onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “excercize bulimia”

…But that’s none of my business…

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about what it looks like to let people be themselves. Make their own choices. Fight their own battles. Live their own lives.

It’s a hard thing. I know that it is hard for everybody. And I like to think it is something that I am relatively good at.

Relatively. I mean, it’s not easy. Especially when I love somebody. Or in my pride I think I know what would be best.

And maybe what I think other people should do really would make them happy, or give them peace, or just generally make things work out for the best. But none of that matters.

When I was growing up, a lot of people wanted me to lose weight. Doctors and family and friends. Not because they didn’t like or love me fat, but because they did. They wanted better for me. They wanted me to be healthier and happier. They didn’t want me to get obesity related illnesses. Or be made fun of. Or get hurt and rejected.

But nothing those people wanted for me ever helped me. None of their opinions or advice ever landed as anything but judgment, cruelty, and conditional caring. I am not saying that that is what it was. I am not saying that it was not genuine love and concern. But it did not occur that way. It occurred as intrusion. And for the most part, it still does.

I love advice.

When I ask for it. Because I am choosy about whom I ask. I go to people who have something I want when I ask for advice. When I wanted peace around food, I went to people who had peace around food. I did what they did. Not people who were skinny. Not even people who had lost a lot of weight. I wanted food to stop being an issue. So I went to people for whom compulsive eating was no longer an issue. When I wanted to open my heart and find a powerful relationship, I asked for advice from people in the kinds of relationships I wanted. Not people who happened to be married. Not women who were trying to land a husband. It was about relationships. When I wanted to quit smoking, I went to people who had successfully quit smoking and were empowered by it. Not people who still had a puff every once in a while. Not people who had never had or wanted a cigarette. People who quit so that they could grow.

What I do around food is not for everybody. Plenty of people are not sick with sugar addiction or eating disorders, and can eat sugar and drink alcohol normally and without negative repercussions. Or have other food issues that would be exacerbated by what I do.

And no. Not everybody wants what I have. And I can understand that. I think most people can’t imagine how sweet and delicious my life is. I don’t think many people can fathom what it is like to have found a certain amount of peace. I bet they think that what I have is a dull as can be.

But even more, there are people who do, indeed, want what I have, but are unwilling to do what I do. Almost everybody wants to know how I live with the idea of never eating chocolate cake again. Or never having a glass of wine with dinner. Or they want to make sure that I know that they never could. So many people, when they hear my solution, decide that it’s too much. They want an easier, softer way. Not so hard. Not so extreme.

And who am I to tell them differently? Who am I to judge them for not doing what I do?

And it’s not just food. Food is just the most obvious example to me. My “amazing” weight loss transformation that is written all over my body. (Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I put amazing in quotes because I happen to know that my weight was the symptom of my eating disorders. That what’s really amazing to me is the gift of having my eating under control, which takes care of my weight issues. And that more than amazing, it’s work and dedication and giving myself over to grace.) Who am I to offer advice about any choice. Who am I to tell anybody anything? Who am I to tell another person how to live. Or what happiness is. Or where to find it?

Unless you want to ask me. And then I would love to tell you what works for me. And even then, I give it as a gift. With no strings. To do with what you will. Because your life is yours. And you get to live it for yourself.

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A beautiful word, a lesson in boiling frogs, and a mixed metaphor.

There is a word that is important to me. Insidious. It means something that is harmful, but it happens so gradually, that you don’t even notice it until it is too late.

You have probably heard about boiling frogs. Apparently, if you try to put a frog in boiling water, he will jump out. But if you put a frog in a pot of room-temperature water and slowly bring that water to a boil, he will not notice the water becoming dangerously hot and he will allow himself to be boiled to death. And you can have frog soup or whatever. Which does not sound so particularly appealing to me. But what do I know? I love brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Which I am told makes me a total weirdo…Whatever.

Anyway, I have been thinking about this idea of insidiousness today. Because I scared myself this morning. With a thought.

If you have read my blog before, you probably know that I don’t talk about what I do with food specifically. But I talk a lot about how I keep boundaries around my eating. I have rules. Lots of very specific food rules. About what and when and how I eat. And how much.

A big part of my eating boundaries is portion size. It is specific. And precise. Meticulously accurate. I have been known to cut off a minuscule piece of this or that. I have cut a slice of mushroom in half. I have literally added or taken away a speck of carrot the size of my pinky nail. And I am that precise and meticulous every time. Even when nobody else is in the kitchen. Or the house. I do not do it to show anybody else. It is for me. Between me and me. And between me and God.

So this morning, while I was scooping a pinky nail’s worth out of my bowl and back into the container, I had a thought. “What would happen if I just left it in there?”

My immediate response to myself was “Destruction. Now stop thinking about it because I’m getting uncomfortable!”

But there was something lingering in it. It gave me an icky feeling. Dirty and shameful.

Perhaps because after 8 years of keeping boundaries around my eating I think I should be immune to such thoughts. But I have had those kind of thoughts before. And they don’t generally scare me. I am generally happy with my immediate answer “Destruction.” Or something similar. Misery. Anxiety. Shame. Nothing good! That’s for damn sure. I make a point to talk about those thoughts when I have them. And I keep a healthy fear of the food. (A healthy fear. Not like I can’t go to a birthday party because there will be pizza and cake. But I don’t have to go around smelling the pizza and imagining what the cake tastes like either.)

No there was something else in this thought. And I decided to play along. To answer the question. What would happen if I didn’t take out the pinky nail’s worth? Would the world blow up?

No. No the world would not blow up.

And that would be the problem.

If the world blew up, then I would never do that again. If you throw a frog into boiling water, he jumps out!

But the world would not blow up, and suddenly a pinky nail’s worth would become acceptable. So surely a whole finger’s worth would not be that big of a deal either. And then I would not “need” rules. And I would be able to “manage” my food. And then I would be at that birthday party and I could have pizza and cake just this one time…

But I’m an addict. Eating sugar sets up a physical craving and a mental obsession. So before you know it I am a 300 lb frog who is too fat and too high on sugar to jump out of the pot of boiling water. (Yes, I know I’m mixing my metaphors. Shakespeare did it! What do you mean I’m no Shakespeare?!?!)

The other thing that might happen is that I could end up an active bulimic and exercise bulimic again. I could be running until I injured myself. I could be sticking toothbrushes down my throat. I could be taking toxic doses of laxatives.

In other words, the world would explode. Just not right away. Not until it was too late to stop it.

Insidious. It’s a good word. Both beautiful and terrible.

Fat and out of shape is in the eye of the beholder. And when the beholder is me…well, I’m kinda messed up…

I went for a long walk the other day. I am not sure how long. But I would guess I walked between 6 and 7 miles. And I am out of shape. Or at least more out of shape than I have been in a while. And I am feeling a little fat. And I don’t like it.

First, I am not, fat. My clothes fit. (I actually had a moment of panic writing that, so I just got up and tried on my size 6 jeans to make sure my clothes still fit. And yes, my clothes still fit…Good Lord, Kate…) And thank God I am not weighing myself. Because I am in a place mentally where the number couldn’t be good. No matter what the number was.

Of course, the number is something. I have a weight. Obviously. I just don’t know what that is. Because I would not be able to handle it.

And I am not sure why I am thinking about my weight again all of a sudden. If something in particular triggered it, or if it is just par for the course when one has eating disorders and body-dysmorphia. It could be that my boyfriend and I are going to the Florida Keys next weekend. (Um…YAY!) Which will mean bathing suits and sundresses. Fewer clothes. I’ll admit that I have wondered if I will look huge and ugly in my bikini. Which I managed to wear all summer without fear, even though I was a size larger than I am now. But it turns out body-dysmorphia is never ever rational. If it were, it wouldn’t be a disorder, I guess.

I have also been thinking lately about how I had hoped that I would have lost more weight by now. I had hoped that my metabolism would have sped up. Really sped up. Back to the way it used to be. Back to where I could eat more and weigh less. Like I did for years before I quit smoking and gained 30 lbs. I hoped I would be smaller than I am after over a year and a half since quitting smoking.

But I don’t like feeling out of shape, either. In some ways, that is hitting me harder than being afraid that I am fat. Because I have been so in shape for so long. Living in New York City will do that for you. (If you let it.) Walking instead of the subway. Subway stairs if you don’t have time to walk. It’s a place where it’s not out of the ordinary to take the stairs instead of the escalator. And even if you take the escalator, you walk while you’re on it.

And I was a babysitter. It was my job to run, jump, and play. To go for a walk for the sake of exploring. Or getting some sunlight. Or just for the sake of walking. And then there was the post-homework dance party.

But now I get to work in a car. I work at a desk. I do a lot of sitting. I walk a couple of miles a couple of times a week. Which is not nothing. But I have been noticing my body. Feeling it. I didn’t used to notice my body. I just used it. I just wanted to do things so I did them. But when I started my walk the other day, I didn’t want to go. Because it was going to hurt.

Of course it didn’t hurt that bad. The anticipation of pain and discomfort was so much worse than the reality of it. And it was fantastic to get my heart pumping and my muscles working and my blood flowing. It was wonderful to feel energized. I had a great time. And I am not exactly out of shape. I’m really just not as fit as I was a year ago. I am comparing pretty in shape me with very in shape me.

But I am afraid of what happens next. Will I not go for that walk next time? Will I let myself get sick and old and slow because over and over again I’ll choose not to walk? Because I will be afraid it will be uncomfortable?

I am writing this to you to get it out. To shine a light on these things so they don’t fester, unexpressed. But really, when I start thinking like this, I try to remember to change the channel. To think about something else. Because it doesn’t make sense to worry.

I don’t want to fight feeling fat. I don’t want to give it weight. (Oh, tee hee. I just noticed that’s a pun.) I don’t want to care enough to let it be important. I want to trust myself. I want to keep my food under control for my sanity. I want to remember that while my eating is taken care of, I may not be “skinny”, but I will not get fat. And I want to love my body exactly the way it is. And I want to care for it with loving exercise. Exercise that I do to keep myself healthy and happy and free of pain. Not that I do to be skinny, or smaller, or good enough. And I want to trust that I will choose to walk. Or dance around my house. Or something that I haven’t even thought of yet. Out of self-care. And I want to wear my bathing suit without shame. And I want to enjoy a vacation with my boyfriend.

Because I can’t unshoot the gun. And I don’t know that I would if I could…

I was talking to a friend this morning. Another woman with eating disorders and body image issues. Someone I love and identify with. The kind of person with whom you can have a conversation that is both intellectual and spiritual at the same time.

She said something that I had never heard before. “Genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.” It’s a quote by Dr. Francis Collins.

I believe that I have a genetic predisposition to have an unhealthy physical reaction to sugar, grains, and starch. And I believe that when that physical reaction was triggered in my childhood, it triggered a mental obsession. But the environment I grew up in triggered a very specific mental obsession. It was an obsession with eating. Eating more. Eating constantly. I hated being fat. So I disconnected from my body. But my obsession was with food. Sugar, specifically.

Then I moved away from that environment. To New York City. And in that new environment, I developed a whole new set of mental obsessions that stemmed from that same physical reaction. All of a sudden I had a kind of vanity that I had never experienced before. I did not have bulimic tendencies or the same kinds of body image issues before I moved to New York City. There I was still obsessed with eating, but then there was this added obsession with appearances. With being beautiful. With appearing like a normal eater by maintaining a socially acceptable body.

I am clear that I am not going to be able to reverse any of these things now. Perhaps if I never moved to New York, I would not have become a bulimic. But I did. And I am. And now I can’t unshoot that gun. Or the sugar addict, compulsive eater gun. I am now irreversibly a compulsive eater, bulimic, exercise bulimic, and sugar addict with body dysmorphia. One particular blessing is that I do not have to engage in the damaging behaviors of these diseases because I do the work I do every day to keep my eating and my eating disorders under control.

But then I have to ask, what of it? Does it even matter? Is there an environment that I could have grown up in that would not have triggered my eating disorders? And even if there were such an environment, that’s not how my life went. Who is to say that growing up with a healthy relationship with food would have given me a better life?

Because along with a certain amount of pain and difficulty, my eating disorders gave me another gift. Dealing with them meant changing the way I looked at life and the world. In other words, I don’t know if I would have learned the best lessons of my life if I didn’t have to learn them to stop killing myself with food.

• Keep your eyes on your own life. You don’t know what people are going through by looking at their shiny hair and skinny thighs on the subway. All you are seeing is their outsides. You don’t know their troubles or their pain.

• You have your journey and everybody else has theirs. You didn’t get a bad one. Or the wrong one. You didn’t get a life any worse than any other.

• Control is an illusion. The only things you control are your actions and your reactions. Outcomes are totally out of your hands. So behave in a way that makes you proud of yourself. Because when you think doing it “right” means it will turn out the way you want, you’ll start to think you always do everything thing “wrong”. Bit if you live like you can’t do it “wrong”, you start to notice that everything always turns out “right”.

• Perfection is not an option. And once you accept that as the truth, you are free to be yourself. And free to be happy.

I guess what I’m trying to say today, is that it doesn’t matter that genetics loaded the gun. It doesn’t matter that environment pulled the trigger. It doesn’t matter that I can’t unshoot it. It’s life. My life. I happen to think it’s a good one. Full of blessings. But in reality, it’s the same life as when I thought it was a great big bucket of suck. I just make better decisions now.

Sidewalks on Memory Ln.

If you had told me last week that I would be thoroughly enjoying my longish stay in the suburb where I grew up, I would have told you that you didn’t know me very well.

But apparently I didn’t know me very well.

First of all, there are sidewalks! Thank God for sidewalks! After being stuck for 3 months (Ok, stuck pool-side. In a luxury apartment complex. But still stuck…) I find myself disposed to love any sidewalks. And the same sidewalks of my formative years proved to be as good as any.

I have been walking. For hours. For miles. Just walking.

It’s good for my mental health and morale. It feels good to move my body. The way I did in New York. Loving to move is one of the best gifts of getting my food under control and losing 150 lbs.

When I was fat, moving my body was exhausting and painful. Now I love it. It is exhilarating. It reminds me that I’m alive. And that I like it. No, that I love being alive. That I love my life.

I still don’t like “exercise”. You won’t find me at a gym, or running on a track. I will not be wearing spandex clothes and sweating for an allotted amount of time so that I can feel like I did what I’m “supposed to do.”

Plus “exercise” makes the bulimic girl in my head go a little crazy. 5 more minutes. 1 more hour. 10 more laps. You’ll be that much closer to losing another pound. Another 5. You can get back to 133. Maybe you could break 130! You could be the thinnest you’ve ever been!

Um…yeah. No. We don’t need her butting her nose in. And walking, just plain walking outside in the world, keeps the bulimic girl calm. Or at least reined in.

But there is another thing here in the place where I grew up. Something I hadn’t particularly expected. Or at least hadn’t expected to find the least bit enjoyable. Nostalgia.

I did not like myself growing up. And that made for a rather unhappy childhood.

And it has happened a few times this past week that I have passed a place that has brought up a painful memory. Or a shameful one. I’ve done some cringing. And experienced some discomfort.

But it has also been a good opportunity to remember that the fat girl who grew up here is me. That she walked here too. Not with confidence. Or much grace. But she walked these same sidewalks none the less. And that not all of it was bad. That there were people I liked who liked me. That there was fun and happiness.

Sure it was always colored by my own self-loathing. But not even that can make all of life terrible. Plus, that’s not what my life is like anymore.

That integrating of my past and my present is probably the hardest part of my life’s journey so far.

But it occurs to me that it is probably not an accident that I fell in love with a man from that past. Who owns a home in this same place I grew up. God is sneaky. And has a twisted sense of humor. But is apparently also infinitely wise.

Now that I’m normal around food, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat…

I want to talk about my body dismorphia again this week. Because I don’t have it today. And it really seems gone. Like *poof*. Like magic.

The first of the month is just days away. That’s the day I weigh myself. And I will weigh myself April 1st. And I am not worried. I feel beautiful. I think I look great.

Sure I could freak a little if I gained more weight. But I’m pretty sure I would get over it pretty quickly. And I am not filled with anxiety anticipating getting on the scale. Knowing weigh day is coming is not eating away at me like it has for almost a year.

I’m in love. With a man who thinks my body is beautiful. Right now. Not skinny. And I’m happy. Stupid happy. If I were not-in-love Kate looking at me this happy, I would make myself gag. Seriously. It’s ridiculous how doe-eyed I am. How filled with benevolence toward all of mankind.

That is the thing about my eating and body image disorders. They are excellent at occurring like they have disappeared. Especially when I’m super-duper crazy happy. Like now. Don’t be fooled. I am not fooled.

It’s imperative that I remember that just because I am happy and in love, it does not follow that I am better. Or normal. Around food or my body. Being in a good mood does not make me cured. Love doesn’t take away my eating disorders. I am just as sick around food and my body as I have ever been. And this could even be even more dangerous. It’s not, but it could be. If I’m not careful.

I feel normal. Or more like super-human. Eat uncontrollably? When I’m so happy? When the world is all sparkles and tickley and pink? Why would I? How could I?

But I know. Of course I could. And I know I would kill this buzz by acting like I’m normal. I know I could hate myself in an instant by acting like I’m neutral around food all of a sudden. It wouldn’t take much. A chocolate easter egg. One of those little itty bitty ones. Wrapped in pretty, shiny gold foil. A little bite. A little extra. A little taste. And I’m royally and undeniably f***ed. Just so we’re clear.

Many times I have been told that I don’t look like I need to put boundaries around my food. Of course I don’t look like I’m sick with food. I look the way I do because I put boundaries around my food. My default setting is a 300 lb girl who can’t stop eating.

I don’t keep boundaries around my food when I’m fat, until I get thin. I don’t keep boundaries around my food while I’m unhappy, until I get happy. I don’t do it when things are not going my way, until circumstances are better. I do it always. Under any and all conditions. No matter what.

And here’s another thing. I have a brand new reason to maintain my boundaries. One that I haven’t had before. If I pick up sugar, grains, or starch, or start eating compulsively, a really important part of the woman who my boyfriend fell in love with goes away. And so does a part of the woman who was ready and able to fall in love with him. I don’t do what I do for him. God knows I did it for years as a single woman. For myself. But now there is someone else I want to take care of myself for. I want to like myself when I’m with him. I want to know that I have integrity when I talk to him. I want to know that I have been treating my body with respect when it is in his arms. I want to be present for him. I want to be available for our relationship. I want to make sure he stays as important to me as he is right now.

Because if I were eating compulsively, I would care about food first. More than myself. More than him. More than love. Cake would trump my relationship. And that is not hyperbole.

I am not telling you this because I feel like I’m in danger right now. I am not actually worried about crossing my boundaries. I’m telling you to keep myself out of danger. I’m telling you because I have to regularly remind myself that I have food and body issues. Every day, in fact. It’s a preemptive measure. And especially right now, when I “don’t seem like the kind of girl who needs to keep boundaries around her food”, it’s in my best interest to remember that this beautiful, happy, glowing, beaming, stunning, effervescent, specimen of radiant joy and serenity is a 300 lb, binge-eating, laxative-abusing, 14-miles-a-day-running, bulimic. Who hasn’t had to do that stuff for so long that she had time and space and peace enough to fall in love.

Even the angry, destructive side of me likes sexy pants

I have multiple eating disorders, hence I have a whole cast of messed up characters that live in my head when it comes to food, eating, my body, and my emotional life.

I talk a lot about my fat girl. She’s relatively easy for me to talk about. She’s lived in my head for almost the longest. (The girl who is a burden has lived in my head the absolute longest. We’re not going there today…) And in many ways, I think my fat girl is the easiest for you to process and handle (unless you have an eating disorder of your own). She’s sad and a coward. She couldn’t stop eating. She hopes I’ll go back to being a coward so she can have her cake back. That’s about the extent of her. Don’t get me wrong. She’d kill me if she got the chance. But it would be a slow death. Diabetes and heart disease. Death by chocolate, if you will. Which I bet sounds great to you if it’s not actually a possibility for you like it is for me.

But there is also a bulimic girl who lives in my head. And she’s the scary one. The one that is the most dangerous. And damaging. The kinds of things I was doing to myself because of my bulimic girl scared me into quitting sugar entirely. She is the reason I keep such strict boundaries around my food. She would rather see me dead than fat. She is angry and obsessive and cruel. And she’s excessively vain. Not a healthy, see-how-I-take-care-of-myself kind of vanity. A seven deadly sins kind of vanity. She has no peace and no love. Nothing is ever ever good enough for her. Especially not me.

My bulimic girl has a tag line. A particular thought. Get it out. Actually it’s more like Get it out. Getitoutgetitoutgetitoutgetitoutgetitout Get. It. OUT! NOW! (And this is said through clenched teeth.)

It was this thinking that had me abuse laxatives, drink castor oil, run 14 miles a day and eventually make myself throw up my food. My bulimic girl was full of hair-brained schemes to deal with the aftermath of my fat girl and her binge eating. If it were humorous, it might be a version of The Odd Couple. A grotesque murderous version…

Since I quit smoking 3 months ago, I keep gaining weight. I have gained 12 lbs since June 1st. It has been hard for me to deal with. (This may be my understatement of the year.) I put on a pair of jeans the other day, and they were tight. This was especially embarrassing and sad for me. In February, they were comically big. They had to be held up by a belt and sagged around my butt. I wore them to babysit when I expected to get dirty. Feeling these jeans pressed up against me was incredibly uncomfortable. Emotionally. Because it was a reminder that I feel incredibly fat. And I know there is nothing for me to do about it. It is not about calories. When I first quit smoking, I didn’t change my eating at all and I gained 3 lbs. The next month, I ate lighter than usual, (more salad, less cooking in butter) and I gained 4 more lbs. So it is not that I have been doing it wrong. It is not something I can control. My body is changing. I don’t get a say.
Guess who hates this? Any thoughts? My bulimic girl. This is killing her. She insists that there must be something I can do. At least don’t get fried onions this week. At least chill out on the full fat yogurt. At least walk a couple more miles a day. Do SOMETHING! Do you WANT to be this fat? GET IT OUT!
So my fat girl wants to give up and eat cake (not like she’s popped up this week – she just always wants to give up and eat cake), and my bulimic girl wants to resist and starve me. I decided not to give up or resist. I decided to accept. My body is what it is. Right now. And I don’t know for how long. And I don’t get a say. There is nothing for me to do.
But that is not true. There was one thing for me to do. And I did it. I went out and bought bigger pants. I bought pants I feel sexy in. Because maybe the hardest part of this weight gain is that I have been feeling incredibly unsexy. And sexy has been a very important part of my life for years now. It is a part of my personality. It is one of the things that I love about myself and my life.
And buying sexy pants that fit my body the way it is right now has shut my bulimic girl up. For now. I’m sure she’ll be back. Just like my fat girl, and my burden, and my good girl. But today, because I have my eating under control, none of them get to run my life.
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Why the f*** do you care so much about how I eat?

I just got back from a weekend with my great-aunt. She’s my late grandmother’s sister. My dad’s mom and I were incredibly close. Losing her was losing one of the great loves of my life. And having her sister is definitely comforting. Plus, this aunt is so much fun to hang out with, not to mention side-splittingly funny. But going to visit her this weekend turned out to be stressful for me. Because she doesn’t understand about my food issues. And worse, she cares about what I do with my food. And not in a supportive way. I spent my weekend defending myself, justifying the way I eat, and protecting my control over the food.

In case you don’t know, how I keep a handle on my food looks extreme to the outside observer. To me, it is not so extreme. It is not nearly as extreme as the obsession that it alleviates. My eating and body image disorders are grotesque. The things they compelled me to do created misery and insanity. So sure, I no longer get to participate in society’s food rituals. But participating in the society’s rituals in public had me creating my own sick, crazy rituals behind closed doors. When I was fat, I would eat an entire box of cookies and a pint of ice cream in one sitting. Not a day. A sitting. And then go out for more food when that was done. (Yes! More food. No! I was not full. No! I was not sick. Except in the head and heart.) And then I had more scary and destructive rituals when I was a normal weight but still eating compulsively. Drinking castor oil. Abusing laxatives. Making myself throw up. Running 7 miles in the morning and 7 at night, and binge eating in between. So much that I was still gaining weight. Running to the point that I was injuring myself. And then refusing to rest because I had to run off the food that I ate. Or was going to eat. And that’s not the whole list. That’s just a sample of how I harmed and tormented myself, just so you know. I could not stop eating. But I had lost so much weight and I never wanted to be fat again. I cared more about food than I did about my body or my life. Food was my life.

What I have noticed is that the people who have the strongest negative opinions about what I do with my food are the people who have food issues themselves. This aunt had been big when she was younger, and then lost 90 lbs on a well known commercial diet program. She never got “thin” on this program. Or not what I would consider thin. (She got down to a size 12.) But she was able to keep that 90 lbs off through her life. And, as she explained to me, she could still eat anything and do the things that everybody else does.

But here’s the other part. My aunt just got through cancer. Thank God! And after the chemo and radiation, she is now a size 8. And to hear her tell it, being an 8 is the greatest thing that ever happened to her. So why she can’t understand why I do what I do, if only for the sake of having a body I love, is frustrating for me. Of course, I don’t do what I do for the body alone. I do it for my sanity more than anything. But I would be lying if I said the body didn’t have anything to do with it. Having a body that I love, that I’m proud of, rather than ashamed of, is part of staying sane for me.

I kept control of my food while I was with my aunt. I maintained my rigid boundaries no matter what she said or how much of a “pain in the ass” she told me I was. That control is more important than anything else in my life. Literally anything. Since I found my solution, it has always been more important than any person, place or thing. So it is even more important than a 78-year-old, cancer-surviving, generous and hospitable family member’s feelings. Yes! That important! But having to protect myself against someone I love…well, it fucking sucks.

Since I started doing what I do with food, there is a litany of things I commonly hear. Why don’t you just have one? (Because I can’t stop after one.) That’s so inconvenient! I could never do what you do. (That’s ok. You don’t have to.) Don’t you ever wish you could eat like a regular/normal person? (Wishing won’t make it a reality.) Don’t you ever cheat a little? (No.) Don’t you ever take a day off? (No.) Not even for Christmas? (No.) Not even for your birthday? (No.) You’re going to eat all that?!?! (Yes. I eat between a pound and a pound and a half of vegetables at both lunch and dinner.) And my personal favorite…Don’t you have any willpower? The answer to that last one is a resounding NO! No, I have zero power over food.

Writing this right now is making me cry. Because most people don’t understand. They can’t. I’m sick in the extreme. I have no right to expect anyone else to comprehend it. But there is something I have come to expect. And I don’t always get it. Respect. Respect for the deeply personal choices I make about what I put into my body. And when. And how. And how much. And what I can handle. And what I need. For myself!

As I’ve said before, if I lose control of the food to accommodate someone else, they are not going to come into the bathroom with me and hold my hair back while I stick the toothbrush down my throat. They are not going to gain 165 lbs from my inability to stop eating. So I have to admit that, while I love my aunt so much, I dread the thought of going back to visit her. Because I will never bow to her ideas of what I “should” do. And standing my ground to take care of myself is exhausting. And painful. But it’s my own responsibility. And thank God. Because if I left it up to the rest of the world, I would weigh over 300 lbs. And be shamed regularly for not being able to eat just one.

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