onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “boundaries”

Velvet doesn’t get to make the decisions.

I was thinking that I should start cooking with salt. Or at least figure out how to cook with salt. Because I have been making a lot of recipes lately, and I have noticed that putting the salt in the dry rub or marinade makes a difference. Salt cooked into food is tasty. But that is not how I generally cook, because I don’t taste while I cook. That’s a rule. I only put portion and ingredient controlled food in my mouth three times a day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Any time that is not those times, nothing goes in my mouth but zero calorie drinks. Any food that is outside of my 3 portion controlled meals does not go in my mouth ever. That includes food that will eventually be part of my 3 meals. So even if it’s just a bite, a lick, a drop, I cannot have it. Even just a speck is too much. And I thought with some embarrassment what some particular foodie friends would think of that.

Because I want to be cool. I have always wanted to be cool. In all areas of whatever. Let me put it to you this way. There are a lot of different things to be, and we can be many things simultaneously, and we all have our priorities. Some people have propriety as a priority. (This is not really one of my personal priorities…) Some people have being knowledgeable as a priority. Some people have loyalty as a priority. And some of us have being cool as a priority. I am vain. Very very vain. (I am, of course, also a non-conformist, so there is a limit to how much I care about what other people think, but if you think about who has always been considered “cool,” they are generally not a bunch of followers, so…)

So I want to be cool and I am afraid that the kind of strict regulation I follow might negate my hep, devil-may-care attitude. Because I don’t actually have a devil-may-care attitude. Not when it comes to food, my body, or my sugar addiction.

But also, it is a little ridiculous that I am worried about my cooking “chops,” so to speak. I am an amazing cook. I make delicious, interesting things all the time. I am creative AF, okay? I have always made satisfying, and often ingenious, alternatives to foods I had to stop eating for my vanity, sanity, and health. But there is a limit to how “fancy” I can get. Because I have these rules. And I need these rules. These rules ultimately make me happy. Getting my eating under control really is the greatest thing to ever happen to me. And these rules are that control. Anything less than this kind of extreme limitation has never been enough to keep me sane around food. No looser set of boundaries have ever made me happy.

I am bringing this up because I heard the other day that being authentic is about being able to hear that voice in your head that talks so much shit, and shine a light on it; it’s being able to make friends with your more unsavory aspects. It’s to say out loud the things you most don’t want people to know.

My personal experience is that nothing slays the dragon like pointing out that there is a dragon, that it’s scary, and that you are afraid of being cooked like a sausage and eaten.

My other personal experience is that whatever it is that I am terrified to tell the world, seems pretty tame, even lame, once I do manage to say it out loud.

So I have these restrictive rules about food and there is not really anything to do about it. Those rules are not a problem. They are the solution to my problem, food. Food has always been my problem for as long as I can remember. So the truth is, if it’s not cool to be so restrictive, then I am not cool.

Then I have a few options: 1) Be not cool and be a bitch about it. I don’t recommend this one. It just leads to misplaced anger and resentment. 2) Be not cool and be cool about it. Or 3) Be not cool and be so freaking cool about it that it changes the perception of cool. What is not an option is to break my rules, or cross my own boundaries.

I am going to try cooking with salt, but I am still not going to taste while I am cooking. Will I screw it up? Possibly. Will I end up figuring it out in the end? I have no doubt. The deal is that cooking with salt is ultimately not a big deal, but I still had shameful, humiliating, unsavory thoughts because of it. And I do myself, and everyone who likes the authentic Kate, a disservice when I pretend that I don’t have a shady inner life.

I want to let everybody know that for all of my positive attitude, and fearless championing of the sugar-free life, even after over 11 years, I still have my embarrassments and my doubts. I want you to know because you may be having doubts too. Maybe about food, but maybe about something else, starting your own business, training for a marathon, changing careers. I don’t want you to look at me, or read my blog, and think that I am so bleeping cheerful because the only voice in my head is a cheerleader named Bambi who has the spirit and wants you to have it too! There’s also a gloomy Goth girl named Velvet who would like me, all of us really, to remember that life is pain, humiliation is hiding around every corner, resistance is futile, and in the end we’re all going to die. And she’s way sneakier than Bambi. Bambi shouts into her megaphone at high noon in a neon yellow bikini. Velvet whispers subliminal messages of impending doom in my ear while my attention is diverted.

I’m saying that I have the same dark side you do. I just make a point to keep an eye on my little Goth, and make sure she doesn’t get to make the decisions.

 

If I were good at it, I wouldn’t need boundaries in the first place.

The other day I was standing next to my husband when he looked at me and said, “skinny.” It was not a judgment (good or bad) so much as a mildly interesting observation.

Before we go on, I want to say that this was particularly unusual. I was not in any way offended or upset, but my husband does not generally talk about my weight at all unless I ask him directly, and that is, I believe, as it should be. As long as my eating disorders are under control, there is nothing helpful about another person monitoring the size of my ass. It is absolutely nobody’s business but my own. And I have spent a lot of time and effort keeping my eating and body image disorders at bay, so the people I seek that kind of input from are people who, like me, have a history of compulsive eating and food addiction and who, also like me, keep boundaries around their eating.

So my husband said I looked skinny, but I have not been feeling skinny at all. In fact I have been feeling a little fat. And sometimes, very fat. I am not saying that I have been tormented by my weight. But if you asked me if I were on the higher end of my weight or the lower, I would guess higher.

But when I look at the evidence, he’s right. I may actually be the smallest that he has ever seen me. The size of the pants I wear and how they fit me indicates that I am relatively small for me.

Even at my thinnest, in fact, even when I have been underweight, I have never really been what Western Culture would call “skinny.” Even when my collarbones look like they might cut you if you get too close to me, I still have wide hips and round thighs and big calves. My thighs always rub together, no matter what my weight is. (Thank God I was a grownup with my eating disorders under control before the Internet became a place where having a thigh gap and the pictures to prove it was a thing.) You can call it curvy, or zaftig, or say I’m an endomorph, but I have never been the kind of skinny that graces runways. (I use the term “graces” loosely.)

It took a long time and hard look at reality to come to this understanding about my body, and to love it exactly as it is. As a culture, we particularly celebrate one kind of feminine beauty: that of the ectomorph. We honor the women who naturally don’t carry a lot of fat on their bodies. Perhaps you have seen the Zara ad that says “Love your curves,” and noticed that the two women in the photo did not have any to speak of. Were they beautiful? Absolutely. Are they real women (albeit young women) with real bodies? Hell yes they are! (Though I am not actually sure how real those two models happen to be. I tried to find if the image was Photoshopped, and could not find anything about it.) I am not shaming the models in the ad. Skinny women are real women, just like muscular, and chubby, and overweight, and zaftig women are real too. This is not about what each of us happens to be born. It is about what each of us are told we “should be,” without anyone ever telling us that there are things we “can’t be.” I cannot walk from Kentucky to Hawaii. It is not possible. And I cannot be “supermodel skinny.” I was not made that way.

But nobody told me that. Ever, really. I had to figure it out for myself, by having sane and functional eating practices, and doing all of the healthy things I could do, like drinking water and getting enough sleep and exercise, and then taking a serious look at the reality of my body.

The beauty, fashion, fitness, and diet industries didn’t want me to know that I don’t have it in me to be that skinny. Because if I knew, they couldn’t get me to buy their latest cream, shake, workout app subscription, prepared food service, or whatever it is they happen to be selling at the moment with the promise that if I am “good enough,” work hard enough, pay enough money, I will end up with the body of my favorite underwear model. (No. I don’t have a favorite underwear model.)

I don’t believe in vilifying skinny women. But I don’t believe they are the only incarnations of beauty in the world, as I have been told for as long as I have been alive. When my husband looked at me and said, “skinny,” he did not do so in triumph because he finally found me attractive. For him, my beauty is not about my weight. In fact, I wish I had as much love for my body at any size as he does. It was merely an observation on his part. And it served as a reminder to me that even after all of the work, and all of the commitment, and all of the times I kept my food boundaries, even though it was hard or inconvenient, my head is pretty messed up when it comes to the way I think about and view my body. And that what I see in the mirror, or think I look like, is not necessarily reality.

Even now that I have taken inventory and checked myself against the specific frame of reference of my clothes and how they fit, I still don’t feel very thin. Knowing that I am, perhaps, the thinnest I have been in 4 years doesn’t make me “feel” any thinner. It doesn’t make me “know” that I am relatively small.

The last thing I want to say about this is that even though my body image disorders are irrational, and knowing that doesn’t change the way I think and feel, knowing does help me take healthy actions. And it is in our actions that we impact ourselves, our world, and the people around us. I don’t have to feel “skinny enough” to keep my commitments to eat enough nutritious food and exercise moderately, rather than starve myself and exercise to exhaustion and injury. I don’t have to listen to my fears and my “feelings.” I just have to keep my boundaries. After all, that is literally what they are there for. If I already always made healthy decisions, boundaries would be redundant.

(Ba ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba ba) I wanna be sedated.

I keep boundaries around my eating, but I am not on a diet. And sometimes, I eat for comfort, but always within those boundaries.

I ate heavy on Wednesday. Lots of high-fat, high-calorie foods. Since then, I have reined it in. Because having boundaries around one’s food doesn’t necessarily mean being thin. I could be fat and still be eating within my food boundaries. I make different choices because I don’t want to be fat. I don’t like it. I have my priorities.

The big difference between me now, and me when I was active in my sugar/food addiction was that back then, even if I wanted to rein it in, I couldn’t. I was a slave.

Look, I don’t “like” to eat lighter (i.e. less fat on my vegetables, less fatty meat, smaller fruit portions, fewer high calorie foods in general.) Ever. I want to eat all big and juicy, fatty, greasy, ooey gooey all the time. I want to roll away from the table because I’m too stuffed to walk properly. Much like the late, great Joey Ramone, (Ba ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba ba) I wanna be sedated.

But, of course, I don’t want what comes with that. I don’t want the extra weight. I don’t want the lethargy. I don’t want the obsession with food, even foods that are “by the rules.”

Food got me through difficult times when I didn’t have tools. But it’s important to note that I still gave up sugar and put boundaries around my eating before I had life-coping tools. Because I was never going to learn to cope without food until I gave up food. I was never going to figure out what my options were while sugar was still an option. Because as long as my substance was a possibility, I was always going to choose it. So I made a commitment. And something happens to you when you make a commitment. It looks and feels a little like magic, but I’ve come to realize that it’s pretty standard. I closed the door on numbing out with sugar. I chose that I was going to maintain my food boundaries no matter what happened in my life. Yes, I still use food as a comfort sometimes. But I do so with integrity. More than just eating within my boundaries, I bear in mind what I want for myself, and my body, and make food choices that coincide with those desires.

Since I stopped eating sugar, food no longer runs my life. I have the clarity and wherewithal to take a step back and look at the long-term consequences of what I eat. I don’t have to make decisions based on temporary discomfort. I have tools to deal with unhappiness and upset that are not edible. I get anxious, nervous, upset, unhappy ALL THE TIME. Food, even within my boundaries, had to stop being my go-to answer. I was forced to come up with some alternatives.

But what happened was that for a while there in the beginning, I was bad at life. I didn’t have sugar, and I didn’t have tools. But the commitment I made was clear. The sugar was not coming back. And it turned out that the old saying was right: necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention. I invented new ways of dealing with my problems. And I did it pretty damn quick. I found coping strategies. I got honest. I got grateful. I got responsible. I stopped blaming circumstances and started making choices and taking actions. Sometimes I effed up. Sometimes I effed up royally. But I learned. And I grew. And I got better at life. Hell, I got good at life.

When I was eating compulsively, and lying about food, I was always going to come clean about my transgressions after I got myself back under control. You know, (or maybe you don’t) I was going to admit that I ate a chocolate cake once I went a week without eating chocolate cake. I was going to admit that I gained 10 pounds cheating on my diet once I got back on that diet and lost the 10 pounds. I was going to be honest once I took care of the consequences.

Spoiler Alert! It doesn’t work that way. Instead of getting my shit together so I could come clean, I needed to come clean so I could get my shit together. I have never ever once gotten my integrity back before I got honest. And let me tell you, I sure did try a whole bunch of times, over and over, for most of my life.

So I let myself take comfort in comfort food. And that was nice. I am not ashamed. I love food. I will never be neutral about it. But food is not my coping mechanism. I have actual life skills for that now.

It’s not the salad, so much as the principle…

I have been eating a lot more raw vegetables for several weeks. I have been having big salads at least once, and often twice a day. Colorful, delicious arugula salads with radishes, onion, mushrooms, bean sprouts, cucumber, and a handful of steamed broccoli and canned artichoke hearts.

I haven’t generally thought much about raw versus cooked vegetables, but I have noticed that my body dysmorphia is in what seems to be a dormant phase. And it makes me wonder if the two are connected.

I eat my vegetables every day. I have done so for over 9 years. I have been regularly consuming fresh produce like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, onions, bok choi, Swiss chard, cabbage and green beans. Mostly roasted or sautéed. But since I have started eating so much salad, I have been feeling significantly calmer about what I look like.

And I have not lost weight. That’s what makes it interesting.

I have questions about why. Is it chemical, and physiological? Is it all psychological? Is it a combination? Or is the whole thing just coincidence? Am I just in a good phase regarding my body image issues?

There is a part of me that wants to say that it doesn’t matter if the two are connected. What matters is that I am mostly well now. But ultimately, it does matter. It is the difference between peace and torment. And I need to admit that I do not believe it is a coincidence. But I don’t want to, because I love eating lots of cooked vegetables. And if I admit that is having an effect on my mood or my happiness, it means I will have to moderate how much of my food is cooked.

I am a compulsive eater. I might have my eating under control, but I will never be neutral around food. If I ever had the ability to be indifferent, that ship has sailed. And then it sank. I like my food, and I like it decadent.

It’s not that my big salads are not delicious. They are wonderful. I love every bite. But I can often forget how much I will enjoy them when I am not in the actual process of eating one. There is a kind of mental block I have around salad. And I know that I am not the only one. I have talked about this with lots of other people.

And there is that part of me that doesn’t want any more limits. Whenever I think it might be time to make a change, my first reaction is always to be a crybaby-whiner. But I already gave up sugar and grains, and I quit smoking, and I limit my coffee, and severely limit my diet soda. Don’t take anything else away from me! I mean, they are just sautéed Brussels sprouts? Can you really find fault with Brussels sprouts? Seriously?! (Can you hear the whining?)

The first thing I have to remember is that moderation does not have to mean The End. I do not have to give up my Brussels sprouts forever and always. I can limit them to, say, three or four times a week. But the more important thing I have to remember is that I don’t have to do anything. It’s one of my Jedi Mind Tricks. It takes away a lot of my initial instinct to rebel when I remind myself that I’m a big girl who lives her own life and makes her own decisions. If I want to fight and make a fuss, I can eat cooked vegetables every day on principle. Who is going to stop me? But just like every other action I take, I will reap what I sow. There is no escaping that.

In the end, I always want the gifts. If limiting my cooked vegetables means more days of peace and sanity, I will choose that. It’s how I roll. But I don’t always choose that first. Sometimes I take longer to get out of my own way than others. But ultimately, I want what I want. And I have learned over the years that I want sustainable happiness more than I want instant gratification.

I am still interested in the ways you take care of yourself and the gifts you get from not harming yourself with food. Use the hashtag #betterthanchocolate and share your experiences. I want to hear from you!

Also, follow me on twitter @onceafatgirl5.

And please feel free to follow, share and repost my blog!

Sorry, not sorry

What are you willing to do to win?

Are you willing to lie? How big of a lie? A little lie? How big can a lie be before it’s not a little lie anymore. What are you willing to do to cover up that little lie you told to win? Are you willing to cheat? Are you willing to pass the blame? Are you willing to steal?

Over the years, I have figured out that winning is not my goal. For me, every day I am sober from sugar, my goal is to be simultaneously more humble and less of a doormat.

When I was eating compulsively, I spent almost all of my life apologizing for existing, but refusing to apologize for my bad behavior. I would justify it, blame other people, and just plain old lie about it, but I never just said, “I was wrong, I’m sorry.”

Now, I am committed to the opposite. I apologize for my bad behavior. And I refuse to apologize for existing. And that extends to being myself and taking care of myself. It’s the difference between being a self-righteous chump and a modest powerhouse.

To my self-righteous chump self, winning was a necessity that I was willing to do anything to achieve. To the modest powerhouse, life is not a zero-sum game.

It turns out that a lot of people have opinions about me. They have opinions about my lifestyle, my choices, and my personality. They have opinions about things that are absolutely and 100% none of their business.

That’s OK. They can have their opinions. What they cannot have are my apologies. Too bad, so sad. Sorry, not sorry.

And there is another thing that they cannot have. They cannot have a say in my heart, soul, or spirit. They cannot make me hard. I will not allow it.

I’m a sensitive person in some ways. I have very big feelings. Books and movies make me cry. Even TV shows and comic books make me cry. (Good ones, of course…)

But malice and cruelty make me cry too. Especially, but not exclusively, when they are directed at me.

My being susceptible to being hurt upsets a lot of people in my life. People who want what’s best for me want me to be harder to touch. Growing up, people used to tell me not to be so sensitive. My boyfriend tells me that when I get upset “they” win.

But I don’t think that’s true. I think “they” win when I grow a crusty layer of ice around my heart, so that I am immune to malice and cruelty.

I don’t want to be immune to malevolence. I want to be hurt by hurtful things, so that I never stop being moved by moving things, or inspired by inspiring things. I never want to forget my humanity.

I spent the first 28 years of my life trying to numb my gigantic feelings with sugar. I built fortresses around myself trying to be hard. Fortresses of fat and indifference and meanness. I ate my feelings into a 300 lb body. And it never did work, either. I was still sensitive. I just lived in a tiny world. A tiny world of self-involvement and ego.

This is better. Crying is not the end of the world. Nobody is winning when I cry. Because crying is not part of a game. It is part of being alive and aware and available for life. Which I do for myself. So, sorry, not sorry!

My own Christmas miracle

Christmas is over and the one holiday left is my second favorite time of the year. So I’m feeling pretty good right about now. Plus, I got some pretty awesome presents. I am writing this blog on my new MacBook. (Look who’s fancy!)

I made it through the food holidays with my eating boundaries in tact. That makes 8 Thanksgiving/Christmas Seasons in a row. But for most of them, I did not do much, if any, celebrating. This will be the second year in a row that I have lived in the town I grew up in, close to family.

When I lived in New York, I didn’t fly back to my hometown this time of year. I might have met friends for a bit in the evening. Exchanged gifts. Called family. But for the most part, I happily spent my days alone.

And now I live with my boyfriend. Just a short drive from both his family and my own.

But I want to note that, except for breakfast at my mom’s (with explicit instructions from me about what kind of bacon to buy and how big of an apple I wanted), I kept my boundaries around my eating by not eating with everybody else. I ate at home before or after the parties. I packed my meals in tupperware and brought them with me just in case.

And I didn’t really think twice about it. It was easy. I didn’t have to be around the foods I don’t eat. I didn’t have to look at cake and pie and cookies. I colored with the kids, or talked with family. I got to do the social part without having to deal with eating.

I am so grateful for the way that I eat now. I make sure I eat delicious food every day. Not just on holidays. And I don’t ever have to feel disgusted or ashamed anymore. I am not sorry that there was no candy for me. I am not sorry there were no chips and dip for me.

The truth is that since I put boundaries around my eating, I am not sorry at all about food anymore. Ever.

Now that my friends, is a Christmas miracle!

Novelty helped me survive eating food I didn’t enjoy

Today we spent the day driving home again. It was a nice day.

I liked the town where we stayed in Kentucky. I went walking every day. I enjoyed my time there. It was nice to be away.

But there is something else that I find enjoyable about going out of town. Especially for a short while. I am forced to do different things. To break my routines and branch out. Especially around food.

I don’t know that I have ever thought about the fact that I cook almost everything in the oven. Meat and vegetables alike. I occasionally sauté. I rarely fry. And I never steam. Bacon and eggs get cooked on the range. Basically everything else is baked or roasted.

But there was no oven at the hotel we stayed in. Only burners. So I made chicken the other day. Because it was easy to get and I was going to have to pan cook it. And it had been maybe years since I had it. At least the boneless, skinless breast cutlet. And I kept apologizing to my boyfriend that it wasn’t very good. And he kept saying it was perfectly good.

Right. I don’t like chicken. But I already knew that. I almost never make it, unless it’s bone in, skin on and I deep fry it twice. (It’s called confit. And it’s awesome.) It was nice to have boring old chicken breast. If only to remember that I really don’t want it. And that I don’t have to eat it again any time soon. I didn’t even feel disappointed. It was just a new meal in a new place. There was a kind of freedom in being away from my norm. I made vegetables I hadn’t made in a long time either. Sautéed green beans. Brussels sprouts. Broccoli. It was also nice to eat a bunch of things that I hadn’t made in forever but actually loved!

I thoroughly enjoyed being someplace I didn’t know. And doing things I I don’t usually do. I liked exploring. I liked looking around.

I am not a person who jumps out of bed in the morning hoping the day is filled with excitement and adventure. But even for a girl like me, who likes sameness and contentment, variety is still the spice of life.

And if I learned anything from keeping the boundaries around my eating no matter what happens (or what doesn’t), it’s that peace is not about sameness or contentment. Peace is about trusting that everything is exactly right in the midst of upheaval and discontent.

And yes. I’m happy to have my oven back.

In case you missed it, it has already begun…

Another Halloween over. Of course, Halloween kicks off our collective debauched food binge that lasts through the extreme hangover that is New Years Day. The day we firmly resolve that this year we will be better. We will lose weight and drink more water and less alcohol and stop yelling at our kids and be better listeners.

I am so grateful that I don’t have to play that game anymore. Of course, at this particular moment I am most grateful that I did not have to eat compulsively just because it was Halloween. Trick or treat would have been, without a doubt, all trick and no treat.

I handed out the candy this year. Which wasn’t hard, because I don’t crave it since I haven’t had it in my body for over 8 years. And there weren’t many kids since it was so cold, so there is still a whole bunch of candy in the house. But thank God I don’t have to eat it. Thank God it’s not mine. Thank God I don’t have to start, and then be expected to stop. Because I don’t know if I have another stop in me. And I don’t want to find out.

I also love that I still love Halloween. I love dressing up. I love my own creativity. I love the chance to show off how clever I am. I love getting to wear a costume I can feel beautiful in. (I was Miss America this year. Complete with evening gown, tiara, sash and running mascara.) In a body I can feel beautiful in. I love that I don’t have to feel deprived. Of fun. Or chocolate. Because the truth is that I would not have just eaten some chocolate. And I wouldn’t have just eaten all of the chocolate. I would have eaten the things I didn’t want or like. I would have eaten everything that was there. And then I would have gotten more. I would have needed to go get more. I would not have been able to not get more. But instead, I get to still love Halloween because I don’t have to eat myself to shame and self-loathing. I love that I get to wake up with some dignity. Even after the binge-fest that is National Candy Day.

So now it is time to beware the Holiday Season. I may not be in danger, but food is still dangerous to me. Even after all this time. I don’t take it lightly. I protect myself from my eating disorders. By remembering that I am eternally a compulsive eater. Hopeless and without a cure. By making sure that the meals I make myself are delicious and decadent while keeping them within my eating boundaries. By remembering that I am addicted to sugars, grains and starches. By remembering how eating compulsively manifests in my life. On my body in the form of 150 more pounds. And in my personality in the form of lying, cheating and stealing. And in my heart as depression and self-hatred. I remember these things because I want to continue to wake up with dignity.

I may have made it through Halloween, but there is more to come. Pumpkin Pie and Christmas cookies. Mashed potatoes and stuffing. Wine and eggnog. There is little time to take a breath between bites and gulps for the rest of the year. For other people. For me, there is plenty of time. Hours and hours between my three meals a day. To do and be. As long as I keep my head on straight and keep the boundaries around my eating.

So I hope you had a Happy Halloween. And I wish you a peaceful Holiday Season. Because it has already begun.

Better than the alternative.

Today I called a restaurant to ask about their menu. I wasn’t going to. I looked it up on line. They had vegetables. They had protein. It would have been fine.

And then my boyfriend said, “But aren’t you going to call them?” And I said “Yeah. OK.”

Here is the truth. I would have been able to eat there without calling ahead. It would have been fine. But only just fine. By calling, I gave myself the opportunity to eat better. I was able to make a special request and have them prep something for me specially. This restaurant normally braises their cabbage with a seasoning blend that has starch in it. But one of the cooks told me that he could set aside some for me that did not have that seasoning. He then answered all ten thousand of my questions. Told me what was made pre-prepped and could not be changed, and what I could get on the side. He even told me portion sizes.

I would have had to take up plenty of my server’s time if I had asked all of my questions at the table. And in the end I would have ended up with a salad of lettuce and onion and 4 orders of steamed broccoli. Dry. It would not have been my favorite meal. I would have made it work. Because I always make it work so that I keep my food boundaries. But I would probably have been kind of disappointed.

I can have a lot of anxiety. Especially around keeping my food boundaries. Because as a sugar addict and compulsive eater, I am so clear that my happiness and sanity hang in the balance. But since I have started living with my boyfriend, I have been trying to be able to be more flexible about eating out. NOT like crossing my boundaries. Ever. But being more willing to trust that I will be able to keep my boundaries in the actual real world.

Other people do it. Calmly and peacefully and with the sure knowledge that it will go well and be great. I know so many people who regularly do what I do in restaurants and in public. I know people who have done what I do anywhere and everywhere. Morocco and India and the South American Jungle. Places where it’s actually hard. And yet they have managed. Even Japan (though I have been told that Japan was the hardest.)

I want to feel free to go out into the world and live my life. And trust that I will be able to keep my food boundaries as long as I am willing. Because that is really all it takes. Willingness.

But it was nice to remember that preparing can not only make the experience less stressful, it also gives me an opportunity to get something I would not have gotten if I had not called ahead. Not only did I get to let go of some of tomorrow’s dining anxiety by being prepared, I gave the restaurant an opportunity to be prepared to serve me better.

I am sure that I will have plenty of chances in life to prove that I am willing to keep my food boundaries in all manner of circumstances, while flying by the seat of my pants, because that is what life throws at me. But in the mean time, I am grateful to have a fantastic boyfriend who reminds me that when being prepared is an option, it’s worth the effort. And I’m sure he thought to remind me because, let’s face it, a better-fed Kate is a happier Kate. And a happier Kate is better than the alternative…

Money is money. And time is money. But my attention is worth more than gold.

Twice now in the past three days I have had to speak up for myself. I have had to say no and stop.

It’s always an experience to see where I resist this. My “Good Girl” is a bit of a die-hard, it turns out.

Although it is not all about being a “Good Girl.” There is a line many of us walk. That line between self-care and egotism. I sometimes have a hard time distinguishing that line. I know that living my life generously is a gift back to myself. But taking care of, and responsibility for my own needs is also a gift to myself.

My mother and I were talking not too long ago about money. She said that my whole life, even when I was a child, if I “lent” somebody money, chances were I would never get it back. Because I never made it a priority. In some ways that was generosity, and in some ways it was a lack of self-care.

The truth is that while I like money, I don’t love it. It does not motivate me or thrill me. Losing it does not scare me. But over the past several years, as my self-care has become ever more important, I have done very little “lending.” And more often than not, if I am going to give you money, I am going to gift it. I don’t want there to be expectations. This also makes it easier for me to say no. If I pretend that I might get it back, I might feel like I “should” say yes. If I know that once it leaves my hand, it is gone, I can better gauge if I am willing to part with it. It’s a kind of Jedi-mind-trick. But it works. And brings me peace.

But what I had to do this week was not about money. It was about time, sort of. But really, it was about something else. It was about access to my attention. It was about allowing people in. And this is a line I have a very hard time walking.

My first reaction is to keep everybody out. I spent my life building fortresses and hiding within them. When I was actively in my addiction, I lived in a fortress of fat. That I fortified with isolation. I would hide away and eat. I would sit alone for long stretches and binge. I would eat all day until I passed out in a sugar induced coma. And I would wakeup fatter and more “protected” than I had been when I came to from the previous night’s passing out.

But I also have a history of doing things I don’t want to do because I “should.” (There’s that word again. I hate that word…) Things that I thought I would want to do if I were a good person with a pure heart and an honorable soul. I have a history of being a “Good Girl” and resenting the hell out of the people I was being “good” for.

The first boundary I set this week was a long time coming.

I am part of a group. A group I like and love and enjoy. We meet once a week on a video conference call. And it is important to me.

Several months ago, I was asked to help a couple of people to get set up on their computers. Make sure they had the proper accounts and software. And I did that. Even though I don’t like computers. Or interacting with strangers for that matter. And then it became expected. And for months, the expectation was that I would help everybody and their brother set up their computers. And even the few times I said no, I didn’t stick to it and ended up doing it in the end.

Part of this was my “Good Girl” who could not bear to say that my time and attention were too important to help somebody else. And my ego that told me that I had let it go on so long that it must officially be my job and that I would shame and dishonor myself by saying anything about it after all this time. And part of it was my arrogance that insisted that if I didn’t do it, it was not going to get done. And that that somehow made it my responsibility.

And I got more and more resentful. And as time went by and my resentment grew, the level of responsibility that I grudgingly and hatefully took on grew. Until this week I got a message from a complete stranger, saying that somebody had told her that there was some sort of meeting on the internet for our group and that she should get in touch with me.

First I boiled with rage!

And then I said no. I said that they should refer back to the person who referred them to me for help.

And then I wrote a message to the group and I said no again. To everybody. I said that I was not available to help people get on the group any more. That if people wanted people to join us, they were going to have to take some responsibility for it. And I am so grateful to have said it. I am so relieved.

Resentment feels awful. It feels dirty and itchy. Plus it’s exhausting. You would think that I would recognize right off the bat that it is not something I want in my life. That if a behavior of mine is cultivating it, that I should stop that behavior. Immediately.

But it can be so hard. It can be so easy to second guess myself. And this is coming from somebody who works at exactly this every day. I’m not some schlump walking through life blind. My only ambition in life, besides being an amazing girlfriend and partner, is to grow spiritually. To be an amazing friend to myself. And I can still harbor a resentment for months and months.

And then two days later the next one happened.

It was late at night (for me. I happen to be incredibly lame.) I got a PM on Facebook from an acquaintance. She wanted to ask me about something and told me that for that purpose, I needed to accept her friend request.

Now you should know that I have a hard time with Facebook and friend requests. I already have many people on my friends list that I have hidden from my news feed. If you share a lot of pictures of cakes and brownies and various foods I do not eat, chances are I have hidden your posts. If you share a lot of weight-loss/diet articles with pictures of skinny women in yoga pants, chances are I have hidden your posts. If you share a lot of violent stories and pictures, chances are I have hidden your posts. Or just generally, if what you share upsets me or makes me uncomfortable, chances are I have hidden your posts.

But there is also another aspect to being Facebook friends with somebody. It gives them license to comment on your life. When you say yes to a friend request, you are saying, I care if you “like” what I post. I am willing to hear what you have to say about what I have to say.

And guess what? If we are not friends or family, I don’t give a shit what you think.

Now the reason this was particularly poignant for me was that this is not the first time that this person has sent me a friend request. The first time, I told her no very clearly. I even gave her a brief explanation. Which I did not owe her. I do not owe people explanations for the choices I make. (And no, I did not say that I did not give a shit what she thought. I was clear but diplomatic. In case you were wondering.) And shortly after that, she sent me a Facebook message that said she did not know how to get in touch with me since I wouldn’t accept her friend request. Of course I responded, without noting at the time that she was, in fact, being in touch with me.

A few months ago I got yet another friend request from her. By then I had realized that if you just leave the friend request there, you don’t have to reject the same person repeatedly. So her request has been sitting there since then.

And last night it happened yet again. Her PM said that there was something that she needed to go over with me, but she didn’t know how to get in touch with me if we weren’t Facebook friends.

Now I was angry.

And I took a few deep breaths, and I wrote her immediately. Sure, sometimes I believe that communication should be slept on and considered. When I need to disentangle what part of it is my BS and what part of it I need to address with the other person. But there was no doubt in my mind what I needed to say. It was obvious. It was simple. It was “Respect me.” “Respect my no.” “Stop it.”

When I was eating compulsively, I ate difficult conversations. And sugar made me high enough to make the uncomfortable feelings go away. And not feeling the uncomfortable feelings allowed me to convince myself that a conversation didn’t need to be had. Or a statement didn’t need to be made. Or a boundary didn’t need to be set.

But the farther I get from the food, the harder it is to sit in the discomfort. And I will say this. I have been keeping my commitments to water and meditation this week. And it has occurred to me that it is perhaps no coincidence that I have had a little breakthrough in saying what needs to be said. Perhaps it was hard to sit still and be with myself when I was itchy and gross with resentment. And perhaps forcing myself to sit still has made not saying what I needed to say unbearable.

I don’t know. It might be a coincidence. But then again, it might not…

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