onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “addiction”

In defense of sugar. JK! It apparently has enough defenders.

I saw two things on social media this week that frustrated me. Both of them were about how sugar is “not the problem.”

One of them was a tweet from an obesity doctor that said that when people come into his office and say they gave up sugar and lost weight, they really mean they gave up junk food. What they really did, according to this doctor, was reduce fat, starch, and calories, not just sugar. He literally ends his tweet with “It wasn’t just the sugar.”

And the other was an article about debunked health myths. And one of the “debunked” myths is that sugar is addictive. First, the title of the section is “Sugar is as addictive as heroin.” This is the last line of the section:

“So, scientists don’t know what addiction in the brain looks like, yet, and until that mystery is solved we should not be living in fear from something as fanciful as sugar addiction.”

Fanciful. Total silliness! Ridiculous! Go get yourself a cake and hang out in a food coma until scientists agree that sugar addiction is a thing. Or better yet, a diabetic coma. Whatever.

The thing that really pisses me off about both of these is the condescension . If you believe that sugar is the problem, you are an idiot. You are delusional. “What people are *really* doing is cutting calories, but they are too stupid/brainwashed to understand.” “Its fanciful to believe that sugar could be addictive.”

I believe in science. I don’t want to imply that I don’t. But I also believe that science, and our true understanding of the effects of something, can be limited by our biases, preconceived notions, and beliefs. I believe that the food industry has knowingly and purposely propped up sugar as “innocuous” for over half a century. “Food is food.” “A calorie is a calorie.”

But we have paid the price for it. There is more sugar in our diets than ever before, and there is more obesity in 1st World civilization than ever before. And I cannot stand this defense of sugar, and the subsequent shaming of people suffering from obesity, in the name of science.

“It’s not the sugar. It’s you. You are the problem.”

First, I do believe that sugar is addictive, but that not everyone is as likely to become addicted. I happen to believe that I have a predisposition to become addicted in general, and that I am addicted to sugar. But I know plenty of people who can and do eat sugar in moderation and do not suffer from health problems in any way from their sugar consumption. My husband is one of those people. I buy him sugar all the time. I pack it in his lunch. I keep it in the house for him.

And second, I am for freedom. True freedom. If you want to eat sugar all day, I believe that is your right. Even if it means morbid obesity. Even if it leads to diabetes and hypertension and Alzheimer’s and stroke. Even if it means suffering. I am not going to tell you how to eat. That is none of my business. And I don’t think it should be.

But I am not for the shaming of humans in defense of sugar. Nor am I for the belittling of my intelligence because science has not come to a consensus on whether sugar is addictive. As a person with a very clear experience of sugar as an addiction, I do not doubt that science will eventually show what I already know. But even if it doesn’t, that in no way diminishes my experience that when I abstain completely from sugars, grains, and starch, excepting some whole fruits and vegetables, I do not crave more than is healthy, and I do not suffer from food obsession.

But I can’t help but be frustrated that an obesity doctor would be so obnoxious about people, his own patients, who say they gave up sugar and lost weight. Is *he* a sugar addict? Or is he being paid off to downplay the effects of sugar on a person’s health? Otherwise, I can’t see why he would go out of his way to point out his patients’ “wrongness,” to defend a substance. It seems cruel and rude to me.

I will close with this. My whole life, growing up fat, doctors and nutritionists would tell me to eat sugar in moderation. But I cannot eat sugar in moderation. I cannot eat a slice of cake. It is either no cake, or the whole cake. I don’t have a done button. So, as far as I am concerned, any obesity doctor who can’t even consider the possibility of sugar addiction for some number of his patients, is not very good at his job.

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They call them accidents for a reason. That still doesn’t make them fun.

In a twisted way, I am sort of happy to have to write this blog today. Because I am a firm believer in authentic sharing. I want people to know that I have bad days and bad moments. I make mistakes. I don’t like the way social media has made us frame ourselves in a “perfect” light, where we only show our best sides and hide our wrong-doings and our problems.

I was in my first car accident as a driver this week. I rear-ended someone. Nobody was hurt. His car had minimal cosmetic damage. My car has minor damage. It was a fender-bender.

But good lord was I humiliated and ashamed. I cried on and off for about 24 hours. I did manage to get back on the road the next day. It was not as terrifying as I thought it would be. I am incredibly sensitive. I have a lot of very big, unwieldy feelings. So I was deeply shaken at first. But I got back in the car, and it was OK.

My mom’s mom never drove in my lifetime. She once told me she drove as a teenager, but got into a minor accident early and never got behind the wheel again. That could easily have been me.

And driving has always been loaded for me. As a small child I used to have nightmares about having to drive a car and not knowing how. They started when I was about 4 or 5. In fact, they may be my earliest memories. I was so small that in my dreams I had to lean all the way out of the car to pull the door closed. That is how vivid they still are. So a real-life car accident brought up some really old wounds.

Also, the guy was awful. He kept calling me a stupid bitch and a stupid motherfucker. His girlfriend showed up and she refused to look at me. And all of this upsets me because I was so sincere in my apology. I did not argue or try to blame him. I really wanted to make amends and do what was right. I called the police myself. I got the ticket. I called my insurance company. I was taking responsibility for my actions. And he could not see my sincerity. He would not look at my humanity.

But I did not have to eat these feelings. Not the humiliation of having hit someone’s car, or the humiliation of being verbally abused. I did not have to numb them with sugar. I hated feeling them. But to eat them would just be to stuff them down. A good 24 hours of crying helped me get them out. The only way out is through. It always has been. And not being high on food meant that I could think; I could be calm and rational. Ok, rational-ish. But I didn’t have to stew on it. And I didn’t do anything to make the situation worse because I couldn’t be honest or responsible.

I am grateful to have my eating under control every time my life is difficult. A difficult situation is just a situation. Food is the only real problem I have. And while I keep it under control, it’s not even that.

I hated what happened. It was a terrible experience for me. But life is not only made up of good experiences. This is how it is. And it could have been so much worse. I could have had an accident, and then eaten sugar over it. And then I would be miserable, would probably have done something really stupid, and without a chance of getting over it.

I can do anything for a month

I have been eating a lot of things that are not my favorite lately. It’s fine. I’m not exactly complaining. (OK, maybe a little.) But I’m not unhappy.

When I gave up sugar and carbs over 12 years ago, I realized that I could. That I could have power over what I “wanted” or “craved.” And while I would never eat things I didn’t like as a way of life (I am not “on a diet”) I can eat in a way that is not my favorite for a limited amount of time. I can do anything for 2 weeks or a month.

I have been taking a supplement that *ahem* backs you up. I will probably need to take it for another week or so. So that has meant, and will continue to mean, lots of big salads, and even more water than usual. Plus, I am staying away from my fattier proteins for the moment. In other words, more eggs and lean meats, less sausage and pork rinds.

Look, I make really good salads. But they are big at a time when I am not looking forward to big meals. And they are not gooey onions, or spicy, greasy Asian style cauliflower rice, or deep-fried Brussels sprouts. And I love steak. But I love pork products more.

But the other thing is all things in moderation. (Except man made sugar and carbs because that shit will kill me. Literally.) So yesterday, I ate a big, delicious portion of pork rinds with my big, crunchy, roughage-laden salad. And it was amazing!

I can become obsessive when it comes to “doing it right.” I can get so bogged down in perfection, that I can fail to see that sometimes I’m hurting more than I am helping. So today I am back to eggs and lean meat. But one night of grease and crunch was just what the doctor ordered. And I am sure that the doctor will order something along those same lines again before I’m done.

Commitments, alarms, and reminders. Oh my!

I set alarms for so many things in my life. Just now, an alarm went off asking if I posted a blog this week. And the answer was no, and I had totally forgotten. But I had an alarm set, so here I am.

Before I got my eating under control, I had people in my life, people I paid in either time or money, like a personal trainer, and a life coach, telling me to make plans, and keep those plans, regardless of how I felt. And I refused. Where was the joy in that? What about spontaneity? What about fun? What about what I “felt like” or “had a craving for?” What about eating out with friends or last-minute adventures?

When I got my eating under control, I realized how much I was self-sabotaging by clinging to what I thought was spontaneity and fun, but was really just an out to let myself not do something uncomfortable. I didn’t want to plan what I was going to eat because then, if I didn’t follow through, I might have to look at myself. If there was no rule, there was no rule to break, and no behavior to scrutinize.

The truth is that 1) planning makes it easier, not harder, to eat out with friends and take on last-minute adventures. With my eating under control and firm boundaries around food, there are fewer moving parts. The food has to hit certain marks. Once those marks are hit, everything else can be pretty loosey-goosey. And 2) the things that I was fighting against were not boredom or monotony, but long-term fulfillment.

Instant gratification and long-term fulfillment occupy the same space, so you can really only choose one. If I don’t want to go for a jog, I can think of a million excuses not to. I need the sleep, my hip is tight, I should do x instead. But what happens is it becomes easier to not jog. Every time becomes easier. And suddenly, I don’t do that anymore.

That is how every diet ever worked for me. I went on a diet. Instant gratification won once. Then it gradually became the norm. Then I was not on a diet. Then I gained back all the weight I lost, and then some.

I love my life of rules and reminders. I love my alarms. I love the sameness of people calling me every day at the same time to make a commitment of what they will eat the next day, and my call every day at the same time, to commit to what I am going to eat the next day. To have a plan and a commitment to that plan. To have a witness and to be a witness.

I won’t pretend that I am a particularly spontaneous person, though I have my moments. My rigorous adherence to my rules and reminders and commitments gives me a great sense of peace. And I cherish that peace. But also, I have made some bold choices and some daring leaps, because I am grounded in my commitments. After all, I left my home and my city about a month after I re-met my husband, to start a new relationship where I travel around the country with him, constantly moving. That’s pretty bold, if I do say so myself.

I did not used to like promising things to myself. And I used the excuse of freedom. But I was never free until I gave myself boundaries. Since I put boundaries around my eating, I have found that many things that seem counterintuitive are absolutely right. Boundaries lead to freedom. Commitment leads to spontaneity. Rigidity offers fluidity.

You are what you eat. You eat what you think.

I am a believer in language. I believe that the language we use not only expresses what we mean, but, in part, helps to create the world we live in. That it shapes our perceptions, which in turn, create our reality.

When I meet people who are trying to give up sugar and carbs, I discourage certain words and phrases. For example, I recommend they stop saying they are giving up the “foods they love,” or “favorite foods.” I recommend they not say they “miss” those foods. I suggest they not think fondly of the memory of those foods. That, in fact, they not think about those foods at all. Those foods are making them miserable. They are hurting and tormenting them. They are like an abusive partner. I believe we, as sugar addicts, need to stop telling ourselves things like “ but I love x” and “but y is so good.” These things are killing us. It’s like saying that you are bummed about having the black eye, but your abuser is a good guy. Remember all the times he bought you flowers?

My relationship with sugar and carbs seems pretty close to that kind of abusive relationship. The truth is that food was there for me at first. It wooed me by helping me get through life as a kid. I needed it to cope with a lot of unhappiness. But it turned on me pretty quickly. And by that point I was trapped. Or at least I felt trapped.

So now my “favorite foods” only include foods that I can eat within my boundaries. I only “love” foods that keep me nourished and sane. I don’t “miss” foods I am addicted to. Because peace and freedom are the most important things to me. And I don’t want to create a reality where my “favorite” things are things that are killing me and my happiness.

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.

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