onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “food addiction”

Sometimes, just sometimes, food is not the point.

Today is going to be quick because I was already supposed to be in Oklahoma yesterday, but we didn’t leave. Because we don’t really want to leave our beautiful house! So I am eating breakfast and prepping for a 10 hour drive. All of my food for the day (and tomorrow just in case) is cooked and in Tupperware. And I am enjoying one last meal (for now) at my dining room table that I love so much.

Friday night we had people over. Friends who are family and family who are friends. It was a great night with lots of laughs. And I didn’t eat what everyone else did. 
My husband and our friends’ son made everyone food I can’t eat. The main dish had rice in it. And then they made potatoes on the side. So I ate one of my “junk food” dinners. Mostly Pork rinds dipped in salsa, and sausage. Nobody cared. When you’ve been doing something for over a decade, the people who have known you for a while run out of questions.
My husband was happy to make something he thought would be delicious for our guests. And at this point, the eating part of being with people is not important to me. 
If I want to really savor my eating experience, which I do sometimes, I want to eat alone. But on Friday, I wanted to laugh with our friends. To hear their stories and tell my own. I still love to eat, but the eating is not the joy of get-togethers for me anymore. It’s the relationships that I can be in and available for, because my eating is under control. 

Letting go of foods, and stuff, and FOMO

One of the most important gifts I got when I got my eating under control was the gift of letting go. 

As a sugar and carbohydrate addict, getting my food taken care of meant I had to let go of my “favorite” foods. No more cake or candy bars. No more french fries or pizza or cereal. The vast majority of what I ate had been highly processed carbs and sugar. And I made the decision to let it all go. 
Well, we just had our home in the suburbs renovated, and everything that had been in the house ended up in the garage. And yesterday, my husband and I started to go through it. And my friends, I have the freedom to throw most of it away. And for that I am grateful. 
I am not a person who lets go naturally. It does not come easily to me, literally or figuratively. In fact, sometimes I will be walking around in the world doing things one handed, because it does not occur to me to put the things in my hand down. It could be my wallet, or an empty mug, or just something I picked up and haven’t thought yet to put down. So sometimes I see something, let’s say a sweater that I haven’t worn in 5 years, and think that maybe I will need to wear it some time. That I better not get rid of it yet. That it might come in handy some day. (Spoiler alert! It is never going to come in handy.)
I am obviously not the only one. Marie Kondo created a multimillion dollar business for herself because we are a society that desires material comforts, and hates to part with what we have. 
The kids today *shakes walking stick* call it FOMO, fear of missing out. I was a slave to food, afraid there would never be enough. That I would never get my share. (Oh, I got my share. And a good portion more than my share.) That I would never feel safe and comforted again. So I ate the cake, all the cake.  And while that made me comfortable and numb, it did not make me happy. 
So if I can let go of my addictive foods, the foods that quelled my overwhelming feelings, and felt like my friends and companions during my difficult times, I can let go of a sweater (or 15) that I don’t even like well enough to wear. 
And it feels good. It feels almost as good not to be tied to *things*, as it does not to be tied to food, or chasing that sugar high. Almost.

Why do they put sugar in meat?!?!?: A sausage story

I am going to keep this kind of short again this week, because my husband and I have more shopping to do for our gorgeous home and we also need to stuff some Italian sausage before we leave. 

Because guess what? The one sausage I used to be able to get here in the Chicago suburbs that didn’t have sugar in it, started adding sugar to its sausage since the last time I was here. (This is why I still read labels, you guys.)
But I will tell you that our homemade Italian sausage, like my homemade vanilla, is so much better than anything packaged I have ever gotten anywhere else. Also, by making our own, we can adjust the seasoning so it is as close to real Chicago Italian sausage as we can make it. (Though my husband is a little bummed because we just got a new meat grinder for this house and we used the smallest grinder setting and it seems to have crushed all of the fennel seeds.)
That is one thing I want to note about my sugar-free lifestyle. It takes work. (My husband does 80% of the sausage work. I feel like I need to say that. The vanilla is all me, though.) But ultimately, what I am getting in the end is better than what I can get packaged and processed. Not only do I know what isn’t in my food, like sugar, or starch, or flour, but I know exactly what *is* in my food. 
Fresh food tastes better, makes me feel better, and keeps me in a body I like and love no matter my size. Giving up sugar is not easy in the beginning because it is everywhere. (Even in Italian sausage, which seems so ridiculous to me.) But once the commitment really set in for me, it got really easy. I know my priorities. Number one is to keep within my boundaries. But number two is to eat really delicious foods that don’t make me feel deprived. 
I love food. I will always love to eat. And now I do it guilt free. 
Having a husband who will cut up 6 pounds of pork shoulder and season it for you so that you only really have to help with the casings (P.U. Do those things stink!) and the actual stuffing is just an added bonus. Though I highly recommend you get one of those kinds of husbands if you can manage it!

Not everyone is going to like your orange bathroom

Right now in NYC is a convention for people who do what I do with food. Last weekend was the premier of a documentary I am very proud to have been featured in. It’s called Follow Me, and you can find information about it at www.followmefilm.ca . 

But I am not in NYC now, like I usually am when the convention comes around. And I did not make it to Toronto to see the film. Because the major renovation of my house in the Chicago suburbs is completed and I am currently in it, sitting on the floor eating my delicious breakfast before my husband and I go out and buy furniture. 

There are two things I really want to note about this renovation experience, as it relates to how I have changed since my eating is under control. 

The first is that I am happy. I love my new old house. It is exactly what I wanted. I love everything I picked. And I couldn’t be happier with the level of quality and professionalism we received from our contractor.  

And the thing about that is that when I was eating compulsively, I was never satisfied with what anyone else had to offer me. I was constantly looking for flaws and the most minor problems could send me into a tailspin. 

But right now, even the flaws I find I can take in stride. Obviously, I will bring things up with the contractor when we do a walk-through, but there is nothing about it that has me unhappy. And if some of the things I have found can’t be changed, I would still love it exactly as it is. I love it that much!  And, as my husband points out, it is a 70 year-old house, and now it looks modern and beautiful, but it’s still old. 

And the other thing is that nobody likes the bathroom we chose. The walls are burnt orange, the shower is black subway tile with white grout, and the fixtures are chrome. And they all tell us either how much they dislike it, or that we could change the color easily enough. As if we were unhappy with the color. But you guys, I love it! I really cannot get enough of it. I sometimes just walk in there to look at it. 

And that is another gift I got from having my eating under control is that I do not care if anyone else likes what I like. And I do not feel the need to question my decisions because someone else feels differently. When I was eating compulsively, if someone didn’t like something I liked, I started to feel bad about my choices and question what I did wrong. Now I can love things because I love them. Not to impress anyone else. Or because I think it will be popular. 

So if you visit my new, spectacular, gorgeous home, you are welcome to use my orange bathroom. But if you really don’t like it that much, feel free to hold it until you get home.

There’s a reason it’s not called “everybody else time.”

It’s Sunday, so of course I have all of my Sunday stuff to do, including cooking my meals for the week. 

But I also have a bunch of stuff that needs to get done early tomorrow for my job, and the people who are supposed to get me what I need to do that job, have not come through. And I have been having to spend a lot of time calming my mind to deal with this. Because I get stressed out by these kinds of things. And it is the kind of stress that I used to eat over when I was eating compulsively. It is the kind of thing I would freak out about, and then eat sugar over until I became inert. And then nothing would get get done. Not even the stuff that could have gotten done. Not even the stuff that really was my responsibility. And I would be looking for people to blame. And I would be making up lies to tell about who and why.

The bottom line is that this really isn’t my fault. And whatever happens will be fine, because I will do my best, and I have a great bunch of people I work with who will help me in any way they can. 
Because my eating is under control, and my life is in order, and my integrity is intact, with my food and with my life, I can see clearly what is mine and what is not mine. I can see what I must do, what I can do, and what I should do. And I can see who I can ask for help, and together we can take care of what needs to be done. 
But this craziness is not mine. And I also need to be clear with the people responsible, that they have dropped the ball. And that I will not be spending my time personally picking it up.
Another thing that I learned from getting my eating under control is how *not* to be a “good girl.” I am not interested in being liked for the ways that I can put other people above my own self-care and self-interest. I don’t want to jump through hoops to take care of something that is someone else’s responsibility, at the expense of my own time, health, and happiness. I refuse to take responsibility for someone else’s failure to do what is required of them. And I refuse to “keep quiet” about it. I am not interested in being obliging. I have a job that I do for the pay that I receive. I do not work out of the kindness of my heart. I do love my job. But not as much as, say, reading and yarn craft and spending time with my husband. 
When I was eating compulsively, I made a lot of drama, while at the same time I shamed myself and apologized for things that had nothing to do with me. It was a weird, backwards way of dealing with the world. Now I can see clearly what is mine: my fault, my problem, my responsibility. And I am eager to make right what is mine. And I am just as eager to leave alone everybody else’s sh…stuff.
I don’t have much drama in my life now. And a big part of that is giving back the trouble that someone else has tried to put on my shoulders. I want my part to be complete, because it’s mine. But everyone else is going to have to get their own stuff complete without me. I have too much of my own to deal with: my amazing food, my wonderful marriage, my fun hobbies, my riveting books, my invaluable “me” time. Notice I don’t call it my “everybody else” time.

Hooray for bare minimum days (and knowing what my bare minimum is)

I am tired today. And mildly lethargic lately. I am sure it’s a bunch of things, like stress from my job, and the change in the weather. (Though aside from the really wet days, the cold mornings have transformed my jogs into a brisk joy rather than a swampy misery.) 
And a few months ago I started another blog, for designing crocheted dolls based on book characters (willhookforbooks.com) and I am *2 months* behind on my first design. It’s funny how just thinking and planning, trying and failing, stitching and ripping out, are physically exhausting. I mean, I’m sitting the whole time. But I can only do so much, which is really very little, before I need to put my half-designed doll down and just rest. 

So I am grateful for the gift of the “bare minimum” that I got in putting boundaries around my eating.
Since I got my eating under control, and gave up refined sugars and processed carbohydrates, I have more energy, more focused ambition, more time to do what I love instead of eat or think about eating, more confidence in my abilities and more ability to learn. 
But I also know when I’m tired. I know when I need a break. I know when I need to back it up and shut it down. And the other thing I know is what is it that I need to do to keep my self-respect. I know my bare minimum.
I need to eat my 3 portion-controlled meals. I need to call someone who will hold me accountable to make a promise for tomorrow’s 3 meals.  I need to drink my 20 ounces of water. And I need to complete my workout 5 days a week. And really that is it. That is all I *must* do. Everything else is a bonus. 
Obviously I work. And I am good at my job. And I am respected by the people I work with and for. But even if I do a mediocre job on any given day, because I’m tired, or overwhelmed, or stressed out, I am available to better, to be great, the next day.
My bare minimum keeps me proud of myself. It keeps my self-esteem high and my self-judgement honest and minimal. 
Today I am going to do my cooking for the week. And it’s going to suck, because all I want to do is lay around and read. And the truth is, if I didn’t have it in me, I have some full meals in the freezer, and some canned vegetables in the cupboard. And if I were really desperate to rest, I could put off my weekly cooking and leave it for another day. But I am not that desperate today. And the idea of messing with my regular routine sounds much worse than just cooking.
So I am tired. But it’s just for today. Tomorrow will be better. And if it’s not, that will be temporary too. But I will still have the sense of peace that, for myself, only comes with having my eating under control. Everything else can be dealt with when I am feeling energized. And that will happen in its own time. 

The real cost of pork chops

Yesterday my husband made dinner. It was a pork chop recipe. And it was delicious. But after I took a bite he sat up straight and said, “I used a new kind of canned tomatoes and I didn’t check the ingredients!”

So I stopped eating. He fished the can out of the garbage. I read the ingredients. Everything was fine and I got to finish my delicious dinner. But for a moment there, I had a spike of panic.

Look, there is nothing wrong with making a mistake. And if there had been something I don’t eat in the tomatoes, either sugar or starch, I would have made a phone call to tell someone what happened so that I could not have to think about it anymore, and I would have made myself something else for dinner. No big deal. 

But if I didn’t check, and decided to eat it without knowing for certain, I would have stewed on it. For who knows how long. And if I had found out that it had something I don’t eat, and I had eaten it anyway, or even just not talked about the bite I had taken, that would have lived with me too. 

My addiction certainly lives in my body. I have a physical reaction to sugar, grains, and starches. Putting them in my body sets up a cycle of craving. But my addiction lives in my head too. And for as much as I don’t miss sugar and carbohydrates, there is something deep down in me that is always looking for an out. 

My addict is dormant almost all of the time. After all, it has been over 13 years since I gave up sugar and the longer it has been, the less of a hold sugar has on me. But every once in a while, when I am extremely emotional, or worried, or stressed, she comes out. She wants cake. She wants something. She often wants something someone else has. And some high fructose corn syrup in some tomatoes kept secret because “how big of a deal could it be anyway” is an excellent little crack in the door. Big enough for my addict to stick her fingers through and grab hold. Given time and energy, given the proper motivation, she could yank that door right open.

If you think a bite is no big deal, you probably don’t have the same experience that I do of food being your own personal hell. So I will fish a can out of the garbage to read the ingredients. I will throw away a whole meal if it comes to that. I don’t care how much that pork chop cost. It isn’t worth letting my addict in. 

Also, I want to note what a hero my husband is for, not only cooking dinner, but when he realized his mistake, not hiding it from me. He knows what is important to me and he not only knows my rules, but he accepts them without question. That is incredibly important to me, and I am grateful for it. Plus, did I mention that dinner was delicious?

I won’t be haunted by the ghosts of things I left incomplete

I seriously wonder how people function in the world sometimes. There are things that I am excellent at, some of them even crises. I can keep it together and not panic during some particularly difficult times. When things go wrong at work, I can handle it. When my father-in-law got sick, I was able to be calm and be of service. But sometimes, just regular life things can throw me for a real loop. 

This week I had to drive 10 hours to Chicago to go to jury duty. And I was a wreck. On my way there, my “low tire pressure” warning light came on. And I had a bit of a panic. I want to be clear, this has happened before a few years ago. I keep a mini compressor in my car for just this reason. I have done it myself before on one of my many solo long distance drives. But I was afraid to do it this time, and called my husband to basically see if he would give me permission to not do it. Guess what. He did not. He told me I should do it. For my own peace of mind. So I did it. And it was fine. Quick and easy. 
And then I was distraught that I might get picked for a jury, and be away from my husband and my job for over a week. And have to deal with my food in a kitchen that was not mine. And be away from my routine. I mean actually distraught. I cried. I was miserable and my heart was pounding so hard. I did not get picked. Thank heaven. 
And then on the last stretch of my drive back home to my husband, I was debating if I should get gas or just get home and get it in the morning on my way to the grocery store. I was emotionally exhausted and my butt hurt from the 10 hour drive and knew I had enough gas to get home…until I missed my exit. And then I panicked and got scared that I wouldn’t get to a gas station in time. And I called my husband having a panic attack. I am sure being so stressed out for the previous 2 days didn’t help. He calmed me down and stayed on the phone until I was able to get gas. And the truth is, I should have known that I would find a gas station in plenty of time. But I got scared and I just lost it. 
When I was eating compulsively I was regularly paralyzed. I didn’t do things if they were scary or hard. And because of that, a lot of things didn’t get done. And that, the things not being done, made my life extra stressful. If my homework felt overwhelming, so I didn’t do my homework, I then had to deal with the consequences of not having done my homework. That was stressful. But I could get high on sugar and forget, temporarily, that I was unhappy, or stressed, or overwhelmed. 
But now I have to sit with those feelings. I have to feel overwhelmed. I have to freak out. I have to panic. But in feeling my feelings, I always choose to do something about it. The pain of the anticipation of fear is almost always worse than the thing I am worried about. But if you’ll notice, when I got super scared, I called my husband. I have other people I call too. People I know can talk me through. People who will give good advice and be generous with my fear. 
The bottom line is that I am sensitive. My feelings are vast and deep and unwieldy. Even now as a grown woman. My fear is big. My anxiety is big. But I have tools to deal with them. I have a commitment to living. And I can make friends with this aspect of myself.
I do not want to harden my heart. I don’t even know if I could. I do not want to crawl back into a sugar shell to be inert. I want to feel all of the inconvenient feelings and do all the hard things. Not because I like to. I don’t. But because I love the freedom that comes with the doing. Because the only way to leave those difficult things in the past is to go through them. The things that I avoid never really go away. They hang around like ghosts, haunting me. In a lot of ways, what I had been eating for so long was the ghosts of the things I had left incomplete. 
But my eating is under control now. And there is nothing to numb the fear and the anxiety and the worry. And because the hell of active food addiction is worse than the fear of a difficult situation, I will feel the fear, and the panic. I will cry when I must and make a call and ask for help when I can. And I will also know that 3 times a day, I will be able to turn it all off, and eat a delicious meal within my eating boundaries. And that when I deal with my life, all things are temporary. And this, too, shall pass.

Love for myself and my fat sisters

The internet is a fascinating place. And I am in an unusual position. I am a person who grew up fat in the 80s and 90s, when being fat was less common. And I lost my weight just at the rise of smartphones, when the internet, and more specifically, social media, became prevalent. 

In this blog over the years, I have had the opportunity to get over a lot of the feelings I had about being fat. I got to learn to separate my eating disorder from my body. I got to learn to separate how I felt about myself and my body from how I was treated by others. 
But in the 80s and 90s, there was really only how *I* was treated. Fat shaming was just a person to person experience.

On the internet, now, in 2019, we have these self made soap boxes and anyone and everyone gets to spout an opinion about all things. And I get to see a lot of nasty, fatphobic, self-righteous ranting about the wrongness fat people, very specifically fat women. Some of it from men, but so much more of it from women. 

There were, for so long, so many things tied up together in my own brain,  that I now understand shouldn’t have been. Like how I hated being fat, and how others hated me being fat. The first is my business and nobody else’s. The second is none of my business and not my problem. Or how I hated my fat self so much for being disgusting and a failure and I transferred it on to other fat people. As if now that *I* had the solution to my own self-hate problem, those without it were foolish, or lacking, or disgusting. Just like people used to treat me.
It took years for me to untangle these messy feelings. For example, I had to give up any notion that I could convince someone to do what I do with food, or that I knew better. I had to give up any notion that I was helping anyone by forcing my story on them with the expectation that it would save them. I had to give up the idea that fat me and straight-sized me were different people. I had to learn to love and appreciate my young fat self for all of the things being fat taught me and created in me. And I had to forgive the mean girl I was when I first got my eating under control, who fought so long to hate that fat Kate. 
But being in my forties, and very happily married, and so much less self-conscious than the skinny 30-something woman who was getting so much attention, while getting used to fitting into a socially acceptable body for the first time, has given me a new perspective on what it is to be a fat woman. And not being skinny, but still feeling sane, happy, and beautiful, has changed what I want for fat girls and women. 
I do have a dog in this fight. I have a little girl/young woman inside me that could still use some healing. And my guess is she always will. Because she was hurt a lot, by others and by myself. I wish my young, fat self had been available to be liked and loved. But I was not. I wish my young fat self was told she was amazing as often as she was told she was lacking. And I wish that for all of the men who were attracted to me then, some of them would not have acted like it was a shameful thing. But I should take some responsibility for that as well. Because just because I was offered crumbs, doesn’t mean I had to take them. I wish my young, fat self knew her worth. 
It’s a mine field out there for fat women. And there are more and more fat women out there, and they are facing discrimination. As soon as someone tells them they are OK, someone like Bill Maher says, “Fat shaming doesn’t need to end it needs to make a comeback.”
Being shamed is a part of life for fat people. And perhaps the Bill Mahers of the world will never entirely go away. (Though a girl can dream…) But I am not going to be one of the people talking about the shamefulness of being fat. Did I hate being fat? Yes. Do I love keeping boundaries around my eating so that I can maintain a weight I am comfortable in? I do! I absolutely love it. But I am nobody but myself. And I think how much better my life would have been if I had not been ashamed. So I am not interested in shaming, myself or anyone else . I want to be an example of love. Self-love, and love for my fat sisters. 

The meaning of fat

I read something interesting on Twitter this week. It was a fat woman asking for thin women to stop saying they are fat when they have recently stopped their restrictive diets, when they have gained a few pounds, or when they feel ugly. This woman lamented the fact that we don’t use (or really have) different words for these things. 

And this was of particular note for me because I have been 300 lbs, I have been a size 28 (the largest size in the plus size stores at the time) and even after maintaining a weight-loss of over 100 lbs for over 10 years, I still talk about being and feeling fat all the time. Just like this person said, if I gain a few pounds I think of myself as fat. If I eat heavier than usual (let’s say I have pork rinds twice in one day or a few days in a row) I may say I feel fat. I may actually *feel* fat. It doesn’t matter if I know that I am not fat. That word, that concept, is ingrained in me. In many ways it haunts me.

Now some of that is because the experience of growing up fat in the US has shaped me. It has created the basis for how I see myself and how I see my culture and society. The name of this blog is a nod to the idea that “Once a fat girl, always a fat girl.” Having grown up fat is an irrevocable part of me. It cannot be taken away. I cannot unsee the ways that I was treated. I cannot forget that I was judged, and often humiliated, for the size of my body. 

I also cannot forget that as I grew up, I was inundated with images of thin women. And that over the past 35 years, those women became thinner and thinner and those images more and more impossible, and that inundation more and more inescapable. After all, I am writing this from a mini computer connected to the whole world, that fits in my hand and goes everywhere with me. 

But when I think about it, it seems a little obnoxious to me that I want to be able to use the word “fat” as I want just because I was fat in the past. And I know what actually fat Kate would think of me right now complaining about my weight or feeling fat. She would roll her eyes so hard she’d get a glimpse of her own brain. She would cheat, steal and kill for the opportunity to shop in regular stores, fit in a seat, not have strangers make remarks about her weight in public. So it seems a little cruel to her, and to fat people in general, to deny the fact that fat doesn’t mean “not skinny.” And fat doesn’t mean “bigger than before.” 

I don’t have an answer to this right now. I am just thinking about my language and how I want to think about and express my experiences. Because I may not be skinny but I am not fat. And it is worth it to find language that fits my personal situation as well as the situation of others. Society is not getting skinnier, for all of our glorification of it. And language creates our world as well as describing it.

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