onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “eating boundaries”

The living declaration of my priorities

The other day I was talking to somebody who is just starting to give up sugar and put boundaries around her eating and she was saying she is worried about not being organized enough to do what I do. Which is an understandable fear when you hear me talk about all of the things I do to keep my eating boundaries.

But there is a secret I told her that I will tell you. It’s not about doing all of the things like shopping and chopping and preparing. It’s about *making the commitment* to get your eating under control and *having the willingness* to do it no matter what.

You can still keep your eating boundaries without doing all of these seemingly time consuming things. It’s just harder. It’s just a lot more work. It just doesn’t make sense when you are going to keep the boundaries anyway. But the prep and the time and the effort do not create commitment. All of the trips to the grocery and the hours in the kitchen are the symptoms of that commitment.

Someone on social media once asked “how do people start working out first thing in the morning?” When I am working, I work out in the morning. Often when it’s still dark out. And the answer is, first you make the commitment to work out. And you do it whenever you can. And eventually you realize that you don’t want to take two showers a day. Or you don’t want to have to bring a change of clothes with you. Or you don’t want to have to stop back at home after work before going out. So you work out first thing because that is more convenient. But it’s only more convenient if you already knew for a fact that you were going to work out no matter what.

Someone once told me that making a commitment changes the whole trajectory of your life. And I didn’t understand that until I got my eating under control. Until I chose to get my eating under control and decided it was the most important thing I could do in a day. A commitment is a kind of living declaration of our priorities, and I love that my life is an example of that.

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A memory of exhaustion

The other day I was writing my stream of consciousness meditation pages and I wanted to stop. Just stop in the middle. More like the beginning, but I had already started. I did not stop, but it gave me a kind of emotional flashback.

I used to do this particular form of quitting all the time when I was eating compulsively. It is specifically around some commitment I have made to be a better person. Or at least a person I personally like better.

There is a particular example of this that I sometimes think about just because of the timing. In September of 2001, I was taking a self-help seminar in the World Trade Center. I think the seminar was on a Wednesday or a Thursday so it was probably the 6th or the 7th, and I don’t specifically remember but I am reasonably certain I didn’t do my homework, and I was probably ashamed of that. And just in general I didn’t want to show up, and I knew that I should. And on this particular day, I schlepped myself all the way there to the World Trade Center, which was nowhere near anything else I did like my job or my home. I walked in the big doors into the giant corridor with the security stations and the big banks of elevators on the other side, and then I just turned around and left. Got all the way to the seminar, spent all of that time and energy to travel there and still didn’t show up to take care of myself. And of course, I would never go to the WTC again.

I did this with all sorts of things that I had started doing to make myself feel better, feel good, feel like I had my shit together. I would get my running clothes on, and start a jog, but I would just quit. In the middle of a jog. Just stop and decide I didn’t want to do it anymore. And I would feel awful about it. But the idea of effort was so terrifying to me that I often just shut down. I feared any pain, but especially the pain of growth.

It was interesting to have that feeling again about a writing meditation. Kind of scary, a little uncomfortable. Because that part of me is still there. But since I got my eating under control, it doesn’t win. I can feel it, acknowledge it, but not bow to it. I can want to quit and not quit.

When I put boundaries around my eating I got what some people call “abstinent references.” I learned, first hand, that I would not starve if I didn’t eat between meals. I learned that I would not die if I admitted my mistakes and made amends for them. I learned that effort is not the level of suffering I always feared it was. I learned that that once something was begun, like a workout, or showing up at the place I was supposed to be, it was actually easier to keep going and follow through than to quit. That the level of justification I would have to maintain to not feel awful about myself over it would be way more effort than just doing the workout or attending the meeting.

To remember what I used to be like is to remember how exhausted I was all the time. Because second guessing myself and stressing about everything, and being afraid of the world, and being afraid of my life was so much more exhausting than all of the food prep work and the shopping and chopping and working out and writing and meditation and that I do.

All the angels are here.

I started a new meditation practice this week. It feels good. It has been a while since I have had a strong, long-term, daily practice of some sort of meditation and reflection. 

The most spiritual thing I do in a day is weigh my food and keep my eating boundaries. That action itself is a kind of prayer of gratitude. Thank you God/Life/Universe for this nourishment that also blocks the obsession of eating. Every time I do it I know that I am doing something that keeps me on the path I want to be on. The path that leads to my most authentic self. The path that gives me a chance for a life that I love.

I used to think that spirituality was amorphous and ethereal. A thing that couldn’t be fully understood. But now I think of it as a series of actions. Weighing and measuring my food 3 times a day. Writing 3 pages of stream of consciousness. Being still and quiet for 3 timed minutes. Writing out at least 3 things I am grateful for. (Apparently I like the number 3.) 

Every time I make a commitment to myself, for myself, and keep it, that is a spiritual act. Did my workout? Spiritual. Drank my water? Spiritual.

Having a practical spirituality changed my whole way of thinking. I no longer have to wonder about God and if I am doing what God wants. I am doing what I want, and giving myself all of the things I want for myself. Heaven is empty and all the angels are here.

Does the baby need a pacifier? (Yes. The answer is yes.)

When I got back from the grocery store yesterday I could not help thinking about how many drinks my husband and I consume daily and weekly. And most of them, for both of us, are zero calories (or very low calorie for him) and many are caffeine free as well. There is no nutritional value. They are essentially just pacifiers. 

This is not a judgment. I am not judging myself, my husband, or anyone else for this. Because zero calorie drinks always have, and continue to, help me keep my eating boundaries. They help me get through the day without eating between meals. Or feeling like I want to eat between meals.

I have the desire to eat all the time. Not for nourishment. Not because I actually want to eat. Not because I’m hungry. I just love to eat. I love the way it makes me feel. I love the experience. And drinking calorie-free drinks tricks my brain into feeling like I’m eating when I am not. 

Because actually eating all the time made me miserable. It made me hate my body, made me hate my life, and made me hate myself. But diet drinks are a safe way to feel satisfied without breaking my boundaries. 

So much of keeping my addiction under control is following rules. By which I mean, it’s about honesty and integrity. It’s about making and keeping promises around food. It’s about being fully aware of what is going into my mouth, and knowing, unequivocally, that it’s aligned with my commitments. And zero calorie drinks are within my boundaries and can be partaken of guilt free.

The kinds of things I drink have changed a bit over the years. I used to drink coffee and espresso all day every day. And now I mostly don’t drink caffeine after noon. I make some notable exceptions, like if I go to a bar or restaurant to be with family and friends, I drink diet cola and I don’t worry about caffeine. But not drinking caffeine is a goal, not a rule or a promise. Knowing what is a hard and fast rule is what keeps me peaceful. It keeps me proud of myself and happy in my body and my life. And if I need a pacifier, so be it.

Suffering and sustainability are mutually exclusive

The good and bad of a person like me with food boundaries moving to a new place is always getting to know a new grocery store. Or a few. Inevitably there will be new things that I haven’t had yet that I am happy to find, and old things I can’t find anymore. And that, my friends, is why I love shopping online. Because if I can’t find it in my new grocery store, I can get my sugar free barbecue sauce delivered to my door.

I am obsessed with food. Eternally. I love to eat. Keeping my meals within my eating boundaries lets me eat without guilt or shame. Loving my meals keeps me within my boundaries because I don’t feel deprived. There is no boneless skinless chicken breast and steamed broccoli for me. There is no chicken breast at all! If it’s chicken it’s wings with the skin on or thighs or drumsticks. And the broccoli is definitely sautéed and seasoned and maybe even has some hot sauce in it.

Every place we have lived I have gotten a new menu of meals within my boundaries. And acquired a new list of foods and flavorings to find online from the things I now need but can’t get locally. But no matter where we are or for how long, I make sure my meals are delicious, satisfying, and a haven for me 3 times a day. They are still a source of joy and contentment for me.

I could never “eat to live.” I could never consider what I put in my body as a tool as opposed to a joyful experience. And I could not do this for over 16 1/2 years if eating were an aside or an afterthought, and not the main event. I could never sustain that kind of relationship with food. And ultimately, if I can’t do something long term, it doesn’t work. If you want to understand how a person like me, an addict, has maintained over a 100 pound weight loss for over a decade, you have to recognize that I am not on a diet. And that I continue to do what I do because I am not doing it “just until I’m thin enough to eat what I want.” I do it because I genuinely love my food.

If I’m going to sustain, I can’t suffer. The two are mutually exclusive.

Always another meal coming

Today I get reunited with my husband (finally!) and we both get to live in daylight hours and eat dinner together and go to sleep at the same time! 

I am headed out to the grocery store soon so we can have our favorite dinner tonight (sous vide filet mignon with a baked potato for him and sautéed garlic green beans for me) for the first time in months. 

When my husband is not around I eat a lot like a kid. I make a lot of homemade sugar free ice cream. I eat a lot of bacon and eggs. Together or separately. Plus I eat a lot of nostalgic things, like eggs with cheddar cheese and ketchup, which was my go to bodega breakfast sandwich back in NYC when I was both poor and ate bread. And I love it for that time! Of course I do. But the truth is it’s not as great as sitting down to dinner with my husband. 

Food is always emotional for me. I am not neutral around it. Not around sugar, but also not around the things I do and can eat. I am just as obsessed with eating as I ever was. But the boundaries make it easy for me to be obsessed 3 times a day. Instead of all day every day. 

I have had to make friends with the way I relate to food. Mange to keep it in its proper place, while accepting that I will never not care about it. But the great thing about that is that food can still be my sanctuary. In fact, it is more a sanctuary now than when I was eating compulsively. Because I get to go hide in the food for a time now. Half an hour or an hour. But then I can walk away and leave it to go have a life until the next meal. And there is always another meal coming.

Sensible Priorities for a One Track Mind

I have spent my week building furniture. Two night stands, two end tables, a TV stand, a coffee table, a small dresser, and a platform bed frame with headboard. The dining set and couch should be delivered this coming week.

We ended up buying all of our furniture on line, and I am the one who is here. So I am the one who has to build it. To be honest, I kind of love it. I like building things. I’m good at it. And there is something deeply satisfying about taking an array of stuff, putting it together, and getting something useful. Not that the things that I am building are particularly complicated. They are not. And some of them, like the end tables, are literally just screwing the legs directly into the table tops. No tools or hardware required. (The bed was more complex.)

And any time there was something particularly difficult, or really more like cumbersome and meant for more than one person, I figured out a way around it. Because I like problem solving too. And I am good at that too.

A project like those kinds of projects are fun for me. But they can also make me obsessed and obsessive. Once it’s begun I don’t want to stop until it’s finished. Even if there is something else important I should be doing. Like eating lunch. Because it’s time, and I’m hungry, and I am not thinking as well as I would be once I ate my lunch. 

That is one of my many gifts of getting my eating under control. Common sense priorities. 

I can have a one track mind. Even when I was in the food I could have a one track mind, even about things that weren’t sugar or carbohydrate related. (Though that was a huge part of it.) I can get caught up in a crochet or knitting project and not want to stop. One more row, one more line, one more pattern repeat. I can get caught up in making a costume or some other kind of art piece, and look up and realize it’s after midnight and I have been at it for hours. 

But getting my eating under control taught me that eating my weighed and measured meal at a reasonable time is more important than the momentum of building a bed frame. And the bed frame will still be there when I get done, and my body is sated and my brain is getting enough fuel to not put the piece on backwards and screw the hardware in so tight I strip the screws. 

I have a lot of crazy. A lot of intense feelings. And not just weepy sadness or incandescent rage. I have a lot of strong desire and driven ambition. It’s not a particularly useful kind of ambition that makes me a boat load of money, like the desire to build a company from the ground up, or be a CEO. It’s definitely centered more around arts and crafts. But it can still make me crazy and single minded to the detriment of my health and well-being.

So getting sensible priorities was a gift of putting the food down. Yes, I can still get lost in a project. Start designing a new part of my latest crochet doll and miss my usual workout time. Or get caught up in fixing a mistake in my blanket and look up and realize I need to stop and eat lunch or I will have to push dinner back. Or stop trying new crochet techniques for nothing in particular but my own learning and go to sleep if I want my 8 hours. And I most definitely want my 8 hours. 

Getting my eating under control didn’t change my personality. It just made me able to manage my own natural craziness. But that is definitely a gift worth having.

Ready to go

Ok friends, shortest blog ever.

Today I move out of the frying pan (crappy apartment) and into the fire (tiny hotel room.) But all of my meals for today and tomorrow are cooked, portioned, packed, and ready to go. Because that is my first priority. 

I did most of the packing and cleaning for the move over the last several days. So today is really just packing it into the car and doing the last minute stuff, like the wiping down the bathroom after we both shower, the refrigerator after it’s empty and to vacuum the carpet and swiffer the kitchen floor on our way out.

It’s easy because we’ve done it a lot. We’ve moved so many times it can be hard to keep count. But it’s also easy because I know how to prioritize my time. And I actually know how much time things take. And I know that because my eating boundaries are the most important thing to me. And I have had to get realistic about time to make sure I had enough of it to have and cook what I need to eat.

The kitchen in between

On this coming Friday, the furniture rental people are coming to take back their stuff. On Sunday, we will pack up and move out of here. But we won’t have an apartment in Rochester NY until the end of September. And that means 2 weeks in an extended stay hotel with a kitchenette. And that means 2 weeks without all of my kitchen comforts, and most of my favorite foods.

I will survive I don’t doubt. With my eating boundaries in tact I also don’t doubt. But it won’t be possible to make a lot of my go to foods. There won’t be an oven to bake bacon, so if I want it I will have to make it on the stovetop, which takes forever. So I probably won’t. (Maybe I won’t. Ok, I might but definitely not as often and I will feel the right to complain about it.) And my guess is the freezer won’t be cold enough to thoroughly freeze my ice cream making bowl, because they often aren’t in places like that. And I am already cataloging the handful of kitchen items I will need to bring with me, like a coffee cup because the ones they provide are so tiny, and a good frying pan because the ones they provide usually have the Teflon so scratched and warped I want to call poison control just from looking at it.

There are many things I love about traveling, but these in between times are not one of them. This is the closest I come to camping, and I don’t love it. 

I will take care of myself. I will love my food, whatever that takes and whatever that looks like. Even if it’s not the way I am used to. But I do have to brace myself. Be prepared in both the practical sense – like pack my coffee cup and my frying pan in an easily accessible crate in my car – and the emotional sense. But I will be prepared. And then pretty soon, I will be back in an apartment, with an oven and very cold freezer, and a chance to get to know a new place.

A thought about bacon

I love bacon. Of course. And yesterday I made some for lunch. I always cook the whole pound and then put it in the refrigerator and eat it for the next few meals. So I made the bacon, and I weighed out my lunch portion, and I left the rest on a paper towel on the table and I would put it away after I ate the meal in front of me.

But while I was eating my meal, I looked over at that bacon and I wanted more. Now I did not want it because I was hungry. As I said, I was in the middle of a meal. And I did not want it because I had finished all of the bacon on my plate and wished I could have more. In fact, I still had bacon on my plate. In the meal I was eating. I wanted more bacon because I am excited by the possibility of more. More anything good. And it was just sitting right there in front of me to want.

I used to always always want more. And it was never because I didn’t have enough. I just wanted. That’s it. There was no reason. Except that I am a compulsive eater and a food addict. It’s not rational. It’s not based in any actual need. It’s just a kind of thought that I have had so long that even after over 16 years of having my eating under control, I still have it sometimes.

But the difference 16 years makes is that I almost never have the thought anymore. And even when I do, like yesterday, it has almost no power. I moved the bacon out of my line of vision. (I’m not going to torture that thing in me that wants more, just because I’m not going to give in.) I finished eating my lunch, and put the rest away. And then for dinner I got to pull it out and have a little more.

When I was in the food, it would not be enough to move it. That food thought would haunt me until I ate the bacon. It would feel unbearable. It would feel like I would DIE if I didn’t eat the bacon.

It’s a huge relief to know that I don’t have to eat things today just because I can’t stop. And to know that I can have a thought about food and let it go.

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