onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “food choices”

Something I cannot recommend enough

In the past months I have been shifting the way I frame things in this blog. I am talking less about weight loss and more about food. I don’t want to play into fat phobia with this blog. I want it to be about recovery, not judgment. About emotional and spiritual wellness, not physical size, or “health” or moral “shoulds.”

Because giving up man-made sugars, and most grains and starches, and weighing my food, is without a doubt the best thing that has ever happened to me. The fact that I am not “on a diet” is so important. I eat delicious, decadent meals. I enjoy every bite. I’m a weirdo about it too. I totally talk to my food. I clap excitedly when I am about to dig in. I do little dances in my seat when we have a particularly delicious meal. Like when my husband makes carnitas or when I make bacon lamb burgers. (No. No tortillas or buns. No. I do not miss them.)
I certainly chose my eating boundaries in order to lose weight when I started this journey 14 years ago. But what is it they say about the best laid plans? 
The truth is I did lose weight. And there was a period of time when I was skinny. But life had other plans for me. Plans I didn’t get a say in. If it had been up to me, I definitely would have stayed skinny. But it was not up to me. 
In some ways I am grateful for not staying skinny. Because it let me know how much of my choice to stick with my eating boundaries was based on my emotional and spiritual life. 
If skinniness were the only goal, I would have quit when my weight fluctuated, and I gained weight while eating less. If that were the point, I would have gone and looked for something else. Or I potentially would have said “screw this” and gone back to sugar. Because if I couldn’t “control” my weight with this “extreme” eating plan, I might as well let it all go and eat cake. (Spoiler alert: I did *not* say “screw this” and go eat cake. And thank the heavens!)
The gifts of my eating boundaries are about how I feel about myself. I like and love myself inside and out. Not because I am a certain size. Not because I fit into a specific, socially acceptable category of feminine beauty. But because I am free from cravings and compulsion. Because I have a clear head. Because I spent my life lying and sneaking and hiding food, and lying sneaking and hiding all sorts of other things as a result. But being deeply honest about my food allowed me to be deeply honest in all areas of my life. And that honesty is freedom. And because honoring my body by caring about what I put into it has allowed me to honor my body is so many other ways. To quit smoking. To exercise regularly as a practice. To drink water and limit caffeine, and floss daily. And to like and love what I see in the mirror. Even with all of the flabby parts, and the parts with stretch marks, and wrinkles and spots. All of it. And that complete love started with me getting control of my eating, which was out of control for so much of my life. 
And I have to tell you that I don’t know a lot of people who have that. And I don’t think a lot of us exist in the world. Not even women who are thinner and younger and live in more socially acceptable bodies than I do. I think even most of them still don’t have the kind of deep-rooted peace around their bodies that my chubby, middle-aged self does. 
So keeping my eating boundaries may have started out being about losing weight and being thin, but it is not that anymore. Now it is about extreme self-love. Loving all of myself exactly as it is. And that is something I cannot recommend enough. 

Two roads diverge, and I took the one less traveled by

I have been thinking a lot lately about fat acceptance and addiction. How they intersect, and where they diverge. 

As a person who grew up fat in a fat phobic society, I have a lot of experience with the shame and humiliation that comes from not being able to control so many things, especially my eating, the size of my body, and the way I was treated. I was miserable growing up because of all of those things. 
I am addicted to sugar and carbohydrates. Certainly man-made ones. But also some natural ones. I don’t eat honey, or maple syrup, or agave nectar. Yes they are natural. But they are pure sugar, and I am an addict.  I don’t eat potatoes. I don’t even eat sweet potatoes. When people think it’s “over the top” that I don’t eat sweet potatoes, which are also natural, I remind myself that there was a time when I was binge eating sweet potatoes. Sometimes 5 or 6 at a time. Sometimes cooking 2 at once thinking surely that would satisfy me, only to put 2 more in the oven immediately because I was not satisfied. And then again. 
Perhaps once upon a time, if I had never become an addict in the first place, I would have been able to eat sweet potatoes with impunity. But that ship sailed long ago. And now I cannot eat them without diving back into food hell. Because for me, eating sugar and carbohydrates is hell. It is filled with lies, betrayals, paralysis, shame, desperation, and all manner of self-loathing. It’s not just a sweet potato to me. It is the door to my worst self.
When people talk about the moral neutrality of food, I have mixed feelings. Not for the people eating it. But for the people making it. Because corporations know what they are doing when they make addictive foods. They have hired scientists. They are doing it on purpose. They are *designing* foods to be addictive. Because a food company could not continually increase profit if we only ate food for nourishment. Money dictates that we, consumers, need to eat as a hobby, as a distraction, as time-waster.
Fat people get the shaming, but we can see the results in other ways. A 17-year-old boy is permanently blind because he only ate chips and French fries. And nobody took it particularly seriously because he “wasn’t fat.” 
I know that not everyone who is fat is a food addict. I know that not everyone who is thin is not. 
I have heard people in fat communities talk about “sugar truthers.” It’s a kind of mocking term, meant to bring to mind conspiracy theorists and tin-foil-hat-wearers. The idea that sugar is a drug is ridiculous to a lot of people. 
Or that if it is a drug, so what? I even saw one person say that even though sugar was like heroin in the brain, love was like cocaine in the brain, and nobody wanted people to give up love. 
Except we would expect them to give up cocaine. And heroin. And if you spend enough time in 12 step rooms, you know that some people need to deal with their addiction to love too. Or at least to unhealthy and obsessive relationships that occur like love. 
I sometimes hear about eating disorder programs giving people sugar and junk food, telling them not to be afraid of the cupcake. That in moderation, a cupcake is just a little treat. 
I, personally, need to be afraid of the cupcake. Not because it will jump down my throat of its own accord. But because if I choose it once, I will lose my ability to choose. Because I am physically incapable of moderation. That is what addiction is. And whether the people in those programs are skinny or fat or somewhere in between, if they are sugar addicts, then they have also lost the capacity for moderation, and that program is probably harming them, not helping them. 
So what scares me is that sometimes it looks to me like the food industry has exactly the people it is using and harming carrying its banners! 
“There is no such thing as bad food!”
But for some of us, there is. For *me* there is. There are foods that make me miserable and crazy. 
I am not against harm reduction. I wish the best for everyone, whatever that “best” looks like. But I am grateful that I got abstinence, personally. Because I am free. Because I am deeply content. Because I love my life. And I don’t believe I could have that with my addiction in my life. 

What could be more feminist than doing what I want with my body?

Ok. I think I am ready to do it. It has taken me some time to get my thoughts in order, but I am ready to talk about fat phobia and weight loss. 

A little set up for this post. I follow a fair number of body positive, fat acceptance, pro fat, fat activist, fat model, and in general size-inclusive accounts on social media. I do it because I still feel very connected to this group. I did not lose over 100 pounds to feel like I am “better than” anyone. And I am not here to promote weight loss. 

But there is an idea that gets floated around within these groups. That the personal desire to lose weight is inherently fat-phobic and therefore anti-feminist. That you can take actions to “be healthy” but actively trying to lose weight is against feminism.

Ok, so now you have pissed me off. 

Let me lay out some things I believe are true.
• I believe that in the U.S. and Western Culture in general, we have been fed a narrow (and ever narrowing) definition of beauty through a bombardment of images and advertising, to control and make money off of women. This culture and the corporations driving it have tried to convince us to starve ourselves, exhaust ourselves, nip and tuck ourselves, and generally be disappointed in ourselves so that we are willing to pay for the next thing that will make us beautiful and worthy. (Worthy of male attention, primarily.)

• I believe that diets don’t work, and that decreasing calories and eating in moderation is impossible for the majority of people who are not just doing that naturally. I believe that the medical industry has never offered me anything in terms of advice, diets, surgery, or medication that in any way makes long-term weight loss attainable. That what they do have to offer, besides physical mutilation, is “willpower” and “moral fortitude,” which are both bullshit, decidedly not helpful, and only reinforce the messed up idea that being fat is a moral failing. My experience is that it takes a lifestyle overhaul around food and eating to change your weight in the long-term. And that if you won’t or can’t do that, that’s fine. And totally valid. And doesn’t mean anything about your heart, mind, or morality.

• I believe that being fat does not *necessarily* equate to being unhealthy. I know that there are plenty of healthy fat people. But having said that, I have met a great number of fat people with serious health and pain issues *directly related* to being fat. And for many of these folks, losing weight and maintaining that weight loss has made them measurably healthier, and has greatly increased their comfort.

• I believe that being fat is now, and has been for generations, an easy mark for cruelty and discrimination. Whenever I hear someone say that society has “accepted” fatness, it’s usually to also say, “and that’s a problem and is contributing to the breakdown of morality in our society,” or some such nonsense. And that is bullshit. Society has not embraced fatness. And when (if) it does, it will be an important step towards inclusion and equality. Not the slippery slope to moral decay.

• I understand that I, as a straight woman, have a different relationship to thinness than many women who are not straight. The widely accepted and agreed upon view of the kind of woman men are attracted to is that she is thin. The thinner the better. Skinny, sometimes to the point of death, is what the fashion industry has been selling as the height of beauty for at least the past 30 years. So yes, I wanted to lose weight in the first place to meet a bullshit beauty standard. But as I have pointed out before, there were many classically good looking  men who were attracted to me when I was fat. But they were embarrassed by it. And I was shamed for it. 

So I do understand how loaded weight loss talk is. And I do agree that fat *is* a feminist issue. But when you tell me that my weight loss is anti-feminist and upholds the patriarchy…well now we’re going to have words.

It reminds me of an argument I occasionally heard growing up, that women who chose to stay home with their children and work as stay-at-home moms rather than have some kind of career meant they could not be feminists. 

But I thought feminism was about making our own choices, and doing what we chose for ourselves. I thought feminism was about agency and autonomy. I thought I got to choose what to do with my body. All of my body, in any way I wished.

When I was fat, I hated stairs. Sometimes, if I knew I was going to have to climb a lot of stairs at some point that day, it would haunt me until it was done. It would take up space in my head and create anxiety. I did not hate stairs because of internalized fat phobia. I hated stairs because that level of exertion caused so much pain that I lived in fear of stairs. When I lost my weight, that stopped. In fact, I started to love physical exertion. I started to love moving and walking and jumping. And yes, even stairs. OK, maybe I didn’t start to *love* stairs. But I most definitely stopped fearing them.

When I was fat, I loved to dance. I went out dancing several times a week. And there was always a point when my feet would ache so bad i couldn’t dance anymore. Even if I wanted to. Even if my favorite song came on. I wasn’t not dancing because of internalize fat phobia. I was not dancing because the weight of my body on my feet was more than I could bear. When I lost that weight, I could dance all night, and my feet never hurt. Or if they did, not enough to keep me from jumping up for my favorite song.

And here is another thing. (But it’s muddy. And I get that.) It was also a relief to be in a body that people didn’t feel entitled to shame. 

I don’t think it was OK for people to shame me for being fat. And people did. Men and women. Family, friends, and strangers. People made me feel less than, and disgusting, and shameful. And I most certainly internalized that. 

But when that stopped, there was a freedom for me. And I am not going to tell you that I don’t like it. I do. I like not having to worry about someone making an unsolicited, cruel comment. I like not thinking about my body almost ever. Especially when I thought about it, and lived in fear and anticipation of vocal judgment, constantly though my early life. 

It is not the way the world should be. And I will fight against it with everything I have. It is not OK to shame and belittle fat people.  But you don’t get to tell me what kind of body I have to have in order to do that. And this world, the world where fat people are shamed publicly and privately and in backhanded and overt ways, is the world I live in. And since I have to live in this world for now, I like living in this world much better in a body that is not continually scrutinized. 

The last thing I will say about this is that I could not have had this conversation when I was still fat. Because I really had internalized fat phobia. I hated myself. I was embarrassed and ashamed. And I was also addicted to the foods making me fat. It turns out, I didn’t have a weight problem. I had an eating problem. I gave up man made sugars, grains, and starch because eating them caused cravings for more. They made me feel crazy and out of control. I started to control my portions, because part of my addiction was always wanting ”more.” My weight was the physical manifestation of my addiction. The physical addiction and the psychological addiction. And I didn’t know that until I gave up those addictive foods and put boundaries around my eating. I did it for vanity. But what I got was sanity. And the ability to look at fatness with love, and with compassion for the way fat people are treated.

I say it pretty often here. I am not skinny. I can shop in regular stores for straight sizes, but I am not lean. I have a big butt and hips and belly. I eat decadently. I am never hungry. I don’t deprive myself. I just have clear boundaries for how much food I will eat and stay away from foods that I am addicted to. And I don’t miss them. I don’t miss cake. I don’t miss French fries (which was a surprise to me. I thought I would miss them the most.) I feel great in my mind and my body. 

So I am not advocating weight loss. But if you think you would rather be in a thinner body, I understand and appreciate that. It doesn’t make you less of a feminist. It doesn’t mean you have embraced the patriarchy. It just might mean you are tired of fearing stairs and missing out on dancing to your favorite song. It just might mean you want some control over your body. The one that is yours to do with whatever you want. And what could be more feminist than that?

Tight food, loose life, and for today, nothing to give up.

One thing that happened when I put boundaries around my eating was that I (slowly and gradually) got better at going with the flow of life. I got better at dealing with unexpected problems. I got better at dealing with difficult feelings. I got better at having peace when people did things I didn’t like, and situations didn’t work out the way I had hoped and planned.

But I got way way *way* worse at not having what I wanted when it came to food. I had given up all of my “favorite” foods when I gave up sugar and carbohydrates. I had basically deadened my palate with sugar for the first 28 years of my life and hated almost all vegetables. I thought fruit was bland. I thought nourishing foods were boring at best, and disgusting at worst.
So when I quit sugar and got boundaries I was told to love my food. Not tolerate it. Not “eat to live.” I was told to eat foods that made me gloriously happy. I have a few time periods in my life that I identify by the foods I ate, some specially made by me to be sugar and carb free and fit my portion requirements. I had my summer of turnip fries and coffee shakes. (This was a labor of love. It took forever, and I still did it almost every day because I was so obsessed. After cutting them into fries, which gave me weird calluses from so much knife work, I would salt the turnips overnight so they would sweat out all the bitterness, and they were better than real French fries, I swear!) I had a winter of homemade custards. I mean I actually used a bain-marie. I had *years* of homemade carrot cake. I had deep fried onions from a favorite New York burger joint 2-3 times a week for about 3 years, and deep-fried Brussels sprouts from a fancier New York restaurant about once a week for a year or so. (I used to go get those take-out, since I wasn’t interested in the fancy ambiance, just the sprouts. I still get these and the onions when I visit New York.)
For the past few years I have been making chocolate ice cream (ok, frozen yogurt, since it’s whole milk and full fat Greek yogurt.) And today, I opened a new bottle of the sugar-free, grain-free, alcohol-free chocolate flavor that I use. And it was *different*!!!! It was a different color and had a different smell! 
This scared the hell out of me. Of course, the first thing I did was read the ingredients list printed on the bottle I had just opened. Because if the color and smell had changed, perhaps the ingredients had changed. I still occasionally read ingredients on things I use regularly, even if there doesn’t seem to be a change, just in case. And I have occasionally caught changes that were not indicated or advertised. But when something has so obviously changed, of course I had to look immediately. 
Hallelujah! It was fine. The ingredients were still within my boundaries. And the taste was delicious, though different. 
But I have had to give up things before. And that is a change I am very bad at. It is hard for me to go with the flow of losing a food I love. For those of you who may remember, in 2014, a company whose vanilla flavor I had been using for years changed their recipe from alcohol-free, to non-alcoholic, where it had alcohol, just significantly less than an extract. I had to give it up. I literally cried. Then a friend found a tutorial on how to make my own at home. And I have been doing just that for over 5 years. (And mine is way better than the stuff I was buying, so hooray for that.) That company discontinued its walnut flavor a few years before, and I cried about that as well. Sadly, I have never found another walnut flavor I could use. There was a restaurant in New York that used to make Chinese food specifically for people with the same eating boundaries as I have. And they would make deep fried tofu. It would come to the table like a crispy, golden cloud of deliciousness. I cried when they closed. (Are you sensing the pattern here?)
I keep my food tight so my life can be loose. But my food being tight means being a bit of a control freak. Obviously. And that means a certain amount of attachment. So it’s hard for me when my food changes in any way. 
But ultimately I am committed to my boundaries, not to my food loves. I did give up the walnut flavor. And in giving up the vanilla because of the changed recipe, I got something even better in return. If I had had to give up my chocolate flavor, I would have. I would most certainly have cried. I would have had to mourn. But I would have done it. Because it’s the boundaries, that “tight food,” that keep my life loose. 
And here’s another important truth. There is always something out there, waiting to be my new favorite food thing. Something that fits my boundaries, and makes my eyes roll back and my mouth water. There is always some new thing that I am going to be overwhelmed with excitement to eat. In its proper portion. When it is time to eat. And I’m excited for that too. Even if I don’t know what it is or when I will find it.

Specific and measurable is what gets results

Last week a lot of people read my post. Thank you all for reading! I am grateful! And I heard second and third hand about some comments. And one idea stood out in my mind. That I must be really sick if I have to weigh my food.

I want to say first off that I am an addict, and I am addicted to sugar and simple carbohydrates. So yes. I am pretty sick. I was deeply unhappy when I didn’t have boundaries around my eating. I was unhappy with my body, I was unhappy with my behavior, I was unhappy with the state of my life. And only a portion of that was about my weight. 
Weighing food is a way to take a specific, quantifiable action that leads to a specific and measurable result. I am not just eating less. I am eating a specific number of ounces. How much less is that? I don’t know. I never measured before when I was eating everything whenever I wanted. 
Is it common to weigh food? It is not in general. But the idea that what I do is an indication of how sick I am is not necessarily fair. It is an indication of how committed I am. It is an indication of how much I want something. And how willing I am to get it. You might say that weighing my food is an indication of how well I am. How not susceptible to whims I am when it comes to eating. How steadfast I am.
Athletes weigh their food. Movie stars who are training to shape their bodies weigh their food. These are people who want something for and from their bodies and are willing to do what it takes to get it. I want something for and from my body too. I mean, it’s a lot less sexy than winning a gold medal or being a physical embodiment of a comic book super hero, but it’s still pretty satisfying. 
Making a quantifiable commitment is a great way to meet goals. It’s a great way to change your life. Writers have daily word count commitments. Marathon runners have scheduled practices with mileage goals they have to reach. Weight lifters have weight goals. Even sales people have a specific number of cold calls they have to make. Nearly every person who wants to achieve something does it by doing specific things. And specific means being measurable. Even dietitians will say things like “vegetables the size of your fist, meat the size of your palm, fat the size of your thumb.” Which is a way to do a less precise version of the same thing I do but not have to get out a scale.
When I was eating compulsively but wanted to lose weight, I fought very hard against measurement of any kind. But most certainly precise measurements. I wanted to “eyeball” things. And I did. And my portions got bigger and bigger over time. Because I wanted to pretend I was doing what I needed to do to get the results I wanted, without having to actually do the things. And guess what. I did not get the results. And guess what. I got to blame it on everything but what I was doing. I got to blame it on my “broken” body, or my genes, or the way the world is. I did not have to blame it on how much I was eating. And when I did not get results “eyeballing” my portions, I got to quit because it didn’t work and I would rather eat cake anyway. So then I was back to cake.
This is not exclusive to me. Humanity is made up of this. Reasons why we can’t. Reasons it’s not worth it. Reasons we shouldn’t have to do what needs to be done to get the results we want. Maybe the reason is because someone who has to do “that” is “really sick,” and we’re not that sick…
So I disagree that the reason I have to do something as “extreme” as weigh my food is that I am *so* sick. I am sure I could get through life without it. The question is not could I live without weighing my food, but could I be this happy, free, content, joyful, and available for life if I didn’t. 
I always say that I am not telling anyone what or how they should be eating. And I am not today either. But I will say that I was not any sicker than a lot of people, especially Westerners, especially Americans. I am just that interested in being well. Interested enough to do something very specific to get a very specific result. 

Impossible is just another word for “don’t stop eating junk food.”

Of course. Another article on how it’s “nearly impossible” to lose weight. An article about how there are receptors that help/hider weight loss on a molecular level. It even brought up the contestants on The Biggest Loser. Again. 

There was at least one thing about the article that I wholeheartedly agree with. Calories are not the answer to weight. Losing weight is not about creating a “calorie deficit.” 
And as for the study of the participants of The Biggest Loser television show, who had their metabolisms shut down, causing them to gain back their weight, along with not being able to lose weight any more, can we please remember that those participants were exercising for 6 to 9 hours a day. Which is a great way to create a dramatic physical change in a body for a reality TV show. But is not a practical practice for people who have to, say, go to work, make dinner for their family, have a life. And it is not a lifestyle change that facilitates long-term maintenance.
I am not saying the science talked about in this article isn’t valid. (Though I do not know who funded it and that always makes a difference.) But I take issue with some of the things the article implies. 
The most important one, I think, is this quote from an endocrinologist at Columbia University:
“These data are quite interesting, and are consistent with the hypothesis that the obesity epidemic is in part due to evolutionary pressures to prevent starvation in stress,”
So we are just evolving to be fat?
Guess what was not mentioned. Food. Processed food. In the past 45 years, my lifetime, Americans (and people in general worldwide) have gotten bigger and bigger. Americans have stopped eating at home. We have stopped cooking fresh food for ourselves and our families. We have started buying and consuming packaged, processed and “ultra-processed” foods, most with added sugars, on a daily basis. We eat and snack all day, as opposed to having meal times. We have no concept of portions, and when eating at a restaurant, we feel cheated if we do not get a full plate. We eat the whole bag, the whole box, the whole pint. In the past 45 years, we have gone from a society that ate junk food as an occasional treat, to one that considers junk food a reasonable meal choice. And we’re talking about evolution to explain why so many more people are fat in that same 45 years? 
I feel like this is an example of Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation is probably the valid one. We have told “Big Food” that it can get us addicted to its poison with impunity. We have agreed that rather than call out chips, and microwave snacks, and soft drinks, and granola bars made with “all natural” ingredients, as processed junk, we will say it’s evolution that is the problem. That it’s our bodies that are betraying us, as opposed to the food industry. 
I can’t say this enough. I do not care what you choose to eat! I do not care if you are fat! I do not care if you are fat and sick! I do not care if you are fat and sick and still want to eat ultra-processed foods all day every day! I do not care! You do you!
I care that seemingly everyone in the scientific and medical communities wants to talk about every effing thing except food. They want to talk about how close they are to creating the magic pill. Or the magic procedure. They want to say that it is either too hard, or too silly, or too strict, to give up processed foods and sugar. 
No doctor has ever told me to give up sugar and carbohydrates. They told me moderation. Because I wouldn’t be able to do something so extreme. That it was crazy. That it was impossible to give up cake on my birthday. 
Eat what you want. Whenever you want. But if you are miserable in your body, and you want to lose weight, for yourself – not a spouse/partner, or your parents, or society in general – don’t believe that it is evolutionarily impossible! Don’t believe that there is no hope. Maybe try not eating crap. Maybe try eating whole food that still looks recognizable as what it was in the wild…
My bottom line is this. Can we stop pretending not to see the problem with our food? Can we stop pretending that food we eat and serve is not addictive? Can we stop pretending that we can’t possibly imagine what has changed in the past 45 years to create what we are calling “an obesity epidemic?” 
We should really be calling it a “malnourishment epidemic” or a “toxic food epidemic.” We should not be vilifying the people who are reaping the consequences of a consumerist culture gone awry. An obesity epidemic seems to me to imply that fat people are to blame for not “putting the chips down” and “pushing away from the table.” But companies are making an awful lot of money on these same people. Food companies, and medical/drug companies. They sell us the ultra-processed microwave meal, with an “Organic/All Natural/No GMOs” label slapped across the front, and tell us it’s healthy. And then they get us under the knife for a procedure to “help us” out of the horrible bind we’ve gotten ourselves into by not having enough willpower. (I hope the eye roll implied there was not lost on you.) Those lap bands and gastric bypass surgeries aren’t free, you know. And we all know that insulin is so expensive some people are going bankrupt to stay alive. 
Do not believe them when they say it’s hopeless or impossible. Do not believe that evolution alone has made us fat. We have certainly evolved to have the bodies we have, but I firmly believe that evolution is not making us as fat as our addictive food choices are. 

And I say that as someone who has maintained over 100 lb weight loss for over 13 years. That is not a fluke. That is not an anomaly. That is over 13 years of not eating addictive foods. I *know* that it is not impossible. I am living proof.

Maybe it just starts with wanting what seems impossible

I am particularly happy in my body lately. I want to note that I have not lost any weight. Or at least nothing noticeable. It is not about being thin, or thinner.  Not about “finally” looking like something. I am just extra comfortable and feeling particularly beautiful.

I want to say that this comes from practice. I practice self love. I actively look to love my body. I do things that create that love. Like keep my eating boundaries and drink my water and go for my jog. But also, I say nice things about myself. Even in my head, where I am the only one who can hear. Especially there! I am grateful to my body for being an excellent vessel. For being strong and healthy. For all of the ways I can move and all of the things I can do. Without pain. (Mostly without pain. I mean, I *am* in my 40s and spent much of the first 28 years of my life carrying more weight than was comfortable on my joints.)
I like being in a place like this. I like that I have created this kind of place as my norm. Because it is not the societal norm. There is little money to be made from me being happy and comfortable in my body. I may buy a refillable water bottle, and some workout gear. But it means I am not buying supplements, or workout machines, or surgeries or injections or anything else I hope will make me feel good about myself. 
What makes me feel good about myself is knowing that I can be trusted to treat my body with love. Tough love. (Kind of.) The kind of tough love where I go for that jog even when I really want to stay in bed a little longer. The kind of tough love where I drink that water even when all I want is another cup of coffee. (And another. And another.) The kind of tough love that makes me feel like I took care of myself when it’s done, even if it sucked while I was doing it. And so many of theses things still suck. After years. 
I think I used to think that one day I would come to “like” most of these things. That people who took care of themselves liked the acts of taking care. And certainly I have come to love vegetables, which is something I would never have expected. But now I can see that most people would rather hit the snooze button just like I would. And that whether or not someone does hit it has nothing to do with “liking” exercise or “wanting” a nourishing breakfast they have to prepare instead of a donut. It has to do with commitment. 
And one thing I learned early on after putting boundaries around my eating is that commitment comes before results. Not the other way around. That practice, that the doing of a thing, day in and day out, like a ritual or a prayer, is the best way to get somewhere you are not now. That results come in their own time and in their own way. 
About 14 years ago, I was doing some volunteer work at a self-help seminar. And the leader asked me what I wanted to get out of the seminar. And I said “I want my body to be a non-issue.” Because my body was always an issue for me. No matter my size or weight. And in the time of that seminar, I had a bunch of personal setbacks that made my body more and more of an issue I could not let go of. But by the last day of that seminar, I had my current boundaries around my eating and my body was slowly losing all of its charge as a “problem” in my life. 
I didn’t know what it would look like at the time to have my body cease to be an issue. And I certainly had no idea how to make that happen. But here I am writing a blog to tell you that I am happy and comfortable in that body. More than that, that I love and admire it. I didn’t have any idea what I would be getting myself into when I asked for that outcome. 
And that is probably for the best. Because that Kate who wanted to not worry about her body all the time would probably not have been ready to give up sugar and carbohydrates. But she didn’t have to be. She just had to want something that seemed impossible.

Independence Day too

This week was Independence Day here in the US. So I decided to write a bit about my personal freedom from food addiction.
As a kid and teenager, through my mid 20s, food was the most important thing in my life. I thought about it constantly. I thought about my weight constantly. I hated my body constantly. I wanted and obsessed over sugar and carbs constantly. Almost all of my thinking was around my issues with food. It used up so much of my brain that I am surprised I managed to do or achieve anything else with my time. Also, I didn’t achieve that much.
Here’s the thing that makes me clear that I was a slave to food. I ate when I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to eat in front of people, but I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t want to be fat and I wanted to lose weight, but I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t want to eat certain foods because I didn’t particularly like them, but if they were all there was in the house, I still couldn’t stop myself. Compulsive. Obsessed. Miserable. Enslaved.
I stopped being a salve when I stopped eating man-made sugar and carbohydrates entirely. And I did it with the intention of not going back.
When I dieted in my early life, I gave up sugar long enough that I could be thin, and therefore not judged for eating sugar. I *wanted* to eat sugar, but not hate myself and my body. I thought that being thin would make me love my body. I thought that being thin and eating sugar would be the perfect life.
It didn’t work. When I was thin but eating sugar and carbohydrates, I still hated my body. Judged it. Abused it. I thought my body was not treating me right, instead of the other way around.
When I quit sugar and carbohydrates, I started to love my body. Whether it was skinny or chubby. I no longer needed my body to be thin to love it. I loved it by treating it well, with nourishment and care. With food first. Later with sleep and hydration. Later still with quitting smoking. Eventually with exercise. I am sure there will be more. And more still. This food addiction journey is a lifetime journey of self-care. It was the actions I was taking that lead to love. It was “fake it ‘til you make it” that made me so happy with my body and my life. It was treating myself like a precious thing first. Not feeling like a precious thing and then acting accordingly. 
Freedom didn’t come for me. It did not seek me out. But it was there all the time, waiting for me to take it. It was waiting in all of the moments I played a long game with my life. It was every bite of cake I chose not to take. It was every “obligatory” meal I politely refused. It was in every time I put myself first, even though my body and mind were screaming and begging and tempting. 
Until the day that sugar stopped calling. Until the begging and the screaming and the tempting all stopped. And the freedom settled in. And the freedom became the norm. 
That did not come quickly. Or easily. It came a little at a time with a lot of pain and difficulty. Until it was just there. And now it’s just there. Freedom is just a part of my life now. Independence Day is today too. 

“Follow Me” and change

I was very excited this week to get to see a documentary I am featured in about sustained weight loss. It’s called Follow Me, and it features 12 people who have lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off for 5 years or more. I am honored to be a part of it. You can visit the website and see a trailer for the movie at www.followmefilm.ca
What I particularly like about the film is that it features a bunch of different approaches to sustained weight loss. But they all have one thing in common. We each had to change our lives. 
One of my biggest problems with losing weight when I was still eating sugar, was that I wanted to do what I had always done, and have it be different. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was not eating so I could eat later. The reward was the same. Just less often. And someday. Until I couldn’t wait anymore and I ate again. And I couldn’t put it off anymore, and it went back to being the norm, not the exception. 
I could never stop eating sugar when I was eating sugar. I could never *want* to refrain, because I craved it. My brain and my body told me I needed it. And when I first *really* gave up sugar I experienced a lot of physical and emotional pain. The cravings were intense. The feelings I had been numbing with sugar were overwhelming. I was cranky. I felt high from not being high. I had to cope without my primary coping mechanism. Like learning to swim by being thrown in the lake and told “don’t die.”
But I did learn to “swim.” I learned a new way to live. And it was a life I never knew I wanted. But I did. 
One of my many (many) problems with the fitness/diet/beauty industry is that so much of what it is advertising is something that will do the change for you. Hell, even the medical industry is selling that. Take these “vitamins,” they will melt away fat. Drink this shake, it will make you want to eat less. Get your stomach removed/constricted. It will make it impossible for you to overeat. Except it doesn’t. Not even the medical/surgical solutions. I have met people who have stretched themselves a new stomach after gastric bypass. They are not the solutions they promise to be. (Oh great. Now, I am going to be singing Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina all day…)
I am not saying that surgery is necessarily “bad.” Eating as a coping mechanism worked for me until it didn’t anymore. A gastric sleeve might save someone’s life. But  if one’s problem is eating, like mine, and weight is a symptom of that problem, I don’t think anything outside of oneself is going to help. 
And I am not saying that anyone “needs” to change their eating. I want to be friends with fat acceptance, body positivity, and fat pride. I want to make this a conversation about choice. 
But I hated being fat. And I *wanted* a solution. And I was doing all sorts of self-harm and acts of self-hatred in order to try and wrangle my body into a certain shape and size, hoping that one of those awful, painful, and shameful things would be the solution to my self-loathing. And none of them were. 
But finally I found a real solution. One that doesn’t require sustained starvation. One that doesn’t require hating myself into submission. One that is abundant, delicious food, plus a body I actually love, and love to live in. 
So I am honored to be part of this film, Follow Me. I am honored to talk about the fact that sustained weight loss is not a fictional fairytale. That it can be done. And that it’s not about being special or being a specific kind of fat person. That it’s about choices and change. And that if you want something else, there is a way to have it. 

I’ll just be over here doing my flawed thing that works

I have had boundaries around my eating for over 13 years, and those boundaries are really specific (as working boundaries are.) But there is a thing that happens to me occasionally, where upon hearing one of my boundaries, a person wants me to know that whatever food I have just mentioned I abstain from is “very healthy,” and I should reconsider eating it. Avocados, bananas, and grains like quinoa are the usual suspects. 

I promise I know that avocados are both delicious and packed with nutrients! Guess what!?!? I’m still not going to eat them! 

There are other times things like this come up. On Twitter the other day, someone told me that drinking water by “quota” was “flawed.” 
I always have to remember that what I do is not science. I don’t do it because scientific research says it works. I do it because in my own experience it works. I do it because a bunch of people who were fat and could not control their eating found a solution. And I tried it when I was fat and could not control my eating, and it worked for me. So I continue to do it to this day. That is the only reason I do it. Because it has worked for me for over 13 years. And really, you have to admit that’s a damn good reason. 
Is it flawed? Certainly! Are there things about it that I am not sure are valid? Yes. Does that make it any less effective? No. No it does not. I am not a stickler for perfection. I am a stickler for the rules. As they are. Because not questioning them gives me freedom. 
I fought with the food for most of my life. I don’t want to fight with the food anymore. Especially now that my way of life works.
I want to say that I believe that someday there will be many volumes of scientific evidence that say that refined sugar, grains, and starch are addictive and have adverse effects on our bodies, brains, and hormones. And that for many of us, once we become addicted to these foods, putting them in our bodies sets up the phenomenon of craving more. 
But for now, there have not been a lot of studies. And many of the studies out there are paid for by the food industry. So I have to continue to do what I do without science-based evidence.
I am OK with that. 
Because there is something else that I have, that science couldn’t give me. A community of people who are doing what I do, and supporting me to continue. 
Because all of the science-based knowledge in the world would not help me not eat a chocolate cake if I were sad or anxious enough. But a friend could.
Knowing myself has never deterred me from eating a cake. Not wanting to eat a cake has never deterred me from eating a cake. Hating myself has never deterred me from eating a cake. 
When people ask about the way I eat, I usually say it’s not rocket science. Don’t eat sugar or flour. Eat a little fruit, and lots of vegetables. Portion control.  But, of course, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. Turning down cake when your whole body seems to light up at the prospect can be daunting. And it took about a year and a half of no sugar or simple carbohydrates at all for my body to stop screaming at me about how it wanted them. A year and a half was a long time to deny that crying toddler in me who is my sugar addict. Most people can’t be in Target for 25 minutes with their kid without giving in. A year and a half is a little bit of hell. But as they say: When you’re going through hell, keep going. 
But there is a point where science becomes a “problem” for me. It’s when someone (often a doctor or medical professional, but it could be anyone, frankly) decides that the way I eat is unhealthy. That everyone “needs” carbohydrates. Without noticing, apparently, that the majority of my food is fruit and vegetables. 
(What do people think those are, btw? Also, I do eat a small amount of wheat germ most days. Though it is a choice, and not a requirement. And I know plenty of people who never touch the stuff and are perfectly healthy.)
What they never seem to take into consideration is that for me, a diminutive slice of whole grain bread is a step away from that cake. What they don’t seem to fathom is that a banana sets off a craving in me that makes me feel crazy and out of control. Perhaps it is unfathomable to someone who has never had the desire or capacity to eat an entire chocolate cake, especially as the result of eating a slice of spelt bread. But it is not unfathomable to me. It is not even hypothetical. It is a thing that has happened in my life. (Though first I ate the whole loaf of spelt bread.) It is also an illustration of much of my first 28 years. Even though there is very little science to prove it. 
What I do is not science. It’s common sense. Figure out what you are addicted to, and stop doing that. Do what works. And keep doing it. That’s as common-sensical as stuff gets. 
Do I honor that avocados and spelt bread are nutritious foods? Of course! Hooray for them! I hope all of you non-addicts enjoy them! 
And don’t worry about me. I have given up my own experimentation. I don’t need to know if I could now eat an avocado with impunity. Because the result if I couldn’t would be far worse than any potential nutrient benefit. And I promise, whatever it is that you want to offer me as a gift, it’s nothing compared to the peace of mind and body that I am experiencing doing my “flawed” thing that works.

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