onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “giving up sugar”

Truth *and* consequences

I’m listening to a book series right now that I do not want to put down. (I am a huge audiobook fan. I can do so many things, like exercise or cook, and enjoy a novel at the same time.) But I have things to do right now that require all of my attention, like writing this blog or doing some work for my job, and I have to put it down. Waaahhh!!!

When I was eating compulsively I would have just continued with my book, and the consequences be damned. I let a lot of things fall by the wayside before I had boundaries around my eating. I did what felt good in the moment.

But of course there were consequences. The biggest was the stress that came from being out of integrity. And I didn’t even think of it that way. I didn’t even know at the time how to acknowledge that I owed something and that in not paying up, I was harming myself to myself. It always looked to me like it was about other people. The people I owed something to: teachers, friends, parents. 

For me, the consequences never ended up being as bad as the stress I caused myself. But also, the consequences never registered for me as completion. 

When I got my eating under control I learned how to let things go. But here is the important piece that I never understood before then. You cannot let something go until you see and acknowledge the truth of it. So if I, let’s say, didn’t do a homework assignment, and I got a bad grade, I could not look at either my responsibility to do the work, or the fairness of the grade. And therefore it never left me. I never moved on. I still had the yucky feelings of both my bad behavior and the consequence. Even though I already *paid the consequence*!

You would think that having paid the consequences would mean that I could move on. The transaction was complete. The fine was paid. Except I never wanted to look directly at the infraction. I never wanted to acknowledge what was my fault, my doing, my responsibility. I never wanted to see what I was doing, and by virtue of that, who I was being in my life.

In getting my eating under control I learned how to look at what I did and did not do within the framework of my integrity, my word, and what I wanted to create and put out in the world. 

A friend of mine sometimes talks about thinking about herself when she was eating compulsively as “a floating head.” She didn’t want to think of her body as herself. She could not confront the idea that she and her body were one.  

I often thought of my integrity that way. I thought that what I liked and admired, what I thought and believed, was who I was. But of course who I am is what I do in the world and how I interact with its inhabitants.

So for this moment I am keeping my commitment to write this blog. And in a minute I am going to do the work I need to get done. And then, with a clear conscience, when it is time for cooking or knitting or relaxing, I will get back to my book! And there will be no consequences except the exquisite feelings I get from a good novel.

Self-awareness does not always make us wise

Today I ate half of a terrible cantaloupe. What’s funny is that I bought it because it seemed ripe (it was not) and it was not huge. I thought I was doing myself a favor by only buying a very large cantaloupe instead of a gargantuan one. And instead it ended up *feeling* like the biggest cantaloupe ever because I had to force myself to eat it. (Before you worry about why I ate a cantaloupe I didn’t want, let me assure you there was nothing *wrong* with it. If it were rotten or even just tasted bad I would have been able to make a call and eat a different fruit. But it was fine. Just flavorless and kind of hard.)

My eyes are definitely bigger than my stomach and I have a long history of buying cantaloupes that are bigger than my head. When I buy them I am excited to eat them but then when I *do* eat them, they are often too much. I fee a little sick and a little overstuffed. But I do it anyway. I forget that it’s too big. I forget that I get enough food every day. I forget that when I have a “mere 8 ounces” of fruit weighed out on my scale, it is plenty of fruit, and along with the rest of my big breakfast will keep me satisfied for many hours until lunch. That I don’t need half of a 4 pound cantaloupe to be sated.

Even after over 15 years, something in me is often worried that I will not get enough to eat. That there is not enough for me. That I will end up…HUNGRY!!!! It does not seem to matter that I have learned to live with hunger when it occasionally happens. It does not seem to matter that I am almost never hungry anymore. That perhaps I have the experience a few times a year. It does not seem to matter that I know intellectually that I eat enough food every day, no matter the circumstances. 

I think this is an important thing to note as a food addict. I forget about the reality of my food situation all the time. I forget the ill consequences of my eating. And I always have. Addicts call it a “built in forgetter.” We forget about the outcomes of our actions. This was true when I was eating compulsively, yes. But it has stayed true on some level since I got my eating under control.

For years since I started putting boundaries around my eating I have bought cantaloupes that made me kind of sick. And I ate them and got kind of sick. And then went to the store or the farmers market and bought more ginormous cantaloupes that would make me kind of sick in the coming week.

I am going to throw away that 2nd half of cantaloupe today. But here is an interesting thing to me. I am going to throw it away because it does not taste good. Let me assure you, however, that if it were delicious, and all it did was make me a little sick and a little overstuffed, I would eat it tomorrow as planned. I would look forward to it. Because I have my priorities when it comes to food, and taste is way up there in importance. And being a little sick from too much fruit is a thing I forget easily when the fruit is delicious. In fact, if the fruit were delicious, I would not be writing this blog. And I would have *already forgotten* that this morning’s breakfast was too much.

Self-awareness is lovely, but doesn’t always make us wise.

Managing in my contentment

It is sometimes the hardest to write this blog when I am happy. And I am happy now. I am content. My life is free of real-world drama and filled with fictional drama, exactly how I like it. But it makes it hard to think of something to write here.

When I was eating compulsively, my life was filled with drama. And not the kind I find in novels and comics. 

I sometimes write about learning the skill of changing thoughts. In fact I wrote about it last week. And for the most part it is not really something I deal with consciously anymore. Because I have already done 2 things. 1) Created a new set of “default settings,” and 2) learned to keep my mind elastic enough that changing my mind is not that complicated.


My default settings growing up were always selfish and nearly always to argue. I did not trust anyone to do anything in my best interest. I expected the worst from people. Or I had a thought about the way something or someone should be and any deviation from that created a need to fight in me. Well…fight or manipulate. I was a better manipulator. I was a kid, and I knew that kids don’t win fights. At least not fair fights.

My current default settings are to trust. They are to trust Life, but that also means to trust people. I don’t mean blindly. I am sure I will never be that trusting. I am not now, nor do I expect I will ever be a “turn the other cheek” kind of girl. If you got the one cheek, that’s life. But I don’t believe in anything like a Christian heaven. So the other cheek will stay facing the direction it is, thank you.

But there is a relief to trusting first. I don’t think I ever understood to how much energy I used in being constantly ready for battle. There is peace in not always expecting war. This is obvious in retrospect. And certainly when you put words to it like battle and war and peace. But growing up it felt like the way it was. It felt like reality. I didn’t understand what choices I had or even that there were choices. I felt like the world, or life, or other people threw circumstances at me and I had to throw them off as best I could in order to just survive. How exhausting.


And as I said last week, I have learned how to change my mind. I know how to stop a thought in its tracks. I know how to change a thought. I know how to switch my focus. It’s not always easy to accomplish, but it has stopped being hard to fathom. The obstacles to it are usually about pride and self-righteousness, or about not wanting to give up my grasp on something, or about not wanting to lose. They are about being right and wanting to be right. They are about willingness, not capability.

Growing up addicted to certain foods affected my braid chemistry which affected my thoughts which affected my actions which affected my habits which affected my food. My food life and my inner life were like an echo chamber, feeding and reinforcing more of the same, taking me deeper and keeping me ever more entrenched.


What changed was I changed my food. I stopped giving myself the fix. I stopped giving myself the drug foods that perpetuated the same cycle. I interrupted the pattern in a very specific, concrete way. I did not only change my mind, though I did, indeed, do that too. But I also acted differently. I acted differently by eating different foods and that stopped a literal, physiological, chemical reaction. And then I continued to do that until what felt normal to me was something new. Something I created.

I created my own peace. It was not easy. And it was not immediate. And it is not even done yet. I am still working at it and growing into to it and pushing toward it. But I created it for myself and made myself into a different person.

I made myself into a person I wanted to be. And now that person is happy and content. And happy, peaceful me still managed to write a blog post in the midst of all of my contentment, so wins all around I guess.

Build the muscle to change a mind

Yesterday my husband and I had friends over for dinner for the first time in forever! And it was awesome! 

My husband is a great cook and he loves to do it. But when we have company he usually makes things I can’t eat. So I either eat the parts I can, and supplement the rest of my meal, or I just eat my own food.

Last night my husband made pasta, so that was a no-go for me. And the fancy sauce he made was also not one I could have. But I cooked up some of our homemade Italian sausage, which is a personal favorite of mine. And he made, for lack of a better term, an Italian salsa for bruschetta as an appetizer. And while you probably already know, I don’t eat bread, I did get to have the salsa itself which was super delicious. 

I am grateful that I no longer look at the things I can’t have as “missing out.” My dinner was delicious. And guilt-free. But that took something. It took a conscious choice to take control of my own brain and stop certain thoughts. To recognize them, and stop thinking them. To change the channel. And that did not happen today. It happened a little at a time over years and years.

If I have one piece of advice for people who want to start abstaining from their drug foods, it would be to understand the nature of their own thoughts. It would be to become aware of how much control we each have over our thinking, which seems, at first, like something we have no choice in.

I am a completely different thinker than I was when I was eating compulsively. I had been thinking a certain way for 28 years when I finally put boundaries around my eating. I had worn certain paths in my brain. Certain thoughts necessarily lead to other particular thoughts. All of those thoughts, all of the paths they created, led directly to the foods that made me feel miserable and out of control. 

It takes something to leave the path. It takes a kind of bravery. It takes a kind of fortitude. And it takes practice. It’s like building a muscle. You don’t start being able to do 100 push-ups. You do a few with bad form and much heavy breathing at first. But you get better and stronger every time. And if you do it regularly, you build the muscles to the point that a push-up is second nature. Your body remembers. It knows. 

I also understood that I was never going to get anywhere different while I was walking the same paths. If I wanted to change the way I ate, I had to change the way I ate. If this seems like an obvious truth to you, let me assure you I tried for many many years to change the way I ate without having to change anything. I quite literally wanted my cake and to eat it too.

When I got my eating under control, people who went before me told me to change my language. Not to call things “favorite foods” anymore. To remember that they were poison to me. To refer to them as such. To stop romanticizing them. To stop thinking of them with longing. To stop thinking of them at all. To build that muscle.

So much of changing my life was in changing my mind. One thing at a time. One word at a time. One wishful thought at a time. And the gift of changing my mind about sugar also gave me the option to change my mind about other things. To know that the thoughts in my head were not “me.” They were merely thoughts. And I was in control of all of them, because once upon a time, even when I was really bad at it, I was willing to change my mind.

It’s not really food I’m craving. My stomach might not know.

Lately I have been having cravings. I don’t necessarily mean food cravings, though food would do it if I still did that. I have been craving “more” or some “soothing.” In other words, my addict wants something to drug her so she doesn’t have to feel uncomfortable.

I am grateful to have a history of, and a point of reference for abstaining from most sugar, grains and starches, my personal drug foods. Saying no is easier when I have already said no and found that the world didn’t end. It’s easier when I know what to expect and have tools to manage and deal with the feelings.

My work life has been up in the air for a while. One job fell through. Then we were told we would be assigned to another job. Then told we were not. Then told we were again. And at this particular moment I do not know the truth of the situation. And I don’t even feel like I can just ask, outright. I feel like I have to tread lightly. Manage management’s expectations of who knows what about want. It’s frustrating. I am frustrated.

That is one of the specific things about the culture of the company I work for that makes me a rather crappy match. There is a lot of secrecy that necessarily leads to gossip. And let me assure you that grown-ass construction workers are every bit as gossipy as we accuse teenage girls of being. In fact, some gossip about me (totally untrue, by the way) made its way to my husband and back to me.

When I got my eating under control, I had to stop lying. But I could not stop lying about food while I continued to lie about other things. (Oh believe me, I tried!) I had to stop cheating, stealing and hiding. 12 steppers often say “we are only as sick as our secrets.” 

I am also committed to authenticity. Being myself is another form of honesty. I am straight forward and blunt. I am kind, and I am likable, but I am also interested in getting to the heart of things. I am interested in honoring other people’s time and energy. And I am very bad at smiling in the face of people whom I know are lying to me or cheating me. And in my experience, what most people call “diplomacy” is disingenuous and underhanded.

So I am uncomfortable about work. And about my future. And that affects both my self-esteem and my money. And those are exactly the kinds of things that I ate over when I was eating compulsively. Am I good enough? Will I be able to pay my bills? Being uncertain about these things masquerades as hunger. Luckily, at this point in my life, I can spot that uncertainty and the discomfort it brings, even when it’s in a full mask and a billowing ball gown.

So now I am in the position of asking myself if I should stay, or look for something better suited to me. But that is also an anxiety inducing prospect. My job may be a devil, but it’s a devil I know. And there are aspects to it that I love. I love working with my husband. I love my coworkers. I love how good I am at what I do. I love making good money. But I also know from experience that when I keep my eating under control, my life gets better, even when I thought it was getting worse.

Years ago, I got this job shortly after I applied for a different job, a writing job for a different company, where I was the only person being considered. I thought that I was a shoo-in. I was even told as much. But in the end they eliminated the position, rather than hire me. At the time I was devastated. And I was depressed. But in retrospect, it was a gift. I can see now that I would have been unhappy there. And I would have never gotten the chance to learn this new set of skills, and find that I excel at them. I would not have made as much money as I have at my current job. I would not have been able to support my husband in doing the caliber of work he does. My support (I mean practical, data and spreadsheet support, not emotional support) allowed him to grow in his job too. And I loved that for both of us.

So I am uncomfortable and worried about my job and I have been having cravings over it. And I don’t know what to do. (About the job. I know exactly what to do about the cravings. 1. Don’t eat outside of my boundaries. 2. Make sure I eat *really* well at meal times.) But I do know this. When I keep my eating under control, Life always gives me something better than the thing I thought I wanted.

A moment, and truth

I am cranky this morning. I don’t know why. There is no reason. Nothing happened. I just want to be quiet. I just don’t want to interact.

One thing I appreciate about having my eating under control is that I don’t worry so much about the “why” of things anymore. I don’t know why I am cranky and I don’t have to know. It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t signal any truth about me. It’s just the way the moment is. The moment will eventually be different. 

I am generally a happy person. I like people and the world most of the time. I like being nice. I like being grateful. I like being content. So much that when I don’t feel happy or content, I don’t have to think too hard on it. Being unhappy doesn’t feel like “the truth.” It just feels like a moment. One that will pass.

But when I was eating compulsively, I was not a happy person. My unhappiness did feel like “the truth.” My compulsive eating felt like the truth. My brokenness felt like the truth.

Toward the end of my compulsive eating, I had lost a lot of weight counting calories and working out. And there I was, walking around in a socially acceptable body. But even though I was not fat, being fat still felt like the truth. I knew that the body I was inhabiting was unsustainable. That *I* could not sustain it. I had been on diets before. I had lost weight before. But I had never been able to stop eating long-term. And I knew that I would not be able to do it then.

When I stopped eating sugars grains and starches, suddenly not eating compulsively became a real option. A real, possible truth. And eventually, a real, actual truth. Because I am addicted to those certain foods and putting them in my body set up a craving for more of the same. The longer they were out of my system, the less I wanted them, the less pull they had over me. The less my emotions were tied to my addiction.

So now I still have bad days. And sad ones. I still have mornings like today when I am not happy or cheerful. And maybe it’s the weather, or something subconscious, or just plain brain chemicals. But whatever it is, it’s not my addiction or my eating. And it’s certainly not my truth. It’s a moment. A not so magic moment. It will pass.

I do what I want and have the privilege of knowing it.

I feel like my life is finally opening up again. Tomorrow I get my second COVID vaccine shot. My husband and I have a new job lined up for the not-so-distant future. And I am doing some planning and plotting for some fiction writing. (Plot is hard, for those of you who don’t know.)


I have been very happy to stay home and not deal with people for the past year. I am absolutely a home body who can contentedly consume and\or create art and media with little to no human interaction. (Besides my husband. I’m certainly grateful to have shared our space together for this long stretch. I would definitely not have felt so comfortable being alone without him, home body or not.) But the truth is that I am excited to see our friends again. I am looking forward to hugging people. I even want people to come to our house. And I almost never want that!

But lets go back to fiction writing. When I was eating compulsively, I had a warped relationship to time. I didn’t have a clear idea of how long things took. I didn’t have any skill with planning my day. I was late for everything. I didn’t know what could be done and what could not. I lived as if wanting to do something should necessarily create the time in which to do it. And I was frustrated and angry at life when it did not.

Getting my eating under control didn’t change my relationship to time over night. It changed because it became wrapped up in the idea of commitment. First with the food. I had a commitment to eat three meals a day. To have the first meal between 6am and noon, the second between noon and 4pm, and dinner before midnight. And sometimes that meant stopping what I was doing in order to eat. It meant looking at the time I had and making sure I could fit meals in. Eventually my commitments grew and I needed to fit time in for those as well.

And that made me prioritize. Meals have been first priority for the whole time I have had my boundaries. But then other things became second and third priorities too. Sleep. Exercise. Rest. Creating. Being places on time. Working to make enough money to pay my bills. (Believe it or not, this was not a priority before I got my eating under control. How did I live? With a lot of stress.)

When I started working for my company a few years ago, I had not been working regularly and I had been writing fiction. (My husband was working.) But when I took on my job, I gave up writing. I stopped consciously. It didn’t peter out or fall by the wayside. I made a calculated decision that reading, knitting and crochet, sleeping, and quality time with my husband were all more important than writing when the majority of my time was going to a good job making good money, on top of all of my other commitments. And in working full time I had the added time suck of having to prep meals for the week since I would no longer be home to make them on the spot. 

It was a gift to make the choice. I didn’t have to feel resentful of the things I was doing over the things I was missing. I could honor the path I chose. And in choosing it I was free to change my mind and choose something else. I could have, but I didn’t. Until now? 

Lately I have been thinking about writing again. I have a new novel bouncing around in my head. And the prospect of writing it is both exciting and daunting. And I don’t know what I want to do about it. Or if I am going to be willing to make time to write when I am back to my 40-hour-a-week job. But I know how to use priorities as a tool. And I first learned that by making my eating boundaries a priority. 

I found that once I understood how to choose my priorities and use them for living, I was free to find peace around the choices I made, and to love my life the way it is. Because I *knew* that I chose it.

The honest to god truth is that we are all choosing our priorities every day. But some of us don’t know it yet. It seems easier to blame situation and circumstance. But once I chose my commitments, I had power over my life. So I am going to make writing fiction a priority. For now. And if I don’t like it, I can change my mind. It’s my life and my time. I do what I want. And I have the privilege of knowing it.

I still love food. I just don’t feel bad about it anymore.

I love to eat. It is my favorite thing to do. That did not change when I put boundaries around my eating. In fact, it got so much better.

For almost all of the first 28 years of my life, I had a very complicated relationship with food. I loved food, and I loved to eat. It was my friend and my solace. But I was fat. And I was judged and harassed and tormented for it. And that made eating humiliating. Because when you are fat, everybody treats you like what you eat is their business.

And I also did not have control over my eating. I could not stop when I wanted to. I could not have one and walk away. I could not “just push away from the table.” 

People often talk about chasing that first high, but I have been addicted to sugar for longer than I can remember. I don’t have any recollection of that first high. I just knew that I wanted to have a thin body, and that I hated my fat body, and that I still could not manage my eating.

So food was my best friend in secret and my worst enemy out in the world. To be a fat person who openly loves to eat is to be a target. It opens you up to the judgment of family, friends and strangers alike. You are accused of promoting ill health, and of propagating such deadly sins as gluttony and sloth. 

But when I eat within my boundaries, boundaries that don’t include my addictive drug foods, I eat guilt-free. And when I keep that promise to myself, to eat within my strict parameters, I don’t have to even acknowledge judgments about it. My food and my body ceased to be anyone else’s business in my own mind. Because my food and my body were never anyone else’s business. But I didn’t know because I was all wrapped up in the simultaneous shame and euphoria of eating to get high.

If the only way to get my eating under control was to stop caring about food, I never would have been able to do that. I needed to be able to work with what I had. And I already had a deep love of eating. So now I use the food as a defense against the food. I eat the most delicious meals I can 3 times a day. And they don’t include foods I am addicted to. And that means that I still love to eat. But I don’t have any of that guilt or shame. I don’t feel like I need to hide it. And it doesn’t control me anymore with cravings.

I don’t dance when the gorilla is around.

I got my first vaccine shot this week. And for the past 2 days I have been positively ravenous! 

When I googled “Is hunger a side effect,” one of the auto fill options was “of the COVID vaccine” so I am perhaps not the only one. Though I can’t find any articles or papers that say it *is* a side effect of the vaccine.

But the important part of this for me is that I didn’t eat in between meals. I didn’t eat outside of my food boundaries. What I did do was eat heavy.

The best thing about my eating boundaries is that they have a lot of room for circumstance. It’s like a padded wall. It’s soft. But it’s still a wall. 

I eat mostly the same few things daily and weekly. I know what I like. I don’t get tired of it. I look forward to my meals. They are my moment of pause and pleasure in the day, three times a day. And I am almost never hungry.

But really, what I can appreciate about the past few days is that I am not ruled by hunger. And I was ruled by it for years. Though I don’t think that it was true hunger. I ate out of boredom. I ate to numb my uncomfortable feelings. I ate because I felt compelled to eat. All the time. I craved. I craved constantly.

I can imagine how crazy it might sound to normal eaters to say that I was ravenous and I did not eat in between meals. Or eat more than usual. I can imagine that the idea that I would “suffer” through hunger seems a little extreme.

It is extreme. Because my food addiction is also extreme. And I can tell you very clearly, that two days of feeling hungry and not eating more to satisfy my pangs is not nearly the level of suffering that having no control over my eating was. It is not nearly as terrifying as knowing you have no say over what goes in your mouth or your body. And when I am eating compulsively, I have no control, and no say. 

They say addicts picking up their drug is like agreeing to dance with a gorilla. You may choose when to start, but it’s the gorilla who decides when you stop.

Yes, I was hungry for a few hours between meals, for consecutive days. It was not the most comfortable feeling. But it was nothing compared to the possibility of dancing with the gorilla.

But I will say that I cooked my broccoli in even more butter and olive oil than I usually do. And I ate pork rinds twice in the same day, which I don’t do often. And that helped.

Basically, I have rules, but they are letter of the law rules. And the spirit of the law *is* letter of the law. I am not on a diet. I have a diet. If I have a 1 pound apple, that is just as much “1” apple as a 6 oz apple. 

People who do what I do don’t hide these things from each other. It’s not shameful to want the biggest and the best. It is encouraged. We shout it from the rooftops. In fact, when I lived in NYC, people would text each other things like “Citarella on the UWS has 1 pound honeycrisps.” Or “I got a cantaloupe bigger than my head at the farmers market.” It was a right of passage to take someone to the (sadly now closed) restaurant where they provided scales and cups for weighing and measuring, and to order the newcomer the deep fried tofu that dripped with hot grease and was crispy on the outside with the light pillowy center. (Also, if you know where in the Chicagoland area I can get some deep fried tofu, hit a girl up!)

I was fine not eating when I was hungry. But not out of some twisted form of vanity. I don’t put boundaries around my eating to be, or get, or stay skinny. I do it to stay off the dance floor while the gorilla is around. And the gorilla is always around.

Contentment: It’s not about where I am but where I’m going.

I have been off of work this week while I wait to get assigned to a new job. I have been cleaning my house and listening to audiobooks. Working out in the afternoon instead of first thing in the morning. I have been enjoying the freedom to get things done in my own time and on my own schedule. And I am feeling ridiculously content. 

Contentment is absolutely a direct result of having my eating under control. I don’t think I ever experienced it until I was literally years into having boundaries around my eating. Perhaps when I was a very small child I was content. But definitely not once I was school-age. For nearly all of my memorable life, I was anxious, worried, fearful, unhappy, and/or overwhelmed. Life was hard for me. Not because I got a bad one. In fact, on paper I got a great one. But that didn’t really matter. It didn’t mean I was happy. It didn’t mean I was grateful. I was not. 

I think a thing that happens to a lot of people is that we can see how good we have it, and it makes us think we *should* be happy. We can see who has it worse. We can see the disparities and it makes us feel like jerks. And society tells us we are jerks. There are children starving. There are kids with nothing. We have it so much better than the ones who came before us.

And all of those things might be true. But what getting my eating under control has taught me is that it is ridiculous to compare my life to anyone else’s. For the good or the bad. It is not a competition. It is not a race. It is not a zero sum game. There is no winning or losing. There is only my experience and my journey. There is only my path, and the places my path intersects with other paths. 

There is a saying that people who do what I do with food say: Keep your eyes on your own plate. This is practical advice. That person may be eating cake, but I don’t need to look at the cake. I don’t need to judge the cake eater. I don’t need to be jealous of the cake eating. And I don’t need to romance thoughts about the cake. I don’t need to focus on who has what I don’t. Especially when I have a full plate right in front of me. (Especially especially when my plate has bacon and homemade chocolate ice cream and melt-in-your-mouth carnitas.)

There is always a thing I think I want, because someone else has it. Sometimes I read a book that is so good, or beautiful,or creative that I am insanely jealous that the writer both had it in them, and could get it out so perfectly. Sometimes I see a dress that is so stunning I ache for it, but it is prohibitively expensive or made for a different body type than mine, and I have to mourn that I cannot have it. Sometimes I see someone do something I have no talent for, like drawing, or ballet, and I get frustrated that I cannot simply have it just because I want it. 

This used to seem so unfair. I was filled with envy and cruelty and shame. 

In these past 15+ years of keeping my eating boundaries, I have learned to treat the acquisition of skills as a practice rather than a gift. If I want to learn ballet, I can learn. I may not have a natural talent, or be naturally shaped the way most ballet dancers are, but I could study it if I wanted to. I could practice. I could try. I could put in the hours and the sweat. I don’t know what the results would be. But that really wouldn’t matter. I could write a book if I wanted. I could read up on the craft, and plan and plot, and sit in front of the blank page and see what uniquely me thing came out. I could give up on the expectation of genius or grace or perfection. I could be willing to make bad art.

One of the best lessons I have learned in my life is that in order to make great art, you have to be willing to make bad art. This is not just about art. I have learned to be willing to make bad life too.

The contentment that comes from having my eating under control is about accepting what is so, deciding what I want, and taking actions to create the life I want to have. It is about eliminating expectations and being willing to do something, anything, without knowing that it will turn out the way I want it to. It is about doing for the sake of doing. And not for the outcome. 

When I was eating compulsively, food was control, even if my eating was out of my control. Food helped me control feeling my feelings, which felt entirely out of my control most of my life. If those feelings were too much for me to handle, food made me numb, so I didn’t have to handle them. Getting my eating under control helped me control the experience of those feelings without feeling like I had to control the results. I could let them wash over me, use them as sign posts and guidelines, and then make choices with my higher self: my head, my heart, and my conscience.

I am still an anxious person. I am still an addict. I am still occasionally jealous and regularly ache for something that seems out of reach. But more than any of those things, I am content. I learned to choose what I already have first, and to strive for something better second. I learned to put in the time and the effort and let the chips fall where they may. I learned to define myself by how willing I am to move forward, rather than where I stand at any given moment.

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