onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “compulsive eating”

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.

Making a new friend of an old enemy

You may know from last week’s post that I have had an infection in one of my gums. I went to the dentist on Monday and she told me that she thought it was the result of a broken wisdom tooth. So on Thursday I went to an oral surgeon and had that tooth pulled.

Now it is no secret to anyone that I am emotional. But when it comes to medical procedures of almost any kind, I freak the hell out. I always have. From the time I was a little kid. I can remember totally losing it in the doctor’s office at five, when they were going to prick my finger for my routine kindergarten checkup. Once, the phlebotomist at Planned Parenthood had two maintenance guys come talk to me about the heaters they were installing to distract me while she drew blood.

I cry and start to hyperventilate. As I have gotten older, I tend to rock, wring or rub my hands in an obsessive way and do deep breathing exercises. This usually keeps me from actually hyperventilating. It takes a lot just to keep the panic at bay.

There are things that I want to change about myself. I believe in changing. I believe in growing as a person and being better. And hell, I am good at that. I am really good at it. But I also believe that there are things that you have to learn to live with, that you just have to make friends with. For me, being sensitive to sugar, grains and starch, and not being able to “eat like a normal person” is one of those things. And freaking out about medical procedures is too.

It is humiliating to discover that you are a compulsive eater and a sugar addict. It takes something to stop being ashamed of not being able to control yourself when it comes to food and accept the truth of it. But as long as I fought against admitting that I am a food addict, I was never going to get any relief. I was just going to keep trying to get it right, keep trying to manage, keep trying to eat in moderation. And I was going to keep failing and falling deeper into misery.

Once I admitted that I had a problem with food and that I was incapable of eating like a regular person, I was able to really do something about it. Namely putting boundaries around when, how much, and what I ate. I was able to make it work. And I was able to stop fighting against myself. Fighting myself is just plain exhausting.

I have come to the point where I have decided to make friends with my medical panic. When I called to make the appointment with the oral surgeon, I told the receptionist that I would cry, that I am emotional. I said, “you might want to make a note of that in my file.”

The truth is that it makes other people deeply uncomfortable. I can’t tell you how many people in the office asked me if I wanted to postpone, come back another day and have them put me out for it. (Thank God I didn’t agree to that. My mother pointed out that if they put me out, they would have given me an IV!!! Just the thought of that gives me the chilly-willies! I’m still shuddering at the idea.)

I am sorry that my emotions make people uncomfortable, especially my irrational fears over medical procedures. But so do my food boundaries, and I am not willing to make other people’s comfort a priority over my own wellbeing.

So I am not going to be ashamed of the fact that I freak out before procedures. I need to make friends with it so I can deal with it. It’s one thing to be deathly afraid of being poked and prodded, but it is something else, something extra and totally unproductive, to be ashamed of that fear. I have decided I can do without the shame.

My shame, the idea that I shouldn’t be this way, is the kind of thing that makes me walk away. When I was younger, I absolutely would have walked away from every stitch, blood test, physical exam, and shot, if my mother had let me. I would have forgone all needles and drills and what not if they would have let me go to school without my shots and tests. But in my old(er) age, I have come to recognize that not having the procedure wasn’t going to get rid of the infected tooth. I wanted the results of the procedure. So I cried, and wrung my hands, and panicked, and did my very best to breathe. And I stayed, and opened my mouth, and kept still and quiet, and let the man do his work. And he was awesome!

The procedure was quick and easy. The oral surgeon, against the odds, got the infected tooth out in one piece. (I know because I asked him the odds and he said it was an 80% chance that he would have to drill it into pieces to get it out, and then stitch my mouth.) It literally took him longer to numb my mouth than it did for him to extract the tooth. And I have had minimal discomfort, completely manageable with over the counter pain relievers. And when the doctor called me that evening, I was eating dinner and I told him (while laughing) how I told everyone the story of how I freaked out and how he was awesome.

P.S. Did you get that? My oral surgeon personally called me that evening to ask how I was doing! As my husband said, “Now that’s small town living!”

 

The bare minimum, my bad attitude, and the realization that even flossing can’t save me entirely.

I am in a perfect storm of misery lately. I have an infection in one of my gums, and that means: 1) I feel sick from the infection. 2) It hurts to eat, which I must do 3 times a day, and which I usually love more than almost anything (husband not included), but which is currently being ruined by my pain. 3) I had to go through the tedium of finding out my insurance ID number, and finding a dentist in both my network and my area to treat me in the next few days rather than weeks. And 4) I had to make a dentist appointment while I deeply dislike and fear doctors and dentists in general.

I spent my first wedding anniversary moping around, dealing with the red tape of dentists’ offices and insurance companies, swishing my mouth with peroxide or salt water, and crying in frustration.

Here are some things I want to point out. I have not eaten sugar, grains, or starch for over 11 years. On most days, I brush after every meal, and always brush at least twice a day. I floss daily, often more than once. So this sort of pisses me off. I feel like I so don’t deserve this.

Here are some other things I would like to point out. I used to eat a diet almost entirely made of sugar, grains, and starch. I was not always a rigorous brusher, and never flossed until about 10 years ago. I only recently got insurance so I have not kept up with regular maintenance like cleaning and checkups for years. I don’t like to think about these things when I am slamming up against “the unfairness” of life.

Life has pain. If one is lucky enough to live any length of time, one will experience it. That I live a generally pain-free existence means I am lucky, not that I have done something to deserve it. Not even flossing.

People I know who also keep boundaries around their food would call this “A No Matter What.” Part of our lingo is to say that we don’t eat no matter what. (What we mean is that we don’t eat compulsively under any circumstances, because, of course, we do eat 3 meals a day within our boundaries.) So we use the term “no matter what” as a noun when we are describing those circumstances that could potentially throw us back into acting out our sugar addiction.

All of those things I mentioned at the beginning are “no matter whats” for me. I don’t want to eat. I want to skip meals because it hurts to eat them. I want to eat “comfort food” because I don’t feel well. I want to numb out rather than have to do the footwork to make an appointment with an appropriate dentist, because that kind of big-girl-panties stuff is always overwhelming and scary to me. And I really don’t want to go to the appointment I made in the first place because I am afraid. I am afraid of the pain and the cost and just generally having to come face to face with the truth about the state of my health.

That last one, having to face the truth about my body, is probably one of my all-time biggest struggles. I don’t like to look at uncomfortable realities, kind of ever, but especially about my body or my health. I mean, I weighed 300 pounds at one point. I was doing a lot of eye-covering and la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you-ing. I do make a point to live a relatively healthy lifestyle now. But I like going along in the predictable, and making changes and growing because I want to, not because I have been forced to. And that is not the way life goes.

I know that I am not alone. Plenty of people don’t choose to look at the reality of their health. There are people I know personally who have gone to the doctor to discover that at some point in the recent past, they had had a heart attack, and they “had not noticed.”

My guess is that they noticed, but when it passed and they weren’t dead, they figured no harm no foul. I understand. Not knowing can be much more comfortable than knowing.

So much of getting my eating under control was about facing reality. I used food, sugar especially, to avoid reality, often to the detriment of my welfare. If I was worried, I ate. If I was really worried, I ate until I passed out. Not a lot gets done when you are passed out in a food coma. Certainly not anything productive like paying bills, or working on a project, or finding a dentist. Not the kind of things that assuage worry by taking care of the problem, anyway.

The truth is that I am annoyed and cranky. I don’t feel well. I would love to tell you that I am keeping my spirits up and being grateful for all of the things I have, like insurance, and mostly good health, and a husband that I am crazy about, and a really happy life. But I’m not keeping my spirits up. I’m pissed. And I am doing the bare minimum to get through the days. There is no going above and beyond for me while I am feeling crappy. And I am cool with that.

Maybe someday I will be able to smile through pain and frustration. That’s certainly a worthwhile goal. But I am not there today, and I don’t want to make it seem like I am. Just like I believe in facing the reality of my health, I believe in facing, and showing, the reality of my experience. I don’t write this blog so that the people who read it (you) will think I’m special, or super-human, or admirable. I write this because it is an opportunity to tell my truth. Even the less attractive aspects.

So I am doing what needs to be done with a bad attitude. Because I need to take care of myself, but I don’t have to do it gracefully.

 

A nice reminder that I used to be kind of crazy, and now I’m kind of not

I started writing 3 handwritten pages every morning, just stream of consciousness. It is not a diary. It is not a story. It is simply meant to get thoughts trapped in my head out into the world by putting them on a page. It doesn’t have to be neat. It doesn’t have to make sense. It is simply another form of meditation.

It’s a practice that comes from a course/workbook called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I did this course from the workbook with a friend more than once when I was in my 20s. And I always hated the morning pages. I would buy the smallest notebook I could, and I would fight so hard against this particular practice. Sometimes I would just write, “I don’t want to do this” for the whole three pages. Sometimes I wrote, “I don’t [expletive] want to do this” for the whole three pages.

Now, I write them in a regular sized composition book, and the words just flow. They are not a burden. They are not difficult. I have thoughts. I get a chance to organize them every morning by getting them out in no particular order. Sometimes I write about my terrible handwriting. Sometimes I repeat the same banal observation several mornings in a row. It doesn’t matter. It’s not meant to be read.

On an average day, I don’t think of my mind as a particularly calm place. I don’t necessarily take note of how different I am now compared to how I used to be. But taking on this practice of stream-of-consciousness writing to get my head clear has illustrated a few things for me. 1) In my youth, my thinking was constantly cluttered. 2) I did not want to get my thoughts out of my head then because I would have had to look at them, and I already knew I wasn’t going to like what I saw. And if I really didn’t like what I saw, I would have to (gasp!) do something about it. And 3) Since I got my eating under control, my inner life is completely different than it was when I was an active sugar addict and compulsive eater.

I was so filled with shame, fear, and dishonesty that I couldn’t even just write words for the sake of writing words. I was constantly second guessing myself, all while trying to project an air of having it all under control.

I am sure that part of the clarity that I have now is that I am not high on sugar all the time anymore. I sometimes wonder how I managed to learn as much as I did in school growing up. But so much more of it is beyond the chemical and physiological. It’s spiritual. Not in the sense of heaven and hell, or gods and demons, but in the sense of having a moral compass and the ability to follow it. It’s spiritual in the sense that I have peace, in my head and my heart, because I know what I believe to be the right thing to do, and I have the ability to do it, even when it’s hard or scary.

I lived my life in pain and suffering for so many years, because of my addiction to food and the addictive behaviors of lying cheating and stealing that went along with that. The reason I don’t usually think about it is probably because peace and self-love are my new normal. (Sort of new anyway – 11 years is not an eternity, but it’s not a drop in the bucket either. P.S. The human traits of resilience and adaptability are truly mind-blowing.) But this ability at this point in my life to write my morning pages with ease and grace has been a powerful reminder that I live a transformed life. It is evidence that I have changed, not only outwardly, having lost weight and maintained that weight loss, but also in the ways I think and feel. It is a reminder that I have peace, personal inner peace, even when it feels like everything around me is crazy.

 

Living in interesting times

I am afraid. There is an old Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. Well, I am living in interesting times. And I am afraid. 

I have been having food thoughts. This is not something that happens to me often. In the past almost 11 years, I have had noticeable food thoughts through a handful of stressful times. Of course, I had them when I first gave up sugar and put boundaries around my eating. I also had them at the beginning of my relationship with my now husband. After all, I left my life in New York City after only spending about 10 days with him face to face, and moved across the country to be with him. Obviously, in retrospect, I made the right choice. But in the beginning, I didn’t know what would come down the pike. And I was nervous. And I had food thoughts.

But then, I knew a few things that I don’t know now. I knew that I was in control of my life. Even if it didn’t work out, I could move back to New York, get another job, find an apartment. All of that was in my hands. And I knew that no matter what, my husband was a good man. If it didn’t work out, he would still be a good man. 

But now, I am not sure how things are going to work out. And I don’t know that the people who have my life in their hands are good people. In fact, it is not circumstances I fear in this situation, but those people.

I will not eat compulsively. I need my wits about me. I need to be firing on all cylinders. But I am afraid.

One thing that happened to me, and to others I know, when we put boundaries around our eating, is that we discovered who we really were. We found out who was hiding behind that wall of fat and food coma.

One thing eating does is numb you to the ways that you are not true to yourself. When you get integrity around your eating, you necessarily get integrity around the way you live your life, because it hurts too much to do what you can to please others, or at least slip by unnoticed, at the expense of your own self. Especially if you do not have a way to soothe that. I not only got clear about “the truth,” I got clear about my truth.

So here is my truth. I choose justice over unity. I choose freedom over safety. And I will fight, even if that fight is dangerous to me personally. Because if I turn a blind eye, I’m going to need to eat a chocolate cake. Maybe two. I am telling you I would rather be harmed by someone else than harm myself. That is what eating compulsively is to me.

I still believe in the general benevolence of life. I know that this, too, shall pass. Like everything else, good and bad. And I am happy to see so much of what I despise brought out into the open. I am happy to see the hate dressed in its Sunday best and paraded around, because some people think it’s safe to do so now. As Justice Louis Brandeis so eloquently put it, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” 

But believing that life is giving me what is best doesn’t mean that this will be easy. And it doesn’t mean that this will be gentle. And it doesn’t mean that this will be painless. It just means that I trust that life is right, and that as long as I do the best that I can to live honestly and with honor and love, all will be well with me.

So the first thing I have to do is keep my eating under control. When I have a food thought, I cut it off. I do not hold on to it, or romanticize it. I remember that sugar and carbohydrates are poison to me, because I am sick around food. 

I am afraid. But that doesn’t have anything to do with my food. Except that three times a day, I sit down to a delicious, nourishing, satisfying meal, and I don’t have to think about the next right action I have to take to honor love and justice in America.

This is not a vacation 

I am in New York City for my usual yearly visit. I come this time of year because there is a big convention (for lack of a better term) for people who don’t eat sugar and who keep boundaries around their eating. These are my people. These are the people I can look in the eye and talk about eating a box of ice cream bars in one sitting and they don’t laugh. Or if they do, it’s not because they can’t imagine, but because they can. They probably have too. But I lived in the city for just shy of 15 years, so I have lots of other people to see here and catch up with too. And I can’t fit them all in, which is a big disappointment.

Plus, it’s exhausting. I get 8 hours of sleep a night pretty religiously. But I have been out with friends I haven’t seen in at least a year, and maybe more, so it’s hard to leave laughing and catching up just to go sleep. I even ended up out past midnight last night with a good friend. It was fantastic. But that’s two nights in a row with less than 8 hours. And I’m feeling it. 

Basically, this is fun. But it’s not relaxing. I am so happy to be here, but I’m looking forward to getting back home to my routine. And my husband. I miss him while I’m in New York, and though I love New York, I don’t miss it when I’m with him.

Living in fog (and I don’t mean San Francisco)

I am coming to the end of a big knitting project, my first adult sweater. I have made baby sweaters before using the same techniques, but a baby sweater doesn’t take that long. An adult sweater is a task that requires time. Weeks or possibly months.

Now that the end of this one is in sight, I have decided on my next project, and it is also an adult sweater. But this one is an ambitious undertaking. It uses techniques I’m less familiar with, and is constructed differently than any of the other sweaters I have made. But most significantly, it has a complicated cable pattern that is shown in a chart. And on certain rows, you have to read the chart both backwards and opposite (knit stitches are purl stitches, and purls are knits.) I wanted to make sure that I could actually make the sweater before I bought a bunch of fancy yarn, so I took yarn I had laying around and worked the cable pattern. And while it is hard, and gave me a few hand cramps, I can absolutely do it, and do it well.

But while I was doing it, I realized that I wouldn’t have been able to if I were still eating sugar. I would not have been able to wrap my mind around it. I wouldn’t have been clear headed enough to make sense of it. Or if I could have made sense of it, the food would have made me indifferent enough to fail to take the time or spend the energy. Why bother knitting when I could just eat? Besides you can’t knit and eat at the same time.

I am really smart. And it’s a good thing. Because as a sugar addict, I was never firing on all cylinders. I got by in life by being so smart that I didn’t have to be all there. 

I stopped eating sugar on January 2, 2006. But it wasn’t until June of 2007 that My head cleared. It took a year and a half for me to come out of the fog. A fog that I had been living in since I was a child. It was such a constant presence in my life from such a young age that I didn’t even know it was there until it was gone.

I used to think that everybody else got an easier life than I did. Now, of course, that is certainly not true. (That’s just the whiny addict talking.) But I had no idea how much harder I was making it on myself by essentially being drunk on sugar all the time. I never realized how I was limiting myself, or just how muddy and muddled my thinking was. 

I know that this new project is not going to be easy. I am a great knitter, but I am stretching myself here. I am sure I will come up against things that I don’t understand, or things that are harder to do than I expect. I can anticipate that at some point, I will get confused. I am positive I will get frustrated. But I will not be incapable. I will not be incapacitated. I may be taking on a demanding task, but I will be my super smart self on top of my game. And I will enjoy every moment. Okay, maybe not the hand cramps.

Fat Girl Sh*t

My best friend, like myself, is a compulsive eater who has had boundaries around her eating, and has been a healthy weight for over a decade. Sometimes we will be talking, and one of us will say something and the other one will say, “No, no. That’s not true. That’s just old fat girl shit.”

“Fat girl shit” can be any number of thoughts that I have about myself that are rooted in how much I hated and was disgusted by my body when I was fat, and how I assumed others judged me based on my expectations that they also hated and were disgusted by my body. It does not matter how long I have been a healthy weight, or had my eating under control. These are old old thoughts. These are paths I’ve worn into my brain by thinking them consistently for as long as I can remember. This is exactly the kind of thing that I have to dismantle on a regular basis.

This week, I got back in touch with a High School teacher that I haven’t seen or heard from in over 20 years. The first fat girl thought I had was that he wouldn’t remember me at all. I have this thought a lot. I have it in my head that I was not memorable, because who would want to recollect such an unattractive person. And then, if for some strange reason he did remember me, I would be remembered as the fat girl. Because being the fat girl has always been my first identity. Even now, when I can get out from under my fat girl shit, being a person with boundaries around my eating (essentially, the opposite of being a fat girl) is my primary identity. In other words, I have always been either a fat girl, or the woman who overcame being a fat girl.

But this teacher does remember me. He remembers me even though my name has changed. Not only that, he remembers, and still quotes (!?!) a line from a poem I wrote that was published in our school’s student art and literature magazine. He remembers me as “wicked funny.” (Hell yes, I will take that compliment.) He remembers me laughing a lot. But here’s the thing that threw me for a loop. He does not remember me as fat. At all. I mentioned it briefly, and he was surprised. 

I bring this up because it’s bittersweet. I am grateful to know that I was more than just a fat girl to people. And yet, I wish that my teenage self had known it too. I am sorry that Kate could never see herself as just a person first. And I am sorry that even looking back now, I have a hard time seeing that Kate as just a person first.  

I am not sorry to have found a solution to my eating problems, nor am I sorry to live in a healthy body that is easy to move around in. And my zen-like way of living reminds me that there is no other way for things to have gone except for the way they went. But I would like to make amends to that Kate for never really acknowledging her. I would like to start remembering that Kate as something more than fat. I think I’ll go with “wicked funny.”

Just because you won’t look at it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there

The New York Times apparently thought I’d be surprised by how many foods contain added sugar. The New York Times obviously doesn’t know me very well. Or read my blog. Which is fine…I guess…

But really, do people not know?

I know that I read labels and not everybody does. So maybe I know that there is sugar or starch added to all sorts of things you wouldn’t expect, like pork and fish. And maybe people who don’t read labels don’t realize that. But in the grand scheme of things, if you are not addicted to sugar the way I am, maybe in small amounts it’s not enough to affect you. (Though, seriously, fish? Why does anyone need to add sugar to fish?)

But do people really not know that if something tastes like candy, it has sugar in it? Seriously. Do you, as an adult, really still think Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch is part of a balanced breakfast, just because when we were kids they said so in the commercial and printed it on the side of the box? (Alright fine, it does have 25% of your recommended daily riboflavin.)

Here’s the thing. I’m not talking about everybody quitting sugar. I am sick around sugar, but I don’t pretend that everyone is. And I am a firm believer in freedom. Like I think that people have the right to smoke. But nobody is pretending that cigarettes are good for you. I was a smoker for many years, I knew what I was doing, and I did it anyway. Smokers know that smoking is dangerous. And if you tell a smoker that smoking is bad for them – which people sure do like to do for some reason – and you get a shocked response, it is sarcastic. Because everyone knows and you’re being a moron.

But we pretend that certain sugar foods are “packed with nutrition.” And we let people be shocked when somebody says that a granola bar is not that healthy; it’s mostly just sugar. But have you had a granola bar? If it tastes like an oatmeal cookie, that’s what it is. Even if it’s rectangular, and says “organic” on it. As a culture, we say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but we eat doughnuts and Pop-Tarts. Or frosted cinnamon rolls. Or various kinds of bread with syrup.

Again, the judgment is not about what we are eating, but how we are lying about it. If you want to eat sugar for breakfast, I will not try to stop you. More power to you. But you know that doughnuts are just cake. Breakfast cake, yes. Sure! But still just cake. And if I see you “look shocked” when you “find out” that the snack that you bought at the health food store, which totally tastes like a candy bar, is just a candy bar, I am going to have to call bullshit.

But here’s the thing. I get it. Because when I didn’t want to give up sugar, I also pretended that health food store candy was not candy. And I pretended that healthy meant it wouldn’t make me fat. But I wasn’t losing any weight. And I wasn’t interested in looking at the truth if it meant that I was going to come face to face with my relationship with sugar.

As a culture we are playing dumb for one another. We’re a bunch of enablers. And I think it’s ridiculous. Eat what you choose. I hope you enjoy every bite. But I also hope you have your eyes open. Not looking at the sugar, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Not a night owl or a vampire, just a sugar addict.

I used to think I was a night owl. I loved to stay up into the wee hours of the morning. I kept what people call the vampire hours. I would read, write, watch movies, and sometimes even do things like sew, crochet, or make some kind of DIY project. I would be happily awake until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any more.

But of course, I had a terrible time getting out of bed. I would get 4-6 hours of sleep most days, and then sleep for 12 or more hours wen I had a day off. I regularly overslept for appointments. And I was unhappy to be awake. The daylight hours were a burden. And because I hated it so much, I had a lot of disdain for people who loved the morning.

I have come to realize in the past ten years that I am not a night owl by nature. I am a sugar addict. All of that energy that kept me awake was from sugar, from being high on sugar. That’s how I stayed up all hours of the night. And when I couldn’t keep my eyes open, I wasn’t falling asleep, I was passing out.

When it comes down to it, I have a love/hate relationship with people. I’m fun and funny and charming (and humble, as my husband would point out.) But I am an addict. And addicts are, by definition, bad at relationships. I am anxious. I want to be liked. I am afraid of humiliation. So, along with being hopped up on sugar, I was probably awake in the middle of the night because it was time when I could be alone. Being alone in the dark with a chocolate cake and a pack of cigarettes was always easier for me than being out in the world where the other humans were wandering free. (By the way, I still love to be alone. To this day I spend a lot of time in solitude, and it is a necessity for my happiness. I may not be a night owl anymore, but I am still, and will probably always be, a loner.)

So when I gave up sugar and put boundaries around my eating, I stopped getting the energy at night from the sugar, and wound up sleeping at night. And because I was eating nutritious food, I wasn’t passing out from my drug, but actually sleeping. So I would wake up refreshed.

And then I realized that I love the morning. I love the quiet and the stillness (or relative stillness when I was in New York City.) It’s funny, because it was really a gradual change. 10 years ago, morning was 8 a.m. (Hey, for a girl who couldn’t drag her butt out of bed before noon without threat of death, 8 was pretty freaking early. I was impressed with myself.) Eventually morning became more like 7. And then was really 6 or 6:30. And now, in the past 5 months, I get up every day at 5:30.

I take my jog early, have breakfast, run errands, do a silent knitting meditation, and write for 3 or 4 hours. I get all of these things done in a day before the sugar addict night owl I used to be would even have gotten out of bed.

But there is another reason that I can love the morning, another reason I can happily wake up at 5:30 and not be cranky and angry. I go to bed. I regularly sleep 8 hours a night. It’s important to me. I don’t hate going to sleep like I used to. I don’t fight to keep my eyes open a little longer. I am not afraid I am going to miss anything. I look forward to the end of the day, when I lay on the couch and read a little. Maybe I still want to read one more chapter, but I know that the book will be there tomorrow. And there is something satisfying about another day done.

I really believed once that being a night owl was an unalterable part of being me. I thought it was the way I was made. And it made my life harder. It’s hard on a person’s spirit to always be late, or worried about being late. It’s hard to live in a body that is in physical pain from lack of restful sleep. It’s hard to be cranky and angry because it’s daytime. So I am glad to be a morning person, even if young Kate would look at me with disdain. She can think what she likes.

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