onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “boundaries”

On making friends with a new devil

I consider myself pretty good at change. I have a lot of experience with it. From all of the kinds of jobs I have had, to all of the moving I have done to different homes and different cities and towns. And I have learned to give up things. Like simple sugar and carbohydrates. And smoking. 

And I have an experience. That life will always give you the opportunity to go back to the way it was before. It will always let you choose to go back to the *you* you were before. Because when you make a commitment, you change your life’s trajectory. You set yourself on a new, unknown path. 
When I was single, and it didn’t work out with a man, he would inevitably show back up in my life just when I had moved on. Within a week of the day I quit smoking, I had a neighbor stalk me and I had to call the police and my landlord. It was very stressful. Exactly the kind of emotional upset I used smoking to soothe. 
It comes back to that old saying: “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” I find that life always gives me a chance to escape the unknown and return to that comfortable misery. 
Now, I don’t believe that the devil you know is better. And I have known plenty of devils. When it comes to change I agree with Mae West. “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.”
There was the devil of significant weight gain when I quit smoking. And wow was that difficult and painful. And there are, of course, lots of devils to keeping boundaries around my food. There is the time it takes to shop, prep, cook, and pack. There is the navigation of the feelings and expectations of people who don’t understand. There is the planning involved in having my meals be complete and accounted for daily, while still having a life. There is all of the extra work involved in eating out, when for most people, eating out is when they *don’t* have to do any work. And there are all of the *feelings* that can be painful, overwhelming, scary, uncomfortable, unwelcome, or just plain yucky.
But when I was eating compulsively, I already knew a lot of devils, and they were shame, self-hatred, self-doubt, crippling anxiety, an inability to move forward with my life, fear of failure, fear of humiliation, regular emotional paralysis, and physical pain and difficulties.
I promise, those devils were worse. But if you asked that Kate, who was suffering under all of those devils, she would most certainly have told you the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. And if you had told her that she would spend a huge portion of her time shopping and prepping and cooking, and also feeling uncomfortable feelings, she would have said that sounded like the worse devil! Who would want something like that?!?!
But now, I have reached a point of no return. I am not saying I could never go back into the sugar. I am still an addict and it is still as dangerous to me as it ever was. When I put sugar in my body, it sets up a craving for more. That is biological and inescapable. But I know all of the devils now, and I’ll never be able to think of the difficulties of food boundaries as worse than the prison of self-loathing.
I hated myself when I was eating sugar and carbohydrates. And I hated myself so much and for so long that I didn’t even know I hated myself until it stopped. But the point is, it did stop. And I found that in doing all that work, and feeling all of those feelings, I came to love myself, to like myself, to trust myself, to enjoy my life, to have fulfilling relationships, and to respect myself and others.
And I want to say something about this regarding fat acceptance. I hear a lot on social media about how society has socialized us to hate ourselves if we are fat, and to internalize that bigotry. And I don’t think it’s necessarily untrue. There is certainly an aspect of being taught that we are less than. But I want to note that after quitting sugar, grains, and starches, I did not loose weight all that quickly. And there have been many times in which I have gained weight keeping my boundaries. But my self-hatred has been stilled ever since I started. And when I was thin, but eating compulsively, I hated myself as much as when I was fat. Perhaps more, because I felt like the body I was in was a lie. I don’t want fat people to hate themselves. I don’t think it’s healthy, or helpful, or right. And it is certainly my wish for you to love yourself in whatever body you are in. But for me, it is very clear that my eating, not my body, or my weight, is what made me miserable and ashamed. And in taking care of my eating, I learned how to love my body and my life. So consider that just maybe there are angels hanging out with the devil you don’t know.
Advertisements

Shamelessness: A Highly-Recommended Life Skill

There is a thing that happens when you put and keep boundaries around your food. You have to learn to get what you need, and that usually means asking for what you need even if it looks ridiculous from the outside. I have literally had to ask a waiter for more vegetables when I needed less than half an ounce. But I needed that portion. (I usually carry backup with me but this particular time I did not.) And I got what I needed. 

You can’t be a people-pleaser and keep your food under control. You have to be a commitment-keeper. Because what normal eating, non-addict would bother a waiter for a ramekin of cherry tomatoes after they have already been so incredibly particular about what they are ordering and how it is cooked and how many they need. And when there is still over half an order of spinach on the table, but that is cooked in oil and they need vegetables with no fat. “And may I also have an extra plate, please? No, bigger. A full sized plate.” 
You pretty much have to be shameless. Which, by the way, is an incredible life skill that I highly recommend.
So as I mentioned last week, my husband and I are renovating our permanent residence in the suburbs of Chicago. And we agree on most things but the flooring has been difficult. It is the primary thing we tend not to agree on. And there is a very small window where we do. So I did a lot of research, and gave him a lot of options. But once we *finally* agreed on a floor, our contractor came to us and told us it was on backorder, and would not be available until our home was complete. Or maybe a little before. And he sent us some samples of floors that his supplier considered “similar.” 
My friends, *I* didn’t consider them similar. In fact, I positively hated most of them. And found one of them tolerable. But I did not want tolerable if I could help it. 
So I did it again. I looked up floor samples, and found pictures of them actually laid in a room. (Bless the Internet!) And gave my husband a bunch of options. And this time I had him eliminate what he did not like (only one this time – clearly I got a better sense of what he likes) and *rank* the others. And then I called the contractor and asked him what would be better, if I gave him a list of what I want, or if he gave me a list of what I could have. And he asked for our list, and I gave it to him ranked. And we got our first choice. Easy. 

A different Kate might have been given some suggestions of “similar” options and picked the one she hated the least. And then she may have been resentful if she didn’t *love* her floor. But this Kate, who knows how to ask for less than half and ounce of vegetables even when there is a plate of sautéed spinach in front of her, knows what she wants, what she needs, how to ask, and how to be gracious about asking.
I did my homework. I searched my options. I found the pictures. I asked my husband to rank them. I asked my contractor what was the best I could do for him to help me get what I want. I was proactive in knowing what I wanted and needed. I knew how to take care of the people who are helping me get what I want. I planned. I prepared. 
Every time I take care of myself by knowing what I want and asking for it, I become more my authentic self. I become more of the me I stuffed down with food for so much of my life. I become less the person who takes what she is given because she thinks it is what others want her to be, that they will be pleased with her, and how compliant she is. 
I can see in retrospect that my contractor and his supplier offered me those suggestions to make it easier for me. Not to limit me. They were doing me a favor, and it was up to me to choose one of their suggestions, or choose something else, as I saw fit. And I can imagine that many people don’t know what they want. I bet many people would be grateful for a recommendation, rather than feel stifled. 
So I am grateful to my food boundaries for teaching me to ask for what I want, to be clear about what I need. To know what will make me happy, and then to *be* happy when I get it. And just to be clear, now that I know that my floors are taken care of, I am most definitely happy!

Tight food, loose life, and for today, nothing to give up.

One thing that happened when I put boundaries around my eating was that I (slowly and gradually) got better at going with the flow of life. I got better at dealing with unexpected problems. I got better at dealing with difficult feelings. I got better at having peace when people did things I didn’t like, and situations didn’t work out the way I had hoped and planned.

But I got way way *way* worse at not having what I wanted when it came to food. I had given up all of my “favorite” foods when I gave up sugar and carbohydrates. I had basically deadened my palate with sugar for the first 28 years of my life and hated almost all vegetables. I thought fruit was bland. I thought nourishing foods were boring at best, and disgusting at worst.
So when I quit sugar and got boundaries I was told to love my food. Not tolerate it. Not “eat to live.” I was told to eat foods that made me gloriously happy. I have a few time periods in my life that I identify by the foods I ate, some specially made by me to be sugar and carb free and fit my portion requirements. I had my summer of turnip fries and coffee shakes. (This was a labor of love. It took forever, and I still did it almost every day because I was so obsessed. After cutting them into fries, which gave me weird calluses from so much knife work, I would salt the turnips overnight so they would sweat out all the bitterness, and they were better than real French fries, I swear!) I had a winter of homemade custards. I mean I actually used a bain-marie. I had *years* of homemade carrot cake. I had deep fried onions from a favorite New York burger joint 2-3 times a week for about 3 years, and deep-fried Brussels sprouts from a fancier New York restaurant about once a week for a year or so. (I used to go get those take-out, since I wasn’t interested in the fancy ambiance, just the sprouts. I still get these and the onions when I visit New York.)
For the past few years I have been making chocolate ice cream (ok, frozen yogurt, since it’s whole milk and full fat Greek yogurt.) And today, I opened a new bottle of the sugar-free, grain-free, alcohol-free chocolate flavor that I use. And it was *different*!!!! It was a different color and had a different smell! 
This scared the hell out of me. Of course, the first thing I did was read the ingredients list printed on the bottle I had just opened. Because if the color and smell had changed, perhaps the ingredients had changed. I still occasionally read ingredients on things I use regularly, even if there doesn’t seem to be a change, just in case. And I have occasionally caught changes that were not indicated or advertised. But when something has so obviously changed, of course I had to look immediately. 
Hallelujah! It was fine. The ingredients were still within my boundaries. And the taste was delicious, though different. 
But I have had to give up things before. And that is a change I am very bad at. It is hard for me to go with the flow of losing a food I love. For those of you who may remember, in 2014, a company whose vanilla flavor I had been using for years changed their recipe from alcohol-free, to non-alcoholic, where it had alcohol, just significantly less than an extract. I had to give it up. I literally cried. Then a friend found a tutorial on how to make my own at home. And I have been doing just that for over 5 years. (And mine is way better than the stuff I was buying, so hooray for that.) That company discontinued its walnut flavor a few years before, and I cried about that as well. Sadly, I have never found another walnut flavor I could use. There was a restaurant in New York that used to make Chinese food specifically for people with the same eating boundaries as I have. And they would make deep fried tofu. It would come to the table like a crispy, golden cloud of deliciousness. I cried when they closed. (Are you sensing the pattern here?)
I keep my food tight so my life can be loose. But my food being tight means being a bit of a control freak. Obviously. And that means a certain amount of attachment. So it’s hard for me when my food changes in any way. 
But ultimately I am committed to my boundaries, not to my food loves. I did give up the walnut flavor. And in giving up the vanilla because of the changed recipe, I got something even better in return. If I had had to give up my chocolate flavor, I would have. I would most certainly have cried. I would have had to mourn. But I would have done it. Because it’s the boundaries, that “tight food,” that keep my life loose. 
And here’s another important truth. There is always something out there, waiting to be my new favorite food thing. Something that fits my boundaries, and makes my eyes roll back and my mouth water. There is always some new thing that I am going to be overwhelmed with excitement to eat. In its proper portion. When it is time to eat. And I’m excited for that too. Even if I don’t know what it is or when I will find it.

Specific and measurable is what gets results

Last week a lot of people read my post. Thank you all for reading! I am grateful! And I heard second and third hand about some comments. And one idea stood out in my mind. That I must be really sick if I have to weigh my food.

I want to say first off that I am an addict, and I am addicted to sugar and simple carbohydrates. So yes. I am pretty sick. I was deeply unhappy when I didn’t have boundaries around my eating. I was unhappy with my body, I was unhappy with my behavior, I was unhappy with the state of my life. And only a portion of that was about my weight. 
Weighing food is a way to take a specific, quantifiable action that leads to a specific and measurable result. I am not just eating less. I am eating a specific number of ounces. How much less is that? I don’t know. I never measured before when I was eating everything whenever I wanted. 
Is it common to weigh food? It is not in general. But the idea that what I do is an indication of how sick I am is not necessarily fair. It is an indication of how committed I am. It is an indication of how much I want something. And how willing I am to get it. You might say that weighing my food is an indication of how well I am. How not susceptible to whims I am when it comes to eating. How steadfast I am.
Athletes weigh their food. Movie stars who are training to shape their bodies weigh their food. These are people who want something for and from their bodies and are willing to do what it takes to get it. I want something for and from my body too. I mean, it’s a lot less sexy than winning a gold medal or being a physical embodiment of a comic book super hero, but it’s still pretty satisfying. 
Making a quantifiable commitment is a great way to meet goals. It’s a great way to change your life. Writers have daily word count commitments. Marathon runners have scheduled practices with mileage goals they have to reach. Weight lifters have weight goals. Even sales people have a specific number of cold calls they have to make. Nearly every person who wants to achieve something does it by doing specific things. And specific means being measurable. Even dietitians will say things like “vegetables the size of your fist, meat the size of your palm, fat the size of your thumb.” Which is a way to do a less precise version of the same thing I do but not have to get out a scale.
When I was eating compulsively but wanted to lose weight, I fought very hard against measurement of any kind. But most certainly precise measurements. I wanted to “eyeball” things. And I did. And my portions got bigger and bigger over time. Because I wanted to pretend I was doing what I needed to do to get the results I wanted, without having to actually do the things. And guess what. I did not get the results. And guess what. I got to blame it on everything but what I was doing. I got to blame it on my “broken” body, or my genes, or the way the world is. I did not have to blame it on how much I was eating. And when I did not get results “eyeballing” my portions, I got to quit because it didn’t work and I would rather eat cake anyway. So then I was back to cake.
This is not exclusive to me. Humanity is made up of this. Reasons why we can’t. Reasons it’s not worth it. Reasons we shouldn’t have to do what needs to be done to get the results we want. Maybe the reason is because someone who has to do “that” is “really sick,” and we’re not that sick…
So I disagree that the reason I have to do something as “extreme” as weigh my food is that I am *so* sick. I am sure I could get through life without it. The question is not could I live without weighing my food, but could I be this happy, free, content, joyful, and available for life if I didn’t. 
I always say that I am not telling anyone what or how they should be eating. And I am not today either. But I will say that I was not any sicker than a lot of people, especially Westerners, especially Americans. I am just that interested in being well. Interested enough to do something very specific to get a very specific result. 

It doesn’t matter how you say no, as long as you say it.

I am the member of a Facebook group for people who do what I do with food, and one of the newer members asked about how she was going to explain her food to someone new. And a friend of mine recommended I make a blog post about it. And it’s a great idea because it’s a huge part of having a specific lifestyle. Especially a food lifestyle like the one I have.

People have a lot of questions. They have a lot of thoughts. They have a lot of things to say and stories to tell. They are full of “helpful” information. So it helps to have a plan when it comes to how we are going to deal with people in our lives around our eating boundaries.
The first thing I want to say is that you really don’t owe anyone anything in the way of an explanation. Truly. What you put in your body is not up for debate. Nobody is going to shove food in your mouth. And if they do, spit it out. And then file a restraining order. You have the right to eat or not eat whatever you want in whatever way you want. 
But none of us lives in a vacuum, and chances are, there are going to be people that you want to make comfortable around your (possibly weird, or at least perceived as weird) food lifestyle. You want to be comfortable around your friends and family, and maybe your boss or your clients. 
My first piece of advice is to be honest. How in depth you want to get is up to you, and will probably vary based on your relationship. 
The person I end up seated next to at a wedding, who I will never see again, will probably get the bare bones of the matter. “I do this crazy food thing. There are lots of rules. Mostly I don’t eat sugar or carbohydrates.” They will most likely say something like “Good for you. You have so much willpower. I could never do that.” And then they will be handed a piece of cake or a drink and they will forget about your crazy food thing. Because chances are, they really don’t care.
Sometimes, when I am in the middle of weighing out my food in public, strangers want to know what that is and what I am doing. Let me tell you, I hate this. Weighing my food is of grave importance to me. I weigh my food because then the portion is exact. It is as much a mental thing as it is a physical thing. Yes, I am doing it for portion control, but also because I can spin my wheels when it comes to food. When I see an exact number on a scale, there is no doubt as to whether I had too much or not enough. I could plan a whole binge around how I possibly under ate and now I can “make up for it” with something else. So when someone comes along and they want to know all about what I am doing with a scale, they are taking my attention away from this action that requires my full attention. Most importantly, I don’t answer until I can safely remove my attention from what I am doing. I don’t need my scale turning off on me, or to accidentally hit a wrong button when I don’t know what is going on. And when I do have a moment to answer, I usually say something like “I can answer your questions later, but right now I am in the middle of something.” Sometimes those people are offended. I highly recommend not caring about that. Also, when they are not watching you do it, they never come back and ask. My experience is that people don’t actually care. 
When I get invited to go out to eat, there are a few ways that can go.  
If it is something I should participate in, namely family celebrations, I tell them I need to choose the restaurant. I go on line and scope out menus, and then call ahead and ask how certain dishes are prepared and how big portions come. If necessary, I ask them to put portions aside for me so that they are not prepped with foods I cannot eat, like flour or certain marinades. And then I ask them to let the waiter know I have special food needs. Also, I make sure I have enough backup food on me so that if I don’t get enough food from the restaurant, my portions are taken care of. Is this a pain? Of course it is. But I usually get a great meal and I’m there for the company anyway. 
And there are plenty of people who do what I do with food who love to eat out. They don’t mind the questions and the calls and bringing extra food. 
In other circumstances, I sometimes recommend people come to my home for dinner and I or my husband will cook. Our boss has come to our home for dinner quite a few times now. He always asks to take us out. And I alway request that he let us feed him. Especially in the south, it can be hard to find what I need in a restaurant. (A vegetable in the south is often a potato, or if it is a vegetable I would eat, it is breaded or cooked in wine or honey or some other sugar or starch.) The last time he was here he said he felt bad that we were always cooking for him. But I let him know that I prefer it, and he has seen me eat enough times to understand what I do. 
Sometimes, I go out, but don’t eat. I either eat before, or after, and I spend my time drinking iced tea or diet soda and enjoying people’s company. 
When people want to know why I am not eating, I usually say I ate earlier, or I will be eating later. I make sure they know I came for them, and it’s worth it to me to spend time with them. It’s not about food.
There are a lot of people, well meaning, loving people, who will think you are punishing yourself. In some ways, this is the hardest group to deal with. They think you won’t eat a piece of cake because you don’t like yourself. They think that not eating the cake is terrible for you. They truly do not know that *eating* the cake would actually be terrible for you. “Why don’t you live a little?” is a very common phrase. 
I recommend you be firm but gentle with these folks. Say no, clearly. “No thank you.” “I don’t eat that anymore.” “I’m great but I appreciate the offer.” “I don’t eat sugar.” “I don’t miss it.” “Quitting sugar is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
I sometimes have to go more in depth. Be more clear about how sick I am with food. “I have a pretty serious eating disorder and this is how I take care of it.” “I was really miserable and desperate before I gave up sugar.” “This is a matter of life and death for me.” I don’t say these things dramatically, but I do say them seriously. And usually that is enough. 
It can be a struggle to deal with the expectations of people when it comes to food. For so many people, food is how they express love. It is how they show hospitality. It’s how they offer fun.
The most crucial thing I can say is “set boundaries.” Better to set a boundary and offend someone than to betray yourself. Set boundaries that are graceless and clunky. Sounding like a jerk is better than going back to food hell. Your boundaries will get smoother, kinder, more graceful. But don’t worry about that as much as you worry about taking care of yourself, being true to yourself.
Many years ago, I knew a woman who had let her mother-in-law guilt her into eating a dessert she made “especially” for her. And it sent her into an eating disorder relapse. And she said “I will never do that again, because she sees me at that party, but she isn’t going to come into the bathroom to hold my hair back when I go make myself throw up.” 
Nobody else has to live with you in your body. Nobody has to go home with you and see the repercussions of that one bite. The way it affects your job, your relationship with your spouse or your kids, your self-esteem.
So say no however you need to say it. Just say it. 

Maybe it just starts with wanting what seems impossible

I am particularly happy in my body lately. I want to note that I have not lost any weight. Or at least nothing noticeable. It is not about being thin, or thinner.  Not about “finally” looking like something. I am just extra comfortable and feeling particularly beautiful.

I want to say that this comes from practice. I practice self love. I actively look to love my body. I do things that create that love. Like keep my eating boundaries and drink my water and go for my jog. But also, I say nice things about myself. Even in my head, where I am the only one who can hear. Especially there! I am grateful to my body for being an excellent vessel. For being strong and healthy. For all of the ways I can move and all of the things I can do. Without pain. (Mostly without pain. I mean, I *am* in my 40s and spent much of the first 28 years of my life carrying more weight than was comfortable on my joints.)
I like being in a place like this. I like that I have created this kind of place as my norm. Because it is not the societal norm. There is little money to be made from me being happy and comfortable in my body. I may buy a refillable water bottle, and some workout gear. But it means I am not buying supplements, or workout machines, or surgeries or injections or anything else I hope will make me feel good about myself. 
What makes me feel good about myself is knowing that I can be trusted to treat my body with love. Tough love. (Kind of.) The kind of tough love where I go for that jog even when I really want to stay in bed a little longer. The kind of tough love where I drink that water even when all I want is another cup of coffee. (And another. And another.) The kind of tough love that makes me feel like I took care of myself when it’s done, even if it sucked while I was doing it. And so many of theses things still suck. After years. 
I think I used to think that one day I would come to “like” most of these things. That people who took care of themselves liked the acts of taking care. And certainly I have come to love vegetables, which is something I would never have expected. But now I can see that most people would rather hit the snooze button just like I would. And that whether or not someone does hit it has nothing to do with “liking” exercise or “wanting” a nourishing breakfast they have to prepare instead of a donut. It has to do with commitment. 
And one thing I learned early on after putting boundaries around my eating is that commitment comes before results. Not the other way around. That practice, that the doing of a thing, day in and day out, like a ritual or a prayer, is the best way to get somewhere you are not now. That results come in their own time and in their own way. 
About 14 years ago, I was doing some volunteer work at a self-help seminar. And the leader asked me what I wanted to get out of the seminar. And I said “I want my body to be a non-issue.” Because my body was always an issue for me. No matter my size or weight. And in the time of that seminar, I had a bunch of personal setbacks that made my body more and more of an issue I could not let go of. But by the last day of that seminar, I had my current boundaries around my eating and my body was slowly losing all of its charge as a “problem” in my life. 
I didn’t know what it would look like at the time to have my body cease to be an issue. And I certainly had no idea how to make that happen. But here I am writing a blog to tell you that I am happy and comfortable in that body. More than that, that I love and admire it. I didn’t have any idea what I would be getting myself into when I asked for that outcome. 
And that is probably for the best. Because that Kate who wanted to not worry about her body all the time would probably not have been ready to give up sugar and carbohydrates. But she didn’t have to be. She just had to want something that seemed impossible.

Independence Day too

This week was Independence Day here in the US. So I decided to write a bit about my personal freedom from food addiction.
As a kid and teenager, through my mid 20s, food was the most important thing in my life. I thought about it constantly. I thought about my weight constantly. I hated my body constantly. I wanted and obsessed over sugar and carbs constantly. Almost all of my thinking was around my issues with food. It used up so much of my brain that I am surprised I managed to do or achieve anything else with my time. Also, I didn’t achieve that much.
Here’s the thing that makes me clear that I was a slave to food. I ate when I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to eat in front of people, but I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t want to be fat and I wanted to lose weight, but I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t want to eat certain foods because I didn’t particularly like them, but if they were all there was in the house, I still couldn’t stop myself. Compulsive. Obsessed. Miserable. Enslaved.
I stopped being a salve when I stopped eating man-made sugar and carbohydrates entirely. And I did it with the intention of not going back.
When I dieted in my early life, I gave up sugar long enough that I could be thin, and therefore not judged for eating sugar. I *wanted* to eat sugar, but not hate myself and my body. I thought that being thin would make me love my body. I thought that being thin and eating sugar would be the perfect life.
It didn’t work. When I was thin but eating sugar and carbohydrates, I still hated my body. Judged it. Abused it. I thought my body was not treating me right, instead of the other way around.
When I quit sugar and carbohydrates, I started to love my body. Whether it was skinny or chubby. I no longer needed my body to be thin to love it. I loved it by treating it well, with nourishment and care. With food first. Later with sleep and hydration. Later still with quitting smoking. Eventually with exercise. I am sure there will be more. And more still. This food addiction journey is a lifetime journey of self-care. It was the actions I was taking that lead to love. It was “fake it ‘til you make it” that made me so happy with my body and my life. It was treating myself like a precious thing first. Not feeling like a precious thing and then acting accordingly. 
Freedom didn’t come for me. It did not seek me out. But it was there all the time, waiting for me to take it. It was waiting in all of the moments I played a long game with my life. It was every bite of cake I chose not to take. It was every “obligatory” meal I politely refused. It was in every time I put myself first, even though my body and mind were screaming and begging and tempting. 
Until the day that sugar stopped calling. Until the begging and the screaming and the tempting all stopped. And the freedom settled in. And the freedom became the norm. 
That did not come quickly. Or easily. It came a little at a time with a lot of pain and difficulty. Until it was just there. And now it’s just there. Freedom is just a part of my life now. Independence Day is today too. 

What fat women deserve

One thing I see all the time on social media is people who are angry about fat people being ok with being fat. Some of the complaints are about “laziness,” some are about “promoting unhealthy lifestyles,” some are about “not wanting to see fat people,” and some are just full on misogyny directed entirely toward women, with the implication, and sometimes the outright statement, that we owe men some sort of attempt at societally sanctioned beauty. That pleasing men is our purpose and our obligation. 
It’s a hard thing for me to see. Because it is not the way I was raised. Certainly not the idea that I “owe” men anything. I am grateful nobody ever made me feel like my body or my choices should be made for the benefit of someone else. 
But this whole idea of “promoting unhealthy lifestyles” always gets my ire up. Sometimes because it’s a manipulation. “I can’t be expressing a view of prejudice or cruelty, because I am only saying these hurtful things because I’m *worried* about you.” (Spoiler alert! This jerk is not worried about you…) And sometimes it’s just because I don’t understand why people can’t mind their own effing business.
Early this month, Nike put a fat mannequin in their London flagship store. And an opinion article in The Telegraph said that Nike was selling “a dangerous lie.” And even went on to talk about which sizes the author decided were acceptable to be sold work out clothes. She called a size 12 (size 10 in the US) “healthy” (by which I am unsure if she meant really healthy or if she actually meant “husky” or “ample.” And which is also very close to the size that I am. Don’t think I took it lightly….) and a size 16 (14 in the US) “a hefty weight…but not one to kill a woman…”
So apparently I am close to the top size where I can work out and am allowed to wear workout clothes. I would also like to point out that the woman who wrote this opinion, Tanya Gold, seems herself to be the size 16 that she says is “not one to kill a woman.” I love that she just so happens to be the top of this acceptable range. Perhaps I am to infer that she would not “let herself go” to the point that she, herself, would not be worthy of Lycra.
The people who have the biggest problem with my food boundaries are usually the exact people who have food issues themselves and have a hard time being confronted by my commitment. I can’t always tell who they are by what they look like. But I can usually tell by how emotional they get in the face of my unwavering dedication. They don’t like it. They try to tell me I’m crazy, or unhealthy, or obsessed. (Oh, I promise I know what it’s like to be obsessed. Nobody needs to explain it to me, thanks.)
This fat mannequin opinion smells a little like that to me. Like someone so afraid of their own life that they have to go rain on someone else’s.
Because otherwise, why do you care? Why do you care if fat women are wearing workout clothes? 
First, let’s note that there are fat people who work out. And don’t get skinny. Fat people play sports. And don’t get skinny. Physical activity does not make you thin. It may change the shape of your body, but it has little to do with weight. Weight is mostly about what you eat. But wait. Let’s even say that these women are not working out in these workout clothes. (Though why anyone would wear workout clothes for no reason is beyond me. I mean, I wouldn’t wrestle that ish on every morning if I weren’t going to need my sweat wicked away.) Why do you care if fat women are wearing Nike workout clothes to eat donuts and drink milkshakes? Let these women deep fry frosting in their Nike workout clothes if they want to.
Leave the fat women alone. Let them be consumers. Let them make their choices. Stop telling fat women what they “deserve.” They know what they deserve. To be treated like complete human beings with agency and autonomy. 

The “doing” and the “having done.”

I have been feeling particularly lazy the past few days. And today is, of course, my day to get stuff done. It’s the day for laundry and cooking and writing this blog. It’s my day to prep for the coming week. And I will do what needs to be done. In fact, the laundry is already in the washing machine. And I will start my cooking as soon as this is posted. But already I am looking forward to being done and sitting on the couch with a yarn project. 
It has been a long time since I have picked up a yarn project. And this one is particularly ambitious. I am attempting to make two dolls without a pattern. Or rather, I am starting with the base of another pattern and attempting to change it to fit my own specifications. It’s complicated and is taking a certain amount of blind faith. 
In my life in the food, everything scared me. Anything that was not an obvious win for me was a no-go. And even some of those “obvious wins” turned out harder than I imagined and I would quit. Everything was so serious. And nothing got done.
Or if it did, it would get done in the least healthy way possible. I have mentioned before that I went about creating like a crazy person. I would work like a machine through the day and night. Unable to stop. Unable to evaluate. And at some point things would get done half-assed because I couldn’t break my momentum but I was too exhausted to keep going properly. I had to see the end. I had to get that hit, that chemical reward. And it was usually mixed. Because it was done, but it was never perfect. And not perfect was never good enough. Now things get done with more care and attention, *and* I don’t need perfection. Wow!
I have always enjoyed the idea of creating. I have always enjoyed having created. I have always enjoyed the beginning and the end. The idea, and the finished product. I have never enjoyed work. Until I got my eating under control. 
In the food I was always interested in knowing, but never learning. I was always interested in having, but not acquiring. 
In getting my eating under control I learned to sit with difficult feelings. And feelings like realizing that I might fail at something are particularly difficult for me. Also, work, with it’s long-game potential rewards, as opposed to instant gratification, also fills me with difficult feelings. 
These are some of the feelings I ate. I mean, I was eating pretty much all of my feelings. But these feelings that forced me to evaluate myself, these were the ones that probably scared me the most.
Since I put down the food, I am no longer afraid of work, especially the work that creating entails.  I am not saying I enjoy it all the time. Ask my husband. I get frustrated. I swear, and growl. And sometimes I even throw down the yarn in a huff. But I pick it back up again. I learn. I acquire new skills and techniques. I add them to the list and seek out newer and even more difficult skills. 
Not being afraid of work is one of the biggest gifts of getting my eating under control. Not having to care that things be good enough is another gift. I am allowed to fail. I am allowed to make bad art. I am allowed to work really hard and have nothing to show for it. 
Putting boundaries around my food has always meant freedom. Freedom from the food itself. Freedom from living in a body that was difficult to live in. And freedom from my own ridiculous expectations. So today I will do the things I don’t want to do, so I can sit on the couch and attempt to do things I still don’t want to “do,” but will find immense satisfaction in “having done.”

My anniversary of the other side

My birthday is Thursday this coming week. I will be 42. It’s pretty nice. I feel great. I look great. I have no complaints. Not about my life, and not about my age. 
It was on my birthday 12 years ago that I came out of the fog of giving up sugar. 
For most of the first 28 years of my life, I lived in a sugar fog. I was addicted to sugar and carbs from a very young age. And I was high on sugar the majority of my waking life. 
And then at 28, I gave up sugar, and went from being high on sugar all the time to not being high on sugar at all, and that felt like a different kind of high. It meant cravings, and a general slowing down of my brain function,  the adjustment of my digestive system, and a kind of low-level exhaustion basically all the time. My body and brain needed some time to heal. And then one day, my 30th birthday, about a year and a half after I gave up sugar, I noticed that I had woken up. 
In that year and a half of foggy time, I was learning to keep the boundaries around my food. From friends who wanted a bite and I had to say no, to bringing my own food to a wedding and the mother of the bride being mildly offended, to people wanting to make things especially for me and having to politely refuse.
Someone once told me that when you make a commitment, you change the course of your life. 
After that I was learning about how to keep other boundaries. Saying no to people who knew me as eager-to-please. Standing by my “no” when people wanted to coerce or manipulate me into doing what they wanted. Making life choices that made me happy, rather than choices I thought would make others happy. Making choices that I had to then stand by, because they were mine, and right or wrong, I could not pawn them off on anyone else.
If there is a hard part to change, I believe it lies in our relationships with others. I have been a relatively bold nonconformist for most of my life. I don’t particularly care what others think of me. And if I do, it is often a streak of defiance. I dare you not to like me. I dare you to judge me. 
But good lord, even with my devil-may-care attitude about fitting in, when it came to setting new boundaries with people in my life, boundaries I *had to* set to keep my eating under control, it was hard. People want us to be who we have always been. And when we make life-altering changes, like entirely revamping our food life, we will, out of necessity become different people. 
I see it all the time when people decide to do what I do with food. If they want to lose weight but they don’t want to change, they will not last long. They may lose weight. They may even lose all of the weight they want to. But then they inevitably return to old ways and old patterns. 
I have heard when women let their mothers-in-law insist they eat the special dessert made just for them. Or let their husbands convince them that they should have a glass of wine because they used to be fun. Or let their sweet grandmothers feed them that special dish. 
Refusing the homemade lasagna made by my most beloved grandmother (she made it  for Christmas and Easter and it was by far my favorite food in the whole world – in my life, it was what love tasted like) may have been the hardest thing I ever had to do. It was terrible to have to do to both of us. It hurt her. It hurt me. But I had to say no. So I did. 
I do not regret a single moment on this journey. I am grateful for all 42 years of my amazing life. And especially grateful for the past 13 and a half, where I have been learning slowly and steadily how to be my truest self. And even more for that moment 12 years ago, when I looked up from that year and a half of introspection, and pain, and discombobulation and discomfort, and saw that there had been an “other side.” And that I was on it. 

Post Navigation