onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “eating boundaries”

Whatever I want whenever I want is not as much fun as it seems

It’s Sunday, which means I have just finished breakfast, I will post this blog, then go grocery shopping, and cook breakfasts and lunches for the week. It’s what I do on Sunday.

I used to hate routine. Now I thrive on it. I used to want to be able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. And I did. But the things I wanted to do and did, never brought me anything worth having. Or perhaps that is untrue. They never brought me anything worth having by themselves.

I did a lot of reading and a lot of thinking. And those are absolutely worth doing. But really, only if one is doing the mundane actual living part of life. All of that reading and thinking never gave me a sense of pride, or purpose, or accomplishment.

Doing whatever I wanted never made me content. The life I live now, full of routines and commitments makes me content. It even makes me happy. I don’t know if I know many people as happy in their lives as I am.

It’s not so much the routine that makes me so happy, as what I use it for. I use it to make sure I get everything done in the day that I have promised myself. I make food for the week on Sunday so I know that the food is taken care of for the week. I don’t have to scramble. I don’t have to do it after work when I’m tired and just want to sit, and relax. I work out in the morning so I don’t have to worry about it if something comes up in the evening. And again, after work I don’t want to do things. I like to eat my meals at the same times (ish) every day as a reminder that whatever else I am doing, that is important and needs to get done.

I don’t have to have a routine to do these things. But for me, not having one was the perfect excuse for not doing things. Like I talked about with my food a couple of weeks ago, I wanted freedom, but freedom always led to the day “getting away from me.” Let’s say I was supposed to work out 3 days a week. I wouldn’t even consider it Monday through Wednesday. And then I’d consider it Thursday, but would never get around to doing it. So I would decide that Sunday could still be counted as “this week,” even if it wasn’t. I would then know I “had” to do it 3 days in a row, but would certainly put it off all day until the evening. And by the end of the day, the chances of me exercising were 50/50 at best.

There is a saying among people who keep their eating under control the way I do. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Of course, there are emergencies and moments where I have to fly by the seat of my pants to keep my eating boundaries, but I make those the exception, not the rule. Those are situations to be dealt with, not a way to live my life. That is so many opportunities to make mistakes and create chaos.

I am bad at planning. I think it’s why I love my routine so much. For me, there is not enough room in my head to remember that lunch is at noon today, but 1 tomorrow, or even to remember to check a calendar all the time. I work out at 5:30. I eat lunch between 12:15 and 12:30. I know that. It’s easy.

Obviously, sometimes life doesn’t work that way, and I have to change things around. I can be flexible when I need to. And I enjoy a little change from time to time, like a friend coming to visit, or planning a date with my husband. (And thank heaven for smartphones with notifications and alarms for those days!) But I never miss the “freedom” of doing whatever I wanted wherever I wanted. I may have been free, but mostly I was just free to cheat myself out of doing things that would make me feel good about myself. I was never as happy as I am when I do the things I need to do, not the things I want to.

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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.

Imitation is the sincerest form of culinary

My husband has been on a cooking jag lately. We eat very differently. When I cook for us, I generally make us the same protein, like steak, pork, or chicken. But while I may have broccoli or Brussels sprouts, he will have corn on the cob and potatoes. I don’t eat corn or potatoes.

And when he wants the kinds of things where you put food in your food, well, I’m out. My food boundaries require that my portions of protein be separated from my portions of vegetables. At least when I am measuring them out. Of course, I can, and sometimes do, mix them up later.

So last weekend he made a Sunday gravy complete with wine, braciola, meatballs with breadcrumbs, and sausage (with sugar, because, as you already know if you read this blog, it is nearly impossible to find an Italian sausage without sugar in the grocery store.) It’s the kind of thing I already could not eat, even if I wanted to put it on spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti.

And last night he made steak fajita quesadillas.

But wait! I can have steak fajitas. I can have the homemade salsa he made that has the whole kitchen smelling like heaven. No, I can’t have the tortilla. And my cheese portions are too small to make cheese worth it most of the time. But it got me thinking. I want tacos! I want lettuce wrap tacos with cilantro lime (cauliflower) rice and meat with homemade taco seasoning, and sautéed peppers, and my husband’s salsa! I want that!

So when I am done writing this blog, I am going to the store to pick up some ingredients. Because when I gave up sugar, I did not stop loving food. I still loooooooove food. I still get excited! I still look forward to every delicious meal. And I am a great cook, so I make sure every meal is delicious.

It sometimes takes some creativity to eat the things I want and have them fit my boundaries. I like simple foods very much. I can be deliriously happy with a nice portion of steak with some roasted vegetables. But I will tell you that a “fried rice bowl” of riced cauliflower sautéed in sesame oil with garlic and ginger topped with soy sauce is positively transcendent! And fits my food plan. And feels decadent. And doesn’t set off food cravings, or fuel my self-loathing.

So I am going to make myself some “tacos.” Yes, I know that to some people, lettuce wraps are not tacos. And cauliflower rice is not rice. I got it. But when you haven’t had corn products or rice or starch in over 12 years, it doesn’t matter. It’s good nourishing food with an abundance of complimentary flavors that are satisfying and pleasurable. I promise, my “tacos” will make me just as happy as your tacos make you. And significantly happier than your tacos could make a sugar and carb addict like me.

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.

Ooooooooooooohhh!

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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