onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the category “Relationships”

16 Christmas Miracles

Today is my 16th Christmas in a row with my eating under control. 

I put boundaries around my eating on January 2, 2006. (I’m not an “I’ll start tomorrow” kind of girl. I’m an “I’ll start next year” type.) And since then I have honored those boundaries. Every day. Every birthday, every Christmas, every disappointment, every personal victory, every mundane Tuesday. Just all the time. And for the most part, the regular old days are easy.

I’m not saying holidays are particularly hard. At least not now, 16 years, 11 months and 3 weeks in. But they are still a lot. Family and relationships and gatherings and emotions running high. Mine and everyone else’s. And for 16 Christmases I have not eaten compulsively. So I plan to get through today with my eating boundaries intact. I mean I have an actual plan. I have breakfast down, I have made arrangements for lunch at my mom’s house, and I know what is for dinner and it’s in the fridge. So by my count, that is 16 Christmas miracles.

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First steps Vs Last resorts

I went to a doctor this week. The truth is, I went because my husband was at the end of his rope with worry. I would not have done it on my own accord. I don’t like doctors. At all.

I don’t have good associations with doctors. The closest I ever got to liking one was the sweet nurse from Planned Parenthood who did my yearly exam in my 30s and who was kind and gentle and patient with me. From the time I was very young I can remember being shamed by medical professionals. First for being afraid. Eventually, as I got older, for being afraid and then also getting emotional. And of course for being fat and “not following my doctor’s advice.“ But no doctor ever gave me any advice other than “don’t eat so much.” Or “just have one.” And never a word about *how* to just have one. (Spoiler alert: I am constitutionally incapable of just having one.)

I don’t remember the doctors that I had growing up ever offering me any kindness. Perhaps they did, but I don’t recall it. I remember the judgment of my being fat, but the doctor was also fat. I remember being terrified of having my blood drawn, and the nurses rolling their eyes and trying to shame me into calm. I remember asking for a phlebotomist who does babies and being told that it’s all the same and they are all professionals, and then leaving with a giant bruise from my bicep to my forearm and the understanding that I was the problem. (Planned Parenthood was the only place that took that seriously too. And I had a wonderful phlebotomist who used butterfly needles and called over a maintenance crew to talk with me and keep me distracted while she drew my blood.) 

Even this most recent doctor experience was frustrating. When she first examined me she was positive I had pneumonia so she had me take a chest x-ray. And when my lungs were clear and my heart was normal, she seemed annoyed. So annoyed that I literally had to ask her if that was a good thing, which she eventually agreed it was. And when I told her that I did not, in fact, have any kind of chronic lung problems and I had never had bronchitis before, she seemed incredulous. Why would I lie about having bronchitis???? I’m so sorry my relatively good health is such a blow to your ego! 

The truth is that because I went to the doctor I feel better and it’s a relief. Yes, I am glad I went. And I will have to remember this relief the next time I get sick. One thing I have learned in getting my eating under control, it’s to quit the thing that is killing you quickest. I quit sugar first. And then smoking.

But there is this other side to that. There were things that I was not doing that needed to be done. Things like drinking water and working out and meditating. And like those things, I can see objectively that going to a doctor makes sense. 

But I am a baby steps kind of person. So I am not going to start searching for a primary care physician today. All of those negative associations are still there. But maybe I can start to find my way to seeing a doctor as a first step instead of a last resort.

When the cooler head is not mine

I have had a particularly difficult week. I have been feeling awful. I have had breathing problems from my acid reflux, and on top of that, I got my flu and Covid vaccines and they knocked me on my ass. It has almost been a week and I am still all aches and pains. The injection sites even still hurt.

I don’t even want to eat! I have, of course, been eating my portion controlled meals, but kind of suffering through them. If that doesn’t tell me I am sick, I can’t imagine what would.

I have written about it here before, but one of the ways I know I am taking care of myself is to give myself commitments and keep them. And as I have also written before, working out is one of those commitments. And a good friend said to me this week, “take some time off from working out. Your body needs rest.” 

I am not naturally good at self-care. I don’t mean manicures and massages. I’m pretty good at doing things I like. If you have read my blog for a while you know that I actually think doing the work of self-care sucks. It’s drinking water and working out and going to bed in time to get eight hours of sleep instead of staying up all night listening to a great novel. But just like I don’t have that thing in me that tells me I am full and have eaten enough, I don’t have that thing in me that tells me it’s time to work or time to rest. I weigh out three meals a day. I work out 5 days a week. I only know I am taking care of myself because I am honoring these commitments. 

So when my friend told me to take some time off from my workout, I kind of panicked. In my very anxious head, this seemed like the opposite of a good idea. Working out is caring for my body!

Of course she was right. I got winded a few times in the grocery store yesterday. And I was feeling better than I had all week. How did I think I was going to walk up and down the stairs a hundred times? (I did think it, by the way. I thought I was just going to push through.)

So I am once again reminded that I can’t do this alone. I need cooler heads to prevail. I need people who love me and want the best for me to come through. 

I’m not saying I always follow the advice I get. And I have plenty of issues that I still need to work through around the ways I take care of my body. But I am not an island. And I am grateful to have a community of people who are looking out for me. And I am happy to return the favor when my head is the cooler one.

I put on my big girl panties even when I don’t want to

Tomorrow I drive six hours to my new apartment in Upstate New York. I. Not we. Because my husband has to stay here in New Jersey in a hotel for another week. Still on the night shift. This does not thrill me.

There are things about it that I am cool with. I will be happy to be back on daylight hours. I like the idea of setting up our new place so it feels like home when he finally joins me there. I like the prospect of my whole kitchen for meal prep. And a dishwasher again finally! But mostly I hate being separated from him.

When I was in the food I was very bad doing what needed to be done. I was bad at doing my homework. Bad at waking up on time. Bad at paying my bills. Bad at anything I didn’t want to do. 

In getting my eating under control, I learned to do the drudge work. For one thing, I had to make all of my food. And I had to make it in a timely manner. It was the first step for me in honoring my commitments. Or at least the annoying commitments. (You want me to learn lines and choreography for a stage play? Yes! You want me to write a paper with references on a historical figure? Not so much…)

So here is this thing that I have to do: Be separated from my husband. And I will do it. But I can only do it with any grace because I have tools. Tools I got from putting boundaries around my eating. Things like remembering that all things are temporary, and this too shall pass. Things like doing one thing at a time and resting when I need to. Things like making set plans and creating structures for myself so we can talk and FaceTime while we’re apart. Or whatever I need to make it through with peace and good humor.

But one of the most important tools I have is the ability to feel whatever I am feeling, and not have that get in the way of what I am doing. I didn’t know how to get any kind of delayed gratification when I was eating compulsively. I didn’t know how to not do what felt pretty good now, so I could feel amazing later instead. Working out certainly sucks in the moment, but feeling strong and capable and not getting winded when I run up stairs is pretty spectacular. Not to mention feeling like I am aging gracefully because I am relatively fit. An old friend who passed away not too long ago used to say “discipline is just remembering what you want.” (Though admittedly, the rewards here are money and my husband still having a great job, which is not as motivating to someone like me as, say, figuring out a design aspect of a new crochet project, but as long as he’s happy…)

Today I will cook my meals for tomorrow and the next day, and pack up my little car. And tomorrow I will get up early in the morning (actual morning!) and go meet with the leasing office to pick up my keys and start the move into our new place. I’m going to put on my big girl panties and take care of business. Even though I don’t want to.

Night shift shift

My husband has been working the night shift this week. And he will be for the rest of the month. And it sucks. For him and for me.

I have adjusted my schedule and started staying up late to get to see him when he comes home, and waking up later so that there is less time when I am home and awake while he sleeps.

I like my routine. And this totally screws up my routine. It changes my meal times, as well as what I am eating. Since I don’t make the kinds of dinners for only myself that I do for both of us. So I don’t love that.

But my priority is my husband. The best parts of my day are with him. I like him. I like the time we spend together. I want that more than I want to eat dinner at 7:30 and go to bed at 9. (Though I really want that too.)

Getting my eating under control is how I learned to accept the reality that I have limited time in my day, and I get to decide how I want to spend it. And it’s how I learned how to get my priorities straight. 

Taking care of myself first. With food, and water, exercise and rest. Taking care of my marriage. Whatever that looks like. And for now, it looks like shifting my schedule and tiptoeing around in the morning, and changing my workout time and the day I go to the store, and anything I can do to spend quality time with my husband for this little while. 

But obviously, I am still looking forward to getting back to normal.

I couldn’t do it alone

I had another crochet doll breakthrough this week. And it was an interesting reminder about how other perspectives from other actual humans can change things so drastically for me.

I am making a character doll from my most recent favorite series, and this character wears sandals. So I had to figure out how to crochet a bare foot. A bare foot!

Well I mentioned it on a crochet forum online, and lots of people asked to see it. And the first attempt was hilarious. Hilariously awful. But I posted it. 

Now the crochet forum is full of really nice, really supportive people who love crafting. And lots of people said my first try was not as bad as I thought. Which may have been true. But I was not satisfied. And I was not going to waste fancy, expensive, DISCONTINUED yarn to make something I thought was meh at best. (I may be a yarn snob, but I’m still cheap.) But one of the commenters said I should try a particular stitch for the toes. (Popcorn stitch, in case you know or care.) And it is something I never would have thought of myself. But it was perfect! And I am thrilled with the results! I even made her right foot with my fancy, expensive, discontinued yarn!

I am a loner. I love my own company. I am content in my own head. I can go for days and not see another person and be perfectly content. I mean, I do see my husband. But even he, who is probably a bit of a loner himself, can be home with me and we will happily do our own things for long periods of time. 

But this can make me forget how other people can shift my perspective, my thoughts, my choices.

When I was in the food, I didn’t talk about food or eating with people. My eating was simultaneously shameful and deeply private. I did not talk about the crazy things I did. I did not want to say them out loud. And that made me feel very much like I was not only bad, but I was the only one. 

When I got my eating under control, and got into a community of people also getting their eating under control, I heard people say that they did the exact same things that I had. And even some crazy things that I had never done. (Yet. There’s always time. It’s why I still do all of the things I do and I don’t pretend I’m cured.)

I needed a community. I needed to know I was not alone. I needed to know that other people were crazy the way I was. And I needed to know that even those people who had been in it even deeper than I had, had somehow found a solution.

With both design and eating, I have learned that my accomplishments are both mine, and the community’s. I had to do the work. I had to show up, put in the effort, make the mistakes and feel the feelings. But I could not do it alone.

How I became a unicorn, one day at a time.

I keep a day count on my phone of how long I have had my eating under control. Today is day 6,047. 16.5 years. And that seems like such an insanely long time.

In the beginning, I was looking at people who had a year and that seemed like such a far away goal. And then, by the time I got a year, 3 years seemed like such huge amount of time. I didn’t even pay attention to the people who had more time than I had even been alive. They may as well have been unicorns. 

For those first few years, I was so used to being a liar and a cheater, and so used to not being able to stick to a diet, that I would sometimes sort of panic. I would think to myself, really? Have I really not eaten anything I said I wouldn’t in 6 months, or a year, or two? Am I really doing this?

But I had a strict set of rules. And I had a person I was accountable to every day for those rules. And I could ask myself if I followed those rules. And the answer was yes! Miraculously yes!

I have heard a lot of compulsive eaters say that when they first came and started to do what I do with food, they thought people were liars. That there was “no way” anyone could actually not eat any sugar for years, or actually weigh all of their food without lying about it. Even my husband said in the beginning of our relationship that he didn’t believe anyone else was doing it as “perfectly” as I was. But I knew that they were. Because I was and I was as hopeless a case as there was.

So here is the trick. You don’t just wake up one day and have over 16 years. It’s one day at a time. It’s one meal at a time. It’s one moment at a time. It’s one feeing at a time. It’s one messed up situation at a time. It’s one terrible restaurant experience at a time. It’s one telling a family member thank you but you don’t eat that anymore at a time. And all of those add up. And now, 16 years later, I am somebody’s unicorn.

In my circle sitting in it

As a person who has lived with a kind of constant, low level anxiety for basically all of her life, you might think I am not feeling much different in the face of some of the more terrifying things that have been happening here in the US over the past several days, months, years. But you would be very, very wrong.

It’s a funny thing to know that things are bad, but that also, there is really nothing to do about it except carry on. I read a really interesting article a couple of years ago with this quote. “Collapse is just a series of ordinary days in between extraordinary bullshit, most of it happening to someone else.” 

So here I am, more and more afraid every day, but someone has to go to the grocery store and do the laundry and make dinner. And I can. I have money and time. Everything terrible and horrific that I am afraid of has happened to someone else. For now.

I have to constantly remind myself that there is nothing to do but what is right in front of me. There is no difference I can make except in the place I am at any moment. That I cannot fix any part of the world I can’t reach.

It helps me to think about my life in concentric circles. I am alone in my first circle, and that is where I have the most control. I keep my eating boundaries. I exercise. I drink my water. In the next circle is my husband and our marriage and all of the ways I can make a difference in our partnership. And so on.

Another thing that helps to “sit in it.” I hate that part. The sitting in my fear and discomfort. The being alone with my powerlessness. The letting Life be what it is. I absolutely abhor it, but it is necessary for me and my sanity.

I could eat a cake. That would certainly numb me for a while. But a while is not that long. And then I would just need more cake, and nothing would change. Except that I might not be able to do the mundane stuff anymore like grocery shopping or laundry. Because I am a low bottom, non-functioning food addict. 

So I am going to keep my eating boundaries and navigate the fear and just put one foot in front of the other. I don’t think that will make a difference in the world, but I know that it will make a difference in my very small part of the world. Even if that means only that very small circle around just myself.

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.

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.

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