onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “food boundaries”

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.
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Pop quiz! How committed are you?

There is a saying I heard many years ago. Do not pray for patience. Whatever you pray for, God will test you. 

It is my experience that God, or Life, or whatever you want to call it, will always test a commitment, and give you a chance to turn back. Those of you who have been with me from the beginning may remember that the week I quit smoking I acquired a stalker. (Are you *really* committed to quitting smoking, Kate? Even in this stressful situation?) Well, I was really committed, but seriously!?!?!
I once heard a man say that the hardest time to keep his eating boundaries was when his mother died. Because it was exactly the kind of situation where nobody would blame him. You ate cake? Well, your mother just died. Who could blame you?
Last week I wrote that I only jogged 4 days instead of 5 after I slipped on the ice. And I said that I was worried that it meant that I wasn’t committed. And I declared to you that I was, and I *am* committed. So life decided to make me prove it.
I have lived in my apartment complex for about 10 months and I have been working out at 5:30am for about 9 of those months. And on Monday, there was a woman in the gym using the treadmill. Well, not just the treadmill. She was using all of the machines, and weights, like some kind of circuit. (Don’t ask me. I just jog.) But I asked and she let me have the treadmill. But then on Tuesday, there was someone else with her and it seemed like I wasn’t going to get to jog that morning, so I came back after work. (I *hate* working out after work. I am already exhausted. That jog was brutal.)
The next day I got there 20 minutes earlier, and again, she was already there. But again, she let me have the treadmill. 
I spent a lot of time being worried about my workout. All week, I stressed about it. I came up with alternate plans like going to a regular gym where I still keep a membership, in case of emergency. But I didn’t have to. I saw this lady every morning, and I still managed to get my workout done. 
My commitment to keeping boundaries around my eating has truly taught me about commitment. It has given me reference points for how to problem solve when life doesn’t go according to plan. And it has allowed me to prioritize my long game. 
I didn’t have a long game when I was eating compulsively. I lived for the comfort of the moment. If I had kept on that path, I would doubtlessly be well over 300 lbs right now. I would not be jogging. I would be in great physical discomfort much of the time, and I would numb the physical and emotional pain of that with more sugar and only exacerbate the problem. I am sure I would not be married, because I would hate myself so much that I would shut everyone out. And I would not love my life, even if there was much to love, because I would not have the confidence or pride that I have gained through my accomplishments. And I am not taking about losing weight, though I don’t diminish that as an accomplishment. I mean all of the promises I have kept to myself, all of the skills I have acquired through patience and practice and work, and all of the risks I have taken to stretch and grow out of old ideas and an old life. 
I don’t want to go back to my old habits and choices and ways. I didn’t like myself or that life. But it’s not comfortable to have to come up with an alternate plan to get my workout done. Especially when my workout is work. 
There is a famous writer’s quote, attributed to many authors, but I am going with Dorthy Parker. *I hate writing, but love having written.* I feel this way about many things in my life. Writing, certainly. But exercise is also high on that list. Anything that is work, but yields a high reward. Meal prep is right up there too. (Eating, however, is not on that list. Even without sugar and simple carbohydrates, I love eating. And having eaten. And looking forward to eating.)
But in some ways, I am glad to have had this test. It lets me prove, not just to Life, but to myself, that I honor my priorities and my promises. And let’s me know I can be trusted. Which in turn lets me know that I can strive for more. (Baby steps, mind you. But baby steps are still moving in the right direction.)

When too much comfort is uncomfortable

On Monday, I fell on a patch of ice on my way to the gym in my apartment complex, and landed right on my tailbone. Gosh golly gee did that hurt! It knocked the wind out of me. I cried. 

I didn’t go on my jog that day. And I was feeling bad about it. Because I felt like I should “power through” and “suck it up.” Thank goodness I didn’t listen to *that voice* in my head. But I jogged Tuesday through Friday, and opted not to jog on Saturday to “catch up.” In other words, I didn’t jog my 5 times last week. And I have had mixed feelings about it. 
The truth is, it is a really good thing I did not workout on Monday after that fall. I most certainly would have hurt myself even worse. And I am glad I went the other 4 days, because getting back to working out after a week without it would have been grueling. But on Saturday, by butt and back still hurt. And I made an executive decision that I was going to let it rest. And that decision, about not jogging my 5th day, is the one rattling around in my head a bit. 
I essentially have 2 modes: 100% or totally ineffectual. Or at least I feel like it most of the time. And I can have a hard time discerning what is good enough if I’m not in 100% mode. Part of my workout routine is that I do it 5 days a week unless I am injured or would injure myself. And this example seems like a grey area for me. Would I have hurt myself by jogging Saturday? Maybe not. Probably not. At least not on Saturday itself. But I felt like exercising every day was making it take a lot longer to get back to normal. With just that one day off, my backside already feels better, and my muscles aren’t so sore anymore. 
I can be really mean to myself. Which is not very helpful. And it doesn’t work. If I tell myself that I’m lazy, which is a thing I tell myself a lot, unfortunately, I don’t feel motivated. I just ask “what’s the point?” And I don’t want to jog, or go do any of the things that make my life work. I just want to sit around and do the things that make me comfortable. 
But of course, the things that make me comfortable only make me comfortable because I have already done the things that make my life work: the food prep, and the 8 hours of sleep, and the water, and the exercise, and the keeping up with my emails and calls, and getting my work done in a timely and efficient manner. I have lived the life where I only do comfortable things, and it is a surprisingly uncomfortable existence.
The other thing is that I am afraid of the insidious nature of giving up my promises. I don’t want to let in bullshit excuses for why I can’t exercise. If I let a little bullshit go, I can let more of it go. And I don’t want to find myself quitting my run because I “don’t have time,” or because other things are “more important.” I make time for my priorities. And this is incredibly important. Self-care is the most important thing I can do. It makes me the best wife and worker and friend I can be.
But not running after such a trauma was the wisest decision. And taking an extra day when my butt and back muscles were still sore 5 days later was not a cop out. I don’t run because I have something to prove. I run because I love my body, and I want to take care of it. I want to jog for the rest of my life. And I won’t be able to do that if I hurt myself in the name of “fitness.” 

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.

I am a precious thing

One of the most important lessons I have been learning over the past 13 years is to stop worrying about my weight.

I used to think I had a weight problem. What I had was an eating problem. It resulted in me being fat. In living in a body I didn’t like or love. It resulted in a physical vessel that was hard to live in. A body that I was embarrassed of. But also a body I was shamed for. A body that was considered ugly and unworthy by society.

And I had it particularly rough, because I was particularly fat. But I can see now that over the years, none of us, especially women, get out unscathed. If we’re fat, we should be thin. If we’re thin, we should be thinner.

I want to stop that kind of thinking in my life. I still don’t want to be fat, but I want to stop thinking of my worth as tied to the size of my body. I want to stop thinking of my beauty as tied to how big my belly is, both compared to other women, and compared to other times in my life. I want to stop thinking about “losing 5-10 lbs.” I kind of have. But I want to more.

Here is what I can tell you. I have peace in my body when I treat it with care, no matter its size and shape. I don’t have to be my thinnest to enjoy my body. But I do have to keep my food boundaries, and my exercise and water drinking commitments. I have to floss. I have to sleep 8 hours a night. I have had to *show* my body love before I can love it.

Action is an important part of loving my body. As soon as I do something good for myself, I like myself that much more. I did not have to lose all of my weight to get comfortable in my body. First I just had to put boundaries around my eating. The longer I kept my boundaries, the more confidence I had. And it grows. The better I treat myself, the more self-care I take on, the more comfortable I am in my own skin, the more I love my body. The more I love my body, the more I want to honor it with self-care.

I guess what I am saying is that I am not always comfortable with how I think others see my physical beauty, and sometimes I want to look the way society says beautiful women look. And *that* is what I want to stop. I want to decide my own beauty. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I want to judge what I see in the mirror as true beauty. And I think I can, as long as I treat myself as a precious thing.

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.

A holiday post. (In other words, it’s very short.)

Oh, good Lord! It’s the Sunday before Christmas and I have to write a blog! 

Needless to say, this is going to be as short and sweet as can be.
I am going out to lunch with family today. And that meant calling the restaurant and when I made my reservation, letting them know that I have special food needs. It meant making sure I have a food scale to bring with me and extra batteries for that scale. And boy am I glad I checked ahead of time, because the scale I was going to bring is dead, and I thought I had extra batteries for it, and I don’t!!! Thankfully, I have a backup scale and extra batteries for that one. Plus a little one I always carry in my purse. Just in case.
I will also bring backup food for myself, just in case I’m short when my order comes. I care a lot about just-in-cases. It’s how I keep my boundaries, and have managed to do it no matter what for over a dozen years. (Coming up fast on 13!!! What!?!?!)
Ok, that’s it for me. I’ve still got too much holiday stuff to do. So Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Wishing you peace!

This is me not holding my breath

When it comes to keeping my food boundaries, I am willing to go to any lengths. God, that is such a pain in the ass! 

I’m not willing to give it up, or say “not today” for even one day, or even one meal, but good lord, it can be exhausting. And it can be inconvenient.
I heard someone say the other day that before she put boundaries around her eating, she was waiting to not *want* to eat anymore. I feel like that is the myth perpetuated by society. That if you are good enough, or spiritual enough, or “conscious” enough, you won’t “want” to eat. It’s why things like “mindful eating” are talked about so often in regards to obesity.
I have nothing against mindfulness. But it’s not practical for any addict, and truthfully, for most people when it comes to food. We, as a society, put too much emphasis on what we want. The idea of “listening to my body” is hilarious to me. My body wants pizza and cake and coffee day and night and to skip my morning jog basically every morning, and never drink a sip of water. Or at least, that is what my brain tells my body I want. In a modern culture with devices we hold in our hands, while we watch devices that mount on our walls, or put devices in our ears so we can hear our very own soundtrack while we go through life in our temperature controlled pods, it may be asking a lot to expect our bodies to *feel* what what we should be doing and eating and drinking to take the best care of ourselves. I feel like in order to really be attuned to one’s body, one has to be used to squashing desire, in a way most modern people would call deprivation.
Just look at the way people deal with those who choose not to indulge. Seriously, go to a holiday party and don’t eat the sweets. Say “no thank you,” to the host’s “famous” cookies. People will act like you have given up all of your worldly possessions in favor of one robe and one bowl.
I don’t want to imply that I don’t like my modern conveniences. I love them! I listen to books and check social media, and am even writing this blog right now on my handy-dandy iPhone. I read comics and shop and look up knitting patterns on an iPad. I have an internet TV, along with myriad streaming services. I am not saying these things are bad. I love them! But so much comfort makes it harder, not easier, to wake up in the morning, drink a bottle of water, and jog two miles before I go to work. It makes it harder, not easier, to meal prep on Sunday and weigh my food portions out for the week so I can grab them and go in the morning before work.
I have boundaries because I want results. And I gave up on needing to get those results by becoming “spiritually fit” enough to want them naturally. I never “don’t want to eat.” And I don’t feel like being fat and miserable until that becomes true. I never want to get out there and run. But I do it anyway, because I love what it gives me, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And I think it’s unfair to tell people that they will ever “want” to do the things that make them healthy. I’m sure there are a few people on the planet for whom that is true. And I would bet they are all fitness bloggers making their money by making the rest of us feel like jerks, or meditating monks in the mountains praying for for us, because gosh do we need it!
Maybe someday I will not need boundaries and commitments to force me to do the things that give me a life I love. But I’m going to prep my meals and fill my water bottle, and wash my workout clothes in the mean time. And I’m not going to hold my breath.

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.

That ship has sailed

I know that I am a real, and serious sugar addict because there are fresh foods that I cannot eat normally. When I was trying to manage my eating in my 20s, I would binge eat sweet potatoes and bananas. I thought that since they were fresh foods, they wouldn’t make me fat. I might eat 5 whole sweet potatoes, one after another. Same with bananas. (Spoiler alert: binge eating sweet potatoes and bananas will totally make you fat.) I have a friend who is also a sugar addict with boundaries. There was an article a few years ago where some nutritionist said that people go crazy over high fructose corn syrup in a way they’d never do with an ear of corn. To which my friend said, “She’s never seen me eat corn.”
One thing I believe about addiction, a thing that I have experienced, is that once you are an addict, you can’t go back. Perhaps if I had never become an addict, I would be able to eat sweet potatoes with impunity, but that ship has sailed.
I read something 5 years ago that really stuck with me. Genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.
I believe that I was born with a genetic predisposition toward sensitivity to sugars, grains and starches. As a kid growing up in a home with overweight people, I was overweight. If I had grown up in a home with people who still had the sensitivity to sugar, but managed their weight with anorexia and bulimia, I might have started that early. As it is, I had to move to New York City to become a bulimic. Different environment, different trigger.
Maybe, if my sugar addiction had never been activated, I would be able to eat sugary fresh foods and not have to eat 6 of them at a time. Who knows? But now I’m an addict and there is no turning back.
I think that is part of the the thing that non-addicts don’t get. After 12 years and 11 months of strict boundaries and no sugar, haven’t I proven myself back to normal? Haven’t I proven that I can eat a sweet potato?
But now, a sweet potato gives me the same high as chocolate cake. It lights up the same reward centers in my brain. And my reward centers are broken. That is essentially what addiction is. And I have it.
I have no complaints. I love my food. I eat it without guilt. I love my body. I nourish and exercise it, and it thanks me by being healthy and pain-free. (Relatively. I was once 300 lbs and I am currently 41 years old, so *relatively* pain-free.) All of this is worth not eating certain foods. Even if they are nutritious. Even if they are whole. Even if it seems like I should be able to handle them. I cannot.

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