onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “compulsive eating”

Pandemic Thanksgiving is the best Thanksgiving

If you have been reading my blog for a long time, you know that I hate Thanksgiving. I know, I know. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about family, togetherness, and our gratitude for our loved ones. And that is beautiful, theoretically. But in practice, Thanksgiving is when everybody lets themselves eat like compulsive eaters eat every day. It’s the day when the amateurs eat like the professionals, and the professionals eat like themselves, but openly. 

I don’t miss anything about eating compulsively. And I am grateful that I have a lifestyle that doesn’t have concepts like “cheat” or “break” or “special occasion.” I eat like a Queen every day. Not because it’s my birthday, or Christmas, or Thanksgiving. But because it’s Thursday and eating delicious meals is how I feel content when I am strictly eating within my food boundaries. I don’t eat like other people. I didn’t when I was fat, because I was binge eating, and stress eating, and emotional eating. And I don’t now that I weigh my food, and eat three times a day, and abstain from most sugars, grains and starches. I have never been a normal eater, and never will be. 

I am a sugar addict. If I put sugar in my body, my body has a reaction that makes it crave more. If I chose to eat without abandon on Thanksgiving, or my birthday, or whatever day seems like a good day to other people, to stuff themselves, I would not just be able to get back on the wagon. That is the luxury of normal eaters. I would be fighting the cravings for months. In fact, it took a year and a half for me to make it through the withdrawal when I gave up drug foods in 2006. A year and a half! Thanksgiving comes every year. You can see the math doesn’t work out in my favor.

So Pandemic Thanksgiving was absolutely amazing for me. I had a paid holiday. I did not have to cook anything special, I got to sit around in my pajamas all day with no one to see and nothing to do, and because it’s a pandemic, nobody thought that was weird, and nobody felt sorry for me as if I had lost something by not overeating on Thanksgiving, instead of gaining everything by not overeating every day.

It was bad, but it passed.

And just like that, over a month’s worth of yuck is basically gone and I feel like myself again. 

It is sometimes hard to remember that these feelings and funks and unhappy times are just part of living in a body. That so much of it is just chemicals and hormones and things we don’t understand. Well, most of us don’t understand. *I* don’t understand. (Apologies to any endocrinologists and neurologists reading this blog.)

Of course, in order to really get back to my usual, content self, I did have to have a difficult conversation. And that meant I had to get the other party to agree to have a difficult conversation. But we did. And I was able to do that. To know what I needed, to ask for it, and to be available for it.

When I was eating compulsively, I felt like every feeling was eternal. And every circumstance was the last circumstance. It felt like life never gave way to anything better. Only worse. If it ever gave way at all. 

But now I can see that so many of my troubles were in my hands, but I lacked the imagination, or the confidence, or the will to change things. I had deeply held beliefs about how the world worked, and who I was in the world. And those beliefs were wrong, but I kept proving them over and over and was sure that meant they were right.

And I can see that so many of my feelings were a product of my food addiction and/or my normal body functions. But they seemed like so much truth and so many explanations about myself and my failings.

I can now see how many of my feelings are just feelings. And I can see how many of my feelings are lessons and roadmaps. And I can do something about them. Or not.

I know we live in a society of “positivity” right now. And I am a firm believer that we can change our thoughts. And that by changing our thoughts, we can change our reality. 

I mean, I am proof. I have changed my thinking, and changed my eating, and changed my lifestyle, and changed my circumstances. I live a life beyond my wildest dreams. 

But positivity has at least one foot solidly planted in changing our reactions to fit the status quo. And because of that, I don’t think positivity is the cure for the world’s ills. I think it is much more important to listen to those feelings of disquiet and discontent, and figure out what it is we need to change. What we need to change within ourselves, and what we need to fight for in the world. 

I am grateful to be feeling better. Especially because even though I know intellectually that “this too shall pass,” when I am stuck in the middle of a long run of emotional distress, it can be hard to believe that everything passes. So here it is, written out. It was bad, but it passed.

Willing to do what it takes

Today I am keeping this short. I am tired, still deeply emotional, and I have lots to do. I want to do nothing. But I can’t. Because I have commitments. Like this weekly blog post.

When I made breakfast this morning, I opened the microwave and found part of last night’s dinner in there. So I had to make a phone call and tell someone. 

But I also have to deal with the fact that there are things in my life, difficult situations and interpersonal relationship troubles that are taking up a lot of space in my head. And that has made me less meticulous. And that scares me. And I don’t know when or how to get these troubles and difficulties taken care of. Because it’s not something that I can do by myself. I need cooperation. I need availability and willingness from other people. And I have no control over other people. 

I love my commitments. They give me a better life. And that is *because* I do them when I don’t want to, not in spite of them. And knowing that willingness is all I need on my part is a blessing. Because while I can’t control anyone else, I can control myself and I what I do. And what I do is eat within my boundaries every day, no matter what happens. And tell someone I trust when I mess up. And I exercise. And drink water. And write this blog.

Sometimes writing this blog is the hardest one. Because after 14 years and 11ish months of having boundaries around my eating, and 8 years and 11ish months of writing about it here. there are very few new things under the sun. This is not the first time I accidentally forgot part of a meal. And I expect it will not be the last. But I suppose that is why it is worth it to do this weekly writing. To remember that it may not be new, but there are always troubles and dangers, and I am still a sugar addict and a compulsive eater, and I need to be willing to do whatever it takes to keep myself well, happy and sane.

The tough reminder that today is not that day

I have had a terrible week. I have had a mostly terrible month. I have felt a lot of anger and frustration. I have felt undervalued. I have felt taken for granted. And I have been scared.

Here is the hard but important lesson I learned years ago when I first started putting boundaries around my food: very few things worth achieving happen quickly or easily. And the ones that do are really just an offer to do the work.

When I wanted to be a professional actor, a theatre director literally walked into my restaurant job and asked me if I wanted to audition for him. And I got that job. But acting is not that. It is not being offered acting jobs and taking them. It is going to audition after audition and taking classes and networking. I believe I got that job because life was telling me that if I wanted, I could do that work and make a life of that. That it was in me if I wanted it.

When I wanted to see if I could make a living as a freelance writer, I sent out my first article to one place and my article was accepted and published. Now this was an online publication that did not pay for 1 article, but would pay once you had a following within their publication. And freelance writing, much like acting, is not writing articles and getting them published. You send article after article, and log where you have sent them to, and log who has published you, and badger them for the money they owe you. Basically, life was telling me that if I wanted to live that life, it was there if I was willing to do that work. That it was in me if I wanted it.

When it came to the food, I wanted it to be easy right away. But it wasn’t. I wanted to be free from the compulsion and the itch in my skin and the feelings of fear and pain that I had been eating all my life to deal with. But I wasn’t. It was hard for a year and a half. And still not easy for me for another 4. And every single day, for about 5 years, I had to manage it. Do the work. Make calls, prepare meals and weigh my food, sit in difficult and sometimes devastating feelings. But it was in me if I wanted it.

I didn’t do the work to become an actor or a freelance writer. But I *did* do the work to get my eating under control. And I have no regrets about any of the above. 

But there are things that I do want right now. I want to break through the misogyny of the construction industry. I want to be acknowledged for the amazing work I do. I want to be respected and honored for not only knowing what I am doing, but doing it so well that the higher ups don’t even have to think about it. 

But instead, I sit in rooms with a bunch of men who stroke each other’s egos and tell each other that they are doing an excellent job, when the whole point of the meeting is that they are not, in fact, doing an excellent job and they need to get it together and get it done. I have been in these rooms where these men simper at me and pooh-pooh me for bringing up valid concerns. As if to say, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, little lady.” I refer to it as “Being Little Lady’d.” But perhaps it would be more accurate to call it being glass-ceilinged.

But just like I was at the beginning of my eating journey in 2006, I am at the beginning of my work journey now. I used to be happy to be the backup, the assistant. I was new to the job and it felt good to do good work and be useful. But recently I have willingly taken up a huge amount of responsibility, leapt entirely out of my comfort zone, and even though there have been a few missteps, I have done a spectacular job. In only a few months I have stretched and grown professionally beyond my own imaginings, and done great work to further my job and my company in the field. And I have to remember that just like I did not become an actor or a freelance writer with one acting job or one article, I will not be busting through any ceilings today. 

And that is hard for me. I feel like these people know me. That they *should* see me for what I am, a great worker, smart, organized, on top of trouble and diverting problems. But they see a woman. An office woman. And as long as the workers get paid, they don’t really want to have to think about me. 

Like I said. This is going to be a long haul. I am going to have to take it, as the 12 steppers so fondly remind one another, one day at a time. Things get done in steps, not all at once. I should recognize that that is as true in the offices of the construction industry, as it is in the factories and airports and distribution centers we build.

How is an addict like the Post Office?

One amazing thing about giving up sugar and simple carbohydrates is I don’t want the stuff anymore. It’s one way I know it was a drug for me. Once it was completely out of my system, which took about a year and half, I stopped needing it, or wanting it. Or really even seeing it. It’s like I have permanent blinders on. My eyes just sort of glide over things I don’t eat, unless there is a specific reason I am looking for it. And even then, it has no power over me.

If I am buying sugar for someone else, as a gift or as a treat, I can buy it with complete neutrality. I can look at it, and not see something I desire.

Yesterday, we had bags and bags of candy in the house. Trick or Treaters made short work of it, which I have no feelings about either way. Because over the years we have had bags and bags of Halloween candy and no kids to come by to take it from us, and in those years I still did not eat the candy. I wasn’t tempted by the candy. 

The candy is not mine. It’s not for me. It’s poison to me. I ate my fair share of candy for the first 28 years of my life. More than my fair share. Certainly more than enough.

When a person is fat, their doctors inevitably send them to nutritionists. And generally, those nutritionists tell their patients about moderation. They tell them to eat *one* cookie. They tell them to eat *one* piece of chocolate. They tell them to eat *one* *small* handful of chips. 

I cannot eat one. I am incapable of stopping once I have started. When sugar and simple carbohydrates are in my body, my body craves more. My brain tells me I will positively drop dead if I don’t have more. And that first year and half after I quit that it took to get the stuff out of me was filled with brain fog, and itchy skin, and emotional outbursts, and crying, and depression, and physical and emotional exhaustion. In other words, withdrawal. Like any drug.

For me it is literally all or nothing. I can either eat none of the stuff, or I will be haunted until I have eaten it all. All of what is in the house, and once that is gone, I will take a trip back out for more. When it comes to sugar, I am like the post office. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will keep me from getting my fix.

If moderation works for you, I am very happy for you. If I could eat cake with impunity, I surely would. But I can’t. And if you find that when you eat a piece of candy or a cookie, you can’t stop thinking about it until you eat more, you may want to consider cutting it out entirely. Because if you do that, there will come a time when you won’t need it, or want it. It will stop having power over you. Just like it stopped having power over me.

I feel it because I don’t eat it

I am cranky. So incredibly cranky. I am exhausted and emotional and overwhelmed by all of the things that I have to do today, which is not anything more than what I normally have to do on a Sunday. But I am so frustrated about it. And so tired. I just want to sit at home and do nothing. But I have groceries to buy and meals for the week to cook and pack. I have to get payroll in for work. And I just want to stop. To take a nap and read and think about crafting for hours but never actually craft anything. 

It’s nothing. It’s not any one thing. And it’s not even triggered by anything that I am aware of. Maybe it’s hormones or maybe it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder. Maybe it’s the stress of the year finally catching up with me. But no matter what it is, I am a wreck. 

But I keep my food boundaries no matter what. I not only don’t eat sugar, grains or starches, but I keep my portions controlled like I always do. I do exactly what I have done every day for the past almost 15 years. I do it because it is what I do, no matter how I feel, or what I think, or what kinds of things are going on in my life. I keep my food and my life separate.

All of this will pass. It always does. Funks or celebrations, situations and circumstances all make way for one another. And as long as I don’t put the foods I use as drugs in my body, I can make my way out of a bad mood. 

And I don’t have to worry about it. I don’t have to judge myself for it. What I do have to do is be with it. 

Perhaps that is the hardest part of having my eating under control. I have to live with the feelings. Sit in them. Go through them. That is the only way to the other side. When I quit sugar, I had to feel 28 years of feelings that were festering inside me. I had eaten to numb them. And I did not feel them in the moment. But they were still there. And I still had to sit with them. But by that time, they were rotten and moldy and putrid. 

I think part of withdrawal is that. It is not just the physical effects of the addictive, toxic substance in the body. It is the sweating out of a lifelong emotional fever. It is the purge of all of the toxic thoughts and feelings that were stuffed in and down and out of reach, but never actually released. 

So now I sit in my yucky feelings. I cry and I complain. I brood and I pout. And that is not pleasant. For me or for anyone else. But it is also not poisoning me from the inside. So there’s that.

Gratitude for my very normal, very human body

I used to be angry at my body all the time. It was my enemy, and I treated it accordingly. Mostly, I hated it because it was not the size or shape other girls’ and women’s bodies were. It did not look the way magazines and television told me it should look, and indeed *could* look if I worked hard enough.

I was smart and interesting and funny. I had a wonderful mind. So I felt like a brilliant human stuck in a broken vessel. Broken is a great way to express what I thought of my body. Broken like a machine. Bad parts. A lemon.

When I got my eating under control I started to think about my body in a different way. First, giving up man made sugars, and most grains and starches, made my body smaller. And while I could not really change the shape of my body without surgery, I started to think about all of the ways that it served me, even when I was abusing it. 

And I didn’t just abuse it with drug foods. I abused it with over exercising to the point of injury, and still exercising more because I wanted it to be thin, but I couldn’t stop eating. I abused it with laxatives. I drank castor oil. Eventually, I started to stick toothbrushes down my throat to make myself throw up the food that I could not stop eating. 

But when I got my eating under control, I necessarily had to have a different relationship with my body. I had to ask not what my body could do for me, but ask what I could do for my body. Not to whip it into shape. Not to make it lovable and attractive to anyone who happened to be in its vicinity, but to make sure it was taken care of. For me, because it *was* me. Make sure it was nourished and hydrated and strong and healthy. 

And that changed how I dealt with all of the unappealing parts of having a body. I am 43. My hormones are crazy right now. And I should probably expect that to continue for maybe another 10 years. That is a whole *decade*!!! But also, that is normal. It is completely expected for my woman’s body to experience this.

And this past week was hard. I was exhausted all week. I needed to lay on the couch and do nothing, not even knit or crochet! I had several outbreaks of cystic acne which are painful as well as ugly. I was cranky and sad and did lots of crying. And at least half of it was *not* over imaginary characters in novels, comics and TV shows. And of course, I still had to do all of the things that I have to do. I had to prep food and clean the kitchen (I totally half assed a lot of that, and my husband did some as well) and do the shopping and go to work.

But because I have a level of clarity about my life and my body from having my food taken care of, I am not angry at my body. I do not blame it for doing what bodies do. I feel like it is a very modern concept to think of one’s body as getting in the way of one’s life. We have created so many workarounds to get out of dealing with our physical humanity, that we don’t necessarily see what is natural and good. We spend so much time powering through, that we think our bodies are the problem, and not the lifestyle we have created that doesn’t have any room for the basic needs of actually *being* a carbon-based machine.

My eating boundaries have given me a sense of reality about my body. Not only about what it can and should look like in the real world (not according to the latest Photoshopped ad for designer jeans, or the ad promoting some supplement guaranteed to make you lose 10 pounds in 10 days), but also how I can expect to feel and what I can expect to be able to do. Realistically. Because I have a normal body doing normal things.

I like my full life. I like my job and my commitments. I like the people I work with and the friends that I have. I am not campaigning for less modern conveniences. I love my gadgets and my technology. I just don’t want to forget that my body is not some separate gadget. It doesn’t need an upgrade. It isn’t in the way of my life. It is my life. It is me. And I show myself how much I love me, by loving my body and honoring it exactly as it is. Flawed and sometimes uncomfortable, and gloriously, normally human.

The Blessings of Benchmarks and Bare Minimums

I have been particularly fortunate over the past several months. I have been working less, but I have been working consistently. And while my husband and I are not making as much money as we were last year, we have never suffered financially through this difficult time.


I have enjoyed the lightened work load, frankly. I am not a workaholic. I like more free time, not less. I like to do nothing. I like to do nothing for whole days. I used to feel like this made me lazy. And I am sure that is how it occurred to people when I was in the food and getting nothing done.


But in having my eating under control, I have learned how to manage work and rest. I have learned how to be incredibly productive, and also make time to be a vegetable on the couch. I know how to feel accomplished by accomplishing things, and to accept that I not only like, but need, a ridiculous amount of down time.


When I got my sugar addiction under wraps, my experience of time changed much like my experience of food. When I was eating compulsively, I was obsessed with food, but I was miserable all of the time. Either I was eating something I wanted, but felt guilty for eating it, or I was eating something I felt I should be eating, but hating it the whole time. I was either lamenting chocolate cake while it was in my mouth, thinking I was a bad girl, or suffering through lettuce or celery, hating the experience of being a good girl. Either way, I had set myself up to be miserable around food.


But then I put boundaries around my eating, and suddenly I was eating guilt-free. And that was a revelation. That was the greatest part of getting my eating under control; following rules eliminated guilt by giving me bare minimums and benchmarks. As long as I hit my marks, I could eat with impunity.


Time is much the same for me now. Before I was trapped in my own narrative about not being good enough. I thought I was lazy. I thought I was incapable. I thought I was ill-equipped to do anything worthwhile. And in many ways, my addiction made that true. I was always second guessing myself. I was easily overwhelmed. I was constantly afraid of failing, and failed because that fear meant I was unwilling, or unable to try. But since I got my addiction on a leash, I can see the bare minimums and the benchmarks. As long as I hit them, do the work that needs to get done, send the email, make the call, follow up, get to the next right action, I don’t have to worry about a day spent watching mindless TV, or listening to a book, or crafting. I don’t have to feel guilty about a day in my pajamas.


I was never super woman. But somehow I always felt like I should have been. Now I don’t worry about how to be “great,” I worry about how to honor my word and keep my integrity intact. And I often end up being great anyway. And sometimes I’m just meh. And every time, whether I’m just so good, or just so-so, it’s enough.


I am in the beginning stages of a very big job right now. I am doing the slow dance of bureaucracy, getting big things done, one small step at a time. But it is stressful. And it is exciting. And while today I have to go grocery shopping, and prep lunches for the week, and be emotionally and practically ready to jump through hoops and wait in lines and navigate a maze of red tape, yesterday I did a whole bunch of nothing. And it made today possible, and bearable, and I don’t feel bad about it at all. And to not feel bad about myself is perhaps the second best thing about getting my eating under control. Because guilt-free eating is still, and will probably always be the first best thing ever.

More safe, less sorry

On Friday I was up at 5, went on my jog, took a shower and got ready to head into the office, and then my husband said he had a little sore throat. So we agreed that he should get a Covid test and neither of us should go into work until we get the results.


Before anyone gets worried, he is feeling fine right now. We have not officially gotten the results back, but he has not had a sore throat since. He does not have a fever. Chances are he is just fine.


In the past, he probably would have gone to work. And I absolutely would have gone to work. But these are strange times. And to go to work feeling a little under the weather is to potentially put people at risk. Our office also agreed that it was better that we stay home.


Here’s the takeaway for me about the positive aspects of having boundaries around my eating. I am not afraid of what my boss or coworkers think of me. Because I know that I am always doing what I think is right and for the best. For myself, for my coworkers, and for my company.


When I was face first in the food, I would have been terrified and overwhelmed by this monkey wrench. Any and every circumstance of life that was not me going along in my usual routine, threw me for a loop. I would have been worried about my personal standing, my personal money, my personal well-being, and would not have thought about how my actions affected anyone else. As a food addict, I am an addict. Just as selfish, reckless, and destructive as any addict.


But with a strong foundation of having my eating under control and a way of life that facilitates that, I can trust in my decisions. I can trust myself to deal with my life as best I can in the moment. I can trust myself to be calm and rational, even when I am afraid.


A friend of mine in New York City, who had a particularly scary bout of Covid in March asked me if I was worried for my husband. And my response was that I was terrified. (I am *much* less terrified now that he is feeling well again.) But not paralyzed. I was nervous but I was moving right along, doing the next right thing.

My eating being under control does not mean that my life is without terrible moments and circumstances. Having my addiction under wraps doesn’t keep my loved ones or myself safe from illness or accident. What it does save me from, at least mostly, is me making terrible rash decisions, and awful, selfish mistakes.

Excuse me while I go grow

I have recently been given a job at work that is bigger and more complicated than any job I have done before. I am going to have to learn new things. I am going to have to stretch and grow as a person. And I am scared.

I don’t mean I am terrified. I don’t mean I am paralyzed. But I am most definitely anxious and worried that I will not measure up.

I know that I am good at what I do. I am a good leader, willing to take responsibility for the things other people shy away from. I am smart and organized. I know how to think ahead and keep an eye on potential problems before they become actual problems.  And I have enough humility to admit when I have made a mistake or I am in over my head and I need to call for reinforcements. 

I also know what I am bad at. Diplomacy is not my strong suit. I’m a straight shooter who values honest, efficient (blunt) communication, and I have a hard time with the idea that we can’t just say what is right in front of us. But knowing what areas I am weaker in is also a strength. I am not leading a meeting to find out why we haven’t gotten paid or where our money is. And therefore, I am not messing that up with my bluntness. Besides, my husband is excellent at that. And I am happy to let him be reasonable and charming with clients while I be exacting behind the scenes.

But if I were still eating compulsively, things would be very different for me. First, I would not be good at my job. And I might not even have this job. Because when I was eating compulsively and high on sugar all the time, I was not the list of assets above. I became paralyzed easily, and as soon as I got a job or task, I could become overwhelmed to the point that I shut down. I could not think ahead. I was terrified of responsibility and would avoid it at all costs. And if I did end up in a position of power, I used whatever means necessary to pin any blame for failure on someone, anyone, anything, else. I was not organized or focused because the sugar fog I lived in made it hard, if not impossible, to stay focused or organized. What I was was very smart. Probably even smarter than I am now, but it was almost useless. Like I had a big bucket of paint, but no brushes or rollers or tools. I just threw it around, with no precision. And that worked as well as it worked. Which was better than I had any right to expect, frankly.

But even knowing all of this about myself, about my gifts and the tools I have at my disposal, and the honesty and integrity I live by now, and the willingness to admit mistakes and faults and problems, I am scared. My fear of failure, and its consequential humiliation, is still very much alive in me. And in many ways it is worse since I gave up the sugar that used to numb those particular feelings. But it is also better. Because I don’t have to work (eat drug foods) to avoid those feelings today. I can be scared. That fear can hang around in the back of my mind. And it doesn’t have to mean anything. It can just be fear, skulking around in my head, with no calculable effect on my actions. 

When I gave up sugar over 14 years ago, I did it to lose weight. And I did. But I also changed the way I thought and lived and worked and related to people and the world. And my life is better for it. Not just my body, though that too. But my whole life. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grow into a new set of skills.

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