onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the category “Relationships”

I won’t be haunted by the ghosts of things I left incomplete

I seriously wonder how people function in the world sometimes. There are things that I am excellent at, some of them even crises. I can keep it together and not panic during some particularly difficult times. When things go wrong at work, I can handle it. When my father-in-law got sick, I was able to be calm and be of service. But sometimes, just regular life things can throw me for a real loop. 

This week I had to drive 10 hours to Chicago to go to jury duty. And I was a wreck. On my way there, my “low tire pressure” warning light came on. And I had a bit of a panic. I want to be clear, this has happened before a few years ago. I keep a mini compressor in my car for just this reason. I have done it myself before on one of my many solo long distance drives. But I was afraid to do it this time, and called my husband to basically see if he would give me permission to not do it. Guess what. He did not. He told me I should do it. For my own peace of mind. So I did it. And it was fine. Quick and easy. 
And then I was distraught that I might get picked for a jury, and be away from my husband and my job for over a week. And have to deal with my food in a kitchen that was not mine. And be away from my routine. I mean actually distraught. I cried. I was miserable and my heart was pounding so hard. I did not get picked. Thank heaven. 
And then on the last stretch of my drive back home to my husband, I was debating if I should get gas or just get home and get it in the morning on my way to the grocery store. I was emotionally exhausted and my butt hurt from the 10 hour drive and knew I had enough gas to get home…until I missed my exit. And then I panicked and got scared that I wouldn’t get to a gas station in time. And I called my husband having a panic attack. I am sure being so stressed out for the previous 2 days didn’t help. He calmed me down and stayed on the phone until I was able to get gas. And the truth is, I should have known that I would find a gas station in plenty of time. But I got scared and I just lost it. 
When I was eating compulsively I was regularly paralyzed. I didn’t do things if they were scary or hard. And because of that, a lot of things didn’t get done. And that, the things not being done, made my life extra stressful. If my homework felt overwhelming, so I didn’t do my homework, I then had to deal with the consequences of not having done my homework. That was stressful. But I could get high on sugar and forget, temporarily, that I was unhappy, or stressed, or overwhelmed. 
But now I have to sit with those feelings. I have to feel overwhelmed. I have to freak out. I have to panic. But in feeling my feelings, I always choose to do something about it. The pain of the anticipation of fear is almost always worse than the thing I am worried about. But if you’ll notice, when I got super scared, I called my husband. I have other people I call too. People I know can talk me through. People who will give good advice and be generous with my fear. 
The bottom line is that I am sensitive. My feelings are vast and deep and unwieldy. Even now as a grown woman. My fear is big. My anxiety is big. But I have tools to deal with them. I have a commitment to living. And I can make friends with this aspect of myself.
I do not want to harden my heart. I don’t even know if I could. I do not want to crawl back into a sugar shell to be inert. I want to feel all of the inconvenient feelings and do all the hard things. Not because I like to. I don’t. But because I love the freedom that comes with the doing. Because the only way to leave those difficult things in the past is to go through them. The things that I avoid never really go away. They hang around like ghosts, haunting me. In a lot of ways, what I had been eating for so long was the ghosts of the things I had left incomplete. 
But my eating is under control now. And there is nothing to numb the fear and the anxiety and the worry. And because the hell of active food addiction is worse than the fear of a difficult situation, I will feel the fear, and the panic. I will cry when I must and make a call and ask for help when I can. And I will also know that 3 times a day, I will be able to turn it all off, and eat a delicious meal within my eating boundaries. And that when I deal with my life, all things are temporary. And this, too, shall pass.
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Love for myself and my fat sisters

The internet is a fascinating place. And I am in an unusual position. I am a person who grew up fat in the 80s and 90s, when being fat was less common. And I lost my weight just at the rise of smartphones, when the internet, and more specifically, social media, became prevalent. 

In this blog over the years, I have had the opportunity to get over a lot of the feelings I had about being fat. I got to learn to separate my eating disorder from my body. I got to learn to separate how I felt about myself and my body from how I was treated by others. 
But in the 80s and 90s, there was really only how *I* was treated. Fat shaming was just a person to person experience.

On the internet, now, in 2019, we have these self made soap boxes and anyone and everyone gets to spout an opinion about all things. And I get to see a lot of nasty, fatphobic, self-righteous ranting about the wrongness fat people, very specifically fat women. Some of it from men, but so much more of it from women. 

There were, for so long, so many things tied up together in my own brain,  that I now understand shouldn’t have been. Like how I hated being fat, and how others hated me being fat. The first is my business and nobody else’s. The second is none of my business and not my problem. Or how I hated my fat self so much for being disgusting and a failure and I transferred it on to other fat people. As if now that *I* had the solution to my own self-hate problem, those without it were foolish, or lacking, or disgusting. Just like people used to treat me.
It took years for me to untangle these messy feelings. For example, I had to give up any notion that I could convince someone to do what I do with food, or that I knew better. I had to give up any notion that I was helping anyone by forcing my story on them with the expectation that it would save them. I had to give up the idea that fat me and straight-sized me were different people. I had to learn to love and appreciate my young fat self for all of the things being fat taught me and created in me. And I had to forgive the mean girl I was when I first got my eating under control, who fought so long to hate that fat Kate. 
But being in my forties, and very happily married, and so much less self-conscious than the skinny 30-something woman who was getting so much attention, while getting used to fitting into a socially acceptable body for the first time, has given me a new perspective on what it is to be a fat woman. And not being skinny, but still feeling sane, happy, and beautiful, has changed what I want for fat girls and women. 
I do have a dog in this fight. I have a little girl/young woman inside me that could still use some healing. And my guess is she always will. Because she was hurt a lot, by others and by myself. I wish my young, fat self had been available to be liked and loved. But I was not. I wish my young fat self was told she was amazing as often as she was told she was lacking. And I wish that for all of the men who were attracted to me then, some of them would not have acted like it was a shameful thing. But I should take some responsibility for that as well. Because just because I was offered crumbs, doesn’t mean I had to take them. I wish my young, fat self knew her worth. 
It’s a mine field out there for fat women. And there are more and more fat women out there, and they are facing discrimination. As soon as someone tells them they are OK, someone like Bill Maher says, “Fat shaming doesn’t need to end it needs to make a comeback.”
Being shamed is a part of life for fat people. And perhaps the Bill Mahers of the world will never entirely go away. (Though a girl can dream…) But I am not going to be one of the people talking about the shamefulness of being fat. Did I hate being fat? Yes. Do I love keeping boundaries around my eating so that I can maintain a weight I am comfortable in? I do! I absolutely love it. But I am nobody but myself. And I think how much better my life would have been if I had not been ashamed. So I am not interested in shaming, myself or anyone else . I want to be an example of love. Self-love, and love for my fat sisters. 

Shamelessness: A Highly-Recommended Life Skill

There is a thing that happens when you put and keep boundaries around your food. You have to learn to get what you need, and that usually means asking for what you need even if it looks ridiculous from the outside. I have literally had to ask a waiter for more vegetables when I needed less than half an ounce. But I needed that portion. (I usually carry backup with me but this particular time I did not.) And I got what I needed. 

You can’t be a people-pleaser and keep your food under control. You have to be a commitment-keeper. Because what normal eating, non-addict would bother a waiter for a ramekin of cherry tomatoes after they have already been so incredibly particular about what they are ordering and how it is cooked and how many they need. And when there is still over half an order of spinach on the table, but that is cooked in oil and they need vegetables with no fat. “And may I also have an extra plate, please? No, bigger. A full sized plate.” 
You pretty much have to be shameless. Which, by the way, is an incredible life skill that I highly recommend.
So as I mentioned last week, my husband and I are renovating our permanent residence in the suburbs of Chicago. And we agree on most things but the flooring has been difficult. It is the primary thing we tend not to agree on. And there is a very small window where we do. So I did a lot of research, and gave him a lot of options. But once we *finally* agreed on a floor, our contractor came to us and told us it was on backorder, and would not be available until our home was complete. Or maybe a little before. And he sent us some samples of floors that his supplier considered “similar.” 
My friends, *I* didn’t consider them similar. In fact, I positively hated most of them. And found one of them tolerable. But I did not want tolerable if I could help it. 
So I did it again. I looked up floor samples, and found pictures of them actually laid in a room. (Bless the Internet!) And gave my husband a bunch of options. And this time I had him eliminate what he did not like (only one this time – clearly I got a better sense of what he likes) and *rank* the others. And then I called the contractor and asked him what would be better, if I gave him a list of what I want, or if he gave me a list of what I could have. And he asked for our list, and I gave it to him ranked. And we got our first choice. Easy. 

A different Kate might have been given some suggestions of “similar” options and picked the one she hated the least. And then she may have been resentful if she didn’t *love* her floor. But this Kate, who knows how to ask for less than half and ounce of vegetables even when there is a plate of sautéed spinach in front of her, knows what she wants, what she needs, how to ask, and how to be gracious about asking.
I did my homework. I searched my options. I found the pictures. I asked my husband to rank them. I asked my contractor what was the best I could do for him to help me get what I want. I was proactive in knowing what I wanted and needed. I knew how to take care of the people who are helping me get what I want. I planned. I prepared. 
Every time I take care of myself by knowing what I want and asking for it, I become more my authentic self. I become more of the me I stuffed down with food for so much of my life. I become less the person who takes what she is given because she thinks it is what others want her to be, that they will be pleased with her, and how compliant she is. 
I can see in retrospect that my contractor and his supplier offered me those suggestions to make it easier for me. Not to limit me. They were doing me a favor, and it was up to me to choose one of their suggestions, or choose something else, as I saw fit. And I can imagine that many people don’t know what they want. I bet many people would be grateful for a recommendation, rather than feel stifled. 
So I am grateful to my food boundaries for teaching me to ask for what I want, to be clear about what I need. To know what will make me happy, and then to *be* happy when I get it. And just to be clear, now that I know that my floors are taken care of, I am most definitely happy!

A kitchen fit for a cook. (Or two.)

A few weeks ago when we were home, I stepped into my closet to get a dress for the wedding I was going to, and my bare feet squished in the wet carpeting. Blech! Obviously, no carpet should be wet, but especially not in a closet. So I told my husband we had a problem. And we sure did.

But in many ways we were lucky. We first expected the damage to cost upwards of $10,000. Oy! But the leak itself got fixed for well under $1,000! Hooray! And then we had to decide what to do with the wall that had to be broken into, the floor now that the moldy carpet had to be removed, and the bathroom behind the closet where the leak originated.
The truth is, that house had not been in good shape anyway. We had been talking about renovating it for years. And the kitchen was not fully functional, with no dishwasher, old, splitting cabinets filled with decades worth of scratched up cookware, and Tupperware lids and bottoms without matches, expired spices, and too many cans of cooking spray to count (since I would grocery shop on our way home before I knew what was already in the house, and I always bought one “just in case.”) That we didn’t spend much time there didn’t help with the overall shabbiness of the place.
But in many ways, we didn’t spend much time there because it was not fun for me! The kitchen was small and as I said, there was no dishwasher. I cook a lot. Like a lot a lot. And I eat off of real plates, and use metal utensils. So every time I went home I had to spend hours of my time doing dishes. Hours when I was also expected to see people and do things. Hours I never have to spend in our homes on the road because *those places* always have dishwashers.
So I am extra excited about a new kitchen! With a double oven! (Because my husband wanting to bake something at 425* -usually potatoes, which I don’t eat anyway- at the same time I am roasting/baking our meat at 325* is actually a problem that comes up pretty often in our house.) And a fancy dishwasher! And water and ice in the door! 
I am looking forward to a modern kitchen made for people like myself and my husband, who cook daily, and who care about the food we are eating. Plus, we are a pretty technologically modern couple with a run-down kitchen from the 1980s. That just seems wrong.
So this leak was no fun. But it was a great motivator for us to get our home updated. And especially to give us a functional kitchen I want to cook in. Because I love my food. And I don’t want to resent cooking. I can’t *afford* to resent cooking. Especially when that can be fixed by updating with a dishwasher. You know, technology that has been around longer than I have been alive.

Kurbo Your Enthusiasm

Buckle up, my friends. It’s a long one.

Let’s do it. Let’s talk about Kurbo, from the Corporation Formerly Known As Weight Watchers. *Sigh…*

I did a little reading, especially after all of the backlash that came up on my Twitter feed. Kurbo is an app. The app is free, but for $69/month you can get 15 minute coaching sessions with a coach. It’s aimed at children aged 8-17. It’s a “traffic light” system, with red foods being foods to eat only occasionally, yellow foods being foods to be cautious of, and green foods being fruits and vegetables which you can eat as much as you want of. It shows pictures of these kids with their “results.”  Some of these results are based on BMI. (Don’t even get me started.) And they claim it is “a scientifically-proven behavior change program designed to help kids and teens ages 8-17 reach a healthier weight, derived from Stanford University’s Pediatric Weight Control Program.” 

When I look up Stanford University’s Pediatric Weight Control Program, I find a link to the program, itself. And there are two things I particularly took note of. 1) That the program is for *families.* And 2) this quote on the programs site: “Since 1999, more than 80% of participating children and adolescents have achieved age-appropriate weight reduction.” Which tells me nothing about whether or not they have gone on in the future to maintain the lifestyle, or if they lost the weight while in the program only to gain it back. Because every dieter I know has lost weight. The question is always “did they gain it back?” For some of us, we have gained and lost hundreds of pounds. Successfully losing weight does not add up to a “scientifically-proven behavior change.” If it did, WW would already be out of business. But they already know that.

The biggest issue I have heard about this is that it is setting children up for eating disorders by forcing them to see certain foods as good or bad. I don’t disagree. Though I am not 100% on this bandwagon. There is a saying I am fond of. “Genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.” I am not saying that every kid will have a warped view of food because of this. But my guess is that it is parents who are upset about a child’s weight, who have already made an issue of it, that will be acquiring this app for their children to “fix” what they see as a problem. It will teach children that green foods, of which you can have as much as you would like, are “diet foods.” To this day, I refuse to eat celery or raw carrots. These two foods are so ingrained in me as diet foods, and I always felt so punished when eating them when I was fat, that I have given them up completely and have never looked back. They are the foods that will make you skinny and socially acceptable. And those red foods are “special,” and “something to look forward to.” I never would have been able to love vegetables the way I do, if I were just eating them as the means of “earning” cake. When I was fat, vegetables were my punishment for being fat. Cake was for “good girls” who could get and stay thin. 

Another thing I took note of was having a coach help you “set goals.” And by goals, they seem to mean weight loss goals. This screams “DIET!” to me.

When I changed my lifestyle, one of the first things I was told was to stop worrying about my weight. That in changing my eating, my weight would take care of itself. That I needed to lose my diet mentality. That I was not supposed to count calories. That I was not supposed to eat diet foods. I just had to get my eating under control, by giving up sugar and carbohydrates, because I was addicted to them. And by putting boundaries around portions and times of eating because my ideas about eating were making me feel crazy. I was encouraged to eat things I loved. I was told to eat the biggest and the best. To eat decadent meals. To use butter and oil. To find a 1 lb apple! That I get a cantaloupe bigger than my head and eat half of it for breakfast. That the problem was not with my weight, but with the fact that certain foods set up cravings. It was recommended that I quit those foods entirely. That saved my life.

I was told I did not have to exercise if I did not want to. That I was tackling my eating disorder, not my “weight problem.” Eventually I wanted to exercise, but not because of my weight. I didn’t start jogging to lose weight. I started as an act of love for my body, not an act of penance for being unattractive. 

And what is this idea that you can and should be able to eat as much as you want of certain foods? Yes, I was told I could eat a giant apple. But once the apple was gone, and the meal was over, it was time to move on to the next part of my day. In my experience, this concept that I should be able to eat all day, was a big part of my problem. And I had to relearn that I not only did not need, but also did not want, to eat constantly. That the idea that I should eat all day if I wanted to, but let it be pickles and lettuce instead of chips and cake, simply reinforced my craziness around food. I needed food to cease to be my dearest companion. And that meant not eating constantly. That meant finding things to do with my time. It meant learning to sit with situations, experiences, and feelings, and not eating.

It has also occurred to me that Kurbo is putting the burden of food choices on children at a time in life when food choices should be coming from parents as a means of offering children an “eating culture,” at least for younger children. I mean, seriously, you’re going to make an 8-year-old be responsible for what they eat? Oooooooor, you could be a parent that makes meals of whole foods with lots of vegetables and fruits and who loves them and gets excited by the prospect of eating them. Perhaps one who doesn’t keep sugary drinks or sweets in the house as a regular occurrence. You could be a parent that lives a particular lifestyle and passes it along to your children. 

What I am asking is what are the parents of these children eating at home? Are they unwilling to give up their soda and chips and cake, because they don’t have a “weight problem?” (I’m sure that would never mess a kid up…*eye roll*) Or they do, but they can’t live without their treats? Is this a case of “do as I say, not as I do?” And do I really need to explain to you how effective that is in practice? 

But here is the kicker for me. If a parent is not willing to change their lifestyle for what they claim is the health and well-being of their child, then they need to quit it with the judgement about the child’s weight. If a parent is putting it on a child to change themselves within the family, and the family culture is not changing, the parent is just going to make that child an outcast. Because of their physical appearance. And that hurts my heart. 

And of course, for me, we have to talk about sugar addiction and the “red foods.” Because one thing that I specifically read was that you are *supposed to* eat some of those red foods. And that is an excellent way to keep an addict addicted.

Just a little. Just a taste. But *nobody* can give it up entirely. That would be ridiculous/crazy/unfathomable! 

What would a doctor say if you told them you had quit alcohol, cocaine, meth? Certainly not “Oh no! You still still need to have that every once in a while. Who can live without alcohol? What a terrible pressure to put on yourself.” 

Look. Our country and our culture has been creating addicts for a while now. An opioid crisis. A subsequent heroin crisis because of the opioid addictions our medical community has created. And our food industry has created what is nearly an entire generation of addicts. With ultra-processed foods specifically/scientifically designed to make you want more. And we have let them. And belittled and shamed the people who have become fat as a result. 

And of course it is children who have been raised on this junk who are deeply affected.  So now we want these children to be shamed? Sure. What better way to ensure the next generation of weight loss, fitness, and beauty industry customers? 

Ultimately my problem with Kurbo is twofold. That it seems to be a diet being sold as a lifestyle. And that it is aimed at children. 

There are ways to really change your lifestyle. There are steps to take and choices to make. But I, for one, am not going to put my faith in a corporation that has made its money off of diets and selling “thinness” as an ultimate goal. And I am saddened that it has targeted children now. It’s an excellent business strategy. It is a great way to teach children early that they are lacking based on their size, and keep them paying money to achieve social acceptability. And when it doesn’t work long-term, because of sugar addiction, or an eating disorder, or because it’s really just another diet, it will probably keep quite a few of them coming back again and again. Because that one time they lost weight. And maybe this time, if they are just a little better, work a little harder, are a little more worthy, maybe *this* time it will work.

I’m just here for everything except the food

I went to a wedding last night. I brought my own food. It was the smallest, least exciting meal I could have made. I didn’t dislike it. I don’t eat meals I dislike. But on a scale of 1-10 it was probably a 6. I don’t usually eat a meal below an 8. 

I was not there for the food. I was there to celebrate with a friend. My husband and I are friends with the father of the bride, and only know the bride a little. So we did not know many people at the event. 
But I had a great time! I got to dance. I got to spend time with my friend. He was beaming the whole night. The bride and groom were radiant with joy. And I got to enjoy the fun and excitement of a life celebration. 
But here is the other thing. I was not self-conscious. I was not worried about what I looked like physically. I did not worry about if I looked like I fit in. It didn’t matter if I did fit in. It was not my celebration. I was offered an opportunity to be a part of someone else’s joy, and I took it.
I am sure I looked like a weirdo to the other people at the table. I was passing up lovely hors d’oeuvres and a nice dinner spread to eat a paltry meal I brought for convenience. I brought it up briefly when the subject came up. I didn’t talk about my sugar addiction. I didn’t talk about my weight loss. I just said I have a crazy food thing and it was easier to just pack the smallest dinner I could. The only thing my vanity insisted I point out was that I usually ate much more delicious meals. (God forbid these strangers not know that I really love food, and that I’m usually a decadent eater.)
But here’s the other thing. When my food is under control, I can be “right-sized.” I don’t mean physically, though I do believe that when I eat within my boundaries, my body is the right size for me. But I mean, I have a realistic sense of how much something is “about me” and how much is not. 
When I was eating compulsively I was obsessed with what I looked like, physically and socially. And that had me constantly jockeying for better position. It had me forever trying to get people to think better of me than I assumed they already were. That is exhausting. 
But at last night’s wedding, I was very clear what was “about me” and it was almost nothing. And that was very freeing. The part that was about me was in witnessing and sharing in my friend’s great happiness. And I got the gift of experiencing the love and fun of a community celebration. I did not feel awkward to know so few people. I did not have to try hard to be interesting or liked. 
Having my food under control at this event meant that I had a blah dinner and an amazing night. To someone for whom food used to be the only amazing part of the night, I am so grateful I got to experience the beauty and fun of that kind of joyous celebration. 

It doesn’t matter how you say no, as long as you say it.

I am the member of a Facebook group for people who do what I do with food, and one of the newer members asked about how she was going to explain her food to someone new. And a friend of mine recommended I make a blog post about it. And it’s a great idea because it’s a huge part of having a specific lifestyle. Especially a food lifestyle like the one I have.

People have a lot of questions. They have a lot of thoughts. They have a lot of things to say and stories to tell. They are full of “helpful” information. So it helps to have a plan when it comes to how we are going to deal with people in our lives around our eating boundaries.
The first thing I want to say is that you really don’t owe anyone anything in the way of an explanation. Truly. What you put in your body is not up for debate. Nobody is going to shove food in your mouth. And if they do, spit it out. And then file a restraining order. You have the right to eat or not eat whatever you want in whatever way you want. 
But none of us lives in a vacuum, and chances are, there are going to be people that you want to make comfortable around your (possibly weird, or at least perceived as weird) food lifestyle. You want to be comfortable around your friends and family, and maybe your boss or your clients. 
My first piece of advice is to be honest. How in depth you want to get is up to you, and will probably vary based on your relationship. 
The person I end up seated next to at a wedding, who I will never see again, will probably get the bare bones of the matter. “I do this crazy food thing. There are lots of rules. Mostly I don’t eat sugar or carbohydrates.” They will most likely say something like “Good for you. You have so much willpower. I could never do that.” And then they will be handed a piece of cake or a drink and they will forget about your crazy food thing. Because chances are, they really don’t care.
Sometimes, when I am in the middle of weighing out my food in public, strangers want to know what that is and what I am doing. Let me tell you, I hate this. Weighing my food is of grave importance to me. I weigh my food because then the portion is exact. It is as much a mental thing as it is a physical thing. Yes, I am doing it for portion control, but also because I can spin my wheels when it comes to food. When I see an exact number on a scale, there is no doubt as to whether I had too much or not enough. I could plan a whole binge around how I possibly under ate and now I can “make up for it” with something else. So when someone comes along and they want to know all about what I am doing with a scale, they are taking my attention away from this action that requires my full attention. Most importantly, I don’t answer until I can safely remove my attention from what I am doing. I don’t need my scale turning off on me, or to accidentally hit a wrong button when I don’t know what is going on. And when I do have a moment to answer, I usually say something like “I can answer your questions later, but right now I am in the middle of something.” Sometimes those people are offended. I highly recommend not caring about that. Also, when they are not watching you do it, they never come back and ask. My experience is that people don’t actually care. 
When I get invited to go out to eat, there are a few ways that can go.  
If it is something I should participate in, namely family celebrations, I tell them I need to choose the restaurant. I go on line and scope out menus, and then call ahead and ask how certain dishes are prepared and how big portions come. If necessary, I ask them to put portions aside for me so that they are not prepped with foods I cannot eat, like flour or certain marinades. And then I ask them to let the waiter know I have special food needs. Also, I make sure I have enough backup food on me so that if I don’t get enough food from the restaurant, my portions are taken care of. Is this a pain? Of course it is. But I usually get a great meal and I’m there for the company anyway. 
And there are plenty of people who do what I do with food who love to eat out. They don’t mind the questions and the calls and bringing extra food. 
In other circumstances, I sometimes recommend people come to my home for dinner and I or my husband will cook. Our boss has come to our home for dinner quite a few times now. He always asks to take us out. And I alway request that he let us feed him. Especially in the south, it can be hard to find what I need in a restaurant. (A vegetable in the south is often a potato, or if it is a vegetable I would eat, it is breaded or cooked in wine or honey or some other sugar or starch.) The last time he was here he said he felt bad that we were always cooking for him. But I let him know that I prefer it, and he has seen me eat enough times to understand what I do. 
Sometimes, I go out, but don’t eat. I either eat before, or after, and I spend my time drinking iced tea or diet soda and enjoying people’s company. 
When people want to know why I am not eating, I usually say I ate earlier, or I will be eating later. I make sure they know I came for them, and it’s worth it to me to spend time with them. It’s not about food.
There are a lot of people, well meaning, loving people, who will think you are punishing yourself. In some ways, this is the hardest group to deal with. They think you won’t eat a piece of cake because you don’t like yourself. They think that not eating the cake is terrible for you. They truly do not know that *eating* the cake would actually be terrible for you. “Why don’t you live a little?” is a very common phrase. 
I recommend you be firm but gentle with these folks. Say no, clearly. “No thank you.” “I don’t eat that anymore.” “I’m great but I appreciate the offer.” “I don’t eat sugar.” “I don’t miss it.” “Quitting sugar is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
I sometimes have to go more in depth. Be more clear about how sick I am with food. “I have a pretty serious eating disorder and this is how I take care of it.” “I was really miserable and desperate before I gave up sugar.” “This is a matter of life and death for me.” I don’t say these things dramatically, but I do say them seriously. And usually that is enough. 
It can be a struggle to deal with the expectations of people when it comes to food. For so many people, food is how they express love. It is how they show hospitality. It’s how they offer fun.
The most crucial thing I can say is “set boundaries.” Better to set a boundary and offend someone than to betray yourself. Set boundaries that are graceless and clunky. Sounding like a jerk is better than going back to food hell. Your boundaries will get smoother, kinder, more graceful. But don’t worry about that as much as you worry about taking care of yourself, being true to yourself.
Many years ago, I knew a woman who had let her mother-in-law guilt her into eating a dessert she made “especially” for her. And it sent her into an eating disorder relapse. And she said “I will never do that again, because she sees me at that party, but she isn’t going to come into the bathroom to hold my hair back when I go make myself throw up.” 
Nobody else has to live with you in your body. Nobody has to go home with you and see the repercussions of that one bite. The way it affects your job, your relationship with your spouse or your kids, your self-esteem.
So say no however you need to say it. Just say it. 

“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. 

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. 

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