onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “boundaries”

The ability to just exist

My whole life growing up and even a few years into having my eating under control, I was obsessed with my weight. I thought about my weight all the time. I don’t mean that figuratively. If I was awake, some portion of my mind was occupied with thoughts about my body, specifically my fatness. I was constantly on the lookout for potential shamers. And I mean always and everywhere, since many of them were in my own family. Someone asking me if I was sure I wanted to eat that. Someone making a roundabout fat joke. Or a blatant fat joke. Someone assuring me that I was somehow lacking. Lacking willpower, lacking proper pride, lacking beauty, lacking sense. 

Even when I first lost weight after I gave up sugar and carbohydrates, I was still very much obsessed with my body. With its new thinness. With the (often, though not always) exciting attention I was getting as a suddenly conventionally beautiful woman. But also, with what occurred to me as a kind of lie. Beneath my clothes there were stretch marks and loose skin. I was not smooth and lean and perfect. Beneath my clothes was the evidence that I was not a “regular girl.” There was a fat girl under there.

That is one of the meanings of the title of this blog. Once a fat girl. Once, as in the past. But also, there is more to that saying. Once a fat girl, ALWAYS a fat girl. There were things about growing up fat that will never go away. There is a kind of trauma to it. And that trauma is not about what I did to myself. It’s not about eating or food addiction or the ways I dealt with or felt about my own body. Because in getting my eating under control, I got to work through those things. I got to confront myself, and look at my own soul and mind and life.

But in many ways I am still not over the trauma of the way I was treated by others because I was fat. So let me say it clearly. It was abuse. I was traumatized. I was harmed. It was not OK. 

The greatest gift of putting boundaries around my food is guilt-free eating. But right up there is the fact that I don’t have to think about my body. Almost ever. I don’t walk into a room wondering who is going to shame me. I don’t have to look around for potential abusers and make a plan for how I will escape. I don’t have to think about how I am going to be judged. I get to just exist. 

Fat people don’t get to just exist. And I think that is a terrible thing for everyone.

Panic! At the Grocery

On Monday last week I dropped my phone in the grocery store (I do basically everything on my phone including keeping my shopping list) and it broke. The screen did not work at all. 

It was very upsetting for me. Number one, how was I going to remember what I had on my grocery list? (And yes, I did, indeed, end up missing a couple of important items that day in my panic. Yes I managed anyway.) But also, as I mentioned above, I do everything on my phone. So I was totally out of sorts. 

There was a store from my service carrier in the same parking lot as the grocery store, though. So I went in there to discuss my options. And friends, they were anything but helpful. Two of the three employees in particular were rude, gave me condescending looks and side eyes, and made it clear to me that I was interrupting their conversations. They basically told me that I needed to take it up with Apple. Even though I had insurance through them. 

But I had not eaten lunch. Which would have to be my first priority because keeping my eating boundaries is alway my first priority. And I had promised my husband that I would do laundry that day because he was running out of work clothes. And I had just made a promise to my career coach that I would get him my first draft of my cover letter and a revised resume by the end of the week. And now, on top of that I needed to find an Apple repair place and everything would be more difficult until I did.

I was pacing around my apartment, on the brink of hyperventilating, too distracted to do one thing at a time. Making part of my lunch, but then walking away to sort laundry. And then looking at the time and realizing I still hadn’t eaten any lunch. Too worried about getting everything done to get anything done with any grace. Too muddled to finish a task. 

This is a default setting of mine. When things seem too complicated and unthinkable to process, I just don’t process them. I shut down.  

And then I made a decision. I was not going to deal with my phone that day. I just made the choice and let it go. I made lunch and then sat down and ate it while watching Bridgerton. Again. (Don’t ask how many times. You really don’t want to know. Or at least I don’t want to admit it to you.)

In making the choice, I was able to stop my mind. I decided that when my husband got home, I would use his phone. I would call and make an appointment at an Apple repair place for the next day. And I would manage for the following 24 hours. 

And moving forward, everything went smoothly. I used my husband’s phone to make an appointment. The next morning I ate breakfast and packed myself a lunch. I got there on time. They took my phone and told me to come back in an hour. And I had Apple Care so they fixed my phone for free. I got back home with a working phone in time for lunch.

The ability to pause, to actively make a choice, to *accept* that it is always life on Life’s terms, is a gift of having my eating under control. My default may be to pace and mutter and flit from unfinished task to unfinished task, but I now have the option to *choose* something else. 

Does that take something? Some effort? It does. I had to learn how to do it. I have to continue to practice it. All the time. And even after 16 years of having boundaries around my eating, that panic still pops up first. But in having priorities, especially when my first priority is that of self-care, I can change the way I think and act in any moment.

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.

How not to ruin someone’s holiday

This week I saw a social media post reminding everyone that commenting on someone’s weight is not a holiday greeting.


So friends, I am reiterating that lovely reminder, and adding that other people’s bodies are none of our business. What other people are eating is none of our business. How other people dress their bodies is none of our business. Yes, I am talking about your mother, your sister, your nephew, your children and grandchildren. That love is not conditional on beauty, or behavior, and not health either. If you can unconditionally love someone with lupus or cancer or epilepsy, you can unconditionally love your fat friends and family, even if (and it is an “even if” and not an “even though”) they are unhealthy.


There are things that 12 steppers are regularly reminding one another of: That our friends and families have their own Higher Powers. That unsolicited advice is a form of abuse. That we keep our eyes on our own plates. That we worry about cleaning up our own side of the street.


Also, nothing anyone has ever said about my body ever changed my life for the better. It never made it easier for me to love myself. It never made it easier for me to control my eating. In fact, when I was fat, it pretty exclusively made me eat things to numb the pain those “well meaning” people caused with their “concern.” Now it just makes me feel like I can’t trust the people who say those things.


So here is to happy holidays to you and yours. May you spread love and good cheer.

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.

No such thing as comfortable misery (anymore.)

When I was growing up, I was often told, both implicitly and explicitly, that I didn’t understand how the world worked. That the things that I wanted were silly, impractical, simplistic or impossible. That the plans I wanted to make were ridiculous and juvenile. And especially if/when I was trying to act from a place of growth or transformation. (I read a lot of self-help books and went to self-help seminars.) I knew that I was not happy where I was in life, and I wanted something better. And people scoffed. 

I am sure they wanted me to “not get hurt.” But I was already hurting. And I am sure that a lot of my wishes didn’t come with particularly good plans to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. But the message I continually got, at least the message I continually *heard* was “stay in your lane. Accept this existence. This is the life you got and there is no way to change it.”

I certainly got shot down a lot for a long time. And I certainly succumbed to that fatalism for a very long time. But there has always been a nonconformist in me who refused to fully accept the finality of my situation, whatever situation that might be. There has always been a searcher and a seeker and a believer in me. 

That part of me never really got going in any useful or practical way until I got my eating under control. But also, it is that part of me that let me get my eating under control in the first place.

I have talked before about how it makes people uncomfortable that I have a particular food plan. No, I’m not *on* a diet. But I *have* a diet. And that really messes with people’s heads. They want me to eat cake at least sometimes. It would make them feel better. They want me to not be so rigid. They want me to not be so disciplined. 

But I have never needed to fit in in that way. I have never needed to be like everyone else, and I have never particularly cared about making other people comfortable when it comes to my life and my choices. Is that selfish? Perhaps. But if so, I am so selfish that I don’t really care if it’s selfish. So I am rigid, and disciplined, and I have, indeed, transformed my life. Not just my eating, but the way I work, and the way I love, the way I take care of myself and the way I take care of others. Who I am in the world for myself and in my relationships is completely different than it was before I put boundaries around my eating. All for the better. All leading to me becoming a person I like and love and respect.

Now that I am coming to a place in my life where I want to transform (again) my work life, I can feel all of the “practical” advice I have been given all of my life bubbling up. I can feel all of the people who don’t want me to go blindly into a new chapter in my life. They want me to play it safe. To stay in “comfortable misery.” But the problem is that in having my eating under control, there is no such thing as comfortable misery anymore. There is only miserable misery and my own spiritual need to get out of it.

People in my life definitely didn’t want me to be fat anymore when I was fat. But oddly enough, they also did not want me to change in any way that would be uncomfortable for them. They wanted to have their cake and for me to eat it too. They wanted me to have a great life, as long as it didn’t push up against their beliefs about the world.

I have to keep reminding myself lately that in choosing to leave a job that no longer serves me, I am telling Life that I am ready to accept something better. I learned that by blindly giving up sugar 15+ years ago. By willingly doing this crazy, rigid, extreme thing with my food all in the hopes, but with no guarantee, that I would get something better. And I did.

I will close by saying this. I know that a lot of people say it’s unwise to leave a job without already having another one. And I have to acknowledge that I have the privilege of being in a two income household, which makes a huge difference in terms of money and survival. But the truth is, I have never done that. I have always left a difficult situation first, even when I was poor. Has it always been wise? Absolutely not. But I also have to ask, while I am at this job that is making me so unhappy, how do I create a space in my life for something different? How do I get a better job that suits me better, when I am living in the energy of this job with this culture. How do I “vibrate on a different level” when I am still here in this place. How do I not just make a lateral move to an equally unhappy job if I am living in the unhappiness of this one? I don’t know that I can. And I don’t think I want to try.

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.)

It Sucked, But Then It Passed: A Life Story

This past week was challenging. In particular, because so many things happened all at once. One of the wheels on one of our sliding glass shower doors broke, so we couldn’t touch that door at all, or the door would fall off the track into the tub and inevitably shatter. But then, our pipes got clogged and we had to call a plumber to snake out the tree roots that grow in our pipes sometimes. (It’s an old house with old pipes in a neighborhood with a lot of trees.) So we needed to make sure everyone knew not to touch the door while neither of us could be there personally. And of course that was also the day the mechanic called to say that my car, which had been damaged in a small accident a month ago, was finally ready to be picked up. And we had been paying a lot of money for a rental car. All while I’m working 12-13 hour days with an hour commute each way, and my husband is doing the same, only also on Saturday and he works the night shift. 

Thankfully, I know how to ask for help. My mom and step-dad really came through for me. Coming to my house to deal with the plumber, *and* picking up my car from the body shop. 

I also know how to take care of things myself. I drove my rental back to the airport, and took a ride share back home on my own so my husband and my mom didn’t have to deal with that as well after doing so much. 

And my husband ordered parts for the shower door and managed to fix it himself. Though the parts didn’t come until after the plumber came. 

In other words, it all went to hell in a day or two, and within another day or two, all of it was resolved. 

This too shall pass. 

I don’t want to say that it was easy. And it would be a lie to say that my husband and I didn’t fight over logistics, and who needed to be responsible for what. Because we did. Because we are both tired and overworked and having emergencies come up in our personal lives, while we are already putting out work fires left and right, is a lot, and sometimes felt like it was more than we could handle. Or at least more than *I* could handle. But in the end, it was manageable. And together, and with help, we managed.

When I was eating compulsively, I could never see a way out of any difficult situation. It always felt like every problem would persist eternally. And that terrified and troubled me. And it often made me make stupid, reckless decisions. Or paralyzed me so I couldn’t do anything at all, a kind of stupid, reckless decision in itself.

The truth is, I can’t usually see a way out of difficult situations now, either. The difference is, I know now that all things pass. I know that situations change and work themselves out. I know that resistance usually makes things worse, not better. I know that if you ride the ups and downs, they all smooth out in the end.

That surrender, that willingness to trust that this or that rough patch will get worked out, either by me, or someone else, or perhaps just by life, is something I got only by putting boundaries around my eating. The addict in me has no use for patience or peace or trust. Chaos was a great chance to retreat from the world and eat a cake. Both because I wanted to forget the chaos, and because I got so high on the cake.

When I was in the food and eating compulsively, my life was mostly trouble and chaos with very few moments of peace and clam, or at the very least it felt that way. Since getting my eating under control, my life is mostly peace and calm, with a few moments of trouble and chaos. Part of that is my perception. But part of that is also my ability to take action with a clear head in the face of fear. The fear has always been there. It just gets less of a say in my life now.

Boundaries are a Love Language

I am planning a fun little trip to LA in September. I will fly in on a Thursday, and out on a Monday. I am specifically going to see a friend, and my husband doesn’t want to take the time off of work because we are planning a big Florida trip in October. So I will be going go by myself. And in making my plans I got in touch with my friend about dates and times and whatnot. And she very generously, and very kindly, told me that she would only have a certain amount of time to give me in the days I will be there. And can I just say, I freaking loved it!

One thing I understand now after 15 years of having boundaries around my eating is that as a person with boundaries, I love it when other people have boundaries too.

The truth is that I was not expecting my friend to give me all of that time in LA. I’m a loner, by nature. I can and do amuse myself alone. All the time. I am good at it. I enjoy my own company. But knowing, in no uncertain terms, what I can expect, what I can ask for, what is on offer, and what I will be responsible for makes my life easier.

Boundaries are a life tool. They are how I manage my priorities and my time for myself. They are how I organize and create my day and my experiences. But when offered up to someone else, they are a kind of love language. This is how you can care for me. This is how you can honor me. This is how you can respect me.

Before I got my eating under control, I did not have any boundaries. And I hated other people’s boundaries. I wanted to please people so they would like me. But that is not how people pleasing works. People pleasing makes people like what you can do for them. They stop seeing the person, and only what can be gained from the person. I didn’t have any way to say no, so I would give more than I could and then behave badly when I couldn’t take any more. I was “an exploding doormat.” I let you walk all over me until I blew up.

In setting boundaries, in taking care of my own needs first, I don’t need to blow up. I can walk away. I can disengage with love. I have told you how I will be treated. And I *will* be treated with the respect that I dictate. Or I will walk away. 

My relationships are very different now than they were when I was eating compulsively. I like myself better. I like the people in my life better. Not because they are different, but because I am different. Because I have set the tone of respect and honor. Because I offer honor and expect it in return. And the people from my past who could not or would not learn to honor me and allow me to honor them, have all fallen away. 

Because there is another little tidbit to this. To set a clear boundary is to preempt drama. To speak your truth, and ask for what you want, and make clear what you have the capacity to give, is to give shape to expectations.

My first boundaries were around my food. But those boundaries I set for myself forced me to set them for others. If I wasn’t going to eat sugar and carbohydrates, I had to say no when my beloved grandma wanted me to eat her spaghetti and meatballs. Or when someone brought a cake especially for my birthday, or when someone wanted a taste of my meal that I had weighed out and committed and could not share. 

I am eternally grateful for the gift of having my eating under control for many reasons. But learning to have and keep boundaries is one of the most useful and freeing aspects of that gift.

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