Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “eating boundaries”

Hit ‘em where it hurts. The bank account.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


No place like home

After over a month of uncertainty and moving around, my husband and I are finally in a place we will be in for a little bit of time. Probably about another month and a half. It’s not exactly long-term, but it’s a chance to relax and catch my breath for a minute.

One of the things that makes my life happier is that my husband and I always travel with a little bit of home. My kitchen, with my cast iron skillets, our dishes, our silverware, my favorite mug, and a handful of other things I know I will need to be happy come with us. In bigger places for extended periods, I bring more. For a month or two, I make do with less. I also bring our linens everywhere. We also bring our internet TV and the husband’s PlayStation.

I started doing these things because of my my eating boundaries. Because I needed to cook all the time and I needed to be sure I had the tools I needed. But it started to become a way to recognize a place as home. My decorative shower curtain has hung on several shower rods above my bath mat, and alongside my matching towels. My coffee mug, my ramekins, freezer bowl to make homemade sugar-free ice cream, all these little things make every new sublet feel like home.

If I were a normal eater, I may never have gotten so good at making myself comfortable. I may have disregarded that kind of home comfort as important. I could have eaten fast food, and gotten by in hotel rooms without kitchens, and flown by the seat of my pants.

I am terrible at flying by the seat of my pants. I like routine. I like sameness. Life is complicated enough. I am always going to be expected to deal with life as it comes up. Always. In the in between time, I like to know that my husband and I will eat dinner together at the same time each night. I like to know the mug I have is big enough for the way I like my coffee. I like recognizing my home in a new place. It makes me feel safe.

So for the time being I am in a tiny little studio apartment with my husband. But I have bits and pieces of my home all around me. And there’s no place like home.

Not as convenient as it seemed

I fly relatively often. It’s part of my life on the road. And even when we are not flying home from my husband’s job for a family visit, I still go to New York about once a year.

I have noticed in the past year or so that I have been getting stopped by TSA and they have been swabbing my bag every time. Every single time. Even after I got TSA Precheck. I have asked why, but in general, TSA is not very forthcoming about the reason for these stops. I get it. They don’t want to make it easier for people to do bad things by telling the public what they are looking for.

But thankfully for me, one woman at the San Antonio airport, before my most recent flight to Chicago, told me that my food looks like explosives in the x-ray machine.


I have mentioned before that I tend to travel with complete meals made into compact little loaves. They are generally made of eggs, wheat germ, pumpkin or carrots, cinnamon/spices, sweetener, sesame oil, and sometimes sesame seeds. And when I cook them in the microwave, which I usually do (as opposed to a conventional oven) they become a chewy, rather wet muffin of sorts. And I can imagine that in an x-ray machine, they look like the kind of thing you would see wires coming out of in an 80’s terrorist movie like Die Hard.

So when we left Chicago to fly back to Texas, I decided to try an experiment. I opted against easy to carry, compact loaves in favor of slightly more bulky and cumbersome meals of cooked vegetables and proteins packed in leak-proof Tupperware.

And I did not get stopped at all.

I had been thinking all this time that I was doing myself a favor by having these tiny little meals that were easy to carry. But every time I got stopped, I was frustrated, And more than that, I was afraid that someone was going to take my food away from me. (I know. I need to get a doctor to write me an official letter stating that I have special food needs.) It was slightly less convenient to pack a meal of cooked vegetables and protein. But the benefits of not worrying about losing my precious meals far outweigh the extra prep time and carry-on space used.

I am not saying that I will never get stopped again. I have been stopped for other things as well. My food scale, and my knitting needles and crochet hooks all come to mind. But it had been worrying me that I was being stopped every time I flew. And that is a stress I don’t need. Any stress is stress I don’t need.

And to be honest, I was packing those particular meals because I thought they were convenient, not because I found them particularly delicious. (Not that they were terrible…But they were dense. A lot of food in a little loaf.) I eat different things when I am at home than I do when I am travelling, either by plane or car. Some foods just don’t travel well. But I now know that those little loaves are not as convenient as they seemed. And now that I have that information, I can adjust accordingly.



Life doesn’t care if I am comfortable with change.

Because of the trouble with the hurricane in Texas, we had to come back to Chicago for a stretch. We were told on a Tuesday and had to fly out on a Wednesday. And we thought that we would be here for another week at least, but found out we will end up having to head back to Texas sooner than we had planned. No complaints. Chicago is cold right now. But the quick turnaround has meant being able to fly by the seat of our pants. It means being able to be flexible.

When we got here to our home in Chicago, we noticed that we had some stray kittens living under our deck. They had been abandoned by their (stray) mother, and were starving. They were not going to survive long, and most certainly not a Chicago winter. So I fed them until a friend of mine could help me capture them and take them to a shelter to be taken care of until they were old enough to be adopted. It meant being able to do something that I had not expected or planned on. It meant being able to fly by the seat of my pants yet again.

I hate flying by the seat of my pants. I like plans. I like routine. I do not get bored easily. I can read the same book over and over. I can eat the same foods every day. I can listen to the same song on repeat. I can find something new in old things. I like nuance; I am interested in fine distinctions. I understand that variety is the spice of life for some people. I very often find variety to be the source of anxiety, and worry. But I have my food under control, so I can go with the flow. Or roll with the punches, but I prefer flow to punches…unless it’s zero calorie fruit punch. That I like a lot…

If I were in the food, I would not have had the energy to take care of those kittens. I would not have had the wherewithal to deal with them one step at a time. First feed them, then call the shelters, then catch them, then bring them in to be taken care of. I would have gotten 500 steps ahead of myself wondering how I was going to get them to the shelter, would have gotten completely overwhelmed, and I wouldn’t have fed them in the first place. It’s not that I am a more caring person now that I have my eating under control; I am simply much much better at dealing with unexpected situations.

Then, as I said before, on Friday, my husband called in the middle of the day and said that we had to head back to Texas a week earlier than we expected, as in, we had two or three days to be ready. I told him I would be ready when he needed me to be ready.

I can do that because when I have my eating under control, I can do one thing at a time, and take care of the next right thing. I can think straight and think ahead, without getting ahead of myself. So I am writing this blog, and then I will go to the store and make sure I have enough food for my trip back.

It turns out that life does not particularly care how comfortable I am with change, especially at a moment’s notice. And I don’t have to take that personally. But I do have to deal with it. And I am grateful that I am able to do that now.


Dear Pork Products, I love you but I need some space.

My husband sometimes teases me because when he is not around for dinner, I eat “like a four-year-old.” His words, not mine, though I totally agree. Obviously everything is within my food boundaries, but my food boundaries have a lot of room. I don’t have to eat a particularly healthy diet to be within my boundaries. So while I might eat, say, filet minion and sautéed broccoli when I am making dinner for the two of us, I eat homemade sugar-free frozen yogurt, and pork rinds when I am on my own. He calls it “chips and ice cream.” And over the past week my husband had to go out of town unexpectedly, and I spent more evenings alone than I usually do.

And I found that while I was loving my dinners when I was eating them, I was feeling kind of off, maybe even yucky, about them later. Not that I was physically ill. I wasn’t. I was feeling guilty, and I was worrying about my weight.

I believe that I have a physical allergy to sugars, grains, and starches. I believe that when I put those substances in my body, I set up a craving for more that not everyone experiences. That is what makes me an addict. But I believe that there are other aspects to being an addict that stem from, but are not, this physical allergy. And of course, after 28 years of putting those substances in my body, I acquired a handful of those other addiction-based consequences. Some are behavioral, like lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating, blaming, and feeling entitled. And some of them are psychological, as in obsessive thinking about food or my weight, or my body-dysmorphia.

I have been able to keep an eye on, deal with, and transform the behavioral consequences by having kept my strict eating boundaries over the years. But the psychological ones live on in me in varying states of dormancy. I don’t think I will ever entirely rid myself of them.

Honestly, I don’t think an extra day or two of “chips and ice cream” had any real or noticeable affect on my body. After all, my boundaries are not just about food choices, but are also about when, and how much I eat. I have strict portion control, whether it’s my “legal junk food” or a pork chop and roasted cauliflower. Even though I might occasionally indulge in higher calorie options, I don’t binge. Ever.

But it still messed with my mind. And that is important to note, because part of having my eating under control is having the ability to see clearly the things that are making me unhappy or worried, and to do something about them. My point is that I may be “allowed” to eat “chips and ice cream” every day, but that comes with consequences that I am not a fan of.

This has happened to me many times in the past 11 years. I stopped eating sugar-free, calorie-free condiments. I stopped baking with soy flour or TVP as my base. I cut down on, and eventually gave up, soy nut butter. Even in the past six months, I started substituting an egg for 2 ounces of fatty meats like sausage, because it didn’t feel good that I was eating so much. I didn’t quit eating sausage, just like I am not entirely giving up pork rinds. I just cut back because it was making me sick in the head. I was thinking about my weight all the time.

I’ll be blunt. I haven’t noticed much of a change in my body in the months since I cut back on sausage. But it’s not about my body. It’s about how I feel about my body. And I feel better about my body when I don’t eat as much of certain foods.

Is it purely psychological? Maybe. But I have found that there are psychological things that are worth working through and getting over, and there are psychological things that are better to simply accept and adapt to. And frankly, limiting the amount of sausage or pork rinds I eat just makes more sense. I want to save the real spiritual work for my relationships with myself and others, not my relationship with pork products.

P.S. I still love you pork products.


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.


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