onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “food boundaries”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If I were good at it, I wouldn’t need boundaries in the first place.

The other day I was standing next to my husband when he looked at me and said, “skinny.” It was not a judgment (good or bad) so much as a mildly interesting observation.

Before we go on, I want to say that this was particularly unusual. I was not in any way offended or upset, but my husband does not generally talk about my weight at all unless I ask him directly, and that is, I believe, as it should be. As long as my eating disorders are under control, there is nothing helpful about another person monitoring the size of my ass. It is absolutely nobody’s business but my own. And I have spent a lot of time and effort keeping my eating and body image disorders at bay, so the people I seek that kind of input from are people who, like me, have a history of compulsive eating and food addiction and who, also like me, keep boundaries around their eating.

So my husband said I looked skinny, but I have not been feeling skinny at all. In fact I have been feeling a little fat. And sometimes, very fat. I am not saying that I have been tormented by my weight. But if you asked me if I were on the higher end of my weight or the lower, I would guess higher.

But when I look at the evidence, he’s right. I may actually be the smallest that he has ever seen me. The size of the pants I wear and how they fit me indicates that I am relatively small for me.

Even at my thinnest, in fact, even when I have been underweight, I have never really been what Western Culture would call “skinny.” Even when my collarbones look like they might cut you if you get too close to me, I still have wide hips and round thighs and big calves. My thighs always rub together, no matter what my weight is. (Thank God I was a grownup with my eating disorders under control before the Internet became a place where having a thigh gap and the pictures to prove it was a thing.) You can call it curvy, or zaftig, or say I’m an endomorph, but I have never been the kind of skinny that graces runways. (I use the term “graces” loosely.)

It took a long time and hard look at reality to come to this understanding about my body, and to love it exactly as it is. As a culture, we particularly celebrate one kind of feminine beauty: that of the ectomorph. We honor the women who naturally don’t carry a lot of fat on their bodies. Perhaps you have seen the Zara ad that says “Love your curves,” and noticed that the two women in the photo did not have any to speak of. Were they beautiful? Absolutely. Are they real women (albeit young women) with real bodies? Hell yes they are! (Though I am not actually sure how real those two models happen to be. I tried to find if the image was Photoshopped, and could not find anything about it.) I am not shaming the models in the ad. Skinny women are real women, just like muscular, and chubby, and overweight, and zaftig women are real too. This is not about what each of us happens to be born. It is about what each of us are told we “should be,” without anyone ever telling us that there are things we “can’t be.” I cannot walk from Kentucky to Hawaii. It is not possible. And I cannot be “supermodel skinny.” I was not made that way.

But nobody told me that. Ever, really. I had to figure it out for myself, by having sane and functional eating practices, and doing all of the healthy things I could do, like drinking water and getting enough sleep and exercise, and then taking a serious look at the reality of my body.

The beauty, fashion, fitness, and diet industries didn’t want me to know that I don’t have it in me to be that skinny. Because if I knew, they couldn’t get me to buy their latest cream, shake, workout app subscription, prepared food service, or whatever it is they happen to be selling at the moment with the promise that if I am “good enough,” work hard enough, pay enough money, I will end up with the body of my favorite underwear model. (No. I don’t have a favorite underwear model.)

I don’t believe in vilifying skinny women. But I don’t believe they are the only incarnations of beauty in the world, as I have been told for as long as I have been alive. When my husband looked at me and said, “skinny,” he did not do so in triumph because he finally found me attractive. For him, my beauty is not about my weight. In fact, I wish I had as much love for my body at any size as he does. It was merely an observation on his part. And it served as a reminder to me that even after all of the work, and all of the commitment, and all of the times I kept my food boundaries, even though it was hard or inconvenient, my head is pretty messed up when it comes to the way I think about and view my body. And that what I see in the mirror, or think I look like, is not necessarily reality.

Even now that I have taken inventory and checked myself against the specific frame of reference of my clothes and how they fit, I still don’t feel very thin. Knowing that I am, perhaps, the thinnest I have been in 4 years doesn’t make me “feel” any thinner. It doesn’t make me “know” that I am relatively small.

The last thing I want to say about this is that even though my body image disorders are irrational, and knowing that doesn’t change the way I think and feel, knowing does help me take healthy actions. And it is in our actions that we impact ourselves, our world, and the people around us. I don’t have to feel “skinny enough” to keep my commitments to eat enough nutritious food and exercise moderately, rather than starve myself and exercise to exhaustion and injury. I don’t have to listen to my fears and my “feelings.” I just have to keep my boundaries. After all, that is literally what they are there for. If I already always made healthy decisions, boundaries would be redundant.

Dear Pork Products, I love you but I need some space.

My husband sometimes teases me because when he is not around for dinner, I eat “like a four-year-old.” His words, not mine, though I totally agree. Obviously everything is within my food boundaries, but my food boundaries have a lot of room. I don’t have to eat a particularly healthy diet to be within my boundaries. So while I might eat, say, filet minion and sautéed broccoli when I am making dinner for the two of us, I eat homemade sugar-free frozen yogurt, and pork rinds when I am on my own. He calls it “chips and ice cream.” And over the past week my husband had to go out of town unexpectedly, and I spent more evenings alone than I usually do.

And I found that while I was loving my dinners when I was eating them, I was feeling kind of off, maybe even yucky, about them later. Not that I was physically ill. I wasn’t. I was feeling guilty, and I was worrying about my weight.

I believe that I have a physical allergy to sugars, grains, and starches. I believe that when I put those substances in my body, I set up a craving for more that not everyone experiences. That is what makes me an addict. But I believe that there are other aspects to being an addict that stem from, but are not, this physical allergy. And of course, after 28 years of putting those substances in my body, I acquired a handful of those other addiction-based consequences. Some are behavioral, like lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating, blaming, and feeling entitled. And some of them are psychological, as in obsessive thinking about food or my weight, or my body-dysmorphia.

I have been able to keep an eye on, deal with, and transform the behavioral consequences by having kept my strict eating boundaries over the years. But the psychological ones live on in me in varying states of dormancy. I don’t think I will ever entirely rid myself of them.

Honestly, I don’t think an extra day or two of “chips and ice cream” had any real or noticeable affect on my body. After all, my boundaries are not just about food choices, but are also about when, and how much I eat. I have strict portion control, whether it’s my “legal junk food” or a pork chop and roasted cauliflower. Even though I might occasionally indulge in higher calorie options, I don’t binge. Ever.

But it still messed with my mind. And that is important to note, because part of having my eating under control is having the ability to see clearly the things that are making me unhappy or worried, and to do something about them. My point is that I may be “allowed” to eat “chips and ice cream” every day, but that comes with consequences that I am not a fan of.

This has happened to me many times in the past 11 years. I stopped eating sugar-free, calorie-free condiments. I stopped baking with soy flour or TVP as my base. I cut down on, and eventually gave up, soy nut butter. Even in the past six months, I started substituting an egg for 2 ounces of fatty meats like sausage, because it didn’t feel good that I was eating so much. I didn’t quit eating sausage, just like I am not entirely giving up pork rinds. I just cut back because it was making me sick in the head. I was thinking about my weight all the time.

I’ll be blunt. I haven’t noticed much of a change in my body in the months since I cut back on sausage. But it’s not about my body. It’s about how I feel about my body. And I feel better about my body when I don’t eat as much of certain foods.

Is it purely psychological? Maybe. But I have found that there are psychological things that are worth working through and getting over, and there are psychological things that are better to simply accept and adapt to. And frankly, limiting the amount of sausage or pork rinds I eat just makes more sense. I want to save the real spiritual work for my relationships with myself and others, not my relationship with pork products.

P.S. I still love you pork products.

My cache flow problem (or I’m not really a hoarder. Mostly)

I have a tendency to keep a lot of food in my home. Way more than I need. Not in a wasteful way. In fact, I have such strict portion control that I throw away very little food. I basically know how much fresh produce, dairy, and meat I will eat, and I buy an appropriate amount. (Okay, maybe a little more if it’s cheap and can be frozen.) I don’t make a lot of impulse buys at the grocery store. If I do, it’s probably for my husband. And it’s usually chocolate peanut butter cups, so I know they will get eaten.

It makes me feel safe to have an excess of the non-perishable staples I eat. The few times I was under some sort of severe weather watch, and people were rushing out to stock up on basics, I was already stocked. But I especially tend to overbuy when I am feeling emotionally vulnerable, when I am scared, or when my life is chaotic and unpredictable.

Let’s just say that in the past 3 months or so, I have acquired a lot of food. But now, I have to get ready to leave this apartment and it is time to use up that overabundance of food. And it makes me a little uncomfortable.

Part of the reason I think I hoard food (sort of hoard…it’s not spilling out of my cabinets or anything) is that it makes me feel like even if everything goes wrong, I can keep my food boundaries. And that is the most important thing in my life.

At 30, I ended up homeless for a few months. I slept on people’s couches and used their kitchens, and just sort of dealt with being homeless. It was a weird thing to ask people to help me, and also make a point that if they were willing to do it, they could not touch my food. The “good girl” inside me thought this was ridiculous. In my head I could hear my grandmother (the less nice one) telling me that beggars couldn’t be choosers. And there I was literally begging. I could hear her asking me who I thought I was. Telling me I was awful big for my britches. But repeatedly, I swallowed my pride twice, once to ask for a couch to sleep on, and once to ask that my food be left alone. And people were amazing. They were generous, gracious, supportive and loving. Nobody seemed to think twice about my having caveats.

And one of the most important things about this story is that those food boundaries were exactly what kept me sane in one of the most stressful times of my life. I was worried all the time about my future, and how I would make enough money and find a new home. So the one thing that made me calm, the thing that was predictable and unchanging, was my food boundaries. It was something I didn’t have to make decisions about. It was an area of my life that was not up in the air. It kept me grounded. It was a foundation for my life and a sanctuary from my anxiety. So having more than I need is like tending to that sanctuary.

But there is also reality. Like the reality that I am not going to cart an excess of frozen butter, Italian sausage, and pork tenderloin 1100 miles over three days.

What is important for me to remember is that keeping my boundaries is a choice that I make new every day. It doesn’t matter how much food I have on hand at any given moment. It is a matter of what I am willing to do to keep my boundaries in any and all circumstances. I don’t rely on that excess. I simply enjoy it.

So the next few weeks will be an exercise in moderation and frugality. The goal will be to buy less and use what I have so it doesn’t get wasted. But I will tell you this, I am still going to be traveling with a few cans, bottles, and jars, because even reality has a little wiggle room for a neurotic girl like me.

I’ve got time, because it wasn’t really a New Year’s Resolution anyway

For me, getting my food under control was ultimately about growing up. Before that, I was irresponsible, and food let me be that way. It made me not have to feel the consequences of my actions and inactions. Under the right circumstances, vanity and fear of humiliation can be exceptional motivators. As long as I can really feel them. And as long as I am not overwhelmed with shame.

But for me, another part of growing up is recognizing the complexity of life and the world. Only children, and people who refuse to grow up, have the luxury of living in a simple, black and white world.

I have not figured out the details of my not-really-a-resolution yet. I don’t mind. I’m not ashamed. I can change any time, not just at the beginning of the year. I would rather do it right than do it “on time.” Because I want to be more peaceful, but there are other things I want too, and they make peace more complicated.

I want to be a channel for justice. I want to be a witness to the people who seem to be invisible. I want, in my own, small way to make a difference. And that means that I cannot cut ties from what is going on in the world, and in my country. Especially in my country. I believe in being a citizen of the world, but I also firmly believe that charity begins at home. First with me, and then my husband. Then our families and friends. And out in ripples. Virtual concentric circles.

January 2nd marked 11 years of food boundaries for me. (And 5 years of this blog! Whoa! That kinda took me by surprise!) That means every day without exception. And in so many ways, that one commitment 11 years ago changed the way I see the whole world.

Before I learned to put boundaries around my food, I had no boundaries at all. Not with my food, and not with my relationships. I would use and manipulate people, and I would let myself be used and manipulated. It wasn’t conscious. I just didn’t have a frame of reference for how to say no. I didn’t like or respect myself, and I was so preoccupied with trying to control every outcome that how I was affecting people in my life was not even on my radar.

At 28 years old, putting boundaries around my food was just about my food. No sugar or carbs, 3 meals a day, with strict portion control. But that quickly meant that I had to put boundaries around my time. I had to wake up at a certain time to eat breakfast before I left for work. I had to take a break to eat lunch. No, I couldn’t grab a slice to eat while I walked. I had to eat dinner, so I could meet you for coffee, but I had to leave by 8. Even if you needed me. Even if it was important. Dinner was more important. So I ended up having to put boundaries around close relationships. And eventually I had to put boundaries around all relationships, right down to the teller at the bank and the Starbucks barista. (The truth is that on a daily basis, putting boundaries around momentary relationships with strangers like that doesn’t look that different than before, though I would probably say that I am much nicer and feel less entitled, while at the same time being much more likely to ask for exactly what I want. With a smile.) What started as a simple (okay, not so simple) act of taking care of what I was eating, radiated out from me, into all of my interactions in the world.

The truth is, if I want peace alone, I can put myself in a news and politics blackout. I already have a cutoff. I will not watch physical violence. Sometimes, when my husband is watching a video I find disturbing, I leave the room, or ask him to. I do not watch videos of people being killed, tortured, or maimed.

But there is a lot of violence in politics right now. And just because it is not blunt objects, or bullets and blood, I have let my guard down. And it is painful for me. I am sensitive to violence. But I am ultimately in favor of being sensitive to it, because the alternative seems to be desensitization.

There is the complexity. How do I protect myself, while still being available? How do I do with my heart what I do with my food? How do I make sure I am true to myself and who I want to be in the world, without creating a toxic environment in my own head?

I know that I need to up my meditation. Once a day is not enough. But what do I do to limit my intake of those things that fill me with rage? The violence, the hatred, the lies, the corruption, the pettiness, and sometimes just the sheer stupidity?

It’s not like the food. With the food, I can stop seeing it. I can put myself in a blackout, because food that is not mine does not affect me; it’s none of my business. But politics does affect me, and is my business.

To not be political is its own kind of politics, and I cannot, in good conscience be a member of that “party.” It’s not that I don’t know where I stand. It’s that I need to figure out how to stand here with peace and love in my heart.

So for now, I will up my meditation. And while I am meditating, I will ask for the answer to this dilemma. And that answer will come in its own time. But I’m in no hurry. Because it wasn’t really a New Year’s Resolution anyway.

 

(Ba ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba ba) I wanna be sedated.

I keep boundaries around my eating, but I am not on a diet. And sometimes, I eat for comfort, but always within those boundaries.

I ate heavy on Wednesday. Lots of high-fat, high-calorie foods. Since then, I have reined it in. Because having boundaries around one’s food doesn’t necessarily mean being thin. I could be fat and still be eating within my food boundaries. I make different choices because I don’t want to be fat. I don’t like it. I have my priorities.

The big difference between me now, and me when I was active in my sugar/food addiction was that back then, even if I wanted to rein it in, I couldn’t. I was a slave.

Look, I don’t “like” to eat lighter (i.e. less fat on my vegetables, less fatty meat, smaller fruit portions, fewer high calorie foods in general.) Ever. I want to eat all big and juicy, fatty, greasy, ooey gooey all the time. I want to roll away from the table because I’m too stuffed to walk properly. Much like the late, great Joey Ramone, (Ba ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba ba) I wanna be sedated.

But, of course, I don’t want what comes with that. I don’t want the extra weight. I don’t want the lethargy. I don’t want the obsession with food, even foods that are “by the rules.”

Food got me through difficult times when I didn’t have tools. But it’s important to note that I still gave up sugar and put boundaries around my eating before I had life-coping tools. Because I was never going to learn to cope without food until I gave up food. I was never going to figure out what my options were while sugar was still an option. Because as long as my substance was a possibility, I was always going to choose it. So I made a commitment. And something happens to you when you make a commitment. It looks and feels a little like magic, but I’ve come to realize that it’s pretty standard. I closed the door on numbing out with sugar. I chose that I was going to maintain my food boundaries no matter what happened in my life. Yes, I still use food as a comfort sometimes. But I do so with integrity. More than just eating within my boundaries, I bear in mind what I want for myself, and my body, and make food choices that coincide with those desires.

Since I stopped eating sugar, food no longer runs my life. I have the clarity and wherewithal to take a step back and look at the long-term consequences of what I eat. I don’t have to make decisions based on temporary discomfort. I have tools to deal with unhappiness and upset that are not edible. I get anxious, nervous, upset, unhappy ALL THE TIME. Food, even within my boundaries, had to stop being my go-to answer. I was forced to come up with some alternatives.

But what happened was that for a while there in the beginning, I was bad at life. I didn’t have sugar, and I didn’t have tools. But the commitment I made was clear. The sugar was not coming back. And it turned out that the old saying was right: necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention. I invented new ways of dealing with my problems. And I did it pretty damn quick. I found coping strategies. I got honest. I got grateful. I got responsible. I stopped blaming circumstances and started making choices and taking actions. Sometimes I effed up. Sometimes I effed up royally. But I learned. And I grew. And I got better at life. Hell, I got good at life.

When I was eating compulsively, and lying about food, I was always going to come clean about my transgressions after I got myself back under control. You know, (or maybe you don’t) I was going to admit that I ate a chocolate cake once I went a week without eating chocolate cake. I was going to admit that I gained 10 pounds cheating on my diet once I got back on that diet and lost the 10 pounds. I was going to be honest once I took care of the consequences.

Spoiler Alert! It doesn’t work that way. Instead of getting my shit together so I could come clean, I needed to come clean so I could get my shit together. I have never ever once gotten my integrity back before I got honest. And let me tell you, I sure did try a whole bunch of times, over and over, for most of my life.

So I let myself take comfort in comfort food. And that was nice. I am not ashamed. I love food. I will never be neutral about it. But food is not my coping mechanism. I have actual life skills for that now.

Crazy for sugar

When I was growing up and I was active in my food/sugar addiction, everything was about food. Now that the sugar is down and I keep strict boundaries around my eating, everything is about feelings. In retrospect, it was always about feelings, but the food masked that.The craziest I have ever felt in my life, the sickest around food I have ever been, was when I was 27-28 years old. I was in a socially acceptable body, maybe even thinner than I am now. (I am a healthy weight now, but I am not skinny.) But my feelings were out of control, my eating was out of control, and the things I was doing to keep the weight off were absolutely out of control. I was constantly tormented. 
Around this time of year is when I have the most memories, or more like flashbacks, to that time, now 11-12 years ago. At that time, I was essentially starving myself. But I wasn’t losing weight. And then, my period stopped. 

I had the whole thing twisted around. I wanted my body to work like normal while I did abnormal things to it. I didn’t want to fix my eating because I couldn’t imagine a fix for it. The idea of giving up sugar never ever crossed my mind. That would have been crazy to me. It was what I lived for. It was my joy. So I wanted to eat what I wanted to eat, not have it affect my weight, and have my body be healthy. And I was getting none of those things. I was eating mediocre “diet” substitutes (lower calorie, but still full of sugar) for the things I really wanted, I was exercising to the point of hurting my body, my period had stopped, and I was still in a body that I hated.

I went to the doctor, and she asked me about what I was eating, and I lied through my teeth, and she put me on birth control. Basically, we were going to force my hormones to start working again. But what happened was I started to have these emotional outbursts that I could not stop, even though there was a little, rational voice in my head telling me that I was acting crazy. It would say things like “Don’t yell at this cab driver, it’s not his fault.” “Don’t throw a fit in the grocery store. They are just out of something, it happens.” I could see very clearly that I was being crazy, but I could not stop being crazy. This was, without a doubt, the worst time of my life. I could not imagine a way out. I truly feared that I would end up institutionalized.

The way out would turn out to be giving up sugar. Exactly the thing I was trying to keep by doing all of these crazy things. The starving, and the exercise bulimia, and the regular old stick-a-toothbrush-down-your-throat bulimia, and birth control pills that made me scream and cry like a mad woman.

The other day, I had a rough day emotionally. I was filled with a lot of anger. I was frustrated, and riled up. I did a lot of praying, and a lot of calming exercises, and a little talking to sane people, and even a little crying to get it out. But I didn’t eat over it. And the next day I was all better. 

Those feelings could have been anything. They could have been hormones, or SAD, or just a bad mood. But they did not get fed sugar, or mean-spirited acting out, or emotional outbursts, and they passed.

That is the gift of having my eating under control. My feelings are in their proper place. I get to look at them sincerely, and see if there are things in my life that I want to examine and change. But they don’t get a say in what I do, what I eat, if I keep my commitments, or if I behave kindly. They get to read the map, but they don’t get to steer the vehicle. 

Living in fog (and I don’t mean San Francisco)

I am coming to the end of a big knitting project, my first adult sweater. I have made baby sweaters before using the same techniques, but a baby sweater doesn’t take that long. An adult sweater is a task that requires time. Weeks or possibly months.

Now that the end of this one is in sight, I have decided on my next project, and it is also an adult sweater. But this one is an ambitious undertaking. It uses techniques I’m less familiar with, and is constructed differently than any of the other sweaters I have made. But most significantly, it has a complicated cable pattern that is shown in a chart. And on certain rows, you have to read the chart both backwards and opposite (knit stitches are purl stitches, and purls are knits.) I wanted to make sure that I could actually make the sweater before I bought a bunch of fancy yarn, so I took yarn I had laying around and worked the cable pattern. And while it is hard, and gave me a few hand cramps, I can absolutely do it, and do it well.

But while I was doing it, I realized that I wouldn’t have been able to if I were still eating sugar. I would not have been able to wrap my mind around it. I wouldn’t have been clear headed enough to make sense of it. Or if I could have made sense of it, the food would have made me indifferent enough to fail to take the time or spend the energy. Why bother knitting when I could just eat? Besides you can’t knit and eat at the same time.

I am really smart. And it’s a good thing. Because as a sugar addict, I was never firing on all cylinders. I got by in life by being so smart that I didn’t have to be all there. 

I stopped eating sugar on January 2, 2006. But it wasn’t until June of 2007 that My head cleared. It took a year and a half for me to come out of the fog. A fog that I had been living in since I was a child. It was such a constant presence in my life from such a young age that I didn’t even know it was there until it was gone.

I used to think that everybody else got an easier life than I did. Now, of course, that is certainly not true. (That’s just the whiny addict talking.) But I had no idea how much harder I was making it on myself by essentially being drunk on sugar all the time. I never realized how I was limiting myself, or just how muddy and muddled my thinking was. 

I know that this new project is not going to be easy. I am a great knitter, but I am stretching myself here. I am sure I will come up against things that I don’t understand, or things that are harder to do than I expect. I can anticipate that at some point, I will get confused. I am positive I will get frustrated. But I will not be incapable. I will not be incapacitated. I may be taking on a demanding task, but I will be my super smart self on top of my game. And I will enjoy every moment. Okay, maybe not the hand cramps.

Even Eskimos eat dessert

Yesterday, my husband decided at the last minute to go to home for a celebration that we were originally not going to attend. It was 8 in the morning and he asked how long it would take for me to get ready if I wanted to make the almost 6 hour drive. I didn’t have any meals prepared, and I was not interested in spending the next 2 hours cooking and packing, to spend 6 hours in the car, just to go home for a day and turn right back around. So he went and I stayed at our apartment. Yes, I miss him when he’s gone. Yes, even for just a day. This is just one example of how my eating boundaries can be inconvenient.

Earlier in the week, we were talking about how hard it must be on a relationship to have someone put boundaries around their food in the middle. He said he wondered how many marriages had ended because of it. He said that for him, he knew what he was getting into from the start. I had boundaries around my eating for seven years when we started dating. But even knowing that ahead of time, it is still inconvenient for him that I am sober from sugar. It is inconvenient for me to put boundaries around my food every day without exception, and I’m the one whose life is getting saved. We don’t eat out a lot, because it can be difficult for me to get what I need. We can never just order a pizza, or drive through a fast food joint. He can, but we can’t. (By the way though, I cannot imagine that being affected by my food boundaries is more inconvenient than being married to an active addict…just sayin’.)

And then he said something that I think is really important. He said that he (as I know, because I do all the grocery shopping) has a cabinet full of bread, snack cakes, starchy sides, sugar cereal and candy that I never touch, but what happens when people are already married, and one of them suddenly gives up sugar and can’t have it in the house anymore?

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it talks about avoiding alcohol as a means of staying sober. “[Some people say]…we must not have it in our homes; we must shun friends who drink…we mustn’t think or be reminded about alcohol at all.”

But the Big Book’s reply to this is that it can’t work that way. “[The addict’s] only chance for sobriety would be some place like the Greenland Ice Cap, and even there an Eskimo might turn up with a bottle of scotch and ruin every­ thing!” 

The truth about sugar, like alcohol, is that it is everywhere. I was never going to outrun it. I was never going to escape it. So I had to change my mind about it. That started with my thoughts and my words. I stopped talking about “loving” sugar. I stopped thinking about eating it. If I do think about eating it, I stop having that thought. I remember that it is poison to me. 

I don’t romanticize drinking bleach. I don’t think about how nice it would be to slit my own throat. So I also don’t think about how great it would be to harm myself with sugar now, because eating sugar would always be self-harm.

Yes, in the beginning, it is easier to keep oneself away from tempting situations. While one is still detoxing, it is a great idea to keep sugar out of your home. It is probably not the best idea to walk into a bakery in the beginning. But ultimately, one has to muster some immunity, because there is nowhere to hide. Grocery stores, coffee shops, movie theaters all have sugar foods. Even just walking down the street in some places we are bombarded with smells. Where could we go? Even Eskimos eat dessert.

So my husband gets a cabinet of sugar and carbohydrates. He gets a freezer of ice cream and pizza rolls. I pack his lunch every morning with pizza, doughnuts and Mountain Dew. It’s not mine. And the way I eat may be inconvenient, but it’s the way I eat, not the way he eats. I don’t have to be afraid of sugar. It turns out it is not going to jump into my mouth.

This post does not contain attachment. Post anyway?

I was taking to a friend the other day about compromise. She was confused about why someone was acting a certain way when a compromise would be easy. I told her that this person most likely didn’t want to compromise. My friend asked, “then what do they want?” It was funny to me because the answer was obvious to me, but because of the nature of my loving and generous friend, she could not imagine it. She could not fathom that people want what they want. They want to win. They want complete and total victory.It’s perhaps obvious to me because I lived like that for so long, wanting what I wanted, feeling defeated or put upon if I had to let go of my (often grand and exorbitant) expectations. Feeling cheated and wronged by anyone who got even a fraction of what they wanted at the expense of the total of what I wanted.

Addiction makes most of us self-centered in the most unhealthy ways. We believe we should have all the good, and yet we expect everyone else to deal with the bad. We decide that we deserve our good fortune, but in the face of bad fortune, or even just the consequences of our bad decisions, we condemn life as completely unfair, and others as wicked, cruel, and out to get us.

This ultimately comes down to our attachment. Attachment to the way we want things to be. Attachment to our expectations.

In recovery, I had to learn non-attachment. Non-attachment is a spiritual idea that I have known about for some time, but was unable to practice until I got my eating under control. When I was younger and searching for a spiritual practice to make me feel whole, I read a slew of self-help, spiritual, and religious books. Zen Buddhism books talk a lot about non-attachment. But I was never able to fully grasp it until I put boundaries around my eating. I am sure that had something to do with the fact that addiction is attachment. It is attachment to one’s substance, the belief that you simply cannot live without it.

In recovery, I had to learn that I could only control my own thoughts, words, and actions. Of course this started with the food. I was no longer going to eat cake. Ever. And I was going to have to come to terms with the fact that other people were. And that I could not be resentful of that, or I would be in danger of ending up back in food hell. Even if They weighed 300 pounds and were diabetic. Even if I thought they were sugar addicts like me. I made a choice for myself and the only person I could expect to live the way I wanted to live was me. And soon, it became clear that this needed to be true in all areas of my life.

I do not get a say in what others think, say, or do, and (here’s the kicker) that is exactly as it should be. It was confronting to realize that I was not the center of all of my dealings in the world. It was painful to accept that I, not only would not, but should not always get everything I desired. But there is also something very freeing about recognizing someone’s autonomy as sacred, rather than inconvenient. 

I do not claim to be a guru. But I am good at non-attachment. Not because I think it is holy, but ultimately because it is convenient. I live a happier life knowing that other people’s choices and behaviors have nothing to do with me. Of course I still want things. And yes, there are things that are important to me that I do not get. But that’s life. And that’s another thing I have found since I put boundaries around my eating. When I don’t fight against other people’s choices, trying to force the outcome I think I want, in the long run, life always gives me better than I thought I wanted in the first place.

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