onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the category “Relationships”

Living the life I actually have

I recently stopped running. It was a difficult, and frankly, really scary decision to make. But I made it. And I am grateful and glad I did.

About a week after I started my new job, the job changed. The workload quadrupled, the stakes were raised for my company, and my personal stress level went through the roof. (I started to break out in hives! Hives!) 

I told my boss that I needed help, and he told me that they would get me an admin, but as of yet, I don’t have one. And it means that I work over 12 hours a day 4 days a week, and 9 on Thursdays when I have my food meeting for people with the same food boundaries as me. I am working about 60 hours in 5 days. I insisted that I could not work 6 days. Since my husband is also working over 12 hours a day, but he *is* working 6 days a week, and he is running the night shift (I cannot tell you how much I hate it.) I need two days off to do all of the things that he now can’t do for himself. I have to do his grocery shopping, his laundry, and keep the house as tolerably clean as I can (my friends, it is not particularly clean) on top of my weekly food prep, which now includes breakfasts as well as lunches.

So I leave for work at 5:30 in the morning, I work from 6:30 in the morning until 7 at night. I get home around 8 pm, and I only have time to get my food and clothes ready for the next day, scarf down a small dinner and get into bed by 9:30 to get about 7 1/2 hours of sleep. 

It was my husband who recommended I stop running for now. And I was terrified at the prospect. It is a thing I have done for so long as a commitment and a priority that to give it up felt like I was going to become unreliable again, like I was when I was in the food. It felt like I was going to slide down that slippery slope of laziness and shame.

But I am not the person I was when I was eating compulsively. I am a person who knows how to go with the flow, and how to adapt to new and uncomfortable situations. And ultimately I am grateful for my husband’s loving suggestion that sleep is more important than exercise when both are just really not an option.

And I am happy to remember that this too shall pass. That this job will slow, and eventually end. That all of this should be calmer by Christmas, and the new year should see me settled back into my slower schedule and more peaceful work life. I can trust that I can get back on the pavement in 2022.

Getting my eating under control taught me about priorities. At this moment, my job is a priority. Sleep is a priority. And of course my food boundaries are always my first priority. But when I have more time, more than just to sleep, and work and honor my food boundaries, running will go back on my priority list. But for now I am going to live the life I actually have.

A life beyond your wildest dreams will spoil you for anything less

Oh guys. This one is going to be short because I am tired. 

I worked 56 hours this week. Fifty-six. And that doesn’t count my hour commute each way. (Thank heaven for audiobooks! They make the commute a pleasure rather than a chore.) If you know me, you know this is not how I roll. I like a lot of free time. I like my time even more than I like money.

Since I took this job (19 days ago. Not even 3 full weeks.) the workload for me alone has increased fourfold. And my husband, who was not even on this job, has agreed to run the night shift. An actual night shift. Until December. So we will barely see one another for the rest of the year. 

Here’s the thing. I am not entirely unhappy. I do really like the job just because I am that good at it. In many ways, this job was custom made for me. I was trained for exactly this kind of detailed tracking. And the company I work for just gave me a *huge* raise. I mean, I asked for it, but they gave it to me. 

But I am tired. And I hate the idea that I won’t get to spend time with my husband. I married him because I genuinely love his company. We have talked about the times we can spend together. 4 am, my wake up and before his bedtime. The time we may be at work at the same time when he has a break. And I am trying to work out the best way to get the job done and still take care of myself. How to fit in my run and my meditation and my full night’s sleep and cooking my meals for the week.

Because, as I have said in this blog before, self care is not all bubble baths and spa days. Self care kind of sucks. I don’t want to wake up at 4 to run. But I do. I don’t want to spend hours of my precious weekend cooking for the week. But I do. I don’t want to stop and meditate and have to be still for 3 minutes when I am busy and already feel like I don’t have enough hours in the day. But I do. (OK, mostly I do. I sometimes forget. But I am committed to 3 minutes daily.) I don’t want to put down whatever I am doing to go to bed….Actually, nope. That last one was a lie. I like the shit out of going to bed.

Having my eating under control gives me the possibility of enjoying living the life I have instead of lamenting the life I think I should have. It lets me be flexible. It lets me prioritize. And it keeps me clear about the reality of my situation. If I come to be miserable, if it starts to hurt my marriage, if I make myself sick, I know that I can ask for help, or back off my hours, or even just quit. Having my eating under control lets me see myself clearly, my options clearly, and the reality of my situation clearly. 

Putting boundaries around my eating offered me a life beyond my wildest dreams. I am not going to settle for less than that anymore. So for now, I am going to do the best job I can. And if it ever no longer serves me, I know that I can move on. I will trust that life is giving me what I need, and that it will continue to do so.

A job, some fear and anxiety, probably a miracle.

One of my favorite things I had the opportunity to learn when I got my eating under control is how to go with the flow. How to let life happen as it does (because it will) and to make the best of it. To handle new and difficult situations with grace and ease.


On Tuesday morning this past week I got a call from management in my company, asking if I would take on a new position. And could I start the next day?


I was certainly happy to take it on. I have mostly just been working part time for almost a year now. And while I have enjoyed it, because I love having lots of alone time, the truth is I like work. I like being of use. I like being good at what I do. I like the feelings I get when I accomplish things. I like being impressive. My best friend’s old therapist said that a huge portion of our self-esteem comes from our job.


And there is another part of it for me right now. I am not working with my husband on this job. My boss is someone I just met for the first time on Wednesday. And while I love working with my husband, and we make a great team, there is something exciting about getting the chance to show someone else what I can do. And knowing that what he has to say means something different to the company, coming from a stranger and superior, than it does coming from the person who chose me as a life partner.


The other important thing about getting my eating under control when it comes to this job is that keeping my food boundaries has taught me how to manage my fear and anxiety. Because for as excited as I am to do this job (and I am very excited), my brain goes on a little merry-go-round ride of thoughts and feelings, and a good portion of them are fears. Fears that I will fail, that I am not as good as I think. That I am not good enough in general.


It doesn’t matter that these thoughts are irrational. Anyone with irrational thoughts will tell you that knowing you are being irrational does not change the experience of it. It’s why self-knowledge was never enough to lose weight when I (and seemingly everyone else) cared so much about my weight. (I’m sure the world still cares about my weight because it cares about weight in general. I just don’t care that it cares anymore.)


But in getting my eating under control, I learned how to stop thoughts. I learned how to change my mind. I learned how to change my thinking. I learned how to harness control over my thoughts as a tool.


Eating compulsively always had me too high on sugar to manage anything, especially my thoughts. It had me foggy, and careless, and numb. These are not ideal circumstances to take control of one’s own brain. The point of getting high was always to stop thinking and feeling entirely, not to control myself.


I am very excited about getting a new opportunity. And if you read last week, I do believe that this job came straight out of a miracle door. So I am going to keep meditating on miracles and the doors they emerge from. And I am going to keep my eating boundaries. And I am going to do an amazing job! Probably. And if not, I expect there will be another miracle coming through another door. But for right now I’ll do the work in front of me.

Opening My Own Miracle Door

If you have been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that so much of keeping boundaries around my eating is a spiritual practice. It’s as much about honoring my word, my soul, my heart and my relationships as it is about not eating sugar. The food came first, but the spiritual stuff keeps me from turning back to the food. They feed each other. I do the spiritual work, I don’t need to eat over being a jerk. I don’t eat, I can delve deeper into the spiritual work.

So months ago, I was talking to a friend who does what I do with food. And she was so angry because she had an addict friend/work partner and he would get sober for a few days and miracles would fall in his lap. People offering not just help, but opportunities! Big, gorgeous, sexy opportunities around work and art and life. And she was pissed! My friend has been sober for decades and she wanted miracles!

So, as my husband likes to (only half) joke, I got into my Lucy booth and gave her some really quality advice, if I do say so myself. I told her that she is a person who meticulously turns over rocks. That she is the epitome of leaving no stone unturned. But that she certainly has a “miracle door” just like her friend. And that she should go look for it and start opening it instead of metaphorically crawling around on her hands and knees flipping rocks.

Well a year later, my friend is having all of her dreams come true. She is making more money, working less. The pandemic changed the way she works and she has used it to her very great benefit. She has been performing her music in new ways. Is working on multiple new music projects. And she just got engaged *and* bought her vacation home in a Southern town she loved and lived in as a girl. 

And wouldn’t you know it, I got jealous! In my head I kept thinking “How come *she* is getting all of these miracles?!?!” 

I love the irony of this story. I love how proud I was of my brilliant advice. And how it never occurred to me to take it for myself. And how in the end I ended up in the same position as my friend. 

I have started looking at pictures of doors. Mystical woodland door art and photos of old colorful European doors and Arabesque doors with arches and key-hole shapes and round Hobbit hole doors from blockbuster movies and anything I can picture opening to let myself into a miracle, or to let a miracle out.

I am no stranger to miracles. Getting my eating under control felt like a miracle in a way that very few people can understand. When I was growing up fat, it felt like being fat was the worst thing I could be. I was shamed and humiliated, and I was put on diets, and I was told how simple it was to just stop eating. But it was not simple. In fact, it felt impossible. There was diet food. And I ate diet food until I had lost enough weight to go back to eating the foods I wanted to eat. Which would make me gain all of the weight back, plus more. And I knew that I could not live on diet food forever. And I knew I could not eat the foods I wanted in moderation. It was going to take a miracle for me to stop eating compulsively.

But I got that miracle. I have gotten to keep that miracle for 15 years. And it still feels like a miracle. It is still as wondrous and magical and awe inspiring to me as it has ever been. It has lost none of its shine. In fact, I am more grateful and honored to have found a solution now than I was 15 or 12 or even 5 years ago. My eating boundaries have carried me through so many difficulties and so much worry and sadness.

So I am looking for my miracle doors today. And I am grateful to have a way of life that reminds me that all I have to do on any given day is keep my eating boundaries. And that if I do that, I have a chance at something else. A relationship, or an opportunity, or a blessing. That I got one big miracle and it gave me the chance to find all of the other miracles.

Fat Kate, Skinny Kate, Kate who climbs on rocks

My mom is decluttering and cleaning out her house, and she called me the other day and told me to come get my crap. (I have not lived in her home for over 20 years but a bunch of my stuff sure did.) So I did. And what I found of any interest, was a bunch of photographs.


Now most of them were photos I had taken in High School. I went through a photography phase. And it was fun to see pictures of old friends. And it was particularly fun to realize that, while at 16 I was eternally unsatisfied with the quality of the photos I was taking, in retrospect, I was excellent at portraiture.


But there were also a lot of pictures of me from that time. And for the first time in my life, I looked at those pictures without disdain for the fat body I had when I was younger.


I think that I destroyed a lot of photos of myself from when I was fat, while I was fat. And I certainly hated having my picture taken or seeing myself in pictures. Because for me it was one thing to know that I was fat, which I did every moment of every day for most of my life, but another thing entirely to see it. To have it displayed. The only thing I did do with them was keep a handful of pictures that I would use as before and after weight loss photos. A practice I have been doing less and less of over the years. I used to think it was the perfect illustration of the change in me. Now I just see it as promoting fat phobia, rather than expressing the relief of having my sugar addiction under control.

Those pictures were me showing how I defeated my fat self! It was like I was showing you how I killed off the unworthy me. But 16-year-old Kate needed to like and love herself, not be killed over and over in photographs to show that I knew that everyone had always been right about my worthlessness.


While I was fat, I hated being fat. I hated fatness. I had internalized so much of society’s fat phobia that I hated myself. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I thought my fatness had been a moral failing. And even after I got my eating under control, and my body got smaller because of my eating boundaries, it took over a decade for me to stop looking at my fat younger self as someone else, not me.


I had somehow convinced myself that skinny Kate (back when I was actually skinny) was the “real” Kate and that I had finally ditched that loser, fat Kate, and left her in the past.


But 15+ years of having my eating under control, my head clear, and my moral compass pointing in the right direction, I can separate my addictive eating from my body, and from the rampant fat phobia in Western society and culture.


I am not sorry I put boundaries around my eating. Whatever my weight, I don’t want to eat simple sugar or carbohydrates anymore. I am done and I am happy to have given them up. I am happy to have my addiction arrested a day at a time. I love my eating boundaries for the freedom and clarity they give me. And I still love to eat!


But now, when I see those pictures of myself from almost 30 years ago, I see how beautiful I was. I was gorgeous! And also fat. For most of my life, I wholeheartedly believed those things were mutually exclusive. That being fat made me ugly and unworthy, disgusting and shameful. That fat cancelled out any redeeming qualities about me.


What I figured out pretty quickly when I got my eating under control is that very few people from my past noticed any difference in me other than my body size. While I shifted my inner life, my confidence, my conscience, my consciousness, to such an extent that I felt like an entirely different person, people like my husband, who was a childhood friend, or High School friends whom I had not seen in many years, said that I seemed pretty much the same to them. Aside from maybe my parents, nobody really noticed that much of a difference in my personality. Even though my new and improved level of self-love and self-acceptance led to an unprecedented sense of inner peace and contentment, most people still saw the same old Kate.


The sad truth is the world cares about fatness. And not in a good way. And it took a long time and years of inner spiritual work for me to see the distinction between my addiction that was causing me to ruin my own life, and fat phobia, which was allowing others (and myself) to ruin my life.


Fat phobia allowed people to say cruel and hurtful things to me, to comment on my body, to comment on what they assumed about my life and my lifestyle, to make me the butt of jokes without consequences. Because my fatness necessarily meant that I was lazy, stupid, gluttonous, greedy and shameful. The idea being that I brought it on myself. That if I weren’t those things I wouldn’t have been fat, and nobody would be able to make those jokes about me. That it was my own damn fault. And if I didn’t want people remarking on my body I should just push away from the table, have some self control.


I am grateful that I got to see and keep those pictures of myself. I am happy to have the clarity to see the truth about my teenage self. That I was sad because I was sick. That I was beautiful. That I was worth knowing. That I am still basically the same person, fat or not. And that I don’t keep my eating boundaries to be skinny (which is a good thing since I am not skinny) but to keep my head and my conscience clear, and to have the confidence to make bold life choices.

Boundaries are a Love Language

I am planning a fun little trip to LA in September. I will fly in on a Thursday, and out on a Monday. I am specifically going to see a friend, and my husband doesn’t want to take the time off of work because we are planning a big Florida trip in October. So I will be going go by myself. And in making my plans I got in touch with my friend about dates and times and whatnot. And she very generously, and very kindly, told me that she would only have a certain amount of time to give me in the days I will be there. And can I just say, I freaking loved it!

One thing I understand now after 15 years of having boundaries around my eating is that as a person with boundaries, I love it when other people have boundaries too.

The truth is that I was not expecting my friend to give me all of that time in LA. I’m a loner, by nature. I can and do amuse myself alone. All the time. I am good at it. I enjoy my own company. But knowing, in no uncertain terms, what I can expect, what I can ask for, what is on offer, and what I will be responsible for makes my life easier.

Boundaries are a life tool. They are how I manage my priorities and my time for myself. They are how I organize and create my day and my experiences. But when offered up to someone else, they are a kind of love language. This is how you can care for me. This is how you can honor me. This is how you can respect me.

Before I got my eating under control, I did not have any boundaries. And I hated other people’s boundaries. I wanted to please people so they would like me. But that is not how people pleasing works. People pleasing makes people like what you can do for them. They stop seeing the person, and only what can be gained from the person. I didn’t have any way to say no, so I would give more than I could and then behave badly when I couldn’t take any more. I was “an exploding doormat.” I let you walk all over me until I blew up.

In setting boundaries, in taking care of my own needs first, I don’t need to blow up. I can walk away. I can disengage with love. I have told you how I will be treated. And I *will* be treated with the respect that I dictate. Or I will walk away. 

My relationships are very different now than they were when I was eating compulsively. I like myself better. I like the people in my life better. Not because they are different, but because I am different. Because I have set the tone of respect and honor. Because I offer honor and expect it in return. And the people from my past who could not or would not learn to honor me and allow me to honor them, have all fallen away. 

Because there is another little tidbit to this. To set a clear boundary is to preempt drama. To speak your truth, and ask for what you want, and make clear what you have the capacity to give, is to give shape to expectations.

My first boundaries were around my food. But those boundaries I set for myself forced me to set them for others. If I wasn’t going to eat sugar and carbohydrates, I had to say no when my beloved grandma wanted me to eat her spaghetti and meatballs. Or when someone brought a cake especially for my birthday, or when someone wanted a taste of my meal that I had weighed out and committed and could not share. 

I am eternally grateful for the gift of having my eating under control for many reasons. But learning to have and keep boundaries is one of the most useful and freeing aspects of that gift.

Jolly good fellows

The other day I was taking to some ladies who do what I do with food, and we were talking about fellowship and community. And I was reminded how important my eating boundary community is for many many reasons. But one that is most important to me is that for the most part, nobody wants me (or anyone else) to keep boundaries around my (our) eating.


For whatever reason, having a restrictive food plan for oneself makes other people really uncomfortable.


I often avoid using the word restrictive, because I know how it sounds. But the truth is that I have a restrictive diet. I do not eat simple man-made sugars, any grains other than wheat germ, and I even abstain from some fruits and vegetables with particularly high sugar content. My diet is full of restrictions. That is a simple truth.


But I want to remind you that I am a grown-ass woman. I decide what foods I eat and what foods I don’t. The food plan that I follow does have rules. But I follow the rules because I choose to. I can leave at any time. But I like my life better when I do keep my restrictive diet. And yes, sometimes it is hard. Even if I don’t crave my drug foods anymore. Because people want me to eat a thing they made especially for me. Or they want me to have a taste of something I am allowed to eat, but it’s in between meals and they don’t see how it’s a problem, even after I have said no. Or they want me to have some cake on my birthday. Or it just hurts their hearts that I have not had any chocolate for years. “Just have one! Live a little.” (I am physically incapable of having only one. And I am living a *lot* more by not eating sugar than I would be by eating it.)


I don’t fully understand what it is about food that makes people want a say in other people’s business. In our conversation the other day, one woman said that her food life is as private as her sex life. She doesn’t want to talk about either of them with anyone outside of those directly involved. And I can thoroughly appreciate that.


My relationship with food is, if not wholly private, at least deeply personal. I was shamed for much of my life for my eating and food choices and my body size. And when I made different choices that had a significant impact on that body size, people still had all sorts of opinions about it. Now instead of being unhealthy or gluttonous, I was being restrictive and extreme.


None of those people have to live in my body with me. They don’t have to face any of the consequences of my eating. Not the consequences of cravings, not the consequences of fatness, not the consequences of body dysmorphia, not the consequences of my bulimia, or anorexic thinking, or self-loathing or depression or any of the myriad effects that eating compulsively has on my brain or my body or my soul.


I need my food community because they are there to support me in what *I* want with food and my body. They are there to support me in fighting my addiction. For them, this situation is life or death. Just like it is for me. And if you think I am being dramatic, you must be a particularly well adjusted person with a happy life. And I am very happy for you. But it solidifies for me that you are not at all qualified to comment on my food.

Truth *and* consequences

I’m listening to a book series right now that I do not want to put down. (I am a huge audiobook fan. I can do so many things, like exercise or cook, and enjoy a novel at the same time.) But I have things to do right now that require all of my attention, like writing this blog or doing some work for my job, and I have to put it down. Waaahhh!!!

When I was eating compulsively I would have just continued with my book, and the consequences be damned. I let a lot of things fall by the wayside before I had boundaries around my eating. I did what felt good in the moment.

But of course there were consequences. The biggest was the stress that came from being out of integrity. And I didn’t even think of it that way. I didn’t even know at the time how to acknowledge that I owed something and that in not paying up, I was harming myself to myself. It always looked to me like it was about other people. The people I owed something to: teachers, friends, parents. 

For me, the consequences never ended up being as bad as the stress I caused myself. But also, the consequences never registered for me as completion. 

When I got my eating under control I learned how to let things go. But here is the important piece that I never understood before then. You cannot let something go until you see and acknowledge the truth of it. So if I, let’s say, didn’t do a homework assignment, and I got a bad grade, I could not look at either my responsibility to do the work, or the fairness of the grade. And therefore it never left me. I never moved on. I still had the yucky feelings of both my bad behavior and the consequence. Even though I already *paid the consequence*!

You would think that having paid the consequences would mean that I could move on. The transaction was complete. The fine was paid. Except I never wanted to look directly at the infraction. I never wanted to acknowledge what was my fault, my doing, my responsibility. I never wanted to see what I was doing, and by virtue of that, who I was being in my life.

In getting my eating under control I learned how to look at what I did and did not do within the framework of my integrity, my word, and what I wanted to create and put out in the world. 

A friend of mine sometimes talks about thinking about herself when she was eating compulsively as “a floating head.” She didn’t want to think of her body as herself. She could not confront the idea that she and her body were one.  

I often thought of my integrity that way. I thought that what I liked and admired, what I thought and believed, was who I was. But of course who I am is what I do in the world and how I interact with its inhabitants.

So for this moment I am keeping my commitment to write this blog. And in a minute I am going to do the work I need to get done. And then, with a clear conscience, when it is time for cooking or knitting or relaxing, I will get back to my book! And there will be no consequences except the exquisite feelings I get from a good novel.

Keeping it to yourself: the gift that keeps on giving!

Today is my birthday! I’m 44! Hooray!

About 5 1/2 years ago, I started working out regularly, 5 days a week. I had left New York City, where significant portions of my daily travels were done by walking, a few years before. But even in the suburbs of Chicago, I was still using my own two feet as transportation. But in early 2016, when we moved to Kentucky, I got a driver’s license and a car. And I thought to myself, “Kate, you are very clearly never going to move your body again now that you can drive.” So I started my bare minimum workout.

And that workout has done me well over the past few years. It keeps me sane. It has especially kept me grounded and emotionally elastic over the past year and a half, which were particularly stressful for me. 

But I don’t workout to lose weight. I don’t do it to sculpt or tone. I don’t do it to wrangle my body into a traditionally pleasing shape for the benefit of the eyes of others. I do it because that is how one cares for a body. And my body has been particularly good to me over the course of my 44 years.

But this thing happens every once in a while and I hate it. Someone will see me on my jog and tell me “it’s working” and that they can see how I am losing weight.

The other day, I was running, and a neighbor, not one I know, called out that she was proud of me and she could see how much weight I was losing. Ugh! Cringe!

First, let me be clear. I have not lost weight in the past 5 years. I have, in fact, gained some. Not a lot. But definitely some. And I don’t actually care. When I laughingly assured the lady that I had not lost any weight, she assured me that I had and that “she has been watching me.”

This has happened to me repeatedly, not only when it comes to my workout, but also when there have been people who perceive my food boundaries as “a diet.” They will suddenly see that “that diet is working.” And they will insist that I have lost weight. (Again, I have not lost any weight in years. My “diet” is not about losing weight. I’m not *on* a diet, I *have* a diet.)

I don’t know what that thing is that happens, but it happens. Strangers and friends alike see something that they associate with someone trying to lose weight, they somehow see the weight loss, real or imagined, and then they *talk to me about my body* as if it were any of their business.

The idea of praising this perceived weight loss is that fat is bad and thin is good. Period. That any kind of “thinner” is always better than any kind of “fatter.” And I have been dealing with those judgments all of my life. I was “good” when my weight was down, and bad or shameful or “needed work” when my weight was up. And I let these judgements color how I saw my own value and worth for almost all of my life. I let the size of my body dictate how much I liked myself and how much I harmed myself for about 30 of my 44 years. That is a long history of self-hate and self-harm.

I just want to be clear, there are a very specific few humans who I speak openly and honestly with about my weight and my body now, and they know who they are. Other than them, I hate it when anyone remarks on my body, even when they think what they are saying is a compliment. And frankly, most people I know feel this same way. I don’t know many (any?) people who are interested in anyone’s opinions about their body.

The truth is that people don’t know what constitutes a compliment to me. Certainly not if they think telling me I lost weight is a compliment. Especially, though not exclusively, when I have not. And their wrong assumptions about what will please me only make me feel gross and a little angry. I even made some minor changes to my running route, because I don’t want to have to deal with that lady ever again. That is how much I hate people talking about my weight.

I love my 44-year-old body. I love the way I look, and the way I feel. But I love it for me. I love it because it is mine. And I love it because I take care of it and it takes care of me in return. So if you want to give me a gift on this celebration of my 44 trips around the sun, maybe keep your body opinions to yourself. Not just about my body, but about all bodies! It’s a gift that keeps on giving!

Would you [date] me? I’d [date] me.

I really like my husband. A lot. I am a fan. I have a very happy marriage.

I feel like this should be an obvious thing. Of course I would like the person I married. Of course I am a fan of my partner. Isn’t that why we chose each other? Isn’t that why anyone chooses a partner?

It turns out that this is not an obvious truth for a lot of people.

This week my husband came home from work and said one of his crew members was being a jerk on the phone to his wife in front of everyone. Making faces to show his disdain for her to the other guys, while being rude and patronizing to her. 

Somehow it came up that he asked my husband if he liked his wife. (Me!) And he said “I adore my wife.” (Well, that is what he told me, anyway. Swoon.) He said “We like and respect each other.” (Give me a sec. I’m going to have to swoon again.)

The reason I am bringing this up is being a recovering addict is the primary reason I have a happy marriage. I got the tools to be who I want to be in a relationship by getting my eating under control and then living in a way that I could keep my eating under control, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I grew up fat and sugar addicted. And in that time my relationship to love and romance was twisted and sad. I thought for all of that time that being fat made me unlovable. And I am not going to go into it today, but being fat really is a huge obstacle to dating in US culture. And it is not about attraction. Because I certainly had plenty of that kind of attention. It’s about what it says about you (especially as a man) when you date a fat person. The implication being that you must be somehow lacking, because if you were better, you could have a thin person. If you were better, you could do better than fat.

So needless to say, when I got my eating under control, and I lost a lot of weight, and was a total knockout by societal standards, I expected to find the man of my dreams right away. I thought the problem had been my fatness, and now that I was not fat anymore, it was inevitable that “The One” would be right there. 

But “The One” didn’t show up! In fact he wouldn’t for over 6 years!

But in that time I got some advice from a woman who does what I do with food. She had been single for many years like myself and she had just recently found her wife. And she said to me, “Stop looking, and take this time to make *yourself* into the person you want to date.”

And I’ll be damned if that didn’t work!!! I don’t think I had really ever thought before about what someone would get by being with me. I was too wrapped up in what I would get from them.

But then I got “The One” and I had zero experience in being in a romantic relationship. And boy, was that a learning curve.

One of the most important things I learned in addiction recovery is that I am responsible for cleaning my side of the street. I am the one who has to right the wrongs I have done. I have to make amends for the ways I have done harm. I have to acknowledge my part and fix what I broke. 

So much of my relationships for all of my pre-boundary-life was shifting blame. It was to never admit to anything bad. It was to manipulate all situations so that I looked like either the hero or the victim. Especially when I was actually the perpetrator.

Some things I learned through my recovery about being in a relationship include that my husband is a grown-ass man and he must be allowed to make his own choices without my nagging or unsolicited advice. That I don’t get a say in how he does things, and that if I think it’s important for a thing to get done a certain way, I better do it myself. That I must not take his emotions personally, and he is allowed to have feelings that I find difficult. That Ruth Bader Ginsburg was onto something when she said “Sometimes it helps to be a little deaf.” That not everything needs to be a conversation. Sometimes I need to work things out for myself, and often, something that irks or annoys me is really my own problem and has nothing to do with him. (Look, sometimes we have to have a conversation about something that has upset me. Obviously. But I don’t go in assuming it is all his fault.) But maybe most importantly, that I must give him the benefit of the doubt. My husband is a good man who loves to provide material things, but also, a happy home. So I spend a lot of my marriage energy making sure he feels comfortable and peaceful in the space we are creating together. It’s about the way I respond to a question with a generous spirit, or give him my attention when he asks for it, or anything else I can do to let him know that our marriage is the most important relationship in my life.

And in return I get the same. I get a man who likes and respects me as much as he loves me. I get days filled with laughter and affection. I get honest communication from a position of resolution rather than “winning.” I get appreciation and honor. I get a happy home and a happy home life. 

I don’t think I would ever have been able to be the wife I am if I had not put boundaries around my eating. I don’t know if I would have been able to get out from under my own selfishness or victimization. I don’t know if I would have been able to see my own bad behaviors or cruel actions in the food fog and downward spiral of my sugar addiction. And I don’t know that I ever would have been in the vicinity of someone with the life changing advice that I should make myself into the person I wanted to date. But even if I had, I can’t imagine I would have been able to take it.

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