onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “being good enough”

I don’t want to feel broken even after the broken part got fixed

I have been struggling with how I feel about a recent(ish) weight again. I feel like this happens once a year or so, in the past 4 years. I gain weight. For no discernible reason. I do not change the way I eat, at least not it in any major way. I just gain weight. Eventually I lose it. (At least that has been the case so far.) And then I gain it back months later. And then lose it again. Back and forth, over and over.

When my gram was sick in the hospital before she died, I lost a lot of weight in a few months. I definitely was not trying. I just dropped weight. I got down to about 131-133 pounds. That’s skinny for me. I was still pretty curvy, but definitely skinny. And from about April of 2010 to about August of 2012 I stayed basically the same weight. I stayed skinny regardless of what I ate. I ate a lot of bacon. I ate a lot of fried foods. I had to add a second piece of fruit to my day to keep from losing even more weight. And I just stayed skinny. 
But ever since I quit smoking, my weight has fluctuated wildly. A huge gain in the months following the weight loss. 3 years of maintaining that higher weight. Then I lost it in just a couple of months. Never all the way back down to my skinniest, but back into my size 6 jeans. Then a gain and a loss and a gain and a loss. Again and again.
A friend who has thyroid problems recommended I get mine checked. It’s not a terrible idea. But living on the road makes it a bit of a pain. Though we have great insurance and I could find a doctor anywhere. 
But the problem is also that I don’t like doctors. Having grown up fat, I don’t trust them to listen to me, to respect me, to look at me with anything except what seems to be a disdain for my lack of willpower. I was told for a long time that everything that was wrong with me was that I was fat. And that I could do something about it if I would only pull myself up by my bootstraps, or whatever. 
It’s hard for me to take doctors seriously when they all had opinions about me, but none of them could actually help. They sent me to nutritionists who told me to eat in moderation. They didn’t understand why I couldn’t just stick to a diet. They were frustrated and angry with me. For not being good enough. It’s hard for me not to feel like they were the ones who weren’t good enough. That they were the ones who failed me. That they shamed me for my disease, when they didn’t actually understand the disease. And kept forcing on me a “cure” that wasn’t.
But that’s unfair. Kind of, anyway. Because I don’t know if I would have been able to give up sugar if that had been the recommended treatment. I don’t know if 12 or 16 or 23-year-old Kate would have been available for that. Thank God 28-year-old Kate was. That took care of the eating. And most of the weight.
I don’t want to worry about my weight. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to care about it. I don’t want to be ruled by how much gravity is exerted on my body. I want to take care of it to the best of my ability, and just have that be enough. I want to nourish it and hydrate it and move it with love.
I probably should find out if my thyroid is not working properly. I should probably brave the doctor and find out if there is something wrong with my hormones, something that could be corrected. For that love of my body. Not to squish it into a socially acceptable size and shape. 
But that said, even if I do get my thyroid checked and it turns out that I am not running at 100%, I don’t want to care about my size. I don’t want to judge myself for the size of my butt or my belly or my thighs. I don’t want to feel like I am sick or broken because I am not skinny anymore. Especially when the thing that was most sick and broken about myself, my eating, my addiction to sugar and carbohydrates , is taken care of, with commitment and honor and love, 3 times a day. No matter what.
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Easing into Oklahoma

I am already pretty used to my new routine here in Oklahoma. I am enjoying my outdoor jog in the morning. Though admittedly, it is still pretty chilly when I go. I don’t exercise well in the heat. Which is surprising for someone who is almost always cold in temperatures below 75, and doesn’t seem to notice the heat when not exercising. When I stopped eating sugar I started to get cold. I lost weight, of course. But even when I am not particularly skinny, I still get cold easily. 

I have also been eating lighter out of necessity. Mostly just for breakfast. There are not a lot of the really decadent breakfast foods here that there were in my neighborhood in Tennessee. There are no giant 12-15 oz honeycrisp apples, or 5+ lb cantaloupes. No honeydew melons bigger than my giant head. I have been having 8 oz of frozen strawberries in a smoothie for breakfast. It’s delicious. And a lot smaller than my Tennessee breakfasts, and also a lot fewer calories. Because I can’t get my really super decadent Greek yogurt here. The one with a hundred more calories per serving than any other plain Greek yogurt. (Also, I don’t count calories. I just happen to know that’s the case.)
But I’m not unsatisfied. It’s delicious. I feel sated when I’m done. All is well.
I have not noticed any weight loss. Which is, of course, not why I am eating less. I am eating what I most want to eat given all of my options within my boundaries. It is how I always eat. But I had wondered if smaller fruits and less fat would make a difference with my weight.

I have also wondered if my stress levels going back to basically normal will affect my weight. My experience is that stress causes me to gain and lose weight. My last job ended with me under a lot of stress. This job started out difficult and stressful. A few weeks in it is starting to go more smoothly. Things are falling into place better. The other job is done. Perhaps that will shed a few of these pounds.
I want to say that I wish I didn’t care about my weight. I wish I didn’t see it as such an indication of how “good” I am. That is an old story and it has never done anything worthwhile for me. I am in better shape now than I have ever been. I have not been skinny and in great shape ever. It has only been in the past 4 or so years that I have been so fit. And I have never been skinny in all that time. 
My run has gotten easier too. I don’t want to cry every time I get to the big hill on my jogging path. And since 5 laps is 2 miles, that’s 5 fewer times I want to cry (and swear) in a day. Which I am grateful for. And I am significantly faster now than I was when I started 2 weeks ago. 
I am always amazed by how quickly my body can adapt to things. This jogging path seemed like such a burden when I started using it. I kept thinking I wanted to find a gym and run on a treadmill. But the truth is, now I do not miss the treadmill at all. And I am loving the outdoor experience. I used to only run outside, and forgot how much I appreciate it. And I forgot how much a little variation in incline and direction can make a difference in my stamina and health. I am in even better shape for the change. Plus I hope that a gradual change in the weather will ease me into running outside in the heat of summer.
I am reminded that I always get better than I think I want. That whenever something goes away, something else shows up. Usually better. At least in some way or on some level I wasn’t expecting. I lost a gym in my apartment complex and gained a better workout. I lost giant fruits and fatty yogurt and got reminded that I adore smoothies for breakfast. And I am reminded that I can always eat foods that I love, wherever I am and whatever I am doing. Because the foods that I love are not limited to sugars and carbs. They are fruits and vegetables and proteins and fats. They are seasonings and flavors. And I eat all of it without guilt or shame. 

The ability to be uncomfortable long enough to make a change.

I am having some problems at work. Personality problems. And they difficult to navigate. It takes a lot of restraint on my part. 

The other day the personality I have the most trouble with made trouble between me and another worker. Thankfully, I calmed down (way way down) before I talked to this other worker. And because I went in calm, and did not act out like the crazed person I felt like, all turned out just fine. It turned out to be a miscommunication. It was presented to me differently by that first personality.
That first personality likes to create panic. I don’t have time for panic. I don’t have room to be guided by my feelings. (Not my intuition, from which I do have room for guidance. Feelings. Yucky, human, unpredictable, physical reactions to situations.)
Feelings are useful, certainly. They let us know when we are on the right track. They also let us know when we need change.
I masked my feelings with food for the first 28 years of my life. It was easy to live in the discomfort of something being wrong when I never had to experience the discomfort.
When I first got control of my eating, I was so bad at living with discomfort that I would rush headlong into “fixing” my problems so I could get past the uncomfortable part. I didn’t have much grace, but I did start to get myself some boundaries. Not just around my food, but around all aspects of my life. And while I had a lot of apologies and amends to make for my rashness, I was actually getting things done for myself and making changes in my life.
But now, I try to be softer on myself. I have frustrations, and things make me angry, but I can take my time to consider how I am going to deal with them. Not everything has to be now. Because I can be uncomfortable. (That’s a blessing!)
If you don’t know, I am blunt. I don’t like to talk around things. I don’t like to give wishy-washy answers to things for the sake of politeness. I think direct honesty is infinitely more polite. And I don’t think “no” is rude or wrong. I think it’s quality information. I like quality information. It saves me time and trouble.
For example, if I go to a restaurant and ask if the asparagus can be made without the parmesan cheese, and my server tells me “Probably not,” they have not helped me. They have not done me any favors. They have now forced me to ask more questions about the asparagus. And they have not been any more polite than if they had said, “No. it’s already pre prepped with the cheese.” At least then, I could move on.
But being blunt at work is harder. It’s harder to set boundaries with people who, technically, could get you fired, even if they can’t fire you themselves. It’s also harder to be straightforward with people who are passive-aggressive. They have already set up the context for a given communication, and trying to navigate that with both honesty and grace is not simple.
There are two major life lessons that I got from getting my eating under control that apply to this work conflict. The first is “When you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.” I get to take my time and trust that the right answer will come along at the right time. I don’t need to leap into action. I need to be committed to change, and keep my eyes and ears open for the best time to take the right action.
The second is that we do the best we can and let the chips fall where they may. I can certainly allow myself to bullied and cowed on a regular basis in order to avoid having a difficult conversation with someone higher up in the company than myself. I can let that difficult personality get me riled up and panic-stricken. And I can be constantly worried about the quality of my work, because that personality is looking to find fault (or maybe just looking to push someone around). But I am bad at that. And that is not the best I can do. The best I can do is set boundaries around how I will be treated.
I know that I am good at my job. Really really good at it. I know that I am friendly, efficient, organized, consistent, and that I have a great work ethic. I do not have any qualms about whether or not I am doing a good enough job. But that has nothing to do with office politics. And if I am going to be reprimanded for not accepting unacceptable treatment, then this is certainly not the job for me.
But the truth is, I don’t think this personality would ever really try to get me fired. I think they like the threat, and the power of the threat. I think everyone knows that I do quality work.
I forget that as an addict, I am not the only one who is sick. I forget that other people are sick and cruel and behave badly all the time and they’re not necessarily addicts. Or they are and it’s not obvious to me.
I will not make any rash decisions around this. But I will also not be treated poorly. I owe that to myself. Because I don’t have cake to numb the pain of abuse. And I do have the ability to be uncomfortable long enough to take a stand and make a change.

And the Kate award for Kate awesomeness goes to…Kate (Who could have seen that coming?)

When I gave up sugar, I figured I would end up with an average, boring, mediocre life. And that did not thrill me, but I had become so unhappy in that previous year with eating and body image disorders that I was willing to go to any lengths.

I had always despised the thought of my own mediocrity. Perhaps it was being a child who grew up in the 80s. Sesame Street told us we were all special. Perhaps it was that I had a huge personality and love of the attention of strangers. People expected me to be a performer. And that made me expect to be a star. Or perhaps it was that I was born with a lot of a particular kind of talent, the kind of keen intelligence that made understanding the world around me easy as a kid. People called me precocious. I expected that I would be able to win for my whole life as easily as I had early on.

This was not the case for several reasons. Obviously, my pool got smarter. It turns out, they put smart kids with other smart kids. Also, I was pretty fragile emotionally. I did not take failure well. And I didn’t learn much from it. The lessons I took from failure usually ended up being not to do that thing I was bad at anymore. And, probably most importantly, early in life I figured out that sugar and carbs would make all of my difficult feelings go away.

This life that I have now would almost certainly make child and teen Kate cringe. It would occur to her as pathetic and pointless. It would occur to her as mediocrity incarnate.

But I look at this life as particularly extraordinary. And I think it’s specialness, and the fact that I think so, is all about having my eating under control.

Being the person I am now means I judge my success in terms of my integrity, my growth, and my contentment, not accolades or prizes from outside. This lack of outside approval is exactly what mediocrity looked like to my young self. How would I know I was awesome unless someone else told me. Unless everyone told me. Unless *important* people told me.

I am not diminishing the power of “important” prizes. But not everyone is going to win a Pulitzer. And I don’t have to base my pride in my life on whether or not I do. (I am not even writing right now. But even if I were.)

When I got my eating under control, it finally clicked for me that wanting an outcome had nothing practical to do with getting it. By putting boundaries around food, I learned about taking action. I learned about practice. As crazy as it seems to me now, I somehow had it in my head that wanting to lose weight was enough. But it’s not that crazy when you consider that sugar gets me high like a drug. The thing that was making me fat was also muddling my thinking. It was a win-win for sugar and a lose-lose for me.

Sometimes people in the self-help world talk about visualization. I used to think this meant something like visualizing myself winning the Pulitzer. And while science says that there is a case for that kind of visualization being effective, what is more effective is visualizing oneself *doing the work.* Because if you picture yourself doing the work, you are more likely to actually do the work.

Through having my eating under control and thereby getting a body I could love and be comfortable in, I came to understand about the practicality of achieving something. I got this body by entirely changing the way I eat. I did something about my body. I didn’t just “want” it to be different, I did the work.

Between my meals, I do the next right thing in my life, whatever that is for my next goal. When I wasn’t working full time, it was writing. Now that I am working, it can be dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s on a particular work task, making sure I am doing my job to the best of my ability. Or in my free time it can be ripping out a section of knitting because I realized I did something wrong and I want to get it right. Or it can be drinking my water quota or going on my jog.

I practice the things I want for myself and the things I want to get better at. And in understanding practice, I have come to recognize that one doesn’t win a Pulitzer Prize by aiming to win one. One writes the book or the music. One does the thing. And maybe it strikes a chord with one’s fellow humans. Or maybe it doesn’t.

The idea that something I do won’t wow the world no longer feels mediocre to me. The idea that I do *anything,* especially with any semblance of integrity and consistency, whatever that may be, feels like I have become a powerhouse in the world. I feel like a shining example of accomplishment. And I haven’t won an award of any kind since high school.

I used to think that everyone understood life but me. I used to think that knowing with certainty what to do next was obvious to everyone else. I felt incapable compared to all of the confident, well-adjusted beings all around me. But I realized that most people are flying just as blind as I always was. They are just better at hiding it.

And I realized that wanting to be liked by others more than honoring oneself is about as average and mediocre as it gets. And here I am trying to impress the hell out of myself. That sounds pretty extraordinary to me, if I do say so myself.

Money, fame, and prestige

I just turned 41 about two weeks ago. I love my birthday. I love getting older. I love that at this age I am in the best shape of my life, and the happiest I have ever been.

In the wake of two high profile celebrity suicides, I read an article about the problem of American culture that can lead people who seemingly “have it all” to end their own lives. And the answer the article gave was that we are a culture that prizes accomplishments that reward us in the forms of money, fame, and prestige, and we believe that these things will bring us happiness. And when they don’t, we despair.

I don’t know if this is true, but it happens to be a very clear illustration of the difference between my own personal mental and emotional state as a compulsive eater, and as a keeper of eating boundaries.

Because in order to stop eating compulsively, I had to make friends with my life exactly the way it was. I had to stop thinking I should be doing “something” to make me stand out, when I didn’t even know what that something should be. I had to stop thinking I needed to be making huge strides toward some great goal, when just the thought of such a stride left me paralyzed with fear. And I had to relinquish what I thought was control, but what just tujrned out to be wanting, followed by the pain of not getting exactly what I wanted. That was the pain of thinking that if I were better, if I were “good enough,” I would have perfectly executed my plan and received full marks, and my award of money, fame, and prestige. I numbed that pain with food.

I had to learn that I can want. And that I can do whatever is in my power to the best of my ability to get what I want. But then I have to get what I get, and trust that what I get is what I am supposed to get, even if it is not what I wanted.

That is a hard lesson to learn in a culture that prizes material rewards over everything.

I also learned that I didn’t have to “accomplish” anything to like and love myself. In the beginning, all I had to do was not eat a cookie. All I had to do was keep my food boundaries. That was it. I could sleep the rest of the day and still feel good about myself, still be proud. At first, that was the sum total of how I measured my integrity. But the thing about integrity is that it grows outward, as if in concentric circles. When it butts up against a lack of itself, it feels the need to integrate it. (It’s kind of like The Borg, only benign, and unfortunately, much easier to break out of. You have to really work for integrity to keep it.)

And as for the kinds of accomplishments I wanted to accrue, I had to learn that they didn’t have to bring me money, fame, or prestige to make me proud, happy, or content. I could work out on a regular schedule. I could learn a new knitting technique, and finish a project using it. I could write a weekly blog that a handful of people read. I could crochet a gift for a friend. I could have a difficult conversation with a person, and build intimacy in our relationship.

And there is another thing that I learned by happy accident when I got my eating under control. It is that all of my satisfaction lives in my relationships with myself and other people, not in how much money or how many accolades I have. I am content in my life because I am content in my relationships. And I am content in those relationships because I am not constantly trying to manipulate people into giving me what I want, or think I want in order to accomplish things I think I should, so I can acquire money, fame, and prestige. I am content because I am offering an authentic human self (me) with a commitment to grow and change, and accepting another authentic human self, and allowing them the space to be who they are, and to also grow and change.

I learned all of these things because I got my eating under control. Could I have learned them if I hadn’t? Maybe. Probably. But it would not have been the crash course it was.

P.S. I am not done learning.

Where the love is

On Friday I celebrated my 2nd Wedding anniversary. I don’t really think about it on a day-to-day basis, but it’s a miracle. Certainly to my child self it’s a miracle. I felt shameful and unlovable for nearly all of my early life. I had resigned myself to being alone forever at a very early age. And to my early-teen self, it’s something more than just any miracle. Because I married the guy I had a huge crush on from about 12 to 14, until we lost touch. If you told 13-year-old Kate that she would marry him, she would have told you that you were crazy.

Of course, it took more than 20 years of separation, and a whole lot of personal change, physical, emotional, and spiritual, but it sure did happen.

And that is all thanks to keeping my eating boundaries. All of it. Period. Sometimes my husband says very sweet, romantic things about how he would still love me if I gained weight. And I believe him. Because I don’t think he understands what would actually come along with weight gain. I think he is thinking in terms of physical beauty. And I think he believes that I am just beautiful no matter what. Which I love! And I am grateful for.

But when I am eating compulsively, I am not beautiful for a few reasons that have nothing to do with size. I don’t like myself when I am eating compulsively. I get depressive and ashamed. I second guess myself. Also, I don’t have a whole lot of integrity when I am in the food. I lie, cheat, and steal. I hide truths and manipulate people. I am just generally difficult, angry, and unhappy. And I don’t think about anyone but myself. Everything is all about me.

When I started writing this blog over 6 years ago, it was to open myself to love. It was to stop thinking all of those thoughts I had about not being worthy. And there was something to do about it. I took an honest, searching look at myself, took stock of what about myself I wanted to change, and started working toward being the kind of person I wanted to be in a relationship with. There is a saying: Self-esteem comes from doing estimable acts.

But I could only do those estimable acts because I put sugar and carbs down. When I am eating sugar and carbs, I am only thinking about that. If something I want would impede my eating, I would let that thing, that wish, go. Because eating sugar is the most important thing in the world when I am eating sugar. When I am not eating sugar, my life and my relationships are the most important things.

So at this time of the anniversary of my marriage, I am so grateful for that 28-year-old Kate who decided that a life that revolved around sugar was not enough. That there was something better to be, and something better to be had. And that she was willing to go through the dark, scary world of withdrawal and uncertainty, to get to the other side. That’s where the love is.

Vulnerable, unpredictable, and intense – just as it should be

When I was in New York last weekend, I was with a group of people who make it their lives’ work to be present and honest. And it’s intense.

Now, it is also my life’s work to be present and honest, so quite frankly, I loved being there. But it was still really intense.

When I strip away the pretense of day-to-day living – like wanting to be liked, wanting to look cool, wanting to be acknowledged for being “good” or “right,” or any of the things that I do out of fear so that I don’t have to acknowledge my truth or be present for my life – what I am left with is unguarded love. To love and to be loved in return.

Here’s a secret. Love is scary. It’s vulnerable and unpredictable. It’s intense. Sometimes it can feel like it’s too intense.

I wouldn’t understand until years after I got my eating under control and got sober from sugar, but food was my main defense against being present and honest. And it was my first fortress against love. It did not matter how much love was sent my way. I had a wall up, and that wall allowed me to filter how much of it got in. I could take my love in easy-to-swallow, palatable doses. A lot of the love meant for me went to waste.

Being with this group of people was also interesting because I met them before I got sober from food. One of them was the one who sent me to get sober. Because of having known them for so long, I have memories, in my body, of how uncomfortable I was when I was eating compulsively. I could feel very clearly how free and peaceful I have become in the last 9+ years. I remembered how much I thought I had to hide then. I could feel so clearly, in contrast, how open I am now.

Another dear friend of mine talks about how getting sober from sugar and compulsive eating lets her discover who she really is, as opposed to who she was trying to be. And how she really likes the person she is discovering. That is my experience too. That in being who I am, I really like and love me. That I am happier being my flawed self than I was trying to be a perfect someone else.

So I am posing a question to you. (Yes, you. Who else?) Who would you be if you were totally yourself? What would it look like if you could let that true self be loved without filtering how much of the love you let in?

Humble Pie for Thanksgiving

Wow I sure did not want to write this blog this week.

When I started oneafatgirl, I made a promise to write the truth. And to be authentic. Even when it was scary and hard. And humiliating. And I am definitely humiliated today.

I went on a mini-vacation with my boyfriend for Thanksgiving. And it didn’t go so well. And I was the reason it didn’t go so well. My food boundaries and me.

That’s hard for me to write. Especially because I know how I talk about my food boundaries. I perhaps make it seem effortless. It usually feels effortless to me. I’m good at it after over 7 ½ years. Good at parts of it, anyway. And I am afraid that a post like this will scare somebody away from making the tough decision to change their own eating.

But the truth is that it is not my job to convince people who are suffering to choose relief. I put boundaries around my eating by my own choice. I was desperate. I took desperate measures. I still do. No person made me do it, or even could make me do it. And no person is going to stop me. So I’m not going to worry about this post. And who it stops. And who uses it as an excuse to continue to suffer. And for all I know, it will help someone who is suffering find some relief.

Anyway, back to my vacation. And food. The first thing I should point out is that my boyfriend doesn’t think about food. He doesn’t look forward to eating. And he doesn’t plan it. He doesn’t have to. He will literally forget about food until he is starving, look around himself at that exact moment, walk into the closest place, and eat whatever they have to offer.

I on the other hand, love to eat. I look forward to each of my meals, and savor every bite. I have said before that I didn’t stop loving food when I put boundaries around my eating. In fact, I started to love it more, because it was guilt-free. But the boundaries themselves are the most important part. Most of the time my meals are insanely delicious, but as long as each meal is within my eating boundaries, it doesn’t matter if it is delicious or not. If lunch is not so good, dinner is not so far away.

So to go on this mini-vaykay, I packed a whole bunch of food. But not great food. Not #10 meals. Just enough easy, portable food to make sure that if I needed to eat every meal in our hotel, I could always be within my boundaries.

And then it seemed like I was going to have to eat every meal in our hotel room. And I was upset.

Here’s the thing, though. I wasn’t asking for what I wanted. And I wasn’t just taking care of it myself. I was worrying about asking for too much. I was worrying about being a “Good Girl.”

I spent my life alone. And for the last several years, I was poor but independent. I didn’t have much. But if I had something, it was because I earned it.

But now I am in a relationship and I am not independent. And I can have a hard time distinguishing what I deserve. What I contribute. And what that earns me.

In other words, do I deserve to ask to be taken out to a restaurant when my boyfriend isn’t hungry and I have a cooler full of food up in my hotel room? Even if it’s not the food I want?

I did eventually go out to lunch. I got a nice meal. But it wasn’t until I stopped worrying if my boyfriend was having a good time. (And even writing that makes me feel selfish and unworthy…)

And the other thing I need to take responsibility for, is that I have scared my boyfriend into thinking that I can never eat out easily, happily, or comfortably. Because the truth is that I have a lot of anxiety. About everything. I live with a steady stream of low-level anxiety. I don’t think it will ever go away. And the food thing is such a big issue for me that it always makes me a little anxious. But I don’t want him to think we can never go on vacation. Or that we can never go out to eat.

Look. I’m not good at it. I get nervous eating out. Especially now that I live outside of New York City. But I could get better with practice. And I would like to.

My food boundaries are not a burden for me. They are sometimes inconvenient, but they are ultimately only a relief. I am free from the obsession over food and my weight, and the fat body I lived in, and the compulsive eating and exercising and purging and laxative abusing. But I don’t want my food boundaries to be a burden for my boyfriend either. And I don’t know what the next thing to do about that would be. So I guess I’ll just let it be what it is for now, and trust the right answer to come in time…

PowerPoint presentations in Heaven and other self-inflicted Hells

This week I have been eating to be satisfied. Not to be skinny. And it has been fantastic! It has made me peaceful. And happy. Grounded. Free. And in an unexpected twist, it illuminated a tricky little bit of eating disorder thinking that had been lurking (creepily) in the dark, seedy parts of my mind. Letting go of my obsession with my appearance, and taking care of feeling nourished and physically comfortable gave me some important insight into the way I see myself and my value.

I was looking in the mirror shortly after a particularly satisfying meal. (Yes, on purpose. Why was I even doing that in the first place, you ask?  Because apparently I will go out of my way to look at my body in unflattering states. I may as well have run right out to the nearest dressing room and tried on bathing suits with horizontal stripes under fluorescent lighting.) I was scrutinizing my stomach. And I had a thought. “Well at least you’re happy. Because no man is going to want you this way. You’re not even trying to be the prettiest you can be.”

But I was fed. And calm. And my head was clear. And I could distinguish the basic premises of this thinking. And um…ewwwwww!

First, in order to be the prettiest I can be, I have to be the thinnest I can be (to within 3 lbs. I don’t know where “3 lbs” came from. It’s arbitrary. But it lives in my head like it’s based on something important.) Also, being the thinnest I can be doesn’t automatically make me the prettiest I can be. A equals B, but B does not always equal A. Second, what I look like is a major factor in whether or not I am worthy and/or enough. It’s like there is a graph or chart somewhere, (Where, I’m not sure. Heaven? Outer space? Probably wherever Plato’s Forms reside.) that has quantified my looks. And there is a line that delineates pretty from ugly. Or maybe just good enough from not good enough. Dropping below this line is an automatic fail. A deal-breaker, if you will. It automatically renders me unworthy of love.

I also want to say that the beauty line is high. Besides being thin, there is manicured, pedicured, shaved, plucked, tan (in summer), nicely dressed, in heels, with clear skin, and a cute hairstyle (up in summer, down in winter).

And then there is attitude and personality graph. Happy, grateful, nurturing, helpful, honorable, kind, generous, peaceful, loving. And always learning from my mistakes.

And here’s what makes it extra twisted. I even know that perfection is not an option. It’s like my eating disorder brain is pretending it’s giving me a break. It’s telling me it has all kinds of room for my humanity. And in a way it does. It is ok for me to fail. It’s ok for me to mess up or do something wrong. Or be mean. Or selfish. It’s ok to not look my best at all times. It is ok for me to fall below the lines on my graphs. As a person. As an individual. As a lone human being. I can clean it up and carry on. God still loves me. My family and friends still love me. I still love me and respect myself.

But if I ever want to be loved as a woman, by a man, I had better be doing every conceivable thing I can possibly do to the point of utter exhaustion to be as close to perfect as is humanly possible. I had better not let a man see me fall below. Ever. Maintaining myself above my “good enough” lines is the only way that I will ever deserve love. Or at least convince a man that I deserve it. That is how I can earn love. Through perseverance and hard work.
And wow is that exhausting. And am I ever exhausted. And does it ever make sense that I have always preferred a fortress and loneliness. Because the standard I have been holding myself to is unsustainable. At least for me. And I am trying to separate that fact from the assumption that naturally follows in my head. Therefore you will never earn love so you will never be loved.
Yes I know that love is not something you earn. That it’s something you inspire simply by being alive, and accept simply by being open to it. I guess my heart hasn’t gotten that memo yet. And my eating disorder brain doesn’t believe that could possibly be true.
But this is the other thing I know. (Are you paying attention, eating disorder brain? This is for your benefit.) I have lived a life where I did not do “the work” and i have lived a life where I have done “the work”. And I did a lot of work. Good work. Quality work. And I have yet to inspire the kind of love I am looking for. So clearly “the work” is not the answer. And what I would like to know, really know, is that I could be loved. Human. With bushy eyebrows and hairy legs. Crying. Angry. Impatient. Saying mean things. I would like to know that the same way I know that I respect myself. I would like to know that like I know that I am a woman of honor and integrity.
And also, I would like to know how to welcome it when it shows up.
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