onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “holidays”

The Eternal Holiday Without the Fun

Since I gave up sugar, I have started to care less and less about holidays. 

When I was growing up, I looked forward to holidays. I mean really looked forward to them. There would be parties with special foods, and lots of people. My cousins would all be there to run and play and make an ungodly noise with. Both sides of my family were boisterous. There was always a lot of laughter and funny stories. But child Kate often forgot that those times were also, inevitably, too much. That I would become overstimulated, overwhelmed, overemotional, and overindulged.

As a grownup with her eating under control, I love the ideas of holidays more than I love the days themselves. A holiday is a way to acknowledge certain universal experiences we have because we are humans in bodies living on Earth. Christmas is the celebration of the return of the sun. If, as centuries and cultures, and empires have risen and fallen, it has taken on some other aspects, for example, the return of “a son,” well that is all well and good too. It is still about getting through the long darkness and trusting in the promise of the return of the light and the warmth. The promise that we won’t *all* starve to death. 

And a holiday is a day to forget our personal troubles and celebrate the enormity of life. It is a time to raise our consciousness above the idea of self and embrace humanity.

Addiction is a lot like trying to live in an eternal holiday. You’re trying to ride the same wave as Christmas, but every day, while nobody else is celebrating, and you don’t get the time off of work and school. It is like trying to forget your mundane self, and only live in the ecstasy of universality. But that is just too much for an individual to maintain. Trust me. I did the research for you.

When I gave up simple sugars and carbohydrates, I had to come to appreciate the simplicity of the day-to-day. I had to come to appreciate when nothing special was going on. I had to get comfortable in the calm. And I came to discover that I loved the calm. Once I had exorcised my demons, anyway. 

I realized that I had hated the peace of daily life because I didn’t have any peace. If I were calm for a moment, I would think about the wrongs that I had done. I would be haunted by the things I was ashamed of. And the ways I had hurt others and disappointed myself. But I had done a lot of those things *because* of my addiction. It was a vicious cycle and I didn’t know where it began or ended. And I could not seem to unravel it.

It turned out that giving up my drug foods was the answer. Or, at least the first step. There would be many other things to do about it. Acknowledge my wrongdoings, make amends for them, change my actions, shift my thinking. But all of those things started with getting my eating under control.

So now my eating is under control. And I love my day-to-day living. I am happy with my integrity, and my willingness, and my life. And I don’t need to live like every day is a holiday. In fact, I don’t even need to live like holidays are holidays. 

I will miss my nieces and nephews this year. I will miss tickling babies and reading books to the bigger ones. I will miss exclaiming over dollar gifts from the elementary school‘s Santa’s workshop. But I will still be perfectly happy laying around in my adult-sized onesie and drinking coffee and doing nothing this year. There will be more Christmases to come. And as for this year, I don’t have any shames or fears or worries that I need to numb.

Pandemic Thanksgiving is the best Thanksgiving

If you have been reading my blog for a long time, you know that I hate Thanksgiving. I know, I know. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about family, togetherness, and our gratitude for our loved ones. And that is beautiful, theoretically. But in practice, Thanksgiving is when everybody lets themselves eat like compulsive eaters eat every day. It’s the day when the amateurs eat like the professionals, and the professionals eat like themselves, but openly. 

I don’t miss anything about eating compulsively. And I am grateful that I have a lifestyle that doesn’t have concepts like “cheat” or “break” or “special occasion.” I eat like a Queen every day. Not because it’s my birthday, or Christmas, or Thanksgiving. But because it’s Thursday and eating delicious meals is how I feel content when I am strictly eating within my food boundaries. I don’t eat like other people. I didn’t when I was fat, because I was binge eating, and stress eating, and emotional eating. And I don’t now that I weigh my food, and eat three times a day, and abstain from most sugars, grains and starches. I have never been a normal eater, and never will be. 

I am a sugar addict. If I put sugar in my body, my body has a reaction that makes it crave more. If I chose to eat without abandon on Thanksgiving, or my birthday, or whatever day seems like a good day to other people, to stuff themselves, I would not just be able to get back on the wagon. That is the luxury of normal eaters. I would be fighting the cravings for months. In fact, it took a year and a half for me to make it through the withdrawal when I gave up drug foods in 2006. A year and a half! Thanksgiving comes every year. You can see the math doesn’t work out in my favor.

So Pandemic Thanksgiving was absolutely amazing for me. I had a paid holiday. I did not have to cook anything special, I got to sit around in my pajamas all day with no one to see and nothing to do, and because it’s a pandemic, nobody thought that was weird, and nobody felt sorry for me as if I had lost something by not overeating on Thanksgiving, instead of gaining everything by not overeating every day.

How is an addict like the Post Office?

One amazing thing about giving up sugar and simple carbohydrates is I don’t want the stuff anymore. It’s one way I know it was a drug for me. Once it was completely out of my system, which took about a year and half, I stopped needing it, or wanting it. Or really even seeing it. It’s like I have permanent blinders on. My eyes just sort of glide over things I don’t eat, unless there is a specific reason I am looking for it. And even then, it has no power over me.

If I am buying sugar for someone else, as a gift or as a treat, I can buy it with complete neutrality. I can look at it, and not see something I desire.

Yesterday, we had bags and bags of candy in the house. Trick or Treaters made short work of it, which I have no feelings about either way. Because over the years we have had bags and bags of Halloween candy and no kids to come by to take it from us, and in those years I still did not eat the candy. I wasn’t tempted by the candy. 

The candy is not mine. It’s not for me. It’s poison to me. I ate my fair share of candy for the first 28 years of my life. More than my fair share. Certainly more than enough.

When a person is fat, their doctors inevitably send them to nutritionists. And generally, those nutritionists tell their patients about moderation. They tell them to eat *one* cookie. They tell them to eat *one* piece of chocolate. They tell them to eat *one* *small* handful of chips. 

I cannot eat one. I am incapable of stopping once I have started. When sugar and simple carbohydrates are in my body, my body craves more. My brain tells me I will positively drop dead if I don’t have more. And that first year and half after I quit that it took to get the stuff out of me was filled with brain fog, and itchy skin, and emotional outbursts, and crying, and depression, and physical and emotional exhaustion. In other words, withdrawal. Like any drug.

For me it is literally all or nothing. I can either eat none of the stuff, or I will be haunted until I have eaten it all. All of what is in the house, and once that is gone, I will take a trip back out for more. When it comes to sugar, I am like the post office. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will keep me from getting my fix.

If moderation works for you, I am very happy for you. If I could eat cake with impunity, I surely would. But I can’t. And if you find that when you eat a piece of candy or a cookie, you can’t stop thinking about it until you eat more, you may want to consider cutting it out entirely. Because if you do that, there will come a time when you won’t need it, or want it. It will stop having power over you. Just like it stopped having power over me.

I’m in good company with Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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

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

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

Will I still respect me in the morning?

Halloween has passed and Thanksgiving is this week. As many of you know, I don’t participate in Thanksgiving. It is essentially a food holiday. The whole thing revolves around one big meal. You can say it’s about family, or gratitude, but tradition says it’s about turkey and potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie. Every family has their own traditions, and they are all about the meal. 

I don’t miss those foods. I don’t even like turkey. It’s not that I can’t be around foods I don’t eat. I do it all the time in my daily life. And I am willing to do it for Christmas, and the occasional birthday party if I happen to be home. But Christmas and birthdays are about something else.
I love to give gifts. I love the idea of peace on Earth and good will towards human kind. I love celebrating the life of a human I am tied to in this life. That there is food is fine. Humans all over the world and for all of time have eaten special foods at festival times. That is as it should be.
But there was a time when festive food only happened at festivals. For much of my life, in the modern, wealthy, food-rich world, I ate like it was a festival every day. And I was not the only one. Especially from Halloween to the New Year.
I am grateful to not eat myself drunk on sugar every day anymore. And if I have to skip eating myself drunk on sugar on holidays, well I have had more than my fair share.
And if I skip one holiday out of the many we Americans celebrate, so be it. I will wake up with dignity on Friday morning. Like every morning. And I didn’t wake up with dignity almost ever for more years than I would like to think about.

Not my candy, not my problem, not my business

I made it through my 12th Halloween without sugar and carbohydrates. And it was painless. 

We had plenty of candy on hand for trick or treaters, and we only got 4. But it didn’t tempt me. And not because it wasn’t “the good stuff.” It was exactly the stuff I wanted as a compulsive eater. (And even the stuff that wasn’t my favorite, I would have eaten anyway.)
I wanted all of the candy. Any candy. I have heard people in food recovery day that they ate their favorite things first, and then when they were gone, “ended up” eating things they didn’t particularly like. Not me. If I thought it was just OK, I ate it first, and saved my favorites for last. Because I always already knew I was going to eat it all.
I’ll say this for my food addict self. There wasn’t a lot of lying to myself about not eating it all. There was, however, a lot of lying to myself about how long it would last. And a lot of lying to other people about how much I could, would, and did eat.
But the big bowl of candy was a non issue for me at home. And now it’s at work where I hope a crew of construction workers will eat it. But whether it gets eaten or just thrown away, it is not me who will eat it, and it’s none of my business what happens to it.
There are 2 aspects to my immunity to the very candy I once lived for. First, the drug is not in my system, and has not been for over 12 and a half years. And second, I changed the way I think about candy, and about sugar and carbohydrates in general. It’s not mine. None of it is mine. It can be anyone else’s. I don’t have an opinion about that. I don’t need to know who it belongs to. Just who it doesn’t belong to. That’s me.
It’s simple, but not easy. At least not at first. It takes retraining your thoughts. And that takes practice. It doesn’t come naturally. I had to work at it daily before it became my default setting. Now it offers me the gift of giving out candy with a smile, and without a hint of either longing or self-loathing.
I think that aspect of it, the mental aspect, is a thing that is lacking when we talk about “fighting obesity.” Doctors and nutritionists tell us what to eat, and expect that whatever it is they are warning us against will make us obey. Diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s. It’s like the dietary version of “scared straight.” I have even heard medical professionals speaking to one another say, “If you were told you needed to change your diet or you were going to have a heart attack, don’t you think you would?” The implication being that people who don’t are lazy or stupid.
But a change like that takes resetting a lifetime of impulses and beliefs, truths buried so deep we sometimes don’t have language for them. It takes struggling through a million instincts to eat the candy.
Changing takes a certain amount of mental flexibility. And that is not easy, or obvious. Absolutely possible! But not a no-brainer. It takes lots of brain. And lots of action. And lots of sitting through pain. But there are peace and freedom on the other side. And I like peace and freedom better than chocolate.

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.

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!

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