onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “giving up sugar”

All my books were dirty-and I don’t mean smut

One of the hardest things about writing a weekly blog on the same topic for over a decade is that there is a lot of mundanity at certain points in a year, and we are in one of those times right now. The big holidays are over and winter in cold climates is a lot of staying home. (OK, admittedly I am a huge proponent of staying home in all seasons. But in winter, most regular non-hermit types do as well.) So I don’t have a lot of out-of-the-ordinary situations to write about.

So I guess what I will say is that getting my eating under control means I don’t eat when I am bored, or eat as a means of filling the void. And winter always used to be the perfect time to be bored, and therefore, to get cozy and eat. 

The other day on a social media group for readers, I saw someone wondering why anyone would eat while they read? They thought that sounded crazy! And I thought to myself, that is a normal eater posing that question because eating while I read was my absolute favorite! So many of my old paper books have food stains or crumbs in the creases because while I was eating compulsively, I loved to cozy up in a chair with a book and a blanket and a bunch of junk food to eat and read. 

I do still love to cozy up with a good book. But now it’s usually an audiobook, with a cup of coffee or herbal tea, and my knitting. 

Sometimes when we give up a thing that is killing us, we have to change other things about ourselves. Ways that we have integrated a bad habit into our days. Like the way I always had a cigarette and a cup of coffee on my roof first thing in the morning when I was a smoker, so when I quit smoking I had to change my morning routine and stopped going on the roof in the morning. Because certain actions set up a craving. They gave my body an expectation and triggered a particular appetite.

So I didn’t read as much when I first got my eating under control. And if I did I often did so at the bookstore, or if it was particularly late at night, at a bar, where I could drink Diet Coke in my pajamas and not worry about eating. (It was New York City, where a girl drinking Diet Coke in her pajamas at a bar after midnight is the least weird thing a bartender has to deal with.)

I am so grateful that I can still love books without eating. I am grateful that I have found a way to keep the best parts of certain habits and practices, and still give up the parts of them that were killing me. I still love a cozy day with a good book. But now I don’t also hate myself afterwards because I can’t control my eating.

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Mad, but not at me or my integrity

Years and years ago, before I got my eating under control, I used to occasionally do “The Artist’s Way” which is a creativity workbook. I did not know it at the time but it is based on the 12 steps. And part of doing the “program” (for lack of a better term) is to write 3 pages of handwritten stream of consciousness every morning. The woman who created it called them “morning pages.” And they are based on the practice of prayer and meditation that is a big part of the 12 steps.

So when I was still eating compulsively, I was doing this workbook. And I hated morning pages. They made me frustrated and angry. And there were whole days in a row that I would literally just write “I don’t want to do this” over and over for 3 pages. 

I certainly didn’t understand it at the time, but I was angry because there were so many things on my conscience that I had shoved down so I didn’t have to look at them. And the writing was trying to bring them to the surface. To be healed. To be dealt with. To be put to rest. 

But putting them to rest meant I would have to acknowledge them. And my part in them. And the ways that I was behaving that left me ashamed. And while I was still in the food, I was never going to be able to deal with my shame.

For the last several years I have been struggling to pray and meditate. I have been angry at life. I have been so afraid for so long that it just sort of lives inside me now. My constant low level anxiety ramping up into a constant mid level anxiety. And the basis of my belief system, that Life is always right and always giving me exactly what I need, suddenly seemed untrue. Not just untrue. Like bullshit.

So I stopped praying and meditating. But that wasn’t really working for me either. I did try to get back to the happy, daily meditation I had been doing for years. And it never worked. That old routine was broken for me now and it was not going to get fixed.

But I did still want to get back into some sort of meditation practice. So I went back to “morning pages.” And it has been a great opportunity for me to clear my head. And get a good look at the things that are not clear while they are rattling around in my brain. 

But here is what I have noticed. There is no anger. There is no frustration. The past 17 years of having my eating under control, and looking at my life, and making amends for my mistakes, and owning the harm I have done, means that there is nothing in my head or heart that I can’t look at. There is nothing shoved down so I don’t have to deal with it. And if there is something that makes me uncomfortable or gives me that sense of dread, I know to look directly at it. To put it down on the page. To put the idea into words and deal with the reality of the situation.

I don’t remember what it was like to be filled with shameful secrets most of the time now. I don’t generally remember how it felt; all of the thick, slimy, suffocating feelings that went with being a person I could not like or respect. But when I do remember now, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my freedom from self hatred.

I may still be angry. And I may still be frustrated. And I am still very much afraid. But having those feelings project out, at an unfair and cruel world, is so much easier than having them project inward, at me and my own integrity.

Can one exorcize the exercise demon?

Over the past few months I started a new workout. Because I didn’t want to chart a new outdoor 2 mile path. And I was bored with my workout video. And I hate the gym and exercising on equipment. So instead I have been walking the stairs in my apartment. And it has noticeably changed my body.

This is a nice thing. Or it should be a nice thing. But I am crazy. I am stupid and blind and can easily become weirdly obsessed with my body in a heartbeat.

And this in spite of the fact that I actively avoid things that trigger my body obsession. I actively avoid thinking of my body in terms of weight and societal beauty standards. I actively avoid thinking about my size in relation to food. I do not want to measure my life in terms of how worthy other people find me. And when I say actively I mean I have structures in place. I make sure that my social media feeds include images of all sorts of people. And I block diet ads and shapewear ads and companies and profiles that promote thinness as ideal and show heavily doctored photographs. And I don’t wear makeup most of the time so that I am used to what I look like. I enjoy my natural face and don’t think there’s anything wrong with it when it’s bare. That was not the case when I wore makeup every day. 

But even after all of the ways I have changed my environment to cultivate the kind of thinking I want to have, I still have a Pavlovian reaction. A change in my body, especially *toward* societal beauty standards, can make me salivate for increased results. How can I do this but bigger, better, faster, more. 

So I, in a great show of reflection and restraint, recognized my crazy, and decided that there was nothing to change. That there was no “more” to do. And if I wanted to do something more, I could add back in some push-ups and planks that I had been doing before in a different workout. OK. Good enough.

And then on Friday, at the end of my stairs workout, but before my push-ups and planks, I got a nosebleed. So I stopped. You know, to Google if I was dying. (I am not. It’s probably just dry in my apartment and the heavy breathing of exercise caused it.) But it said to stop my workout because I need my blood pressure to go down to stop the bleeding. 

Friends, before I read that I was not going to stop. Because I am crazy. Because I had a plan to do this workout. Because I am constantly terrified of not doing enough. Because even after 17 years of having my eating under control and about 7 years of consistent, manageable exercise, when I get into one of these obsessive moods, I still feel like I’m never doing enough.

There is nothing to do about this but my best. There is no magic answer to solve this, or cure it. I will do my workout tomorrow, because I workout on Monday. And I will do my push-ups and planks, unless I encounter more unforeseen circumstances. And in all likelihood, this body obsessive period will pass and go dormant again. But it is a part of me and I don’t think it will ever fully go away.

Avoiding the pit of despair (and carbs)

First, for those of you who are dying to know, I did finish my character doll in time to gift it to the author. I didn’t get to give it to her directly, per either her own or the book store’s policy, but the doll turned out better than I expected and I was sorry to give her away. So sorry that all this week in my free time, I have been working on a smaller version for myself. (She’s a particular shade of blue -like the grey blue of hydrangeas – and I didn’t have enough yarn to make another one the same size.)

I am proud. Proud of the doll. Proud of my progress as a crafter and an artist. Proud of my accomplishments but also of my work, my willingness to work, and my willingness to undo the work that doesn’t work.

In getting my eating under control I had to learn to live my life differently, and to view my life from a different perspective. Because when I was eating compulsively, my life revolved around my feelings and my feelings were volatile and always leaned towards discontent. So when I wanted to make something – and I did. I was an artist from a young age – I was only interested in the completed work, not the process. And I was obsessed with time. Or at least I was obsessed with the time I had already spent. So if I spent time on something and it came out wrong, I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to spend even more time “fixing” what I “should have done right the first time.” So I either had a thing I didn’t like, or I gave up in frustration.

In getting my eating under control I leaned to deal with difficult feelings. First hunger. I learned to be hungry and not eat. I learned that hunger, at least the kind that I was experiencing, would not kill me. (I am not talking about real hunger. I am not talking about food insecurity. I am talking about having feelings that were uncomfortable and the desire to eat my drug foods to numb those feelings.) And then frustration. And then the shame of failure.

And what I learned by feeing these difficult feelings and not eating over them is that on the other side, if I don’t numb myself, there is a choice to be made. Do I leave the mistake or do I go back and fix it? Because suddenly there was a choice. And to make it, whatever I chose, made me understand how I controlled my own life.

Of course I had always controlled my own life. But I didn’t know that. And I didn’t have the capacity to figure it out. Because I was constantly shoving those feelings down and burying them under a belly full of chocolate cake.

When I put boundaries around my eating I gave myself the opportunity to learn and grow. I did not know that I was lacking it before. Because I was smart. I was capable. I was a quick learner. But none of these things were worth anything when a stumble landed me face first in a pit of despair and carbs.

Don’t worry. Tomorrow I will be dissatisfied with my doll making skills again. In fact, I already am. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I am still proud of the work I have done. I just want to be better. Whatever that takes.

Nothing To Resolve Today

It is January first. And I have nothing to resolve. 

One of my favorite things about having my eating under control is that I don’t have to wait for a certain day or date to change. 

Don’t get me wrong. I often do. I put boundaries around my eating on January 2nd. (Tomorrow will be 17 years!) And my first day as a non-smoker was my 35th birthday. (Ten years ago already.)

But the deal is that I don’t need to wait for a date or a circumstance or a sign to make a change. I just need to be fed up enough with my current reality to do something about it. And that really came from getting my eating under control. 

So I don’t have any resolutions for 2023 except the one I always have. Act in a way that makes me like myself more, not less. Have integrity. Do what I say I’m going to do. Be where I say I’m going to be. Tell the truth.

And all of these things became possible when l was telling the truth about food. When I was keeping my promises to eat only what I committed to a loving friend who would hold me accountable with love and without judgement.

This integrity opened me up to have more time, more energy, more creativity, more peace. So I have nothing to resolve. Except to keep growing. Which I can do any day. Not just the first day of the first month of a new year.

Planned and prepared? Priceless

Some time in the middle of next week, my husband and I will drive home to the Chicago suburbs for the holidays. And that means meal prep.

There is something really special to me about making, portioning out and packing up 3 days worth of food. I can literally see EVERYTHING I am going to eat.

I fought really hard against planning meals ahead before I started doing what I do to control my eating. I liked the uncertainty because it made it easier to convince myself that I needed, or at least “could have” the exact foods I was trying not to eat. I wanted freedom. But I really wanted the freedom to eat sugar. Because I had a bad day. Because I had a good day! Because I haven’t had it in a while. Because if I follow whatever diet, I won’t be having more for a while. Because because because.

The truth is that I have flexibility now. I can make and portion and pack 9 full meals, and still decide to eat something else. It’s just that it’s not an accident. It’s not the “only choice” I have. It’s not a case of me saying screw my food plan. I love my food plan! So if I want something else, it’s always something in my eating boundaries.

If I get to the grocery store near my house in the suburbs and they have giant honeycrisp apples and I have packed and committed to 8 ounces of pineapple, I can change my mind! But I *have* the pineapple. So if it’s time for breakfast and I am hungry and I don’t want to wait and see if there are giant apples, I am taken care of.

Back when I was eating compulsively and trying to lose weight, not having a plan was always a way to “accidentally” go off my diet. (It was not actually an accident. In case the quotation marks don’t make that obvious.) I was always either excitedly starving myself long enough to get high on some weight loss or looking for any excuse to eat drug foods. Often both. At the same time. But even if I were in the middle of a good stretch of weight loss, a holiday would mean food was going to win. It was just how holidays worked. Everyone gained weight over Christmas.

Having my drug foods down and my eating under control is a relief to me year round. Having my meals packed and ready to go is a joy. Seeing the sum total of every morsel I will consume over the next few days is a trip! Not hating myself because I can’t stop eating? Well, like that old credit card ad would say. “Priceless.”

First steps Vs Last resorts

I went to a doctor this week. The truth is, I went because my husband was at the end of his rope with worry. I would not have done it on my own accord. I don’t like doctors. At all.

I don’t have good associations with doctors. The closest I ever got to liking one was the sweet nurse from Planned Parenthood who did my yearly exam in my 30s and who was kind and gentle and patient with me. From the time I was very young I can remember being shamed by medical professionals. First for being afraid. Eventually, as I got older, for being afraid and then also getting emotional. And of course for being fat and “not following my doctor’s advice.“ But no doctor ever gave me any advice other than “don’t eat so much.” Or “just have one.” And never a word about *how* to just have one. (Spoiler alert: I am constitutionally incapable of just having one.)

I don’t remember the doctors that I had growing up ever offering me any kindness. Perhaps they did, but I don’t recall it. I remember the judgment of my being fat, but the doctor was also fat. I remember being terrified of having my blood drawn, and the nurses rolling their eyes and trying to shame me into calm. I remember asking for a phlebotomist who does babies and being told that it’s all the same and they are all professionals, and then leaving with a giant bruise from my bicep to my forearm and the understanding that I was the problem. (Planned Parenthood was the only place that took that seriously too. And I had a wonderful phlebotomist who used butterfly needles and called over a maintenance crew to talk with me and keep me distracted while she drew my blood.) 

Even this most recent doctor experience was frustrating. When she first examined me she was positive I had pneumonia so she had me take a chest x-ray. And when my lungs were clear and my heart was normal, she seemed annoyed. So annoyed that I literally had to ask her if that was a good thing, which she eventually agreed it was. And when I told her that I did not, in fact, have any kind of chronic lung problems and I had never had bronchitis before, she seemed incredulous. Why would I lie about having bronchitis???? I’m so sorry my relatively good health is such a blow to your ego! 

The truth is that because I went to the doctor I feel better and it’s a relief. Yes, I am glad I went. And I will have to remember this relief the next time I get sick. One thing I have learned in getting my eating under control, it’s to quit the thing that is killing you quickest. I quit sugar first. And then smoking.

But there is this other side to that. There were things that I was not doing that needed to be done. Things like drinking water and working out and meditating. And like those things, I can see objectively that going to a doctor makes sense. 

But I am a baby steps kind of person. So I am not going to start searching for a primary care physician today. All of those negative associations are still there. But maybe I can start to find my way to seeing a doctor as a first step instead of a last resort.

The living declaration of my priorities

The other day I was talking to somebody who is just starting to give up sugar and put boundaries around her eating and she was saying she is worried about not being organized enough to do what I do. Which is an understandable fear when you hear me talk about all of the things I do to keep my eating boundaries.

But there is a secret I told her that I will tell you. It’s not about doing all of the things like shopping and chopping and preparing. It’s about *making the commitment* to get your eating under control and *having the willingness* to do it no matter what.

You can still keep your eating boundaries without doing all of these seemingly time consuming things. It’s just harder. It’s just a lot more work. It just doesn’t make sense when you are going to keep the boundaries anyway. But the prep and the time and the effort do not create commitment. All of the trips to the grocery and the hours in the kitchen are the symptoms of that commitment.

Someone on social media once asked “how do people start working out first thing in the morning?” When I am working, I work out in the morning. Often when it’s still dark out. And the answer is, first you make the commitment to work out. And you do it whenever you can. And eventually you realize that you don’t want to take two showers a day. Or you don’t want to have to bring a change of clothes with you. Or you don’t want to have to stop back at home after work before going out. So you work out first thing because that is more convenient. But it’s only more convenient if you already knew for a fact that you were going to work out no matter what.

Someone once told me that making a commitment changes the whole trajectory of your life. And I didn’t understand that until I got my eating under control. Until I chose to get my eating under control and decided it was the most important thing I could do in a day. A commitment is a kind of living declaration of our priorities, and I love that my life is an example of that.

A memory of exhaustion

The other day I was writing my stream of consciousness meditation pages and I wanted to stop. Just stop in the middle. More like the beginning, but I had already started. I did not stop, but it gave me a kind of emotional flashback.

I used to do this particular form of quitting all the time when I was eating compulsively. It is specifically around some commitment I have made to be a better person. Or at least a person I personally like better.

There is a particular example of this that I sometimes think about just because of the timing. In September of 2001, I was taking a self-help seminar in the World Trade Center. I think the seminar was on a Wednesday or a Thursday so it was probably the 6th or the 7th, and I don’t specifically remember but I am reasonably certain I didn’t do my homework, and I was probably ashamed of that. And just in general I didn’t want to show up, and I knew that I should. And on this particular day, I schlepped myself all the way there to the World Trade Center, which was nowhere near anything else I did like my job or my home. I walked in the big doors into the giant corridor with the security stations and the big banks of elevators on the other side, and then I just turned around and left. Got all the way to the seminar, spent all of that time and energy to travel there and still didn’t show up to take care of myself. And of course, I would never go to the WTC again.

I did this with all sorts of things that I had started doing to make myself feel better, feel good, feel like I had my shit together. I would get my running clothes on, and start a jog, but I would just quit. In the middle of a jog. Just stop and decide I didn’t want to do it anymore. And I would feel awful about it. But the idea of effort was so terrifying to me that I often just shut down. I feared any pain, but especially the pain of growth.

It was interesting to have that feeling again about a writing meditation. Kind of scary, a little uncomfortable. Because that part of me is still there. But since I got my eating under control, it doesn’t win. I can feel it, acknowledge it, but not bow to it. I can want to quit and not quit.

When I put boundaries around my eating I got what some people call “abstinent references.” I learned, first hand, that I would not starve if I didn’t eat between meals. I learned that I would not die if I admitted my mistakes and made amends for them. I learned that effort is not the level of suffering I always feared it was. I learned that that once something was begun, like a workout, or showing up at the place I was supposed to be, it was actually easier to keep going and follow through than to quit. That the level of justification I would have to maintain to not feel awful about myself over it would be way more effort than just doing the workout or attending the meeting.

To remember what I used to be like is to remember how exhausted I was all the time. Because second guessing myself and stressing about everything, and being afraid of the world, and being afraid of my life was so much more exhausting than all of the food prep work and the shopping and chopping and working out and writing and meditation and that I do.

All the angels are here.

I started a new meditation practice this week. It feels good. It has been a while since I have had a strong, long-term, daily practice of some sort of meditation and reflection. 

The most spiritual thing I do in a day is weigh my food and keep my eating boundaries. That action itself is a kind of prayer of gratitude. Thank you God/Life/Universe for this nourishment that also blocks the obsession of eating. Every time I do it I know that I am doing something that keeps me on the path I want to be on. The path that leads to my most authentic self. The path that gives me a chance for a life that I love.

I used to think that spirituality was amorphous and ethereal. A thing that couldn’t be fully understood. But now I think of it as a series of actions. Weighing and measuring my food 3 times a day. Writing 3 pages of stream of consciousness. Being still and quiet for 3 timed minutes. Writing out at least 3 things I am grateful for. (Apparently I like the number 3.) 

Every time I make a commitment to myself, for myself, and keep it, that is a spiritual act. Did my workout? Spiritual. Drank my water? Spiritual.

Having a practical spirituality changed my whole way of thinking. I no longer have to wonder about God and if I am doing what God wants. I am doing what I want, and giving myself all of the things I want for myself. Heaven is empty and all the angels are here.

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