onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “dieting”

Impossible is just another word for “don’t stop eating junk food.”

Of course. Another article on how it’s “nearly impossible” to lose weight. An article about how there are receptors that help/hider weight loss on a molecular level. It even brought up the contestants on The Biggest Loser. Again. 

There was at least one thing about the article that I wholeheartedly agree with. Calories are not the answer to weight. Losing weight is not about creating a “calorie deficit.” 
And as for the study of the participants of The Biggest Loser television show, who had their metabolisms shut down, causing them to gain back their weight, along with not being able to lose weight any more, can we please remember that those participants were exercising for 6 to 9 hours a day. Which is a great way to create a dramatic physical change in a body for a reality TV show. But is not a practical practice for people who have to, say, go to work, make dinner for their family, have a life. And it is not a lifestyle change that facilitates long-term maintenance.
I am not saying the science talked about in this article isn’t valid. (Though I do not know who funded it and that always makes a difference.) But I take issue with some of the things the article implies. 
The most important one, I think, is this quote from an endocrinologist at Columbia University:
“These data are quite interesting, and are consistent with the hypothesis that the obesity epidemic is in part due to evolutionary pressures to prevent starvation in stress,”
So we are just evolving to be fat?
Guess what was not mentioned. Food. Processed food. In the past 45 years, my lifetime, Americans (and people in general worldwide) have gotten bigger and bigger. Americans have stopped eating at home. We have stopped cooking fresh food for ourselves and our families. We have started buying and consuming packaged, processed and “ultra-processed” foods, most with added sugars, on a daily basis. We eat and snack all day, as opposed to having meal times. We have no concept of portions, and when eating at a restaurant, we feel cheated if we do not get a full plate. We eat the whole bag, the whole box, the whole pint. In the past 45 years, we have gone from a society that ate junk food as an occasional treat, to one that considers junk food a reasonable meal choice. And we’re talking about evolution to explain why so many more people are fat in that same 45 years? 
I feel like this is an example of Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation is probably the valid one. We have told “Big Food” that it can get us addicted to its poison with impunity. We have agreed that rather than call out chips, and microwave snacks, and soft drinks, and granola bars made with “all natural” ingredients, as processed junk, we will say it’s evolution that is the problem. That it’s our bodies that are betraying us, as opposed to the food industry. 
I can’t say this enough. I do not care what you choose to eat! I do not care if you are fat! I do not care if you are fat and sick! I do not care if you are fat and sick and still want to eat ultra-processed foods all day every day! I do not care! You do you!
I care that seemingly everyone in the scientific and medical communities wants to talk about every effing thing except food. They want to talk about how close they are to creating the magic pill. Or the magic procedure. They want to say that it is either too hard, or too silly, or too strict, to give up processed foods and sugar. 
No doctor has ever told me to give up sugar and carbohydrates. They told me moderation. Because I wouldn’t be able to do something so extreme. That it was crazy. That it was impossible to give up cake on my birthday. 
Eat what you want. Whenever you want. But if you are miserable in your body, and you want to lose weight, for yourself – not a spouse/partner, or your parents, or society in general – don’t believe that it is evolutionarily impossible! Don’t believe that there is no hope. Maybe try not eating crap. Maybe try eating whole food that still looks recognizable as what it was in the wild…
My bottom line is this. Can we stop pretending not to see the problem with our food? Can we stop pretending that food we eat and serve is not addictive? Can we stop pretending that we can’t possibly imagine what has changed in the past 45 years to create what we are calling “an obesity epidemic?” 
We should really be calling it a “malnourishment epidemic” or a “toxic food epidemic.” We should not be vilifying the people who are reaping the consequences of a consumerist culture gone awry. An obesity epidemic seems to me to imply that fat people are to blame for not “putting the chips down” and “pushing away from the table.” But companies are making an awful lot of money on these same people. Food companies, and medical/drug companies. They sell us the ultra-processed microwave meal, with an “Organic/All Natural/No GMOs” label slapped across the front, and tell us it’s healthy. And then they get us under the knife for a procedure to “help us” out of the horrible bind we’ve gotten ourselves into by not having enough willpower. (I hope the eye roll implied there was not lost on you.) Those lap bands and gastric bypass surgeries aren’t free, you know. And we all know that insulin is so expensive some people are going bankrupt to stay alive. 
Do not believe them when they say it’s hopeless or impossible. Do not believe that evolution alone has made us fat. We have certainly evolved to have the bodies we have, but I firmly believe that evolution is not making us as fat as our addictive food choices are. 

And I say that as someone who has maintained over 100 lb weight loss for over 13 years. That is not a fluke. That is not an anomaly. That is over 13 years of not eating addictive foods. I *know* that it is not impossible. I am living proof.

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Independence Day too

This week was Independence Day here in the US. So I decided to write a bit about my personal freedom from food addiction.
As a kid and teenager, through my mid 20s, food was the most important thing in my life. I thought about it constantly. I thought about my weight constantly. I hated my body constantly. I wanted and obsessed over sugar and carbs constantly. Almost all of my thinking was around my issues with food. It used up so much of my brain that I am surprised I managed to do or achieve anything else with my time. Also, I didn’t achieve that much.
Here’s the thing that makes me clear that I was a slave to food. I ate when I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to eat in front of people, but I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t want to be fat and I wanted to lose weight, but I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t want to eat certain foods because I didn’t particularly like them, but if they were all there was in the house, I still couldn’t stop myself. Compulsive. Obsessed. Miserable. Enslaved.
I stopped being a salve when I stopped eating man-made sugar and carbohydrates entirely. And I did it with the intention of not going back.
When I dieted in my early life, I gave up sugar long enough that I could be thin, and therefore not judged for eating sugar. I *wanted* to eat sugar, but not hate myself and my body. I thought that being thin would make me love my body. I thought that being thin and eating sugar would be the perfect life.
It didn’t work. When I was thin but eating sugar and carbohydrates, I still hated my body. Judged it. Abused it. I thought my body was not treating me right, instead of the other way around.
When I quit sugar and carbohydrates, I started to love my body. Whether it was skinny or chubby. I no longer needed my body to be thin to love it. I loved it by treating it well, with nourishment and care. With food first. Later with sleep and hydration. Later still with quitting smoking. Eventually with exercise. I am sure there will be more. And more still. This food addiction journey is a lifetime journey of self-care. It was the actions I was taking that lead to love. It was “fake it ‘til you make it” that made me so happy with my body and my life. It was treating myself like a precious thing first. Not feeling like a precious thing and then acting accordingly. 
Freedom didn’t come for me. It did not seek me out. But it was there all the time, waiting for me to take it. It was waiting in all of the moments I played a long game with my life. It was every bite of cake I chose not to take. It was every “obligatory” meal I politely refused. It was in every time I put myself first, even though my body and mind were screaming and begging and tempting. 
Until the day that sugar stopped calling. Until the begging and the screaming and the tempting all stopped. And the freedom settled in. And the freedom became the norm. 
That did not come quickly. Or easily. It came a little at a time with a lot of pain and difficulty. Until it was just there. And now it’s just there. Freedom is just a part of my life now. Independence Day is today too. 

When rules don’t apply

I used to have a life coach who used to say (and probably still does) “If you really want to be a rebel, follow the rules. Nobody else is doing that.”

I was talking to some friends the other day and one was saying that she always thought she was so valuable that the rules didn’t apply to her. I know this feeling. Not the valuable part. Maybe I would say “precious.” Or “special.” But I was always clear that rules were for other people. They didn’t apply to me.

When people both “go on diets,” or try to change their lifestyles, they are talking about making rules around food (and often exercise.) One reason diets don’t work is people decide the rules don’t apply to them. Even when they make them up themselves.

There are always good excuses. Or sometimes pretty weak excuses. But for some of us, any excuse will do. And we play dumb. Like we don’t know how feeble our reasoning is.

I was guilty of this for a long time and on many levels. Lying to myself about whether I *could* follow my rules. Lying to others about whether I *did* follow my rules. Lying about why I gained weight, coming up with far-fetched stories. I even believed a lot of them.

Getting off of sugar and carbs was hard. It sucked. And I will tell you why I was finally able to do it.

1. I *really* got off of sugar and carbs. As in entirely. As in no cheat days, no special occasions, no eating things out of obligation. (I loved my Gram very much, but I never ate her lasagna again.) Just plain no sugar ever. And that meant no cravings. And no cravings meant I stopped feeling out of control around food. 2. My rules are so specific that I know if I am following them or not. I am either in my boundaries or out of them. There isn’t a lot of grey area in what I do. There isn’t room for doubt. And 3. Since I know exactly what I am supposed to be eating and exactly what I am eating, I could finally be honest about it.

It’s not that I was incapable of being honest before. But I had often been dishonest about what I was eating and how much. But also, I kept everything ambiguous on purpose. I wanted “freedom.” Really I wanted grey areas. I wanted wiggle room. I wanted to be able to do what I wanted, and then I wanted to blame something besides my eating for my weight. I might blame the diet. I might blame my genes. I might blame circumstances, like too many parties in a week (because how could I go to a party and not eat?) or that time of the month, or that I had a hard week and I deserved to treat myself.

Now, I love rules. I love to follow rules. I love when things are clearly spelled out and I am fully aware of what is expected of me, and what I can expect in return.

I always wanted “freedom” in my diets. But sugar was controlling my life. I was a slave to it. I had freedom to eat what I wanted. What I didn’t have was the freedom to not eat. When sugar cravings told me I was going to eat, then damn it, I was going to eat. I didn’t have a choice.

By following strict rules, I have freedom that I never had in all my years of wiggle room and grey areas. Freedom to not eat.

I can do anything for a month

I have been eating a lot of things that are not my favorite lately. It’s fine. I’m not exactly complaining. (OK, maybe a little.) But I’m not unhappy.

When I gave up sugar and carbs over 12 years ago, I realized that I could. That I could have power over what I “wanted” or “craved.” And while I would never eat things I didn’t like as a way of life (I am not “on a diet”) I can eat in a way that is not my favorite for a limited amount of time. I can do anything for 2 weeks or a month.

I have been taking a supplement that *ahem* backs you up. I will probably need to take it for another week or so. So that has meant, and will continue to mean, lots of big salads, and even more water than usual. Plus, I am staying away from my fattier proteins for the moment. In other words, more eggs and lean meats, less sausage and pork rinds.

Look, I make really good salads. But they are big at a time when I am not looking forward to big meals. And they are not gooey onions, or spicy, greasy Asian style cauliflower rice, or deep-fried Brussels sprouts. And I love steak. But I love pork products more.

But the other thing is all things in moderation. (Except man made sugar and carbs because that shit will kill me. Literally.) So yesterday, I ate a big, delicious portion of pork rinds with my big, crunchy, roughage-laden salad. And it was amazing!

I can become obsessive when it comes to “doing it right.” I can get so bogged down in perfection, that I can fail to see that sometimes I’m hurting more than I am helping. So today I am back to eggs and lean meat. But one night of grease and crunch was just what the doctor ordered. And I am sure that the doctor will order something along those same lines again before I’m done.

Like with most things, “free” foods aren’t really free

Last week I wrote about my belief that if you are fat and you want to lose weight and keep it off, I recommend giving up your binge foods for good. For me, my personal binge foods are specifically sugar, grains, and starch. I do sometimes eat high sugar vegetables like onions or winter squash, but I eat them in smaller quantities than if I were eating cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts or broccoli. I do also eat fruit for breakfast every day, but I even watch what kind of fruit I eat. I don’t eat bananas, cherries, or grapes, to name a few. I don’t eat any foods that will trigger my cravings.

I wanted to bring this up again because I want to say that what I do is simple, but not easy. But that it is possible. The problem is that it sucks. Only in the beginning, but the beginning lasts a long time. My beginning lasted a year and a half.

But I want to say that it was worth it to get past the suck. It was worth it to suffer through the pain of it for 18 months. I have never been happier.

When people ask me how I lost my weight, which they do (I get it – 150 Lb. weight loss is noteworthy) , and I tell them I gave up sugar, most people are already not listening. If I get to tell them that I also gave up grains and starches, and I eat specific quantities, most people are now half way down the block heading to some appointment they suddenly remembered. Some even look at me in shock, or think I am joking when I say that I not only control the portions of my proteins and fats, but also the vegetables that I eat, including salads.

We live in a culture where we have been sold an idea that we should be able to eat with impunity. That we should never be hungry. That we deserve a reward in the form of a cookie or a donut for doing the most basic tasks (also known as “adulting.”)

So when we are on a diet, we want foods to be “free.” I have been on those diets before. Pickles are free. Salads are free. Celery is free. You can eat as much of those things as you want on many diets and food programs. I, personally, see two problems with this way of thinking. 1) If the vegetables are “free,” that means that what we are saying is that food that “counts” is, at least in part, empty calories. The cake counts, the bacon counts, the ice cream counts. But the broccoli doesn’t count? Vegetables are food! They count. Why are we, as a culture, acting like they don’t? Why are we calculating and shifting and moving and negotiating to put crap in our bodies every day, and as much as our diet allows? And 2) I needed to stop eating. Eating was making me miserable, and not just because I was fat. I needed to learn to be in any given moment and not be shoving something into my face.

Part of the reason I was fat was because I could not stop, and here I was being told how to eat all day, and lose weight. Now, it may not “matter” in terms of my weight if I was eating celery all day (which, by the way, I would never do, because I hate celery with a passion), except that I was eventually going to go off that diet, and I was going to continue to eat all day, except that time I was going to eat sugar, and carbs, because those were the foods I wanted, and I already had this idea that it somehow made sense to eat non-stop. This idea that we could eat all day, and eat all of the foods we “love,” and still lose weight and keep it off is fascinating to me, because why haven’t we already been doing that all along then? Because those of us who haven’t, probably really can’t.

In putting boundaries around my eating, I learned that being “hungry” is not the end of the world. (If you have enough to eat in the first place. Please note that I am not talking about real hunger. I am not talking about people who live in poverty and who do not have enough food to live.) Learning to get from breakfast to lunch without eating something in between was a gift in ways that I could not have imagined when I was eating compulsively. Realizing that most of my eating was either to get high, to avoid feeling a difficult feeling, or to stave off boredom, was a revelation that changed my life. And I would never have had that revelation without going without food for a few hours at a time. I couldn’t have learned the lessons I needed to learn without letting myself be uncomfortable. There’s a saying that goes, If you want to know why you eat, stop eating. Being “hungry” and “wanting” to eat, and not eating, meant that I had to sit with all of the things that were making me “hungry.” And when I was confronted by them, and yet didn’t blot them out with food, I could see what they were, and I had a chance to do something about them. And, in terms of pleasure, being hungry meant that when I got to eat my nourishing, abundant meal, I enjoyed it in ways that I never enjoyed eating before. Even when I had been eating chocolate cake, or donuts, or pizza.

I do not get hungry very often anymore. It happens occasionally, but for the most part, the meals I eat are enough to get me to the next one happily and comfortably. From time to time I am ravenous by breakfast time, since the time between dinner and breakfast is often around 11 hours, and usually includes a 2-mile jog. But for the most part, I don’t think about food, unless it is to plan tomorrow’s delicious meals. And I am sure that it’s because I am eating real, whole, nourishing foods, not empty calories. And because all of them count. And because I am dealing with my eating problems, my mental obsession with food, and my addiction, rather than my weight.

 

If you have something to say about my weight, DON’T! Seriously, just don’t.

Something came up this week that I want to talk about.

It was nothing major, really. It was a common enough occurance. But good Lord did it piss me off.

A woman I don’t know very well said to me, “How’s your diet going? I can see that you have lost weight since last time I saw you.”

Number one, I have not lost weight since the last time this woman saw me. At all. I may even have gained weight. So it occurred to me as a lie. And I am not even a little interested in polite lies. I am positive she meant it to be nice. That she thought it was the neighborly thing to do. But that kind of thing is disingenuous to me. And not welcome.

Number two, I am not on a diet. Diets have a goal and an end. You lose 15 or 20 or 50 or whatever number of pounds and then you eat crap again. Diets get cheated on. Because diets deprive you of anything enjoyable so sometimes you have to “live a little.” Diets are about losing weight.

What I do is a way of life. I don’t want to cheat. I don’t have a goal so I can stop. I don’t want to stop. I have boundaries around my eating because it makes me happy and free. If I lose weight great. If I don’t, it doesn’t change anything. I eat delicious meals that I love that don’t include sugar or simple carbohydrates. Because I am addicted to those things. I am not on a diet. I have a diet.

And number three, and this is the important one, it is rude and obnoxious to talk about someone’s weight. Stop that!

I would say that the average human has between 1 and 5 people in their lives who are allowed to speak openly about their weight. Because they are loving, nonjudgmental, and a clearing for the person. If you want to know if you are one of those people, you need to ask. Seriously. Just because you are a parent, or a friend, or a sibling, do not assume you are welcome to comment or ask about a person’s weight. If you are too embarrassed to ask, then you should keep your mouth shut.

And if you ask, and the person says no, then keep it to yourself. Not, “Well I just want to say…”

I don’t care if you think it’s a compliment. I don’t care if you think it’s important. I don’t care if you think it’s polite. Whatever it is, no means no.

I hate this idea that people think somebody’s weight is open for discussion. I understand that it is on the outside for everyone to see. But it is still deeply personal.

My body is the only vessel I have. It contains the entirety of my life. Without it, I am very literally dead. It is a deeply spiritual thing. Whether you see it that way or not. So mind your own business.

OK. I am done ranting. Thank you.

How a giant cantaloupe saved me from the evil vortex

Most of the time, since I got control of my eating, my eating disorder brain stays essentially dormant. I always have it, of course. But my issues are not necessarily prominent in my day-to-day life. My body stays basically the same. I eat basically the same. I’m not hungry or full. I eat 3 meals a day. Those meals are within my food boundaries. The rest of life goes along as it does. For the most part, since I no longer eat compulsively, food, eating, and my body are non-issues. But from time to time, my eating disorders move into the prime real estate in my head. And since I quit smoking and my body has been going through some big changes, my body image issues are reclining in a penthouse with an ocean view.
A few weeks ago I posted “Stupid mirror! I said fairest, not fattest!” That particular body image disorder attack was about looking at myself in the mirror and seeing a distorted image of myself.  Seeing myself as fat when I am not.
And then I realized last night that for several weeks now I have been having what I call “diet-head” issues. And I didn’t exactly realize that I was in my “diet-head”. Because my eating disorders are sneaky and subtle and disguise themselves in myriad ways.
Since I quit smoking, I have had two things come up that are a double whammy when they come at the same time. I have been hungry and I have been gaining weight.
At least that’s what the scale says. Which is a whole other issue between me and my eating disorder brain. Because I was shocked to hell. I was actually expecting to have lost weight before I got on the scale the other day. I have not been feeling fat. My clothes fit. My face, neck and collar area are looking as slender as ever. And my stomach has been getting smaller. Frankly, if I didn’t know what the number on the scale was, I would not have thought twice about being back in my “regular” body. But I did, indeed, see the number on the scale. It was 140.  (Yes! 140! Can you imagine how I freaked out!? I totally freaked out. Called my friend crying like a 3-year-old!) And it does not matter that I had been feeling thin and pretty and back to normal. The number on the scale trumps liking what’s in the mirror.  Eating disorders are a trip, right?

It is very rare that I get hungry. It happens maybe three or four times a year. I eat multiple pounds of fruits and vegetables every day. Plus eggs, dairy, olive oil, butter, and a few times a week, meat. But for many weeks now, I have been hungry. I don’t know if it is emotional or physical. But either way, I have been afraid to do anything about it because the scale says I’ve been gaining weight. And my body image disorder brain has a desperate fear of getting fat.

My food boundaries are just boundaries. There is a lot of room within them. For example, how often I eat meat, or how much fat I want in my dairy products is absolutely changeable. My boundaries are not about deprivation or “dieting”. I never eat sugar, starch or simple carbohydrates, but I have plenty of options. I have plenty of room with the foods that I do eat to make sure I do not feel like I’m being punished. There are ways to eat within my food boundaries that can compensate for being hungry or feeling like it’s too much. One of the ways I can do that is with the size of certain fruits and vegetables. And sometimes I forget this.

When I was first getting control of my eating, I ate positively ginormous fruits and vegetables. I would go from market to market in search of the biggest and the best.

As the years have gone by, I do that less. It eventually started to become too much food. (That’s crazy to me, by the way. That I have reached a point in my life where there is such a thing as too much food! I’m a food addicted compulsive eater. That’s a freaking miracle!) So I generally stick to the basic fruit and veggie quantity. Like I said, it’s still multiple pounds every day…

But I’ve been hungry for a while now. When I have finished my meals, I have not been feeling satisfied. But I have been afraid to go out and find the biggest and the best like I did in the beginning. Because I want to get back to being 133 lbs and not 140. And because I already eat huge meals. I have been feeling like I should be satisfied. Like it’s shameful to want more. Plus the whole thing has seemed damned unfair! I quit smoking and I get punished with both being hungry and gaining weight!?!? Ugh! How am I not supposed to take this personally, God?

And then a good friend said “Stop thinking about it. Forget about your weight and enjoy your food.” And I said yes. I agreed. But in the back of my mind, I was thinking about enjoying fresh and delicious on the lighter side. Because good Lord, I weigh 140!

And then I was at the farmer’s market, and I saw giant cantaloupes. My body said, “Want! Want!” My terrified-of-getting-fat eating disorder brain went. “Tsk tsk. Better not. 140.” And then I heard my friend’s voice say “Enjoy your food!” And I bought a giant melon. Bigger than my head. Half for dinner last night and half for breakfast this morning.

And you know what? For the first time in weeks I felt satisfied. I went to bed with a smile on my face last night. I went to work today with a song in my heart. And I am not ashamed. And I am not afraid of getting fat. And last night, after dinner, I realized that for the first time in forever, I do not feel like I’m being punished. And that I do feel like I deserve. To enjoy my food. To enjoy my life. That I deserve to be satisfied. That I’m worth that!
I am starting to understand that deprivation feeds the idea that I don’t deserve, as much as feeling like I don’t deserve makes me deprive myself. That it is also circular, like the eating making me fat and ashamed, and shame making me eat. Basically, my eating disorder brain is like a giant, evil vortex. It swirls around and around and it will take starvation and deprivation as soon as gluttony and shame. It’s all the same as long as I am punished and miserable.
Let me be blunt. I’m walking a line here. I’m doing a dance with myself and my eating disorders. I am navigating food choices, emotional and physical comfort, self acceptance and body image. Food comforts me. Eating a giant cantaloupe made me feel better. Bacon and fried onions do too. There are things it would be dangerous for me to withhold from myself. Satisfaction in eating. Foods I enjoy. I need these things as much as I want them. For my sanity and my health. And at the same time, it would be dangerous to let myself actually gain more weight than I can be comfortable with. But I also know that I just quit smoking. And I need a little self-love. And some comfort. I don’t know what’s going on with my body. I’m just going to have to wait and see. But in the mean time, I am going to enjoy my food. Within my boundaries, of course. But there’s so much abundance and deliciousness withn those boundaries. So if keeping myself comfortable and cared for means that I am going to have to occasionally eat a cantaloupe bigger than my head…well so be it…

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