onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “giving up sugar”

Belly rolls are not the real problem

I was getting dressed the other day, and I looked down and I did not like what I saw. Belly rolls.  It made me a little sad. Mostly what made me sad was how little I liked my body in that moment.

I follow all sorts of people on Instagram and Twitter. Skinny people, fit people, fat people. I like seeing all kinds of bodies on social media. 
My point is that I am not even remotely as judgmental about other people’s bodies as I am about my own. I like seeing all shapes and sizes. I think they are beautiful. I like diversity. But I am not nearly so generous with myself. And I want to change that.
I am very happy with the ways I care for my body. And I am very happy with the way I feel in my body. I love the things that I can do. I love the ways that I can move. 
Hating how my body looks is a very old feeling. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t hate it. If not right there on the surface, then buried very deep down. 
I come from a family of women who hated their bodies. Women who fought their bodies. They fought food. Fought size and shape. Fought dresses and pants. Fought age and time.
I think most women are taught to hate their bodies. Even women who naturally (or with a lot of effort) are successful in meeting societal criteria for feminine beauty, they have to worry about keeping it.
I have managed to gently and lovingly transform my body from painful and unhealthy to vibrant and well. And still, I have this deep-down disappointment in a vessel that has been ridiculously adaptable, capable, and generous with me, even after years of abuse and neglect. Over something as natural as belly rolls when I am sitting down.
I don’t want to hate my belly rolls. I don’t want to feel like I need surgery to “fix” myself. Mostly because I’m cheap and I can think of a million things I would rather spend my money on. But also because there is no guarantee that something like that would even help. You would think that losing well over 100 lbs would stop me hating my body. But it didn’t. Why would cutting it up and sucking it out do any more. 
My problem is inside me. My problem is not belly rolls. It’s not size or shape. My problem is the world told me I was only as worthy as my outer beauty, beauty as the world defined it, and I believed that. And internalized it. And said it over and over until it was indistinguishable from what I thought. 
I want to think other things. I want to know that my body is exactly right exactly as it is. I want to take care of it. Not so it can become beautiful, but because it already is. I want to honor it because it deserves to be honored. I want to reward my body for what it is, not punish it for what it is not.
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I, personally, can’t be starved out of my shackles.

Low carb diets are, of course, all over the news and advertising that is meant to look like news. I see all sorts of things on social media, especially since my blog is an eating disorder blog, about food, and weight, and weight loss. 

There is a particular doctor on Twitter that makes my blood pressure spike. I don’t follow him, because I think he is a bully, and I don’t need that kind of energy in my life if I can avoid it, but I see him come up a lot. My experience of him is that he bad-mouths low-carb diets as a fad, and then plays the victim when people defend their own low-carb lifestyles.
He makes me *feel* like everyone in the medical and nutrition field did when I was fat and couldn’t stop eating. He makes me feel like if I were “good enough” I could eat one slice of whole grain bread and the whites of two boiled eggs, and feel satisfied in at least my own self-righteousness, if not in my actual belly. I prefer feeling satisfied in my belly.
His most recent Twitter complaint was that he had a diabetic patient get off their meds by eating 1000 calories a day, instead of low-carb, and he claimed that people (no doubt low carb activists) said that was “wrong.” His point was that different things work for different people. 
Perhaps that is true. But I think this particular example is troubling.
I, for one, am glad that 1000 calories a day did not work for me. (Yes, I tried that many, many years ago, and was more obsessed with food than I ever had been fat. And certainly crazier. Definitely more miserable.) And I have to ask as well, how sustainable is 1000 calories a day? Can this person do that for the rest of their lives? Hell, even another six months? And can it really be considered a success if they cannot keep it up?
I’m not saying this person can’t. Perhaps they can. But my guess is that in order to do that, they will have to change more about their life than just what they eat. They would have to transform their thinking about food and comfort and joy. They would have to learn how to eat solely for the purpose of fueling their body. They would have to eat to live. I have respect for that. No desire for it, but much respect. And I believe very deeply that there are not many of those people in the world.
I do not eat to live. If I did, I’m sure it would be easier on me. I live to eat. I love to eat. I relish and savor. And I don’t want to eat half a grapefruit and some water with lemon for breakfast. I want an egg and some bacon, and a giant apple and coffee with whole milk. This doctor would, doubtless, find much to criticize in my food choices. Processed meats and lots of fats. Veggies sometimes deep fried and often sautéed. Lots of butter! Full-fat dairy. And artificial flavors and sweeteners! “Healthy?” No! Do I care? Not even a little!
I also want to be clear, as I said in my post last week. I don’t do what I do for my health, though I am healthier than I have ever been before. I do it for vanity. And sanity. And clarity. Mainly, I do it because I was a slave to food, specifically sugar and carbohydrates, and now I am not. And there is no way a boneless, skinless chicken breast and 3 slices of tomato was ever going to loosen those shackles. But homemade full-fat frozen yogurt? A girl can practically fly!

Keep your friends close and make your enemies friends

I was talking to a friend the other day about making friends with certain difficult or frustrating aspects of ourselves. I feel like making friends is not what we are taught. We are taught to eradicate and transform. We are taught that we should change the way we are. It is all about principle and not about practical. All about what we should be, instead of what we are.

Throughout my life, I have had to make friends with many aspects of myself. Especially aspects that made other people uncomfortable. For one example, I am very sensitive. When I was a kid, it didn’t take much to hurt me and make me cry. People in my life wanted me to stop being so sensitive. 
First of all, how do you expect a child (or a grown up, for that matter) to *stop* their feelings? Especially without any instruction for how to cope. They just wanted me to stop crying. 
Of course, there are lots of ways to stop feelings, to shut off one’s emotions, but none of them occur to me as particularly helpful, or healthy. And even if we sensitive souls could, for whose benefit would that be? It was certainly not to my benefit. It was generally to the benefit of people who enjoyed being mean or “funny” at other people’s expense. 
Look, I do understand why people who loved me wanted that for me. The world can be a cruel place. They wanted me to be happy. They did not want me to be hurt so often and so easily. But it didn’t work. It just made me feel like I was the one with the problem.
I am very comfortable with my sensitivity now. Because once I made friends with it, I could manage it. I could figure out my coping strategies. 
I don’t know if I *could* have made friends with that part of myself while I was still eating compulsively, but I certainly never did. Eating was how I tried to manage unmanageable feelings. Eating didn’t help me get through them. In fact, it was the opposite. Eating let me ignore them. But they were still there. And in ignoring them, I made them seem so concrete and indisputable. 
Once my eating was under control though, I was able to feel those unmanageable feelings, and deal with them. I was able to recognize what feelings were signals that I was unhappy with a situation or relationship, and that I wanted to change something about my life. And I was able to recognize that not every feeling was a signpost to some great truth. Sometimes I was just uncomfortable, and I could feel uncomfortable and just sit in it. 
But I could not eradicate my sensitivity. Just like I cannot eradicate my addiction to sugar and simple carbohydrates. Obviously, that is another aspect of my life that I had to make friends with. I am a sugar addict, and there is no going back. There is no cake in moderation for me. There is no “just one bite.” But in making friends with that aspect of myself, I have learned to make and eat food that is delicious, and satisfying, both physically and emotionally. I have learned how to use my love of eating as a blessing. I eat 3 times a day with so much enjoyment, sometimes other people get jealous. And that’s me eating protein, fruits and vegetables.
My sensitivity is a blessing. For all of the pain and discomfort it gives me, it gives me more joy, happiness, contentment, peace, and awe. It is the source of my favorite aspects of my life. And for so many years, people wanted to squash it out of me. I am glad they didn’t get to.

When too much comfort is uncomfortable

On Monday, I fell on a patch of ice on my way to the gym in my apartment complex, and landed right on my tailbone. Gosh golly gee did that hurt! It knocked the wind out of me. I cried. 

I didn’t go on my jog that day. And I was feeling bad about it. Because I felt like I should “power through” and “suck it up.” Thank goodness I didn’t listen to *that voice* in my head. But I jogged Tuesday through Friday, and opted not to jog on Saturday to “catch up.” In other words, I didn’t jog my 5 times last week. And I have had mixed feelings about it. 
The truth is, it is a really good thing I did not workout on Monday after that fall. I most certainly would have hurt myself even worse. And I am glad I went the other 4 days, because getting back to working out after a week without it would have been grueling. But on Saturday, by butt and back still hurt. And I made an executive decision that I was going to let it rest. And that decision, about not jogging my 5th day, is the one rattling around in my head a bit. 
I essentially have 2 modes: 100% or totally ineffectual. Or at least I feel like it most of the time. And I can have a hard time discerning what is good enough if I’m not in 100% mode. Part of my workout routine is that I do it 5 days a week unless I am injured or would injure myself. And this example seems like a grey area for me. Would I have hurt myself by jogging Saturday? Maybe not. Probably not. At least not on Saturday itself. But I felt like exercising every day was making it take a lot longer to get back to normal. With just that one day off, my backside already feels better, and my muscles aren’t so sore anymore. 
I can be really mean to myself. Which is not very helpful. And it doesn’t work. If I tell myself that I’m lazy, which is a thing I tell myself a lot, unfortunately, I don’t feel motivated. I just ask “what’s the point?” And I don’t want to jog, or go do any of the things that make my life work. I just want to sit around and do the things that make me comfortable. 
But of course, the things that make me comfortable only make me comfortable because I have already done the things that make my life work: the food prep, and the 8 hours of sleep, and the water, and the exercise, and the keeping up with my emails and calls, and getting my work done in a timely and efficient manner. I have lived the life where I only do comfortable things, and it is a surprisingly uncomfortable existence.
The other thing is that I am afraid of the insidious nature of giving up my promises. I don’t want to let in bullshit excuses for why I can’t exercise. If I let a little bullshit go, I can let more of it go. And I don’t want to find myself quitting my run because I “don’t have time,” or because other things are “more important.” I make time for my priorities. And this is incredibly important. Self-care is the most important thing I can do. It makes me the best wife and worker and friend I can be.
But not running after such a trauma was the wisest decision. And taking an extra day when my butt and back muscles were still sore 5 days later was not a cop out. I don’t run because I have something to prove. I run because I love my body, and I want to take care of it. I want to jog for the rest of my life. And I won’t be able to do that if I hurt myself in the name of “fitness.” 

Yucky feelings and all

I have a love/hate relationship with feelings. I live for feelings. I spend all of the free time I can listening to books and reading comics and watching soap-opera-y TV shows. I am in all of those things for the feelings. If they make me so uncomfortable that I have to pause and calm down, I love that! If they make me cry, even better! (Sometimes my poor husband comes home and I am huddled under a blanket with tear streaks on my face and I have to explain that I was just reading a comic, and everything is fine…)

But when it comes to my own feelings, well, let’s just say I am not nearly as comfortable with those. Having my own feelings makes me panic. Even after 13 years of feeling my feelings, my first reaction is to freak out and shut down.

This week, I had a problem come up with my food. Part of what I do is tell someone who does what I do what I am going to eat the next day. It’s essentially making a promise. I consider it sacred. And I found out this week that I had to find someone else to make that promise to. And that was terrifying.

I understand that to you, it may not make sense why this was so scary. But it was. You will just have to trust me on that. And my first thought was to panic.

But of the many things I have learned in keeping my food under control, one important step is to take care of the most pressing problem. And another is to stop, calm down, and think over my options for the long-term problems. And to definitely not make any rash decisions.

So I called someone and made my promise for the next day. And then I went to bed and I dealt with the problem of finding a new promise-taker in the morning. By morning, the problem was not nearly so scary.

Panic and paralysis were the standard of my life before I got my eating under control. I would panic, and then I would shut down, and then I would eat myself into not caring about my problem. Which never took care of the problem causing the uncomfortable feelings, just the uncomfortable feelings themselves.

The other part of getting my feelings back is that I didn’t just get the yucky ones back. I got the panic and the hurt and the terror, sure. But I also got the joy and the love and the swooning, and the pride.

I don’t have to like my feelings. But I am now able to honor them. And that means I can be effective in my life. And that ability to live life as it is makes me like myself and love my life. Yucky feelings and all.

I am a precious thing

One of the most important lessons I have been learning over the past 13 years is to stop worrying about my weight.

I used to think I had a weight problem. What I had was an eating problem. It resulted in me being fat. In living in a body I didn’t like or love. It resulted in a physical vessel that was hard to live in. A body that I was embarrassed of. But also a body I was shamed for. A body that was considered ugly and unworthy by society.

And I had it particularly rough, because I was particularly fat. But I can see now that over the years, none of us, especially women, get out unscathed. If we’re fat, we should be thin. If we’re thin, we should be thinner.

I want to stop that kind of thinking in my life. I still don’t want to be fat, but I want to stop thinking of my worth as tied to the size of my body. I want to stop thinking of my beauty as tied to how big my belly is, both compared to other women, and compared to other times in my life. I want to stop thinking about “losing 5-10 lbs.” I kind of have. But I want to more.

Here is what I can tell you. I have peace in my body when I treat it with care, no matter its size and shape. I don’t have to be my thinnest to enjoy my body. But I do have to keep my food boundaries, and my exercise and water drinking commitments. I have to floss. I have to sleep 8 hours a night. I have had to *show* my body love before I can love it.

Action is an important part of loving my body. As soon as I do something good for myself, I like myself that much more. I did not have to lose all of my weight to get comfortable in my body. First I just had to put boundaries around my eating. The longer I kept my boundaries, the more confidence I had. And it grows. The better I treat myself, the more self-care I take on, the more comfortable I am in my own skin, the more I love my body. The more I love my body, the more I want to honor it with self-care.

I guess what I am saying is that I am not always comfortable with how I think others see my physical beauty, and sometimes I want to look the way society says beautiful women look. And *that* is what I want to stop. I want to decide my own beauty. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I want to judge what I see in the mirror as true beauty. And I think I can, as long as I treat myself as a precious thing.

This is me not holding my breath

When it comes to keeping my food boundaries, I am willing to go to any lengths. God, that is such a pain in the ass! 

I’m not willing to give it up, or say “not today” for even one day, or even one meal, but good lord, it can be exhausting. And it can be inconvenient.
I heard someone say the other day that before she put boundaries around her eating, she was waiting to not *want* to eat anymore. I feel like that is the myth perpetuated by society. That if you are good enough, or spiritual enough, or “conscious” enough, you won’t “want” to eat. It’s why things like “mindful eating” are talked about so often in regards to obesity.
I have nothing against mindfulness. But it’s not practical for any addict, and truthfully, for most people when it comes to food. We, as a society, put too much emphasis on what we want. The idea of “listening to my body” is hilarious to me. My body wants pizza and cake and coffee day and night and to skip my morning jog basically every morning, and never drink a sip of water. Or at least, that is what my brain tells my body I want. In a modern culture with devices we hold in our hands, while we watch devices that mount on our walls, or put devices in our ears so we can hear our very own soundtrack while we go through life in our temperature controlled pods, it may be asking a lot to expect our bodies to *feel* what what we should be doing and eating and drinking to take the best care of ourselves. I feel like in order to really be attuned to one’s body, one has to be used to squashing desire, in a way most modern people would call deprivation.
Just look at the way people deal with those who choose not to indulge. Seriously, go to a holiday party and don’t eat the sweets. Say “no thank you,” to the host’s “famous” cookies. People will act like you have given up all of your worldly possessions in favor of one robe and one bowl.
I don’t want to imply that I don’t like my modern conveniences. I love them! I listen to books and check social media, and am even writing this blog right now on my handy-dandy iPhone. I read comics and shop and look up knitting patterns on an iPad. I have an internet TV, along with myriad streaming services. I am not saying these things are bad. I love them! But so much comfort makes it harder, not easier, to wake up in the morning, drink a bottle of water, and jog two miles before I go to work. It makes it harder, not easier, to meal prep on Sunday and weigh my food portions out for the week so I can grab them and go in the morning before work.
I have boundaries because I want results. And I gave up on needing to get those results by becoming “spiritually fit” enough to want them naturally. I never “don’t want to eat.” And I don’t feel like being fat and miserable until that becomes true. I never want to get out there and run. But I do it anyway, because I love what it gives me, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And I think it’s unfair to tell people that they will ever “want” to do the things that make them healthy. I’m sure there are a few people on the planet for whom that is true. And I would bet they are all fitness bloggers making their money by making the rest of us feel like jerks, or meditating monks in the mountains praying for for us, because gosh do we need it!
Maybe someday I will not need boundaries and commitments to force me to do the things that give me a life I love. But I’m going to prep my meals and fill my water bottle, and wash my workout clothes in the mean time. And I’m not going to hold my breath.

That ship has sailed

I know that I am a real, and serious sugar addict because there are fresh foods that I cannot eat normally. When I was trying to manage my eating in my 20s, I would binge eat sweet potatoes and bananas. I thought that since they were fresh foods, they wouldn’t make me fat. I might eat 5 whole sweet potatoes, one after another. Same with bananas. (Spoiler alert: binge eating sweet potatoes and bananas will totally make you fat.) I have a friend who is also a sugar addict with boundaries. There was an article a few years ago where some nutritionist said that people go crazy over high fructose corn syrup in a way they’d never do with an ear of corn. To which my friend said, “She’s never seen me eat corn.”
One thing I believe about addiction, a thing that I have experienced, is that once you are an addict, you can’t go back. Perhaps if I had never become an addict, I would be able to eat sweet potatoes with impunity, but that ship has sailed.
I read something 5 years ago that really stuck with me. Genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.
I believe that I was born with a genetic predisposition toward sensitivity to sugars, grains and starches. As a kid growing up in a home with overweight people, I was overweight. If I had grown up in a home with people who still had the sensitivity to sugar, but managed their weight with anorexia and bulimia, I might have started that early. As it is, I had to move to New York City to become a bulimic. Different environment, different trigger.
Maybe, if my sugar addiction had never been activated, I would be able to eat sugary fresh foods and not have to eat 6 of them at a time. Who knows? But now I’m an addict and there is no turning back.
I think that is part of the the thing that non-addicts don’t get. After 12 years and 11 months of strict boundaries and no sugar, haven’t I proven myself back to normal? Haven’t I proven that I can eat a sweet potato?
But now, a sweet potato gives me the same high as chocolate cake. It lights up the same reward centers in my brain. And my reward centers are broken. That is essentially what addiction is. And I have it.
I have no complaints. I love my food. I eat it without guilt. I love my body. I nourish and exercise it, and it thanks me by being healthy and pain-free. (Relatively. I was once 300 lbs and I am currently 41 years old, so *relatively* pain-free.) All of this is worth not eating certain foods. Even if they are nutritious. Even if they are whole. Even if it seems like I should be able to handle them. I cannot.

I’m in good company with Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Oh, my friends. We have a social media problem. And I feel the need to talk about it. I have heard it called “the rage economy,” and I think it is too lucrative. There is too much currency.
The thing in particular that got me thinking about this was Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy the Vampire Slayer herself, from the iconic 90s TV show (that I will say, in the interest of full disclosure, I still think was a brilliant piece of television that holds up 20 years later.)
If you don’t know, Gellar put some lingerie photos of herself from years ago up on social media and captioned them (I believe tongue-in-cheekily)
“I’m just going to pin these up all over my house as a reminder not to overeat on Thursday #thanksgivingprep”

And some of her fans were angry and accused her of fat shaming. And she felt like she had to apologize.

Seriously, people? Do we really have so little room for other people? Do we really have to shame a woman for not wanting to overeat? Do we really have to assert that she is ultimately just a shallow, vain, void-of-substance bimbo who only cares about the size of her thighs (a very loose paraphrase of one person’s comment) because she *does* care about the size of her thighs? Do we really have to be so sensitive to things that have nothing to do with us, but with another’s personal choices?
I know she’s a celebrity. And I know that the point of social media is to let everyone know exactly what you are thinking, feeling, wearing, eating, and doing or thinking of doing at all times throughout the day, but I think that may be part of the problem.
I don’t care about your outrage. I don’t care that you had a feeling because a celebrity had opinions. I don’t care that either celebrities or you have opinions. I have always known that everyone had them. I have never cared except for a very few exceptions. And, with a very few exceptions, I still don’t.
But I do want to note, for the sake of illustration, what Gellar did not say. She did not say, “ I am going to post pictures of some other woman in lingerie to inspire me.” She did not say “I am going to post these pictures of myself in lingerie to remind myself that being thin is the only way to be beautiful.” She did not say, “I am putting these up to remind myself that being fat is disgusting and I don’t want to be fat.” She said she didn’t want to overeat.
Guess what? I don’t want to overeat either. I don’t want to be fat. I stuck to my food boundaries on Thanksgiving too. I even wrote a whole blog about it.
There is a fitness coach I know who says, “willpower is just remembering what you want.” And while I, as an addict, know that willpower is a loaded word, her point is an important one. If you want to learn to play the piano, you have to practice, even when you don’t what to. If you want to save up for a fancy vacation, you have to deal with your money and actually save it instead of buying everything you want the moment you want it. If you want a body that you love living in and looking at, you have to care for it. 
I’ll tell you what I hear when I hear someone shaming a celebrity for being clear and honest about wanting to be in control of the way her body looks and feels. I hear that the person doing the shaming is not in control of the way their body looks and feels, and wants someone else to subscribe to and approve of their bullshit. They want someone to say that it’s not only OK to overeat, that it’s necessary! That one is somehow obligated to participate because it’s Thanksgiving.
But participation is not mandatory. And I, for one, salute Gellar. She is making choices for herself. She is remembering what she wants and acting on it. Like me.
I have never looked like her, and I never will. And I am OK with that. I am perfectly comfortable in my body. I love it the way it is. My food is under control, and my head is clear. And maybe most importantly, I keep my eyes on my own plate. And I wish for the kind of peace and comfort I have in my body for everyone. And I hope Sarah Michelle Gellar did not overeat on Thanksgiving, and feels great in her body. Like me.

I need to worry about the kitchen scale, not the bathroom scale

In the past 12 1/2 years, since I gave up sugar, my weight has fluctuated many times. Sometimes by a lot. When my beloved grandmother was dying, I lost 20 lbs, eating exactly the same as I had been. When I quit smoking I gained 30, eating significantly less than I had been at my thinnest. When I was eating sugar and carbs, I was morbidly obese. But since I have given them up, I have been in regular sizes, but not one regular size. 

I have gained weight again recently. And I have not changed my eating or my exercise regime in any way. For you regular readers I will also add that I have not had soy nuts in months now. I am still in my size 8 pants, but now, just barely. And it’s difficult and uncomfortable. Physically and emotionally.
You would think that a woman who weighed 300 lbs and wore a size 28, would not fret over potentially having to buy a pair of size 10 pants. But you would be wrong. I still have all sorts of fears about my weight. And all sorts of body image disorders. I have a pretty serious case of dysmorphophobia. If I look at my thighs and butt and belly in the mirror lately, I see a hugely fat woman. My eyes are broken. And while my body image problem is often dormant, when I gain weight of any kind, even small amounts, it can flare up pretty seriously.
I do not look at women around me who are a size 10 and see fat women. But when it comes to myself, I am pretty sick in the head.
But there is ultimately only one thing to do about it for myself. And that is keep my food boundaries. Keep doing what I am doing. Don’t let body struggles interfere with my food issues. They are related. But they are by no means the same. And “going on a diet” isn’t going to help me. It never did before. It would be ridiculous to think that it would now.
The truth is, I could eat lighter if I wanted to. But that is another experience of mine. Since giving up sugar and carbohydrates, eating all salads and lean proteins doesn’t necessarily facilitate weight loss. And I have to love my food. I must. It’s why I can do it for over a dozen years. Because I am not on a diet. And I never have been.
At this point, the second best thing I can do for myself, after keeping my strict boundaries around my eating, is not worry about my weight. If I eventually need to buy a new pair of pants, so be it. If I naturally lose the weight I gained, which has happened to me in the past, well that’s great too.
I am here to take care of my food problem. My morbid obesity used to be a manifestation of that problem. Now, my dismorphophobia is a holdover from that time. But my weight is not a problem. At least not anywhere but my own head. And as long as I continue to consistently and unfailingly use my kitchen scale, I don’t need to worry about the bathroom scale.

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