onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “giving up sugar”

Sensible Priorities for a One Track Mind

I have spent my week building furniture. Two night stands, two end tables, a TV stand, a coffee table, a small dresser, and a platform bed frame with headboard. The dining set and couch should be delivered this coming week.

We ended up buying all of our furniture on line, and I am the one who is here. So I am the one who has to build it. To be honest, I kind of love it. I like building things. I’m good at it. And there is something deeply satisfying about taking an array of stuff, putting it together, and getting something useful. Not that the things that I am building are particularly complicated. They are not. And some of them, like the end tables, are literally just screwing the legs directly into the table tops. No tools or hardware required. (The bed was more complex.)

And any time there was something particularly difficult, or really more like cumbersome and meant for more than one person, I figured out a way around it. Because I like problem solving too. And I am good at that too.

A project like those kinds of projects are fun for me. But they can also make me obsessed and obsessive. Once it’s begun I don’t want to stop until it’s finished. Even if there is something else important I should be doing. Like eating lunch. Because it’s time, and I’m hungry, and I am not thinking as well as I would be once I ate my lunch. 

That is one of my many gifts of getting my eating under control. Common sense priorities. 

I can have a one track mind. Even when I was in the food I could have a one track mind, even about things that weren’t sugar or carbohydrate related. (Though that was a huge part of it.) I can get caught up in a crochet or knitting project and not want to stop. One more row, one more line, one more pattern repeat. I can get caught up in making a costume or some other kind of art piece, and look up and realize it’s after midnight and I have been at it for hours. 

But getting my eating under control taught me that eating my weighed and measured meal at a reasonable time is more important than the momentum of building a bed frame. And the bed frame will still be there when I get done, and my body is sated and my brain is getting enough fuel to not put the piece on backwards and screw the hardware in so tight I strip the screws. 

I have a lot of crazy. A lot of intense feelings. And not just weepy sadness or incandescent rage. I have a lot of strong desire and driven ambition. It’s not a particularly useful kind of ambition that makes me a boat load of money, like the desire to build a company from the ground up, or be a CEO. It’s definitely centered more around arts and crafts. But it can still make me crazy and single minded to the detriment of my health and well-being.

So getting sensible priorities was a gift of putting the food down. Yes, I can still get lost in a project. Start designing a new part of my latest crochet doll and miss my usual workout time. Or get caught up in fixing a mistake in my blanket and look up and realize I need to stop and eat lunch or I will have to push dinner back. Or stop trying new crochet techniques for nothing in particular but my own learning and go to sleep if I want my 8 hours. And I most definitely want my 8 hours. 

Getting my eating under control didn’t change my personality. It just made me able to manage my own natural craziness. But that is definitely a gift worth having.

The kitchen in between

On this coming Friday, the furniture rental people are coming to take back their stuff. On Sunday, we will pack up and move out of here. But we won’t have an apartment in Rochester NY until the end of September. And that means 2 weeks in an extended stay hotel with a kitchenette. And that means 2 weeks without all of my kitchen comforts, and most of my favorite foods.

I will survive I don’t doubt. With my eating boundaries in tact I also don’t doubt. But it won’t be possible to make a lot of my go to foods. There won’t be an oven to bake bacon, so if I want it I will have to make it on the stovetop, which takes forever. So I probably won’t. (Maybe I won’t. Ok, I might but definitely not as often and I will feel the right to complain about it.) And my guess is the freezer won’t be cold enough to thoroughly freeze my ice cream making bowl, because they often aren’t in places like that. And I am already cataloging the handful of kitchen items I will need to bring with me, like a coffee cup because the ones they provide are so tiny, and a good frying pan because the ones they provide usually have the Teflon so scratched and warped I want to call poison control just from looking at it.

There are many things I love about traveling, but these in between times are not one of them. This is the closest I come to camping, and I don’t love it. 

I will take care of myself. I will love my food, whatever that takes and whatever that looks like. Even if it’s not the way I am used to. But I do have to brace myself. Be prepared in both the practical sense – like pack my coffee cup and my frying pan in an easily accessible crate in my car – and the emotional sense. But I will be prepared. And then pretty soon, I will be back in an apartment, with an oven and very cold freezer, and a chance to get to know a new place.

A thought about bacon

I love bacon. Of course. And yesterday I made some for lunch. I always cook the whole pound and then put it in the refrigerator and eat it for the next few meals. So I made the bacon, and I weighed out my lunch portion, and I left the rest on a paper towel on the table and I would put it away after I ate the meal in front of me.

But while I was eating my meal, I looked over at that bacon and I wanted more. Now I did not want it because I was hungry. As I said, I was in the middle of a meal. And I did not want it because I had finished all of the bacon on my plate and wished I could have more. In fact, I still had bacon on my plate. In the meal I was eating. I wanted more bacon because I am excited by the possibility of more. More anything good. And it was just sitting right there in front of me to want.

I used to always always want more. And it was never because I didn’t have enough. I just wanted. That’s it. There was no reason. Except that I am a compulsive eater and a food addict. It’s not rational. It’s not based in any actual need. It’s just a kind of thought that I have had so long that even after over 16 years of having my eating under control, I still have it sometimes.

But the difference 16 years makes is that I almost never have the thought anymore. And even when I do, like yesterday, it has almost no power. I moved the bacon out of my line of vision. (I’m not going to torture that thing in me that wants more, just because I’m not going to give in.) I finished eating my lunch, and put the rest away. And then for dinner I got to pull it out and have a little more.

When I was in the food, it would not be enough to move it. That food thought would haunt me until I ate the bacon. It would feel unbearable. It would feel like I would DIE if I didn’t eat the bacon.

It’s a huge relief to know that I don’t have to eat things today just because I can’t stop. And to know that I can have a thought about food and let it go.

I couldn’t do it alone

I had another crochet doll breakthrough this week. And it was an interesting reminder about how other perspectives from other actual humans can change things so drastically for me.

I am making a character doll from my most recent favorite series, and this character wears sandals. So I had to figure out how to crochet a bare foot. A bare foot!

Well I mentioned it on a crochet forum online, and lots of people asked to see it. And the first attempt was hilarious. Hilariously awful. But I posted it. 

Now the crochet forum is full of really nice, really supportive people who love crafting. And lots of people said my first try was not as bad as I thought. Which may have been true. But I was not satisfied. And I was not going to waste fancy, expensive, DISCONTINUED yarn to make something I thought was meh at best. (I may be a yarn snob, but I’m still cheap.) But one of the commenters said I should try a particular stitch for the toes. (Popcorn stitch, in case you know or care.) And it is something I never would have thought of myself. But it was perfect! And I am thrilled with the results! I even made her right foot with my fancy, expensive, discontinued yarn!

I am a loner. I love my own company. I am content in my own head. I can go for days and not see another person and be perfectly content. I mean, I do see my husband. But even he, who is probably a bit of a loner himself, can be home with me and we will happily do our own things for long periods of time. 

But this can make me forget how other people can shift my perspective, my thoughts, my choices.

When I was in the food, I didn’t talk about food or eating with people. My eating was simultaneously shameful and deeply private. I did not talk about the crazy things I did. I did not want to say them out loud. And that made me feel very much like I was not only bad, but I was the only one. 

When I got my eating under control, and got into a community of people also getting their eating under control, I heard people say that they did the exact same things that I had. And even some crazy things that I had never done. (Yet. There’s always time. It’s why I still do all of the things I do and I don’t pretend I’m cured.)

I needed a community. I needed to know I was not alone. I needed to know that other people were crazy the way I was. And I needed to know that even those people who had been in it even deeper than I had, had somehow found a solution.

With both design and eating, I have learned that my accomplishments are both mine, and the community’s. I had to do the work. I had to show up, put in the effort, make the mistakes and feel the feelings. But I could not do it alone.

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.

It’s not mud. It’s quicksand.

Part of my sugar addiction is physical. When I used to put sugar in my body, it caused a chemical reaction that got me high, and then set up a craving for more. I’m a sugar addict. I can understand that not everyone has that reaction to sugar, but I do and it will never go away. Like how plenty of people drink alcohol responsibly, but once someone has become an alcoholic that is pretty much it. Once a pickle is a pickle, it can never go back to being a cucumber.

But another part of my addiction is behavioral. And for as rigid as it seems to some people, it is where so much of my peace lies. 

I strictly control my food portions. I eat exactly 3 times a day. And I weigh all of my food except for a few very specific things and even those have very strict rules.

When I was eating compulsively, I never wanted anything to be quantified or clear. I wanted the rules to be muddied. I wanted to be able to stretch them. And eventually break them. I wanted to feel like I was doing something without having to actually do anything. I didn’t want to give up my drug foods. I just wanted to feel like I was trying. Or feel like I looked like I was trying. And I definitely really did want to be skinny. But to be specific, and to make clear boundaries was to have to face the reality of my situation. And I didn’t really want to know.

But what happened when I did put real, quantifiable boundaries around my eating, was my head got quiet and I found peace. 

I had never realized how much mental gymnastics I was doing to be able to cheat on my diet without feeling like I was cheating. Or how much I actually ended up hating myself for lying to and cheating myself.

Until it stopped. 

Withdrawal sucked. And it took a long time. But it was entirely worth it to be on the other side *knowing* for a fact that I was honest. That I kept my promises to myself. That I took care of myself. 

The muddy rules alway seemed like freedom, but were absolutely quicksand.

How I became a unicorn, one day at a time.

I keep a day count on my phone of how long I have had my eating under control. Today is day 6,047. 16.5 years. And that seems like such an insanely long time.

In the beginning, I was looking at people who had a year and that seemed like such a far away goal. And then, by the time I got a year, 3 years seemed like such huge amount of time. I didn’t even pay attention to the people who had more time than I had even been alive. They may as well have been unicorns. 

For those first few years, I was so used to being a liar and a cheater, and so used to not being able to stick to a diet, that I would sometimes sort of panic. I would think to myself, really? Have I really not eaten anything I said I wouldn’t in 6 months, or a year, or two? Am I really doing this?

But I had a strict set of rules. And I had a person I was accountable to every day for those rules. And I could ask myself if I followed those rules. And the answer was yes! Miraculously yes!

I have heard a lot of compulsive eaters say that when they first came and started to do what I do with food, they thought people were liars. That there was “no way” anyone could actually not eat any sugar for years, or actually weigh all of their food without lying about it. Even my husband said in the beginning of our relationship that he didn’t believe anyone else was doing it as “perfectly” as I was. But I knew that they were. Because I was and I was as hopeless a case as there was.

So here is the trick. You don’t just wake up one day and have over 16 years. It’s one day at a time. It’s one meal at a time. It’s one moment at a time. It’s one feeing at a time. It’s one messed up situation at a time. It’s one terrible restaurant experience at a time. It’s one telling a family member thank you but you don’t eat that anymore at a time. And all of those add up. And now, 16 years later, I am somebody’s unicorn.

My comfort arsenal

So far, 2022 has been a great year for books for me, but a terrible year for my health. I fell down the stairs on January 1st, got myself a bruise bigger than my head on my thigh, and before it was even remotely healed, I caught some kind of cold, had a really intense reaction to my covid vaccine booster, followed by some other sickness that has been lingering for months. (I have never tested positive for Covid, but I have sure had something.) I have had some form of hurt or illness every day this year. Every. Single. Day. So well over 6 months. And I am frustrated and exhausted from it.

But one thing I appreciate is that throughout this year, I have never thought about eating compulsively. And that’s a miracle. Because before I got my eating under control, food was always my comfort. It didn’t make everything better, but it got me high enough that I didn’t care. 

I still take comfort in food. I expect I always will. But it used to be my comfort at the expense of being at the mercy of my drug foods, a whole different kind of discomfort lurking underneath, waxing and waning with my high. And now it’s comfort in the safety and peace of self-care.

I don’t miss sugar. I don’t crave it. I don’t think about it. But eating for me is still about the sensations and the ways they make me happy. Crispy bell peppers, and creamy homemade ice cream, and snacky cheese bites, and fresh, citrusy pico de gallo. All of these things make me happy and take my mind off of my troubles. 

And when meal time is over and the next meal is not for hours, I have learned to have other things that give me peace and comfort. Crafting, and listening to audiobooks, talking books with my reading buddy or my mom, writing, or binge watching some show or other. 

It certainly took time to acquire this comfort arsenal. I was not good at it right away. It was years of managing to just not eat a cake. To get by as best I could. But now I am well equipped to deal with discomfort in a healthy, sane way. 

And of course, like all things, this too shall pass.

When the math didn’t math

I am a control freak by nature. I want what I want and I am interested in figuring out how to get it. I remember a line from a movie when I was a kid. Something about control being an illusion. And at the time I didn’t think it was true. After all, it seemed to me that all of the grownups in my life had it. And I wanted it too.

And the other thing was that it seemed logical to me that if actions have reactions, if you could figure out the “right equation,” you could create the right reaction, the one you wanted. What I didn’t fully understand was that when this bumped up against other people and what they wanted, this was just manipulation. And also, I wasn’t always great at knowing what I wanted.

There are some important things that getting my eating under control has taught me. 1) Usually, that kind of control does not get me a worthwhile return on investments. I almost never want the thing I think I want as much as the machinations cost me. 2) I can make myself feel positively crazy trying to think and plan myself the right “equation” to get what I think I want. 3) I usually want something much more theoretical than the practical thing I think I do. Like I want to feel pretty, more than I want that specific dress.

For 28 years I wanted to eat whatever I wanted to eat, but also be thin. And I did a whole lot of things to try to make that equation work out. Dieting, exercise bulimia, regular old bulimia bulimia. But none of that math ever mathed. 

When I gave up sugar and simple carbohydrates 16+ years ago, I thought I was throwing in the towel and agreeing that I would accept being skinny as the best I could get. And even that I was skeptical of. I had never been skinny and also had never been able to control my weight. But (eventually- there was still the long slog of sugar withdrawal) I got all of the things I really wanted. The things I thought eating whatever I wanted and still being skinny would get me. To be happy and comfortable in my body both in private and public. To love my food without guilt. To like myself and not doubt myself or my choices.

I don’t always do it perfectly, but today, I try to remember that when I keep my eating under control and do my best to be my authentic self, I get exactly what I really wanted, whatever that looks like, even if I didn’t know I wanted it.

The potential to show up is enough

This past week has been a week of not much. I have done some knitting, and some daydreaming about my doll and how to proceed with embroidering her dress and crocheting her shoes (daydreaming is definitely part of the process) and I have done some cleaning, but really, I have not done much to be productive. But I was reminded this week that just keeping my food boundaries is enough.

In the beginning of having my eating under control, when people used to tell me “all you have to do in a day is weigh and measure your food,” I could really feel that. Because in the beginning, that was all I *could* do. Often! How I managed to make any money at the time is a bit of a mystery to me. The first year and a half of keeping my eating boundaries is a blur. But I know for sure it included a lot of sleeping, and a lot of watching anime.

But after 16 years, I can accomplish a lot. I have a huge capacity to get things done. I have a huge amount of time and patience and space in my head. And I like it! I like being productive. I like being good at things. I like being capable.

But the fact remains that 16 years in, it is still enough to have weighed and measured my food every day without exception. Because every day that I do that is a day that gives me the potential to do more.

Here’s another thing I understand. That having my eating under control means that when a thing needs to get done, I can do it. And I do do it. I can be counted on. I can count on myself. So if not a lot got done today, then not a lot needed to get done. And as long as I keep my eating boundaries, I can trust that I will show up for the stuff that needs showing up.

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