onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “eating disorders”

Money, fame, and prestige

I just turned 41 about two weeks ago. I love my birthday. I love getting older. I love that at this age I am in the best shape of my life, and the happiest I have ever been.

In the wake of two high profile celebrity suicides, I read an article about the problem of American culture that can lead people who seemingly “have it all” to end their own lives. And the answer the article gave was that we are a culture that prizes accomplishments that reward us in the forms of money, fame, and prestige, and we believe that these things will bring us happiness. And when they don’t, we despair.

I don’t know if this is true, but it happens to be a very clear illustration of the difference between my own personal mental and emotional state as a compulsive eater, and as a keeper of eating boundaries.

Because in order to stop eating compulsively, I had to make friends with my life exactly the way it was. I had to stop thinking I should be doing “something” to make me stand out, when I didn’t even know what that something should be. I had to stop thinking I needed to be making huge strides toward some great goal, when just the thought of such a stride left me paralyzed with fear. And I had to relinquish what I thought was control, but what just tujrned out to be wanting, followed by the pain of not getting exactly what I wanted. That was the pain of thinking that if I were better, if I were “good enough,” I would have perfectly executed my plan and received full marks, and my award of money, fame, and prestige. I numbed that pain with food.

I had to learn that I can want. And that I can do whatever is in my power to the best of my ability to get what I want. But then I have to get what I get, and trust that what I get is what I am supposed to get, even if it is not what I wanted.

That is a hard lesson to learn in a culture that prizes material rewards over everything.

I also learned that I didn’t have to “accomplish” anything to like and love myself. In the beginning, all I had to do was not eat a cookie. All I had to do was keep my food boundaries. That was it. I could sleep the rest of the day and still feel good about myself, still be proud. At first, that was the sum total of how I measured my integrity. But the thing about integrity is that it grows outward, as if in concentric circles. When it butts up against a lack of itself, it feels the need to integrate it. (It’s kind of like The Borg, only benign, and unfortunately, much easier to break out of. You have to really work for integrity to keep it.)

And as for the kinds of accomplishments I wanted to accrue, I had to learn that they didn’t have to bring me money, fame, or prestige to make me proud, happy, or content. I could work out on a regular schedule. I could learn a new knitting technique, and finish a project using it. I could write a weekly blog that a handful of people read. I could crochet a gift for a friend. I could have a difficult conversation with a person, and build intimacy in our relationship.

And there is another thing that I learned by happy accident when I got my eating under control. It is that all of my satisfaction lives in my relationships with myself and other people, not in how much money or how many accolades I have. I am content in my life because I am content in my relationships. And I am content in those relationships because I am not constantly trying to manipulate people into giving me what I want, or think I want in order to accomplish things I think I should, so I can acquire money, fame, and prestige. I am content because I am offering an authentic human self (me) with a commitment to grow and change, and accepting another authentic human self, and allowing them the space to be who they are, and to also grow and change.

I learned all of these things because I got my eating under control. Could I have learned them if I hadn’t? Maybe. Probably. But it would not have been the crash course it was.

P.S. I am not done learning.

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Real hard before it gets real sweet

At my job, I am working in an office with a bunch of strangers from different companies right now, though I may be moving to a private office trailer soon.

A lot of people at work are very curious about my food. In a lot of ways it is frustrating the way they talk about it. It’s all filled with a certain kind of praise and awe, that I don’t identify with.

I don’t do what I do to be envied or put on a pedestal. I am saving my life. To me, it can be like praising someone with a disease for taking their medicine. It reminds me of a woman who wrote about having a child with high-maintenance special needs, and how everyone would say, “I could never do that.” And she always had to hold herself back from saying “Of course you could. You just don’t have to, and I do.”

That is, of course, not entirely true that I “have to.” We all make our choices. Parents of disabled kids and addicts alike. We all have to decide what our priorities are. But if you can eat a cookie with impunity, it doesn’t make me feel good that you “could never” do what I do. And if you can’t, like me, and you choose the cookie anyway, I don’t know what to tell you except that you could and can do what I do. Yes it will suck for a while. A long while. But a friend once told me what her mother-in-law said to her when she first got married.

“It’s gonna get real hard before it gets reeeeeal sweet.”

I feel that way about putting down sugar and carbs. I feel that way about playing the long game with my life. Do I like getting up at 5 to get to the gym before work? No. I really don’t. But I love feeling comfortable in my body, loving my life, feeling like I accomplished something, and like I did something toward my ultimate goal of aging gracefully.

And as someone who just turned 41 last Wednesday, and feels healthy, happy, and beautiful, I would say it is all worth it.

I put on my bedroom slippers like everyone else, one foot at a time.

Gosh am I exhausted. My job is finally ramping up, and I am back to working full time. And because of my food boundaries, that means a lot of meal planning and prepping. Not to mention going for my jog at 5:30 in the morning so I can knock it out before work. Because trying to tackle it after an 8 hour day is too much for me.

I am behind on all kinds of social responsibilities. Especially calls I owe my family and friends. But I learned something when I got my eating under control 12+ years ago, and that is “bedroom slippers.” Bedroom slippers is a code word in my community that means “take care of yourself by taking it easy.”

I have commitments I make to myself, and I have to put them first. Food is the biggest one. Sleep is a close second. It also makes the food boundaries easier to keep. Exercise is right up there.

And now that I am working 40 hour weeks, I don’t have a lot of time for other things. And I am OK with that. I have to be. I cannot kill myself to take care of other people. I cannot hurt myself to make them happy.

I wanted to be productive yesterday. I wanted to catch up on my calls, and work on my knitting project. I wanted to get things done. But after my jog and the grocery shopping, I was done. I didn’t have anything left. I couldn’t even manage to lay on the couch to read. I had to lay in *bed* and read for about 3 hours before dinner.

Today I have to meal prep for the coming week. I’m about to do that once I finish this post. And maybe I will have time to make my calls and do my knitting later. But if not, I will have hit my benchmarks. I will have done the things I need to do to keep myself happy, healthy, and sane.

I expect that I will find my groove sooner, rather than later. I have worked 40 hour weeks before, and managed to have a life. But I don’t feel any pressure. As long as I keep my promises to myself, I know that all will be well.

It’s when I start putting other people’s wants before my needs that I start running into problems. Problems of resentment, exhaustion, sickness, and unhappiness. And those are completely avoidable if I put on my bedroom slippers.

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.

There is no fun in fungus.

I am vain. And I am OK with that. In fact, the best, most enduring life changes I have ever made were for the sake of vanity. Vanity is a tool for me, and I use it to my advantage. Getting my eating under control, quitting smoking, regular exercise, and drinking water all came from the desire to look beautiful, or look like I had my shit together. No complaints. They all worked.

Right now, I have a fingernail fungus that I seemingly acquired at a nail salon in either Texas or Illinois. I didn’t know what it was until last week, when I went in for my every-two-week manicure, and the woman told me she couldn’t paint my nails because that hard skin under my nails was a fungus.

My first reaction was panic. Because that is always my first reaction when something goes a way that is difficult, painful, or inconvenient for me. But then I dialed it back, and took some “right actions.”

So since then, I have been soaking my nails in Listerine and vinegar, rubbing them with Vicks VapoRub, and painting them myself with an anti-fungal nail polish. It’s a pain in the ass. But it has to be done. If I were to let it go, and hope it would get better on its own because I was in denial, it would only get worse.

Thankfully, I seem to have caught it early. It’s still not fun. I had to chop off my normally long nails. I am terrible (though getting better with practice) at painting my own nails. And I have to think about them all the time, whereas I normally only think about my nails every two weeks when it was time to get them done. But it could be worse. I could have not realized what was happening and let it go so long that it caused a health problem, and not just a cosmetic one.

When I got my eating under control, I began to understand how to “just take the next right action.” I began to understand that all things are done one step at a time. And that baby steps are still steps, and will get me moving in the right direction.

When I got my eating under control, I learned to let myself panic. But just for a moment. And then take an action. The longer I am free of sugar, the better I am at taking stock of the situation, and the less time it takes to figure things out.

Before that, I didn’t “let myself” panic. I just panicked. I didn’t have any other option. And I would become paralyzed. I couldn’t make any decisions, or take any steps. And to quell the panic, I would eat. That only made me numb. The problem wouldn’t go away, I would just not care. Until the high wore off. And by then, the problem would be worse.

The truth is, I hate this nail fungus thing. Every time I look at my hands I feel unhappy. But I know that this is temporary because I am doing something about it. And I won’t eat over it because I don’t eat over things like feelings or problems.

Don’t quit quitting just because your doctor is an arrogant ass.

I was talking to my mom this week and she told me a story that made me angry. She had a friend who quit smoking, gained 30 pounds, was put on a strict diet by her doctor, and didn’t lose the weight. So they sent her to a psychologist (maybe a psychiatrist, I am not positive) with the implication that she was lying about what she was eating, and that is why she was not losing the weight.

I cannot say how this makes me burn, how it fills me with rage. When I quit smoking almost 6 years ago, I also gained 30 pounds. And because I have body dysmorphic disorder, it took a real toll on my mental health. So I started scouring the Internet.

Now, in general, don’t do this. The internet can be a dark, crazy-making place. But I am really glad I did. Oh, I was not at first. Because the first thing that I found was a lot of sites like Web MD telling me that people only gain 2-10 pounds, and mostly because they eat more to make up for not smoking.

Then I went on forums where I found a bunch of traumatized people asking why they gained 20-40 pounds after quitting smoking, and a bunch of trolls telling them it was because they were making up for their “oral fixation” with food. And often fat shaming them. (And it felt like they were fat shaming me. As if I haven’t gotten enough of that BS in one lifetime.)

I read a lot of things along the lines of.

Stop eating so much and exercise. Quitting smoking doesn’t affect your weight. There is no scientific evidence that says that quitting smoking makes you gain weight.

But by the time I quit smoking, I had already had my eating under control for 6 years. I had already been strictly controlling my portions. And my quantities on some foods were cut in half. I was not eating more. I was eating less. And I knew it. It was quantifiable. And I was keeping track like I always had. Plus I had started walking more. While I had been generally walking 3-5 miles a day in my daily life in the city, I then added 8 mile walks 2 or 3 times a week.

What eventually helped me was when I found forums for fitness buffs. These were filled with people who, like me, were already tracking their food and exercise routines. They already knew what they were eating and how much fuel they were burning.

What they had to say was not pleasant. And I did not want to believe it. But in the end, it turned out to be true for me. They generally gained 26-40 pounds. And their bodies and metabolisms didn’t go back to normal for about 3 years.

I quit smoking in June of 2012. Between June and December of that year, I gained 30 pounds. I went from a US size 6 to a US size 10, I stayed a 10 for 3 years, and then in June of 2015, pretty suddenly, I was a size 6 again.

There is also an article in Time from 2017 (5 years *after* I quit smoking) that says that one French study showed that while a quarter of participants gained less than 3 pounds or even lost weight, a quarter of participants gained more than 17 pounds.

When people, especially doctors, say that there is no evidence that quitting smoking causes weight gain, I remember those fitness forums. I hope more studies like the French study are done about smoking cessation and weight gain. Because gaining weight when you quit smoking is basically understood to be the norm. But blaming the people who quit for being gluttons also seems to be the norm. And I, personally, have had enough of that crap. It’s already hard to quit. And blaming people for something they have no control over makes us feel crazy! I was committed to quitting, no matter what. And I had a food regimen in place that kept me grounded. But I promise you, if I hadn’t, I would have said “screw this” and just started smoking again. Because I am vain. And because society judges us on what we look like, more than how healthy we are. In fact, society equates thin with healthy. It does not ask if that person is a smoker.

I am not sorry I quit. But only because I got through those awful 3 years and got my body, the one I am comfortable in, back. So if you have quit smoking and gained more weight than is comfortable, and you feel crazy because you know you are not overeating, I have been there. And this, too, shall pass. You are not crazy. You are not a glutton or a liar. Your body will stabilize again. Don’t quit quitting!

In defense of sugar. JK! It apparently has enough defenders.

I saw two things on social media this week that frustrated me. Both of them were about how sugar is “not the problem.”

One of them was a tweet from an obesity doctor that said that when people come into his office and say they gave up sugar and lost weight, they really mean they gave up junk food. What they really did, according to this doctor, was reduce fat, starch, and calories, not just sugar. He literally ends his tweet with “It wasn’t just the sugar.”

And the other was an article about debunked health myths. And one of the “debunked” myths is that sugar is addictive. First, the title of the section is “Sugar is as addictive as heroin.” This is the last line of the section:

“So, scientists don’t know what addiction in the brain looks like, yet, and until that mystery is solved we should not be living in fear from something as fanciful as sugar addiction.”

Fanciful. Total silliness! Ridiculous! Go get yourself a cake and hang out in a food coma until scientists agree that sugar addiction is a thing. Or better yet, a diabetic coma. Whatever.

The thing that really pisses me off about both of these is the condescension . If you believe that sugar is the problem, you are an idiot. You are delusional. “What people are *really* doing is cutting calories, but they are too stupid/brainwashed to understand.” “Its fanciful to believe that sugar could be addictive.”

I believe in science. I don’t want to imply that I don’t. But I also believe that science, and our true understanding of the effects of something, can be limited by our biases, preconceived notions, and beliefs. I believe that the food industry has knowingly and purposely propped up sugar as “innocuous” for over half a century. “Food is food.” “A calorie is a calorie.”

But we have paid the price for it. There is more sugar in our diets than ever before, and there is more obesity in 1st World civilization than ever before. And I cannot stand this defense of sugar, and the subsequent shaming of people suffering from obesity, in the name of science.

“It’s not the sugar. It’s you. You are the problem.”

First, I do believe that sugar is addictive, but that not everyone is as likely to become addicted. I happen to believe that I have a predisposition to become addicted in general, and that I am addicted to sugar. But I know plenty of people who can and do eat sugar in moderation and do not suffer from health problems in any way from their sugar consumption. My husband is one of those people. I buy him sugar all the time. I pack it in his lunch. I keep it in the house for him.

And second, I am for freedom. True freedom. If you want to eat sugar all day, I believe that is your right. Even if it means morbid obesity. Even if it leads to diabetes and hypertension and Alzheimer’s and stroke. Even if it means suffering. I am not going to tell you how to eat. That is none of my business. And I don’t think it should be.

But I am not for the shaming of humans in defense of sugar. Nor am I for the belittling of my intelligence because science has not come to a consensus on whether sugar is addictive. As a person with a very clear experience of sugar as an addiction, I do not doubt that science will eventually show what I already know. But even if it doesn’t, that in no way diminishes my experience that when I abstain completely from sugars, grains, and starch, excepting some whole fruits and vegetables, I do not crave more than is healthy, and I do not suffer from food obsession.

But I can’t help but be frustrated that an obesity doctor would be so obnoxious about people, his own patients, who say they gave up sugar and lost weight. Is *he* a sugar addict? Or is he being paid off to downplay the effects of sugar on a person’s health? Otherwise, I can’t see why he would go out of his way to point out his patients’ “wrongness,” to defend a substance. It seems cruel and rude to me.

I will close with this. My whole life, growing up fat, doctors and nutritionists would tell me to eat sugar in moderation. But I cannot eat sugar in moderation. I cannot eat a slice of cake. It is either no cake, or the whole cake. I don’t have a done button. So, as far as I am concerned, any obesity doctor who can’t even consider the possibility of sugar addiction for some number of his patients, is not very good at his job.

They call them accidents for a reason. That still doesn’t make them fun.

In a twisted way, I am sort of happy to have to write this blog today. Because I am a firm believer in authentic sharing. I want people to know that I have bad days and bad moments. I make mistakes. I don’t like the way social media has made us frame ourselves in a “perfect” light, where we only show our best sides and hide our wrong-doings and our problems.

I was in my first car accident as a driver this week. I rear-ended someone. Nobody was hurt. His car had minimal cosmetic damage. My car has minor damage. It was a fender-bender.

But good lord was I humiliated and ashamed. I cried on and off for about 24 hours. I did manage to get back on the road the next day. It was not as terrifying as I thought it would be. I am incredibly sensitive. I have a lot of very big, unwieldy feelings. So I was deeply shaken at first. But I got back in the car, and it was OK.

My mom’s mom never drove in my lifetime. She once told me she drove as a teenager, but got into a minor accident early and never got behind the wheel again. That could easily have been me.

And driving has always been loaded for me. As a small child I used to have nightmares about having to drive a car and not knowing how. They started when I was about 4 or 5. In fact, they may be my earliest memories. I was so small that in my dreams I had to lean all the way out of the car to pull the door closed. That is how vivid they still are. So a real-life car accident brought up some really old wounds.

Also, the guy was awful. He kept calling me a stupid bitch and a stupid motherfucker. His girlfriend showed up and she refused to look at me. And all of this upsets me because I was so sincere in my apology. I did not argue or try to blame him. I really wanted to make amends and do what was right. I called the police myself. I got the ticket. I called my insurance company. I was taking responsibility for my actions. And he could not see my sincerity. He would not look at my humanity.

But I did not have to eat these feelings. Not the humiliation of having hit someone’s car, or the humiliation of being verbally abused. I did not have to numb them with sugar. I hated feeling them. But to eat them would just be to stuff them down. A good 24 hours of crying helped me get them out. The only way out is through. It always has been. And not being high on food meant that I could think; I could be calm and rational. Ok, rational-ish. But I didn’t have to stew on it. And I didn’t do anything to make the situation worse because I couldn’t be honest or responsible.

I am grateful to have my eating under control every time my life is difficult. A difficult situation is just a situation. Food is the only real problem I have. And while I keep it under control, it’s not even that.

I hated what happened. It was a terrible experience for me. But life is not only made up of good experiences. This is how it is. And it could have been so much worse. I could have had an accident, and then eaten sugar over it. And then I would be miserable, would probably have done something really stupid, and without a chance of getting over it.

What could be more convenient than that?

In February of 2011, about a year before I started writing this blog, I was having a talk with one of my roommates and good friends. He pointed out to me (it was solicited, I might add) that I had a very small comfort zone. This was spot on. Whenever it was implied to me by any person or circumstance that it would behoove me to step out of that comfort zone, I clung to the edges like a Looney Tunes character in a doorway.

As I said, it took me nearly a year after that conversation to start writing this blog, the purpose of which was to help me take risks with my life, so I could have things like love and adventure. In other words, it took me a year to be ready to be ready, to be willing to be willing.

Now, I have been married to the love of my life for over 2 years and we travel the country for work, moving every 3 months to year and a half.

I love this life. It is fun and exciting. I love seeing new places and learning new things. But it can be exhausting. This week I worked from home part time, plus secured my husband and myself an apartment in our next town, including electricity and internet. Plus, I had to deal with some seemingly shady dealings with our last landlords. Not to mention cooking, laundry, dishes and grocery shopping.

There is a lot to working on the road. And let’s face it, moving sucks. And while we get better and better at it every time, it is almost never just smooth sailing.

Having my eating under control is absolutely the rock that makes it possible for me to not only live, but love, this life. Knowing what I am going to eat, how much, and when, leaves so much of my brain free to deal with inevitable hiccups and snafus. Knowing that I must eat my meals within certain times reminds me to stop what I am doing to eat lunch, no matter what it is or how important it seems at the moment. Eating my meals is the most important thing. Period. Not eating foods that get me high keeps me sane, clear-headed, and focused, which keeps me able to get things done quickly and efficiently.

When people hear about my many rules and boundaries around eating, they often marvel at what they consider to be inconvenience. Sometimes it is. But mostly, it is the thing that makes everything else in my life fit into its proper place. And I can’t think of what could be more convenient than that.

I can do anything for a month

I have been eating a lot of things that are not my favorite lately. It’s fine. I’m not exactly complaining. (OK, maybe a little.) But I’m not unhappy.

When I gave up sugar and carbs over 12 years ago, I realized that I could. That I could have power over what I “wanted” or “craved.” And while I would never eat things I didn’t like as a way of life (I am not “on a diet”) I can eat in a way that is not my favorite for a limited amount of time. I can do anything for 2 weeks or a month.

I have been taking a supplement that *ahem* backs you up. I will probably need to take it for another week or so. So that has meant, and will continue to mean, lots of big salads, and even more water than usual. Plus, I am staying away from my fattier proteins for the moment. In other words, more eggs and lean meats, less sausage and pork rinds.

Look, I make really good salads. But they are big at a time when I am not looking forward to big meals. And they are not gooey onions, or spicy, greasy Asian style cauliflower rice, or deep-fried Brussels sprouts. And I love steak. But I love pork products more.

But the other thing is all things in moderation. (Except man made sugar and carbs because that shit will kill me. Literally.) So yesterday, I ate a big, delicious portion of pork rinds with my big, crunchy, roughage-laden salad. And it was amazing!

I can become obsessive when it comes to “doing it right.” I can get so bogged down in perfection, that I can fail to see that sometimes I’m hurting more than I am helping. So today I am back to eggs and lean meat. But one night of grease and crunch was just what the doctor ordered. And I am sure that the doctor will order something along those same lines again before I’m done.

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