onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “giving up sugar”

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.

The gift of desperation

I have mentioned before that the boundaries I keep around my food are strict. That do not eat sugar, grains or starch, including starchy vegetables. I control my portions exactly. I eat three times a day. No more and no less. And I do it every single day. There are no cheat days, no exceptions. No treats on my birthday. No snacks. No just this once. Not for weddings or funerals, or births. Some people find this extreme. (I used to, but I don’t anymore. After 9 years I think it is perfectly normal to only eat nutritious food in healthy quantities. I understand that it is not the norm, but I no longer think that makes it “extreme.”)

Today, I was on an internet forum for people who have boundaries around their food like I do. And a new person asked how long it took to get it “squeaky clean.” A number of people said that what we do is “squeaky clean” and that if you are not doing it that way, then technically you are not doing it. And the person responded that that was ideal but not possible. Not right away. That it must take time. So how much time?

I have seen enough people get sober to know that it takes how long it takes. Some people take years. Some people get it right away. There is no right or wrong about it.

I believe a lot has to do with a personal journey. I have heard people tell stories about how they had not had sugar for months, and then one day, they walked into a bakery. They could not really remember doing it. One minute they were sober from sugar, the next they were brushing crumbs off their shirt. They couldn’t explain it. And I don’t feel the need to judge that. It sounds horrible to me. Terrifying. Gut wrenching.

But there is something that needles at me in the question “how long does it take?” Because it lacks responsibility.

How long do I get to do what I want and still complain? I mean, I want what I want. But I don’t really want to do any work for it. This is magic, right? One day I will just stop eating too much, right?

How long am I allowed to keep being dishonest? How big does a lie have to be before it’s an actual lie? I just want to tell little lies, of course. Nothing major. Maybe just a little extra protein. It can’t hurt…

How long do I get to ask for help but not follow directions? I understand that this worked for you, but your extreme commitment makes you look pretty pathetic to me. I don’t want to look like that. I just want the results you got.

How long before I can say that I am totally a hopeless case and walk away? When do I get to quit?

When I got sober, I had what people have referred to as “The Gift of Desperation.” I was miserable. I hated myself. I was overwhelmed with pain and shame. I wanted out!

I had to ask myself what I was willing to do to stop letting food and my eating disorders control my life. I had to make bold decisions and take drastic actions. I did not ask what was going to be done for me. – Though so much was done for me! Supportive phone calls. People who were wiling to give their time and energy to address my questions and concerns. People who were willing to give me rules and suggestions. People who were willing to take a commitment from me and hold me to it, with love and generosity. – I asked what I was going to do to help myself.

I followed directions. I made drastic changes. I did things that, at the time, seemed almost sacrilegious. If I had made a meal and realized there was a problem with it that couldn’t be fixed to make it fit in my boundaries (like discovering I used a spice that had sugar in it or realizing I added too much oil and it was all mixed in now), I thew the whole thing away!

I understand that it can be difficult to grasp the kind of integrity I have around food. Especially for someone new. I would bet that the person who asked that question didn’t for a moment think it was about personal responsibility. Who is out in the world talking about personal responsibility? I get that we live in a society that has gradations for lies. That everyone around us wants instant gratification. That weight loss, especially, is a multi-billion dollar industry, based on losing weight with no hassle to the consumer. You won’t feel hungry! Eat all the foods you love! You won’t have to do anything! The pounds will just melt away!

That’s not how what I do works. I recommit to doing it exactly right every day. Three times a day. I take responsibility for what goes in my mouth, and how much, and when. I do extreme things. I have gotten extreme results.

Happy other birthday to me

It is that time of year again. The New Year. And January 2nd is a special day for me. It is my double anniversary. My favorite day besides my biological birthday. My other birthday.

Nine years ago on January 1st, I was hopeless and desperate. And I had been in the death grip of my eating disorders. They were relatively new at the time. I had beed morbidly obese for most of my life at that point, but around 2004/2005, I had started a series of diets and workout regimes. I was going to get control of my body! I was going to lose weight! So I got coaches and trainers and started taking classes and counting calories. And I lost so much weight. But there was something wrong. Seriously wrong. The thinner I got, the crazier I got. I was irrational. I was reckless. And most importantly, I was terrified. And I couldn’t even identify that I was terrified.

Maintaining that new, thinner body was exhausting. And I didn’t understand it at the time, but what had me terrified was the unconscious understanding that I was never going to maintain that body. Because sugar ruled my life.

I have sometimes explained it like this: When I was fat, I was high on sugar. When I was dieting and exercising, I was high on losing weight. But being a certain size for any period of time is not exciting. You cannot get high on staying thin. And I wanted my drug back.

Check that. I wanted my drug back, but I wanted it in this new body. I wanted my drug back without consequences. I wanted to have done the work once so that the work would be done. Once and for all. I wanted to defy the laws of nature.

And I started eating again. Binge eating. Eating constantly. Mostly sugar and grains and starchy things. And I starting exercising in excess. Classes and running. Every day. Twice a day. I went all raw. No fat. Only green juice. And I started taking laxatives. Drinking castor oil. Administering enemas. And I started sticking toothbrushes down my throat.

And I was still gaining weight. And I was insane. Just trying to hold off a little bit longer before I gained back all of the weight and I was 300 lbs again. Before everyone would see it written all over me that I was a shameful, unworthy, unlovable blob. Before the clock struck midnight and I turned back into a pumpkin.

And then around November of 2005, I told the truth. About all of it. And somebody said that I had to start treating myself like an addict.

So I ate myself through the end of the year. No holds barred. It was a sad time for me. A time of self-disgust and resignation. Years later some friends would remind me that they saw me in that time and that I had said point blank, “I can’t stop eating.”

But on January 2, 2006, I met for the first time with a group of people who identified as sugar addicts and compulsive eaters. They had given up sugar, grains and starches, and put boundaries around their eating. And I started to do what they did.

I didn’t really believe it was going to work for me. I didn’t believe anything could work for me. I was utterly hopeless.

But maybe the best thing was for me to be so hopeless. Maybe my desperation was the reason it did work. Because it did. Since that day, I have not eaten sugar. I have kept boundaries around my eating. I have slowly changed the way I think about myself and life.

I am addicted to sugar. And when I was eating sugar, I could not stop. For years now, I have not had sugar in my body. So my body doesn’t crave it. But I could only get to this place with help. I think that’s important. It wasn’t willpower that brought me here. It wasn’t stick–to–itiveness. I don’t have those things around food. What I have is support. And willingness to take suggestions from people who have gone before me. And the opportunity to support others in their journey around food recovery.

A lot of life happens in 9 years. That doesn’t change because you get sober. But for me, no matter what happened – births, deaths, fights, reunions, vacations, vacation debacles, parties and partings – January 2nd is a day of celebration. I get to celebrate 9 years of freedom. That is 9 years of discovering who I really am, and sharing her with the world.

And January 2, 2015 was also the 3 year anniversary of this blog. Another big deal in my life.

Every week, I write a post here about being a woman living with eating disorders. I do it even when I think I have nothing interesting to say. I do it because I said I would. And this blog has been a chance for me to change my life.

I get to put ideas out in the world. I get to bounce them off of reality. I get to raise them up the flag pole and see who salutes. I get to see what gets bigger and more robust. And I get to see what floats away like dust. I believe this blog has sped up the natural pace of change in my life. I could not have made these changes if I were not sober from sugar and compulsive eating. But the writing, and the candid revealing, and the truth telling that have gone on here have made for a dynamic trajectory of growth and maturation in my life that sobriety alone could not have given me.

Anniversaries are about commitment. Nine years ago I made a commitment to myself about my eating. Three years ago I made a commitment to myself about sharing my experiences through writing. Commitments change the direction of one’s life. It is the natural order of things. And I believe that just the act of committing makes me a better person.

So I love January 2nd. It is a day that I celebrate myself. Because years ago, it was the day that I chose to honor myself. Twice. And because I continue to cultivate that honor.

In case you missed it, it has already begun…

Another Halloween over. Of course, Halloween kicks off our collective debauched food binge that lasts through the extreme hangover that is New Years Day. The day we firmly resolve that this year we will be better. We will lose weight and drink more water and less alcohol and stop yelling at our kids and be better listeners.

I am so grateful that I don’t have to play that game anymore. Of course, at this particular moment I am most grateful that I did not have to eat compulsively just because it was Halloween. Trick or treat would have been, without a doubt, all trick and no treat.

I handed out the candy this year. Which wasn’t hard, because I don’t crave it since I haven’t had it in my body for over 8 years. And there weren’t many kids since it was so cold, so there is still a whole bunch of candy in the house. But thank God I don’t have to eat it. Thank God it’s not mine. Thank God I don’t have to start, and then be expected to stop. Because I don’t know if I have another stop in me. And I don’t want to find out.

I also love that I still love Halloween. I love dressing up. I love my own creativity. I love the chance to show off how clever I am. I love getting to wear a costume I can feel beautiful in. (I was Miss America this year. Complete with evening gown, tiara, sash and running mascara.) In a body I can feel beautiful in. I love that I don’t have to feel deprived. Of fun. Or chocolate. Because the truth is that I would not have just eaten some chocolate. And I wouldn’t have just eaten all of the chocolate. I would have eaten the things I didn’t want or like. I would have eaten everything that was there. And then I would have gotten more. I would have needed to go get more. I would not have been able to not get more. But instead, I get to still love Halloween because I don’t have to eat myself to shame and self-loathing. I love that I get to wake up with some dignity. Even after the binge-fest that is National Candy Day.

So now it is time to beware the Holiday Season. I may not be in danger, but food is still dangerous to me. Even after all this time. I don’t take it lightly. I protect myself from my eating disorders. By remembering that I am eternally a compulsive eater. Hopeless and without a cure. By making sure that the meals I make myself are delicious and decadent while keeping them within my eating boundaries. By remembering that I am addicted to sugars, grains and starches. By remembering how eating compulsively manifests in my life. On my body in the form of 150 more pounds. And in my personality in the form of lying, cheating and stealing. And in my heart as depression and self-hatred. I remember these things because I want to continue to wake up with dignity.

I may have made it through Halloween, but there is more to come. Pumpkin Pie and Christmas cookies. Mashed potatoes and stuffing. Wine and eggnog. There is little time to take a breath between bites and gulps for the rest of the year. For other people. For me, there is plenty of time. Hours and hours between my three meals a day. To do and be. As long as I keep my head on straight and keep the boundaries around my eating.

So I hope you had a Happy Halloween. And I wish you a peaceful Holiday Season. Because it has already begun.

…But that’s none of my business…

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about what it looks like to let people be themselves. Make their own choices. Fight their own battles. Live their own lives.

It’s a hard thing. I know that it is hard for everybody. And I like to think it is something that I am relatively good at.

Relatively. I mean, it’s not easy. Especially when I love somebody. Or in my pride I think I know what would be best.

And maybe what I think other people should do really would make them happy, or give them peace, or just generally make things work out for the best. But none of that matters.

When I was growing up, a lot of people wanted me to lose weight. Doctors and family and friends. Not because they didn’t like or love me fat, but because they did. They wanted better for me. They wanted me to be healthier and happier. They didn’t want me to get obesity related illnesses. Or be made fun of. Or get hurt and rejected.

But nothing those people wanted for me ever helped me. None of their opinions or advice ever landed as anything but judgment, cruelty, and conditional caring. I am not saying that that is what it was. I am not saying that it was not genuine love and concern. But it did not occur that way. It occurred as intrusion. And for the most part, it still does.

I love advice.

When I ask for it. Because I am choosy about whom I ask. I go to people who have something I want when I ask for advice. When I wanted peace around food, I went to people who had peace around food. I did what they did. Not people who were skinny. Not even people who had lost a lot of weight. I wanted food to stop being an issue. So I went to people for whom compulsive eating was no longer an issue. When I wanted to open my heart and find a powerful relationship, I asked for advice from people in the kinds of relationships I wanted. Not people who happened to be married. Not women who were trying to land a husband. It was about relationships. When I wanted to quit smoking, I went to people who had successfully quit smoking and were empowered by it. Not people who still had a puff every once in a while. Not people who had never had or wanted a cigarette. People who quit so that they could grow.

What I do around food is not for everybody. Plenty of people are not sick with sugar addiction or eating disorders, and can eat sugar and drink alcohol normally and without negative repercussions. Or have other food issues that would be exacerbated by what I do.

And no. Not everybody wants what I have. And I can understand that. I think most people can’t imagine how sweet and delicious my life is. I don’t think many people can fathom what it is like to have found a certain amount of peace. I bet they think that what I have is a dull as can be.

But even more, there are people who do, indeed, want what I have, but are unwilling to do what I do. Almost everybody wants to know how I live with the idea of never eating chocolate cake again. Or never having a glass of wine with dinner. Or they want to make sure that I know that they never could. So many people, when they hear my solution, decide that it’s too much. They want an easier, softer way. Not so hard. Not so extreme.

And who am I to tell them differently? Who am I to judge them for not doing what I do?

And it’s not just food. Food is just the most obvious example to me. My “amazing” weight loss transformation that is written all over my body. (Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I put amazing in quotes because I happen to know that my weight was the symptom of my eating disorders. That what’s really amazing to me is the gift of having my eating under control, which takes care of my weight issues. And that more than amazing, it’s work and dedication and giving myself over to grace.) Who am I to offer advice about any choice. Who am I to tell anybody anything? Who am I to tell another person how to live. Or what happiness is. Or where to find it?

Unless you want to ask me. And then I would love to tell you what works for me. And even then, I give it as a gift. With no strings. To do with what you will. Because your life is yours. And you get to live it for yourself.

Not My Normal

I don’t usually remember my dreams. But when I do they are often using dreams. I had a using dream this week. And it happened to be the most gruesome using dream I have had in the past 8 ½ years. In other words, ever.

For those of you who don’t know, a using dream is a dream addicts who have given up their substance have of getting high. For me they are about sugar.

They are totally normal. They don’t mean anything. In the beginning I was afraid they meant that I was going to have a relapse. But it soon became clear that there was no reason as to why or when I would have them. And it also became clear that every addict I knew who had given up their substance had them.

Up until this week, my using dreams have always been short and simple. In my dream I somehow get to a point that I realize I have had a bite of something that I don’t eat, like a muffin or a cookie. Sometimes the dream even starts after I have already taken the bite. The dream itself is usually about the aftermath. The panic. What I am going to do. Who I am going to tell. If I am going to tell anybody. If I can, or will, rationalize it. If I’m going to be honest or if I am going to lie. And it is always in the context of the fact that I do not eat the thing I have just eaten. It’s not like I don’t have food boundaries in my dream. The point of the dream is that I don’t eat sugar and I just ate sugar.

This particular dream was long and drawn out. It was specifically about eating licorice. (Yes, black licorice. Licorice licorice.) Which was a nostalgic food for me. I used to eat it with my Italian grandma. It’s what we would eat after dinner. This dream was not just about eating it, but then going out to find more. And the specific brand my grandma used to buy. It was about chasing it.

I was telling a coworker about this the other day and he said to me, “Was it great to eat it again? Were you thinking, ’Mmmm. Wow, this is so good?’” I looked at him surprised. I said, “No. It was a nightmare.”

The main feeling of the dream was the dual terror that I was going to eat more and that I was not going to get to eat more. It was the feeling of how crazy eating sugar made me when I was an active addict.

The good thing about this dream is that it reminded me where I come from. Who I could be if I did have a relapse. It brought me back to what it was like to live in my head when I was crazy and in food hell. And it reminded me that I am a low-functioning addict. That when I was eating compulsively, I didn’t pay my bills. I didn’t clean my house. I would eat in bed, and then just push the garbage aside to go to sleep. I slept in a nest of my own garbage.

It is always a relief to wake up from a using dream. I think that may actually be what they are for. Especially when I am feeling normal and sane and happy in my life. That relief. That full body experience that reminds me that all of the inconvenience of shopping and preparing and reading labels and constant vigilance is actually worth it. Because I didn’t really eat that licorice or that muffin or that cookie. That the life with peace and calm and the ability to cope with every-day situations is not my normal. That there is another me out there who is totally cray-cray. But not today. For today it was just a dream.

Breaking news! This just in: I’m cold

It’s a slow news week here in eating-disorder-land. Or, you know, under-control-eating-disorder-land. Lots of grocery shopping and cooking and general food preparation. Lots of sitting on the porch crocheting. Watching the lizards and the birds. As I write this, there are four hawks circling above me.

For a New York City girl, I sure do love the big, open sky. And the total lack of urgency. The quiet. Except for everybody else’s air conditioners running all the time.

The weather down here is hot. And I love it. No, seriously. I love it.

People don’t believe me. Think I must be exaggerating. But I love the extreme heat. When I say everybody else’s air conditioners, I mean it. I don’t like a/c. And my boyfriend is incredibly generous with me. He let’s me live in an a/c-free home.

We live on the first floor, our windows face east, and we keep the blinds drawn. So our apartment is generally 10 degrees cooler than it is outside. But for most people, that’s still hot.

When I was fat, I was hot all the time. I sweated all seasons of the year. I didn’t wear a coat in winter. In Chicago.

And then in the summer, there was the heat. And then that added heat. Because I had so much shame around my body. So I wore lots of clothes. Dresses and jeans together. Over-sized shirts over tank tops. Always pants. Always. If there was air conditioning, I wanted to be in it. Or really needed to be in it. I hated being outdoors. (Which may shock you if you met me within the past 7 years, since it’s my favorite thing now. In New York, if I wasn’t wandering the city, I was on my roof. Here I’m on my porch, or laying out in the sun.)

Now, I rarely sweat. I am always somewhere between cold and comfortable. In fact, every year I don’t eat sugar, grains, or starch, I get colder.

I’m at the point now where if the temperature is below about 73 and the sun is not directly on me, I’m kind of chilly.

I bring a sweater with me everywhere. I never know if I’m going to end up in some air-conditioned place and be incredibly uncomfortable.

The truth is that it’s a problem I have now. Maybe the biggest issue going on in my life here. That I need to bring a sweater to the grocery store. That if I’m going to have my super yummy, home-made frozen smoothie for breakfast, I have to wear sleeves and drink hot coffee or I get too cold. In other words, my biggest problem is a luxury problem.

Obviously, I was being serious. It’s a slow news day. That’s the best I’ve got for you this week. And I won’t even lie and tell you I hope I have something more exciting to write next week. Life usually has a way of furnishing some form of drama. Eventually. I don’t need to wish for it to come faster. I promise to write next week. About something. And if it’s peaceful and unexciting…well, hooray for me!

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