onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “body image”

Planned and prepared? Priceless

Some time in the middle of next week, my husband and I will drive home to the Chicago suburbs for the holidays. And that means meal prep.

There is something really special to me about making, portioning out and packing up 3 days worth of food. I can literally see EVERYTHING I am going to eat.

I fought really hard against planning meals ahead before I started doing what I do to control my eating. I liked the uncertainty because it made it easier to convince myself that I needed, or at least “could have” the exact foods I was trying not to eat. I wanted freedom. But I really wanted the freedom to eat sugar. Because I had a bad day. Because I had a good day! Because I haven’t had it in a while. Because if I follow whatever diet, I won’t be having more for a while. Because because because.

The truth is that I have flexibility now. I can make and portion and pack 9 full meals, and still decide to eat something else. It’s just that it’s not an accident. It’s not the “only choice” I have. It’s not a case of me saying screw my food plan. I love my food plan! So if I want something else, it’s always something in my eating boundaries.

If I get to the grocery store near my house in the suburbs and they have giant honeycrisp apples and I have packed and committed to 8 ounces of pineapple, I can change my mind! But I *have* the pineapple. So if it’s time for breakfast and I am hungry and I don’t want to wait and see if there are giant apples, I am taken care of.

Back when I was eating compulsively and trying to lose weight, not having a plan was always a way to “accidentally” go off my diet. (It was not actually an accident. In case the quotation marks don’t make that obvious.) I was always either excitedly starving myself long enough to get high on some weight loss or looking for any excuse to eat drug foods. Often both. At the same time. But even if I were in the middle of a good stretch of weight loss, a holiday would mean food was going to win. It was just how holidays worked. Everyone gained weight over Christmas.

Having my drug foods down and my eating under control is a relief to me year round. Having my meals packed and ready to go is a joy. Seeing the sum total of every morsel I will consume over the next few days is a trip! Not hating myself because I can’t stop eating? Well, like that old credit card ad would say. “Priceless.”

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A memory of exhaustion

The other day I was writing my stream of consciousness meditation pages and I wanted to stop. Just stop in the middle. More like the beginning, but I had already started. I did not stop, but it gave me a kind of emotional flashback.

I used to do this particular form of quitting all the time when I was eating compulsively. It is specifically around some commitment I have made to be a better person. Or at least a person I personally like better.

There is a particular example of this that I sometimes think about just because of the timing. In September of 2001, I was taking a self-help seminar in the World Trade Center. I think the seminar was on a Wednesday or a Thursday so it was probably the 6th or the 7th, and I don’t specifically remember but I am reasonably certain I didn’t do my homework, and I was probably ashamed of that. And just in general I didn’t want to show up, and I knew that I should. And on this particular day, I schlepped myself all the way there to the World Trade Center, which was nowhere near anything else I did like my job or my home. I walked in the big doors into the giant corridor with the security stations and the big banks of elevators on the other side, and then I just turned around and left. Got all the way to the seminar, spent all of that time and energy to travel there and still didn’t show up to take care of myself. And of course, I would never go to the WTC again.

I did this with all sorts of things that I had started doing to make myself feel better, feel good, feel like I had my shit together. I would get my running clothes on, and start a jog, but I would just quit. In the middle of a jog. Just stop and decide I didn’t want to do it anymore. And I would feel awful about it. But the idea of effort was so terrifying to me that I often just shut down. I feared any pain, but especially the pain of growth.

It was interesting to have that feeling again about a writing meditation. Kind of scary, a little uncomfortable. Because that part of me is still there. But since I got my eating under control, it doesn’t win. I can feel it, acknowledge it, but not bow to it. I can want to quit and not quit.

When I put boundaries around my eating I got what some people call “abstinent references.” I learned, first hand, that I would not starve if I didn’t eat between meals. I learned that I would not die if I admitted my mistakes and made amends for them. I learned that effort is not the level of suffering I always feared it was. I learned that that once something was begun, like a workout, or showing up at the place I was supposed to be, it was actually easier to keep going and follow through than to quit. That the level of justification I would have to maintain to not feel awful about myself over it would be way more effort than just doing the workout or attending the meeting.

To remember what I used to be like is to remember how exhausted I was all the time. Because second guessing myself and stressing about everything, and being afraid of the world, and being afraid of my life was so much more exhausting than all of the food prep work and the shopping and chopping and working out and writing and meditation and that I do.

More fulfilling than weight loss

I have lost weight recently. I don’t weigh myself and I have not for years, but I do, in fact, wear clothes. And it is clear to me that things are significantly looser. Dresses that used to be formfitting now hang on me. And I have not (knowingly) done anything to facilitate that.

I have a theory about why. I have recently started taking an OTC medication for acid reflux. (Remember when I said a few weeks ago that I have been sick for months? Well my mother-in-law, who worked for a GI doctor for over 20 years, told me my persistent wet cough was acid reflux. And I’ll be damned if she wasn’t right!) And this weight loss coincides pretty closely with my starting the medicine. 

But the truth is, I don’t know what affects my weight. And the other truth is, I never have. 

Obviously when I gave up simple sugar and carbohydrates, that had a huge impact on my weight. I ate significantly less because I was not craving my drug foods, and therefore eating much less.  I was also eating much less of processed, high calorie/low nutrient foods. And I was managing my portions by weighing my food. But even since getting my eating under control, my weight has still fluctuated wildly. (Not hundreds of pounds, but as much as 30 or more.) And my eating has not changed that much. And even when I took specific actions and changed my foods, and my quantities of food, I could not get my body to “behave.” Gaining weight eating less, losing weight eating more. I could never get my weight to work like a math equation. I have never been able to predict my weight, or manage it, by food choices. And I have stopped trying. 

I don’t want to care about my weight. I don’t want to even think about my weight. But I live in a world and a society that cares very much about weight. So that is a struggle. And the first 28 years of my life revolved entirely around my weight. My shame over my weight. The humiliation of other people openly judging my weight. Those are hard things to forget. And those are things that shaped the way I thought and felt and interacted during my formative years.

Sometimes it has felt like those formative ways of being are “just the way I am.” Set in stone and unchangeable. But I have noticed that giving up my drug foods and changing my lifestyle has been an opportunity to change thought and behavior patterns that I thought were just “me.” It turns out, I can change me. Way more easily than I can change my weight. And way more fulfilling as well.

When the math didn’t math

I am a control freak by nature. I want what I want and I am interested in figuring out how to get it. I remember a line from a movie when I was a kid. Something about control being an illusion. And at the time I didn’t think it was true. After all, it seemed to me that all of the grownups in my life had it. And I wanted it too.

And the other thing was that it seemed logical to me that if actions have reactions, if you could figure out the “right equation,” you could create the right reaction, the one you wanted. What I didn’t fully understand was that when this bumped up against other people and what they wanted, this was just manipulation. And also, I wasn’t always great at knowing what I wanted.

There are some important things that getting my eating under control has taught me. 1) Usually, that kind of control does not get me a worthwhile return on investments. I almost never want the thing I think I want as much as the machinations cost me. 2) I can make myself feel positively crazy trying to think and plan myself the right “equation” to get what I think I want. 3) I usually want something much more theoretical than the practical thing I think I do. Like I want to feel pretty, more than I want that specific dress.

For 28 years I wanted to eat whatever I wanted to eat, but also be thin. And I did a whole lot of things to try to make that equation work out. Dieting, exercise bulimia, regular old bulimia bulimia. But none of that math ever mathed. 

When I gave up sugar and simple carbohydrates 16+ years ago, I thought I was throwing in the towel and agreeing that I would accept being skinny as the best I could get. And even that I was skeptical of. I had never been skinny and also had never been able to control my weight. But (eventually- there was still the long slog of sugar withdrawal) I got all of the things I really wanted. The things I thought eating whatever I wanted and still being skinny would get me. To be happy and comfortable in my body both in private and public. To love my food without guilt. To like myself and not doubt myself or my choices.

I don’t always do it perfectly, but today, I try to remember that when I keep my eating under control and do my best to be my authentic self, I get exactly what I really wanted, whatever that looks like, even if I didn’t know I wanted it.

It’s not what it looks like and other unbelievable truths

I have been thinking a lot lately about what having my eating boundaries looks like from the outside. And I really get how it looks crazy to some people. I can really see how it can look like an eating disorder instead of a solution to my disordered eating.

I weigh all of my food with some very few exceptions, and even those have rules. I entirely avoid a whole group of foods that most people all over the world eat every day. I make a point of *not* trusting my body and it’s feelings about whether or not I am hungry. So I really get how that can look crazy and weird.

So here is what I think the real difference is. I am happy and at peace in my life in a way I have never been before. And I never want to lose that. I would rather be this happy and never eat sugar again while simultaneously dealing with how upset people get when they learn I plan to never eat sugar again.

I can’t trust my body to tell me when to eat. And I know that because I have eaten things I didn’t want and didn’t like because they were there and I just could not stop eating. I have eaten when I was full to sickness and did not physically want anything more, but I could not stop eating. I have stolen food and lied and cheated for food, even though I felt intense guilt and humiliation, because I just could not stop eating.

Whenever I tell someone what I do with food and their reaction is to tell me that they “should” do what I do, I tell them that I don’t care what they eat. I am not judging. I am not the food police.

I eat the way I eat because I am an addict, and eliminating my drug foods is a solution to my eating problem. Not a weight problem or a health problem. A self-esteem problem. A self-love problem. A sanity problem.

I have had/do have eating disorders, by the way. Not just binge eating, but also exercise bulimia, and stick a toothbrush down your throat bulimia, and I have occasionally exhibited anorexic behaviors, though not very often. I have never had much “willpower” when it comes to food. (If you have read my blog for any period of time, you probably already know that I don’t believe in willpower.) So I want to say I have points of reference for eating disorders. And I never felt less peaceful or more crazy than when I was “managing my weight” with actual eating disorder behaviors.

So if you look at what I do and you see an eating disorder, I don’t really blame you. If I were doing what I do and starving (I am not, by the way) I would also be worried. But I am happy, joyous and free. I love my life. I have relationships that I never thought I could. I do things I never had the courage or drive to do before. I love my life *because* I have boundaries around my eating, not in spite of it.

Vanity, Pride and wanting to be skinny enough to be loved

I was talking to some friends who do what I do with food the other day. And I was reminded that the difference between me as a kid eating compulsively and me as an adult with boundaries around my food is much bigger inside than outside. I did lose a lot of weight. And that is one thing. But most people I still have in my life didn’t care about my weight when I was fat. And they really think that I am basically the same as I ever was. Only not fat. And they don’t care about that.

This is interesting to me because I feel like an entirely different person. On the inside. And not just because I don’t think about my weight or my body anymore, which is HUGE, because when I was eating compulsively I thought about my body and my weight all the time. I worried about what other people thought about my body. But more importantly I worried about who was going to humiliate me because of my size and shape. Because people loved to humiliate me. People love to humiliate fat people in general.

But aside from not having that constant nagging fear and shame, I feel entirely different than I did when I was in the food. And it is about having my addiction under control. I have a clear head. I have a clear conscience because I have done my best to clean up my past messes and to “clean as I go” in my relationships now. I have a peace around not only my actions and words, but also my circumstances. I have a new relationship to what happens to me and how I react to it. One where I assess what is the reality of the situation, accept it, and act (or abstain from acting) according to who I want to be in my life.

Here is the deal. I believe whole heartedly that the people in my life would still love me if I were fat. I believe my husband would still love me. I believe my friends and family would still love me. That they would not see me as all that different.

And if what I do with food were only about being thin, and I knew that people would still love me fat, I would have quit. A long time ago. If it were about my body, and my weight, and I knew that my husband did not really care about my weight, I would have said screw it. I would have gone back to cake. Because when I got my eating under control, it really was to be skinny enough to be loved.

But now I do what I do because when I do it, I love myself. And I do not love myself because I’m skinny. I am not skinny. I love myself because I do what I say I am going to do. I be where I say I am going to be. I tell the truth and I honor myself. These were not things I could do before. Because how could I have been honest about anything when I could never be honest about food? I have sometimes heard “how you do anything is how you do everything.” And I was a liar about food. How could I not be a liar in any other aspect of my life?

As time goes by and I get more clearheaded, I know that weight is less and less important to me. That I don’t keep my eating boundaries for physical vanity. Though I’ll admit it is a kind of vanity. I like looking like I’ve got my shit together. But also, I like that I actually have my shit together. So maybe that’s more pride than vanity. (Do I sound like Mary Bennet now?!?) Either way, I am grateful that my happiness is not all tangled up with my weight anymore. Even if it is still tangled up with my food.

Musin’ from a Bruisin’

Last week while I was coming downstairs in my house, one of my slippers came off and I slipped down the last few steps and banged hard on the back of my thigh. And I mean hard. My vision went black from the pain at the time. I have a giant purple bruise bigger than my hand just below my butt. And it sucks.

So this week I attempted to find a workout that was gentle enough. I tried yoga for literally the first time ever and it made me nauseated! And when I looked it up, I learned that apparently that is common. COMMON!!! (Are you guys seriously doing this and it’s making you sick?!?!? Anyway, I hope not but that is none of my business.) So the next day I went for a long walk. Which was mostly great, except that it was below freezing the whole day and there were patches of ice everywhere. I had a few precious moments, though I managed to stay upright. But I decided I didn’t want to do that either. The last thing I needed was to fall on the bruise again!

I decided that until the bruise is healed a little more, I am not going to work out. And that is a blessing. But also kind of scary.

It’s scary because I have a story about myself. That I am lazy and that I can’t be trusted to follow through on a commitment. It’s scary because I have a very old voice in my head that says I will get fat and my body will be ugly (again.) It’s scary because I wonder how slippery that slope is, and will I eventually give up 16 years of having my sugar addiction under control if I don’t keep up all of my commitments? No, none of these thoughts are particularly rational, but they are deeply emotional, and it’s always the feelings that hook me, not the ideas behind them.

But it’s a blessing because in getting my eating under control, originally in order to not be fat anymore, I acquired the ability to separate my fatness from addiction. I learned to stop hating fatness. I learned to stop hating the girl I was when I was fat. And I learned to hear that voice that is terrified of being fat, and let it hang out in the background like radio static. I learned to feel those feelings that stemmed from those irrational thoughts, and then unhook myself from them. I learned to love my body. Not tolerate it as long as it “behaved.” To really love it. Exactly as it is. (That is what love is, arguably. The acceptance of someone or something exactly as it is.)

When I was eating my drug foods, and worrying all the time about my fatness, all exercise was exercise bulimia. I mean as young as 11 and 12 “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” with my mom and Richard Simmons, all the way up until I put boundaries around my eating, it was only ever about managing my weight. There was a kind of mantra in my head that was probably there the whole time, but would come through loud and clear in my mid 20’s. Getitoutgetitoutgetitoutgetitout. Get it out! I did not exercise to be healthy or strong. I did it to get rid of any and all food I ate before it showed itself on my body. I did it to wrangle my body into a socially acceptable size and shape.

I don’t need to exercise right now. I am 44, not 24, and a hand-sized bruise is a trauma. I *do* want to workout even if I love having worked out more than I enjoy the act itself. I love the ways it makes me feel, physically, and emotionally. I love the ways it clears my head. I love the ways it signals to my beloved body that I do love it. I love the ways it helps me regulate my feelings. But I don’t need to do it at the expense of my physical health. And this bruise, like all things, shall pass.

One more thing I want to express is that when I got my eating under control, and got sober from sugar, I also started a new way of living. And that way was to learn to take life as it comes, and go with the flow. To trust that Life was always giving me the right things. To stop fighting against what was so, and start taking the path of least resistance when it came to circumstances. I stopped my regular workout in August to take on a 60+ hour a week job. But since I left that job, I have been feeling like I need to get back into my workout routine. Soon. Now. I decided that I rested long enough. Perhaps Life is trying to tell me that it has not, in fact, been long enough. Perhaps I should listen.

Listen to your h…ives?

When I eating compulsively I was willfully disconnected from my body. I hated my body. I blamed it for not being good enough. Mostly not pretty enough. But I didn’t really have an alternate way to relate to my body. Everyone made it clear that bodies were made to be beautiful, and that if mine was not, it was worthless.


That is a thing that happens in a fat-phobic society. We learn to internalize hatred for any body that is considered bad, mostly as a defense mechanism. To love your fat body is considered shameful. To be ashamed of your fat body shows that you are properly embarrassed by your shameful body. That you are on the “right side” of what is good and right and honorable.


I have spent the past few years actively shifting my view of fatness. It has nothing to do with my eating. At least, I am working consistently at disentangling my love of my body from its shape and size. I am an addict. I keep my addiction under control through the way I eat. I think of my eating as a way to honor my whole self, emotional, physical and spiritual, not just how pretty I am by societal standards.

So I have reconnected with my body over the years. I have learned to love it for all of the things that it has done for me, all of the ways it serves me. All of the things it wants to teach me. And it has taken a long time to get to understand it as well as I do. And I know that there is much more to learn.

One thing that I have come to understand over the past 15+ years, since I put boundaries around my eating, is that my body shows me how well I’m doing through my skin. I can feel “fine.” I can look on the outside like I am doing “fine.” I can seem to be managing everything just “fine.” But my skin can tell a whole different story. This is coming up this week because I am officially hive-free, for the first time in 4 months, since I started the very stressful job that I left this week.

In late July, I started a new job. And less than a week after I took it over, it got crazy, and I started to break out in hives. They were on my chest, in my armpits, and in my bellybutton. 

And as I changed the job, personally developing and implementing structures and procedures that streamlined the process while still capturing all the necessary information and creating the needed output, some of those hives went away. First my chest cleared up. And then, eventually, after many weeks, my armpits cleared up. But my bellybutton has been hanging on to those hives the whole time.

But I left my job on Monday. And yesterday, for the first time in months, my skin, all of my skin, is clear. There are no more hives anywhere. And it makes me a little weepy to realize how unhappy I was, and how I was holding it together with pure willpower.

I can remember having had stress-related skin conditions as far back as high school, though I didn’t know it at the time.  I could barely walk at graduation because of a terrible outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema on the bottom of my feet, that at the time was misdiagnosed as athletes foot. 

But when I was eating compulsively I thought about my body as little as possible. I just sort of suffered through. And I had lots of practice, since I avoided thinking about my fatness because it hurt my heart to be fat.

I want to acknowledge my body today, for always trying to look out for me, even when I treated it like the enemy. I want to be grateful for everything it has done for me, even when I was actively hating it, and sometimes trying to hurt it, with exercise bulimia, and good ol’ fashioned stick-things-down-my-throat-bulimia, and abusing laxatives, and drinking castor oil, and binging and starving. I want to be grateful that I have learned to listen to it, with love.
I am grateful to be in a place in my life where I can see that those hives were a defense mechanism against me harming myself. That my body was telling me that I was in the wrong place. That there was something wrong. And I am especially glad that instead of blaming my body for the hives, instead of treating them like one more way my body was broken and wrong, I could see them as a loving warning that something was wrong outside of myself, but within my control. And it took me a while, but I managed to listen and do something about it.

My body just is.

Ah…It’s officially holiday season. And it is not my favorite. Not because I crave or miss the foods I don’t eat anymore, but because for just about everyone else in the world, holidays are about food. And also how upset or resigned or worried they are about their holiday weight gain. And also what diet they are trying in the new year. And how unhappy with their bodies they are currently, or are afraid they will be shortly. But it’s the holidays, so…pie anyway apparently.


I don’t care about food anymore. No. That is not true. I don’t care about foods I don’t personally eat anymore. I don’t miss pie, or cake, or seasonal cookies. I don’t miss any of the things I thought I would miss when I first got my eating under control.

I do, however, still care very much about food. Which I guess is probably the single most important thing that I have that keeps my eating under control. I am not on a diet.

Again! I am not on a diet.

I have a physical reaction to sugars, grains and starches that first gets me high, and then leaves me with intense, overwhelming cravings, and finally, makes me hate myself. I am an addict. So I am not on a diet. I *have* a diet that does not include drug foods.

So how do I not eat outside of my food boundaries? I make absolutely positive that I love my food. I fight the food with the food. I make sure my meals are all always delicious and satisfying. I don’t eat things I don’t like. And I don’t eat things because I want them to change the size and shape of my body. And I don’t *not* eat things because I am *afraid* they will change the size and shape of my body. If they are allowed on my food plan, and I like them, I eat them. I don’t worry about gaining or losing weight. I don’t think about my body in terms of weight at all. I have food issues. That is separate from my weight.

It took years of having my eating under control to come to this point. My life for over 35 years was all about how “broken and ugly” I thought my body was because I was fat. Or how proud I was for having wrangled into a socially acceptable size and shape; how I had “accomplished” that.

But now I love my body as it is. And it is just me, not an accomplishment or a failure or a measure of anything about me. It just is. And it just is me.

The devil I knew had a lesson I didn’t

I never know when my life will take a turn. And then another. I never feel like anything will ever get better, but then it does. They say that fear and excitement are the same physical experience in different circumstances. 

I gave my job two months notice a couple of weeks ago. My company has already found my replacement, whom I have been training, and I *might* be let go of earlier than expected. (Which I welcome wholeheartedly. The only thing keeping me there longer is having given my word that I would.) And the level of relief I feel is astounding. 

And even if they decide to keep me through December, there is someone to share the workload with. Which is my biggest issue at the moment. Either way, I win.

When I got asked to do this particular job, I had not been working very much, only about 10 hours a week, and I had been about to start a job hunt. I knew I didn’t like the culture of the company. I knew I didn’t really want to work there for reasons other than no work or too much work, feast or famine. But the opportunity to work came up, and I am not independently wealthy, so obviously, I took it. 

I already *know* that when I make a decision to change my life for the better, to take a spiritual step up, Life will always give me the opportunity to go back. To choose the devil I know. *Always.* Jobs, men, friendships, anything that I value in life.

I fully understand that this job was a test. And that I chose to go back. But clearly I was not ready to make the big leap. And so in going back, I also learned some things I needed to learn. I needed to have someone (who was not my husband) see that I was *great* at the job. And my boss did. And that was important. And I needed to be reminded that I am not lazy. That I not only do work hard, but that I love it. That for as much as I love, cherish, and literally *need* (literally meaning literally, not literally meaning figuratively) my free time and my down time, I get high on being spectacular. My best friend likes to remind me that everyone gets the majority of their self-esteem from their job. And I am sure that it’s true for me.

Yes I am terrified to find a new job. To even just look. To have to prove myself. To fight through the imposter syndrome. To have to *trust* that it will all turn out better and not worse. 

And I have to remember all of this if/when my company comes back to me and asks me to work again. Especially if I don’t have a job yet. Especially especially I have been searching for months and it feels like I will never get one. 

In order to get my eating under control, I had to start trusting Life. I had to trust that everything was going exactly the way it was supposed to. I had to trust that all was well and would only get better. When I did that, I didn’t have to drug myself with food. I could stay calm and clear and take the next right action, whatever that was. I could feel my feelings and let them be signposts pointing me in the right direction. 

For the past 15 years and 9 months of not eating my drug foods, I have gained greater clarity and peace. And to be so uncomfortable and unhappy is to see that I have outgrown old beliefs, about the world and about myself. It is time for me to move on to something better. 

I will end by saying that about 10 years ago was the last time I went through a personal, emotional, and spiritual upheaval like this while my eating was under control. I came out of it on the other side with a life beyond my wildest dreams. With a relationship/marriage better than I ever could have imagined, and a relationship with my body based on love and gratitude, instead of judgement and punishment. (And this blog, which might have a lot to do with all of those things.)

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