onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “boundaries”

No going back to 1975

I have been thinking a lot lately about how fat people are here to stay. It was a real epiphany for me a few weeks ago when I read an article that pointed out that Americans, and in general, Westerners, are statistically more overweight than we were 40 years ago, and that is not going to change any time soon.

I already knew we were fatter. It was the realization that this trend is not going to get “fixed” that hit me. After all, I learned a long time ago that the first step in changing anything is acknowledging the reality of the situation.

Heath articles and reports of statistics always seem to imply that somehow we could get back to 1975. It reminds me of the way I used to feel about my own body and weight problems. Every time I got fatter, I said to myself that I just had to get back on track and then I was going to lose the weight. For good this time. But I wasn’t doing the things that I needed to do to lose weight and keep it off. And neither is the U.S.

That has me think it’s time for fat representation. That it’s time to stop judging fat people. That it’s time to get used to seeing fat people. That we need to watch them on TV, and in movies. Let’s see them in magazines and on billboards. Let’s stop telling them fat and beauty are mutually exclusive. Let’s stop treating them like they are lazy and shameful.

I read once, a million (or at least 10) years ago, that Ancient Egyptians had high rates of obesity, diseases like diabetes, and lots of dental problems, much like our own society. And that it probably had to do with their high-carbohydrate diet. After all, they may not have had sugar, but they almost entirely ate fruits, vegetables, and grains. Lots of bread. But I remember that they had something else that we have too. A glorification of the thin body. That struck me as more surprising than the fact that so many were overweight.

It seems the fatter a culture of humans gets, the more we adore skinny, and the skinnier skinny is, the more we adore it.

I think we need to stop glorifying skinny, and start representing who and how we really are.

Now, before you freak out and complain that I am promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, stop. Just stop. I am not promoting anything of the kind. What I am promoting is kindness. I am promoting minding your own business. I am promoting respect and honor for the human in front of you.

When I was fat, I hated myself. And I didn’t lose weight and then start to love myself. I took a million small actions that let me like myself enough to take bigger actions that led me to feel like I deserved to take care of myself. I started to like myself and then I lost weight. You cannot shame anyone thin. But you *might* be able to love them thin. And if not, all you lost was your hate.

And if you really want change, then you are going to need to get political. Let’s talk about labeling. Let’s talk about food deserts. Let’s talk about the food industry in general. Let’s talk about how the government lets a cereal company say right on the box that its product of processed carbohydrates is “heart healthy” (even when the FDA says this is misleading.) Let’s talk about subsidies for corn that make high fructose corn syrup cheap and readily available to add to processed food. It’s already too late to go back to 1975.

I am not dismissing personal responsibility. I firmly believe in it. And I do believe change is possible. I am living proof. And I will happily be a beacon to those who want to put boundaries around their food as a means of losing weight, or getting free from food addiction. And I do not pretend that I liked or enjoyed being fat and in the throes of my addiction. But I am one person, making decisions for one person.

When I got my eating under control, I was single. I didn’t have to worry about feeding a family on a budget. And now that I am married and a DINK (Double Income No Kids), I am very well off. I don’t worry about the price of vegetables, meat, or dairy. If farmers didn’t get enough rain and cauliflower is expensive, I buy it anyway. In other words, it was easy for me to get my eating under control, not because I was “good” or had “willpower.” It was easy because my class and my lifestyle let it be easy.

And ultimately, I did it for myself. Not because I was a burden on the U.S. healthcare system. Not because “nobody wanted to see” me in a bathing suit. Not because strangers and/or doctors told me I was ugly or lacking.

So I am calling for our society, and each of us as individuals, to stop thinking, speaking, and acting like another human’s weight is our business. I am telling you that unkind words, judgement, cruelty, and intrusion never helped me. They did not help me lose weight. They did not help me change my life. They really only made everything worse. If you don’t already know, addicts use, in part, to stop the pain. If you are causing pain, you are not helping.

So can we stop treating fat people like they owe us something? Can we stop acting like their weight gives us the right to invade their privacy? Can we start showing them we see them? And can we actually start seeing them? Not as a problem to be fixed, but as other people just doing the best they can to get through life. Like all of us.

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Tight food, loose life

St Francis of Assisi said “Wear the world like a loose garment.” 12 step folks use this phrase a lot. 

I like to think of it like I keep my food tight, so my life can be loose.
I am in New York City for the weekend, at a kind of convention for people with boundaries around their food. But I lived in NYC for almost 15 years, so I have all sorts of friends here. And last night I went to hang out with some old friends after the convention. Friends from before I had my food under control. I meant to leave at 10 (already way past my normal bed time) and I didn’t leave until after midnight. I was having too much fun catching up with people I only see once a year or so, and whom I haven’t seen in two years this time. So today I will be late to the 2nd day of the convention. But that’s OK. My life is loose. And my relationships are a priority. I get to choose that.
I will have a blog posted. I will have my food together. I will get to the convention when I get there, with myself taken care of. And I will have gotten that extra time with people I love.
When I was in the food, I was bad at priorities. I wasn’t self-aware enough to know what I wanted, what made sense for *me,* what I should do to bring me the most happiness, love, and joy. I did things because I thought I *should* do them. Or because I had it in my head that I was going to do one thing, and I couldn’t wrap my head around doing something else. Now I feel and know and am aware of the things that I want to do very quickly. I know that laughing with loved ones until past midnight was worth it. I know that being late to this convention is OK. I know that even if it weren’t, I would be able to make the choices that mean the most to me, not anyone else.
Having the food down means there is no buffer between me and life. That’s the good news and the bad news. It means I feel all of the feelings, good and bad. And it means I get to go with the flow. Joyous and disappointing alike. If my friends had told me I had to go at 8:30, I would have been able to go along with that as well.
So as it is, I am running late to get to the convention. But I will be happy to be there, not pressured, or resentful, or annoyed. I will have taken care of myself to the best of my ability. And not feeling pressured or forced leaves so much room for me to move around in my life.

Routine and adventure

I travel with my husband for work. And I love it. I love the kind of travel we do. Long stints in a bunch of places. (So far we have done Mississippi, a couple of places in Kentucky, a couple in Texas, a couple in Indiana, and one in Tennessee.) One of the things I particularly like is it occurs like the perfect balance between routine and adventure.

I like routine. It makes the food boundaries easier. Having a home with all of the cookware I need to cook delicious meals, and getting to know the grocery stores and butcher shops, and what they have, and where to get what I need as well as what I want. And there is an indescribable peace that comes with knowing that my highest priority is always taking care of my food addiction. I know that if I do that, everything else will be well.

And I like adventure. I like seeing new places and meeting new people. I also like trying new foods, new seasonings, new flavors around the country. My husband and I are on a hot sauce kick at the moment. And it’s fun! And a mini adventure in itself. (Just reading all of the labels and ingredients lists is like an adventure within an adventure. And yes, there are a lot of hot sauces I cannot try because they have a lot of sugar.)

What I love too, is knowing that I can keep my food boundaries anywhere. Some places are less convenient than others, of course. But it is all about my commitment. And sometimes, that inability to get whatever I want at a moment’s notice gives me the opportunity to try new things in a different way.

When we were in small town Mississippi, I did not eat out at restaurants. I knew that they could not accommodate me. I made sure I had my own food all the time. But there, I figured out where to buy beautiful steaks, sugar free bacon, giant cantaloupes and apples. It’s also where a friend found me a recipe for making my own vanilla without alcohol. And I was lucky to have another friend who would bring me kabocha squash and fried tofu up from New Orleans once a month when she came to visit. I had yet another friend who introduced me to a bowl for making my own ice cream. It’s also where I was introduced to Chinese Five Spice, which I still use all the time. So obviously, in terms of food, small town Mississippi was not too bad for me. I did not miss eating out at restaurants.

I love my happy lifestyle, gently swaying from adventure to routine and back. I love the things I learn and the things I get to try. Some of them become staples, and some pass with the next move and the next town. But no matter where I end up, my food boundaries go with me. And I always make sure they are delicious.

Real hard before it gets real sweet

At my job, I am working in an office with a bunch of strangers from different companies right now, though I may be moving to a private office trailer soon.

A lot of people at work are very curious about my food. In a lot of ways it is frustrating the way they talk about it. It’s all filled with a certain kind of praise and awe, that I don’t identify with.

I don’t do what I do to be envied or put on a pedestal. I am saving my life. To me, it can be like praising someone with a disease for taking their medicine. It reminds me of a woman who wrote about having a child with high-maintenance special needs, and how everyone would say, “I could never do that.” And she always had to hold herself back from saying “Of course you could. You just don’t have to, and I do.”

That is, of course, not entirely true that I “have to.” We all make our choices. Parents of disabled kids and addicts alike. We all have to decide what our priorities are. But if you can eat a cookie with impunity, it doesn’t make me feel good that you “could never” do what I do. And if you can’t, like me, and you choose the cookie anyway, I don’t know what to tell you except that you could and can do what I do. Yes it will suck for a while. A long while. But a friend once told me what her mother-in-law said to her when she first got married.

“It’s gonna get real hard before it gets reeeeeal sweet.”

I feel that way about putting down sugar and carbs. I feel that way about playing the long game with my life. Do I like getting up at 5 to get to the gym before work? No. I really don’t. But I love feeling comfortable in my body, loving my life, feeling like I accomplished something, and like I did something toward my ultimate goal of aging gracefully.

And as someone who just turned 41 last Wednesday, and feels healthy, happy, and beautiful, I would say it is all worth it.

Commitments, alarms, and reminders. Oh my!

I set alarms for so many things in my life. Just now, an alarm went off asking if I posted a blog this week. And the answer was no, and I had totally forgotten. But I had an alarm set, so here I am.

Before I got my eating under control, I had people in my life, people I paid in either time or money, like a personal trainer, and a life coach, telling me to make plans, and keep those plans, regardless of how I felt. And I refused. Where was the joy in that? What about spontaneity? What about fun? What about what I “felt like” or “had a craving for?” What about eating out with friends or last-minute adventures?

When I got my eating under control, I realized how much I was self-sabotaging by clinging to what I thought was spontaneity and fun, but was really just an out to let myself not do something uncomfortable. I didn’t want to plan what I was going to eat because then, if I didn’t follow through, I might have to look at myself. If there was no rule, there was no rule to break, and no behavior to scrutinize.

The truth is that 1) planning makes it easier, not harder, to eat out with friends and take on last-minute adventures. With my eating under control and firm boundaries around food, there are fewer moving parts. The food has to hit certain marks. Once those marks are hit, everything else can be pretty loosey-goosey. And 2) the things that I was fighting against were not boredom or monotony, but long-term fulfillment.

Instant gratification and long-term fulfillment occupy the same space, so you can really only choose one. If I don’t want to go for a jog, I can think of a million excuses not to. I need the sleep, my hip is tight, I should do x instead. But what happens is it becomes easier to not jog. Every time becomes easier. And suddenly, I don’t do that anymore.

That is how every diet ever worked for me. I went on a diet. Instant gratification won once. Then it gradually became the norm. Then I was not on a diet. Then I gained back all the weight I lost, and then some.

I love my life of rules and reminders. I love my alarms. I love the sameness of people calling me every day at the same time to make a commitment of what they will eat the next day, and my call every day at the same time, to commit to what I am going to eat the next day. To have a plan and a commitment to that plan. To have a witness and to be a witness.

I won’t pretend that I am a particularly spontaneous person, though I have my moments. My rigorous adherence to my rules and reminders and commitments gives me a great sense of peace. And I cherish that peace. But also, I have made some bold choices and some daring leaps, because I am grounded in my commitments. After all, I left my home and my city about a month after I re-met my husband, to start a new relationship where I travel around the country with him, constantly moving. That’s pretty bold, if I do say so myself.

I did not used to like promising things to myself. And I used the excuse of freedom. But I was never free until I gave myself boundaries. Since I put boundaries around my eating, I have found that many things that seem counterintuitive are absolutely right. Boundaries lead to freedom. Commitment leads to spontaneity. Rigidity offers fluidity.

Where the love is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hit ‘em where it hurts. The bank account.

My husband and I are in a town outside of Indianapolis for the next month or so, and I am having a hard time finding some of the things that I love to eat. So far, I have not been able to find Italian sausage that doesn’t have sugar, but that’s nothing new. However, I can’t find bacon without sugar here either. Ugh! Let me say that again. Ugh!

I cannot tell you how it makes me furious that companies put sugar in everything. Not only because I can’t eat them, but also because I believe that they are eroding our palates and our minds.

When I gave up sugar, my palate shifted. A lot. As a little kid, I loved Brussels sprouts. I loved cauliflower. As an older kid, teen, and young adult, I hated them. Hatred. Passionate, unyielding hatred. When I put down sugar in all forms except artificial sweeteners, and some fruits and vegetables, I gradually came to love them again. Now I also love chard, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, and mushrooms. I also enjoy carrots and squash, winter or summer.

By adding sugar and starch to everything, I think food companies are doing us a huge disservice. They are creating a culture that equates food with a “rush.” They are getting us addicted, as a society, to an additive that is cheap to them, but incredibly expensive, health and well-being wise, to us. They are setting us up to eat more than we know we need, and more than we want. They are getting rich off of giving us diseases and disorders.

I want to say clearly that I believe in personal responsibility. I don’t want to imply that I don’t. But doing what I do is hard. Seriously difficult. Worth it every time and in every way, but not simple. It takes a kind of determination and individuality, the ability to disregard the pull of “normalcy” in a culture that has taken up the mantle of pleasure over contentment, instant gratification over long-term fulfillment. And food companies are using our own survival/evolutionary instincts against us. They want profits to grow exponentially. How can they do that if we eat their food in moderation? The fatter we are, the fatter their profit margins are. Frankly, I think it’s sick. Morally bankrupt.

I know that many people can eat junk food in moderation. Bless them! To them I say, “Enjoy every bite!” But the rise of obesity in the western world shows that the way food is being produced, processed, and marketed is making most of us fat and sick.

And it’s making a girl who can’t find bacon she can eat annoyed and cranky. I don’t expect this to change any time in the near future. But I am going to make a recommendation to you. Read your labels. Even if you don’t change what you buy. Look at what these companies are offering. Notice them change. I have had to give up things I ate for years because someone decided to add sugar or starch.

But I will say this too. About 4 years ago, a company that made wheat germ changed its ingredients to add sugar. In that time, people who do what I do sent out the word to one another. We all stopped eating it. Now I am not saying that my small group was the reason, but less than a year later, the company changed back to the original, sugar-free formula. My guess is that the kind of people who eat wheat germ are generally people who care about what goes into their bodies. And when they saw that they were now getting sugar, they switched brands. Just like myself and others in my food community.

So remember that you can eat what you want, but also. you can vote with your wallet. And I highly recommend that.

Someday will be relaxing, but today is not that day.

I am literally writing this while I cook. 3 burners plus the oven. In about 3 hours I will be back in the road for the 3rd time in 2 weeks. At least this time is only a 4 hour drive. That makes it much more bearable. And frankly, it makes making sure everything is packed less worrisome. If I did forget something important, I could be home and back in the time that my husband was at work. Not that I want to have to do that. I don’t. But it’s nice knowing it’s an option.

But I do like traveling. Even with all of the cooking and prep that I have to do. Even carrying a kitchen with me everywhere I go. If I were eating compulsively, you the going would be easier. But every little snafu would ruin my life. I would be constantly unhappy. Constantly resentful. Constantly full of complaints. But as it stands, I can get over things. Some quicker than others, but always everything eventually.

So I am ending there. I have eggs to flip and meals to portion out. Maybe 2018 will slow down one of these days and I will have time to write a nice, leisurely post. But today is not that day…

Food first means self-care first

This has been a particularly rough week for my family. But I don’t want to talk about it today. I’m emotionally exhausted. So I am going to talk about taking care of myself. And it’s going to be pretty short, quite frankly.

When I am fully committed to putting boundaries around my food, that is my first step in self-care. My first act is to buy food within my boundaries and then cook and portion out those meals. But that is just the beginning.

What the act of keeping my eating under control does is allow me the clarity of knowing when I need to rest. When I need to say no. When I need to take a step back. When it would be just too much to keep going.

When I was in the food and I took on too much, I became overwhelmed. I would shut down. And I would become resentful. I would get angry and rude to the person who asked for something. I would fail to take responsibility for my choices. Partially because I didn’t feel allowed to ever say no.

Now, I say no. Sometimes it’s just no. Full stop. But sometimes it’s not now. Or I can’t do that but I can do this. Or I am not available for that, but I can ask someone I know who may be able to help.

I am responsible for my life. Of course, I always was. But now I *take responsibility* for it. I know not to blame people for asking for what they need. And I know not to be hasty to agree to something I can’t take on. I also know to ask for help myself, when I need it myself.

So I am available to be of service, because I know how much I can handle. And I learned that by taking care of my food.

Here’s to a peaceful 2018 for me. And wishing you growth in whatever form you choose.

Since it’s New Year’s Eve, I have been thinking a lot about this past year. It was a rough one for me emotionally. I have been tense and on edge more than I used to be.

But there is something else that happened this year. I feel like I hit a new level of boundary setting.

Setting boundaries is the basis of the way I take care of my eating. I have rules. I follow those rules no matter what.

But when I got my eating under control 11 years, 11 months, 3 weeks and 5 days ago, I was only just learning to set boundaries. And only around my food at first. Since then, I have learned how to set them in every area of my life. I have learned how to say no, how to ask for what I want, how to recognize what I really want, as opposed to what I think I should want because I believe it would please others.

This is the thing about personal growth, if I don’t stop, if I never say, “Welp, good enough…” I end up revisiting the same aspects of myself over and over, just on a different level. I have always been learning about boundaries. But the boundaries I set now are different from the boundaries I was learning to set over 11 years ago. They are more advanced, because my level of self-love, and self-care are more advanced. Those first boundaries were just about food. They were the bare minimum to not eat compulsively. And they were enough then. But for 2017, I had found they were not enough. And I had to dig deep, and have some difficult conversations, make some awkward choices. And it was worth it. But I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the foundation I started laying in 2006.

But I have not been feeling very peaceful or serene this year. Sure, I am more peaceful than I was 11 years ago. Or 7. Or 5. But I can feel myself yearning for an even more peaceful mind. (Please note I did not say life. Life is life. I would like to deal with life the way it is more gracefully.)

So I am grateful for the lessons of 2017. I am grateful to be a woman I like even more than the woman I was in 2016. But I still want more. More calm, more surrender, more gentleness.

So here’s to 2018! May it bring me more peace. And may it bring you whatever it is that will help you grow into the person you genuinely like and love even more than who you are this very moment.

Happy New Year!

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