onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “eating well”

There’s no cutesy “Oh, I’ll just have a salad” to my salads…

Now that we have been in Texas for over a week, I have been getting used to the changes. Of course, a lot of the changes have to do with food. One of the biggest changes is that I have been eating big salads. And really enjoying them.

I will tell you that while I always eat a lot of vegetables every day, and have for years, I don’t always eat a lot of salads. But there are three things that have come together that have made salads an exciting prospect, rather than a “healthy choice” I make reluctantly. The first two are hot weather and great produce.

It’s one thing to eat a bag of lettuce and call it a salad. That’s not for me. I don’t like lettuce, and I never have. Perhaps it is because in my head it is “diet food” from a time when I was fat and I was supposed to eat lettuce to not be fat anymore. But it is something entirely different to take arugula, radishes, mushrooms, onions, cucumbers, and maybe a little steamed broccoli or green beans, chop them up and toss them together with some olive oil and vinegar for a cool, refreshing meal on a hot day. I love the way the different flavors come together, the tang of the onions and radishes with the umami of the mushrooms and the tartness of the vinegar.

The third thing is that my new apartment is small, doesn’t have windows or screen doors, and quite frankly, smells when I cook pungent vegetables, which is pretty much any vegetables. The deal is that this alone would not have stopped me from cooking vegetables. That’s what candles and air fresheners are for, after all. But having great produce and wanting something lighter in the heat made it easy to put aside my favorite go-to veggie choices for something different.

When I left New York to be with my husband, the first place I lived with him was also Texas, though a different town. And then I ate a lot of salads too. And I probably would have continued except that the next few places we lived fell short in the fresh veg department. And I also happen to be a person of habit. If I am eating a lot of, say, riced cauliflower cooked in sesame oil with scallions, garlic and ginger, then I am probably going to make it again and again. I know that many people get bored with eating the same things, but I love it. I like predictability. I can sometimes eat the same things for months or even years. But when the time comes to eat something new, for whatever reason, I generally enjoy that too. Or at least, if I don’t, then I won’t make that mistake again.

For me, knowing that I am only going to eat three meals a day means I am careful to have them all be delicious, because I love eating, and more than that, I am still not, and never expect to be, neutral around food. I might even still be obsessed, except it does not haunt me, or make me hate myself. When I was eating compulsively, I was obsessed but miserable. And I would eat anything. (Well, anything except a vegetable.) It mattered less that it tasted good, and more that I could shove it into my face and it would get me high. I lived as if I might never eat again. But since I put boundaries around my eating, I have come to a point where I know I will eat again. In fact, my next meal will be lunch, in about an hour.

I like that I want salads. They are making me feel good, and it has occurred to me that I may lose a little weight. But they may not affect my weight, and that is not why I am eating them anyway. And I don’t want to make them about my body. I want to enjoy them because they are delicious. And if I stop finding them delicious, I want to be able to go right back to eating riced cauliflower in sesame oil and not think twice about my body.

Resenting other people’s metabolisms is making an ass out of you and me

There is a saying among the people I know who keep boundaries around their eating: Keep your eyes on your own plate.

I have mentioned before that I don’t watch food porn. I never watch the Food Network. If one of those recipe videos comes up on my Facebook newsfeed, I click that little arrow in the corner and choose to “see less from” and “hide all from.” I don’t want to see things I don’t eat. I don’t want to see cookies and cakes, and all manner of sugar bombs.

In the beginning of getting my eating under control, I felt like the Holiday Season was hard for me because I was a compulsive eater, and there was food everywhere. But the older (and more clear-headed) I get, I realize that the Holiday Season is hard for everyone. Fine, maybe not children. (Who am I kidding? Has there ever been a single child who did not have at least one meltdown in the overwhelm of the end of the year festivities? I’m going to go with no.)

Holidays are overly emotional times of year where we obligatorily visit with the people in our lives who know best how to upset, enrage, and mortify us. I am not saying that we don’t love our families. I am saying that family is difficult. For everyone everywhere. And for many, it’s sugar (or sugar’s delinquent brother alcohol), and not music, that soothes the savage beast.

Overeating is the rule and not the exception from Thanksgiving to January 2nd. Basically everyone gains weight over the holidays. It is so pervasive it is the topic of much holiday humor and the reason practically everyone’s New Year’s Resolution is to lose 5-10 pounds.

But there is something else I want to note, that I don’t think I understood until I got my own eating under control. People who don’t have eating disorders or weight problems might gain some weight over the holiday season, they might even be doing some comfort or binge eating to deal with the stress, but most of them are still managing their food. They give themselves a little leeway, but they are not eating whatever they want whenever they want. Some do this management unconsciously, and some do it in their heads, and some might even keep a log of it. But they are actively thinking about what they are eating, and what effect it is having on their bodies.

I have spoken about this with compulsive eaters who have boundaries around their food, or I have heard them speak of it, or read their writing on it. Many of us used to think that “naturally thin” people were eating the way we were eating and not gaining weight. We decided that we were unfairly cursed. But what was often happening was we were seeing people eat the way we were eating, but we were never seeing what they weren’t eating behind closed doors.

I might pig out with someone at a holiday meal, and not realize that they were not eating the rest of the day. Or they were going home to have, as a friend’s sister would say, “a bowl of chicken soup and half a cup of dry popcorn.” While I would have another meal, plus all of the leftovers that the host sent me home with.

People with a healthy relationship with food do not “eat whatever they want and not get fat.” Or if they do, it’s because whatever they want is a salad. Or a single piece of fruit, not dipped in chocolate. Eating high-sugar, high-calorie foods and not gaining weight is not the way life works.

I suppose there are people with crazy metabolisms, but they are few and far between. If you know someone you think is “naturally thin,” chances are that what they really are is “naturally conscious” of what goes into their bodies.

As an addict, I know that I cannot handle my sugar. I am incapable of stopping at one, or a taste, or a little. And I might mistakenly think that nobody else can stop after one, or a taste, or a little either. And if I hold onto that assumption, and look around, I might mistakenly believe that life must be incredibly unfair because they are not physically large.

But that would be a lot of mistaken assumptions. So I make a point to keep my eyes on my own plate. And there is something else I do, especially over the holidays. I make sure that my food is amazing. I make sure it’s decadent and delicious and abundant. I make sure that if, by accident, my eyes happen to wander onto another plate, that when I look back at my own, I am positively enraptured.

How a giant cantaloupe saved me from the evil vortex

Most of the time, since I got control of my eating, my eating disorder brain stays essentially dormant. I always have it, of course. But my issues are not necessarily prominent in my day-to-day life. My body stays basically the same. I eat basically the same. I’m not hungry or full. I eat 3 meals a day. Those meals are within my food boundaries. The rest of life goes along as it does. For the most part, since I no longer eat compulsively, food, eating, and my body are non-issues. But from time to time, my eating disorders move into the prime real estate in my head. And since I quit smoking and my body has been going through some big changes, my body image issues are reclining in a penthouse with an ocean view.
A few weeks ago I posted “Stupid mirror! I said fairest, not fattest!” That particular body image disorder attack was about looking at myself in the mirror and seeing a distorted image of myself.  Seeing myself as fat when I am not.
And then I realized last night that for several weeks now I have been having what I call “diet-head” issues. And I didn’t exactly realize that I was in my “diet-head”. Because my eating disorders are sneaky and subtle and disguise themselves in myriad ways.
Since I quit smoking, I have had two things come up that are a double whammy when they come at the same time. I have been hungry and I have been gaining weight.
At least that’s what the scale says. Which is a whole other issue between me and my eating disorder brain. Because I was shocked to hell. I was actually expecting to have lost weight before I got on the scale the other day. I have not been feeling fat. My clothes fit. My face, neck and collar area are looking as slender as ever. And my stomach has been getting smaller. Frankly, if I didn’t know what the number on the scale was, I would not have thought twice about being back in my “regular” body. But I did, indeed, see the number on the scale. It was 140.  (Yes! 140! Can you imagine how I freaked out!? I totally freaked out. Called my friend crying like a 3-year-old!) And it does not matter that I had been feeling thin and pretty and back to normal. The number on the scale trumps liking what’s in the mirror.  Eating disorders are a trip, right?

It is very rare that I get hungry. It happens maybe three or four times a year. I eat multiple pounds of fruits and vegetables every day. Plus eggs, dairy, olive oil, butter, and a few times a week, meat. But for many weeks now, I have been hungry. I don’t know if it is emotional or physical. But either way, I have been afraid to do anything about it because the scale says I’ve been gaining weight. And my body image disorder brain has a desperate fear of getting fat.

My food boundaries are just boundaries. There is a lot of room within them. For example, how often I eat meat, or how much fat I want in my dairy products is absolutely changeable. My boundaries are not about deprivation or “dieting”. I never eat sugar, starch or simple carbohydrates, but I have plenty of options. I have plenty of room with the foods that I do eat to make sure I do not feel like I’m being punished. There are ways to eat within my food boundaries that can compensate for being hungry or feeling like it’s too much. One of the ways I can do that is with the size of certain fruits and vegetables. And sometimes I forget this.

When I was first getting control of my eating, I ate positively ginormous fruits and vegetables. I would go from market to market in search of the biggest and the best.

As the years have gone by, I do that less. It eventually started to become too much food. (That’s crazy to me, by the way. That I have reached a point in my life where there is such a thing as too much food! I’m a food addicted compulsive eater. That’s a freaking miracle!) So I generally stick to the basic fruit and veggie quantity. Like I said, it’s still multiple pounds every day…

But I’ve been hungry for a while now. When I have finished my meals, I have not been feeling satisfied. But I have been afraid to go out and find the biggest and the best like I did in the beginning. Because I want to get back to being 133 lbs and not 140. And because I already eat huge meals. I have been feeling like I should be satisfied. Like it’s shameful to want more. Plus the whole thing has seemed damned unfair! I quit smoking and I get punished with both being hungry and gaining weight!?!? Ugh! How am I not supposed to take this personally, God?

And then a good friend said “Stop thinking about it. Forget about your weight and enjoy your food.” And I said yes. I agreed. But in the back of my mind, I was thinking about enjoying fresh and delicious on the lighter side. Because good Lord, I weigh 140!

And then I was at the farmer’s market, and I saw giant cantaloupes. My body said, “Want! Want!” My terrified-of-getting-fat eating disorder brain went. “Tsk tsk. Better not. 140.” And then I heard my friend’s voice say “Enjoy your food!” And I bought a giant melon. Bigger than my head. Half for dinner last night and half for breakfast this morning.

And you know what? For the first time in weeks I felt satisfied. I went to bed with a smile on my face last night. I went to work today with a song in my heart. And I am not ashamed. And I am not afraid of getting fat. And last night, after dinner, I realized that for the first time in forever, I do not feel like I’m being punished. And that I do feel like I deserve. To enjoy my food. To enjoy my life. That I deserve to be satisfied. That I’m worth that!
I am starting to understand that deprivation feeds the idea that I don’t deserve, as much as feeling like I don’t deserve makes me deprive myself. That it is also circular, like the eating making me fat and ashamed, and shame making me eat. Basically, my eating disorder brain is like a giant, evil vortex. It swirls around and around and it will take starvation and deprivation as soon as gluttony and shame. It’s all the same as long as I am punished and miserable.
Let me be blunt. I’m walking a line here. I’m doing a dance with myself and my eating disorders. I am navigating food choices, emotional and physical comfort, self acceptance and body image. Food comforts me. Eating a giant cantaloupe made me feel better. Bacon and fried onions do too. There are things it would be dangerous for me to withhold from myself. Satisfaction in eating. Foods I enjoy. I need these things as much as I want them. For my sanity and my health. And at the same time, it would be dangerous to let myself actually gain more weight than I can be comfortable with. But I also know that I just quit smoking. And I need a little self-love. And some comfort. I don’t know what’s going on with my body. I’m just going to have to wait and see. But in the mean time, I am going to enjoy my food. Within my boundaries, of course. But there’s so much abundance and deliciousness withn those boundaries. So if keeping myself comfortable and cared for means that I am going to have to occasionally eat a cantaloupe bigger than my head…well so be it…

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