that normal

I gotta be honest. I have no idea what to write about this week. I am emotionally exhausted. And just as life was finally leaving “surreal” and returning to day-to-day, we were told that we have to leave Texas. Again…

When I got my eating under control 12 years ago, I made my life kind of small. I wrapped myself in my own comfort zone, like a cocoon. And that really worked for me. It kept me protected from food. At that point, food was my problem. I mean I had other problems, but they would all manage to get worked out as long as I took care of the food problem.

But about 6 years in, (yes, 6 whole years of having my eating under control) I wanted a bigger life. And I ended up falling in love with a man who travels for a living. And I agreed to spend my life living in different towns for somewhere between a few months and a few years.

So I don’t really want to leave Texas yet. But this is the life I agreed to. And, really, I love it in general. Though, not all the time. But who loves their life all the time?

Tomorrow I will cook meals for two days of travel. And we will head back to Texas to pack up our apartment. And soon enough, we will find out what’s next.

So I guess this is normal life. It’s the “normal” I chose 5 years ago. And I’m grateful for all of it.

Food first means self-care first

This has been a particularly rough week for my family. But I don’t want to talk about it today. I’m emotionally exhausted. So I am going to talk about taking care of myself. And it’s going to be pretty short, quite frankly.

When I am fully committed to putting boundaries around my food, that is my first step in self-care. My first act is to buy food within my boundaries and then cook and portion out those meals. But that is just the beginning.

What the act of keeping my eating under control does is allow me the clarity of knowing when I need to rest. When I need to say no. When I need to take a step back. When it would be just too much to keep going.

When I was in the food and I took on too much, I became overwhelmed. I would shut down. And I would become resentful. I would get angry and rude to the person who asked for something. I would fail to take responsibility for my choices. Partially because I didn’t feel allowed to ever say no.

Now, I say no. Sometimes it’s just no. Full stop. But sometimes it’s not now. Or I can’t do that but I can do this. Or I am not available for that, but I can ask someone I know who may be able to help.

I am responsible for my life. Of course, I always was. But now I *take responsibility* for it. I know not to blame people for asking for what they need. And I know not to be hasty to agree to something I can’t take on. I also know to ask for help myself, when I need it myself.

So I am available to be of service, because I know how much I can handle. And I learned that by taking care of my food.

Three gifts for hard times

Yesterday was a typical lazy Saturday with my husband until we got a call that a family member is dying. Someone my husband is very close with, whom I also love very much. It’s funny how the whole world can shift at a time like this. It’s the kind of thing that gives one a whole different perspective on one’s day-to-day life. The things that we worried about become insignificant. Work, or our apartment, or our cars, or money don’t seem to mean anything at a time like this. Suddenly everything is about connection, love, being there, saying I Love You.

I had worried so much about paying for this out-of-town apartment that we rent while our jobs were up in the air. But in this moment, paying this rent is not an issue. Paying to fly home is not an issue. (My husband is already on the road.) All of my anxiety about material things just flew out the window.

Having my eating under control meant that I could not go with my husband. I had to cook and prep and pack food for traveling. Because I keep my food boundaries no matter what. Even loved ones being sick and dying. Not taking care of myself is not proof of love. It’s not going to make anyone better if I say that my food, which is how I take care of my addiction, is not important. And even after this family member is gone I will have to go on living. So it makes sense to take care of my food, even if it means being separated from my husband for a few days, and taking longer to get home. That’s fine. It let my husband get on the road as soon as he could while I close up the apartment in case we are away for a long stretch. I’m sorry to be apart from him, but maybe he needs a little time to himself anyway.

There are 3 things that having my eating under control gives me that I am particularly grateful for in a moment like this.

1) I am able to be unselfish. Because when I am in the food, everything is about me, my life, how things will affect me. But today is not about me. I can be calm and clear headed. And that lets me be of service to my husband. Am I sad? Of course. But my sadness is not important right now. It’s my job to strong and useful.

2) I am aware of what is really important. And that is relationships. It’s the people that we love that make our lives what they are. And this is coming from an introvert and borderline misanthrope. At some point, all of us will die, but when you can see it coming, that’s an amazing opportunity to get completion and closure. It’s a chance to say “I love you.” “You were important in my life.” “You made an impact.”

3) I am able to go with the flow. This situation is the kind of thing that comes out of the blue. There was no preparing for it. So the only thing there is to do is go with the flow. Fighting and resisting are not going to help. They won’t change the situation. I learned that when I got control of my eating. I spent my time as a compulsive eater trying to control everyone and everything. And not doing a very good job of it. Today I can let life be what it is. That doesn’t mean I don’t care. It just means I don’t waste my energy trying to will the world to be that way I think it should be. I can use that energy to love, to help, to make others comfortable.

So for now I have a lot to do. And I am grateful for the personal power and clarity that my eating boundaries have given me at such a difficult time. And I am most grateful to be present for the person I love most when he needs me to be available for him.

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