onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “commitment”

I just have to do it.

So tomorrow is back on the road for another 20 hour drive. It will be my second in a week. Food is already cooked, portioned and packed up. Again.

When my alarm went off late this morning asking if I posted a blog this week, I let out some quality profanity. One more thing I have to do.

This blog is a priority for me. But I’m busy. And tired. And this has been a loooooooooong month. And the next three days aren’t offering much relief. So this may be a record for shortest blog entry ever.

I keep my food boundaries no matter what. I keep them in the face of driving 40 hours in less than 7 days. I keep them when I am tired, when I am sad, when I am cranky and overwhelmed. And the truth is, it will make the next two days easier, not harder. But I don’t like it. And I don’t have to. I just have to do it. Just like this blog.

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Happy, joyous and free, though not necessarily excited.

On Tuesday this past week, I celebrated 12 years of having my food under control. (And 6 years of writing my blog about having my food under control!!!)

After a dozen years, it’s less “exciting” than it used to be. At this point it is my every day. But I want to briefly mention some of the gifts and joys of giving up sugar and carbohydrates, and strictly controlling my portions, because even if I don’t think about them very often, when I do, they actually still are exciting!

I love living in a body that’s easy. I love the ease of movement, the comfort and confidence I have in it. Today I walked for miles with a friend. Not to exercise, not to lose weight, not to do anything other than have an experience. I would not have opted for that kind of experience in a big body.

I love not being ashamed of what I ate. I used to live in constant guilt over what I was eating. I didn’t have any rules or boundaries, so everything that I ate that was delicious felt like I was being a terrible person. Now, even if it’s decadent, if it’s in my boundaries, I eat it without guilt.

I love not second guessing myself. With a clear head that isn’t in a food/sugar fog all the time, I don’t worry about my decisions. I don’t pretend that I always make good decisions. But I always know that nothing is permanent, that I can always make an amends, or change my mind, or do better next time. Having my eating under control helps me see clearly.

So I am grateful for my 12 years of sanity and comfort. I don’t need them to be exciting. It’s enough to know that for many years I was drifting through life unfocused and unhappy, and now, I am happy, joyous and free.

Life is fast and I am slow

I feel like I need to write about the fact that I am still not writing, aside from my weekly blog post here. But I am definitely not writing fiction. I feel like I have to mention it because it is exactly the kind of thing that easily fades away from my own mind if I don’t keep talking about it, if I don’t keep it fresh. It has happened before and I have let my writing fall through the cracks. My world has changed significantly in the past month, and I am getting my bearings and finding my footing.

It’s interesting to me how I forget all the time that this is the way life works. Yes, I have a particularly mutable lifestyle. I am very happy with it. But change is the only constant in life for everyone. It has always been this way. I just didn’t recognize it until I got my eating under control.

And I probably didn’t recognize it because I was holding on to things too long and too tightly. Sometimes long after they ceased to be.

I sometimes think about the ways my physical self and my emotional self mirror one another. I literally have a hard time remembering to physically put things down. I will hold on to objects, even when they are getting in my way. For example, sometimes at the grocery store, I will have my wallet in my hand while I am trying to load an entire cart full of groceries onto the conveyor belt. Obviously this is a task that would be better done two-handed. All I would have to do is put my wallet in my pocket or my purse. But it does not occur to me. The wallet is already in my hand.

This is also how I find myself acting in life. A few months ago, I already had a routine. And instead of rearranging my life, I have been trying to fit 40 hours of work into the routine I already had. Needless to say, it’s not working out as well as I had expected. (No, I have no idea why I would expect that to go well.)

I have a quick mind and wit, but emotionally, I am slow. Slow to recognize. Slow to get comfortable. Slow to decide. Slow to change.

When I got my eating under control, I started to understand what it meant to “go with the flow.” I learned about “life on Life’s terms.” I learned to accept things the way that they were, and most importantly, that when I accepted them fully, exactly as they were in the moment, it was only then that I had a chance to change them.

I read something the other day about sayings that people hate. (I read a lot of random stuff on the internet.) And one person hates the phrase, “it is what it is.” I, personally, love that phrase. It may be obvious, particularly linguistically, but to a past version of me, it was frustrating if the way it was didn’t match the way I thought it should be.

Right now, I am not writing fiction. And that is what it is. But I want to. And I am slow to change. So I am going to keep talking about it, and writing about it, and meditating about it. And I don’t doubt that something will shift. That I will notice that I am trying to load a cart of groceries with my wallet in my hand and finally manage to put it down. Because life is full of changes anyway. And did I mention I’m slow?

Grateful I didn’t have to eat myself sick

Another non-Thanksgiving is under my belt. My husband joined some friends for a pot luck dinner at his local bar, and I showed up for about 45 minutes and had a diet soda. But I didn’t cook, which I don’t do anyway. Cook Thanksgiving dinner, that is. Of course, I cook all the time. Mostly every day. Just not the stuff Thanksgiving is made of.

Obviously I don’t eat the traditional sides. No potatoes. No sweet potatoes. No glazed carrots. (Nothing glazed, as a matter of fact. Though I do enjoy roasted or steamed carrots.) No stuffing. No casserole. No fruit except at breakfast, so no cranberry sauce. (I do sometimes make apple cranberry or orange cranberry compote this time of year for breakfast, by the way, though not lately.) No dinner rolls. No cornbread. And I don’t like turkey.

I could make a sugar-free version of pumpkin pie, or cheesecake. But I don’t love pumpkin pie. And I already make my sugar-free cheesecake when I crave it, so I don’t need it specifically for Thanksgiving.

Basically, Thanksgiving is a food holiday and it is not for me. Am I grateful? Of course I am. I have a beautiful, happy life. But this particular holiday is not filled with non-edible traditions. We don’t exchange gifts, wear ugly sweaters, put up lights. Who has ever heard of a Thanksgiving Carol? We don’t wear costumes, go dancing, put on pageants, exchange cards, or give flowers. There is football, but I care about football only slightly more than I care about food I don’t eat.

So I did not participate in Thanksgiving, but I did not miss it at all. And I certainly hope yours was lovely. I hope it was cozy and sweet and filled with love. And I hope all of you “normal eaters” enjoyed gorging yourselves that one day a year you let yourself go crazy with food.

I, personally, am grateful that I didn’t have to.

A new learning curve

I have been working for about a month now, and there is a learning curve when it comes to time management and priorities. Finally this past week I started jogging again. But I have not been writing. And frankly, I am too exhausted.

But ultimately, that is not good enough for me. I have a novel that I have been working on for about a year. And I love it. I’m proud of it. I want to finish it and get it published. And right now, the way things are, that is not an option. So I have to change the way things are.

I forget that it takes time to get my bearings after a major life change. More than just a week or a month. I forget that I have blind spots where I can’t see the pitfalls, or recognize what can be changed. Change is so scary to me, often it feels like nothing can be changed safely. That all change is the potential for ruin.

And there are things that must get taken care of. First and foremost, I still have to take care of my food. Every day. No matter what. And what that means in practical terms is grocery shopping for the whole week in one go, and spending hours of my time packing breakfasts and lunches in advance for the week ahead. It’s an area I cannot cut corners in.

Food addiction is my problem. Really the only problem I have. Other things go badly and need to be remedied or cared for or dealt with, but they are not “problems” like food is a problem. When my food is out of control, my entire life is out of control.

The truth is, I like my job. The work is interesting. I like that I am good at it. I take pride in it. I like learning new skills. My difficult co-worker has calmed down and returned to behaving in a normal, respectable, and respectful manner. (I have also remembered that people in the world, especially in the workplace, have a wide range of personalities, but that I honor my principles in the face of difficult personalities.) But in all honesty, right now, I am not very happy. I’m just too tired. And I am having a hard time imagining how I can change my circumstances in order to both, not be constantly exhausted, and still do all of the things I want to do.

This is a luxury problem. If I were eating compulsively, I would have already given up on writing. I would not have figured out how to get my jog in 5 days a week. I would not have made time for it. But then again, if I were eating compulsively, I would already have been looking for a way to not jog, to not write, to not take care of my head and heart and body. I was always waiting for any excuse to abandon my goals and dreams, or really anything that was work, anything that took something, but made me feel good about myself.

There’s one more thing that I haven’t been doing that I need to get back into, and that is meditation. I think my first priority this week will be to get back into that habit. If any practice will help me figure out the next right step, and how to get the things I want, that’s probably it.

What makes for a pretty damn sweet life

I am back in the airport again right now, heading to South Carolina to meet up with my husband who has been there for about a week for work. I could have waited another week at our Chicago home for him to return on his own. It would have saved me yet another day of cooking and packing. It would have saved me a ton of airline points. But I have my priorities straight, and being with my husband is one of my top priorities.We will be heading back to Texas (again) next week when we get back from South Carolina, and I will be working when we get there. And my husband asked me, when will you run? I have been asking myself the same questions. And he didn’t ask, but I have also been wondering, when will I write?

One thing that I learned when I got my eating under control, is that we all have priorities, and they come down to action, not thoughts or beliefs. I could say that my food is my priority, but if I say eff it when it gets hard, or inconvenient, or I just don’t feel like it, then in practice, it’s not. 

My food is my first priority, always. But spending time with my husband, and my workout, and my writing are all pretty high up on the list. 

So I told him I don’t know when I will run. When I get there I will find out if there is a gym in our apartment complex, or if there is a good place to run outside, or if I have to join a gym. And I will see what my work hours are. So I can also fit in time to write 5 days a week. I will figure it out. Because I have my priorities straight. And that means *doing* something about them. 

When I was eating compulsively, I had things I wanted to be my priority, but in terms of what I *did*, shoving food in my face was number 1. And numbers 2 and 3, too.

I am grateful for the clarity that I have from having my eating under control, because when I keep my priorities where they should be, I actually get the life I want, not the life that circumstances dictate for me. And that makes for a pretty damn sweet life.

Not sorry, even though it sucked.

My husband and I are home for a visit this weekend. We opted for a 5:30 am flight out of San Antonio, two hours away from our apartment in Corpus Christi. So we drove the two hours the night before and got a hotel room for the night. Before we left, I made a bunch of compact, complete meals, because they are easy to pack for travel. I don’t usually expect to eat them. At least not all of them. I pack them in case of emergency.Well, our flight got cancelled, and we couldn’t get another flight out that day. So we kept our room in San Antonio for another night, flew out the next morning, and I ate the emergency meals.

And ugh! It was kind of awful. Those meals are each a third of my nutrients for the day, packed into a little cake. And by the end of dinner, I was feeling pretty sick.

But it never occurred to me not to eat them. It never occurred to me that it would be better not to finish dinner. I have never once in the past 11+ years been sorry to keep my food commitments. Not once. I have never “missed” a food I didn’t get to eat, or been disappointed that I kept my word to myself. Even when I was choking down a too-heavy brick of proteins, vegetables, vegetable substitutes, and fat. I love to eat, but at moments like that, eating becomes like working out. I don’t like doing it while I’m doing it, but I’m always grateful that I did it when I’m done. 

My food boundaries are usually awesome. I eat such delicious food, prepared in my favorite ways. But the boundaries are the important part, not the awesome. In a pinch, I will eat the plainest, grossest, least appetizing things on the planet if it means my eating boundaries are taken care of. And I will eat it when I am not hungry at all to keep those commitments to myself. 

When I was eating compulsively, I regularly woke up without a shred of dignity because of the things that I didn’t want to eat, and couldn’t stop myself from eating. 

Now I wake up with my dignity intact. Because I am willing to eat exactly what I am committed to eating, whether I want to or not.

First I get my seagulls in a row…

Since my last post, I have been getting acquainted with Corpus Christi, Texas. Quite frankly, I’m sold. It’s a windy day, and it’s not quite hot yet, but it will be, and I can’t wait! I decided to spend my day at the beach. I have hours and hours to be here if I wish. I probably do wish. If I change my mind, I can go whenever I want. I came alone. I came to be alone and write. 

It took something to get here, though. Especially since my husband was called out of town for work for a couple of days just after we arrived and I have been here alone. It’s not that the beach is a hard place to get to; it’s not. But unfamiliar things make me uncomfortable.
My husband and I were going to go to the beach together. That was going to make it more comfortable for me. If something unexpected or unpleasant happened, we would deal with it together. Not that I was expecting anything like that, but I am essentially always anticipating it.
It’s not that I am not capable. It’s that I get anxious. In fact, my husband has been asking me for the past few days why I have yet to get to the beach. The answer is that I wasn’t sure I would be able to do something I have never done in a new city and make it work with all of the things I have committed to do in a day. And those things are besides three meals within my eating boundaries. I need to go for a jog, drink my water, do my writing, and meditate. I certainly wanted to go to the beach, but not at the expense of things that make my life work. I have the life I have because of these things, not in spite of them. 
For the most part, my first week here has been about getting those exact things back in order in a new place. There is always a period of adjustment. Where and when are the best time to do things? Where should I run? What time of day? What’s traffic like and when does it start? What’s the best time to go to the grocery store? There is also trying to figure out what the grocery store has and does not have. There is a level of excitement to this too, though. Every place I have lived so far has lacked certain particular food treasures of the others, but has also had its own. There is always something exciting about that. Sometimes there is also the horror of realizing something I used to use daily is not an option anymore. Hopefully it’s on Amazon, but I gotta tell you, it’s not always. That’s hard. There is always a little mourning (sometimes a lot of mourning) when I lose a beloved food option. 
I decided that today was the day I would try the beach because I didn’t have to jog this morning. That made me feel like I had enough time to make and pack my lunch, check out the directions to the beach, plus the rules (I am a rule-follower after all), and still be able to do the important things. I went to the grocery store and picked up some water and a beach parking permit, and then I plugged the beach into my GPS and came out for an adventure.
I have already learned a few important lessons. Writing on a laptop while sitting in a beach chair is not the best option. Sand blows everywhere. But with my handy-dandy parking permit, I can park right on the beach, so I can roll down my windows and write while I sit in my passenger seat listening to the waves. I am doing that right now. It’s pretty sweet.
I will probably do this a lot in the future. But I am not sorry I took my time to do it comfortably. (Well, as comfortably as a girl like me can make any new experience.) The sun feels good, but knowing I am taking care of myself feels better. And the sun and the sea while I am taking care of myself and keeping my commitments…well that might be the best of all.

Alas, reality doesn’t care what I think

I’m an addict in the middle of playing the waiting game. If you are an addict, you know that this is not the most comfortable place to be. In fact, the jaws of Hell might be more comfortable. The jury is still out.

My husband has gotten word that his next job is lined up, and we know where (at least we are as sure as we can be – it’s construction after all), but we don’t yet have any information on when we will move. At first we expected it to be in the next 3 weeks, but it may turn out to be closer to 5 weeks. And it is the nature of his business that any job is subject to change. Investors pull out, companies go bankrupt, the market shifts. We do expect him to end up on this particular job, and we do expect to be moving soon, but the details are not set.

So I am packing and cleaning, getting everything as compact as possible so that at a moment’s notice we can load up a moving truck and get back on the road.

This is not how I live my daily life. I am a preparer. I like lists. I like schedules and quality information. I like to have a plan and a contingency plan. Or two.

When I was younger and eating compulsively, I was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal. It was easy. I wasn’t ever expecting to be responsible for my actions anyway, so it didn’t matter if I knew how things would turn out. They would turn out fine because someone would swoop in and save me. I am not saying I was this way maliciously. I wasn’t meaning to use or abuse anyone. It was just that I could only handle so much of life. I was bad at living. I was easily overwhelmed. I shut down at the first sign of difficulty or pain. I had zero coping strategies that did not include getting high on sugar and just not thinking about, or dealing with, the problem.

When I first got my eating under control, I had to start dealing with all of my feelings. And if I couldn’t get high and forget my problems, it became clear that the only real way to deal with my problems was to solve the ones I had. And as for the problems I didn’t have yet, it seemed best to head them off at the pass. To streamline my life, my actions, and my relationships so that as much as possible was predictable, convenient, and clean.

And I have to admit that that way of living was particularly helpful when I was just starting to be responsible for myself. But there is something that I learned (very, very slowly) while I was keeping my strict food boundaries: the moments that move me, the experiences that make the biggest impact, the really juicy life-nuggets, happen in the unforeseen, unwieldy mess.

For most of my life, I never wanted to commit to anything because I didn’t want to have to readjust when things inevitably changed. But now I believe that self-respect and pride lie in making the commitment, even knowing that circumstances will eventually change. There is peace for me in fully committing to something, until it is time to readjust, and then changing, and fully committing anew.

So here I am, knowing that a big change is coming, but not knowing when, and not having the option of specific planning. The only thing I can do is get everything as close to ready as is possible, and then trust that it will all work out exactly as it is supposed to. (And I will admit that I keep my fingers crossed that the way it is “supposed to work out” is in line with how “I would like it to work out”.)

Maybe that’s the other part of it. Recognizing that how life is “supposed to” work out might not look like how “I want” it to. Let’s say, for example, that the apartment that I want to rent gets snatched up in the time between my talking to the nice lady at the apartment complex and the time I get a concrete moving date. I can be angry, but there is no use for it. I can be sad, but it won’t help.

What I need to do if something like this happens, of course, is acknowledge it, accept it, and take action to find a new apartment. And to trust that how it worked out is, indeed, how it was supposed to. My experience of reality has nothing to do with reality. Feeling that reality is “frustrating” or “not fair” does not change the facts of the situation. So I need to adjust to life as it is, not as I want it to be. And when I pick myself up, brush myself off, put on the big girl panties and do something about the way it is, I have a reference for the magnitude of my resilience. I have a sense of my own power. I have life.

The longer I have my eating under control, the better I get at life. And the better I get at life, the more I realize that it is all about the place where planning and flexibility meet. It’s about both preparation and non-attachment.

The opportunity to live on the road with my husband has been a blessing and a joy. I would not give it up for convenience or predictability. After all, life has a way of happening, unpredictably, whether you want it to or not. Living like a recluse wouldn’t guarantee me predictability, it would only make me ill equipped to deal with the curve balls I would eventually get thrown.

I have loved living all over the country, meeting new people, enjoying the different cultures and experiences. And moving comes with that. Packing and waiting and going with the flow are all part of that package deal. So I am sitting in the discomfort of waiting to find out what happens next. And when it’s time to do the next thing, I will meet life head-on. And I will meet life on its own terms, with uncertainties, and delays and all, because there is really no other way to meet life.

Perseverance, exhaustion, and bedroom slippers

I used to spend a lot of time trying to decipher what things meant. Why I felt a certain way, why circumstances were what they were. I thought that everything was significant. And I needed to understand it all If I was going to crack the code of life. What I have come to understand since I got my eating under control is that it is not my job to crack the code, if there even is one. 

In the past few weeks, I have been writing for five hours a day as part of my daily routine. And it has pointed something out to me about myself: perseverance exhausts me. 

On certain days of the week, I might end up staring at a blank document on my laptop for what seems like an eternity, typing a few sentences, and then just discarding the whole thing. I might do this over and over again for much of the day. On days like this, nothing productive is going to get done after that. Because after hours of fulfilling a commitment for the sake of my integrity, I’m just plain spent. I’m going to do something escapist for the rest of the day, like read a novel or some manga, or watch TV.

But other days, the writing seems to pour out of me. I get my hours in, I make some notes about what more I have to say when I pick back up, and I feel particularly accomplished. On those days I still have the energy to do whatever else. Maybe I do some laundry or run an errand or work on knitting my sweater. The other day, I managed to clean the whole house, including mopping and vacuuming, after an easy writing session.

But here is the lesson, as I see it. The me before I had my eating under control would have expected to always be able to write easily and then clean the whole house. If it was possible once, it should always be possible. But those kind of expectations lead to burnout. Just like eating within my boundaries, or jogging 2 miles a day, or almost anything I do in my life, the goal is consistency, not perfection. The goal is to be able to do these good things for myself for the rest of my life. One day at a time, yes, but hopefully forever. Which is why I make sure that my food is delicious as often as possible, even if it’s not particularly low in calories, and why I focus on running my committed number of miles, rather than working to get faster or run longer or some other method of upping my running game.

When I first put boundaries around my eating, people who had boundaries around their eating told me that if the only thing I could do in a day was eat my meals and not eat anything else, that was enough. They told me that everyone needs a “bedroom slipper day” once in a while. They told me that I should be gentle with myself.

Which was something new to me, frankly. When I couldn’t stop eating, everything in our society and culture told me that I was lazy. The media and the people around me, knowingly or unwittingly, told me that I was not working hard enough or doing well enough, because if I had been, I wouldn’t have been fat. I was cruel to myself. I was hateful to myself. I expected perfection from myself, and when I failed to be perfect I quit. Just one more log on the not-good-enough fire.

But finding out that I could give myself a commitment, and that it would be a benchmark of daily accomplishment, was a revelation. Suddenly there was a minimum that I could do that was attainable, and it would be, by definition, “enough.” This made everything so much less scary. And so much less significant. 

I believe in perseverance. I believe in it because I believe in commitment. Because of my willingness to persevere, I have learned a lot about myself, how powerful I am, and what I can accomplish. But for the sake of peace and sanity, I also have to admit that it takes something out of me. And that I need to replenish before I can move on. 

I have had to learn that replenishing myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, is just as important as the perseverance itself. I have had to realize that just because I have the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé, doesn’t mean I can accomplish what she can. And I’m A-OK with that, my friends.

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