Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “addiction”

I adjust for conflation

I was talking with a group of friends the other day about International Women’s Day, and someone mentioned movements like “fat is beautiful,” and “fat as a feminist issue.”

The truth is that I do think that fat is a feminist issue. I do think that being fat and being beautiful are not mutually exclusive. And at the same time, I absolutely hated being fat, and I never want to go back.

I think that part of the problem with these ideas is that we conflate them. Let me break it down for you. There is a difference between what you, as an individual with a body, want to believe about and do with your body, and what our society and culture tell you about what you *should* believe about and do with your body.

I have had to deal with this for myself. I had to do some serious and painful soul searching. Because I really hated being fat. I was miserable and I felt ashamed. I hated my body. I hated the way that I looked, and the way that I felt. I hated that I could not stop eating. I hated how hard it was to live in that body.

But separately, I also hated the way I was treated by others. I hated that people were given the “right” by our culture, to openly comment about my body. After all, this body is me and I am this body. Whatever its size and shape. If you shame my body, you shame me. If you disrespect my body, you disrespect me.

I have come to really understand, only after years of being in a comfortable body, a body that I am comfortable in, that just because I was unhappy with myself didn’t give anyone else the right to judge me. It was not ok that I was shamed and abused. It was not ok that I was humiliated by others. That I hated myself did not give friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers a pass for being jerks.

My food problem is a sickness. It is not cured by “pushing away from the table,” or “just not eating so much,” or “having willpower,” or “having some self-respect.” I don’t now, and never did, earn my place in the world by being beautiful, thin, accommodating, and feminine. I have always had a place in the world. I was born into it, by virtue of having a body.

And I will say that I consider myself to be incredibly beautiful (and my husband would add humble.) And I love it. And I don’t apologize for loving it. But it doesn’t define me. And I don’t owe it to others. Not to men on the street, not to my parents, not to friends, not to bosses. Not to my husband, either. I do not owe any particular body to anyone but myself.

So in honor of International Women’s Day, let me recommend to you that you love your body exactly as it is right now in this very moment. Remember that it *is* your place in the world. And if, like I once was, you are unhappy with the body you are in, love it anyway. I believe that it is only by loving ourselves first that we can make lasting change. If we are waiting to be “perfect” before we love ourselves, we will be waiting a very long time.


Hit ‘em where it hurts. The bank account.

My husband and I are in a town outside of Indianapolis for the next month or so, and I am having a hard time finding some of the things that I love to eat. So far, I have not been able to find Italian sausage that doesn’t have sugar, but that’s nothing new. However, I can’t find bacon without sugar here either. Ugh! Let me say that again. Ugh!

I cannot tell you how it makes me furious that companies put sugar in everything. Not only because I can’t eat them, but also because I believe that they are eroding our palates and our minds.

When I gave up sugar, my palate shifted. A lot. As a little kid, I loved Brussels sprouts. I loved cauliflower. As an older kid, teen, and young adult, I hated them. Hatred. Passionate, unyielding hatred. When I put down sugar in all forms except artificial sweeteners, and some fruits and vegetables, I gradually came to love them again. Now I also love chard, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, and mushrooms. I also enjoy carrots and squash, winter or summer.

By adding sugar and starch to everything, I think food companies are doing us a huge disservice. They are creating a culture that equates food with a “rush.” They are getting us addicted, as a society, to an additive that is cheap to them, but incredibly expensive, health and well-being wise, to us. They are setting us up to eat more than we know we need, and more than we want. They are getting rich off of giving us diseases and disorders.

I want to say clearly that I believe in personal responsibility. I don’t want to imply that I don’t. But doing what I do is hard. Seriously difficult. Worth it every time and in every way, but not simple. It takes a kind of determination and individuality, the ability to disregard the pull of “normalcy” in a culture that has taken up the mantle of pleasure over contentment, instant gratification over long-term fulfillment. And food companies are using our own survival/evolutionary instincts against us. They want profits to grow exponentially. How can they do that if we eat their food in moderation? The fatter we are, the fatter their profit margins are. Frankly, I think it’s sick. Morally bankrupt.

I know that many people can eat junk food in moderation. Bless them! To them I say, “Enjoy every bite!” But the rise of obesity in the western world shows that the way food is being produced, processed, and marketed is making most of us fat and sick.

And it’s making a girl who can’t find bacon she can eat annoyed and cranky. I don’t expect this to change any time in the near future. But I am going to make a recommendation to you. Read your labels. Even if you don’t change what you buy. Look at what these companies are offering. Notice them change. I have had to give up things I ate for years because someone decided to add sugar or starch.

But I will say this too. About 4 years ago, a company that made wheat germ changed its ingredients to add sugar. In that time, people who do what I do sent out the word to one another. We all stopped eating it. Now I am not saying that my small group was the reason, but less than a year later, the company changed back to the original, sugar-free formula. My guess is that the kind of people who eat wheat germ are generally people who care about what goes into their bodies. And when they saw that they were now getting sugar, they switched brands. Just like myself and others in my food community.

So remember that you can eat what you want, but also. you can vote with your wallet. And I highly recommend that.

I just have to do it.

So tomorrow is back on the road for another 20 hour drive. It will be my second in a week. Food is already cooked, portioned and packed up. Again.

When my alarm went off late this morning asking if I posted a blog this week, I let out some quality profanity. One more thing I have to do.

This blog is a priority for me. But I’m busy. And tired. And this has been a loooooooooong month. And the next three days aren’t offering much relief. So this may be a record for shortest blog entry ever.

I keep my food boundaries no matter what. I keep them in the face of driving 40 hours in less than 7 days. I keep them when I am tired, when I am sad, when I am cranky and overwhelmed. And the truth is, it will make the next two days easier, not harder. But I don’t like it. And I don’t have to. I just have to do it. Just like this blog.


Three gifts for hard times

Yesterday was a typical lazy Saturday with my husband until we got a call that a family member is dying. Someone my husband is very close with, whom I also love very much. It’s funny how the whole world can shift at a time like this. It’s the kind of thing that gives one a whole different perspective on one’s day-to-day life. The things that we worried about become insignificant. Work, or our apartment, or our cars, or money don’t seem to mean anything at a time like this. Suddenly everything is about connection, love, being there, saying I Love You.

I had worried so much about paying for this out-of-town apartment that we rent while our jobs were up in the air. But in this moment, paying this rent is not an issue. Paying to fly home is not an issue. (My husband is already on the road.) All of my anxiety about material things just flew out the window.

Having my eating under control meant that I could not go with my husband. I had to cook and prep and pack food for traveling. Because I keep my food boundaries no matter what. Even loved ones being sick and dying. Not taking care of myself is not proof of love. It’s not going to make anyone better if I say that my food, which is how I take care of my addiction, is not important. And even after this family member is gone I will have to go on living. So it makes sense to take care of my food, even if it means being separated from my husband for a few days, and taking longer to get home. That’s fine. It let my husband get on the road as soon as he could while I close up the apartment in case we are away for a long stretch. I’m sorry to be apart from him, but maybe he needs a little time to himself anyway.

There are 3 things that having my eating under control gives me that I am particularly grateful for in a moment like this.

1) I am able to be unselfish. Because when I am in the food, everything is about me, my life, how things will affect me. But today is not about me. I can be calm and clear headed. And that lets me be of service to my husband. Am I sad? Of course. But my sadness is not important right now. It’s my job to strong and useful.

2) I am aware of what is really important. And that is relationships. It’s the people that we love that make our lives what they are. And this is coming from an introvert and borderline misanthrope. At some point, all of us will die, but when you can see it coming, that’s an amazing opportunity to get completion and closure. It’s a chance to say “I love you.” “You were important in my life.” “You made an impact.”

3) I am able to go with the flow. This situation is the kind of thing that comes out of the blue. There was no preparing for it. So the only thing there is to do is go with the flow. Fighting and resisting are not going to help. They won’t change the situation. I learned that when I got control of my eating. I spent my time as a compulsive eater trying to control everyone and everything. And not doing a very good job of it. Today I can let life be what it is. That doesn’t mean I don’t care. It just means I don’t waste my energy trying to will the world to be that way I think it should be. I can use that energy to love, to help, to make others comfortable.

So for now I have a lot to do. And I am grateful for the personal power and clarity that my eating boundaries have given me at such a difficult time. And I am most grateful to be present for the person I love most when he needs me to be available for him.


Gratitude for the guilt-free bare minimum

I have been thinking about my fitness level a lot lately. I have been slow on my jog, and not getting any faster. And not trying to get any faster. My experience is that faster comes in its own. Or it doesn’t.

But I am fascinated by the fact that in about 2 weeks of not jogging (October 26th to November 11th, due to such extreme, though temporary, changes in my time and living situation) I managed to lose all of the progress I had made over a year. And two months of being back on my regimen hasn’t done much to catch me back up.

The truth is, it’s fine. I don’t actually care about my run time (though I do still track it.) I don’t care about “leveling up.” I care about making a commitment, and sticking to it.

Just like I have rules around my eating, I have rules around my workout. I jog 2 miles a day, 5 days a week. I can’t jog 4 miles in one day and have that count as 2 jogs. I have to do the 2 miles at the same time. I can’t walk, but I can be slow as long as I keep up a jogging pace. As long as I hit these marks, I have fulfilled my promise to myself.

I learned this from getting my food under control. That was the first time I understood guilt-free eating. There were rules, and as long as what I was eating was by the rule book, I didn’t have to feel guilty. Pork rinds and bacon are on my food plan. I used to eat apples that weighed over a pound for breakfast. (Lately I find a 14 oz apple is enough. That’s still a pretty huge apple, by the way.) Some people consider this “working the system.” I know because I have had people tell me as much. But that is because they don’t understand the goal. They think the goal is weight-loss. They think the goal is a diet. They think the goal is skinny. Or when it comes to working out, they think the goal is to look like a fitness model on a magazine cover. But none of those things are my life goals.

The goal of a regular, specifically defined workout for me is not beauty or perfection. The goal is not even progress. The goal is not to be skinny. It is not to be muscular. It is not to be an award winning athlete. It is not to be an athlete at all. My goal is to help this body, that I had abused with food and excess weight for so long, age as gracefully and healthily as possible. And to keep a promise to myself that is sustainable and makes me feel like I have accomplished something.

I spent the first 28 years of my life completely undisciplined, and unfocused. I was a slave to food, but also to instant gratification. I hated living in a fat body, but didn’t do anything about it and didn’t know how. Because I didn’t know how to be gentle with myself. I didn’t understand the power of the bare minimum. Because I would not be able sustain this lifestyle without a clearly defined bare minimum. If I didn’t know it was ok to do the least, on the days I couldn’t manage to do my best, I would quit.

Now, on the days that I don’t want to jog, I still jog. I jog slow. I jog cranky. I jog resentfully (until the endorphins kick in, anyway.) But I jog. And that is enough to keep the guilt at bay. Because if I am not guilty, I don’t need to quit. But more importantly, I don’t have an excuse to quit.


Life is fast and I am slow

I feel like I need to write about the fact that I am still not writing, aside from my weekly blog post here. But I am definitely not writing fiction. I feel like I have to mention it because it is exactly the kind of thing that easily fades away from my own mind if I don’t keep talking about it, if I don’t keep it fresh. It has happened before and I have let my writing fall through the cracks. My world has changed significantly in the past month, and I am getting my bearings and finding my footing.

It’s interesting to me how I forget all the time that this is the way life works. Yes, I have a particularly mutable lifestyle. I am very happy with it. But change is the only constant in life for everyone. It has always been this way. I just didn’t recognize it until I got my eating under control.

And I probably didn’t recognize it because I was holding on to things too long and too tightly. Sometimes long after they ceased to be.

I sometimes think about the ways my physical self and my emotional self mirror one another. I literally have a hard time remembering to physically put things down. I will hold on to objects, even when they are getting in my way. For example, sometimes at the grocery store, I will have my wallet in my hand while I am trying to load an entire cart full of groceries onto the conveyor belt. Obviously this is a task that would be better done two-handed. All I would have to do is put my wallet in my pocket or my purse. But it does not occur to me. The wallet is already in my hand.

This is also how I find myself acting in life. A few months ago, I already had a routine. And instead of rearranging my life, I have been trying to fit 40 hours of work into the routine I already had. Needless to say, it’s not working out as well as I had expected. (No, I have no idea why I would expect that to go well.)

I have a quick mind and wit, but emotionally, I am slow. Slow to recognize. Slow to get comfortable. Slow to decide. Slow to change.

When I got my eating under control, I started to understand what it meant to “go with the flow.” I learned about “life on Life’s terms.” I learned to accept things the way that they were, and most importantly, that when I accepted them fully, exactly as they were in the moment, it was only then that I had a chance to change them.

I read something the other day about sayings that people hate. (I read a lot of random stuff on the internet.) And one person hates the phrase, “it is what it is.” I, personally, love that phrase. It may be obvious, particularly linguistically, but to a past version of me, it was frustrating if the way it was didn’t match the way I thought it should be.

Right now, I am not writing fiction. And that is what it is. But I want to. And I am slow to change. So I am going to keep talking about it, and writing about it, and meditating about it. And I don’t doubt that something will shift. That I will notice that I am trying to load a cart of groceries with my wallet in my hand and finally manage to put it down. Because life is full of changes anyway. And did I mention I’m slow?


Grateful I didn’t have to eat myself sick

Another non-Thanksgiving is under my belt. My husband joined some friends for a pot luck dinner at his local bar, and I showed up for about 45 minutes and had a diet soda. But I didn’t cook, which I don’t do anyway. Cook Thanksgiving dinner, that is. Of course, I cook all the time. Mostly every day. Just not the stuff Thanksgiving is made of.

Obviously I don’t eat the traditional sides. No potatoes. No sweet potatoes. No glazed carrots. (Nothing glazed, as a matter of fact. Though I do enjoy roasted or steamed carrots.) No stuffing. No casserole. No fruit except at breakfast, so no cranberry sauce. (I do sometimes make apple cranberry or orange cranberry compote this time of year for breakfast, by the way, though not lately.) No dinner rolls. No cornbread. And I don’t like turkey.

I could make a sugar-free version of pumpkin pie, or cheesecake. But I don’t love pumpkin pie. And I already make my sugar-free cheesecake when I crave it, so I don’t need it specifically for Thanksgiving.

Basically, Thanksgiving is a food holiday and it is not for me. Am I grateful? Of course I am. I have a beautiful, happy life. But this particular holiday is not filled with non-edible traditions. We don’t exchange gifts, wear ugly sweaters, put up lights. Who has ever heard of a Thanksgiving Carol? We don’t wear costumes, go dancing, put on pageants, exchange cards, or give flowers. There is football, but I care about football only slightly more than I care about food I don’t eat.

So I did not participate in Thanksgiving, but I did not miss it at all. And I certainly hope yours was lovely. I hope it was cozy and sweet and filled with love. And I hope all of you “normal eaters” enjoyed gorging yourselves that one day a year you let yourself go crazy with food.

I, personally, am grateful that I didn’t have to.


Irrational thoughts about value

So work. It’s a thing for me again. I started working for my husband’s company (again) this week. 
First, there is the whole food thing for me. I have to make lunches in advance so I can grab them in the morning and go. But, of course, that is something that I have been doing to travel a lot lately, so this has been, in some ways, on a smaller scale. I haven’t had to prep every single meal for days. I have just had to make lunches. And I have worked before. I was single for 35 years, after all. So I know how this goes.

But the first few days of work have been bumpy. Mostly, it’s just that there is some sort of problem with my work computer that the company sent to me. And instead of sending me a new one, they are trying to fix it remotely. For days. Several days.

But all of my work is to be done on this computer. In other words, there is nothing for me to do without it. So they are just not having me come in. So my first week of work has barely included any work. And I still have no idea when the computer, or at least computer, will be available for me. And nobody is telling me anything.

Needless to say, I’m frustrated. 

But there is something else. I am having a hard time not feeling like should be doing something about it. Or it is my fault, or my responsibility.

Rationally, I know that this is stupid. I didn’t build the computer. And I didn’t break it. I have done everything I could to help the IT people fix it. I have offered information. I have stayed on the phone and helped with lost internet connections. And I have stayed home and not worked when I was asked to. 

But there is this nagging feeling like I could do more. That I should be doing more. 

And I need to squash this feeling. Because it is false, and blaming myself for things beyond my control is not only silly, it’s destructive to a person like me.

Work is an area in my life where you could say I still have a lot of fear. It’s not that I haven’t been a good employee. I certainly have. I am smart and capable. And I am willing to take direction, and I love to learn new things anyway. 

But I have issues. Value issues. Worth issues. I have had them all my life. And I am sure that in some ways they are tied to the fact that I am an addict.

My inability to control my eating for so long made me feel worthless and ashamed. How could I expect to succeed in anything when I couldn’t even take care of my own body? How could I fix or help others when I couldn’t even fix or help myself? What does a person like that, a person like me, even deserve? Money? Money for services rendered? 

Of course, the answer to that is yes. If I do the job, I deserve to get paid for it. But even as I write yes, there is a part of me that says “just for doing the job? Don’t you have to really prove your worth?”

I am talking about the irrational here. If I do the job, I am worth the money. Obviously. But that is not always obvious to the shamed, embarrassed, sorry compulsive eater that lives in me. 

I am sure this will change. Slowly, but surely. Already it is changing. It’s changing because I am writing about it right here. And saying the scary things out loud, and shining a light on them is the surest way I know to start a shift.


My built-in forgetter

I had gained some weight a few weeks ago. Not too much, but I had noticed it. And I knew what it was. It was soy nuts.

Soy is a protein that is within my food boundaries. And I almost never eat it for a few reasons. It gives me indigestion. It makes me groggy. And it makes me gain weight. But when I do eat it, I have a hard time stopping.

The truth is that I have had this problem with soy products (specifically soy nuts, soy nut butter, and soy flour) ever since I started putting boundaries around my eating. And yet, every few years, I buy these soy products, eat them, they make me sick, stupid and unhappy, and I quit. But not before I fight it. I never want to quit. But somehow I always manage to, and then, after some time passes, in my head, I’ll start to negotiate with myself about if, when, and under what circumstances I can have soy again. It will go something like, “soy nut butter is a problem, but soy nuts are ok. If I just have them once in a while it will be fine. An ounce once or twice a week wouldn’t make any difference.”

But I am not good at having a little bit of soy once in a while. I will mean to have one ounce, but then while I am making dinner, I will rationalize that it would be okay to have two, as long as I don’t have any later in the week. But of course, later in the week I will rationalize myself into another two ounces. In other words, I will end up having at least twice the amount of soy I wanted to have. And here’s the thing that I know and I don’t like to admit: soy nuts get me high!

That’s what the grogginess is. It’s me being high. That’s why I can’t stop eating them. That’s why I continue to rationalize why it will be okay to eat just a little every once in a while, even though I always end up eating more than I mean to. I don’t eat more than I am allowed within my eating boundaries, but I eat an amount that I know will make me gain weight, all the while lying to myself that the amount I am eating will not make me gain weight. I rationalize and renegotiate with myself so I can get my fix. I am telling you that I behave like an addict when I eat that stuff.

Some people say that addicts have a “built-in forgetter.” Why else would someone who has experienced the very worst of addiction firsthand, and managed to quit, ever use again? But we do. Staying sober is easier than getting sober, and yet all the time, people get sucked back in to something they know is disastrous for them.

Non-addicts have a lot of judgment about this. They think that knowing oneself should be enough. They think that being rational should be the answer. But addiction is not rational.

I will assure you that my soy nut addiction is in no way as bad as my sugar addiction. Yes, there are levels of addiction and there are things in my life that maybe aren’t the best choices for me, but I am willing to live with them. (I’m looking at you artificial sweetener.) If I “fall off the wagon” and eat soy nuts in a couple of months or years, it will not kill me. It will not ruin my life, the way sugar would. It will not send me into a spiraling depression, like sugar would. But it would still be a burden of sorts.

I want to note a few things. I am not saying that soy nuts are bad. I am saying that they are bad for me. And I am not really judging myself for eating them. They are within my boundaries, and I never have to feel guilty for anything I eat that is within my boundaries. I am simply saying that I am an addict through to the core of my being, and I need to be conscious of the ways that I act out addictive behaviors.

I threw away the soy nuts this last time. Probably almost two pounds of them. Whatever they cost, they were not worth nearly as much as my peace of mind around my weight. And I am still trying to lose the weight I gained from them. Because I don’t know if you have ever noticed, but a human body can gain in two days what will inevitably take a month to lose.

But there is something else I am besides an addict. I am recovering. And in some ways, that makes me a spiritual powerhouse. Because I know how to look at myself honestly, make choices about how I want to live, and make commitments that keep me in line with those choices. And even if I manage to forget everything I know today, and pick up those soy nuts one more time, I have the tools it takes to put them back down. Again. And again.



From instant gratification to the long slow dance of application.

There are things about life that my addict self is bad at. Like process. Like anything slow that takes effort. Like anything that doesn’t come naturally to me.I’m good at stuff. I’m smart. And I have always had a knack for understanding the way things fit together. Literally and figuratively. 

But being good at stuff made me impatient. When “easy” is the norm, anything remotely difficult becomes frustrating. And I never dealt well with frustration. I learned to numb it early. I used sugar. I got through life that way. I didn’t shine. But I did get by. 

But it made people call me lazy. I suppose that is one way of looking at it. But in the past few years I have chosen to have some compassion for the person I was then. I was overwhelmed. I was terrified. And I was in the throes of an addiction I didn’t even understand.

When I put boundaries around my eating, I wasn’t expecting anything except to deal with my weight. But it ended up shifting the way I saw the world. It made me less afraid of failure, and more willing to take risks. And it freed up a lot of time. And time opened me up to the possibility of process.

For one thing, I didn’t have the option of zoning out on sugar, so when I came to the point where I got frustrated with something, I couldn’t get so high I just forgot about it. And also, getting high on sugar went from being the most important thing to me, to being the thing to be avoided like the plague. All of a sudden, I needed other things to fill my time. 

A little over 2 years ago, I first tried to learn to knit. I tried on and off for over a year and a half. Did you get that? Over a year and a half. From March 2014 to November 2015, I tried and failed to knit. 

In November, something clicked for me and I finished my first project, a simple basket weave baby blanket. And suddenly, I could knit.

There are different ways to knit that have to do with where you hold your working yarn in relation to the needles. (I happen to be a continental knitter, in case you were wondering.) But there are also ways that people knit that are about the way one thinks about knitting. In other words, are you a project knitter, or a process knitter?

A project knitter sees a scarf, a sweater, a pair of socks, or a bag and thinks “I want to make that for myself or a loved one.” A process knitter sees a stitch, a pattern, or a technique and thinks “I want to be able to do that!”

I, personally, think of it as a continuum, more like you fall somewhere on the spectrum of “project” to “process,” than being strictly one or the other. But I am pretty we’ll situated on the process side. 

I like acquiring skills. I like learning things. I like the challenge and the reward.

What an amazing thing that was to learn about myself! What a miracle to discover that inside that “lazy” girl who insisted on instant gratification, was a woman who loved the long, slow dance of attention and application. 

I am not saying I don’t get frustrated when something takes me longer to learn than I think it should. I occasionally groan and curse and put it away for the time being. But in the end I am always called back to learning. I guess it’s just the way I am. And I never would have known if I hadn’t put boundaries around my eating.


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