onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “holidays”

Christmas magic and miracles

It is Christmas Eve, so a Merry Christmas to you.

I don’t love love love Christmas. Though I don’t hate it either. I don’t feel the need to personally avoid it, like Thanksgiving. But I do not identify as a Christian. And I don’t particularly care about the rituals. But I can enjoy it for what it is, and participate, because it is not only about food.

Plus, I really like giving people presents. I’m pretty good at it. And I like the energy of a Christmas party with kids. They get excited to be with each other. They get excited for presents. They feel like it is a special day, and that energy is kind of contagious. (Also, I don’t mind kid noise. My husband is not so comfortable with it.) I like kids. Especially when I get to go home and sleep in my quiet house with my husband and we don’t have to build toys with some assembly required as quietly as possible in the middle of the night so as not to disillusion little people who still believe in magic and wishes.

Also, I, too, still believe in magic and wishes, just not in such a literal, innocent way. But I thought for much of my life that I would never get my eating under control, or live in a body I loved, or like and love myself. So that it happened felt, and still feels, a lot like magic.

Is it work? Of course it is. But I was working before too. I was trying, and dieting, and starving and exercising, and doing whatever I could to stop being fat and food obsessed. And I was terrified that my lot in life was to be miserable. So having my eating under control is a joyous miracle.

So today I will be around a lot of food I don’t eat. But it’s not for me. And that’s ok. I got my joy and my gifts. I keep getting them. They have gotten bigger, and more valuable every day for the past 11 years, 11 months, 3 weeks and 1 day.

This holiday I am in it for the people. I am in it for the joy of connecting, and the joy of giving, and maybe even the joy of receiving. And, yes, I will do some very joyful eating. But all of it within my eating boundaries. And that’s not something I need a holiday for anyway.

So Merry Christmas to you! I hope yours is magical too.

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Happy whatever it is you celebrate!

You are getting me short and sweet today, since it’s Christmas, and even the grinchiest Scrooge (like myself) has things to do and places to be.

I will say that after not having sugar for nearly 11 years, (8 days until my 11th anniversary) being in places with big spreads of food I don’t eat is not a test of courage, or fortitude. It was once, but not anymore. I don’t crave it. For the most part, I don’t even see it. I know that it’s there, but it doesn’t register. That’s as it should be. It’s not for me.

I understand that for many people, holidays and celebrations are “cheat days.” And if that works for them, then it’s good. It never worked for me. I need rules. Rules saved my life.

So if you are a person who needs rules, and are struggling with food at this time of year, here are a few tips on how to keep your eating under control at holiday parties from someone who has been there.

• Eat before you go. If you have a party to go to and the place will surely be bursting with foods you avoid, don’t go hungry.

• Bring your own food. Who knows what’s in Aunt Marjorie’s special dish, and she’s not talking. So pack up your Tupperware and have your next meal close by. It has always made me feel safe.

• Eat your favorite meals. Don’t make steamed broccoli and boneless, skinless, tasteless chicken breast when everybody around you is having party food ( unless that is your idea of party food. Then go for it!) Having your eating under control is meant to be a blessing, not a punishment.

• Have phone numbers with you of the people who can talk you off of a ledge, or more likely, away from the dessert table. I know the numbers are programmed into your phone, but your phone is a delicate machine. Write them down. On paper.

• Don’t hang around the food. Don’t stand by it. Don’t purposely go smell it. If someone is talking to you around it, ask if they mind moving, or excuse yourself. You may or may not be strong, but even if you are, you don’t need to prove it.

• Have an exit strategy. Drive yourself, take public transportation, or bring money for a cab. Don’t be entirely dependent on someone else to get you out of there. And remember it’s okay to leave. Take care of yourself first. I know it’s the season of giving, but charity begins at home.

That’s it for me today. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Joyous Festivus. Happy Solstice. Or whatever it is that you celebrate, I hope it is a peaceful and happy one.

Resenting other people’s metabolisms is making an ass out of you and me

There is a saying among the people I know who keep boundaries around their eating: Keep your eyes on your own plate.

I have mentioned before that I don’t watch food porn. I never watch the Food Network. If one of those recipe videos comes up on my Facebook newsfeed, I click that little arrow in the corner and choose to “see less from” and “hide all from.” I don’t want to see things I don’t eat. I don’t want to see cookies and cakes, and all manner of sugar bombs.

In the beginning of getting my eating under control, I felt like the Holiday Season was hard for me because I was a compulsive eater, and there was food everywhere. But the older (and more clear-headed) I get, I realize that the Holiday Season is hard for everyone. Fine, maybe not children. (Who am I kidding? Has there ever been a single child who did not have at least one meltdown in the overwhelm of the end of the year festivities? I’m going to go with no.)

Holidays are overly emotional times of year where we obligatorily visit with the people in our lives who know best how to upset, enrage, and mortify us. I am not saying that we don’t love our families. I am saying that family is difficult. For everyone everywhere. And for many, it’s sugar (or sugar’s delinquent brother alcohol), and not music, that soothes the savage beast.

Overeating is the rule and not the exception from Thanksgiving to January 2nd. Basically everyone gains weight over the holidays. It is so pervasive it is the topic of much holiday humor and the reason practically everyone’s New Year’s Resolution is to lose 5-10 pounds.

But there is something else I want to note, that I don’t think I understood until I got my own eating under control. People who don’t have eating disorders or weight problems might gain some weight over the holiday season, they might even be doing some comfort or binge eating to deal with the stress, but most of them are still managing their food. They give themselves a little leeway, but they are not eating whatever they want whenever they want. Some do this management unconsciously, and some do it in their heads, and some might even keep a log of it. But they are actively thinking about what they are eating, and what effect it is having on their bodies.

I have spoken about this with compulsive eaters who have boundaries around their food, or I have heard them speak of it, or read their writing on it. Many of us used to think that “naturally thin” people were eating the way we were eating and not gaining weight. We decided that we were unfairly cursed. But what was often happening was we were seeing people eat the way we were eating, but we were never seeing what they weren’t eating behind closed doors.

I might pig out with someone at a holiday meal, and not realize that they were not eating the rest of the day. Or they were going home to have, as a friend’s sister would say, “a bowl of chicken soup and half a cup of dry popcorn.” While I would have another meal, plus all of the leftovers that the host sent me home with.

People with a healthy relationship with food do not “eat whatever they want and not get fat.” Or if they do, it’s because whatever they want is a salad. Or a single piece of fruit, not dipped in chocolate. Eating high-sugar, high-calorie foods and not gaining weight is not the way life works.

I suppose there are people with crazy metabolisms, but they are few and far between. If you know someone you think is “naturally thin,” chances are that what they really are is “naturally conscious” of what goes into their bodies.

As an addict, I know that I cannot handle my sugar. I am incapable of stopping at one, or a taste, or a little. And I might mistakenly think that nobody else can stop after one, or a taste, or a little either. And if I hold onto that assumption, and look around, I might mistakenly believe that life must be incredibly unfair because they are not physically large.

But that would be a lot of mistaken assumptions. So I make a point to keep my eyes on my own plate. And there is something else I do, especially over the holidays. I make sure that my food is amazing. I make sure it’s decadent and delicious and abundant. I make sure that if, by accident, my eyes happen to wander onto another plate, that when I look back at my own, I am positively enraptured.

My own Christmas miracle

Christmas is over and the one holiday left is my second favorite time of the year. So I’m feeling pretty good right about now. Plus, I got some pretty awesome presents. I am writing this blog on my new MacBook. (Look who’s fancy!)

I made it through the food holidays with my eating boundaries in tact. That makes 8 Thanksgiving/Christmas Seasons in a row. But for most of them, I did not do much, if any, celebrating. This will be the second year in a row that I have lived in the town I grew up in, close to family.

When I lived in New York, I didn’t fly back to my hometown this time of year. I might have met friends for a bit in the evening. Exchanged gifts. Called family. But for the most part, I happily spent my days alone.

And now I live with my boyfriend. Just a short drive from both his family and my own.

But I want to note that, except for breakfast at my mom’s (with explicit instructions from me about what kind of bacon to buy and how big of an apple I wanted), I kept my boundaries around my eating by not eating with everybody else. I ate at home before or after the parties. I packed my meals in tupperware and brought them with me just in case.

And I didn’t really think twice about it. It was easy. I didn’t have to be around the foods I don’t eat. I didn’t have to look at cake and pie and cookies. I colored with the kids, or talked with family. I got to do the social part without having to deal with eating.

I am so grateful for the way that I eat now. I make sure I eat delicious food every day. Not just on holidays. And I don’t ever have to feel disgusted or ashamed anymore. I am not sorry that there was no candy for me. I am not sorry there were no chips and dip for me.

The truth is that since I put boundaries around my eating, I am not sorry at all about food anymore. Ever.

Now that my friends, is a Christmas miracle!

Dear Tradition, consider yourself flouted. Love, me

And that is Thanksgiving done. Phew.

As you may know, it is my least favorite day of the year. I had ignored it, considered it just another Thursday, for a long time.

This year we went to my boyfriend’s family’s home for dinner, and my Mom’s for dessert. (Of course I did not partake of dessert.)

It was fine. It was even nice. Or at least there were some really nice moments. But it’s so much. It’s so much food. It’s so much noise. It’s so much heightened emotion.

I have said before that I am not afraid of food. I don’t worry about eating things I’m committed to not eating. But it is not always comfortable. It can sometimes be a matter of holding my thoughts in check. And that can be exhausting. Especially when I am out of my element.

And also especially on Thanksgiving. Because the traditional mode of celebration is eating. To not eat can somehow feel like I’m saying, “screw you, tradition. And screw you too, America.” To go to Thanksgiving celebrations and not eat sugar and carbs, and not over eat, and not do anything “special” is, without a doubt, to set yourself apart. It is to show up at a party and then…not party. It can feel like being the party-pooper. Which is why I used to just treat it as another day. It’s easier that way.

Of course I DO NOT WANT to eat sugar. I do not want to over eat. I am not telling you all of this because I want an excuse to “live a little.” I do not want any excuses. I love my boundaries. Seriously, getting my eating under control is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. And I am not interested in giving that up for a feeling of inclusion. Or normalcy. I am telling you this because I have made a choice. The choice to participate in this tradition on my own terms. For my boyfriend, mostly. Because it’s important to him to do his family traditions. And I love him.

But my food always has to be on my terms. Always. Period.

Look, people know. My boyfriend’s family is totally supportive. My family is totally supportive. I’m not saying that anyone was pressuring me. It is having to protect myself from the “Great American Institution” that is Turkey Day that is exhausting.

But it’s only one day a year. And nobody said I had to love it. I just have to get through it. And I don’t have to worry about that for another year.

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.

I’m trying not to think of it as the “un-holyday season”, but don’t push me

I got back home from a fantastic trip to NYC, and I’m already gone again to the Chicago suburbs for a wedding.

So yes, there was more food prep and packing for the airport. And there will be lots of getting ready for the celebration. Grooming and dressing as well as even more food prep and packing. Thankfully, I’m going to celebrate love and union, not to eat.

And then after the wedding, welp…it’s the holiday season. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year.

Oh, and Happy Halloween! This year I went as the place where socks go when they disappear from the laundry.

I actually love Halloween, and I always have. And no, it’s not about candy. It’s about dressing up. And it always has been. I was fat. There was always plenty of candy in my life. But Halloween was something else. It was a chance to show off how fun, creative and original I could be. It was a chance to be clever.

Since I had been fat all of my life, I tried very hard to be identified as something else (especially because I self-identified as fat, and hated it). I have always been proud to be clever. So I have never been one to buy prefab costumes. The fun was always finding and making them piece by piece. And I was good at it. I always enjoyed the details.

But the holidays coming up have not historically been my favorites. Thanksgiving and Christmas are not about being clever. They are about food and people. And they are filled with rituals that are specifically designed to raise our emotions to a fevered pitch.

I hate this. I am too susceptible to this already! I live in a state of high emotion. I don’t need winter holidays to touch my heart. My heart is all too easily touched as it is.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ve changed enough that none of it matters anymore. Maybe everybody in the whole world knows that I keep my food boundaries all the time, no matter what, even for Christmas, and maybe they just don’t care. And maybe I have enough peace that I won’t find holiday festivities emotionally exhausting and dangerous for my eating disorders. Who knows anymore. It has been many years since I celebrated either Thanksgiving or Christmas. And my boyfriend and I have agreed to spend Thanksgiving alone on a mini vacation this year. So that’s at least one I don’t have to worry about…And really, I have no idea what to expect. Maybe I will positively love Christmas. (Ok, that’s a stretch, but I’m keeping an open mind…)

I guess I will find out how far I have come by the end of the year. But one thing is for sure, I’m sure not going to leave the whole thing to fate. I am going to prepare. I’m going to protect myself. And never forget that I have eating disorders, and that keeping my eating under control comes first.

You don’t feel sorry for me, and I won’t tell you where you can stuff your turkey

At the farmer’s market yesterday, somebody wished me Happy Thanksgiving. She must have thought the 4 lbs of Brussels sprouts and 3 lb head of cauliflower were for some huge gathering I was hosting. She probably also assumed that the 9 apples were for a bunch of pies that I was making to share with my loved ones.

No. It is all for me. Share and food are not words I like to put together. In fact, that last sentence makes me a little uncomfortable. And if anyone were to try to touch my market haul, they might lose a hand.

Needless to say, being wished Happy Thanksgiving reminded me that my favorite time of year is here.

If you know me personally, you know that this is really the ultimate in Kate sarcasm. I hate winter. I hate cold and snow and dark. And I absolutely abhor the holiday season.

I do not actually hate individual holidays themselves. There is nothing wrong with Thanksgiving or Christmas. But I don’t participate.

And even this would not be a big deal if people wouldn’t make it such a big effing deal.

What I hate about the season is that every year, everybody and their brother has to make a big to-do about how nobody should be alone for the holidays. And here’s why I’m super-duper über not looking forward to this year. Because I’m already unhappy. And I can already see the pouty simpers on the faces of all the kind people who will insist that it would be a terrible thing for me to be alone for Thanksgiving. They would be worried about me. Especially when I’m having such a hard time.

Let me assure you I am not suicidal. But that I might become homicidal if you simper at me…

Let me also assure you that the last thing I want is to spend the day when I am already blue around a group of people and an over abundance of food. Food I don’t eat.

Let me also also assure you that I have a family. They would probably like to see me. It turns out they like me. But they also like to fill various rooms with food. Food I don’t eat. And for the most part, they have come to terms with the fact that I won’t be joining them.

It’s not that I don’t like people. For the most part, I do. But I also need a lot of time alone. And there is a particularly frustrating, annoying, obnoxious thing that people do, particularly during the holiday season. They want to give me permission to “cheat” on my “diet.” (I am not on a diet. And I don’t cheat. Ever. No really, never.) Oh go on. It’s Thanksgiving. Treat yourself. Because they don’t understand that the rest of that sentence is like crap. Spiral ever downward into an eating disorder hell prison. (And just so you know, if I were going to eat outside of my boundaries, I would not wait for somebody’s well-meaning permission. In fact, I would probably steal Mr./Ms. Well-Meaning’s pecan pie out from under their nose.)

But maybe what I am starting to understand that I never realized consciously before is that I need to stay away from Thanksgiving and Christmas because they are dramatic. Not because people make them dramatic. More because they make people dramatic. They are about light in the darkness. They are about survival when the Earth has gone to sleep and isn’t going to provide for a while. They are about the end of a 365 day cycle, and looking at what you have made and done for a year. They are about taking inventory of your life. These are big, dramatic things. So we as humans celebrate these things with spectacular displays. To show that we honor how spectacular life is. With bright lights and shiny decorations. With abundant food and dramatic music. (Sure I hate Christmas music, but who isn’t moved by Oh Holy Night?!)

When I am not feeling burdened by the expectation to participate, I can see that there is something beautiful in this way of celebrating life. I’m moved just thinking about it. But I can’t handle it. It’s too much for me. It’s too big for my already sensitive, overly emotional heart. On the scale of 1-10, I live life at a consistent 8 ½. And the holidays can ramp me right up to a 100 in the blink of an eye. And I’m not the only one, of course. Ask any parent. ‘Tis the season for over-stimulated-meltdowns.

Anyway, I will be having a regular Thursday this week. That’s what I choose. But let me wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope it’s moving and dramatic in the best possible way. And I hope the only meltdowns are the cheese and the chocolate.

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Happy Easter! Now leave me alone.

I don’t do holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter are no longer a part of my life. I haven’t celebrated them since I got control of my eating.

Let’s be honest. Holidays, especially the family centered ones, are about food. You get together with as many of your relatives as you can pack into a home, people cook their most decadent dishes, and then you eat yourselves into oblivion.

First, I don’t eat like that anymore. Ever. I can’t afford to start if I won’t be able to stop. And second, I don’t like my family.

They are good people as individuals (with a few notable exceptions), but as a group, my family’s dynamic is one of passive-aggressiveness, and cruel humor. Yes, they are incredibly funny. But nearly always at someone else’s expense. And as the most sensitive member of the family, I was by far the easiest target.  And there are a lot of them. My mother is the second oldest of 11 kids. I have 23 cousins and a brother on that side. To be the girl with a bull’s-eye on her forehead in a room full of 30+ people was a horrible experience. I can remember being reprimanded regularly by my mother for being “too sensitive” when they made me cry. I never learned that lesson though. I’m sensitive. I don’t deal well with people being mean to me. Now I just surround myself with people who are nice to me. People who treat me like they like me. And that’s not my family.

The other thing is that I ate over feelings. Especially the kind of shame and humiliation that my family specializes in. And I come from a family of eaters. So any holiday will always have a ready supply of exactly the foods that can make me numb. And Aunt So-and-so saying something nasty about the way I look, or Uncle Whoever making an obnoxious remark about something stupid I did 15 years ago, is the kind of thing that makes me want to be numb. I can already hear the fat girl inside me: Oh, don’t mind them, Kate. Look! There are chocolate bunnies!

I’m strong. I’m committed to having my food under control. I’ve done it every day for over six years. But I have absolutely no desire to test that commitment by being surrounded by both sugar, and people who make me want to eat it. And for Easter? Well, that doesn’t seem like a particularly good reason to me. I don’t practice any religion anymore anyway.

And I don’t want to go to anybody else’s family either. Not to avoid being alone. Just because it’s a holiday. I don’t want to have to explain what I do with food. I don’t want to have to tell your grandmother why I can’t have any of her special cookies. No, not even just one. Not just a taste. I don’t want to be the ill-mannered guest, whom your family was kind enough to invite because she didn’t have anywhere else to go. I do have someplace to go. I just don’t want to go there. I don’t do holidays. And I don’t mind at all.

People expect that I’m lonely. They tell me I’m lonely. Because they would apparently be lonely without somewhere to go for a holiday. But the fact of the matter is that I like to be alone. Any time. And on holidays especially. Post childhood, the only thing I ever really liked about them was food. Not just food, but eating ridiculous amounts of food. And in the open. Because everyone was over-eating. In the open.  So much of my eating was done in hiding when I was eating compulsively. I was ashamed of it, so I did as little of it in front of people as I could. But holidays were when I could look around at everybody and see them being as gluttonous as I was. It was a relief. But not eating compulsively any time, for any reason, is a much bigger relief. I do not feel deprived. I promise, I had more than my share of chocolate bunnies for the first 28 years of my life. In fact, I had my share, your share, and the shares of 2 or 3 other people.

Maybe if I have a family of my own someday, I will want to celebrate holidays again. Not with the gluttonous eating, of course. But with traditions and gatherings. I can imagine that Christmas or Easter might look different to me if I were looking at it through the lens of a family I made myself, rather than the one I was born into. But in the meantime, I will happily celebrate the holidays by spending time with the person whose company I enjoy the most. Me.

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