onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the category “Relationships”

“Follow Me” and change

I was very excited this week to get to see a documentary I am featured in about sustained weight loss. It’s called Follow Me, and it features 12 people who have lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off for 5 years or more. I am honored to be a part of it. You can visit the website and see a trailer for the movie at www.followmefilm.ca
What I particularly like about the film is that it features a bunch of different approaches to sustained weight loss. But they all have one thing in common. We each had to change our lives. 
One of my biggest problems with losing weight when I was still eating sugar, was that I wanted to do what I had always done, and have it be different. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was not eating so I could eat later. The reward was the same. Just less often. And someday. Until I couldn’t wait anymore and I ate again. And I couldn’t put it off anymore, and it went back to being the norm, not the exception. 
I could never stop eating sugar when I was eating sugar. I could never *want* to refrain, because I craved it. My brain and my body told me I needed it. And when I first *really* gave up sugar I experienced a lot of physical and emotional pain. The cravings were intense. The feelings I had been numbing with sugar were overwhelming. I was cranky. I felt high from not being high. I had to cope without my primary coping mechanism. Like learning to swim by being thrown in the lake and told “don’t die.”
But I did learn to “swim.” I learned a new way to live. And it was a life I never knew I wanted. But I did. 
One of my many (many) problems with the fitness/diet/beauty industry is that so much of what it is advertising is something that will do the change for you. Hell, even the medical industry is selling that. Take these “vitamins,” they will melt away fat. Drink this shake, it will make you want to eat less. Get your stomach removed/constricted. It will make it impossible for you to overeat. Except it doesn’t. Not even the medical/surgical solutions. I have met people who have stretched themselves a new stomach after gastric bypass. They are not the solutions they promise to be. (Oh great. Now, I am going to be singing Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina all day…)
I am not saying that surgery is necessarily “bad.” Eating as a coping mechanism worked for me until it didn’t anymore. A gastric sleeve might save someone’s life. But  if one’s problem is eating, like mine, and weight is a symptom of that problem, I don’t think anything outside of oneself is going to help. 
And I am not saying that anyone “needs” to change their eating. I want to be friends with fat acceptance, body positivity, and fat pride. I want to make this a conversation about choice. 
But I hated being fat. And I *wanted* a solution. And I was doing all sorts of self-harm and acts of self-hatred in order to try and wrangle my body into a certain shape and size, hoping that one of those awful, painful, and shameful things would be the solution to my self-loathing. And none of them were. 
But finally I found a real solution. One that doesn’t require sustained starvation. One that doesn’t require hating myself into submission. One that is abundant, delicious food, plus a body I actually love, and love to live in. 
So I am honored to be part of this film, Follow Me. I am honored to talk about the fact that sustained weight loss is not a fictional fairytale. That it can be done. And that it’s not about being special or being a specific kind of fat person. That it’s about choices and change. And that if you want something else, there is a way to have it. 
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Beautiful. But still not skinny

When I got my eating under control 13+ years ago, I expected to find my husband right away. I thought that the only thing keeping him away was my being fat. Because even when I wasn’t fat while I was still eating compulsively, any hold I had on staying the size I was was tenuous at best. I could always feel it slipping away. 

But when I put boundaries around my eating, and especially when I stopped eating foods I am addicted to, like sugar and carbs, I lost my weight, and it was staying off. And I wasn’t afraid of gaining it back. At all. I didn’t feel like it was a fluke. I wasn’t what they call “white knuckling” it. I was in a regular sized body and fully expected to stay that way. 
But he didn’t show up. For years he didn’t show up. I went on dates. I got pretty hair cuts from a salon. (The kind where you needed an appointment!) I regularly got my nails done, fingers and toes. I wore pretty clothes. For a few years there in the beginning I even wore makeup every day. (I would stop after about 5 years of having my food under control.) But no husband.
I went on dates. I went to bars. I talked to men on the subway and in Starbucks. But he did not show up. 
And then I quit smoking. And I gained weight. I gained a lot of weight. After the first 30 lbs, I stopped weighing myself. I had my food under control, but my weight was out of control. I was terrified. I was miserable. I felt betrayed by my body. But I kept my boundaries around my eating, even in the face of that weight gain and insecurity. 
And I thought “I missed my window. My husband didn’t show up while I was skinny. And now that chance has passed.”
And then my husband showed up. When I was not skinny. When I was, in fact, the heaviest I had ever been with my eating under control.
And I had to come to terms with the fact that being skinny was not what made me beautiful. And it occurred to me that having my eating under control is actually the thing that made/makes me beautiful. The clarity. The kindness. The confidence. The good judgment.
So here I am, a woman with her food under control, who is not skinny. I am fit, and present, and growing, and happy. And still in love with my husband who is still in love with me. He still thinks I’m beautiful. (I still think so too. Because…humble.) But still not skinny. 
And I am so grateful that I got to learn that lesson. That my beauty is not determined by my physical size. That my size is fine, whatever it is, as long as I have my eating under control. Because it was the compulsive eating that made me feel ugly and crazy and unlovable. And in having my food taken care of, I am showing my body that I love it. That I think it is worthy of love. And that opened the way for my husband. Love opened the way to love. Not being “skinny and perfect.”

My anniversary of the other side

My birthday is Thursday this coming week. I will be 42. It’s pretty nice. I feel great. I look great. I have no complaints. Not about my life, and not about my age. 
It was on my birthday 12 years ago that I came out of the fog of giving up sugar. 
For most of the first 28 years of my life, I lived in a sugar fog. I was addicted to sugar and carbs from a very young age. And I was high on sugar the majority of my waking life. 
And then at 28, I gave up sugar, and went from being high on sugar all the time to not being high on sugar at all, and that felt like a different kind of high. It meant cravings, and a general slowing down of my brain function,  the adjustment of my digestive system, and a kind of low-level exhaustion basically all the time. My body and brain needed some time to heal. And then one day, my 30th birthday, about a year and a half after I gave up sugar, I noticed that I had woken up. 
In that year and a half of foggy time, I was learning to keep the boundaries around my food. From friends who wanted a bite and I had to say no, to bringing my own food to a wedding and the mother of the bride being mildly offended, to people wanting to make things especially for me and having to politely refuse.
Someone once told me that when you make a commitment, you change the course of your life. 
After that I was learning about how to keep other boundaries. Saying no to people who knew me as eager-to-please. Standing by my “no” when people wanted to coerce or manipulate me into doing what they wanted. Making life choices that made me happy, rather than choices I thought would make others happy. Making choices that I had to then stand by, because they were mine, and right or wrong, I could not pawn them off on anyone else.
If there is a hard part to change, I believe it lies in our relationships with others. I have been a relatively bold nonconformist for most of my life. I don’t particularly care what others think of me. And if I do, it is often a streak of defiance. I dare you not to like me. I dare you to judge me. 
But good lord, even with my devil-may-care attitude about fitting in, when it came to setting new boundaries with people in my life, boundaries I *had to* set to keep my eating under control, it was hard. People want us to be who we have always been. And when we make life-altering changes, like entirely revamping our food life, we will, out of necessity become different people. 
I see it all the time when people decide to do what I do with food. If they want to lose weight but they don’t want to change, they will not last long. They may lose weight. They may even lose all of the weight they want to. But then they inevitably return to old ways and old patterns. 
I have heard when women let their mothers-in-law insist they eat the special dessert made just for them. Or let their husbands convince them that they should have a glass of wine because they used to be fun. Or let their sweet grandmothers feed them that special dish. 
Refusing the homemade lasagna made by my most beloved grandmother (she made it  for Christmas and Easter and it was by far my favorite food in the whole world – in my life, it was what love tasted like) may have been the hardest thing I ever had to do. It was terrible to have to do to both of us. It hurt her. It hurt me. But I had to say no. So I did. 
I do not regret a single moment on this journey. I am grateful for all 42 years of my amazing life. And especially grateful for the past 13 and a half, where I have been learning slowly and steadily how to be my truest self. And even more for that moment 12 years ago, when I looked up from that year and a half of introspection, and pain, and discombobulation and discomfort, and saw that there had been an “other side.” And that I was on it. 

Thankfully I want to, even when I don’t want to.

I spend a lot of time on this blog writing about the great things about keeping strict boundaries around my food. I am very vocal about the benefits. But I gotta be honest. Sometimes it is a royal pain in the ass. And sometimes it’s stressful. 
My husband and I had agreed to go to the movies over the long weekend. And the most convenient time our movie is showing is decidedly inconvenient in terms of my lunch. It means eating my lunch 3 hours later than I normally do, in the car on the way home from the theater. And on top of that I thought he meant today. And then this morning he told me he meant tomorrow. So I woke up late to eat a late breakfast to make it easier to eat a late lunch. And now I have to do all of that again tomorrow. Which is annoying. And it means I have to do all of my cooking for the week today instead of tomorrow. In other words, now all of my planning is mixed up, and I have to regroup and adapt.
I can. I can totally regroup and adapt. And it’s not really that big of a deal. It’s an inconvenience, not a tragedy. And I have 3 full days off of work this weekend. Which is a gift and a blessing! I will do all of the stuff I normally do on the weekend, and still get an extra day to go see a movie in the theater with my husband! Which is amazing.
But it’s also stressful. It makes me worry about all of the things that can go wrong. And what happens if things go wrong when I am so hungry that I can’t think straight?
I don’t know if that is a particularly valid fear. But I do get hungry between meals sometimes. And it does make me a little irrational sometimes. So it’s not ridiculous. 
Look, what I do is *always* worth the inconvenience. I would not have the amazing relationship with my husband that I have if my food weren’t under control. And I would not have the peace of mind and clarity that I have. I still have all of the beautiful things that my food boundaries give me that I always wax poetic about. But it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. And it’s not always pretty. And it’s not always easy. And I do it even when it’s a pain in the ass. And I am awake enough to know that I always want to do the thing that keeps me free from the bonds of my addiction. Even when I don’t “want to.”

The part that’s all blessing

Even after all of the prep I did last week for this week, there is still so much to do. Plus the drive to the home office from my house in the Chicago suburbs is more than twice as long a commute as the last job I was on. So unless I am going to run at 4:30 in the morning (spoiler alert! I’m not!) I am going to have to jog after work. Which, if you have not already heard me complain about, I hate. I am tired after work. Waaaaah! And then while we are home, my husband has been asked to do a 1 day job in Milwaukee, and I may have to go get our taxes done by myself! Did I mention Waaaaaah! yet?
Having my food taken care of is the blessing and the curse of all of this. Just a little curse. The curse part is that I have to do all of the stuff myself. Perhaps someday I will be rich enough to pay someone to do all of this stuff for me. The shopping. The cooking. Washing the Tupperware to pack up my food. Though I weigh almost all of my food (with a very few exceptions, and all sorts of rules around when I don’t have to) and I do have a commitment to weigh all of my food for myself. No matter how rich I get, it will still be my own responsibility to know my portions exactly. Also, my husband and I are doing pretty well financially, but not get-Kate-a-personal-chef-well. Though Powerball is up to $750 Million….
But the blessing is that when I do this stuff, I don’t have to eat compulsively. I talk a lot about all of the great stuff I get from having my eating under control that is only peripherally related to eating. Like being a good worker, or having self-respect. Or having great relationships. But one thing that I get every day, whether I screwed up at work, or I have a good bout of “imposter syndrome,” or I have had a fight with my husband, is that I am not eating compulsively. I am not a slave to food. I love my meals and they end, and I move on with my life.
The truth is, I owe at least 4 people calls and emails. (Hi Mom! Hi Dad! I have not forgotten you!) And I had to write this blog. And I had to cook and prep for the rest of the day, and tie up some loose ends for work tomorrow. But one thing I didn’t have to do was eat something I didn’t want to eat, but couldn’t stop myself from eating. And that part is all blessing. 

Logistical Tetris, and then the fun part

As a person who travels for work, I get to see all sorts of places and be part of all sorts of communities. And I enjoy that very much. There are things I like and things I dislike everywhere. For example, I won’t miss the way people drive here in Tennessee, but being so close to Nashville was fun. 
But it’s just about time to move along, and that means my least favorite part of this way of life. Apartment hunting. Setting up utilities. Packing, hauling, and unpacking. Tying up loose ends. Ending and beginning again. 
It’s stressful. It’s a lot of moving parts. It’s kind of like logistical Tetris. All of the pieces are coming at you in quick succession and you have to get all of them to fit together in a certain time period. 
It’s times like these that having food boundaries is helpful, especially in terms of self-care. Because I already have an attitude that prizes planning, preparing, and protection of my food. For example, I am looking ahead to the future and realizing that I will have to prep more food than usual in advance. Both today for next week at our permanent residence. And then again in two weeks when it’s time to officially pull up stakes here and head to a new home in a new town.
I know a lot of people who forget to take care of themselves in difficult or unusual situations, times of change and upheaval. They forget to eat until they are starving and/or hangry. They forget to sleep enough because they need to get “one more thing” done. They don’t make time to take care of their bodies or their minds. 
And what’s more, they think they are doing the right thing, being honorable, sacrificing.
I am not saying that there is not a time to sacrifice. There is. There is beauty and honor and love in it. But I am going to suggest that moving apartments is not that time. If I had to sleep in a hotel for a night, I could do that. Having the internet turned on immediately is not life or death. (I even have a hotspot on my phone!) And since we change residences about every year or so, that would make for a lot of sacrifice, of my my health, my happiness, and my relationship (I don’t want to be cranky, angry, and taking things out on my husband) to basically be able to like stuff on Facebook. 
Getting my eating under control taught me about my own priorities. It taught me *how* to prioritize. And my well-being is my number one priority, followed closely by my husband’s well-being. Everything else is a situation that will pass. 
So I will have to do a bit more work today. But it will give me peace of mind and keep my head clear. I won’t be nervous about when or where my next meal will be. I will be able to think about all of the many things I have to get done, without worrying about how I am going to take care of my needs. I will be free to go with the flow of life.
But one of the best things about logistical Tetris is that all of the pieces come in rapid succession, but then they are in place, and it’s done. And then I can look forward to getting to know a new place and a new community. And that’s definitely the fun part of a life of traveling.

Keep your friends close and make your enemies friends

I was talking to a friend the other day about making friends with certain difficult or frustrating aspects of ourselves. I feel like making friends is not what we are taught. We are taught to eradicate and transform. We are taught that we should change the way we are. It is all about principle and not about practical. All about what we should be, instead of what we are.

Throughout my life, I have had to make friends with many aspects of myself. Especially aspects that made other people uncomfortable. For one example, I am very sensitive. When I was a kid, it didn’t take much to hurt me and make me cry. People in my life wanted me to stop being so sensitive. 
First of all, how do you expect a child (or a grown up, for that matter) to *stop* their feelings? Especially without any instruction for how to cope. They just wanted me to stop crying. 
Of course, there are lots of ways to stop feelings, to shut off one’s emotions, but none of them occur to me as particularly helpful, or healthy. And even if we sensitive souls could, for whose benefit would that be? It was certainly not to my benefit. It was generally to the benefit of people who enjoyed being mean or “funny” at other people’s expense. 
Look, I do understand why people who loved me wanted that for me. The world can be a cruel place. They wanted me to be happy. They did not want me to be hurt so often and so easily. But it didn’t work. It just made me feel like I was the one with the problem.
I am very comfortable with my sensitivity now. Because once I made friends with it, I could manage it. I could figure out my coping strategies. 
I don’t know if I *could* have made friends with that part of myself while I was still eating compulsively, but I certainly never did. Eating was how I tried to manage unmanageable feelings. Eating didn’t help me get through them. In fact, it was the opposite. Eating let me ignore them. But they were still there. And in ignoring them, I made them seem so concrete and indisputable. 
Once my eating was under control though, I was able to feel those unmanageable feelings, and deal with them. I was able to recognize what feelings were signals that I was unhappy with a situation or relationship, and that I wanted to change something about my life. And I was able to recognize that not every feeling was a signpost to some great truth. Sometimes I was just uncomfortable, and I could feel uncomfortable and just sit in it. 
But I could not eradicate my sensitivity. Just like I cannot eradicate my addiction to sugar and simple carbohydrates. Obviously, that is another aspect of my life that I had to make friends with. I am a sugar addict, and there is no going back. There is no cake in moderation for me. There is no “just one bite.” But in making friends with that aspect of myself, I have learned to make and eat food that is delicious, and satisfying, both physically and emotionally. I have learned how to use my love of eating as a blessing. I eat 3 times a day with so much enjoyment, sometimes other people get jealous. And that’s me eating protein, fruits and vegetables.
My sensitivity is a blessing. For all of the pain and discomfort it gives me, it gives me more joy, happiness, contentment, peace, and awe. It is the source of my favorite aspects of my life. And for so many years, people wanted to squash it out of me. I am glad they didn’t get to.

Yucky feelings and all

I have a love/hate relationship with feelings. I live for feelings. I spend all of the free time I can listening to books and reading comics and watching soap-opera-y TV shows. I am in all of those things for the feelings. If they make me so uncomfortable that I have to pause and calm down, I love that! If they make me cry, even better! (Sometimes my poor husband comes home and I am huddled under a blanket with tear streaks on my face and I have to explain that I was just reading a comic, and everything is fine…)

But when it comes to my own feelings, well, let’s just say I am not nearly as comfortable with those. Having my own feelings makes me panic. Even after 13 years of feeling my feelings, my first reaction is to freak out and shut down.

This week, I had a problem come up with my food. Part of what I do is tell someone who does what I do what I am going to eat the next day. It’s essentially making a promise. I consider it sacred. And I found out this week that I had to find someone else to make that promise to. And that was terrifying.

I understand that to you, it may not make sense why this was so scary. But it was. You will just have to trust me on that. And my first thought was to panic.

But of the many things I have learned in keeping my food under control, one important step is to take care of the most pressing problem. And another is to stop, calm down, and think over my options for the long-term problems. And to definitely not make any rash decisions.

So I called someone and made my promise for the next day. And then I went to bed and I dealt with the problem of finding a new promise-taker in the morning. By morning, the problem was not nearly so scary.

Panic and paralysis were the standard of my life before I got my eating under control. I would panic, and then I would shut down, and then I would eat myself into not caring about my problem. Which never took care of the problem causing the uncomfortable feelings, just the uncomfortable feelings themselves.

The other part of getting my feelings back is that I didn’t just get the yucky ones back. I got the panic and the hurt and the terror, sure. But I also got the joy and the love and the swooning, and the pride.

I don’t have to like my feelings. But I am now able to honor them. And that means I can be effective in my life. And that ability to live life as it is makes me like myself and love my life. Yucky feelings and all.

Clunky and graceless is OK for now

This week I celebrated my 13th anniversary of keeping boundaries around my eating. One thing I was taught early on was to set boundaries with people. Even if they were “clunky.” Even if they were graceless. Even if I sounded like a jerk. Even if I *was* a jerk.

It has occurred to me in the past few months that I avoid difficult conversations. In some ways, this came as a surprise to me. I like to think of myself as a model of self-expression. And I thought I had already overcome this. Which I had. But I should not be surprised. My experience is that we all have our lessons. And we have to learn those lessons over and over, deeper and deeper.

Once I realized this, I knew that I wanted to do something about it. And I have. A little snappy. And a little pushy. But moving ahead.

Right now, I don’t know what to do about it in terms of concrete actions. There are ways to make commitments to things like this, but they are not as obvious to me as food boundaries or water drinking promises. Those are no brainers. 4 oz of meat, weighed on a scale. Three 20 oz bottles of water a day from my reusable water bottle. That’s easy. Or at least, easy to wrap my mind around. But having uncomfortable conversations occurs to me as less clear-cut.

Still, I will work at it. I want it. I want to say the things I need to say so that I don’t feel resentful, or self-pitying, or stifled. I don’t want to be “nice.” I want to be kind. I don’t want to be “likable.” I want to be authentic. I don’t want to be “good.” I want to be powerful.

When I don’t muddle my thinking with food and sugar and carbs and things that make me fuzzy, I can feel my uncomfortable feelings, and consider what I want to do about them. I am in no hurry. I can be happy for now with the baby steps I have begun to take, even if they are clunky and graceless. I can think about it a little bit longer. I am in no rush. I have all the time in the world to grow. And there will always be more growing to do.

I am not an only-once-a-year-resolver.

It’s that time of year. New Year’s Resolution time. I am not a Resolver. I love the New Year. I too feel the warm glow of possibility in ending the old and welcoming the new. I like the chance to look back, and forward. But I don’t like to pin all of my hopes on a feeling. 

That is what a New Year’s Resolution is, I think, for most people. They feel excited about what may come in this next 365 days. It’s a blank slate filled with potentialities. And knowing that all of that potential is out there fills us with feelings. Feelings of hope, and desire, and courage, and drive. We feel motivated! 
I don’t know if you know this, but feelings like that don’t last. For anyone, really. At least nobody I know. Even the most powerful, potent, accomplished people I know do not *feel* motivated all of the time. Or even most of the time. 
Most people, even the ones who have what you want, find getting the good stuff to be filled with something akin to drudgery. The ones who get themselves extraordinary lives are the ones who brave discomfort regularly. 
The secret to me having what I want, as I have noted before, is to have commitments, and to keep them no matter how I feel. 
I would rather sleep in than jog. I would rather drink coffee than water. I would rather knit and read and watch Netflix than prep meals. I would rather stay home than go out with friends. I would rather pretend everything is fine than have difficult conversations. But all of things that I would rather, all the things that make me *feel* comfortable, leave me with a life that doesn’t  *feel* valuable. I want relationships with myself and others that are worthwhile, and whole, and intimate. I want love, and friendship. I want to like and trust myself. I like and trust myself when I keep my commitments. 
I am not done growing and changing. I am all for wanting more, and being willing to do more for it. But it doesn’t have to be for the new year. I can change any time. 

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