onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “giving up sugar”

The good sense to remember I’m an addict.

In this blog I can sometimes write a lot about the periphery of my sugar addiction. I write about the ways I had to change my thinking, or my behavior. I write about how I became more confident by becoming more humble. I write about the ways my life is different because I dealt with my sugar and carbohydrate addiction. But today I want to touch on the food.

I know I have written about it before, but I think it’s worth coming back around to. Because ultimately, all of the peripheral issues I get to wax poetic about, are only available for me because my eating is taken care of. And my eating is taken care of, partially because I have strict rules about my eating behavior, as in strict portion size and 3 meals a day with nothing in between but zero calorie drinks. But mostly my eating is taken care of because I do not put sugar, grains, or starch into my body. This even goes as far as certain vegetables and fruits. I don’t eat potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, cherries, grapes, or bananas. I don’t eat quinoa or brown rice.

Sometimes people balk at this. “Those foods are healthy,” they say.

I am not denying that they are nutritious foods. I am not saying that they are “bad for you.” I’m not saying *you* should not eat them. I am saying that when I put those foods into my body they create a phenomenon of craving that defies all rationality. I am saying that if I eat a sweet potato, it is just a hop, skip, and a jump to me eating an entire cake. That is not hyperbole.

Sometimes people talk about moderation. I do, in fact, practice moderation in the “unhealthy” foods I do still eat. I limit my pork rinds and my sausage. Because I *can* eat those things and limit them. I can eat my portion of sausage and be satisfied until the next time I can eat it.

But I am physically incapable of moderating my sugar intake.

Sometimes people offer me a cookie or a piece of chocolate. Sometimes they say things like “it’s just one,” or “it’s just a little.” And they are correct. It is, indeed, just one, and just a little. But even a little is too much for me and I will not be able to stop there. I will be forced by my addiction, against my will, to go out and get more, and more. It will never be enough. I cannot eat a cookie without finishing the box and then going to the store to get another box and finishing that one too. And again. And again. Forever.

This came up for me because on Twitter the topic of willpower popped up in a series of tweets I was reading. People get very judgy about willpower. Especially when it comes to food and weight. The implication is that people who cannot eat one cookie and then go about their lives are lacking some kind of basic moral foundation. That this thing called “willpower” is somehow the measure of a person’s character and worth. (Especially if that person is fat.)

I want to be the first to say that while I am willful as hell, I do not now, nor have I ever had willpower over eating sugar. When I was eating sugar, I had to eat more sugar, no matter how much I did not want to. I hated my body and wanted to change it, but I could not stop. I wanted boys to think I was pretty and did not want to be fat, and I could not stop. My family was filled with diabetics and I knew it was only a matter of time before I became one too, and I could not stop.

I have now abstained from sugar, grains and starch for over 12 years. So clearly I do have some control, but what I have is not willpower.

What I do have are 2 things: 1) A body free of the substance that causes cravings for more of the substance, and 2) A commitment to remember that one bite of sugar (or flour, or brown rice, or banana) will inevitably mean I will be thrown back into the hellish cycle of craving, eating, and by eating, perpetuating craving.

So I am grateful that I can write here about my emotional and spiritual growth. But that is only possible because my drugs, sugar and carbs, are not in my body. And I take actions every day to keep it that way. Because I don’t have willpower. I just have the good sense to remember every day that I am an addict.

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Imitation is the sincerest form of culinary

My husband has been on a cooking jag lately. We eat very differently. When I cook for us, I generally make us the same protein, like steak, pork, or chicken. But while I may have broccoli or Brussels sprouts, he will have corn on the cob and potatoes. I don’t eat corn or potatoes.

And when he wants the kinds of things where you put food in your food, well, I’m out. My food boundaries require that my portions of protein be separated from my portions of vegetables. At least when I am measuring them out. Of course, I can, and sometimes do, mix them up later.

So last weekend he made a Sunday gravy complete with wine, braciola, meatballs with breadcrumbs, and sausage (with sugar, because, as you already know if you read this blog, it is nearly impossible to find an Italian sausage without sugar in the grocery store.) It’s the kind of thing I already could not eat, even if I wanted to put it on spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti.

And last night he made steak fajita quesadillas.

But wait! I can have steak fajitas. I can have the homemade salsa he made that has the whole kitchen smelling like heaven. No, I can’t have the tortilla. And my cheese portions are too small to make cheese worth it most of the time. But it got me thinking. I want tacos! I want lettuce wrap tacos with cilantro lime (cauliflower) rice and meat with homemade taco seasoning, and sautéed peppers, and my husband’s salsa! I want that!

So when I am done writing this blog, I am going to the store to pick up some ingredients. Because when I gave up sugar, I did not stop loving food. I still loooooooove food. I still get excited! I still look forward to every delicious meal. And I am a great cook, so I make sure every meal is delicious.

It sometimes takes some creativity to eat the things I want and have them fit my boundaries. I like simple foods very much. I can be deliriously happy with a nice portion of steak with some roasted vegetables. But I will tell you that a “fried rice bowl” of riced cauliflower sautéed in sesame oil with garlic and ginger topped with soy sauce is positively transcendent! And fits my food plan. And feels decadent. And doesn’t set off food cravings, or fuel my self-loathing.

So I am going to make myself some “tacos.” Yes, I know that to some people, lettuce wraps are not tacos. And cauliflower rice is not rice. I got it. But when you haven’t had corn products or rice or starch in over 12 years, it doesn’t matter. It’s good nourishing food with an abundance of complimentary flavors that are satisfying and pleasurable. I promise, my “tacos” will make me just as happy as your tacos make you. And significantly happier than your tacos could make a sugar and carb addict like me.

In defense of sugar. JK! It apparently has enough defenders.

I saw two things on social media this week that frustrated me. Both of them were about how sugar is “not the problem.”

One of them was a tweet from an obesity doctor that said that when people come into his office and say they gave up sugar and lost weight, they really mean they gave up junk food. What they really did, according to this doctor, was reduce fat, starch, and calories, not just sugar. He literally ends his tweet with “It wasn’t just the sugar.”

And the other was an article about debunked health myths. And one of the “debunked” myths is that sugar is addictive. First, the title of the section is “Sugar is as addictive as heroin.” This is the last line of the section:

“So, scientists don’t know what addiction in the brain looks like, yet, and until that mystery is solved we should not be living in fear from something as fanciful as sugar addiction.”

Fanciful. Total silliness! Ridiculous! Go get yourself a cake and hang out in a food coma until scientists agree that sugar addiction is a thing. Or better yet, a diabetic coma. Whatever.

The thing that really pisses me off about both of these is the condescension . If you believe that sugar is the problem, you are an idiot. You are delusional. “What people are *really* doing is cutting calories, but they are too stupid/brainwashed to understand.” “Its fanciful to believe that sugar could be addictive.”

I believe in science. I don’t want to imply that I don’t. But I also believe that science, and our true understanding of the effects of something, can be limited by our biases, preconceived notions, and beliefs. I believe that the food industry has knowingly and purposely propped up sugar as “innocuous” for over half a century. “Food is food.” “A calorie is a calorie.”

But we have paid the price for it. There is more sugar in our diets than ever before, and there is more obesity in 1st World civilization than ever before. And I cannot stand this defense of sugar, and the subsequent shaming of people suffering from obesity, in the name of science.

“It’s not the sugar. It’s you. You are the problem.”

First, I do believe that sugar is addictive, but that not everyone is as likely to become addicted. I happen to believe that I have a predisposition to become addicted in general, and that I am addicted to sugar. But I know plenty of people who can and do eat sugar in moderation and do not suffer from health problems in any way from their sugar consumption. My husband is one of those people. I buy him sugar all the time. I pack it in his lunch. I keep it in the house for him.

And second, I am for freedom. True freedom. If you want to eat sugar all day, I believe that is your right. Even if it means morbid obesity. Even if it leads to diabetes and hypertension and Alzheimer’s and stroke. Even if it means suffering. I am not going to tell you how to eat. That is none of my business. And I don’t think it should be.

But I am not for the shaming of humans in defense of sugar. Nor am I for the belittling of my intelligence because science has not come to a consensus on whether sugar is addictive. As a person with a very clear experience of sugar as an addiction, I do not doubt that science will eventually show what I already know. But even if it doesn’t, that in no way diminishes my experience that when I abstain completely from sugars, grains, and starch, excepting some whole fruits and vegetables, I do not crave more than is healthy, and I do not suffer from food obsession.

But I can’t help but be frustrated that an obesity doctor would be so obnoxious about people, his own patients, who say they gave up sugar and lost weight. Is *he* a sugar addict? Or is he being paid off to downplay the effects of sugar on a person’s health? Otherwise, I can’t see why he would go out of his way to point out his patients’ “wrongness,” to defend a substance. It seems cruel and rude to me.

I will close with this. My whole life, growing up fat, doctors and nutritionists would tell me to eat sugar in moderation. But I cannot eat sugar in moderation. I cannot eat a slice of cake. It is either no cake, or the whole cake. I don’t have a done button. So, as far as I am concerned, any obesity doctor who can’t even consider the possibility of sugar addiction for some number of his patients, is not very good at his job.

You are what you eat. You eat what you think.

I am a believer in language. I believe that the language we use not only expresses what we mean, but, in part, helps to create the world we live in. That it shapes our perceptions, which in turn, create our reality.

When I meet people who are trying to give up sugar and carbs, I discourage certain words and phrases. For example, I recommend they stop saying they are giving up the “foods they love,” or “favorite foods.” I recommend they not say they “miss” those foods. I suggest they not think fondly of the memory of those foods. That, in fact, they not think about those foods at all. Those foods are making them miserable. They are hurting and tormenting them. They are like an abusive partner. I believe we, as sugar addicts, need to stop telling ourselves things like “ but I love x” and “but y is so good.” These things are killing us. It’s like saying that you are bummed about having the black eye, but your abuser is a good guy. Remember all the times he bought you flowers?

My relationship with sugar and carbs seems pretty close to that kind of abusive relationship. The truth is that food was there for me at first. It wooed me by helping me get through life as a kid. I needed it to cope with a lot of unhappiness. But it turned on me pretty quickly. And by that point I was trapped. Or at least I felt trapped.

So now my “favorite foods” only include foods that I can eat within my boundaries. I only “love” foods that keep me nourished and sane. I don’t “miss” foods I am addicted to. Because peace and freedom are the most important things to me. And I don’t want to create a reality where my “favorite” things are things that are killing me and my happiness.

Where the love is

On Friday I celebrated my 2nd Wedding anniversary. I don’t really think about it on a day-to-day basis, but it’s a miracle. Certainly to my child self it’s a miracle. I felt shameful and unlovable for nearly all of my early life. I had resigned myself to being alone forever at a very early age. And to my early-teen self, it’s something more than just any miracle. Because I married the guy I had a huge crush on from about 12 to 14, until we lost touch. If you told 13-year-old Kate that she would marry him, she would have told you that you were crazy.

Of course, it took more than 20 years of separation, and a whole lot of personal change, physical, emotional, and spiritual, but it sure did happen.

And that is all thanks to keeping my eating boundaries. All of it. Period. Sometimes my husband says very sweet, romantic things about how he would still love me if I gained weight. And I believe him. Because I don’t think he understands what would actually come along with weight gain. I think he is thinking in terms of physical beauty. And I think he believes that I am just beautiful no matter what. Which I love! And I am grateful for.

But when I am eating compulsively, I am not beautiful for a few reasons that have nothing to do with size. I don’t like myself when I am eating compulsively. I get depressive and ashamed. I second guess myself. Also, I don’t have a whole lot of integrity when I am in the food. I lie, cheat, and steal. I hide truths and manipulate people. I am just generally difficult, angry, and unhappy. And I don’t think about anyone but myself. Everything is all about me.

When I started writing this blog over 6 years ago, it was to open myself to love. It was to stop thinking all of those thoughts I had about not being worthy. And there was something to do about it. I took an honest, searching look at myself, took stock of what about myself I wanted to change, and started working toward being the kind of person I wanted to be in a relationship with. There is a saying: Self-esteem comes from doing estimable acts.

But I could only do those estimable acts because I put sugar and carbs down. When I am eating sugar and carbs, I am only thinking about that. If something I want would impede my eating, I would let that thing, that wish, go. Because eating sugar is the most important thing in the world when I am eating sugar. When I am not eating sugar, my life and my relationships are the most important things.

So at this time of the anniversary of my marriage, I am so grateful for that 28-year-old Kate who decided that a life that revolved around sugar was not enough. That there was something better to be, and something better to be had. And that she was willing to go through the dark, scary world of withdrawal and uncertainty, to get to the other side. That’s where the love is.

I adjust for conflation

I was talking with a group of friends the other day about International Women’s Day, and someone mentioned movements like “fat is beautiful,” and “fat as a feminist issue.”

The truth is that I do think that fat is a feminist issue. I do think that being fat and being beautiful are not mutually exclusive. And at the same time, I absolutely hated being fat, and I never want to go back.

I think that part of the problem with these ideas is that we conflate them. Let me break it down for you. There is a difference between what you, as an individual with a body, want to believe about and do with your body, and what our society and culture tell you about what you *should* believe about and do with your body.

I have had to deal with this for myself. I had to do some serious and painful soul searching. Because I really hated being fat. I was miserable and I felt ashamed. I hated my body. I hated the way that I looked, and the way that I felt. I hated that I could not stop eating. I hated how hard it was to live in that body.

But separately, I also hated the way I was treated by others. I hated that people were given the “right” by our culture, to openly comment about my body. After all, this body is me and I am this body. Whatever its size and shape. If you shame my body, you shame me. If you disrespect my body, you disrespect me.

I have come to really understand, only after years of being in a comfortable body, a body that I am comfortable in, that just because I was unhappy with myself didn’t give anyone else the right to judge me. It was not ok that I was shamed and abused. It was not ok that I was humiliated by others. That I hated myself did not give friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers a pass for being jerks.

My food problem is a sickness. It is not cured by “pushing away from the table,” or “just not eating so much,” or “having willpower,” or “having some self-respect.” I don’t now, and never did, earn my place in the world by being beautiful, thin, accommodating, and feminine. I have always had a place in the world. I was born into it, by virtue of having a body.

And I will say that I consider myself to be incredibly beautiful (and my husband would add humble.) And I love it. And I don’t apologize for loving it. But it doesn’t define me. And I don’t owe it to others. Not to men on the street, not to my parents, not to friends, not to bosses. Not to my husband, either. I do not owe any particular body to anyone but myself.

So in honor of International Women’s Day, let me recommend to you that you love your body exactly as it is right now in this very moment. Remember that it *is* your place in the world. And if, like I once was, you are unhappy with the body you are in, love it anyway. I believe that it is only by loving ourselves first that we can make lasting change. If we are waiting to be “perfect” before we love ourselves, we will be waiting a very long time.

Hit ‘em where it hurts. The bank account.

My husband and I are in a town outside of Indianapolis for the next month or so, and I am having a hard time finding some of the things that I love to eat. So far, I have not been able to find Italian sausage that doesn’t have sugar, but that’s nothing new. However, I can’t find bacon without sugar here either. Ugh! Let me say that again. Ugh!

I cannot tell you how it makes me furious that companies put sugar in everything. Not only because I can’t eat them, but also because I believe that they are eroding our palates and our minds.

When I gave up sugar, my palate shifted. A lot. As a little kid, I loved Brussels sprouts. I loved cauliflower. As an older kid, teen, and young adult, I hated them. Hatred. Passionate, unyielding hatred. When I put down sugar in all forms except artificial sweeteners, and some fruits and vegetables, I gradually came to love them again. Now I also love chard, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, and mushrooms. I also enjoy carrots and squash, winter or summer.

By adding sugar and starch to everything, I think food companies are doing us a huge disservice. They are creating a culture that equates food with a “rush.” They are getting us addicted, as a society, to an additive that is cheap to them, but incredibly expensive, health and well-being wise, to us. They are setting us up to eat more than we know we need, and more than we want. They are getting rich off of giving us diseases and disorders.

I want to say clearly that I believe in personal responsibility. I don’t want to imply that I don’t. But doing what I do is hard. Seriously difficult. Worth it every time and in every way, but not simple. It takes a kind of determination and individuality, the ability to disregard the pull of “normalcy” in a culture that has taken up the mantle of pleasure over contentment, instant gratification over long-term fulfillment. And food companies are using our own survival/evolutionary instincts against us. They want profits to grow exponentially. How can they do that if we eat their food in moderation? The fatter we are, the fatter their profit margins are. Frankly, I think it’s sick. Morally bankrupt.

I know that many people can eat junk food in moderation. Bless them! To them I say, “Enjoy every bite!” But the rise of obesity in the western world shows that the way food is being produced, processed, and marketed is making most of us fat and sick.

And it’s making a girl who can’t find bacon she can eat annoyed and cranky. I don’t expect this to change any time in the near future. But I am going to make a recommendation to you. Read your labels. Even if you don’t change what you buy. Look at what these companies are offering. Notice them change. I have had to give up things I ate for years because someone decided to add sugar or starch.

But I will say this too. About 4 years ago, a company that made wheat germ changed its ingredients to add sugar. In that time, people who do what I do sent out the word to one another. We all stopped eating it. Now I am not saying that my small group was the reason, but less than a year later, the company changed back to the original, sugar-free formula. My guess is that the kind of people who eat wheat germ are generally people who care about what goes into their bodies. And when they saw that they were now getting sugar, they switched brands. Just like myself and others in my food community.

So remember that you can eat what you want, but also. you can vote with your wallet. And I highly recommend that.

There are more options than surgery and moderation

I have been struggling for the past few hours to write a post. I read part of an article on bariatric surgery that made me so mad I had to put it down. The beginning of the article says that since it is already established that diet and exercise don’t work, people should be turning to weight loss surgery. And that they don’t because they wrongly believe that obesity is a problem with willpower.

Now, I absolutely agree that obesity is not a character flaw, nor do I believe it is the result of a character flaw (i.e. lack of willpower.) I could never “just push away from the table.” And boy did I want to. In fact, if you think you have “the answer” to the obesity epidemic and it begins with the word “just,” like “just stop eating so much,” I promise you don’t have the answer.

But one factor that I do believe is a problem is our culture of prizing and romanticizing junk food. By everyone, including the medical and scientific communities.

I keep reading over the past year that “diet and exercise don’t work.” But I am not convinced that this is “already established” as a truth. It is my personal experience that diet does work. Just plain diet all on its own works. No exercise necessary. And I personally know hundreds of people for whom this is true.

Is this true for everyone? Of course not. But to come to the conclusion that diet doesn’t work, is ridiculous. And I have to question the science that claims it. Especially when the biggest change in the past 40 years, the years leading to our current “obesity epidemic” has been a significant increase in the amount of sugar, carbs, and processed food we eat.

So changing the American diet made us fat, but changing our diet won’t fix the problem?

Of course, the “problem” for most people is the extremity of NEVER! I never eat sugar, or simple carbohydrates. The only carbs I eat are fruits and vegetables. And not even some of those that are high sugar/high starch. Because “in moderation” has never been a viable option for me, but “never” worked immediately, and changed my life for the better.

See, I’m pretty sure that is what the medical community and the media mean when they say “diet and exercise don’t work.” They mean they have told people to eat junk in moderation, and people fail at that. Because it is hard to eat junk in moderation. *That* is what does not work. And part of the reason it does not work for society as a whole now is that food companies are working at making their junk more addictive. They want people to eat past the point of hunger. They want us to eat as a reward, and a cure for boredom. They want us to crave and salivate. They have scientists in their labs working to eliminate that “full button” normal eaters used to have. And they are seemingly succeeding.

I was never one of those people anyway. Nobody turned off my “full button.” Mine never worked in the first place.

Does surgery help some people? I’m sure it does. But it is not a solution. It is a harm reduction technique. And if that is good enough, then that should be an individual’s choice. Not everyone has the proverbial stomach for giving up junk foods. But I think it is a problem that the people we should be able to trust, specifically the medical community, are not even offering complete abstinence from sugar, junk, and processed foods as an option. They are saying right off the bat that it doesn’t work.

I want you to know that it does work for some of us. And I think before you have dangerous and invasive surgery, you might want to give it a shot.

Not sorry, even though it sucked.

My husband and I are home for a visit this weekend. We opted for a 5:30 am flight out of San Antonio, two hours away from our apartment in Corpus Christi. So we drove the two hours the night before and got a hotel room for the night. Before we left, I made a bunch of compact, complete meals, because they are easy to pack for travel. I don’t usually expect to eat them. At least not all of them. I pack them in case of emergency.Well, our flight got cancelled, and we couldn’t get another flight out that day. So we kept our room in San Antonio for another night, flew out the next morning, and I ate the emergency meals.

And ugh! It was kind of awful. Those meals are each a third of my nutrients for the day, packed into a little cake. And by the end of dinner, I was feeling pretty sick.

But it never occurred to me not to eat them. It never occurred to me that it would be better not to finish dinner. I have never once in the past 11+ years been sorry to keep my food commitments. Not once. I have never “missed” a food I didn’t get to eat, or been disappointed that I kept my word to myself. Even when I was choking down a too-heavy brick of proteins, vegetables, vegetable substitutes, and fat. I love to eat, but at moments like that, eating becomes like working out. I don’t like doing it while I’m doing it, but I’m always grateful that I did it when I’m done. 

My food boundaries are usually awesome. I eat such delicious food, prepared in my favorite ways. But the boundaries are the important part, not the awesome. In a pinch, I will eat the plainest, grossest, least appetizing things on the planet if it means my eating boundaries are taken care of. And I will eat it when I am not hungry at all to keep those commitments to myself. 

When I was eating compulsively, I regularly woke up without a shred of dignity because of the things that I didn’t want to eat, and couldn’t stop myself from eating. 

Now I wake up with my dignity intact. Because I am willing to eat exactly what I am committed to eating, whether I want to or not.

Killing me softly

I have been having a very emotional week.

I was talking to a friend of mine recently. The one with the button that says “Give A S***.” She said to me, “Every time I don’t eat a piece of chocolate cake, a little part of me dies inside.”

It has been a while since not eating cake made me cry. Many years, in fact. But there are things that are like giving up sugar, actions outside of my comfort zone, that are little deaths.

Giving up sugar was the biggest step I have taken on a journey I started long ago. I knew some time in my youth that I wanted to get better. I wanted to grow and change. I wouldn’t understand until many years later, but ultimately, what I was looking for was peace. Serenity. What I wanted was to rest easy, knowing that I was being the best person I could be.

But every time I get better, the girl I was dies. And while I certainly choose it, a life of little deaths can be decidedly uncomfortable.

So it turns out that driving is one of the more painful undertakings of my life.

My first lesson was just a few days ago. And since then, I have cried a lot over it. I am crying while I type this. This is the death of a very young and tender part of myself. This part of me I’m killing may be even younger than my sugar addict.

I was not terrible at driving, but I wasn’t good either. And that is kind of hard on me. I am used to being good at things quickly and without much effort. Even giving up sugar was relatively natural to me. Vigilance, perfectionism and being single-focused are things I am exceptional at. Being aware of four directions at once, remembering a whole new set of rules, and figuring out how the machine I’m controlling responds to my touch, is a lot of information to process. I find it overwhelming. It makes me anxious. It makes me cry. Either way, both giving up sugar and starting to learn to drive have made me feel raw and vulnerable. Itchy. Like I am walking around without skin.

These little deaths are not murder. It’s not bad that I am killing these aspects of myself. They were useful until they were not. Being sad or in pain does not mean that what I am becoming is worse than what I have been. But I have to be gentle with the girl in me that I happen to be killing off at the moment. It won’t do any good to kill her brutally. I am going to have to hold her hand and tell her it’s ok to go. I am going to have to let myself mourn her. I’ll still let her die, but ultimately, I’ll kill her softly.

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