onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the category “Relationships”

It just may be a luuuuuunatic you’re looking for.

After 3 or so weeks of frustration and difficulty, I am back to my usual self. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I still have to write a post for my eating disorder blog, and I don’t have anything in particular to say.

I don’t eat sugar, and it’s great? Yay?

Look, I don’t eat sugar. And it is great. If you do eat sugar, not eating sugar is better than you know, and way way way better than you think.

I say all the time that I am not the food police, and I do not care if you eat sugar. And I really don’t. Even if you’re fat. Even if it is killing you and making you miserable. What I really believe in is personal freedom. I happen to be an American, (though I know many of you are not, hi international friends!) and I strongly believe in those American ideals that center around the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I mean the liberty to do things that are killing you and making you miserable, as long as they do not encroach on the rights of your fellows. But I have a feeling that even if sugar is killing you and making you miserable, you don’t know it. I would even venture to guess that you don’t have any idea how much sugar you are eating and how it is affecting you.

If you tell people you don’t eat sugar, many of them freak out. I am considered a crazy person. And I own that when I talk to people about it. But I am going to be blunt. I may say “yes, yes, it’s crazy, I know…” with a simper, but that is to make you feel better. Because really, I think people who eat sugar are the crazy ones. I am simply deviating from the norm. But what about the norm is sane in this situation? I especially think people who don’t have any idea what they are eating are the crazy ones. If you are eating, and feeding your family, prepackaged, highly processed foods daily, which are generally packed with added sugars, or things that immediately turn into sugar in your body, I think that’s pretty insane.

Here’s a question: What exactly do you think you are getting from sugar?

Joy? Fun? The ability to blend in with society and not make waves? That warm, fuzzy feeling? (P.S. That fuzzy feeling is called being high…) Nourishment? I am pretty sure you know that you are not getting nourishment. Even people who believe a calorie is a calorie think that sugar is, at the very least, devoid of nourishment.

I am not in a position to have a piece of cake occasionally because I am an addict. I have an unnatural reaction to sugar, grains, and starch. When I put the stuff in my body, I set up a craving for more. But if you, and I know there are a lot of you out there, mostly eat real, whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, and occasionally have a piece of cake, or a candy bar, or a can of soda, I get it. I am not talking about you. I am sure it’s fun, like someone who is not an alcoholic having a drink occasionally. But it’s not generally those people who act like I’m some weirdo, or some martyr. Those people totally get it. They think that I am a champion. It’s the junkies who think I’m a lunatic.

I promise that I have more peace, joy, fun, and general contentment because I don’t eat sugar, not in spite of it. And I don’t even mean more of those things than I had before, though that too. I mean more of those things than sugar eaters. So don’t feel sorry for me. And if you do, you can feel free to keep it to yourself. And if you can’t manage that, then when I simper at you and tell you how I know that what I do is so extreme, you can feel free to realize that in my head, I’m pitying you more than you are pitying me.

F*ck Karl Lagerfeld

This week I kind of freaked myself out. I was looking in the mirror, which I do all the time because I am particularly vain, and I was thinking that I look really beautiful. Again, this is not that far fetched for me. Body dysmorphia aside, I think I’m pretty hot much of the time. And then the next day, a friend whom I had seen on a video conference told me that I was looking really beautiful. But then I realized why I, and perhaps others, may have been thinking I was so beautiful. It’s because I am particularly thin right now. And that made me uncomfortable.

So I did something I almost never do. I asked my husband. You should have seen the look on his face. You’d think that Admiral Ackbar just snuck up behind him and yelled, “It’s a trap!”

Of course, it wasn’t a trap. But he was wise to tread cautiously. Obviously weight and size are loaded in this society in general, especially for women, and super extra especially for me. And my husband had to live through my most debilitating body dysmorphic episode ever after I quit smoking and gained 30 pounds, even with my food boundaries firmly intact. He knows first hand that nothing can reduce me to tears (and insanity) as quickly as some unwelcome belief about my weight, real or imagined.

He told me very clearly that he actively avoids looking at my size. That he knows no good can come of it. And that ultimately, it really doesn’t matter to him.

And if my obsession with my weight and body were, as I truly believed for basically all 35 of my single years, about being attractive to men, especially the one I am in love with, then this post would be done. But it’s not, and it’s not.

The truth is that I have mixed feelings. I do like what I see in the mirror, whether I have been conditioned to think so or not. And obviously, I am not the only one, if a friend was seeing and saying the same thing that I was. And I truly hated being fat, whether that was also conditioning or not.

Wallis Simpson is credited with saying that a woman “can never be too rich or too thin.” But she said this before the 1970s and 80s, which is when cases of eating disorders began to escalate. (It is worth noting I think, that this is also when cases of obesity began to escalate.)

Now we know that a woman can, indeed, be too thin. A person can starve themself to death. Vital organs can shut down. Perhaps Wallis Simpson couldn’t imagine a world where a girl would have a heart attack in her teens because her desire to be ever thinner led to the weakening of all of her muscles, including the ones to keep her alive. Perhaps she had too much faith in a human’s survival instinct. (I have opinions about whether it is possible to be too rich as well, but as this is an eating disorder blog, I will keep those to myself.)

But on the other side, I think that there are reasons that being thin, or at least not being fat, is considered attractive. I mean that I don’t think it’s entirely about societal conditioning; I think there are also evolutionary reasons.

My dad sent me an interesting podcast a few weeks ago. In it, Gary Taubes, who wrote a book called “The Case Against Sugar,” talks about how he believes that there is a fundamental flaw in the way the health and medical community views weight. (I feel the need to note that Taubes clearly states that he is making a case, but that there have not been clinical trials and scientific studies that have proven this idea. He is simply making an argument, and he would like to see this idea studied. I will also say that in my very much not scientific, but particularly personal experience, I think he is on the right track.) He says that we talk about obesity and weight in terms of a balance of energy – calories in must be equal to calories out – but that what the calorie comes from doesn’t matter. He argues that, in fact, what we eat matters because foods have chemical and hormonal impacts. In this podcast he said something that really struck me: “People don’t …accumulate 100 pounds of excess fat because they eat too much, they do it because their body is telling them to accumulate fat. And that’s going to be a hormonal, enzymatic problem.”

I happen to think that over millions of years of evolution, we humans “understand” various things subconsciously. Not in thoughts and words, but in basic “gut” reactions. And I think it is possible that humans find fat less attractive because it indicates some form of ill health, some problem with the functioning of our hormones/chemicals/biology.

I know (rationally) that I was not fat because I was lazy, stupid, greedy, or shameful. I did not want to be fat. I wanted to be able to stop eating. I went to nutritionists and did workout tapes. (Yes, I said “tapes.” That’s how old I am.) I joined programs with weekly motivation classes and pre-packaged food plans so you didn’t have to think for yourself about what to eat. I worked my ass off to work my ass off and it never did go anywhere. I could not manage to not be fat.

And while I limit the amount of food I eat now, I still eat a lot. Pounds and pounds every day. Including full-fat greek yogurt, whole milk, pork rinds, bacon, and sausage. But I am not eating most sugars (except for some natural sugars in the form of some whole fruits and vegetables) or things that turn into sugar, like grains, starch, and other carbohydrates. And the elimination of those foods has meant that for the past 11+ years, I have never been fat again. And I think that chances are good that eating sugar was always the culprit; sugar was signaling to my body to store fat.

But if it were only a matter of a healthy, properly functioning body, versus an improperly functioning body, then I wouldn’t be so freaked out about the fact that I like being thin. I’m freaked out because we have taken “thin” too far. And I am afraid that I will mix up what I am constantly told I “should” look like, with what I look like when I am in a healthy, properly functioning body.

From the 50s through the 80s, famous beauties generally had a BMI of somewhere between 17-20.5, while the average American woman had a BMI between 23-25. As a young adult, I had a BMI of about 45. (Yes, I know that BMI is a flawed system, but it is a “standardized” system, so it is helpful in illustrating my point.) So when I was growing up, the real knockouts were somewhere between a modern size 2 and 6. Today, a model who is a size 6 is considered “plus size.” So a woman with a BMI of 20.5 is considered fat by today’s (fashion industry) standards, while the average American woman currently has a BMI of 27.6 and is a size 14.

My point is that I don’t want to get caught up in liking or not liking my body based on a fundamentally flawed definition of acceptable weight made up by an industry that makes it’s money by telling women that they are lacking. I don’t need Karl Lagerfeld, Donatella Versace, or Mark Jacobs to tell me that my healthy, strong, fully functional body is not pretty enough, because clothes “look better” on a girl who is about to experience renal failure. (Seriously, f**k them.)

But mostly I am afraid that I will get brainwashed by them. You see, I don’t want to listen to them; I don’t want to come to believe them; I don’t want to let them in my head. And I am afraid that if, when I look in the mirror, I like my thin self better than my less thin self, I will make myself sick physically, emotionally and spiritually. It’s not that I don’t want to like what I look like, I just want liking what I look like to not be so tied up in weight. I want to be able to be happy that I am thin. I have changed my entire life so that I could be happy in my body. But I also don’t want to have to take it that seriously. Perhaps ultimately I should think about my weight the way my husband thinks about my weight, which is to say, not at all. But for a girl with a lifetime of food and body issues, perhaps that’s asking too much…

 

More reasons to kiss the cook

My husband told me in no uncertain terms this week that he wants his props. And, in truth, he deserves them.

The most important thing in my life is keeping my food boundaries. This might sound strange, I know. The idea that my food boundaries would be more important than the people I love or my life’s ambitions sounds rather pathetic from the outside. I am aware. But let me offer a translation. The most important thing in my life is taking care of myself in a loving and responsible manner so that I can be present and available for my relationships and life goals. There’s that age-old idea that you cannot really love someone else until you love yourself. That, exactly, is why I keep my eating boundaries as my first priority.

When my husband and I first started dating, he wanted to cook for me. But all of the things that he was good at making were based on carbohydrates: homemade sauce for pasta or lasagna, rice-stuffed peppers, tacos. And to make it extra especially difficult, about 7 years ago, years before we were together, I realized that high-alkali foods, like tomatoes and peppers, were the reason for my cystic acne. So, I gave them up. I had basically eliminated any option for him to cook for me.

For a couple of years now, I have been fooling around with the idea of introducing a little bit of tomato product back into my diet, just for a change of pace. It seems that people who have a reaction to high-alkali foods mostly have a problem with raw foods, rather than cooked. And a friend of ours recently recommended a recipe for barbecue ribs that included a dry rub, steaming them in the oven over a pan of root beer, and then slathering them with barbecue sauce.

I figured it would be worth a shot, because that sounded freaking amazing! If I broke out, I would know that I really can’t have any tomatoes or peppers, and just wouldn’t eat them anymore.

Now, even if I wanted to try adding a little tomato-something to my usual fare, I still have to have one that fits my sugar requirements. Same for any seasoning. So instead of searching and searching for a ready-made dry rub and bottled barbecue sauce that met my needs, he made them himself. Not only that, but he let me look through the ingredients and make sure they, were acceptable, and substituted things that were not. For example, we steamed the ribs over diet root beer, replaced the Worcestershire sauce with my soy sauce alternative, and used artificial sweetener instead of brown sugar.

And Oh. My. God! They were so good! And, even better, they were so good and I didn’t break out!

The thing about keeping my boundaries is that, when I take it seriously, and when I am responsible for keeping them on the highest level, my husband takes it seriously too. He honors it, because I honor it. I lead the way, and he follows. But he could only follow because I lead the way. What he did for me was an act of love. And because it was especially for me, it made me feel particularly loved.

When I gave up sugar, one of the things I had to do was get over the fact that some people whom I loved and who loved me, were used to showing me love through foods I didn’t eat anymore, and now they couldn’t. And I had to learn how to show love to those people, and to show them that I got their love, without eating those things. I had to be grateful, without harming myself to show it. So there is something particularly heart-warming for me about my husband going out of his way to make me food I can eat on my own terms. So I am grateful. And excited! And positively quivering in anticipation of the possibility of pulled pork! Woot!

It may well be that “nobody wants to see that,” but they are going to have to take the initiative to stop looking for themselves.

I read something the other day that was rather interesting to me. It was an opinion about how fat shaming and skinny shaming are inherently different because of thin privilege. The gist of the article was basically that while it’s never OK to shame anyone, and certainly skinny people can, as individuals, be insecure about their bodies, being fat in modern western society is considered taboo, a sin, and in particular, everybody else’s business. That while individuals may shame a skinny individual, western society as a whole shames overweight people. As if there is a moral imperative to ostracize obese people.

If you have ever been fat, or even just chubby, you probably know that this is true. People will go out of their way to express their disgust for your body. They not only have opinions about your clothes, like how short, tight, or revealing they are, they feel at least entitled, and very often morally obligated, to make their disapproval clear.

Remember when Lady Gaga performed the Super Bowl halftime show? I don’t know about you, but there were a bunch of people on my social media feeds saying that she “looked fat” because her little belly occasionally hung over the top her glittery hot pants. Of course, in the following days, there were a bunch of articles and opinion pieces about how having skin that rolls and puckers is normal and natural. And rightfully so. And I would specifically like to point out that Lady Gaga is in no way, shape, or form fat. The idea that she did not look like airbrushed perfection while executing a spectacular stage show with costume changes, complicated choreography, and aerial stunts may be because she was not freakining airbrushed. She was working her ass off.

My point is that people that you know personally, and maybe you yourself, have almost no room for human bodies to deviate from the shape of “post-Photoshop underwear model.” And these people feel obliged to make sure that you know it, and Lady Gaga knows it, and everybody else knows it too.

Being bullied, tormented, humiliated, and generally made to feel ashamed of myself happened to me my whole life. I can still recall specific insults from people I knew and people I didn’t about my body at nearly every stage of my life: at 8, at 12, at 14, at 18, and all through my twenties. I can remember the way it was made abundantly clear to me that my body was disgusting. It was expressly said to me that looking at me made people sick. “Nobody wants to see that,” became something that I not only heard often, but eventually internalized and started to say about myself and my own body.

And I believed it. I did not believe any man would ever find me attractive. I did not believe that I would ever fall in love. I did not believe that I deserved to be respected. And it was strangers, friends, and even my family that instilled these beliefs in me.

I believe that thin privilege does exist. I am not saying that it’s kind, or friendly, or even acceptable to tell a skinny woman to “eat a cheeseburger.” It’s rude, and obnoxious, and quite frankly nobody else’s business. But I will say that whenever I have seen a picture of, or a story about a fat model in my social media feeds, there are pages and pages of comments about how fat models are setting a bad example, and companies that use them in their ads are sending a message that promotes unhealthy lifestyles. But there is not the same outcry when girls and women dying of anorexia are walking runways during fashion week. And that is not hyperbole, many of these girls are literally dying. Where is the outrage over the unhealthy lifestyles being promoted by every fashion house and magazine in the United States? (I mean besides my own outrage. Because yes, I am personally outraged.) We claim to be so worried about health (as opposed to aesthetics) unless the girl is skinny. Then we look the other way. Because we are not really worried about health. We are worried about how we can let the fat person know that we find them morally reprehensible, without looking like the assholes we’re being.

On a personal note, I would like to say that fat shaming and living in a world with thin privilege has done me a lot of psychological and emotional damage in my lifetime. And I have done a lot of work on myself, inside and out to deal with it. At 35 I first started to wear my bikini in public. And finally, at almost 40, I have started wearing shorts in public for the first time since I was probably 10 years old. I spent my whole life believing that my wearing shorts in public was an affront to “normal” people. And that belief was instilled in me by people who were eager to tell me that they disapproved of my body and that I should too. And even after losing an entire person worth of weight, it has still been a slow, years-long process that has brought me to the point where I feel like I deserve to be comfortable. Like I am allowed to show some portion of my thighs because I am a human with a body like any other body.

 

Another kind of privilege

I love living in a society where the individual is important. As a non-conformist, and a loner, it is a great relief, and a joy, to be able to make choices for myself. And in many ways it made getting my eating under control much easier. I didn’t have to get over worrying about what others thought of the way I was eating. I couldn’t care less, quite frankly. But there was also a little push-back from that proud, independent individual inside me. Who says I can’t eat sugar? Who says I have to put boundaries around my eating?

Of course, the answer is nobody but me. Not my doctor. Not my government. Not my husband, or my best friend, or my life coach, or my personal trainer. Nobody is making me eat or not eat anything but me, myself and I. And yet, my mind is a tricky thing. It likes to look for scapegoats and blamable third parties. Anyone or anything to get me, personally, off the hook. You can’t tell me what to do. You’re not the boss of me. I am a grown-ass woman and I can do whatever I want.

Yes, yes. All yeses. Sometimes, the hard part is understanding what I want. The hard part is marrying the actions with their consequences in my own head so that I am fully aware of the fact that they go together.

I may “want” cake, on some level. But cake comes with food obsession, muddled thinking, the inability to stop eating, weight gain, morbid obesity, feeling crazy, and probably some form of bulimia or other self-harm. I cannot have cake without these other things. (I understand that other people can. I wish them well.) I may want to feel myself falling, but that doesn’t mean I can jump out of a window without taking into consideration that I will most certainly hit the ground. The two are inextricably linked.

Before I got control of my eating 11 years ago, I had a particularly unrealistic view of cause and effect, actions and consequences. My gauge of “fairness” was whether or not I got what I wanted. If I could have what I wanted, it was fair. If I couldn’t, it was unfair. Whatever it was. In my defense, it looked like it worked like that for other people.

I often think about what my life looks like from the outside. I have peace around my body and my life in general. I have a dream husband, and we are sickly sweet, lovey-dove birds. I get to live on the road with him and work on my writing. I live the sweet life, no doubt.

But what you might not see is the work I do every day. First and foremost is taking care of my food. You can certainly see my “weight loss transformation,” but you probably don’t see the hours I spend shopping, and prepping, and cooking my meals so that I can eat well while keeping my food boundaries. You don’t see the work I have to do in my relationship so that I can be a good and loving wife to my amazing husband. I have to take action toward being kind, generous, thoughtful and solution-oriented. That is not my default setting. My default is to look around for the nearest person, place or thing to point the finger at. You don’t see the work that I do every day to grow as a person. The meditation, and the prayer. The ways that I am looking for my own culpability in any and all situations, so that I can keep my side of the street clean. You are not seeing the, sometimes difficult, often painful, and pretty much always a little scary stuff I do to spiritually and personally evolve.

In other words, it may look to you like I simply get what I want by wanting it. I promise, that is not my reality.

When it comes to my food, I am accountable to other people besides myself. Not because I have to be, but because I choose to be. I choose it because it is the support of other people who maintain food boundaries, and the experience of being part of a community, that empowers me. But this idea that it is my choice is one of the ways my thinking used to get muddy. In my head, because I choose to be accountable to someone else, it occurs to me that I can just choose to quit being accountable to them. And in my head, I can justify to myself that I don’t owe them anything.

And the reality of this is that it is true on a certain level. I can do anything I want at any time. I am living the only life I have and I am free to make whatever choices I make. But the other reality is that making a promise or not is my choice. And if I make a commitment to another, I do owe someone something. And the person I harm most when I break a promise or commitment, especially in a selfish, dishonest, or just childish way, is myself.

I think it is ultimately human to feel “forced” into doing something unpleasant to get what we want. Isn’t it the same old song to grudgingly go on a diet or head to the gym, because one wants to lose weight. People get mad about it. I used to get mad about it! I was so angry that I couldn’t eat the way I wanted to and not get fat. I was furious! As if other people were eating the way I ate and not gaining weight. (Spoiler alert: They weren’t.) And if I felt “forced,” then when I quit, I could feel justified. I just can’t eat rabbit food. I tried, but I can’t. But I was never forced to “eat rabbit food.” I only convinced myself that I was, so I wouldn’t have to face my personal responsibility.

But there is freedom in responsibility. In fact, that is the only place that there really is freedom. So I choose to embrace the choice. I choose to remember that I make the commitments, and that I owe the follow through. It is my privilege to eat within my boundaries, to be kind to my husband and the people in my life, to grow and evolve as a human. When I remember it’s my privilege, I am grateful.

I’ve got time, because it wasn’t really a New Year’s Resolution anyway

For me, getting my food under control was ultimately about growing up. Before that, I was irresponsible, and food let me be that way. It made me not have to feel the consequences of my actions and inactions. Under the right circumstances, vanity and fear of humiliation can be exceptional motivators. As long as I can really feel them. And as long as I am not overwhelmed with shame.

But for me, another part of growing up is recognizing the complexity of life and the world. Only children, and people who refuse to grow up, have the luxury of living in a simple, black and white world.

I have not figured out the details of my not-really-a-resolution yet. I don’t mind. I’m not ashamed. I can change any time, not just at the beginning of the year. I would rather do it right than do it “on time.” Because I want to be more peaceful, but there are other things I want too, and they make peace more complicated.

I want to be a channel for justice. I want to be a witness to the people who seem to be invisible. I want, in my own, small way to make a difference. And that means that I cannot cut ties from what is going on in the world, and in my country. Especially in my country. I believe in being a citizen of the world, but I also firmly believe that charity begins at home. First with me, and then my husband. Then our families and friends. And out in ripples. Virtual concentric circles.

January 2nd marked 11 years of food boundaries for me. (And 5 years of this blog! Whoa! That kinda took me by surprise!) That means every day without exception. And in so many ways, that one commitment 11 years ago changed the way I see the whole world.

Before I learned to put boundaries around my food, I had no boundaries at all. Not with my food, and not with my relationships. I would use and manipulate people, and I would let myself be used and manipulated. It wasn’t conscious. I just didn’t have a frame of reference for how to say no. I didn’t like or respect myself, and I was so preoccupied with trying to control every outcome that how I was affecting people in my life was not even on my radar.

At 28 years old, putting boundaries around my food was just about my food. No sugar or carbs, 3 meals a day, with strict portion control. But that quickly meant that I had to put boundaries around my time. I had to wake up at a certain time to eat breakfast before I left for work. I had to take a break to eat lunch. No, I couldn’t grab a slice to eat while I walked. I had to eat dinner, so I could meet you for coffee, but I had to leave by 8. Even if you needed me. Even if it was important. Dinner was more important. So I ended up having to put boundaries around close relationships. And eventually I had to put boundaries around all relationships, right down to the teller at the bank and the Starbucks barista. (The truth is that on a daily basis, putting boundaries around momentary relationships with strangers like that doesn’t look that different than before, though I would probably say that I am much nicer and feel less entitled, while at the same time being much more likely to ask for exactly what I want. With a smile.) What started as a simple (okay, not so simple) act of taking care of what I was eating, radiated out from me, into all of my interactions in the world.

The truth is, if I want peace alone, I can put myself in a news and politics blackout. I already have a cutoff. I will not watch physical violence. Sometimes, when my husband is watching a video I find disturbing, I leave the room, or ask him to. I do not watch videos of people being killed, tortured, or maimed.

But there is a lot of violence in politics right now. And just because it is not blunt objects, or bullets and blood, I have let my guard down. And it is painful for me. I am sensitive to violence. But I am ultimately in favor of being sensitive to it, because the alternative seems to be desensitization.

There is the complexity. How do I protect myself, while still being available? How do I do with my heart what I do with my food? How do I make sure I am true to myself and who I want to be in the world, without creating a toxic environment in my own head?

I know that I need to up my meditation. Once a day is not enough. But what do I do to limit my intake of those things that fill me with rage? The violence, the hatred, the lies, the corruption, the pettiness, and sometimes just the sheer stupidity?

It’s not like the food. With the food, I can stop seeing it. I can put myself in a blackout, because food that is not mine does not affect me; it’s none of my business. But politics does affect me, and is my business.

To not be political is its own kind of politics, and I cannot, in good conscience be a member of that “party.” It’s not that I don’t know where I stand. It’s that I need to figure out how to stand here with peace and love in my heart.

So for now, I will up my meditation. And while I am meditating, I will ask for the answer to this dilemma. And that answer will come in its own time. But I’m in no hurry. Because it wasn’t really a New Year’s Resolution anyway.

 

Three sentences and a pretty picture

I read a meme the other day that said “Make yourself a priority once in a while. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary.”

It seemed innocuous enough, but good golly did it get under my skin. Let me tell you what frustrated me about it.

First, we should always make ourselves a priority. Not once in a while. Not when we are on the brink of a nervous breakdown. As a way of life, we should be making it a point to meet our own needs. I am talking about self-care. You could call it “radical self-care,” but that is simply an illustration of the way so many of us think we have to be some sort of revolutionary extremist to love ourselves.

Many of us (especially, but not exclusively women) put a kind of grotesque value on diminishing ourselves for the benefit of others. And for the most part, society praises us for this. I do not. I do not honor or cherish this. You will not get a high five from me for neglecting yourself for someone else.

If our own health, happiness, wellbeing, and life are our real priority, as the rule and not the exception, then we will be exponentially better equipped to handle a situation where we have to help someone in real need. And we will be better able to deduce when it is time make someone else a priority, and what exactly it is that we can sacrifice that will help our loved ones without harming ourselves.

Second, self-care is not ever selfish. For some reason, the way this meme is worded, it feels more like it reinforces the idea that to care about one’s self is actually selfish (unless you only do it “once in a while”, then it’s necessary. *blech*) When I say self-care, I am not talking about getting everything you want. But I don’t think this meme was made for people who choose to live out a perpetually drunken party life rather than spend quality time with their children. It is almost certainly for the people who can’t manage to eat a balanced meal, or make time to work out, or give themselves 20 minutes a day to meditate, or pray, or walk outside, or just pause, because their schedule is full of everyone else’s errands, needs and appointments.

I would like you to consider that all of the time that we spend making someone else a priority is time that the other person is not exercising their ability to be, or experiencing themselves as being, capable and self-sufficient. And regarding children, they do not learn by hearing what we say, they learn by watching what we do. So when we make everyone else a priority at the expense of our own health and wellbeing, we are teaching our children to do the same.

No matter what is going on in my life, I eat within my boundaries. It is my primary act of self-care. It keeps me nourished, grounded, clear-headed, and peaceful. Nobody’s wants, needs, feelings, or agendas come before that. I don’t allow anyone to get in the way of it. And it goes beyond that. I am constantly gauging what I can give and what I can’t, in every area of my life. I am always looking out for myself first. Not only, but first. And what the people in my life get in return is a healthy, confident, happy woman who is available for them. I am able to help, guide, nurture, and love, because I take care of myself. And my ability to make myself a priority, and even say “no,” means that when you get me, you get me 100%. You get me present, capable, efficient, and useful.

Third, on the surface, these acts might seem like acts of love and sacrifice, but I have played this game, and for me, and I think for many, they were, and are a scam. When I have made everybody else’s life a priority, I was actually making myself a priority. But not in the obvious way. Not in the way I was selling it. I was making my drama the priority. I was saying “I put your life first, constantly put your needs in front of my own, and sometimes even at the expense of my own needs. And now you owe me.” Maybe I want martyrdom, a holy place where I am lauded for having done the most, but in return have gotten nothing but pain and suffering (and maybe even a nervous breakdown.) Or maybe you owe me everything done exactly my way. Or maybe you owe me your feelings of guilt, shame and misery. Or maybe you owe me staying forever and never being able to leave, even if the relationship is terrible for both of us. Or maybe you just owe me “the right” to be mean and cruel, a free pass to crap all over you when I feel like it. Like when I’m on the verge of a breakdown. But make no mistake. You owe me, and I plan on collecting.

When I put myself first, you don’t owe me anything. Why not? Because I am already taken care of! So if I make myself a priority, and I help you, it’s because I have something to give, and I get to enjoy being generous. And I am able to be generous because I am giving from my surplus.

And finally, I really hate the phrase “once in a while.” It is so non-specific. I know it’s a meme, but it’s still wishy-washy. “Every once in a while” is a limp handshake (along with it’s cousins “more” and “more often,” as in I’m going to drink “more” water, and exercise “more often.”) And the vapidity of it means one gets to feel like one has done something, without ever having to actually change.  When I hear “once in a while,” what I think is “Not today.” Phew! Dodged that bullet! (*wipes sweat from brow*) And then I forget about it. I am not out in my daily life looking for that “once in a while” moment. I am business as usual.

If you want to take care of yourself, for realsies, then figure out what you can do to nurture yourself, every day, or every week, as a practice. Perhaps it’s making time to cook every day so you eat less fast food, or carving out 20 minutes for yourself to journal so that you can get your thoughts out of the echo chamber that is your own mind. Find one thing that makes your life happier and more fulfilled, or more peaceful and less stressed, and don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of it.

So what is my contribution? What would my meme be?

If you want to live in a world of love, love yourself first. Self-care keeps us whole and healthy. And a world of whole, healthy people must necessarily be world of love.

img_1948So, fine, it’s not catchy. But it makes my point in 3 sentences with a pretty picture.

 

This is not a vacation 

I am in New York City for my usual yearly visit. I come this time of year because there is a big convention (for lack of a better term) for people who don’t eat sugar and who keep boundaries around their eating. These are my people. These are the people I can look in the eye and talk about eating a box of ice cream bars in one sitting and they don’t laugh. Or if they do, it’s not because they can’t imagine, but because they can. They probably have too. But I lived in the city for just shy of 15 years, so I have lots of other people to see here and catch up with too. And I can’t fit them all in, which is a big disappointment.

Plus, it’s exhausting. I get 8 hours of sleep a night pretty religiously. But I have been out with friends I haven’t seen in at least a year, and maybe more, so it’s hard to leave laughing and catching up just to go sleep. I even ended up out past midnight last night with a good friend. It was fantastic. But that’s two nights in a row with less than 8 hours. And I’m feeling it. 

Basically, this is fun. But it’s not relaxing. I am so happy to be here, but I’m looking forward to getting back home to my routine. And my husband. I miss him while I’m in New York, and though I love New York, I don’t miss it when I’m with him.

Misogyny and the politicians who love it

I generally try to avoid political talk. I have opinions. I vote. I occasionally get riled up enough to speak up. But I find that most political “discussions” are just an opportunity for people to get their righteous anger up and running. And I make a concerted effort to maintain my personal peace. I actively avoid the kinds of situations that will cause me to feel rage and resentment. I know that they cannot always be avoided, but I don’t go looking for a fight. But today I want to touch on something that borders on political. I want to talk about misogyny. 
When I was fat, everyone and their brother thought they had a right to talk about my body. Strangers harassed me on the street. Men I went on dates with said things like “I bet you couldn’t give that shit away.” (That is a direct quote from a blind date I went on with a good friend’s cousin!) People compared me to elephants and hippopotamuses. Blew out their cheeks and put out their arms to mimic my big belly.
I didn’t really understand that it was inappropriate for people to do that because I was so ashamed of myself. I knew it hurt, but I did not have enough self-esteem to recognize that my body, my life choices, and my level of attractiveness were nobody else’s business.

When I lost weight, people (mostly men, though some women) still thought they had the right to talk about my body. They would yell on the street that I was sexy. They would tell me I was dressed like a whore. They would grab me by the arm and try to force me to talk to them. Men would touch my ass as I walked along minding my own business. Or masturbate next to me on the train.

If you live under a rock, you may be confused as to why I am bringing this up. Well, one of the U.S. Presidential candidates has a lot of things to say about women, and what he is saying is either about their weight, attractiveness, sexual viability, or about how he believes he can assault them because he’s famous.

So I want to take this time to remind all women of some very important things. (And gentlemen, you feel free to take this advice as well. Because I love you guys too!)
1) Your body is nobody else’s business, unless you request their support. 

I have people in my life that I talk about my body with. But I choose who they are. Nobody has that right unless I give it to them. Not my parents, or my relatives, or my friends, or even my husband. I need support to help with my eating and body image disorders, so I have a small (teeny tiny, frankly) loving circle of people with whom I speak openly and honestly about my weight. I welcome their opinions and honor their suggestions because I believe in facing reality head on. I am certainly not looking for anyone who is going to help me come up with excuses to eat cake, or tell me I haven’t gained weight when I have. I am looking for true friends who help me find peace around my food and body. That doesn’t mean I welcome any and all opinions and suggestions. I don’t.

2) You are not only valuable for what you can contribute to male pleasure. 

I love to wear beautiful clothes. I like to feel beautiful. But I am not doing it for the pleasure of men. Or even women for that matter. Please don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoy respectful flirting. When a gentleman tells me in a gentlemanly way that I am looking nice, I very much enjoy it. I like that kind of friendly acknowledgement. I love seeing well dressed people feeling fine and walking with a spring in their step. I also really like being pretty. But I don’t owe being pretty to anyone. I lost 150 pounds because I hated being fat. I did it because eating was killing me. I did it because it was painful to live in a hard-to-get-around-in body. I’m saying I did it for me. Only me. Nobody else.

3) Your body is yours. Period.

I don’t care what you look like, what you are or aren’t wearing, how or if you have makeup on, or what time of day or night it is. Your body is yours and you have the right to your autonomy. There is nothing you can do to forfeit that. Nobody is allowed to touch you without your permission. 
4) You are your body, so love it no matter what size, shape, color, or age. And don’t let anyone tell you you shouldn’t love it until it’s “perfect” or “better.”

I used to pretend I was not my body. I was ashamed of it. But I was smart, clever, funny, and interesting. I liked to think that I was these things. I wanted be my mind alone. But the honest-to-god truth for all of us is that we cannot be separated from our bodies. Well, that’s not true. Of course we can, and eventually will be. It’s called death. But while we are alive, we are tied to the vessel we live in. So I decided to love my vessel. I love it with my stretch marks, and flab and so much extra skin. I love it with my crooked legs and squarish hips. I love it in spite of being bombarded with photoshopped images of impossible women. 

5) Love is not something you earn.
Love is a gift. If it is not a gift, freely given, then it’s not love. You are worthy of love, right now, exactly as you are. I didn’t feel worthy of love for a long time. And it was all tied up with being fat. So in a lot of ways, I felt unloved. But when I put down the sugar and got some clarity and self-esteem, I realized that I had been loved all along. Not by everyone. And often not by society. But by the people who mattered.

Obviously, I am a woman who lost 150 pounds, so I am a proponent of weight loss for people who are overweight. But not because I think they are lacking. I wish it for them because I know first hand that life is so much easier. I wish it because I wish everyone the kind of peace and joy and self-love that I have. I don’t want people to choose it for me, or for their potential (or current) mates, or for society. I want them to choose it as a form of self-care. And if they don’t, I hold no judgment. I have love. And I wish peace. That’s all.

Fat Girl Sh*t

My best friend, like myself, is a compulsive eater who has had boundaries around her eating, and has been a healthy weight for over a decade. Sometimes we will be talking, and one of us will say something and the other one will say, “No, no. That’s not true. That’s just old fat girl shit.”

“Fat girl shit” can be any number of thoughts that I have about myself that are rooted in how much I hated and was disgusted by my body when I was fat, and how I assumed others judged me based on my expectations that they also hated and were disgusted by my body. It does not matter how long I have been a healthy weight, or had my eating under control. These are old old thoughts. These are paths I’ve worn into my brain by thinking them consistently for as long as I can remember. This is exactly the kind of thing that I have to dismantle on a regular basis.

This week, I got back in touch with a High School teacher that I haven’t seen or heard from in over 20 years. The first fat girl thought I had was that he wouldn’t remember me at all. I have this thought a lot. I have it in my head that I was not memorable, because who would want to recollect such an unattractive person. And then, if for some strange reason he did remember me, I would be remembered as the fat girl. Because being the fat girl has always been my first identity. Even now, when I can get out from under my fat girl shit, being a person with boundaries around my eating (essentially, the opposite of being a fat girl) is my primary identity. In other words, I have always been either a fat girl, or the woman who overcame being a fat girl.

But this teacher does remember me. He remembers me even though my name has changed. Not only that, he remembers, and still quotes (!?!) a line from a poem I wrote that was published in our school’s student art and literature magazine. He remembers me as “wicked funny.” (Hell yes, I will take that compliment.) He remembers me laughing a lot. But here’s the thing that threw me for a loop. He does not remember me as fat. At all. I mentioned it briefly, and he was surprised. 

I bring this up because it’s bittersweet. I am grateful to know that I was more than just a fat girl to people. And yet, I wish that my teenage self had known it too. I am sorry that Kate could never see herself as just a person first. And I am sorry that even looking back now, I have a hard time seeing that Kate as just a person first.  

I am not sorry to have found a solution to my eating problems, nor am I sorry to live in a healthy body that is easy to move around in. And my zen-like way of living reminds me that there is no other way for things to have gone except for the way they went. But I would like to make amends to that Kate for never really acknowledging her. I would like to start remembering that Kate as something more than fat. I think I’ll go with “wicked funny.”

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