onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “eating boundaries”

Moving forward clear-headed and confident

What do I have to say today? Good lord. Who even knows. 

My food has not changed. My addiction didn’t magically disappear because of political turmoil or personal fear and anxiety. So my solution remains the same.

I am afraid. About the future. For myself, and my country. But the events of the past week have offered an excellent reminder. I see things clearly. I understand what I am seeing. I don’t need to second guess myself. I don’t need to doubt myself. And I don’t have to wonder if I am making the wrong choices.

Over the past several months, I have sometimes wondered if I was overreacting in regards to certain relationships, relationships I needed to step back from. I wondered if I should put differences aside. But whenever I really thought about it, thought about letting go of certain personal moral standards, I would cry. Not just cry. Sob. To the point where my husband would get upset. (He is already really bad at dealing with my crying in general – I cry a lot –  and this was serious toddler-level ugly crying.) 

But now I am clear that those tears were helping me. Those were emotions that were reminding me how to honor myself; they were saving me, protecting me, taking care of me. And I could really see and experience and understand them because my food is under control, my addiction is arrested, and my head is clear. 

I don’t know how to move forward from here. But I guess the point is that that is fine. I have done right by myself until now. I will continue to do right by myself as we go along. Because I have my addiction under control, my head is clear, and my commitment to myself, my honor, and my integrity are in tact because I keep my sugar addiction on a tight leash.

I don’t think any of us really knows how to go on right now. The dust hasn’t even settled yet. But when it does, I want to be clear headed and confident. And I do that by keeping my food boundaries and staying well away from my drug foods.

15 years. Still grateful. Still angry.

Yesterday was the 15 year anniversary of having boundaries around my eating. Every day. No cheat days. No extra bites. No special exemptions for birthdays or holidays. 

To this day I am grateful for the solution I found to my eating problem. 

When I started this blog, it was about my weight. And I still really love living in a smaller body. I posted some pictures on social media yesterday. 3 from when I was a teenager, and 3 from this year. And it is strange to look at that body that I lived in for so long. It is easy to forget now what a prison that body was for me.

It was hard to move in that body. Hard to be mobile. Hard to get to where I needed to go. It was a cumbersome, uncomfortable vehicle. 

But more than that, it was a humiliating vehicle. And that is something that is still hard for me. Because I am still angry at the ways I was treated. I am still angry at the things people said to me. Family and friends. Strangers and acquaintances. And that was not about me and my food issues. That was about society and the issues of our culture.

I am so happy and grateful and filled with peace, because I got my eating and my sugar addiction under control. I have no interest in or intention of changing my food. I am happy to never have another bite of cake again. I mean that. Really and truly happy about it. 

But I don’t do it for anyone but myself. And I am still sad and angry that society told people, and me, that for the first 28 years of my life I was unlikable, detestable, shameful, pathetic, contemptible, unqualified for respect and unworthy of love.

I understand if you are impressed by my having lost weight. I can see how it can look impressive. But I will tell you what is really impressive. That I was able to honor myself and my body, even when people were telling me that that body meant I was grotesque and disgusting. That I was able to love myself enough to honor myself when the general consensus seemed to be that I was broken and wrong.

If you love a fat person, maybe just love them. Exactly as they are. Even if they can’t or won’t do whatever things you think they should do to be healthy or happy or whatever it is you think they should be. 

So on this 15th anniversary of me doing this crazy thing that resulted in long-term weight loss, I am going to tell you that the weight is not the actually answer. It never was. The answer is in honoring myself. Bodily, emotionally, and spiritually. The answer is that food was killing me and now it’s not. The answer is that if it’s your body, it’s *your* answer to find. And if it is not your body, the answer is to love the person in front of you. Not who you have decided they should be.

The Eternal Holiday Without the Fun

Since I gave up sugar, I have started to care less and less about holidays. 

When I was growing up, I looked forward to holidays. I mean really looked forward to them. There would be parties with special foods, and lots of people. My cousins would all be there to run and play and make an ungodly noise with. Both sides of my family were boisterous. There was always a lot of laughter and funny stories. But child Kate often forgot that those times were also, inevitably, too much. That I would become overstimulated, overwhelmed, overemotional, and overindulged.

As a grownup with her eating under control, I love the ideas of holidays more than I love the days themselves. A holiday is a way to acknowledge certain universal experiences we have because we are humans in bodies living on Earth. Christmas is the celebration of the return of the sun. If, as centuries and cultures, and empires have risen and fallen, it has taken on some other aspects, for example, the return of “a son,” well that is all well and good too. It is still about getting through the long darkness and trusting in the promise of the return of the light and the warmth. The promise that we won’t *all* starve to death. 

And a holiday is a day to forget our personal troubles and celebrate the enormity of life. It is a time to raise our consciousness above the idea of self and embrace humanity.

Addiction is a lot like trying to live in an eternal holiday. You’re trying to ride the same wave as Christmas, but every day, while nobody else is celebrating, and you don’t get the time off of work and school. It is like trying to forget your mundane self, and only live in the ecstasy of universality. But that is just too much for an individual to maintain. Trust me. I did the research for you.

When I gave up simple sugars and carbohydrates, I had to come to appreciate the simplicity of the day-to-day. I had to come to appreciate when nothing special was going on. I had to get comfortable in the calm. And I came to discover that I loved the calm. Once I had exorcised my demons, anyway. 

I realized that I had hated the peace of daily life because I didn’t have any peace. If I were calm for a moment, I would think about the wrongs that I had done. I would be haunted by the things I was ashamed of. And the ways I had hurt others and disappointed myself. But I had done a lot of those things *because* of my addiction. It was a vicious cycle and I didn’t know where it began or ended. And I could not seem to unravel it.

It turned out that giving up my drug foods was the answer. Or, at least the first step. There would be many other things to do about it. Acknowledge my wrongdoings, make amends for them, change my actions, shift my thinking. But all of those things started with getting my eating under control.

So now my eating is under control. And I love my day-to-day living. I am happy with my integrity, and my willingness, and my life. And I don’t need to live like every day is a holiday. In fact, I don’t even need to live like holidays are holidays. 

I will miss my nieces and nephews this year. I will miss tickling babies and reading books to the bigger ones. I will miss exclaiming over dollar gifts from the elementary school‘s Santa’s workshop. But I will still be perfectly happy laying around in my adult-sized onesie and drinking coffee and doing nothing this year. There will be more Christmases to come. And as for this year, I don’t have any shames or fears or worries that I need to numb.

For those in the “giving things up” stage, hang in there!

It’s a hard thing to give up foods. When I first realized I was an addict, which is a sort of weird, fluid time between 2005 and 2007 (a little before and after I gave up most sugars grains and starches in January 2006) I was constantly shocked and saddened by the things I couldn’t eat anymore. Not just cake and cookies and bread and potatoes. But also nuts and nut butters, and extracts with alcohol in them, or  random things like imitation crab meat. And seemingly healthy foods like sweet potatoes and corn. 

It felt in that time that everything was being taken from me. That all of my joy in eating was coming to an end. That I would be one of those people who “didn’t live to eat, but ate to live.” And I was so sad for myself. Because I was sad for those people who didn’t have joy in eating. Eating was one of my favorite experiences, and I thought I was going to have to mourn that part of myself.

Spoiler alert! I still live to eat. Even more than before. Because now my eating is guilt-free. And joyful. Not just on holidays or at celebrations. Now I love my food all the time. I take the time and do the work so that every meal, every bite, every taste is decadent and delicious. Summer tomatoes with mayonnaise! Half sour deli pickles! Homemade Italian sausage with giardiniera, homemade sugar-free ice cream, filet Mignon, and caramelized onions! 

The beginning of the giving up and letting go is the hardest part. I had to mourn. Yes, even though the foods I was mourning were drugs and poison to me, and were ruining my life. I had to be sad and sorry. That was normal and natural. But once I got past the mourning, everything was better. Every aspect of my life shifted to something sweeter and happier, peaceful and content.

If you are in the “giving things up” stage, and you are mad and sad and frustrated and suffering, that is normal and natural. And it will pass. But here is the thing, if you look at the things you *can* have, it’s not so bleak. Don’t forget to look at the baked apples with cinnamon, and the pork carnitas with fresh salsa, or the eggs fried in butter, and strawberry and peach smoothies. And don’t think you have to be one of those people who subsists on dry chicken breasts and steamed broccoli. That may be one path, but it is not a path I, personally, would have been able to walk for any amount of time.

It was bad, but it passed.

And just like that, over a month’s worth of yuck is basically gone and I feel like myself again. 

It is sometimes hard to remember that these feelings and funks and unhappy times are just part of living in a body. That so much of it is just chemicals and hormones and things we don’t understand. Well, most of us don’t understand. *I* don’t understand. (Apologies to any endocrinologists and neurologists reading this blog.)

Of course, in order to really get back to my usual, content self, I did have to have a difficult conversation. And that meant I had to get the other party to agree to have a difficult conversation. But we did. And I was able to do that. To know what I needed, to ask for it, and to be available for it.

When I was eating compulsively, I felt like every feeling was eternal. And every circumstance was the last circumstance. It felt like life never gave way to anything better. Only worse. If it ever gave way at all. 

But now I can see that so many of my troubles were in my hands, but I lacked the imagination, or the confidence, or the will to change things. I had deeply held beliefs about how the world worked, and who I was in the world. And those beliefs were wrong, but I kept proving them over and over and was sure that meant they were right.

And I can see that so many of my feelings were a product of my food addiction and/or my normal body functions. But they seemed like so much truth and so many explanations about myself and my failings.

I can now see how many of my feelings are just feelings. And I can see how many of my feelings are lessons and roadmaps. And I can do something about them. Or not.

I know we live in a society of “positivity” right now. And I am a firm believer that we can change our thoughts. And that by changing our thoughts, we can change our reality. 

I mean, I am proof. I have changed my thinking, and changed my eating, and changed my lifestyle, and changed my circumstances. I live a life beyond my wildest dreams. 

But positivity has at least one foot solidly planted in changing our reactions to fit the status quo. And because of that, I don’t think positivity is the cure for the world’s ills. I think it is much more important to listen to those feelings of disquiet and discontent, and figure out what it is we need to change. What we need to change within ourselves, and what we need to fight for in the world. 

I am grateful to be feeling better. Especially because even though I know intellectually that “this too shall pass,” when I am stuck in the middle of a long run of emotional distress, it can be hard to believe that everything passes. So here it is, written out. It was bad, but it passed.

The tough reminder that today is not that day

I have had a terrible week. I have had a mostly terrible month. I have felt a lot of anger and frustration. I have felt undervalued. I have felt taken for granted. And I have been scared.

Here is the hard but important lesson I learned years ago when I first started putting boundaries around my food: very few things worth achieving happen quickly or easily. And the ones that do are really just an offer to do the work.

When I wanted to be a professional actor, a theatre director literally walked into my restaurant job and asked me if I wanted to audition for him. And I got that job. But acting is not that. It is not being offered acting jobs and taking them. It is going to audition after audition and taking classes and networking. I believe I got that job because life was telling me that if I wanted, I could do that work and make a life of that. That it was in me if I wanted it.

When I wanted to see if I could make a living as a freelance writer, I sent out my first article to one place and my article was accepted and published. Now this was an online publication that did not pay for 1 article, but would pay once you had a following within their publication. And freelance writing, much like acting, is not writing articles and getting them published. You send article after article, and log where you have sent them to, and log who has published you, and badger them for the money they owe you. Basically, life was telling me that if I wanted to live that life, it was there if I was willing to do that work. That it was in me if I wanted it.

When it came to the food, I wanted it to be easy right away. But it wasn’t. I wanted to be free from the compulsion and the itch in my skin and the feelings of fear and pain that I had been eating all my life to deal with. But I wasn’t. It was hard for a year and a half. And still not easy for me for another 4. And every single day, for about 5 years, I had to manage it. Do the work. Make calls, prepare meals and weigh my food, sit in difficult and sometimes devastating feelings. But it was in me if I wanted it.

I didn’t do the work to become an actor or a freelance writer. But I *did* do the work to get my eating under control. And I have no regrets about any of the above. 

But there are things that I do want right now. I want to break through the misogyny of the construction industry. I want to be acknowledged for the amazing work I do. I want to be respected and honored for not only knowing what I am doing, but doing it so well that the higher ups don’t even have to think about it. 

But instead, I sit in rooms with a bunch of men who stroke each other’s egos and tell each other that they are doing an excellent job, when the whole point of the meeting is that they are not, in fact, doing an excellent job and they need to get it together and get it done. I have been in these rooms where these men simper at me and pooh-pooh me for bringing up valid concerns. As if to say, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, little lady.” I refer to it as “Being Little Lady’d.” But perhaps it would be more accurate to call it being glass-ceilinged.

But just like I was at the beginning of my eating journey in 2006, I am at the beginning of my work journey now. I used to be happy to be the backup, the assistant. I was new to the job and it felt good to do good work and be useful. But recently I have willingly taken up a huge amount of responsibility, leapt entirely out of my comfort zone, and even though there have been a few missteps, I have done a spectacular job. In only a few months I have stretched and grown professionally beyond my own imaginings, and done great work to further my job and my company in the field. And I have to remember that just like I did not become an actor or a freelance writer with one acting job or one article, I will not be busting through any ceilings today. 

And that is hard for me. I feel like these people know me. That they *should* see me for what I am, a great worker, smart, organized, on top of trouble and diverting problems. But they see a woman. An office woman. And as long as the workers get paid, they don’t really want to have to think about me. 

Like I said. This is going to be a long haul. I am going to have to take it, as the 12 steppers so fondly remind one another, one day at a time. Things get done in steps, not all at once. I should recognize that that is as true in the offices of the construction industry, as it is in the factories and airports and distribution centers we build.

How is an addict like the Post Office?

One amazing thing about giving up sugar and simple carbohydrates is I don’t want the stuff anymore. It’s one way I know it was a drug for me. Once it was completely out of my system, which took about a year and half, I stopped needing it, or wanting it. Or really even seeing it. It’s like I have permanent blinders on. My eyes just sort of glide over things I don’t eat, unless there is a specific reason I am looking for it. And even then, it has no power over me.

If I am buying sugar for someone else, as a gift or as a treat, I can buy it with complete neutrality. I can look at it, and not see something I desire.

Yesterday, we had bags and bags of candy in the house. Trick or Treaters made short work of it, which I have no feelings about either way. Because over the years we have had bags and bags of Halloween candy and no kids to come by to take it from us, and in those years I still did not eat the candy. I wasn’t tempted by the candy. 

The candy is not mine. It’s not for me. It’s poison to me. I ate my fair share of candy for the first 28 years of my life. More than my fair share. Certainly more than enough.

When a person is fat, their doctors inevitably send them to nutritionists. And generally, those nutritionists tell their patients about moderation. They tell them to eat *one* cookie. They tell them to eat *one* piece of chocolate. They tell them to eat *one* *small* handful of chips. 

I cannot eat one. I am incapable of stopping once I have started. When sugar and simple carbohydrates are in my body, my body craves more. My brain tells me I will positively drop dead if I don’t have more. And that first year and half after I quit that it took to get the stuff out of me was filled with brain fog, and itchy skin, and emotional outbursts, and crying, and depression, and physical and emotional exhaustion. In other words, withdrawal. Like any drug.

For me it is literally all or nothing. I can either eat none of the stuff, or I will be haunted until I have eaten it all. All of what is in the house, and once that is gone, I will take a trip back out for more. When it comes to sugar, I am like the post office. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will keep me from getting my fix.

If moderation works for you, I am very happy for you. If I could eat cake with impunity, I surely would. But I can’t. And if you find that when you eat a piece of candy or a cookie, you can’t stop thinking about it until you eat more, you may want to consider cutting it out entirely. Because if you do that, there will come a time when you won’t need it, or want it. It will stop having power over you. Just like it stopped having power over me.

Gratitude for my very normal, very human body

I used to be angry at my body all the time. It was my enemy, and I treated it accordingly. Mostly, I hated it because it was not the size or shape other girls’ and women’s bodies were. It did not look the way magazines and television told me it should look, and indeed *could* look if I worked hard enough.

I was smart and interesting and funny. I had a wonderful mind. So I felt like a brilliant human stuck in a broken vessel. Broken is a great way to express what I thought of my body. Broken like a machine. Bad parts. A lemon.

When I got my eating under control I started to think about my body in a different way. First, giving up man made sugars, and most grains and starches, made my body smaller. And while I could not really change the shape of my body without surgery, I started to think about all of the ways that it served me, even when I was abusing it. 

And I didn’t just abuse it with drug foods. I abused it with over exercising to the point of injury, and still exercising more because I wanted it to be thin, but I couldn’t stop eating. I abused it with laxatives. I drank castor oil. Eventually, I started to stick toothbrushes down my throat to make myself throw up the food that I could not stop eating. 

But when I got my eating under control, I necessarily had to have a different relationship with my body. I had to ask not what my body could do for me, but ask what I could do for my body. Not to whip it into shape. Not to make it lovable and attractive to anyone who happened to be in its vicinity, but to make sure it was taken care of. For me, because it *was* me. Make sure it was nourished and hydrated and strong and healthy. 

And that changed how I dealt with all of the unappealing parts of having a body. I am 43. My hormones are crazy right now. And I should probably expect that to continue for maybe another 10 years. That is a whole *decade*!!! But also, that is normal. It is completely expected for my woman’s body to experience this.

And this past week was hard. I was exhausted all week. I needed to lay on the couch and do nothing, not even knit or crochet! I had several outbreaks of cystic acne which are painful as well as ugly. I was cranky and sad and did lots of crying. And at least half of it was *not* over imaginary characters in novels, comics and TV shows. And of course, I still had to do all of the things that I have to do. I had to prep food and clean the kitchen (I totally half assed a lot of that, and my husband did some as well) and do the shopping and go to work.

But because I have a level of clarity about my life and my body from having my food taken care of, I am not angry at my body. I do not blame it for doing what bodies do. I feel like it is a very modern concept to think of one’s body as getting in the way of one’s life. We have created so many workarounds to get out of dealing with our physical humanity, that we don’t necessarily see what is natural and good. We spend so much time powering through, that we think our bodies are the problem, and not the lifestyle we have created that doesn’t have any room for the basic needs of actually *being* a carbon-based machine.

My eating boundaries have given me a sense of reality about my body. Not only about what it can and should look like in the real world (not according to the latest Photoshopped ad for designer jeans, or the ad promoting some supplement guaranteed to make you lose 10 pounds in 10 days), but also how I can expect to feel and what I can expect to be able to do. Realistically. Because I have a normal body doing normal things.

I like my full life. I like my job and my commitments. I like the people I work with and the friends that I have. I am not campaigning for less modern conveniences. I love my gadgets and my technology. I just don’t want to forget that my body is not some separate gadget. It doesn’t need an upgrade. It isn’t in the way of my life. It is my life. It is me. And I show myself how much I love me, by loving my body and honoring it exactly as it is. Flawed and sometimes uncomfortable, and gloriously, normally human.

The Blessings of Benchmarks and Bare Minimums

I have been particularly fortunate over the past several months. I have been working less, but I have been working consistently. And while my husband and I are not making as much money as we were last year, we have never suffered financially through this difficult time.


I have enjoyed the lightened work load, frankly. I am not a workaholic. I like more free time, not less. I like to do nothing. I like to do nothing for whole days. I used to feel like this made me lazy. And I am sure that is how it occurred to people when I was in the food and getting nothing done.


But in having my eating under control, I have learned how to manage work and rest. I have learned how to be incredibly productive, and also make time to be a vegetable on the couch. I know how to feel accomplished by accomplishing things, and to accept that I not only like, but need, a ridiculous amount of down time.


When I got my sugar addiction under wraps, my experience of time changed much like my experience of food. When I was eating compulsively, I was obsessed with food, but I was miserable all of the time. Either I was eating something I wanted, but felt guilty for eating it, or I was eating something I felt I should be eating, but hating it the whole time. I was either lamenting chocolate cake while it was in my mouth, thinking I was a bad girl, or suffering through lettuce or celery, hating the experience of being a good girl. Either way, I had set myself up to be miserable around food.


But then I put boundaries around my eating, and suddenly I was eating guilt-free. And that was a revelation. That was the greatest part of getting my eating under control; following rules eliminated guilt by giving me bare minimums and benchmarks. As long as I hit my marks, I could eat with impunity.


Time is much the same for me now. Before I was trapped in my own narrative about not being good enough. I thought I was lazy. I thought I was incapable. I thought I was ill-equipped to do anything worthwhile. And in many ways, my addiction made that true. I was always second guessing myself. I was easily overwhelmed. I was constantly afraid of failing, and failed because that fear meant I was unwilling, or unable to try. But since I got my addiction on a leash, I can see the bare minimums and the benchmarks. As long as I hit them, do the work that needs to get done, send the email, make the call, follow up, get to the next right action, I don’t have to worry about a day spent watching mindless TV, or listening to a book, or crafting. I don’t have to feel guilty about a day in my pajamas.


I was never super woman. But somehow I always felt like I should have been. Now I don’t worry about how to be “great,” I worry about how to honor my word and keep my integrity intact. And I often end up being great anyway. And sometimes I’m just meh. And every time, whether I’m just so good, or just so-so, it’s enough.


I am in the beginning stages of a very big job right now. I am doing the slow dance of bureaucracy, getting big things done, one small step at a time. But it is stressful. And it is exciting. And while today I have to go grocery shopping, and prep lunches for the week, and be emotionally and practically ready to jump through hoops and wait in lines and navigate a maze of red tape, yesterday I did a whole bunch of nothing. And it made today possible, and bearable, and I don’t feel bad about it at all. And to not feel bad about myself is perhaps the second best thing about getting my eating under control. Because guilt-free eating is still, and will probably always be the first best thing ever.

More safe, less sorry

On Friday I was up at 5, went on my jog, took a shower and got ready to head into the office, and then my husband said he had a little sore throat. So we agreed that he should get a Covid test and neither of us should go into work until we get the results.


Before anyone gets worried, he is feeling fine right now. We have not officially gotten the results back, but he has not had a sore throat since. He does not have a fever. Chances are he is just fine.


In the past, he probably would have gone to work. And I absolutely would have gone to work. But these are strange times. And to go to work feeling a little under the weather is to potentially put people at risk. Our office also agreed that it was better that we stay home.


Here’s the takeaway for me about the positive aspects of having boundaries around my eating. I am not afraid of what my boss or coworkers think of me. Because I know that I am always doing what I think is right and for the best. For myself, for my coworkers, and for my company.


When I was face first in the food, I would have been terrified and overwhelmed by this monkey wrench. Any and every circumstance of life that was not me going along in my usual routine, threw me for a loop. I would have been worried about my personal standing, my personal money, my personal well-being, and would not have thought about how my actions affected anyone else. As a food addict, I am an addict. Just as selfish, reckless, and destructive as any addict.


But with a strong foundation of having my eating under control and a way of life that facilitates that, I can trust in my decisions. I can trust myself to deal with my life as best I can in the moment. I can trust myself to be calm and rational, even when I am afraid.


A friend of mine in New York City, who had a particularly scary bout of Covid in March asked me if I was worried for my husband. And my response was that I was terrified. (I am *much* less terrified now that he is feeling well again.) But not paralyzed. I was nervous but I was moving right along, doing the next right thing.

My eating being under control does not mean that my life is without terrible moments and circumstances. Having my addiction under wraps doesn’t keep my loved ones or myself safe from illness or accident. What it does save me from, at least mostly, is me making terrible rash decisions, and awful, selfish mistakes.

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