onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

The Eternal Holiday Without the Fun

Since I gave up sugar, I have started to care less and less about holidays. 

When I was growing up, I looked forward to holidays. I mean really looked forward to them. There would be parties with special foods, and lots of people. My cousins would all be there to run and play and make an ungodly noise with. Both sides of my family were boisterous. There was always a lot of laughter and funny stories. But child Kate often forgot that those times were also, inevitably, too much. That I would become overstimulated, overwhelmed, overemotional, and overindulged.

As a grownup with her eating under control, I love the ideas of holidays more than I love the days themselves. A holiday is a way to acknowledge certain universal experiences we have because we are humans in bodies living on Earth. Christmas is the celebration of the return of the sun. If, as centuries and cultures, and empires have risen and fallen, it has taken on some other aspects, for example, the return of “a son,” well that is all well and good too. It is still about getting through the long darkness and trusting in the promise of the return of the light and the warmth. The promise that we won’t *all* starve to death. 

And a holiday is a day to forget our personal troubles and celebrate the enormity of life. It is a time to raise our consciousness above the idea of self and embrace humanity.

Addiction is a lot like trying to live in an eternal holiday. You’re trying to ride the same wave as Christmas, but every day, while nobody else is celebrating, and you don’t get the time off of work and school. It is like trying to forget your mundane self, and only live in the ecstasy of universality. But that is just too much for an individual to maintain. Trust me. I did the research for you.

When I gave up simple sugars and carbohydrates, I had to come to appreciate the simplicity of the day-to-day. I had to come to appreciate when nothing special was going on. I had to get comfortable in the calm. And I came to discover that I loved the calm. Once I had exorcised my demons, anyway. 

I realized that I had hated the peace of daily life because I didn’t have any peace. If I were calm for a moment, I would think about the wrongs that I had done. I would be haunted by the things I was ashamed of. And the ways I had hurt others and disappointed myself. But I had done a lot of those things *because* of my addiction. It was a vicious cycle and I didn’t know where it began or ended. And I could not seem to unravel it.

It turned out that giving up my drug foods was the answer. Or, at least the first step. There would be many other things to do about it. Acknowledge my wrongdoings, make amends for them, change my actions, shift my thinking. But all of those things started with getting my eating under control.

So now my eating is under control. And I love my day-to-day living. I am happy with my integrity, and my willingness, and my life. And I don’t need to live like every day is a holiday. In fact, I don’t even need to live like holidays are holidays. 

I will miss my nieces and nephews this year. I will miss tickling babies and reading books to the bigger ones. I will miss exclaiming over dollar gifts from the elementary school‘s Santa’s workshop. But I will still be perfectly happy laying around in my adult-sized onesie and drinking coffee and doing nothing this year. There will be more Christmases to come. And as for this year, I don’t have any shames or fears or worries that I need to numb.

Still a pillar, just a little wobbly

The other day I went into my boss’s office and I said (cried in frustration, actually – thank God she’s a woman, because, let’s face it, a man would not have been able to deal with that) that I was overwhelmed. I said that I felt like I was the only person who knew what was going on for one of the 3 jobs I was working on, that I was already in over my head and that I felt like I was set up to fail. I told her I could not do everything that was expected of me well or gracefully.

And the first thing she said was. “Nobody expects you to do this gracefully. We expect you to fuck up.” (It’s construction. People swear a lot.) “And there is nothing you can mess up that could be worse than people have messed up before you. You were given this job because we have faith that you can do it well.”

And then she told me that one of the other ladies in the office will familiarize herself with the job I was so worried about, so that at least 2 of us know what is going on.  And she took one of my jobs away and told me to work on the other 2 and stop worrying about the 3rd.

When I was in the food, I was a terrible employee, like I was a terrible student. There is a saying I appreciate. “How you do anything is how you do everything.”  And when I was in active addiction, how I did everything was how I did food. Lots of sneaking, lying, cheating, manipulating, and blame passing. So the idea that I could be vulnerable, go to my boss, tell her my fears honestly, tell her I felt overwhelmed, tell her that I didn’t know what to do but that I knew I needed support, was the opposite of that. It was exposing myself, letting her and the company know that I was not the unshakable pillar of excellence I often feel like I am, and that I regularly offer.

So to be told that I was not expected to be great or graceful was a blessing. 

The truth is, I am a pillar of excellence. Much of the time. And I pride myself on it. And the fact that I am overwhelmed or unhappy or feeling under qualified does not negate that. 

When I was in active addiction, I was obsessed with what things meant. Especially what things meant about me. Because like I believed that my fatness meant I had a broken body, I believed that how easily I became paralyzed by fear and overwhelm meant my character was also broken.

But in getting my sugar addiction under control, I started to recognize how much of my life didn’t *mean* anything at all. Things were simply the consequences of specific actions (or inactions) I had taken. And I started to see how many of my choices and actions were fueled by these beliefs I had created about myself because of the ways I fed, and floundered in, my addiction.

Being free of the food let me know that I not only could be, but was, say, both a pillar of excellence and an overwhelmed worker in over her head. That those things are not mutually exclusive. That those things are both valid at the same time. 

And the other thing I learned from giving up sugar is that being a pillar of any kind is not particularly useful if I don’t know how to keep myself standing. And the trick to that is *I* can’t keep myself standing. At least not alone. I need help. And that is why the best tool I have to keep my addiction under control is a community. And that is true for work as well. When I need support, I reach out for support. That way I stay upright, like the pillar of excellence that I am.

For those in the “giving things up” stage, hang in there!

It’s a hard thing to give up foods. When I first realized I was an addict, which is a sort of weird, fluid time between 2005 and 2007 (a little before and after I gave up most sugars grains and starches in January 2006) I was constantly shocked and saddened by the things I couldn’t eat anymore. Not just cake and cookies and bread and potatoes. But also nuts and nut butters, and extracts with alcohol in them, or  random things like imitation crab meat. And seemingly healthy foods like sweet potatoes and corn. 

It felt in that time that everything was being taken from me. That all of my joy in eating was coming to an end. That I would be one of those people who “didn’t live to eat, but ate to live.” And I was so sad for myself. Because I was sad for those people who didn’t have joy in eating. Eating was one of my favorite experiences, and I thought I was going to have to mourn that part of myself.

Spoiler alert! I still live to eat. Even more than before. Because now my eating is guilt-free. And joyful. Not just on holidays or at celebrations. Now I love my food all the time. I take the time and do the work so that every meal, every bite, every taste is decadent and delicious. Summer tomatoes with mayonnaise! Half sour deli pickles! Homemade Italian sausage with giardiniera, homemade sugar-free ice cream, filet Mignon, and caramelized onions! 

The beginning of the giving up and letting go is the hardest part. I had to mourn. Yes, even though the foods I was mourning were drugs and poison to me, and were ruining my life. I had to be sad and sorry. That was normal and natural. But once I got past the mourning, everything was better. Every aspect of my life shifted to something sweeter and happier, peaceful and content.

If you are in the “giving things up” stage, and you are mad and sad and frustrated and suffering, that is normal and natural. And it will pass. But here is the thing, if you look at the things you *can* have, it’s not so bleak. Don’t forget to look at the baked apples with cinnamon, and the pork carnitas with fresh salsa, or the eggs fried in butter, and strawberry and peach smoothies. And don’t think you have to be one of those people who subsists on dry chicken breasts and steamed broccoli. That may be one path, but it is not a path I, personally, would have been able to walk for any amount of time.

Pandemic Thanksgiving is the best Thanksgiving

If you have been reading my blog for a long time, you know that I hate Thanksgiving. I know, I know. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about family, togetherness, and our gratitude for our loved ones. And that is beautiful, theoretically. But in practice, Thanksgiving is when everybody lets themselves eat like compulsive eaters eat every day. It’s the day when the amateurs eat like the professionals, and the professionals eat like themselves, but openly. 

I don’t miss anything about eating compulsively. And I am grateful that I have a lifestyle that doesn’t have concepts like “cheat” or “break” or “special occasion.” I eat like a Queen every day. Not because it’s my birthday, or Christmas, or Thanksgiving. But because it’s Thursday and eating delicious meals is how I feel content when I am strictly eating within my food boundaries. I don’t eat like other people. I didn’t when I was fat, because I was binge eating, and stress eating, and emotional eating. And I don’t now that I weigh my food, and eat three times a day, and abstain from most sugars, grains and starches. I have never been a normal eater, and never will be. 

I am a sugar addict. If I put sugar in my body, my body has a reaction that makes it crave more. If I chose to eat without abandon on Thanksgiving, or my birthday, or whatever day seems like a good day to other people, to stuff themselves, I would not just be able to get back on the wagon. That is the luxury of normal eaters. I would be fighting the cravings for months. In fact, it took a year and a half for me to make it through the withdrawal when I gave up drug foods in 2006. A year and a half! Thanksgiving comes every year. You can see the math doesn’t work out in my favor.

So Pandemic Thanksgiving was absolutely amazing for me. I had a paid holiday. I did not have to cook anything special, I got to sit around in my pajamas all day with no one to see and nothing to do, and because it’s a pandemic, nobody thought that was weird, and nobody felt sorry for me as if I had lost something by not overeating on Thanksgiving, instead of gaining everything by not overeating every day.

It was bad, but it passed.

And just like that, over a month’s worth of yuck is basically gone and I feel like myself again. 

It is sometimes hard to remember that these feelings and funks and unhappy times are just part of living in a body. That so much of it is just chemicals and hormones and things we don’t understand. Well, most of us don’t understand. *I* don’t understand. (Apologies to any endocrinologists and neurologists reading this blog.)

Of course, in order to really get back to my usual, content self, I did have to have a difficult conversation. And that meant I had to get the other party to agree to have a difficult conversation. But we did. And I was able to do that. To know what I needed, to ask for it, and to be available for it.

When I was eating compulsively, I felt like every feeling was eternal. And every circumstance was the last circumstance. It felt like life never gave way to anything better. Only worse. If it ever gave way at all. 

But now I can see that so many of my troubles were in my hands, but I lacked the imagination, or the confidence, or the will to change things. I had deeply held beliefs about how the world worked, and who I was in the world. And those beliefs were wrong, but I kept proving them over and over and was sure that meant they were right.

And I can see that so many of my feelings were a product of my food addiction and/or my normal body functions. But they seemed like so much truth and so many explanations about myself and my failings.

I can now see how many of my feelings are just feelings. And I can see how many of my feelings are lessons and roadmaps. And I can do something about them. Or not.

I know we live in a society of “positivity” right now. And I am a firm believer that we can change our thoughts. And that by changing our thoughts, we can change our reality. 

I mean, I am proof. I have changed my thinking, and changed my eating, and changed my lifestyle, and changed my circumstances. I live a life beyond my wildest dreams. 

But positivity has at least one foot solidly planted in changing our reactions to fit the status quo. And because of that, I don’t think positivity is the cure for the world’s ills. I think it is much more important to listen to those feelings of disquiet and discontent, and figure out what it is we need to change. What we need to change within ourselves, and what we need to fight for in the world. 

I am grateful to be feeling better. Especially because even though I know intellectually that “this too shall pass,” when I am stuck in the middle of a long run of emotional distress, it can be hard to believe that everything passes. So here it is, written out. It was bad, but it passed.

Willing to do what it takes

Today I am keeping this short. I am tired, still deeply emotional, and I have lots to do. I want to do nothing. But I can’t. Because I have commitments. Like this weekly blog post.

When I made breakfast this morning, I opened the microwave and found part of last night’s dinner in there. So I had to make a phone call and tell someone. 

But I also have to deal with the fact that there are things in my life, difficult situations and interpersonal relationship troubles that are taking up a lot of space in my head. And that has made me less meticulous. And that scares me. And I don’t know when or how to get these troubles and difficulties taken care of. Because it’s not something that I can do by myself. I need cooperation. I need availability and willingness from other people. And I have no control over other people. 

I love my commitments. They give me a better life. And that is *because* I do them when I don’t want to, not in spite of them. And knowing that willingness is all I need on my part is a blessing. Because while I can’t control anyone else, I can control myself and I what I do. And what I do is eat within my boundaries every day, no matter what happens. And tell someone I trust when I mess up. And I exercise. And drink water. And write this blog.

Sometimes writing this blog is the hardest one. Because after 14 years and 11ish months of having boundaries around my eating, and 8 years and 11ish months of writing about it here. there are very few new things under the sun. This is not the first time I accidentally forgot part of a meal. And I expect it will not be the last. But I suppose that is why it is worth it to do this weekly writing. To remember that it may not be new, but there are always troubles and dangers, and I am still a sugar addict and a compulsive eater, and I need to be willing to do whatever it takes to keep myself well, happy and sane.

The tough reminder that today is not that day

I have had a terrible week. I have had a mostly terrible month. I have felt a lot of anger and frustration. I have felt undervalued. I have felt taken for granted. And I have been scared.

Here is the hard but important lesson I learned years ago when I first started putting boundaries around my food: very few things worth achieving happen quickly or easily. And the ones that do are really just an offer to do the work.

When I wanted to be a professional actor, a theatre director literally walked into my restaurant job and asked me if I wanted to audition for him. And I got that job. But acting is not that. It is not being offered acting jobs and taking them. It is going to audition after audition and taking classes and networking. I believe I got that job because life was telling me that if I wanted, I could do that work and make a life of that. That it was in me if I wanted it.

When I wanted to see if I could make a living as a freelance writer, I sent out my first article to one place and my article was accepted and published. Now this was an online publication that did not pay for 1 article, but would pay once you had a following within their publication. And freelance writing, much like acting, is not writing articles and getting them published. You send article after article, and log where you have sent them to, and log who has published you, and badger them for the money they owe you. Basically, life was telling me that if I wanted to live that life, it was there if I was willing to do that work. That it was in me if I wanted it.

When it came to the food, I wanted it to be easy right away. But it wasn’t. I wanted to be free from the compulsion and the itch in my skin and the feelings of fear and pain that I had been eating all my life to deal with. But I wasn’t. It was hard for a year and a half. And still not easy for me for another 4. And every single day, for about 5 years, I had to manage it. Do the work. Make calls, prepare meals and weigh my food, sit in difficult and sometimes devastating feelings. But it was in me if I wanted it.

I didn’t do the work to become an actor or a freelance writer. But I *did* do the work to get my eating under control. And I have no regrets about any of the above. 

But there are things that I do want right now. I want to break through the misogyny of the construction industry. I want to be acknowledged for the amazing work I do. I want to be respected and honored for not only knowing what I am doing, but doing it so well that the higher ups don’t even have to think about it. 

But instead, I sit in rooms with a bunch of men who stroke each other’s egos and tell each other that they are doing an excellent job, when the whole point of the meeting is that they are not, in fact, doing an excellent job and they need to get it together and get it done. I have been in these rooms where these men simper at me and pooh-pooh me for bringing up valid concerns. As if to say, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, little lady.” I refer to it as “Being Little Lady’d.” But perhaps it would be more accurate to call it being glass-ceilinged.

But just like I was at the beginning of my eating journey in 2006, I am at the beginning of my work journey now. I used to be happy to be the backup, the assistant. I was new to the job and it felt good to do good work and be useful. But recently I have willingly taken up a huge amount of responsibility, leapt entirely out of my comfort zone, and even though there have been a few missteps, I have done a spectacular job. In only a few months I have stretched and grown professionally beyond my own imaginings, and done great work to further my job and my company in the field. And I have to remember that just like I did not become an actor or a freelance writer with one acting job or one article, I will not be busting through any ceilings today. 

And that is hard for me. I feel like these people know me. That they *should* see me for what I am, a great worker, smart, organized, on top of trouble and diverting problems. But they see a woman. An office woman. And as long as the workers get paid, they don’t really want to have to think about me. 

Like I said. This is going to be a long haul. I am going to have to take it, as the 12 steppers so fondly remind one another, one day at a time. Things get done in steps, not all at once. I should recognize that that is as true in the offices of the construction industry, as it is in the factories and airports and distribution centers we build.

How is an addict like the Post Office?

One amazing thing about giving up sugar and simple carbohydrates is I don’t want the stuff anymore. It’s one way I know it was a drug for me. Once it was completely out of my system, which took about a year and half, I stopped needing it, or wanting it. Or really even seeing it. It’s like I have permanent blinders on. My eyes just sort of glide over things I don’t eat, unless there is a specific reason I am looking for it. And even then, it has no power over me.

If I am buying sugar for someone else, as a gift or as a treat, I can buy it with complete neutrality. I can look at it, and not see something I desire.

Yesterday, we had bags and bags of candy in the house. Trick or Treaters made short work of it, which I have no feelings about either way. Because over the years we have had bags and bags of Halloween candy and no kids to come by to take it from us, and in those years I still did not eat the candy. I wasn’t tempted by the candy. 

The candy is not mine. It’s not for me. It’s poison to me. I ate my fair share of candy for the first 28 years of my life. More than my fair share. Certainly more than enough.

When a person is fat, their doctors inevitably send them to nutritionists. And generally, those nutritionists tell their patients about moderation. They tell them to eat *one* cookie. They tell them to eat *one* piece of chocolate. They tell them to eat *one* *small* handful of chips. 

I cannot eat one. I am incapable of stopping once I have started. When sugar and simple carbohydrates are in my body, my body craves more. My brain tells me I will positively drop dead if I don’t have more. And that first year and half after I quit that it took to get the stuff out of me was filled with brain fog, and itchy skin, and emotional outbursts, and crying, and depression, and physical and emotional exhaustion. In other words, withdrawal. Like any drug.

For me it is literally all or nothing. I can either eat none of the stuff, or I will be haunted until I have eaten it all. All of what is in the house, and once that is gone, I will take a trip back out for more. When it comes to sugar, I am like the post office. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will keep me from getting my fix.

If moderation works for you, I am very happy for you. If I could eat cake with impunity, I surely would. But I can’t. And if you find that when you eat a piece of candy or a cookie, you can’t stop thinking about it until you eat more, you may want to consider cutting it out entirely. Because if you do that, there will come a time when you won’t need it, or want it. It will stop having power over you. Just like it stopped having power over me.

I feel it because I don’t eat it

I am cranky. So incredibly cranky. I am exhausted and emotional and overwhelmed by all of the things that I have to do today, which is not anything more than what I normally have to do on a Sunday. But I am so frustrated about it. And so tired. I just want to sit at home and do nothing. But I have groceries to buy and meals for the week to cook and pack. I have to get payroll in for work. And I just want to stop. To take a nap and read and think about crafting for hours but never actually craft anything. 

It’s nothing. It’s not any one thing. And it’s not even triggered by anything that I am aware of. Maybe it’s hormones or maybe it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder. Maybe it’s the stress of the year finally catching up with me. But no matter what it is, I am a wreck. 

But I keep my food boundaries no matter what. I not only don’t eat sugar, grains or starches, but I keep my portions controlled like I always do. I do exactly what I have done every day for the past almost 15 years. I do it because it is what I do, no matter how I feel, or what I think, or what kinds of things are going on in my life. I keep my food and my life separate.

All of this will pass. It always does. Funks or celebrations, situations and circumstances all make way for one another. And as long as I don’t put the foods I use as drugs in my body, I can make my way out of a bad mood. 

And I don’t have to worry about it. I don’t have to judge myself for it. What I do have to do is be with it. 

Perhaps that is the hardest part of having my eating under control. I have to live with the feelings. Sit in them. Go through them. That is the only way to the other side. When I quit sugar, I had to feel 28 years of feelings that were festering inside me. I had eaten to numb them. And I did not feel them in the moment. But they were still there. And I still had to sit with them. But by that time, they were rotten and moldy and putrid. 

I think part of withdrawal is that. It is not just the physical effects of the addictive, toxic substance in the body. It is the sweating out of a lifelong emotional fever. It is the purge of all of the toxic thoughts and feelings that were stuffed in and down and out of reach, but never actually released. 

So now I sit in my yucky feelings. I cry and I complain. I brood and I pout. And that is not pleasant. For me or for anyone else. But it is also not poisoning me from the inside. So there’s that.

Gratitude for my very normal, very human body

I used to be angry at my body all the time. It was my enemy, and I treated it accordingly. Mostly, I hated it because it was not the size or shape other girls’ and women’s bodies were. It did not look the way magazines and television told me it should look, and indeed *could* look if I worked hard enough.

I was smart and interesting and funny. I had a wonderful mind. So I felt like a brilliant human stuck in a broken vessel. Broken is a great way to express what I thought of my body. Broken like a machine. Bad parts. A lemon.

When I got my eating under control I started to think about my body in a different way. First, giving up man made sugars, and most grains and starches, made my body smaller. And while I could not really change the shape of my body without surgery, I started to think about all of the ways that it served me, even when I was abusing it. 

And I didn’t just abuse it with drug foods. I abused it with over exercising to the point of injury, and still exercising more because I wanted it to be thin, but I couldn’t stop eating. I abused it with laxatives. I drank castor oil. Eventually, I started to stick toothbrushes down my throat to make myself throw up the food that I could not stop eating. 

But when I got my eating under control, I necessarily had to have a different relationship with my body. I had to ask not what my body could do for me, but ask what I could do for my body. Not to whip it into shape. Not to make it lovable and attractive to anyone who happened to be in its vicinity, but to make sure it was taken care of. For me, because it *was* me. Make sure it was nourished and hydrated and strong and healthy. 

And that changed how I dealt with all of the unappealing parts of having a body. I am 43. My hormones are crazy right now. And I should probably expect that to continue for maybe another 10 years. That is a whole *decade*!!! But also, that is normal. It is completely expected for my woman’s body to experience this.

And this past week was hard. I was exhausted all week. I needed to lay on the couch and do nothing, not even knit or crochet! I had several outbreaks of cystic acne which are painful as well as ugly. I was cranky and sad and did lots of crying. And at least half of it was *not* over imaginary characters in novels, comics and TV shows. And of course, I still had to do all of the things that I have to do. I had to prep food and clean the kitchen (I totally half assed a lot of that, and my husband did some as well) and do the shopping and go to work.

But because I have a level of clarity about my life and my body from having my food taken care of, I am not angry at my body. I do not blame it for doing what bodies do. I feel like it is a very modern concept to think of one’s body as getting in the way of one’s life. We have created so many workarounds to get out of dealing with our physical humanity, that we don’t necessarily see what is natural and good. We spend so much time powering through, that we think our bodies are the problem, and not the lifestyle we have created that doesn’t have any room for the basic needs of actually *being* a carbon-based machine.

My eating boundaries have given me a sense of reality about my body. Not only about what it can and should look like in the real world (not according to the latest Photoshopped ad for designer jeans, or the ad promoting some supplement guaranteed to make you lose 10 pounds in 10 days), but also how I can expect to feel and what I can expect to be able to do. Realistically. Because I have a normal body doing normal things.

I like my full life. I like my job and my commitments. I like the people I work with and the friends that I have. I am not campaigning for less modern conveniences. I love my gadgets and my technology. I just don’t want to forget that my body is not some separate gadget. It doesn’t need an upgrade. It isn’t in the way of my life. It is my life. It is me. And I show myself how much I love me, by loving my body and honoring it exactly as it is. Flawed and sometimes uncomfortable, and gloriously, normally human.

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