Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “eating diorders”

Back to normal, which is still not all that normal

I gotta be honest. I have no idea what to write about this week. I am emotionally exhausted. And just as life was finally leaving “surreal” and returning to day-to-day, we were told that we have to leave Texas. Again…

When I got my eating under control 12 years ago, I made my life kind of small. I wrapped myself in my own comfort zone, like a cocoon. And that really worked for me. It kept me protected from food. At that point, food was my problem. I mean I had other problems, but they would all manage to get worked out as long as I took care of the food problem.

But about 6 years in, (yes, 6 whole years of having my eating under control) I wanted a bigger life. And I ended up falling in love with a man who travels for a living. And I agreed to spend my life living in different towns for somewhere between a few months and a few years.

So I don’t really want to leave Texas yet. But this is the life I agreed to. And, really, I love it in general. Though, not all the time. But who loves their life all the time?

Tomorrow I will cook meals for two days of travel. And we will head back to Texas to pack up our apartment. And soon enough, we will find out what’s next.

So I guess this is normal life. It’s the “normal” I chose 5 years ago. And I’m grateful for all of it.


The bare minimum, but like you mean it…

I was talking to some people the other day about making changes. I am talking about the kind of changes that alter the course of your life. In my experience, there is a human tendency to get inspired, and decide to jump head first into change. And then, when change gets difficult, which it inevitably does, to give up.

Sometimes, when I am helping someone give up sugar and put boundaries around their food, they will tell me that they have a laundry list of things they want to quit. They want to quit sugar, and smoking, and caffeine, and chewing gum, and diet soda, and artificial sweetener, and watching more than an hour of TV, and playing video games, and Facebook, and…

I always tell these people that they can do that if they really want to, but that I don’t recommend it. I think you should take on one thing. Especially if it’s one thing that takes a lot of time and energy, like quitting sugar. I believe that first you take care of the thing that is killing you quickest.

As an illustration, I was a smoker for over six years after I quit sugar. I am going to be blunt. It helped. I needed it. I could even say it saved me. Coffee and cigarettes were like a kind of religion for me at that time. Of course, I was already a smoker and coffee drinker. I didn’t start smoking to stop eating, though I went from a cup or two of coffee a day to drinking it from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed, often drinking 15 cups a day. But again, I needed it. Coffee wasn’t going to kill me before the food was. Cigarettes weren’t going to kill me before the food was either. I am suggesting that “killing you quickest” doesn’t necessarily have to mean physically. Smoking may be more likely to kill you younger statistically, but not being able to stop eating was killing me physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. It was killing my self-love, my self-respect, and my feelings of self-worth. Eating was more than just slow-motion suicide. It was fuel for the fire of my self-loathing.

I am glad I didn’t try give up coffee and cigarettes at the same time that I put boundaries around my eating. It would only have been in the name of chasing after perfection. And I can tell you pretty assuredly, that I wouldn’t have succeeded. And then where would I be? Still eating, still smoking, and felling like a failure, who was cursed to be fat and food obsessed forever.

The excitement of change doesn’t last long. Ask any gym patron who goes year-round. On January 15th, everyone is at the gym, excited to make a change. On February 15th, they are excited that Valentine’s Day chocolate is half off.

Perfection, or at least the quest for it, has always been my enemy. I never pull it off, and whatever I do achieve is not good enough, because the goal was perfection. But when I do one thing, and I do it with purpose, commitment, integrity, and love, even when it’s hard, even when it sucks, even when I don’t want to, I see results. I make a change that sticks. And once I have made that change, and it has stuck, it is no longer the thing that is killing me quickest. Now there is something else to deal with, slowly, honestly, purposefully.

For me, that is how things get done. And this is from a low-functioning addict, someone who didn’t get a lot done for most of her life. So screw perfection. I recommend the bare minimum, but every day, like you mean it.

More reasons to kiss the cook

My husband told me in no uncertain terms this week that he wants his props. And, in truth, he deserves them.

The most important thing in my life is keeping my food boundaries. This might sound strange, I know. The idea that my food boundaries would be more important than the people I love or my life’s ambitions sounds rather pathetic from the outside. I am aware. But let me offer a translation. The most important thing in my life is taking care of myself in a loving and responsible manner so that I can be present and available for my relationships and life goals. There’s that age-old idea that you cannot really love someone else until you love yourself. That, exactly, is why I keep my eating boundaries as my first priority.

When my husband and I first started dating, he wanted to cook for me. But all of the things that he was good at making were based on carbohydrates: homemade sauce for pasta or lasagna, rice-stuffed peppers, tacos. And to make it extra especially difficult, about 7 years ago, years before we were together, I realized that high-alkali foods, like tomatoes and peppers, were the reason for my cystic acne. So, I gave them up. I had basically eliminated any option for him to cook for me.

For a couple of years now, I have been fooling around with the idea of introducing a little bit of tomato product back into my diet, just for a change of pace. It seems that people who have a reaction to high-alkali foods mostly have a problem with raw foods, rather than cooked. And a friend of ours recently recommended a recipe for barbecue ribs that included a dry rub, steaming them in the oven over a pan of root beer, and then slathering them with barbecue sauce.

I figured it would be worth a shot, because that sounded freaking amazing! If I broke out, I would know that I really can’t have any tomatoes or peppers, and just wouldn’t eat them anymore.

Now, even if I wanted to try adding a little tomato-something to my usual fare, I still have to have one that fits my sugar requirements. Same for any seasoning. So instead of searching and searching for a ready-made dry rub and bottled barbecue sauce that met my needs, he made them himself. Not only that, but he let me look through the ingredients and make sure they, were acceptable, and substituted things that were not. For example, we steamed the ribs over diet root beer, replaced the Worcestershire sauce with my soy sauce alternative, and used artificial sweetener instead of brown sugar.

And Oh. My. God! They were so good! And, even better, they were so good and I didn’t break out!

The thing about keeping my boundaries is that, when I take it seriously, and when I am responsible for keeping them on the highest level, my husband takes it seriously too. He honors it, because I honor it. I lead the way, and he follows. But he could only follow because I lead the way. What he did for me was an act of love. And because it was especially for me, it made me feel particularly loved.

When I gave up sugar, one of the things I had to do was get over the fact that some people whom I loved and who loved me, were used to showing me love through foods I didn’t eat anymore, and now they couldn’t. And I had to learn how to show love to those people, and to show them that I got their love, without eating those things. I had to be grateful, without harming myself to show it. So there is something particularly heart-warming for me about my husband going out of his way to make me food I can eat on my own terms. So I am grateful. And excited! And positively quivering in anticipation of the possibility of pulled pork! Woot!

Catwalk vs Boardwalk, or how I don’t think twice about wearing my bikini in public

I have been thinking about body image and body image issues a lot lately. Partly because I live in a beach town now, and, to my own surprise, I am really comfortable here. I have never lived in a beach town before. Of course, both Chicago and New York have beaches. But neither of them have a strong beach culture. It’s not why people go there.

One thing I have noticed about Corpus Christi is that the people here don’t occur to me as particularly body conscious. I mentioned last week that I started wearing shorts here for the first time in about 30 years. Partly because I saw that people wear shorts, all shapes and sizes and ages of people. Not because their legs are shapely and their thighs are skinny. Just because it’s hot.

I think it’s interesting to note that when I started wearing my bikini in public 5 years ago, I was also in Texas, though in a different town. And here I see all sorts of bathing suits at the beach, again on all shapes, sizes and ages. Bikinis are not exclusively worn by young, skinny girls. And I don’t just mean because I am there. When I walk on the beach, I don’t feel embarrassed, or self-conscious. I don’t feel like people are even looking at me.

Now, one of the things I love about New York City is that it is a non-stop fashion show that everyone is putting on for everyone else on a daily basis, not just during fashion week. But because of that, there is a lot of judgment. Of course, to a certain extent, that’s the point there. I went out looking to be judged, and hoping to be found flawless, or at least fabulous. But sometimes that judgment could trickle down past the clothes and right to the body the clothes were on. And even if it didn’t, the line between fashion and physique always felt a little blurry, which made for a lot of insecurity when I wasn’t looking to be judged, like when I was feeling fat, or when I didn’t have it in me to “do it up.”

In some ways, I find that my fashion sense gets a little lost here in Texas. Clothes or looks that used to get me at least a double take, and sometimes praise from a stranger in the city now go basically unnoticed. And that’s a little sad for me. I love clothes, and style. I love the fashion show.

But the up side is that there is a lot of freedom from my body image disorders. And that leaves a lot of room for me to be myself, try new looks, and generally relax about my body. And as a former fat girl with eating and body image disorders, that is a welcome surprise.

I say second-guessing, you say control freak. Tom-ay-to, tom-ah-to.

I have noticed lately that I am spending a whole lot of time and energy second-guessing myself. To illustrate, I have already written and scrapped two other blog posts for this week. This has happened before, so I don’t know if I am doing it again, like a relapse, or if I’m uncovering and dealing with a new, unexplored layer. In other words, have just reached a deeper level fear and anxiety? I don’t mean that like a burden or a problem. I live with a certain amount of fear and anxiety. I’m OK with that. You get what you get and you don’t get upset…Being aware of it like this is an opportunity to do something about it.

Perhaps upping my meditation in the past few months has brought it to my attention. I always think of life lessons as a spiral staircase. I keep coming back to the same spot, but each time on a different level. I have my issues and I revisit them again and again, but each time I am building off of the last time.

How “significant” my choices are is one of my particular lessons. What I have come to believe over the past several years is that any one choice is not so significant. But every choice is connected to, and layered upon, every other choice. So when it comes right down to it, the average of all of my choices equals the life that I have.

All in all, I have a pretty sweet life. But it could be better. And it could be worse. All depending on the choices I make.

But there is something else that I have come to believe as well. And it’s that I have to leave the results of my actions to Life (capital L.) I do the best I can in every situation, and then I have to let the chips fall where they may, because that’s what the chips are going to do anyway. I sometimes get so caught up in the minutia of my day-to-day decisions that I can forget that I’m not in charge of life, the universe, and everything. It’s always life on life’s terms, even when I am being a control freak. And this second-guessing is just me trying to control every outcome. In the moment, I am not thinking about it like that, but ultimately, that’s all it is.

When I was eating compulsively, I also thought that everything I did and said was significant. And to a certain extent it was. Because the majority of my choices were unhealthy, dishonest, fear-based, and frankly, kind of mean. And those kinds of decisions not only affected my life, but they also haunted me. Of course I was second-guessing myself. The truth is, I regretted my choices because they were regrettable. I was an addict. Making poor decisions was like my job.

When I put boundaries around my eating, I changed my choices in a pretty revolutionary way. I became honest, my word meant something, I started to consider others, and to consider myself, and what I wanted for my health and wellbeing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I made these changes because I had to if I was going to keep my eating under control. And keeping my eating under control was (still is) the most important thing I could do in a day. Addictive eating, especially sugar, was the most “significant” thing I was doing, because I was doing it all the time. It was those choices, layered on each other, day in and day out, that led to my miserable life.

Right now, the choices I am worried about, the things that are taking up room in my head, are if my niece will like her birthday gift, or if my wording was not gentle enough when I told a friend who bailed on an appointment 2 days in a row that I needed her to keep her commitment. These are not issues that need more thought. Truly, the gift is fine. I hope she likes it, but it’s a gift. It’s not something I owe anyone. And if she doesn’t like it, there’s always Christmas. And I was not harsh or mean to my friend. We had a plan, I arranged my schedule. I did not yell, or shame her. I was not passive-aggressive. I simply said, “I need you to keep this commitment because I am making time for it.” That’s a simple boundary. There is nothing to think, re-think, or over-think about.

The answer to this second-guessing is pretty simple, if not easy. It’s to let it go. It’s to stop thinking about it. It’s to trust that everything is turning out as it is supposed to. And I can do that today (probably) because my addiction is being kept at bay by keeping my eating under control. And when my substance is down, I stand a chance of making choices I can be proud of, not to mention finding and keeping my inner peace.

No fear of flying. Or airports.

In some ways it’s interesting what has become “normal” for me. For instance, right now, I am in an airport on my way to fly to the Florida Keys, and I am not worried about what people are thinking about me.There is something about airports, the close proximity, the hundreds of people passing by and passing through. The natural people-watching atmosphere, that always used to heighten my embarrassment of living in a big body. It made me tense and self-conscious. There was a lot of shame involved. 

Now, to be fair, I was always self-conscious and ashamed, it was just more noticeable in airports.

It seems like I have a different life now. In many ways I do. In specific moments I get glimpses of it. Like the other day, when I looked in the mirror, and knew that I never had to be fat again. It was a beautiful moment. I felt free. 

I have the luxury of feeling free every day now. Especially on a day like this, at the airport. I fly relatively regularly. It’s easy and I don’t have to stress about it. I don’t have to worry about fitting in the seat. I don’t have to think about who is looking at me and why. I don’t have to worry about what clothes will cover my butt or camouflage my belly. I wear what will be comfortable. Because I don’t care.

But that is not exactly true either. I do care, every day, about what I eat, about keeping my food boundaries, about staying away from sugar and carbohydrates. And that constant, steady caring, no matter what, allows me to not care about things like what I’m wearing, or if the person next to me will be angry that I am sitting next to them, or if I’m going to spill over into someone else’s seat. 

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I keep boundaries every day. I don’t have cheat days. I don’t make exceptions, or excuses. So a vacation to Florida doesn’t mean anything goes. It doesn’t mean that since I have never had deep fried alligator or conch, that I get to “live a little.” Why would I live a little for a bite or a drink, when I can live a lot.

There are a lot of things that I will never taste. And that’s ok. It lets me sit comfortably on an airplane, on my way to Florida, in whatever clothes are comfortable and easy to get through security, with my bikinis packed.

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