onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “food choices”

More fulfilling than weight loss

I have lost weight recently. I don’t weigh myself and I have not for years, but I do, in fact, wear clothes. And it is clear to me that things are significantly looser. Dresses that used to be formfitting now hang on me. And I have not (knowingly) done anything to facilitate that.

I have a theory about why. I have recently started taking an OTC medication for acid reflux. (Remember when I said a few weeks ago that I have been sick for months? Well my mother-in-law, who worked for a GI doctor for over 20 years, told me my persistent wet cough was acid reflux. And I’ll be damned if she wasn’t right!) And this weight loss coincides pretty closely with my starting the medicine. 

But the truth is, I don’t know what affects my weight. And the other truth is, I never have. 

Obviously when I gave up simple sugar and carbohydrates, that had a huge impact on my weight. I ate significantly less because I was not craving my drug foods, and therefore eating much less.  I was also eating much less of processed, high calorie/low nutrient foods. And I was managing my portions by weighing my food. But even since getting my eating under control, my weight has still fluctuated wildly. (Not hundreds of pounds, but as much as 30 or more.) And my eating has not changed that much. And even when I took specific actions and changed my foods, and my quantities of food, I could not get my body to “behave.” Gaining weight eating less, losing weight eating more. I could never get my weight to work like a math equation. I have never been able to predict my weight, or manage it, by food choices. And I have stopped trying. 

I don’t want to care about my weight. I don’t want to even think about my weight. But I live in a world and a society that cares very much about weight. So that is a struggle. And the first 28 years of my life revolved entirely around my weight. My shame over my weight. The humiliation of other people openly judging my weight. Those are hard things to forget. And those are things that shaped the way I thought and felt and interacted during my formative years.

Sometimes it has felt like those formative ways of being are “just the way I am.” Set in stone and unchangeable. But I have noticed that giving up my drug foods and changing my lifestyle has been an opportunity to change thought and behavior patterns that I thought were just “me.” It turns out, I can change me. Way more easily than I can change my weight. And way more fulfilling as well.

Driving my meat car with the low fuel light always on

I was talking to a friend yesterday who forgot to eat for a long time and didn’t understand what was wrong. And it reminded me that there are a lot of us who don’t have bodies that function like other bodies.

My friend was raised with intuitive eating. (Not that it was specifically called that, but she was taught to only ever eat when she was hungry.) And that worked for her sisters and her parents. But my friend was feeling stressed out last week, and she did not feel hungry, so it never occurred to her to eat. So she didn’t. And it made her sick. Obviously.

And it reminded me that some of us don’t have the bodies with properly functioning “indicator lights.” My “hungry light” never goes off. My “full light” never goes on. For my friend, her “hungry light” never goes on. She usually takes her cues to eat from people around her, so when she is not around people, she can forget.

Before I got my eating under control, I thought hunger lived in my stomach. But since I have put boundaries around my eating, I have learned that my feelings live in my stomach. So any feeling used to feel like hunger. Unhappiness occurred as hunger. Anxiety occurred as hunger. Excitement occurred as hunger. And joy, and fear, and worry and dread. 

It turns out that actual hunger doesn’t really *feel* like anything to me. I’m more irritable, and my thinking less cogent. I am more likely to be scattered and not know what to do next. And I might, under extreme circumstances, feel wobbly or lightheaded. But none of those things *feel* the way I always thought hunger felt. They don’t feel like much of anything.

So I am grateful that I found a solution to my eating problem that doesn’t have anything to do with “listening to my body.” And I am grateful to have a point of reference for *not* listening to the feelings I have when it comes to food. 

I am not opposed to intuitive eating. I think that when all of your indicator lights function properly, it’s a smart way to nourish yourself. But here is to all of us driving around in our meat cars with the “low fuel” light always on (or off.) May we all find the best way to keep ourselves on the road.

Listen to your h…ives?

When I eating compulsively I was willfully disconnected from my body. I hated my body. I blamed it for not being good enough. Mostly not pretty enough. But I didn’t really have an alternate way to relate to my body. Everyone made it clear that bodies were made to be beautiful, and that if mine was not, it was worthless.


That is a thing that happens in a fat-phobic society. We learn to internalize hatred for any body that is considered bad, mostly as a defense mechanism. To love your fat body is considered shameful. To be ashamed of your fat body shows that you are properly embarrassed by your shameful body. That you are on the “right side” of what is good and right and honorable.


I have spent the past few years actively shifting my view of fatness. It has nothing to do with my eating. At least, I am working consistently at disentangling my love of my body from its shape and size. I am an addict. I keep my addiction under control through the way I eat. I think of my eating as a way to honor my whole self, emotional, physical and spiritual, not just how pretty I am by societal standards.

So I have reconnected with my body over the years. I have learned to love it for all of the things that it has done for me, all of the ways it serves me. All of the things it wants to teach me. And it has taken a long time to get to understand it as well as I do. And I know that there is much more to learn.

One thing that I have come to understand over the past 15+ years, since I put boundaries around my eating, is that my body shows me how well I’m doing through my skin. I can feel “fine.” I can look on the outside like I am doing “fine.” I can seem to be managing everything just “fine.” But my skin can tell a whole different story. This is coming up this week because I am officially hive-free, for the first time in 4 months, since I started the very stressful job that I left this week.

In late July, I started a new job. And less than a week after I took it over, it got crazy, and I started to break out in hives. They were on my chest, in my armpits, and in my bellybutton. 

And as I changed the job, personally developing and implementing structures and procedures that streamlined the process while still capturing all the necessary information and creating the needed output, some of those hives went away. First my chest cleared up. And then, eventually, after many weeks, my armpits cleared up. But my bellybutton has been hanging on to those hives the whole time.

But I left my job on Monday. And yesterday, for the first time in months, my skin, all of my skin, is clear. There are no more hives anywhere. And it makes me a little weepy to realize how unhappy I was, and how I was holding it together with pure willpower.

I can remember having had stress-related skin conditions as far back as high school, though I didn’t know it at the time.  I could barely walk at graduation because of a terrible outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema on the bottom of my feet, that at the time was misdiagnosed as athletes foot. 

But when I was eating compulsively I thought about my body as little as possible. I just sort of suffered through. And I had lots of practice, since I avoided thinking about my fatness because it hurt my heart to be fat.

I want to acknowledge my body today, for always trying to look out for me, even when I treated it like the enemy. I want to be grateful for everything it has done for me, even when I was actively hating it, and sometimes trying to hurt it, with exercise bulimia, and good ol’ fashioned stick-things-down-my-throat-bulimia, and abusing laxatives, and drinking castor oil, and binging and starving. I want to be grateful that I have learned to listen to it, with love.
I am grateful to be in a place in my life where I can see that those hives were a defense mechanism against me harming myself. That my body was telling me that I was in the wrong place. That there was something wrong. And I am especially glad that instead of blaming my body for the hives, instead of treating them like one more way my body was broken and wrong, I could see them as a loving warning that something was wrong outside of myself, but within my control. And it took me a while, but I managed to listen and do something about it.

My body just is.

Ah…It’s officially holiday season. And it is not my favorite. Not because I crave or miss the foods I don’t eat anymore, but because for just about everyone else in the world, holidays are about food. And also how upset or resigned or worried they are about their holiday weight gain. And also what diet they are trying in the new year. And how unhappy with their bodies they are currently, or are afraid they will be shortly. But it’s the holidays, so…pie anyway apparently.


I don’t care about food anymore. No. That is not true. I don’t care about foods I don’t personally eat anymore. I don’t miss pie, or cake, or seasonal cookies. I don’t miss any of the things I thought I would miss when I first got my eating under control.

I do, however, still care very much about food. Which I guess is probably the single most important thing that I have that keeps my eating under control. I am not on a diet.

Again! I am not on a diet.

I have a physical reaction to sugars, grains and starches that first gets me high, and then leaves me with intense, overwhelming cravings, and finally, makes me hate myself. I am an addict. So I am not on a diet. I *have* a diet that does not include drug foods.

So how do I not eat outside of my food boundaries? I make absolutely positive that I love my food. I fight the food with the food. I make sure my meals are all always delicious and satisfying. I don’t eat things I don’t like. And I don’t eat things because I want them to change the size and shape of my body. And I don’t *not* eat things because I am *afraid* they will change the size and shape of my body. If they are allowed on my food plan, and I like them, I eat them. I don’t worry about gaining or losing weight. I don’t think about my body in terms of weight at all. I have food issues. That is separate from my weight.

It took years of having my eating under control to come to this point. My life for over 35 years was all about how “broken and ugly” I thought my body was because I was fat. Or how proud I was for having wrangled into a socially acceptable size and shape; how I had “accomplished” that.

But now I love my body as it is. And it is just me, not an accomplishment or a failure or a measure of anything about me. It just is. And it just is me.

Jolly good fellows

The other day I was taking to some ladies who do what I do with food, and we were talking about fellowship and community. And I was reminded how important my eating boundary community is for many many reasons. But one that is most important to me is that for the most part, nobody wants me (or anyone else) to keep boundaries around my (our) eating.


For whatever reason, having a restrictive food plan for oneself makes other people really uncomfortable.


I often avoid using the word restrictive, because I know how it sounds. But the truth is that I have a restrictive diet. I do not eat simple man-made sugars, any grains other than wheat germ, and I even abstain from some fruits and vegetables with particularly high sugar content. My diet is full of restrictions. That is a simple truth.


But I want to remind you that I am a grown-ass woman. I decide what foods I eat and what foods I don’t. The food plan that I follow does have rules. But I follow the rules because I choose to. I can leave at any time. But I like my life better when I do keep my restrictive diet. And yes, sometimes it is hard. Even if I don’t crave my drug foods anymore. Because people want me to eat a thing they made especially for me. Or they want me to have a taste of something I am allowed to eat, but it’s in between meals and they don’t see how it’s a problem, even after I have said no. Or they want me to have some cake on my birthday. Or it just hurts their hearts that I have not had any chocolate for years. “Just have one! Live a little.” (I am physically incapable of having only one. And I am living a *lot* more by not eating sugar than I would be by eating it.)


I don’t fully understand what it is about food that makes people want a say in other people’s business. In our conversation the other day, one woman said that her food life is as private as her sex life. She doesn’t want to talk about either of them with anyone outside of those directly involved. And I can thoroughly appreciate that.


My relationship with food is, if not wholly private, at least deeply personal. I was shamed for much of my life for my eating and food choices and my body size. And when I made different choices that had a significant impact on that body size, people still had all sorts of opinions about it. Now instead of being unhealthy or gluttonous, I was being restrictive and extreme.


None of those people have to live in my body with me. They don’t have to face any of the consequences of my eating. Not the consequences of cravings, not the consequences of fatness, not the consequences of body dysmorphia, not the consequences of my bulimia, or anorexic thinking, or self-loathing or depression or any of the myriad effects that eating compulsively has on my brain or my body or my soul.


I need my food community because they are there to support me in what *I* want with food and my body. They are there to support me in fighting my addiction. For them, this situation is life or death. Just like it is for me. And if you think I am being dramatic, you must be a particularly well adjusted person with a happy life. And I am very happy for you. But it solidifies for me that you are not at all qualified to comment on my food.

Self-awareness does not always make us wise

Today I ate half of a terrible cantaloupe. What’s funny is that I bought it because it seemed ripe (it was not) and it was not huge. I thought I was doing myself a favor by only buying a very large cantaloupe instead of a gargantuan one. And instead it ended up *feeling* like the biggest cantaloupe ever because I had to force myself to eat it. (Before you worry about why I ate a cantaloupe I didn’t want, let me assure you there was nothing *wrong* with it. If it were rotten or even just tasted bad I would have been able to make a call and eat a different fruit. But it was fine. Just flavorless and kind of hard.)

My eyes are definitely bigger than my stomach and I have a long history of buying cantaloupes that are bigger than my head. When I buy them I am excited to eat them but then when I *do* eat them, they are often too much. I fee a little sick and a little overstuffed. But I do it anyway. I forget that it’s too big. I forget that I get enough food every day. I forget that when I have a “mere 8 ounces” of fruit weighed out on my scale, it is plenty of fruit, and along with the rest of my big breakfast will keep me satisfied for many hours until lunch. That I don’t need half of a 4 pound cantaloupe to be sated.

Even after over 15 years, something in me is often worried that I will not get enough to eat. That there is not enough for me. That I will end up…HUNGRY!!!! It does not seem to matter that I have learned to live with hunger when it occasionally happens. It does not seem to matter that I am almost never hungry anymore. That perhaps I have the experience a few times a year. It does not seem to matter that I know intellectually that I eat enough food every day, no matter the circumstances. 

I think this is an important thing to note as a food addict. I forget about the reality of my food situation all the time. I forget the ill consequences of my eating. And I always have. Addicts call it a “built in forgetter.” We forget about the outcomes of our actions. This was true when I was eating compulsively, yes. But it has stayed true on some level since I got my eating under control.

For years since I started putting boundaries around my eating I have bought cantaloupes that made me kind of sick. And I ate them and got kind of sick. And then went to the store or the farmers market and bought more ginormous cantaloupes that would make me kind of sick in the coming week.

I am going to throw away that 2nd half of cantaloupe today. But here is an interesting thing to me. I am going to throw it away because it does not taste good. Let me assure you, however, that if it were delicious, and all it did was make me a little sick and a little overstuffed, I would eat it tomorrow as planned. I would look forward to it. Because I have my priorities when it comes to food, and taste is way up there in importance. And being a little sick from too much fruit is a thing I forget easily when the fruit is delicious. In fact, if the fruit were delicious, I would not be writing this blog. And I would have *already forgotten* that this morning’s breakfast was too much.

Self-awareness is lovely, but doesn’t always make us wise.

I don’t dance when the gorilla is around.

I got my first vaccine shot this week. And for the past 2 days I have been positively ravenous! 

When I googled “Is hunger a side effect,” one of the auto fill options was “of the COVID vaccine” so I am perhaps not the only one. Though I can’t find any articles or papers that say it *is* a side effect of the vaccine.

But the important part of this for me is that I didn’t eat in between meals. I didn’t eat outside of my food boundaries. What I did do was eat heavy.

The best thing about my eating boundaries is that they have a lot of room for circumstance. It’s like a padded wall. It’s soft. But it’s still a wall. 

I eat mostly the same few things daily and weekly. I know what I like. I don’t get tired of it. I look forward to my meals. They are my moment of pause and pleasure in the day, three times a day. And I am almost never hungry.

But really, what I can appreciate about the past few days is that I am not ruled by hunger. And I was ruled by it for years. Though I don’t think that it was true hunger. I ate out of boredom. I ate to numb my uncomfortable feelings. I ate because I felt compelled to eat. All the time. I craved. I craved constantly.

I can imagine how crazy it might sound to normal eaters to say that I was ravenous and I did not eat in between meals. Or eat more than usual. I can imagine that the idea that I would “suffer” through hunger seems a little extreme.

It is extreme. Because my food addiction is also extreme. And I can tell you very clearly, that two days of feeling hungry and not eating more to satisfy my pangs is not nearly the level of suffering that having no control over my eating was. It is not nearly as terrifying as knowing you have no say over what goes in your mouth or your body. And when I am eating compulsively, I have no control, and no say. 

They say addicts picking up their drug is like agreeing to dance with a gorilla. You may choose when to start, but it’s the gorilla who decides when you stop.

Yes, I was hungry for a few hours between meals, for consecutive days. It was not the most comfortable feeling. But it was nothing compared to the possibility of dancing with the gorilla.

But I will say that I cooked my broccoli in even more butter and olive oil than I usually do. And I ate pork rinds twice in the same day, which I don’t do often. And that helped.

Basically, I have rules, but they are letter of the law rules. And the spirit of the law *is* letter of the law. I am not on a diet. I have a diet. If I have a 1 pound apple, that is just as much “1” apple as a 6 oz apple. 

People who do what I do don’t hide these things from each other. It’s not shameful to want the biggest and the best. It is encouraged. We shout it from the rooftops. In fact, when I lived in NYC, people would text each other things like “Citarella on the UWS has 1 pound honeycrisps.” Or “I got a cantaloupe bigger than my head at the farmers market.” It was a right of passage to take someone to the (sadly now closed) restaurant where they provided scales and cups for weighing and measuring, and to order the newcomer the deep fried tofu that dripped with hot grease and was crispy on the outside with the light pillowy center. (Also, if you know where in the Chicagoland area I can get some deep fried tofu, hit a girl up!)

I was fine not eating when I was hungry. But not out of some twisted form of vanity. I don’t put boundaries around my eating to be, or get, or stay skinny. I do it to stay off the dance floor while the gorilla is around. And the gorilla is always around.

How is an addict like the Post Office?

One amazing thing about giving up sugar and simple carbohydrates is I don’t want the stuff anymore. It’s one way I know it was a drug for me. Once it was completely out of my system, which took about a year and half, I stopped needing it, or wanting it. Or really even seeing it. It’s like I have permanent blinders on. My eyes just sort of glide over things I don’t eat, unless there is a specific reason I am looking for it. And even then, it has no power over me.

If I am buying sugar for someone else, as a gift or as a treat, I can buy it with complete neutrality. I can look at it, and not see something I desire.

Yesterday, we had bags and bags of candy in the house. Trick or Treaters made short work of it, which I have no feelings about either way. Because over the years we have had bags and bags of Halloween candy and no kids to come by to take it from us, and in those years I still did not eat the candy. I wasn’t tempted by the candy. 

The candy is not mine. It’s not for me. It’s poison to me. I ate my fair share of candy for the first 28 years of my life. More than my fair share. Certainly more than enough.

When a person is fat, their doctors inevitably send them to nutritionists. And generally, those nutritionists tell their patients about moderation. They tell them to eat *one* cookie. They tell them to eat *one* piece of chocolate. They tell them to eat *one* *small* handful of chips. 

I cannot eat one. I am incapable of stopping once I have started. When sugar and simple carbohydrates are in my body, my body craves more. My brain tells me I will positively drop dead if I don’t have more. And that first year and half after I quit that it took to get the stuff out of me was filled with brain fog, and itchy skin, and emotional outbursts, and crying, and depression, and physical and emotional exhaustion. In other words, withdrawal. Like any drug.

For me it is literally all or nothing. I can either eat none of the stuff, or I will be haunted until I have eaten it all. All of what is in the house, and once that is gone, I will take a trip back out for more. When it comes to sugar, I am like the post office. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will keep me from getting my fix.

If moderation works for you, I am very happy for you. If I could eat cake with impunity, I surely would. But I can’t. And if you find that when you eat a piece of candy or a cookie, you can’t stop thinking about it until you eat more, you may want to consider cutting it out entirely. Because if you do that, there will come a time when you won’t need it, or want it. It will stop having power over you. Just like it stopped having power over me.

Gratitude for my very normal, very human body

I used to be angry at my body all the time. It was my enemy, and I treated it accordingly. Mostly, I hated it because it was not the size or shape other girls’ and women’s bodies were. It did not look the way magazines and television told me it should look, and indeed *could* look if I worked hard enough.

I was smart and interesting and funny. I had a wonderful mind. So I felt like a brilliant human stuck in a broken vessel. Broken is a great way to express what I thought of my body. Broken like a machine. Bad parts. A lemon.

When I got my eating under control I started to think about my body in a different way. First, giving up man made sugars, and most grains and starches, made my body smaller. And while I could not really change the shape of my body without surgery, I started to think about all of the ways that it served me, even when I was abusing it. 

And I didn’t just abuse it with drug foods. I abused it with over exercising to the point of injury, and still exercising more because I wanted it to be thin, but I couldn’t stop eating. I abused it with laxatives. I drank castor oil. Eventually, I started to stick toothbrushes down my throat to make myself throw up the food that I could not stop eating. 

But when I got my eating under control, I necessarily had to have a different relationship with my body. I had to ask not what my body could do for me, but ask what I could do for my body. Not to whip it into shape. Not to make it lovable and attractive to anyone who happened to be in its vicinity, but to make sure it was taken care of. For me, because it *was* me. Make sure it was nourished and hydrated and strong and healthy. 

And that changed how I dealt with all of the unappealing parts of having a body. I am 43. My hormones are crazy right now. And I should probably expect that to continue for maybe another 10 years. That is a whole *decade*!!! But also, that is normal. It is completely expected for my woman’s body to experience this.

And this past week was hard. I was exhausted all week. I needed to lay on the couch and do nothing, not even knit or crochet! I had several outbreaks of cystic acne which are painful as well as ugly. I was cranky and sad and did lots of crying. And at least half of it was *not* over imaginary characters in novels, comics and TV shows. And of course, I still had to do all of the things that I have to do. I had to prep food and clean the kitchen (I totally half assed a lot of that, and my husband did some as well) and do the shopping and go to work.

But because I have a level of clarity about my life and my body from having my food taken care of, I am not angry at my body. I do not blame it for doing what bodies do. I feel like it is a very modern concept to think of one’s body as getting in the way of one’s life. We have created so many workarounds to get out of dealing with our physical humanity, that we don’t necessarily see what is natural and good. We spend so much time powering through, that we think our bodies are the problem, and not the lifestyle we have created that doesn’t have any room for the basic needs of actually *being* a carbon-based machine.

My eating boundaries have given me a sense of reality about my body. Not only about what it can and should look like in the real world (not according to the latest Photoshopped ad for designer jeans, or the ad promoting some supplement guaranteed to make you lose 10 pounds in 10 days), but also how I can expect to feel and what I can expect to be able to do. Realistically. Because I have a normal body doing normal things.

I like my full life. I like my job and my commitments. I like the people I work with and the friends that I have. I am not campaigning for less modern conveniences. I love my gadgets and my technology. I just don’t want to forget that my body is not some separate gadget. It doesn’t need an upgrade. It isn’t in the way of my life. It is my life. It is me. And I show myself how much I love me, by loving my body and honoring it exactly as it is. Flawed and sometimes uncomfortable, and gloriously, normally human.

Wrong, But Quite Alright

I made a mistake with my food yesterday. It was a stupid mistake. I weighed out some raw veggies and they came out to 4 1/8 oz. And then I weighed out my cooked vegetables. And I should have weighed out 11 7/8 oz, because the total weight of my lunch vegetables should be 16 oz. But instead I got confused and weighed out 12 1/8 oz. So I ate 16 1/4 oz. 1/4 more than I was supposed to.


Again this was a mistake and an honest one. And the amount I went over is most definitely not a big deal. But I called someone and told them anyway. I “turned it over.” And I have told the truth of it and given it away and I don’t have to live with it.

Now, you might be thinking that it’s strange that I made a call over 1/4 oz. And it was broccoli. So it wasn’t even something all that decadent. (Though it was cooked in butter, *and* olive oil, plus hot sauce, so it was super yummy.) You may think it “doesn’t count.” Or “isn’t worth thinking about.” But the deal for me is that it all counts. Every morsel and crumb. Because I can’t stop thinking about these kinds of things. My thinking is not normal around food. I am obsessive about it. Or at least I am when I don’t keep boundaries and follow rules. That 1/4 oz was a chink in the armor. It was a small hole in a dam. As in small for now, but with enough pressure behind it, the whole thing could burst.


I hear all the time how crazy what I do seems to people. I see how extreme they think it is. How it looks exactly like the obsession I claim it curbs.


Here’s the difference. When I was eating compulsively, I was obsessed with food, especially sugar and simple carbohydrates, and I was miserable. Now I eat my portion controlled food, I love it, and when it is done I am no longer thinking about it. Now I am meticulous with my food, rather than obsessed, and I am joyously free. I am happier in my life than I have ever been before as a direct result of giving up sugar and weighing my food.


And part of that is making a call to say that I made a mistake, and that I want to give it away so I never have to think about it again.

I was raised Catholic. So I used to go to confession. And I always thought it was a punitive measure. I thought it was about humiliation and shame. I thought it was about having to be judged by God and God’s agent in the human realm.


But now I can see how telling the truth about things, mistakes and missteps and falters and failures, is freedom. It’s a lightness that I never felt telling a priest I had lied, which I had to tell a lot of priests because I told a lot of lies.


I understand that for many people, there is no need to turn over 1/4 oz of broccoli. Hell, most people aren’t even weighing their food to know! But that meticulousness and honesty are the foundation for me to have an honest relationship with food. One where I am not ignorant of what or how much I am eating, or ashamed of what I have eaten, or embarrassed to make an honest mistake. One where I can say I was wrong, and still feel quite alright.

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