onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “giving up sugar”

On making friends with a new devil

I consider myself pretty good at change. I have a lot of experience with it. From all of the kinds of jobs I have had, to all of the moving I have done to different homes and different cities and towns. And I have learned to give up things. Like simple sugar and carbohydrates. And smoking. 

And I have an experience. That life will always give you the opportunity to go back to the way it was before. It will always let you choose to go back to the *you* you were before. Because when you make a commitment, you change your life’s trajectory. You set yourself on a new, unknown path. 
When I was single, and it didn’t work out with a man, he would inevitably show back up in my life just when I had moved on. Within a week of the day I quit smoking, I had a neighbor stalk me and I had to call the police and my landlord. It was very stressful. Exactly the kind of emotional upset I used smoking to soothe. 
It comes back to that old saying: “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” I find that life always gives me a chance to escape the unknown and return to that comfortable misery. 
Now, I don’t believe that the devil you know is better. And I have known plenty of devils. When it comes to change I agree with Mae West. “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.”
There was the devil of significant weight gain when I quit smoking. And wow was that difficult and painful. And there are, of course, lots of devils to keeping boundaries around my food. There is the time it takes to shop, prep, cook, and pack. There is the navigation of the feelings and expectations of people who don’t understand. There is the planning involved in having my meals be complete and accounted for daily, while still having a life. There is all of the extra work involved in eating out, when for most people, eating out is when they *don’t* have to do any work. And there are all of the *feelings* that can be painful, overwhelming, scary, uncomfortable, unwelcome, or just plain yucky.
But when I was eating compulsively, I already knew a lot of devils, and they were shame, self-hatred, self-doubt, crippling anxiety, an inability to move forward with my life, fear of failure, fear of humiliation, regular emotional paralysis, and physical pain and difficulties.
I promise, those devils were worse. But if you asked that Kate, who was suffering under all of those devils, she would most certainly have told you the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. And if you had told her that she would spend a huge portion of her time shopping and prepping and cooking, and also feeling uncomfortable feelings, she would have said that sounded like the worse devil! Who would want something like that?!?!
But now, I have reached a point of no return. I am not saying I could never go back into the sugar. I am still an addict and it is still as dangerous to me as it ever was. When I put sugar in my body, it sets up a craving for more. That is biological and inescapable. But I know all of the devils now, and I’ll never be able to think of the difficulties of food boundaries as worse than the prison of self-loathing.
I hated myself when I was eating sugar and carbohydrates. And I hated myself so much and for so long that I didn’t even know I hated myself until it stopped. But the point is, it did stop. And I found that in doing all that work, and feeling all of those feelings, I came to love myself, to like myself, to trust myself, to enjoy my life, to have fulfilling relationships, and to respect myself and others.
And I want to say something about this regarding fat acceptance. I hear a lot on social media about how society has socialized us to hate ourselves if we are fat, and to internalize that bigotry. And I don’t think it’s necessarily untrue. There is certainly an aspect of being taught that we are less than. But I want to note that after quitting sugar, grains, and starches, I did not loose weight all that quickly. And there have been many times in which I have gained weight keeping my boundaries. But my self-hatred has been stilled ever since I started. And when I was thin, but eating compulsively, I hated myself as much as when I was fat. Perhaps more, because I felt like the body I was in was a lie. I don’t want fat people to hate themselves. I don’t think it’s healthy, or helpful, or right. And it is certainly my wish for you to love yourself in whatever body you are in. But for me, it is very clear that my eating, not my body, or my weight, is what made me miserable and ashamed. And in taking care of my eating, I learned how to love my body and my life. So consider that just maybe there are angels hanging out with the devil you don’t know.
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Tight food, loose life, and for today, nothing to give up.

One thing that happened when I put boundaries around my eating was that I (slowly and gradually) got better at going with the flow of life. I got better at dealing with unexpected problems. I got better at dealing with difficult feelings. I got better at having peace when people did things I didn’t like, and situations didn’t work out the way I had hoped and planned.

But I got way way *way* worse at not having what I wanted when it came to food. I had given up all of my “favorite” foods when I gave up sugar and carbohydrates. I had basically deadened my palate with sugar for the first 28 years of my life and hated almost all vegetables. I thought fruit was bland. I thought nourishing foods were boring at best, and disgusting at worst.
So when I quit sugar and got boundaries I was told to love my food. Not tolerate it. Not “eat to live.” I was told to eat foods that made me gloriously happy. I have a few time periods in my life that I identify by the foods I ate, some specially made by me to be sugar and carb free and fit my portion requirements. I had my summer of turnip fries and coffee shakes. (This was a labor of love. It took forever, and I still did it almost every day because I was so obsessed. After cutting them into fries, which gave me weird calluses from so much knife work, I would salt the turnips overnight so they would sweat out all the bitterness, and they were better than real French fries, I swear!) I had a winter of homemade custards. I mean I actually used a bain-marie. I had *years* of homemade carrot cake. I had deep fried onions from a favorite New York burger joint 2-3 times a week for about 3 years, and deep-fried Brussels sprouts from a fancier New York restaurant about once a week for a year or so. (I used to go get those take-out, since I wasn’t interested in the fancy ambiance, just the sprouts. I still get these and the onions when I visit New York.)
For the past few years I have been making chocolate ice cream (ok, frozen yogurt, since it’s whole milk and full fat Greek yogurt.) And today, I opened a new bottle of the sugar-free, grain-free, alcohol-free chocolate flavor that I use. And it was *different*!!!! It was a different color and had a different smell! 
This scared the hell out of me. Of course, the first thing I did was read the ingredients list printed on the bottle I had just opened. Because if the color and smell had changed, perhaps the ingredients had changed. I still occasionally read ingredients on things I use regularly, even if there doesn’t seem to be a change, just in case. And I have occasionally caught changes that were not indicated or advertised. But when something has so obviously changed, of course I had to look immediately. 
Hallelujah! It was fine. The ingredients were still within my boundaries. And the taste was delicious, though different. 
But I have had to give up things before. And that is a change I am very bad at. It is hard for me to go with the flow of losing a food I love. For those of you who may remember, in 2014, a company whose vanilla flavor I had been using for years changed their recipe from alcohol-free, to non-alcoholic, where it had alcohol, just significantly less than an extract. I had to give it up. I literally cried. Then a friend found a tutorial on how to make my own at home. And I have been doing just that for over 5 years. (And mine is way better than the stuff I was buying, so hooray for that.) That company discontinued its walnut flavor a few years before, and I cried about that as well. Sadly, I have never found another walnut flavor I could use. There was a restaurant in New York that used to make Chinese food specifically for people with the same eating boundaries as I have. And they would make deep fried tofu. It would come to the table like a crispy, golden cloud of deliciousness. I cried when they closed. (Are you sensing the pattern here?)
I keep my food tight so my life can be loose. But my food being tight means being a bit of a control freak. Obviously. And that means a certain amount of attachment. So it’s hard for me when my food changes in any way. 
But ultimately I am committed to my boundaries, not to my food loves. I did give up the walnut flavor. And in giving up the vanilla because of the changed recipe, I got something even better in return. If I had had to give up my chocolate flavor, I would have. I would most certainly have cried. I would have had to mourn. But I would have done it. Because it’s the boundaries, that “tight food,” that keep my life loose. 
And here’s another important truth. There is always something out there, waiting to be my new favorite food thing. Something that fits my boundaries, and makes my eyes roll back and my mouth water. There is always some new thing that I am going to be overwhelmed with excitement to eat. In its proper portion. When it is time to eat. And I’m excited for that too. Even if I don’t know what it is or when I will find it.

Specific and measurable is what gets results

Last week a lot of people read my post. Thank you all for reading! I am grateful! And I heard second and third hand about some comments. And one idea stood out in my mind. That I must be really sick if I have to weigh my food.

I want to say first off that I am an addict, and I am addicted to sugar and simple carbohydrates. So yes. I am pretty sick. I was deeply unhappy when I didn’t have boundaries around my eating. I was unhappy with my body, I was unhappy with my behavior, I was unhappy with the state of my life. And only a portion of that was about my weight. 
Weighing food is a way to take a specific, quantifiable action that leads to a specific and measurable result. I am not just eating less. I am eating a specific number of ounces. How much less is that? I don’t know. I never measured before when I was eating everything whenever I wanted. 
Is it common to weigh food? It is not in general. But the idea that what I do is an indication of how sick I am is not necessarily fair. It is an indication of how committed I am. It is an indication of how much I want something. And how willing I am to get it. You might say that weighing my food is an indication of how well I am. How not susceptible to whims I am when it comes to eating. How steadfast I am.
Athletes weigh their food. Movie stars who are training to shape their bodies weigh their food. These are people who want something for and from their bodies and are willing to do what it takes to get it. I want something for and from my body too. I mean, it’s a lot less sexy than winning a gold medal or being a physical embodiment of a comic book super hero, but it’s still pretty satisfying. 
Making a quantifiable commitment is a great way to meet goals. It’s a great way to change your life. Writers have daily word count commitments. Marathon runners have scheduled practices with mileage goals they have to reach. Weight lifters have weight goals. Even sales people have a specific number of cold calls they have to make. Nearly every person who wants to achieve something does it by doing specific things. And specific means being measurable. Even dietitians will say things like “vegetables the size of your fist, meat the size of your palm, fat the size of your thumb.” Which is a way to do a less precise version of the same thing I do but not have to get out a scale.
When I was eating compulsively but wanted to lose weight, I fought very hard against measurement of any kind. But most certainly precise measurements. I wanted to “eyeball” things. And I did. And my portions got bigger and bigger over time. Because I wanted to pretend I was doing what I needed to do to get the results I wanted, without having to actually do the things. And guess what. I did not get the results. And guess what. I got to blame it on everything but what I was doing. I got to blame it on my “broken” body, or my genes, or the way the world is. I did not have to blame it on how much I was eating. And when I did not get results “eyeballing” my portions, I got to quit because it didn’t work and I would rather eat cake anyway. So then I was back to cake.
This is not exclusive to me. Humanity is made up of this. Reasons why we can’t. Reasons it’s not worth it. Reasons we shouldn’t have to do what needs to be done to get the results we want. Maybe the reason is because someone who has to do “that” is “really sick,” and we’re not that sick…
So I disagree that the reason I have to do something as “extreme” as weigh my food is that I am *so* sick. I am sure I could get through life without it. The question is not could I live without weighing my food, but could I be this happy, free, content, joyful, and available for life if I didn’t. 
I always say that I am not telling anyone what or how they should be eating. And I am not today either. But I will say that I was not any sicker than a lot of people, especially Westerners, especially Americans. I am just that interested in being well. Interested enough to do something very specific to get a very specific result. 

It doesn’t matter how you say no, as long as you say it.

I am the member of a Facebook group for people who do what I do with food, and one of the newer members asked about how she was going to explain her food to someone new. And a friend of mine recommended I make a blog post about it. And it’s a great idea because it’s a huge part of having a specific lifestyle. Especially a food lifestyle like the one I have.

People have a lot of questions. They have a lot of thoughts. They have a lot of things to say and stories to tell. They are full of “helpful” information. So it helps to have a plan when it comes to how we are going to deal with people in our lives around our eating boundaries.
The first thing I want to say is that you really don’t owe anyone anything in the way of an explanation. Truly. What you put in your body is not up for debate. Nobody is going to shove food in your mouth. And if they do, spit it out. And then file a restraining order. You have the right to eat or not eat whatever you want in whatever way you want. 
But none of us lives in a vacuum, and chances are, there are going to be people that you want to make comfortable around your (possibly weird, or at least perceived as weird) food lifestyle. You want to be comfortable around your friends and family, and maybe your boss or your clients. 
My first piece of advice is to be honest. How in depth you want to get is up to you, and will probably vary based on your relationship. 
The person I end up seated next to at a wedding, who I will never see again, will probably get the bare bones of the matter. “I do this crazy food thing. There are lots of rules. Mostly I don’t eat sugar or carbohydrates.” They will most likely say something like “Good for you. You have so much willpower. I could never do that.” And then they will be handed a piece of cake or a drink and they will forget about your crazy food thing. Because chances are, they really don’t care.
Sometimes, when I am in the middle of weighing out my food in public, strangers want to know what that is and what I am doing. Let me tell you, I hate this. Weighing my food is of grave importance to me. I weigh my food because then the portion is exact. It is as much a mental thing as it is a physical thing. Yes, I am doing it for portion control, but also because I can spin my wheels when it comes to food. When I see an exact number on a scale, there is no doubt as to whether I had too much or not enough. I could plan a whole binge around how I possibly under ate and now I can “make up for it” with something else. So when someone comes along and they want to know all about what I am doing with a scale, they are taking my attention away from this action that requires my full attention. Most importantly, I don’t answer until I can safely remove my attention from what I am doing. I don’t need my scale turning off on me, or to accidentally hit a wrong button when I don’t know what is going on. And when I do have a moment to answer, I usually say something like “I can answer your questions later, but right now I am in the middle of something.” Sometimes those people are offended. I highly recommend not caring about that. Also, when they are not watching you do it, they never come back and ask. My experience is that people don’t actually care. 
When I get invited to go out to eat, there are a few ways that can go.  
If it is something I should participate in, namely family celebrations, I tell them I need to choose the restaurant. I go on line and scope out menus, and then call ahead and ask how certain dishes are prepared and how big portions come. If necessary, I ask them to put portions aside for me so that they are not prepped with foods I cannot eat, like flour or certain marinades. And then I ask them to let the waiter know I have special food needs. Also, I make sure I have enough backup food on me so that if I don’t get enough food from the restaurant, my portions are taken care of. Is this a pain? Of course it is. But I usually get a great meal and I’m there for the company anyway. 
And there are plenty of people who do what I do with food who love to eat out. They don’t mind the questions and the calls and bringing extra food. 
In other circumstances, I sometimes recommend people come to my home for dinner and I or my husband will cook. Our boss has come to our home for dinner quite a few times now. He always asks to take us out. And I alway request that he let us feed him. Especially in the south, it can be hard to find what I need in a restaurant. (A vegetable in the south is often a potato, or if it is a vegetable I would eat, it is breaded or cooked in wine or honey or some other sugar or starch.) The last time he was here he said he felt bad that we were always cooking for him. But I let him know that I prefer it, and he has seen me eat enough times to understand what I do. 
Sometimes, I go out, but don’t eat. I either eat before, or after, and I spend my time drinking iced tea or diet soda and enjoying people’s company. 
When people want to know why I am not eating, I usually say I ate earlier, or I will be eating later. I make sure they know I came for them, and it’s worth it to me to spend time with them. It’s not about food.
There are a lot of people, well meaning, loving people, who will think you are punishing yourself. In some ways, this is the hardest group to deal with. They think you won’t eat a piece of cake because you don’t like yourself. They think that not eating the cake is terrible for you. They truly do not know that *eating* the cake would actually be terrible for you. “Why don’t you live a little?” is a very common phrase. 
I recommend you be firm but gentle with these folks. Say no, clearly. “No thank you.” “I don’t eat that anymore.” “I’m great but I appreciate the offer.” “I don’t eat sugar.” “I don’t miss it.” “Quitting sugar is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
I sometimes have to go more in depth. Be more clear about how sick I am with food. “I have a pretty serious eating disorder and this is how I take care of it.” “I was really miserable and desperate before I gave up sugar.” “This is a matter of life and death for me.” I don’t say these things dramatically, but I do say them seriously. And usually that is enough. 
It can be a struggle to deal with the expectations of people when it comes to food. For so many people, food is how they express love. It is how they show hospitality. It’s how they offer fun.
The most crucial thing I can say is “set boundaries.” Better to set a boundary and offend someone than to betray yourself. Set boundaries that are graceless and clunky. Sounding like a jerk is better than going back to food hell. Your boundaries will get smoother, kinder, more graceful. But don’t worry about that as much as you worry about taking care of yourself, being true to yourself.
Many years ago, I knew a woman who had let her mother-in-law guilt her into eating a dessert she made “especially” for her. And it sent her into an eating disorder relapse. And she said “I will never do that again, because she sees me at that party, but she isn’t going to come into the bathroom to hold my hair back when I go make myself throw up.” 
Nobody else has to live with you in your body. Nobody has to go home with you and see the repercussions of that one bite. The way it affects your job, your relationship with your spouse or your kids, your self-esteem.
So say no however you need to say it. Just say it. 

Impossible is just another word for “don’t stop eating junk food.”

Of course. Another article on how it’s “nearly impossible” to lose weight. An article about how there are receptors that help/hider weight loss on a molecular level. It even brought up the contestants on The Biggest Loser. Again. 

There was at least one thing about the article that I wholeheartedly agree with. Calories are not the answer to weight. Losing weight is not about creating a “calorie deficit.” 
And as for the study of the participants of The Biggest Loser television show, who had their metabolisms shut down, causing them to gain back their weight, along with not being able to lose weight any more, can we please remember that those participants were exercising for 6 to 9 hours a day. Which is a great way to create a dramatic physical change in a body for a reality TV show. But is not a practical practice for people who have to, say, go to work, make dinner for their family, have a life. And it is not a lifestyle change that facilitates long-term maintenance.
I am not saying the science talked about in this article isn’t valid. (Though I do not know who funded it and that always makes a difference.) But I take issue with some of the things the article implies. 
The most important one, I think, is this quote from an endocrinologist at Columbia University:
“These data are quite interesting, and are consistent with the hypothesis that the obesity epidemic is in part due to evolutionary pressures to prevent starvation in stress,”
So we are just evolving to be fat?
Guess what was not mentioned. Food. Processed food. In the past 45 years, my lifetime, Americans (and people in general worldwide) have gotten bigger and bigger. Americans have stopped eating at home. We have stopped cooking fresh food for ourselves and our families. We have started buying and consuming packaged, processed and “ultra-processed” foods, most with added sugars, on a daily basis. We eat and snack all day, as opposed to having meal times. We have no concept of portions, and when eating at a restaurant, we feel cheated if we do not get a full plate. We eat the whole bag, the whole box, the whole pint. In the past 45 years, we have gone from a society that ate junk food as an occasional treat, to one that considers junk food a reasonable meal choice. And we’re talking about evolution to explain why so many more people are fat in that same 45 years? 
I feel like this is an example of Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation is probably the valid one. We have told “Big Food” that it can get us addicted to its poison with impunity. We have agreed that rather than call out chips, and microwave snacks, and soft drinks, and granola bars made with “all natural” ingredients, as processed junk, we will say it’s evolution that is the problem. That it’s our bodies that are betraying us, as opposed to the food industry. 
I can’t say this enough. I do not care what you choose to eat! I do not care if you are fat! I do not care if you are fat and sick! I do not care if you are fat and sick and still want to eat ultra-processed foods all day every day! I do not care! You do you!
I care that seemingly everyone in the scientific and medical communities wants to talk about every effing thing except food. They want to talk about how close they are to creating the magic pill. Or the magic procedure. They want to say that it is either too hard, or too silly, or too strict, to give up processed foods and sugar. 
No doctor has ever told me to give up sugar and carbohydrates. They told me moderation. Because I wouldn’t be able to do something so extreme. That it was crazy. That it was impossible to give up cake on my birthday. 
Eat what you want. Whenever you want. But if you are miserable in your body, and you want to lose weight, for yourself – not a spouse/partner, or your parents, or society in general – don’t believe that it is evolutionarily impossible! Don’t believe that there is no hope. Maybe try not eating crap. Maybe try eating whole food that still looks recognizable as what it was in the wild…
My bottom line is this. Can we stop pretending not to see the problem with our food? Can we stop pretending that food we eat and serve is not addictive? Can we stop pretending that we can’t possibly imagine what has changed in the past 45 years to create what we are calling “an obesity epidemic?” 
We should really be calling it a “malnourishment epidemic” or a “toxic food epidemic.” We should not be vilifying the people who are reaping the consequences of a consumerist culture gone awry. An obesity epidemic seems to me to imply that fat people are to blame for not “putting the chips down” and “pushing away from the table.” But companies are making an awful lot of money on these same people. Food companies, and medical/drug companies. They sell us the ultra-processed microwave meal, with an “Organic/All Natural/No GMOs” label slapped across the front, and tell us it’s healthy. And then they get us under the knife for a procedure to “help us” out of the horrible bind we’ve gotten ourselves into by not having enough willpower. (I hope the eye roll implied there was not lost on you.) Those lap bands and gastric bypass surgeries aren’t free, you know. And we all know that insulin is so expensive some people are going bankrupt to stay alive. 
Do not believe them when they say it’s hopeless or impossible. Do not believe that evolution alone has made us fat. We have certainly evolved to have the bodies we have, but I firmly believe that evolution is not making us as fat as our addictive food choices are. 

And I say that as someone who has maintained over 100 lb weight loss for over 13 years. That is not a fluke. That is not an anomaly. That is over 13 years of not eating addictive foods. I *know* that it is not impossible. I am living proof.

Maybe it just starts with wanting what seems impossible

I am particularly happy in my body lately. I want to note that I have not lost any weight. Or at least nothing noticeable. It is not about being thin, or thinner.  Not about “finally” looking like something. I am just extra comfortable and feeling particularly beautiful.

I want to say that this comes from practice. I practice self love. I actively look to love my body. I do things that create that love. Like keep my eating boundaries and drink my water and go for my jog. But also, I say nice things about myself. Even in my head, where I am the only one who can hear. Especially there! I am grateful to my body for being an excellent vessel. For being strong and healthy. For all of the ways I can move and all of the things I can do. Without pain. (Mostly without pain. I mean, I *am* in my 40s and spent much of the first 28 years of my life carrying more weight than was comfortable on my joints.)
I like being in a place like this. I like that I have created this kind of place as my norm. Because it is not the societal norm. There is little money to be made from me being happy and comfortable in my body. I may buy a refillable water bottle, and some workout gear. But it means I am not buying supplements, or workout machines, or surgeries or injections or anything else I hope will make me feel good about myself. 
What makes me feel good about myself is knowing that I can be trusted to treat my body with love. Tough love. (Kind of.) The kind of tough love where I go for that jog even when I really want to stay in bed a little longer. The kind of tough love where I drink that water even when all I want is another cup of coffee. (And another. And another.) The kind of tough love that makes me feel like I took care of myself when it’s done, even if it sucked while I was doing it. And so many of theses things still suck. After years. 
I think I used to think that one day I would come to “like” most of these things. That people who took care of themselves liked the acts of taking care. And certainly I have come to love vegetables, which is something I would never have expected. But now I can see that most people would rather hit the snooze button just like I would. And that whether or not someone does hit it has nothing to do with “liking” exercise or “wanting” a nourishing breakfast they have to prepare instead of a donut. It has to do with commitment. 
And one thing I learned early on after putting boundaries around my eating is that commitment comes before results. Not the other way around. That practice, that the doing of a thing, day in and day out, like a ritual or a prayer, is the best way to get somewhere you are not now. That results come in their own time and in their own way. 
About 14 years ago, I was doing some volunteer work at a self-help seminar. And the leader asked me what I wanted to get out of the seminar. And I said “I want my body to be a non-issue.” Because my body was always an issue for me. No matter my size or weight. And in the time of that seminar, I had a bunch of personal setbacks that made my body more and more of an issue I could not let go of. But by the last day of that seminar, I had my current boundaries around my eating and my body was slowly losing all of its charge as a “problem” in my life. 
I didn’t know what it would look like at the time to have my body cease to be an issue. And I certainly had no idea how to make that happen. But here I am writing a blog to tell you that I am happy and comfortable in that body. More than that, that I love and admire it. I didn’t have any idea what I would be getting myself into when I asked for that outcome. 
And that is probably for the best. Because that Kate who wanted to not worry about her body all the time would probably not have been ready to give up sugar and carbohydrates. But she didn’t have to be. She just had to want something that seemed impossible.

Independence Day too

This week was Independence Day here in the US. So I decided to write a bit about my personal freedom from food addiction.
As a kid and teenager, through my mid 20s, food was the most important thing in my life. I thought about it constantly. I thought about my weight constantly. I hated my body constantly. I wanted and obsessed over sugar and carbs constantly. Almost all of my thinking was around my issues with food. It used up so much of my brain that I am surprised I managed to do or achieve anything else with my time. Also, I didn’t achieve that much.
Here’s the thing that makes me clear that I was a slave to food. I ate when I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to eat in front of people, but I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t want to be fat and I wanted to lose weight, but I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t want to eat certain foods because I didn’t particularly like them, but if they were all there was in the house, I still couldn’t stop myself. Compulsive. Obsessed. Miserable. Enslaved.
I stopped being a salve when I stopped eating man-made sugar and carbohydrates entirely. And I did it with the intention of not going back.
When I dieted in my early life, I gave up sugar long enough that I could be thin, and therefore not judged for eating sugar. I *wanted* to eat sugar, but not hate myself and my body. I thought that being thin would make me love my body. I thought that being thin and eating sugar would be the perfect life.
It didn’t work. When I was thin but eating sugar and carbohydrates, I still hated my body. Judged it. Abused it. I thought my body was not treating me right, instead of the other way around.
When I quit sugar and carbohydrates, I started to love my body. Whether it was skinny or chubby. I no longer needed my body to be thin to love it. I loved it by treating it well, with nourishment and care. With food first. Later with sleep and hydration. Later still with quitting smoking. Eventually with exercise. I am sure there will be more. And more still. This food addiction journey is a lifetime journey of self-care. It was the actions I was taking that lead to love. It was “fake it ‘til you make it” that made me so happy with my body and my life. It was treating myself like a precious thing first. Not feeling like a precious thing and then acting accordingly. 
Freedom didn’t come for me. It did not seek me out. But it was there all the time, waiting for me to take it. It was waiting in all of the moments I played a long game with my life. It was every bite of cake I chose not to take. It was every “obligatory” meal I politely refused. It was in every time I put myself first, even though my body and mind were screaming and begging and tempting. 
Until the day that sugar stopped calling. Until the begging and the screaming and the tempting all stopped. And the freedom settled in. And the freedom became the norm. 
That did not come quickly. Or easily. It came a little at a time with a lot of pain and difficulty. Until it was just there. And now it’s just there. Freedom is just a part of my life now. Independence Day is today too. 

“Follow Me” and change

I was very excited this week to get to see a documentary I am featured in about sustained weight loss. It’s called Follow Me, and it features 12 people who have lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off for 5 years or more. I am honored to be a part of it. You can visit the website and see a trailer for the movie at www.followmefilm.ca
What I particularly like about the film is that it features a bunch of different approaches to sustained weight loss. But they all have one thing in common. We each had to change our lives. 
One of my biggest problems with losing weight when I was still eating sugar, was that I wanted to do what I had always done, and have it be different. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was not eating so I could eat later. The reward was the same. Just less often. And someday. Until I couldn’t wait anymore and I ate again. And I couldn’t put it off anymore, and it went back to being the norm, not the exception. 
I could never stop eating sugar when I was eating sugar. I could never *want* to refrain, because I craved it. My brain and my body told me I needed it. And when I first *really* gave up sugar I experienced a lot of physical and emotional pain. The cravings were intense. The feelings I had been numbing with sugar were overwhelming. I was cranky. I felt high from not being high. I had to cope without my primary coping mechanism. Like learning to swim by being thrown in the lake and told “don’t die.”
But I did learn to “swim.” I learned a new way to live. And it was a life I never knew I wanted. But I did. 
One of my many (many) problems with the fitness/diet/beauty industry is that so much of what it is advertising is something that will do the change for you. Hell, even the medical industry is selling that. Take these “vitamins,” they will melt away fat. Drink this shake, it will make you want to eat less. Get your stomach removed/constricted. It will make it impossible for you to overeat. Except it doesn’t. Not even the medical/surgical solutions. I have met people who have stretched themselves a new stomach after gastric bypass. They are not the solutions they promise to be. (Oh great. Now, I am going to be singing Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina all day…)
I am not saying that surgery is necessarily “bad.” Eating as a coping mechanism worked for me until it didn’t anymore. A gastric sleeve might save someone’s life. But  if one’s problem is eating, like mine, and weight is a symptom of that problem, I don’t think anything outside of oneself is going to help. 
And I am not saying that anyone “needs” to change their eating. I want to be friends with fat acceptance, body positivity, and fat pride. I want to make this a conversation about choice. 
But I hated being fat. And I *wanted* a solution. And I was doing all sorts of self-harm and acts of self-hatred in order to try and wrangle my body into a certain shape and size, hoping that one of those awful, painful, and shameful things would be the solution to my self-loathing. And none of them were. 
But finally I found a real solution. One that doesn’t require sustained starvation. One that doesn’t require hating myself into submission. One that is abundant, delicious food, plus a body I actually love, and love to live in. 
So I am honored to be part of this film, Follow Me. I am honored to talk about the fact that sustained weight loss is not a fictional fairytale. That it can be done. And that it’s not about being special or being a specific kind of fat person. That it’s about choices and change. And that if you want something else, there is a way to have it. 

Beautiful. But still not skinny

When I got my eating under control 13+ years ago, I expected to find my husband right away. I thought that the only thing keeping him away was my being fat. Because even when I wasn’t fat while I was still eating compulsively, any hold I had on staying the size I was was tenuous at best. I could always feel it slipping away. 

But when I put boundaries around my eating, and especially when I stopped eating foods I am addicted to, like sugar and carbs, I lost my weight, and it was staying off. And I wasn’t afraid of gaining it back. At all. I didn’t feel like it was a fluke. I wasn’t what they call “white knuckling” it. I was in a regular sized body and fully expected to stay that way. 
But he didn’t show up. For years he didn’t show up. I went on dates. I got pretty hair cuts from a salon. (The kind where you needed an appointment!) I regularly got my nails done, fingers and toes. I wore pretty clothes. For a few years there in the beginning I even wore makeup every day. (I would stop after about 5 years of having my food under control.) But no husband.
I went on dates. I went to bars. I talked to men on the subway and in Starbucks. But he did not show up. 
And then I quit smoking. And I gained weight. I gained a lot of weight. After the first 30 lbs, I stopped weighing myself. I had my food under control, but my weight was out of control. I was terrified. I was miserable. I felt betrayed by my body. But I kept my boundaries around my eating, even in the face of that weight gain and insecurity. 
And I thought “I missed my window. My husband didn’t show up while I was skinny. And now that chance has passed.”
And then my husband showed up. When I was not skinny. When I was, in fact, the heaviest I had ever been with my eating under control.
And I had to come to terms with the fact that being skinny was not what made me beautiful. And it occurred to me that having my eating under control is actually the thing that made/makes me beautiful. The clarity. The kindness. The confidence. The good judgment.
So here I am, a woman with her food under control, who is not skinny. I am fit, and present, and growing, and happy. And still in love with my husband who is still in love with me. He still thinks I’m beautiful. (I still think so too. Because…humble.) But still not skinny. 
And I am so grateful that I got to learn that lesson. That my beauty is not determined by my physical size. That my size is fine, whatever it is, as long as I have my eating under control. Because it was the compulsive eating that made me feel ugly and crazy and unlovable. And in having my food taken care of, I am showing my body that I love it. That I think it is worthy of love. And that opened the way for my husband. Love opened the way to love. Not being “skinny and perfect.”

The “doing” and the “having done.”

I have been feeling particularly lazy the past few days. And today is, of course, my day to get stuff done. It’s the day for laundry and cooking and writing this blog. It’s my day to prep for the coming week. And I will do what needs to be done. In fact, the laundry is already in the washing machine. And I will start my cooking as soon as this is posted. But already I am looking forward to being done and sitting on the couch with a yarn project. 
It has been a long time since I have picked up a yarn project. And this one is particularly ambitious. I am attempting to make two dolls without a pattern. Or rather, I am starting with the base of another pattern and attempting to change it to fit my own specifications. It’s complicated and is taking a certain amount of blind faith. 
In my life in the food, everything scared me. Anything that was not an obvious win for me was a no-go. And even some of those “obvious wins” turned out harder than I imagined and I would quit. Everything was so serious. And nothing got done.
Or if it did, it would get done in the least healthy way possible. I have mentioned before that I went about creating like a crazy person. I would work like a machine through the day and night. Unable to stop. Unable to evaluate. And at some point things would get done half-assed because I couldn’t break my momentum but I was too exhausted to keep going properly. I had to see the end. I had to get that hit, that chemical reward. And it was usually mixed. Because it was done, but it was never perfect. And not perfect was never good enough. Now things get done with more care and attention, *and* I don’t need perfection. Wow!
I have always enjoyed the idea of creating. I have always enjoyed having created. I have always enjoyed the beginning and the end. The idea, and the finished product. I have never enjoyed work. Until I got my eating under control. 
In the food I was always interested in knowing, but never learning. I was always interested in having, but not acquiring. 
In getting my eating under control I learned to sit with difficult feelings. And feelings like realizing that I might fail at something are particularly difficult for me. Also, work, with it’s long-game potential rewards, as opposed to instant gratification, also fills me with difficult feelings. 
These are some of the feelings I ate. I mean, I was eating pretty much all of my feelings. But these feelings that forced me to evaluate myself, these were the ones that probably scared me the most.
Since I put down the food, I am no longer afraid of work, especially the work that creating entails.  I am not saying I enjoy it all the time. Ask my husband. I get frustrated. I swear, and growl. And sometimes I even throw down the yarn in a huff. But I pick it back up again. I learn. I acquire new skills and techniques. I add them to the list and seek out newer and even more difficult skills. 
Not being afraid of work is one of the biggest gifts of getting my eating under control. Not having to care that things be good enough is another gift. I am allowed to fail. I am allowed to make bad art. I am allowed to work really hard and have nothing to show for it. 
Putting boundaries around my food has always meant freedom. Freedom from the food itself. Freedom from living in a body that was difficult to live in. And freedom from my own ridiculous expectations. So today I will do the things I don’t want to do, so I can sit on the couch and attempt to do things I still don’t want to “do,” but will find immense satisfaction in “having done.”

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