onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “feelings”

Belly rolls are not the real problem

I was getting dressed the other day, and I looked down and I did not like what I saw. Belly rolls.  It made me a little sad. Mostly what made me sad was how little I liked my body in that moment.

I follow all sorts of people on Instagram and Twitter. Skinny people, fit people, fat people. I like seeing all kinds of bodies on social media. 
My point is that I am not even remotely as judgmental about other people’s bodies as I am about my own. I like seeing all shapes and sizes. I think they are beautiful. I like diversity. But I am not nearly so generous with myself. And I want to change that.
I am very happy with the ways I care for my body. And I am very happy with the way I feel in my body. I love the things that I can do. I love the ways that I can move. 
Hating how my body looks is a very old feeling. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t hate it. If not right there on the surface, then buried very deep down. 
I come from a family of women who hated their bodies. Women who fought their bodies. They fought food. Fought size and shape. Fought dresses and pants. Fought age and time.
I think most women are taught to hate their bodies. Even women who naturally (or with a lot of effort) are successful in meeting societal criteria for feminine beauty, they have to worry about keeping it.
I have managed to gently and lovingly transform my body from painful and unhealthy to vibrant and well. And still, I have this deep-down disappointment in a vessel that has been ridiculously adaptable, capable, and generous with me, even after years of abuse and neglect. Over something as natural as belly rolls when I am sitting down.
I don’t want to hate my belly rolls. I don’t want to feel like I need surgery to “fix” myself. Mostly because I’m cheap and I can think of a million things I would rather spend my money on. But also because there is no guarantee that something like that would even help. You would think that losing well over 100 lbs would stop me hating my body. But it didn’t. Why would cutting it up and sucking it out do any more. 
My problem is inside me. My problem is not belly rolls. It’s not size or shape. My problem is the world told me I was only as worthy as my outer beauty, beauty as the world defined it, and I believed that. And internalized it. And said it over and over until it was indistinguishable from what I thought. 
I want to think other things. I want to know that my body is exactly right exactly as it is. I want to take care of it. Not so it can become beautiful, but because it already is. I want to honor it because it deserves to be honored. I want to reward my body for what it is, not punish it for what it is not.
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Keep your friends close and make your enemies friends

I was talking to a friend the other day about making friends with certain difficult or frustrating aspects of ourselves. I feel like making friends is not what we are taught. We are taught to eradicate and transform. We are taught that we should change the way we are. It is all about principle and not about practical. All about what we should be, instead of what we are.

Throughout my life, I have had to make friends with many aspects of myself. Especially aspects that made other people uncomfortable. For one example, I am very sensitive. When I was a kid, it didn’t take much to hurt me and make me cry. People in my life wanted me to stop being so sensitive. 
First of all, how do you expect a child (or a grown up, for that matter) to *stop* their feelings? Especially without any instruction for how to cope. They just wanted me to stop crying. 
Of course, there are lots of ways to stop feelings, to shut off one’s emotions, but none of them occur to me as particularly helpful, or healthy. And even if we sensitive souls could, for whose benefit would that be? It was certainly not to my benefit. It was generally to the benefit of people who enjoyed being mean or “funny” at other people’s expense. 
Look, I do understand why people who loved me wanted that for me. The world can be a cruel place. They wanted me to be happy. They did not want me to be hurt so often and so easily. But it didn’t work. It just made me feel like I was the one with the problem.
I am very comfortable with my sensitivity now. Because once I made friends with it, I could manage it. I could figure out my coping strategies. 
I don’t know if I *could* have made friends with that part of myself while I was still eating compulsively, but I certainly never did. Eating was how I tried to manage unmanageable feelings. Eating didn’t help me get through them. In fact, it was the opposite. Eating let me ignore them. But they were still there. And in ignoring them, I made them seem so concrete and indisputable. 
Once my eating was under control though, I was able to feel those unmanageable feelings, and deal with them. I was able to recognize what feelings were signals that I was unhappy with a situation or relationship, and that I wanted to change something about my life. And I was able to recognize that not every feeling was a signpost to some great truth. Sometimes I was just uncomfortable, and I could feel uncomfortable and just sit in it. 
But I could not eradicate my sensitivity. Just like I cannot eradicate my addiction to sugar and simple carbohydrates. Obviously, that is another aspect of my life that I had to make friends with. I am a sugar addict, and there is no going back. There is no cake in moderation for me. There is no “just one bite.” But in making friends with that aspect of myself, I have learned to make and eat food that is delicious, and satisfying, both physically and emotionally. I have learned how to use my love of eating as a blessing. I eat 3 times a day with so much enjoyment, sometimes other people get jealous. And that’s me eating protein, fruits and vegetables.
My sensitivity is a blessing. For all of the pain and discomfort it gives me, it gives me more joy, happiness, contentment, peace, and awe. It is the source of my favorite aspects of my life. And for so many years, people wanted to squash it out of me. I am glad they didn’t get to.

Yucky feelings and all

I have a love/hate relationship with feelings. I live for feelings. I spend all of the free time I can listening to books and reading comics and watching soap-opera-y TV shows. I am in all of those things for the feelings. If they make me so uncomfortable that I have to pause and calm down, I love that! If they make me cry, even better! (Sometimes my poor husband comes home and I am huddled under a blanket with tear streaks on my face and I have to explain that I was just reading a comic, and everything is fine…)

But when it comes to my own feelings, well, let’s just say I am not nearly as comfortable with those. Having my own feelings makes me panic. Even after 13 years of feeling my feelings, my first reaction is to freak out and shut down.

This week, I had a problem come up with my food. Part of what I do is tell someone who does what I do what I am going to eat the next day. It’s essentially making a promise. I consider it sacred. And I found out this week that I had to find someone else to make that promise to. And that was terrifying.

I understand that to you, it may not make sense why this was so scary. But it was. You will just have to trust me on that. And my first thought was to panic.

But of the many things I have learned in keeping my food under control, one important step is to take care of the most pressing problem. And another is to stop, calm down, and think over my options for the long-term problems. And to definitely not make any rash decisions.

So I called someone and made my promise for the next day. And then I went to bed and I dealt with the problem of finding a new promise-taker in the morning. By morning, the problem was not nearly so scary.

Panic and paralysis were the standard of my life before I got my eating under control. I would panic, and then I would shut down, and then I would eat myself into not caring about my problem. Which never took care of the problem causing the uncomfortable feelings, just the uncomfortable feelings themselves.

The other part of getting my feelings back is that I didn’t just get the yucky ones back. I got the panic and the hurt and the terror, sure. But I also got the joy and the love and the swooning, and the pride.

I don’t have to like my feelings. But I am now able to honor them. And that means I can be effective in my life. And that ability to live life as it is makes me like myself and love my life. Yucky feelings and all.

Clunky and graceless is OK for now

This week I celebrated my 13th anniversary of keeping boundaries around my eating. One thing I was taught early on was to set boundaries with people. Even if they were “clunky.” Even if they were graceless. Even if I sounded like a jerk. Even if I *was* a jerk.

It has occurred to me in the past few months that I avoid difficult conversations. In some ways, this came as a surprise to me. I like to think of myself as a model of self-expression. And I thought I had already overcome this. Which I had. But I should not be surprised. My experience is that we all have our lessons. And we have to learn those lessons over and over, deeper and deeper.

Once I realized this, I knew that I wanted to do something about it. And I have. A little snappy. And a little pushy. But moving ahead.

Right now, I don’t know what to do about it in terms of concrete actions. There are ways to make commitments to things like this, but they are not as obvious to me as food boundaries or water drinking promises. Those are no brainers. 4 oz of meat, weighed on a scale. Three 20 oz bottles of water a day from my reusable water bottle. That’s easy. Or at least, easy to wrap my mind around. But having uncomfortable conversations occurs to me as less clear-cut.

Still, I will work at it. I want it. I want to say the things I need to say so that I don’t feel resentful, or self-pitying, or stifled. I don’t want to be “nice.” I want to be kind. I don’t want to be “likable.” I want to be authentic. I don’t want to be “good.” I want to be powerful.

When I don’t muddle my thinking with food and sugar and carbs and things that make me fuzzy, I can feel my uncomfortable feelings, and consider what I want to do about them. I am in no hurry. I can be happy for now with the baby steps I have begun to take, even if they are clunky and graceless. I can think about it a little bit longer. I am in no rush. I have all the time in the world to grow. And there will always be more growing to do.

The ability to be uncomfortable long enough to make a change.

I am having some problems at work. Personality problems. And they difficult to navigate. It takes a lot of restraint on my part. 

The other day the personality I have the most trouble with made trouble between me and another worker. Thankfully, I calmed down (way way down) before I talked to this other worker. And because I went in calm, and did not act out like the crazed person I felt like, all turned out just fine. It turned out to be a miscommunication. It was presented to me differently by that first personality.
That first personality likes to create panic. I don’t have time for panic. I don’t have room to be guided by my feelings. (Not my intuition, from which I do have room for guidance. Feelings. Yucky, human, unpredictable, physical reactions to situations.)
Feelings are useful, certainly. They let us know when we are on the right track. They also let us know when we need change.
I masked my feelings with food for the first 28 years of my life. It was easy to live in the discomfort of something being wrong when I never had to experience the discomfort.
When I first got control of my eating, I was so bad at living with discomfort that I would rush headlong into “fixing” my problems so I could get past the uncomfortable part. I didn’t have much grace, but I did start to get myself some boundaries. Not just around my food, but around all aspects of my life. And while I had a lot of apologies and amends to make for my rashness, I was actually getting things done for myself and making changes in my life.
But now, I try to be softer on myself. I have frustrations, and things make me angry, but I can take my time to consider how I am going to deal with them. Not everything has to be now. Because I can be uncomfortable. (That’s a blessing!)
If you don’t know, I am blunt. I don’t like to talk around things. I don’t like to give wishy-washy answers to things for the sake of politeness. I think direct honesty is infinitely more polite. And I don’t think “no” is rude or wrong. I think it’s quality information. I like quality information. It saves me time and trouble.
For example, if I go to a restaurant and ask if the asparagus can be made without the parmesan cheese, and my server tells me “Probably not,” they have not helped me. They have not done me any favors. They have now forced me to ask more questions about the asparagus. And they have not been any more polite than if they had said, “No. it’s already pre prepped with the cheese.” At least then, I could move on.
But being blunt at work is harder. It’s harder to set boundaries with people who, technically, could get you fired, even if they can’t fire you themselves. It’s also harder to be straightforward with people who are passive-aggressive. They have already set up the context for a given communication, and trying to navigate that with both honesty and grace is not simple.
There are two major life lessons that I got from getting my eating under control that apply to this work conflict. The first is “When you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.” I get to take my time and trust that the right answer will come along at the right time. I don’t need to leap into action. I need to be committed to change, and keep my eyes and ears open for the best time to take the right action.
The second is that we do the best we can and let the chips fall where they may. I can certainly allow myself to bullied and cowed on a regular basis in order to avoid having a difficult conversation with someone higher up in the company than myself. I can let that difficult personality get me riled up and panic-stricken. And I can be constantly worried about the quality of my work, because that personality is looking to find fault (or maybe just looking to push someone around). But I am bad at that. And that is not the best I can do. The best I can do is set boundaries around how I will be treated.
I know that I am good at my job. Really really good at it. I know that I am friendly, efficient, organized, consistent, and that I have a great work ethic. I do not have any qualms about whether or not I am doing a good enough job. But that has nothing to do with office politics. And if I am going to be reprimanded for not accepting unacceptable treatment, then this is certainly not the job for me.
But the truth is, I don’t think this personality would ever really try to get me fired. I think they like the threat, and the power of the threat. I think everyone knows that I do quality work.
I forget that as an addict, I am not the only one who is sick. I forget that other people are sick and cruel and behave badly all the time and they’re not necessarily addicts. Or they are and it’s not obvious to me.
I will not make any rash decisions around this. But I will also not be treated poorly. I owe that to myself. Because I don’t have cake to numb the pain of abuse. And I do have the ability to be uncomfortable long enough to take a stand and make a change.

A Sasquatch hat and a dream

Yesterday, I tried to knit a hat for myself without a pattern. And I failed. Not entirely. I mean, I ended up with a hat. It’s even a really cute hat. But it is waaaaay too big for me. It may be way too big for most people, (and Sasquatches.) But, that can be fixed. OK, *this* hat can’t be fixed. It’s just a cute, ginormous hat. But next time I can make adjustments and correct my mistake. (I will only cast on about 2/3 of the stitches.) And I did figure out how to shape the top of the hat evenly, and it looks exactly like I wanted it to. That was something I had been worried about. 

It may seem silly, but I worried a lot about making this hat in the days before I attempted it. Why worry? I don’t know. There was nothing at stake. Worrying is just in my nature.
I completed my first knitting project, a simple baby blanket, right about 3 years ago.  And then immediately jumped into making a baby sweater with a free on line tutorial, which was an excellent lesson and made me realize that I was both good at, and thoroughly enjoyed knitting. And while I do love knitting from patterns, I want to be able to make the kinds of things I want. I have a particular style and one thing I really want to do is design clothes for myself.
That will take a few things on my part. 1) To continue to knit from patterns and learn from from them. To see what kind of stitch patterns make which shapes. 2) To continue to stretch myself by learning new, more difficult techniques. And 3) to attempt (and at least sometimes fail) to design my own patterns.
In other words, I am playing a long game here. I will not be a great pattern designer over night. I will not be making up complicated cable knit sweater patterns any time soon. I have to steadily practice, learn, and attempt.
When I was eating compulsively, I had no patience. I could not handle any kind of difficulty. I could only attempt things I was fairly certain I would succeed at. And I could not improve. Because improvement takes work. It takes the willingness to fail. It takes frustration and perseverance.
But once I felt the frustration, I almost always quit. Because feeling discomfort of any kind was too much for me. If I had a difficult feeling, especially a feeling of inadequacy, I ate it. I shoved it down with cake.
In getting my eating under control, I had to learn to sit in discomfort. I had to let it be there, and let there be nothing to do about it.  I had to accept life the way it was, and myself the way I was.
But on the other side of acceptance was that I could try again. And not just that I could, but that I wanted to. When there is no sugar to numb those feelings, the best way to quell feelings of failure is to give it another go. I understood for the first time that my life wasn’t set in stone. I wasn’t “just that way” about anything. In fact, if I wasn’t “just that way” about food and being fat, which I had truly believed for the first 28 years of my life, then I knew I must be able to do other things. Maybe even anything.
And I learned that I liked trying better than not trying. I learned that I liked the feeling of success after failure so much more than being “a natural.” I liked learning more than knowing.
So I have a ridiculously huge hat, with perfect decreases in the crown. And I also have everything I need to try again: the yarn and the needles, and the desire to get better and do more.

Tight food, loose life

St Francis of Assisi said “Wear the world like a loose garment.” 12 step folks use this phrase a lot. 

I like to think of it like I keep my food tight, so my life can be loose.
I am in New York City for the weekend, at a kind of convention for people with boundaries around their food. But I lived in NYC for almost 15 years, so I have all sorts of friends here. And last night I went to hang out with some old friends after the convention. Friends from before I had my food under control. I meant to leave at 10 (already way past my normal bed time) and I didn’t leave until after midnight. I was having too much fun catching up with people I only see once a year or so, and whom I haven’t seen in two years this time. So today I will be late to the 2nd day of the convention. But that’s OK. My life is loose. And my relationships are a priority. I get to choose that.
I will have a blog posted. I will have my food together. I will get to the convention when I get there, with myself taken care of. And I will have gotten that extra time with people I love.
When I was in the food, I was bad at priorities. I wasn’t self-aware enough to know what I wanted, what made sense for *me,* what I should do to bring me the most happiness, love, and joy. I did things because I thought I *should* do them. Or because I had it in my head that I was going to do one thing, and I couldn’t wrap my head around doing something else. Now I feel and know and am aware of the things that I want to do very quickly. I know that laughing with loved ones until past midnight was worth it. I know that being late to this convention is OK. I know that even if it weren’t, I would be able to make the choices that mean the most to me, not anyone else.
Having the food down means there is no buffer between me and life. That’s the good news and the bad news. It means I feel all of the feelings, good and bad. And it means I get to go with the flow. Joyous and disappointing alike. If my friends had told me I had to go at 8:30, I would have been able to go along with that as well.
So as it is, I am running late to get to the convention. But I will be happy to be there, not pressured, or resentful, or annoyed. I will have taken care of myself to the best of my ability. And not feeling pressured or forced leaves so much room for me to move around in my life.

My just desserts (spoiler alert: it’s not desserts anymore)

I consider myself to be lucky. I am very happy with the way I look. I don’t love the creases between my eyebrows, or my knock knees, or how big my belly is, but I also don’t hate them. And I feel like that is pretty good for a modern, Western woman, especially one who used to be morbidly obese. I think I am naturally beautiful.

And I think a lot of that peace and confidence in my physical self comes from taking care of myself.

There was this thing I learned years ago. When we wrong someone, we have to justify it to ourselves, or we have to own up and make amends. So if we are not willing to make amends, we have to make the person we harmed appear wrong to us in some way. For example, if I were a jerk to my husband and yelled at him about something, probably trivial, (not that I would ever do something so imperfect!) I would either have to make it right with him, or I would have to really dig my heels in about what a jerk he is. (My husband is most definitely not a jerk.) This is easy enough to see in a relationship like a marriage. (Well…Easy-ish to see. It’s not always easy for me to admit I have done something wrong.)

But what I learned since I got my eating under control is that it works the same in my relationship with myself. Only not so straightforwardly.

When I was eating compulsively, especially because I just couldn’t stop, I was forced to reinforce all of the negative talk about myself in my own head. I was fat, I was ugly, I was worthless. Because if I were beautiful and strong and capable, I would have to admit that I was abusing my body. I would have to admit that I was harming myself. And I would have to make amends to myself. And for most of my life, I wasn’t going to be able to do that. I really could not stop eating. I had no idea how.

When I was harming myself, I had to choose that I “deserved” to be harmed. My “just desserts” were literal desserts full of sugar and flour, that were making me fat, and crazy and miserable. I hated my body, because I fed it junk and poison, processed sugar and carbohydrates that got me high and made me lethargic. I abused it, which only made me hate it more, and made it justifiable to feed it more poison.

Now that I take care of my body, I love it. I love it even though it is not tiny and svelte and “flawless.” I love it with all of its rolls and sags. I love its 41-year-old’s share of wrinkles and moles. It never had to fit into society’s definition of perfect for me to love it. Really, I only needed to start treating it like it was lovable.

And when I started to love it and treat it as beautiful, the world around me started to agree. I don’t wear makeup. I don’t dye my grey hair. I don’t wear shape wear, and I rarely wear heels. But, for the most part, people like me. People are attracted to me. And I think it’s because I love me enough to treat me, my whole body, the way I deserve to be treated. With love and respect.

And the Kate award for Kate awesomeness goes to…Kate (Who could have seen that coming?)

When I gave up sugar, I figured I would end up with an average, boring, mediocre life. And that did not thrill me, but I had become so unhappy in that previous year with eating and body image disorders that I was willing to go to any lengths.

I had always despised the thought of my own mediocrity. Perhaps it was being a child who grew up in the 80s. Sesame Street told us we were all special. Perhaps it was that I had a huge personality and love of the attention of strangers. People expected me to be a performer. And that made me expect to be a star. Or perhaps it was that I was born with a lot of a particular kind of talent, the kind of keen intelligence that made understanding the world around me easy as a kid. People called me precocious. I expected that I would be able to win for my whole life as easily as I had early on.

This was not the case for several reasons. Obviously, my pool got smarter. It turns out, they put smart kids with other smart kids. Also, I was pretty fragile emotionally. I did not take failure well. And I didn’t learn much from it. The lessons I took from failure usually ended up being not to do that thing I was bad at anymore. And, probably most importantly, early in life I figured out that sugar and carbs would make all of my difficult feelings go away.

This life that I have now would almost certainly make child and teen Kate cringe. It would occur to her as pathetic and pointless. It would occur to her as mediocrity incarnate.

But I look at this life as particularly extraordinary. And I think it’s specialness, and the fact that I think so, is all about having my eating under control.

Being the person I am now means I judge my success in terms of my integrity, my growth, and my contentment, not accolades or prizes from outside. This lack of outside approval is exactly what mediocrity looked like to my young self. How would I know I was awesome unless someone else told me. Unless everyone told me. Unless *important* people told me.

I am not diminishing the power of “important” prizes. But not everyone is going to win a Pulitzer. And I don’t have to base my pride in my life on whether or not I do. (I am not even writing right now. But even if I were.)

When I got my eating under control, it finally clicked for me that wanting an outcome had nothing practical to do with getting it. By putting boundaries around food, I learned about taking action. I learned about practice. As crazy as it seems to me now, I somehow had it in my head that wanting to lose weight was enough. But it’s not that crazy when you consider that sugar gets me high like a drug. The thing that was making me fat was also muddling my thinking. It was a win-win for sugar and a lose-lose for me.

Sometimes people in the self-help world talk about visualization. I used to think this meant something like visualizing myself winning the Pulitzer. And while science says that there is a case for that kind of visualization being effective, what is more effective is visualizing oneself *doing the work.* Because if you picture yourself doing the work, you are more likely to actually do the work.

Through having my eating under control and thereby getting a body I could love and be comfortable in, I came to understand about the practicality of achieving something. I got this body by entirely changing the way I eat. I did something about my body. I didn’t just “want” it to be different, I did the work.

Between my meals, I do the next right thing in my life, whatever that is for my next goal. When I wasn’t working full time, it was writing. Now that I am working, it can be dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s on a particular work task, making sure I am doing my job to the best of my ability. Or in my free time it can be ripping out a section of knitting because I realized I did something wrong and I want to get it right. Or it can be drinking my water quota or going on my jog.

I practice the things I want for myself and the things I want to get better at. And in understanding practice, I have come to recognize that one doesn’t win a Pulitzer Prize by aiming to win one. One writes the book or the music. One does the thing. And maybe it strikes a chord with one’s fellow humans. Or maybe it doesn’t.

The idea that something I do won’t wow the world no longer feels mediocre to me. The idea that I do *anything,* especially with any semblance of integrity and consistency, whatever that may be, feels like I have become a powerhouse in the world. I feel like a shining example of accomplishment. And I haven’t won an award of any kind since high school.

I used to think that everyone understood life but me. I used to think that knowing with certainty what to do next was obvious to everyone else. I felt incapable compared to all of the confident, well-adjusted beings all around me. But I realized that most people are flying just as blind as I always was. They are just better at hiding it.

And I realized that wanting to be liked by others more than honoring oneself is about as average and mediocre as it gets. And here I am trying to impress the hell out of myself. That sounds pretty extraordinary to me, if I do say so myself.

Even if I don’t use my whole ass

Welcome to this week’s blog post. It’s goin to be half-assed because I forgot about it until my alarm went off just now asking if I wrote one this week.

Yikes!!!!!

I have this alarm for exactly this reason. Because sometimes I forget that I have to write a blog every week. And I have a commitment to post. Even when I don’t know what to say. Even when I “don’t have time.”

Not having time is usually the reason I forget. I have a lot going on. And sometimes I need more rest time. I need more down time. I need a break and a breather. This week is one of those weeks.

But that doesn’t mean I skip it. It may, however, mean I half-ass it. I am allowed to do the bare minimum. What I am not allowed to do is make up excuses for when it’s OK to break a commitment.

I have genuinely forgotten once or twice. And I don’t have to wear a hair shirt or give myself 50 lashes. But I have to make amends to myself. I have to write as soon as I realize. I can’t let it be “no big deal.” The big deal is that I make promises to myself and I have to keep them. If I don’t, I don’t like myself, I don’t trust myself, and I don’t feel good.

A family member on Facebook wrote the other day that he gets down on himself when he has “a shit workout.” I don’t worry about how my workout went. I worry about whether or not it got done. Everything else is gravy. (Metaphorically speaking. I don’t eat flour or cornstarch.) I find a lot of relief in putting the emphasis on the doing, the practice, over the results.

But I will say this. Even in putting practice over results, I get results. Because if one does something long enough and with consistency, one will get results, even if that is nor the goal. Even if occasionally one doesn’t use one’s whole ass.

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