onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “freedom”

The tough reminder that today is not that day

I have had a terrible week. I have had a mostly terrible month. I have felt a lot of anger and frustration. I have felt undervalued. I have felt taken for granted. And I have been scared.

Here is the hard but important lesson I learned years ago when I first started putting boundaries around my food: very few things worth achieving happen quickly or easily. And the ones that do are really just an offer to do the work.

When I wanted to be a professional actor, a theatre director literally walked into my restaurant job and asked me if I wanted to audition for him. And I got that job. But acting is not that. It is not being offered acting jobs and taking them. It is going to audition after audition and taking classes and networking. I believe I got that job because life was telling me that if I wanted, I could do that work and make a life of that. That it was in me if I wanted it.

When I wanted to see if I could make a living as a freelance writer, I sent out my first article to one place and my article was accepted and published. Now this was an online publication that did not pay for 1 article, but would pay once you had a following within their publication. And freelance writing, much like acting, is not writing articles and getting them published. You send article after article, and log where you have sent them to, and log who has published you, and badger them for the money they owe you. Basically, life was telling me that if I wanted to live that life, it was there if I was willing to do that work. That it was in me if I wanted it.

When it came to the food, I wanted it to be easy right away. But it wasn’t. I wanted to be free from the compulsion and the itch in my skin and the feelings of fear and pain that I had been eating all my life to deal with. But I wasn’t. It was hard for a year and a half. And still not easy for me for another 4. And every single day, for about 5 years, I had to manage it. Do the work. Make calls, prepare meals and weigh my food, sit in difficult and sometimes devastating feelings. But it was in me if I wanted it.

I didn’t do the work to become an actor or a freelance writer. But I *did* do the work to get my eating under control. And I have no regrets about any of the above. 

But there are things that I do want right now. I want to break through the misogyny of the construction industry. I want to be acknowledged for the amazing work I do. I want to be respected and honored for not only knowing what I am doing, but doing it so well that the higher ups don’t even have to think about it. 

But instead, I sit in rooms with a bunch of men who stroke each other’s egos and tell each other that they are doing an excellent job, when the whole point of the meeting is that they are not, in fact, doing an excellent job and they need to get it together and get it done. I have been in these rooms where these men simper at me and pooh-pooh me for bringing up valid concerns. As if to say, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, little lady.” I refer to it as “Being Little Lady’d.” But perhaps it would be more accurate to call it being glass-ceilinged.

But just like I was at the beginning of my eating journey in 2006, I am at the beginning of my work journey now. I used to be happy to be the backup, the assistant. I was new to the job and it felt good to do good work and be useful. But recently I have willingly taken up a huge amount of responsibility, leapt entirely out of my comfort zone, and even though there have been a few missteps, I have done a spectacular job. In only a few months I have stretched and grown professionally beyond my own imaginings, and done great work to further my job and my company in the field. And I have to remember that just like I did not become an actor or a freelance writer with one acting job or one article, I will not be busting through any ceilings today. 

And that is hard for me. I feel like these people know me. That they *should* see me for what I am, a great worker, smart, organized, on top of trouble and diverting problems. But they see a woman. An office woman. And as long as the workers get paid, they don’t really want to have to think about me. 

Like I said. This is going to be a long haul. I am going to have to take it, as the 12 steppers so fondly remind one another, one day at a time. Things get done in steps, not all at once. I should recognize that that is as true in the offices of the construction industry, as it is in the factories and airports and distribution centers we build.

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.

Even in a hard world, my life is easier

I feel rather out of sorts this week. My routine has been off. And some things have gone wrong. My hormones are slightly out of whack. Our very expensive kitchen faucet broke and I won’t get a new one for at least a week. Our refinished bath tub is peeling and the guy is coming early tomorrow morning to fix it, which means getting my run, shower and breakfast in before he gets here. And this is on top of what has been a hard year for me, like it has for everyone.


I am tired of feeling so stressed out. I am tired of worrying. I’m tired of the uncertainty of so many important things. I’m tired of all of it masquerading as normal in my head so I can deal with the day-to-day.

There is a thing that I have noticed. When I am faced with having to actually deal with something I don’t want to, as in take an action or even just look at the honest truth of it, I have a thought: “I’m exhausted.”

It does not mean what it used to mean to me. Exhausted used to be a body experience. It was what happened after a long day of physical exertion. It was the kind of thing that was satisfying. It meant a good, restful sleep. It meant a feeling of accomplishment, or at least it felt earned.


But when I say it now, it means something entirely different. It means emotional fatigue. It means spinning and spinning without ever feeling like I’m getting anywhere. It means a kind of spiritual and emotional impotence that is hard to put my finger on, except that it feels like I should be doing something, but everything I think I could do feels too small to make a difference. It feels like fight or flight with nothing to strike out at and nowhere to go.


But my eating is taken care of. And that means that other things, important things, are taken care of. My integrity, my self-esteem, my relationships. All of those things are in a place where I can look myself in the eye and feel like I’m honoring myself. I’m sad, and I’m frustrated, and I’m just so tired, but I still like me and love me. And I lived so many years hating myself, even when things were going right. Even when circumstances were easy, my life eating compulsively was hard.


I try to remember today, and every day, that life is not always easy or fair. And I am allowed to be having a hard time. And I am grateful to have tools and practices in place to help me take life a day/minute/step at a time. But most of all I remember to be grateful. Because even in the face of a scary world on the outside, treating myself with love and honor, first around food, but also around everything in my life, is a better life than the one of shame and self-loathing I had when I was eating compulsively.

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.

Is This Growth?

Obviously, this is my blog about how I have and keep my sugar addiction under control. And one of the ways that I do that is by keeping boundaries around my food. Part of that is weighing and measuring most of the food I eat. There are lots of rules and they make me feel safe. Having hard and fast rules means that I can eat guilt-free. Which was not a part of my life when I was eating sugar and eating compulsively.

But I am still an addict, and I still love to eat. One of the rules is that I can have half a cantaloupe for breakfast. And one of the ways that I and other people who have the same eating boundaries I do work the system, is to find the biggest cantaloupe we can. I once heard a woman tell a group of us she found one that weighed 8 pounds. And we all laughed and cheered and nodded. We all would have bought that 8 pound cantaloupe. It is not breaking the rules or crossing boundaries to do this. It is in bounds and fair game.


I have had people who don’t do what I do or understand my lifestyle tell me that buying an 8 pound cantaloupe or a 1 pound apple is “cheating.” Which only goes to show that they are mistaken as to the game I am playing. I am not on a diet. I am not trying to get skinny. I am trying to navigate my eating life, so that I am nourished, sated, and serene. I do that by keeping my boundaries. But my boundaries have a lot of room for personal choices inside them.

But over the past 3 or 4 years, my cantaloupes have gotten smaller. I mean, they are still really freaking big. But I started to realize that I don’t always love the way I feel overstuffed after breakfast when I automatically buy the biggest cantaloupe I can find. When I told a friend with food boundaries she laughed and said, “Yes, I don’t need a basketball sized cantaloupe. A volleyball sized one will do fine.”


I am still an addict when it comes to food and eating. I still always want more. Even when I am stuffed. Even when I just ate. Eating still holds all of the charge that it did when I was eating compulsively. But having boundaries is the best way for me to keep my feelings out of my food life. I can make myself sick with cantaloupe and still not feel bad about it. And I can finish a meal and be done. Even if it was wonderful and I wish I could have more. I can. At dinner. Or tomorrow. There is always another meal coming.


But I also want to say that sometimes, I eat 8 ounces of pineapple for breakfast. A nice, “normal” sized bowl of fruit. And it’s enough. More than enough. It is delicious and satisfying and gets me through the morning to lunch completely content.
I guess what I am saying is that so much of my eating life is still about how much I love to eat. How much I want to eat. How much eating still makes my life better and happier. It is not now, and never has been, and I expect never will be about eating to live, or food as fuel. It is still about eating as a joy, as a comfort. And in these times of great discomfort, food as a true comfort, without guilt and shame, is a wonderful blessing. But maybe another blessing is that I ate the second half of my very large cantaloupe for breakfast today and tomorrow’s breakfast fruit is going to be a 12 ounce apple.

My Body as a Temple

There is a saying. My body is a temple.

Now that is originally a quote from the Bible. And the short, paraphrased version of it is that our bodies are temples to the Holy Spirit and that our bodies do not belong to us, but to God.

Yeah…look, your body may, indeed, be a temple to God with a capital G. But mine is not.

My body is a temple to me, to my own life, to the things I want to do and the person I want to be. To this amazing vehicle! I remember I was in my 20s when I realized that this body was the only thing in the world that I owned outright. And I take that seriously.

When most people use that quote, “My body is a temple,” they are usually talking about why they are eating unappetizing food or doing some kind of intense, strenuous exercise routine. And they are often bragging (overtly or covertly) about how they fit neatly into the modern Western beauty ideal.

From my point of view, their body is a temple to the fitness and beauty industries. Those are gods I refuse to worship.

It is true that I gave up sugar and carbohydrates to be thin. And I was really thin for a while. And I hated fatness, and I hated myself for having been fat, and I hated the poor fat kid I had been.

But I did not stay very thin for long. I was pretty thin for about 5 years. And really skinny for about 2 years. But that was it.

But I didn’t ever go back to eating sugar and carbohydrates. Not because I continue to try to be skinny, but because my body *is* a temple. And I am freer, happier, less anxious, and more peaceful since I quit those foods which are poison to me. I am not honoring thinness. I am honoring my own life.

I hated myself so much and for so long and so completely, that I didn’t even know that I hated myself until it stopped. And it stopped when I gave up sugar and carbohydrates. It did not stop when I lost weight, though I did lose weight. And it did not come back when I gained weight back. And I did gain some back. It was not my weight that was the true issue. The true issue was sugar and how I was using it as a drug. And how I was addicted and behaved like an addict. I was a liar, a cheater, a thief, and a master manipulator. And sugar made that possible for me the way alcohol makes those things possible for an alcoholic.

When I say my body is a temple now, I mean I honor it as a way of honoring my life. And my life is not marathons and intermittent fasting. Hell, it’s hard enough “fasting” between dinner and breakfast!

I honor my life and body with regular exercise and water. With fruit at breakfast and raw vegetables at lunch and dinner. With flossing. With meditation. With skin care. With limited caffeine.

But also, giving up sugar and carbohydrates gave me a new, better ability to sit still and focus. To learn new things. To have the patience to fail and keep trying. So I honor my life and body by knitting blankets and crocheting dolls.

It gave me the ability to get things done and fulfill my duties and commitments, and then to give myself time to rest. So I honor my life and body by lying on the couch for Netflix binges and YA Fantasy audiobooks.

I learned to love my body as beautiful, even when it doesn’t fit into society’s beauty standards, so I honor my body and my life by buying clothes I love for whatever weight or shape I am, and by seeking out and following models of all shapes and sizes on social media. Because seeing only one kind of body portrayed as beautiful made me hate the body I was in.

My body is a temple to celebrate myself. And in my temple there is exercise and hydration, but also bacon and homemade chocolate ice cream. And that is a temple I am happy to worship in. Good thing too. It’s the only temple I’ve got.

Not dead yet…So expecting change

One of the most useful things about having my eating under control is my ability to change, often gracefully, sometimes less gracefully, but always with sense of well-being. If I’m not dead yet, well, then more will be revealed.


When I first put boundaries around my eating, parts of my life got very small for a while. I had to live through the withdrawal. I had to figure out how to reconfigure an entire life that had been centered around eating, specifically eating sugar and carbohydrates.


But then my life had all of this unused time in it. Time that had been spent pursuing and eating sugar. And my head had all of this new space. Space that had been taken up by my food obsession. And eventually I had both the capacity and the free time to try new things and think in new ways.


Change became a muscle I was building. It’s a muscle I continue to build. And it is invaluable in times like these. Times where flexibility and adaptability are currency. In times like the times we are living in now, people like me, who can get swept up in the current of a present in flux and an uncertain future, and just ride it until we get spit out onto the shore somewhere, are in a great position. We have the power that comes from being present in the moment. We have the power of freedom.


I have this gift because my eating is under control, which means my head is clear from both sugar fog and food obsession. I have it because upon getting the clarity of mind, I realized I had to live honestly and with integrity in all areas of my life, or I was going to end up back in food hell. I have it because I had to take on a way of life where I am rigorous with myself and deal with my own life, rather than looking to blame others. Even when others are wrong. Even when I am right and my anger is righteous. I have this gift because I got to move away from centering my life around what I want, and move toward the power of choosing what I wish to do with what I actually got.

I had to learn to make friends with my food issues. I had to learn to work around them, and make them work for me. And through that, I learned to make friends with what is so, and to not fight against the actualities of my life and my world, but use them. Or at the very least, learn to accommodate them.

Changing my eating and behavior around food also rewired my brain. In actively changing both my thoughts, and my actions, I changed a lifetime of compulsions and defaults. And I got good at change in the process. And it is a gift and a blessing that goes far beyond food or eating or the size of my body.

The First of Many Ways I Learned to Honor My Body

Today I am sharing the link for a documentary that I was featured in that I am really happy to be a part of. It’s called Follow me, and below is a link to rent or buy it on Vimeo.com. If you are interested, I highly recommend it.
https://vimeo.com/ondemand/followmefilm

As a person who was fat and hated it for my so much of my life, I was still terrified of giving up sugar and carbohydrates 14+ years ago. Now I treat those foods as poison, but then, I didn’t think I could have any joy if sugar was gone from my life.


But I have said it before and I will say it again: Giving up man made sugars, grains and starches is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.


When I was eating sugar, I ate even when I did not want to eat. I could not stop. My eating was completely out of my control. And that lack of control was terrifying and shameful. I felt like I was morally inferior to thin people. And because it was written all over my body, people treated me that way as well. And they were allowed to. For all of my life, fatness has been a thing it was OK to mock, and fat people a “fair target” for shame and abuse.


For a while now, I have been moving away from focusing on weight and weight loss, and moving more toward looking at freedom and happiness. Specifically, the freedom I have from food addiction and the happiness I find in having my physical cravings and mental obsession lifted.


Look, I am significantly happier in an easy body. And I am not ashamed of that. And I am grateful to not be subject to the kinds of judgement I was a target for when I was fat. And I am not ashamed of that either. But that doesn’t mean I think it was or is OK. I am just relieved to not be on the receiving end of it. That is natural.


But whatever my body looks like (and it has looked a lot of different ways over the past 14 years – skinny, strong, curvy, chubby) giving up sugar and carbohydrates has created freedom for me from not only compulsive eating, and sugar addiction, but also from the shame I felt in not being able to stop eating.


In having freedom from my sugar and carbohydrate addiction, I can have a much more gentle view of my own fatness. I can love myself and my body, in all of its various shapes and sizes through my life. I can see how beautiful I was when I was fat. Something I could not see when I was in it and cowed by food. And I can see how beautiful I am now. I can see that how much I like and love myself doesn’t have to do with my size or shape, but by how I am willing to honor my body. And for me, putting down sugar was the first of many ways I learned to do that.

Freedom isn’t free. And what would I do with a toaster?

Last week I waxed poetic about the amazing freedom that I get from putting boundaries around my eating. This week I want to talk about one of the less savory (though still really important) aspects of having my eating under control.
I feel all of my feelings. ALL of them!
And this week has been a difficult week for feelings. My husband and I not only live together, but we work together and we travel together. And we have both been under a ridiculous amount of stress. Tempers have been running high. We have been fighting about work. And we had an emotionally “frosty” drive home on Friday.
And then a person commented on a post of my blog last week saying, “Talk about deprivation!” And I was frustrated and angry. Because my post was all about how I am *not* deprived in the slightest. And I had to decide if I wanted to respond.
I didn’t. Because this blog is not about being “right.” And it’s not about getting people to do what I do. I’m not promoting an eating lifestyle. I am sharing my experience. I want to be a beacon. I hope I help someone who needs to hear that there is a solution to what they are suffering.
But it’s not like I get a toaster if I convince people to try my way of eating.
Also, what the hell would a person who doesn’t eat bread do with a toaster?
My point is that I felt all of those feelings this week. And more. I did a lot of crying. I did a lot of talking it out with trusted friends. But there was no escaping the reality of those feelings like there was when I was eating sugar and eating compulsively.
The thing about feelings that I learned early in putting boundaries around my eating was that you don’t get to pick and choose. It’s all or nothing. And even when you choose “nothing,” it’s not really nothing. Those feelings still live inside you. It’s just that they are twisted, and corrupted. When I finally put down sugar, I had to feel 28 years worth of feelings. 28 years worth of feelings that spent all of that time bouncing around the echo chamber of my sick, sad mind. And wow did that suck.
So now I have to feel them as they come, one at a time. But I also get to feel them as true, pure feelings. Not warped and amplified after years of pushing them down and in.
There is that saying: Freedom isn’t free. It’s usually meant to be political and patriotic. My experience is that it’s true spiritually as well.
I had to make sacrifices to get this freedom. I’m not talking about giving up cake. I am talking about giving up the numbness that accompanied my eating cake. It may not occur to you that there is a difference, but to me this is not a subtle distinction. It’s glaringly obvious to me.
So I am happy, joyous, and free. But in order to be that, I also have to be sad, frustrated, humiliated, angry, or any other feeling that comes upon me.

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. 

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