onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the category “Relationships”

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.

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.

Nothing went wrong with my food

Today’s post is going to be extra short because I am already tired and out of my routine. We are living temporarily in New Jersey just outside of Philadelphia. So last week I secured a temporary apartment, and this past week I got ready to move. Then Friday I drove 12 hours to a new town and yesterday moved into a new apartment.

It’s small. It’s expensive. You know, very East coast.

One thing didn’t change. My eating. I made days worth of food ahead of time. I packed easily transported meals. The night before we drove, I actually packed the food up in the coolers I was going to use, and packed them into my car, only to take them out and put all of the food back into the refrigerator overnight.

Is that weird and obsessive? Perhaps. Did it make me feel better to already know at 5 o’clock in the morning exactly how the food was going to fit into the coolers and the coolers into the car? Absolutely.

I know what my priorities are. And I plan for them accordingly. Especially with food. And nothing went wrong with my food.

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