onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “integrity”

Reclaiming My Time

When I got my eating under control in 2006, what I ended up getting was a lot of time. Like a ridiculous amount of time. 

So much of my life before that was eating, or planning the next thing I would eat, or getting the thing I wanted to eat, or just thinking about eating. And then there was the body stuff. Trying to pick clothes that hid my body, or trying on everything I owned because I hated my body and hoped that something would look ok.

When I put boundaries around my eating, I definitely spent a lot of time meal prepping. But “a lot of time” is relative. And so I had a block of 2-3 hours once or twice a week to make all the food I would eat for the week. And eating itself took absolutely no more than 3 hours a day. And I did not have to think about my body anymore. I could just put on clothes and go about my day. And I didn’t have to think about eating all the time, because I already *knew* what I was going to eat and when.

Add to all of that the rise of YouTube, and all of the crafting tutorials everywhere, and suddenly, I had the time and brain space to get great. I leveled up in crochet, taught myself how to knit, and acquired new and more impressive crafting skills.

Well, recently I made a dress up doll that looks like a character from the Bridgerton tv show, because I am obsessed with her dresses (and her character.) And of course the show is a huge budget period piece so the dresses are complicated. I decided that I needed to learn to embroider. More specifically to embroider on crochet to make the appliqué designs. Because of course I did.

The point is, I can. I have the time. I have the brain space to learn. I have the desire to do something even if it is complicated.

The other thing that I have is the willingness to do the prep work. I spent many hours crocheting a particular dress, before the appliqué accents. And there was a time before having my eating under control, when I would have watched some tutorials, and then jumped right in and gone to work on the finished dress. And maybe it would have been ok, but maybe it wouldn’t. But I was too impatient to take my time. I didn’t have much time. There was food to obsess over and eat, and clothes to try on and take off, and a body to lament.

But getting back all of that time has made me willing and able to do my due diligence. To make a swatch (or 2, or sometimes 3) and practice. To try new techniques, and decide which worked best. To really play with it. 

Crafting makes me proud. I love what I do. I love the feeling of accomplishment. I love having an object that I can hold in my hand. I love the puzzle of figuring out how to take an idea and make it a reality.

I was always creative. I made all kinds of art through all kinds of media, my whole life. But I never had the patience or brain space to really excel until I put boundaries around my eating and took back my time.

Rewards that are not

The other day when I put on a pair of yoga pants, I realized that they were a little loose. Which meant that I have lost weight. And my first reaction was to be really pleased. 

I don’t mean that I have been trying to lose weight and taking actions toward that end, and I was therefore excited by the payoff of my work. In fact, I am personally actively against weight loss as an end goal. I do not want to consider my weight or size as deserving of notice in any way. I take care of my eating. My eating takes care of my body. Whatever my weight is while I am keeping my eating boundaries is exactly the weight I should be. I don’t need to worry about it beyond that.

But the idea that thinner is always better is wired into my primordial brain. I didn’t have a “thought” that I was happy or pleased. There were no words. An electrical pulse made its way up my spine to my brain and lit up my reward center. 

There was a time when this weight loss would have motivated me to look at what i did differently and then try to do more of that. Change my food. Change my lifestyle. Get more brain chemical rewards. Get more people to tell me I look great or better (but what they really mean is thinner.)

Society tells us (women especially, but the men are catching up) that we are in a zero sum game. That there is a perfect body. And each of us is judged based on our proximity to that ideal. And we know that this is true, because people with a lot of money pay a lot of money to get that body. Or as close to that body as they can get. And even those bodies get photoshopped to be even more in line with the ideal. 

When I was working in an optometrist’s office many years ago, there was a guy who came in, and I don’t remember how the subject came up, but he wanted to make sure that myself and the ladies in the office understood that models were not really that pretty and he should know because his job was to photoshop them to appropriate beauty. I think he was trying to be nice. But all I remember is how appalled I was. He was reducing women to their flaws. And “fixing” them for consumption. 

But I also want to say that I think it is a lot easier for me to dismantle my fat phobia because my eating is under control. When I was fat, I was also eating compulsively. And I could not stop, no matter how much I wanted to. And I hated myself for that. I felt weak. I felt like a loser. I have been the size I am now when I was in the food, but then I hated myself and my body. 

It turns out that when I got my eating under control, I could separate my eating from my body. I could really know that I was being kind and gentle to my body with food. And that meant that I could disconnect from the narrative that there was an ideal body. I had a body. It was a good one. And it didn’t need to be anything else.

In my circle sitting in it

As a person who has lived with a kind of constant, low level anxiety for basically all of her life, you might think I am not feeling much different in the face of some of the more terrifying things that have been happening here in the US over the past several days, months, years. But you would be very, very wrong.

It’s a funny thing to know that things are bad, but that also, there is really nothing to do about it except carry on. I read a really interesting article a couple of years ago with this quote. “Collapse is just a series of ordinary days in between extraordinary bullshit, most of it happening to someone else.” 

So here I am, more and more afraid every day, but someone has to go to the grocery store and do the laundry and make dinner. And I can. I have money and time. Everything terrible and horrific that I am afraid of has happened to someone else. For now.

I have to constantly remind myself that there is nothing to do but what is right in front of me. There is no difference I can make except in the place I am at any moment. That I cannot fix any part of the world I can’t reach.

It helps me to think about my life in concentric circles. I am alone in my first circle, and that is where I have the most control. I keep my eating boundaries. I exercise. I drink my water. In the next circle is my husband and our marriage and all of the ways I can make a difference in our partnership. And so on.

Another thing that helps to “sit in it.” I hate that part. The sitting in my fear and discomfort. The being alone with my powerlessness. The letting Life be what it is. I absolutely abhor it, but it is necessary for me and my sanity.

I could eat a cake. That would certainly numb me for a while. But a while is not that long. And then I would just need more cake, and nothing would change. Except that I might not be able to do the mundane stuff anymore like grocery shopping or laundry. Because I am a low bottom, non-functioning food addict. 

So I am going to keep my eating boundaries and navigate the fear and just put one foot in front of the other. I don’t think that will make a difference in the world, but I know that it will make a difference in my very small part of the world. Even if that means only that very small circle around just myself.

Phew, am I gonna be one skilled sailor!

If you read last week’s post, you know that I am in the middle of a huge artistic crochet undertaking and I had really started to hate it. It’s an original design, a character doll, and I have been working on it for many weeks. Well, one particular part, the hair, was something I had been working on for almost as long as all of the rest of the doll. It’s a common thing. The hair is always the single most time consuming part of one of my dolls. And I realized that part of my problem was that I had done hours and hours (and HOURS) of work on it, and it is not going to work for what I want to do. In other words, I hated it because I knew that it didn’t serve me or my project and yet I could not let it go.

I am absolutely terrible at letting things go. In general. But in particular, this example was extra hard. It was not my first attempt at the hair for this doll. I had already had to rip back hours of work I had done for my first try. And this second try I got so much farther. So many more hours. It feels like so much time wasted.

I weigh most (if not all) of my food every meal, every day. (There are rules in place for when I don’t have to weigh it. Like I can eat 1 apple, no matter the weight. Or two eggs. Or other similar circumstances. But there are always boundaries.) And it has happened before that something has gone wrong. My scale shut off before I was done. Or I realized that I put the wrong measurement in with some other part of my meal and it was something wet or sticky and I could not just remove it and keep going. And when something like this happens now, I just throw the whole thing away and move on. Because I have over 16 years of experience believing wholeheartedly that my boundaries and my honesty and integrity around food are the most important things in my life. But in the beginning I struggled. What about the cost of the food? What about the time I spent? What about the hard to find ingredients I used in it?

I don’t want my work to be for nothing. I don’t want my time to be wasted. I don’t want to be wrong. I don’t want to have to try and fail. I just want to get it right. I just want smooth sailing and to be exceptional and gifted. I want things to be easy for me the way everything seemed easy to me as a precocious child. 

But what’s the saying? “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

For as much as I want to be right, gifted, a genius, a natural, a great proficient, I want more to be skilled. And I got that desire for skill over “natural talent” by being willing to abandon what doesn’t work. By being willing to throw away the things that don’t align with my goals.

Look, I totally get high on being precocious, even now at almost 45. And I am, actually, a natural at yarn craft. But I am making new things, hatched from my own mind, not a replica of something hatched from someone else’s. And it’s called trial and error, not trial and automatic success. Even so, setbacks can still make me feel frustrated like a child. 

Which is why I am grateful for the lessons of my eating boundaries. If it doesn’t work, scrap it. The time and the money and the effort are all part of a process. And the goal is to meet a goal, in whatever time and way that happens, not to always only be right.

A Shot At Resilience

Over the past few weeks I have been obsessing over plans for a character doll. (Yes it’s more Bridgerton. Do you not know I am an obsessive person? I am!)

There are two parts of art/craft for me. There is what I can imagine and envision, and what I am capable of executing and delivering. And my friends, those are so rarely in alignment.

Capability is very emotionally loaded for me. It always has been. Perhaps because I was a very capable child. I always liked being good at things. I liked the effortless way I did things early in my life. I liked the praise I received. I liked the feelings I got for being naturally good at things. I did not like the feelings I got from failure.

I avoided things I was bad at. I was easily paralyzed by fear, not only of being incompetent at something, but also of the accompanying shame, frustration, worry and guilt. So I ate. But in not even attempting new or difficult things, I experienced another kind of shame and embarrassment. Somehow knowing I should at least try, and being disgusted with myself for being stuck, and how that made me feel lazy. So I ate.

I ate to be numb. I ate to get high. I ate to forget about all of the ways I was ashamed of myself. I ate to find oblivion.

Here is the thing. Oblivion makes it really hard to learn anything.

One thing that changed when I put boundaries around my eating was that I ended up with a lot of time. A ridiculous amount of time. Cooking took up a lot more time than it had, but eating took up so much less. Once I put eating boundaries in place, the act of eating took up, at the very most, 3 hours of my day. And that was a stretch. In reality I probably spent an hour and a half, total, eating every day. But I had been used to eating all day. So what was I supposed to do with all the rest of this time?!?!

I decided to learn things.

I tried (and still occasionally try) lots of things, and I have made all different kinds of art. I tried drawing. I have designed and created clothes and even made an award-winning cosplay (awarded by a small, since-defunct English language manga magazine.) I have written prose and plays and poems. But perhaps most zealously, I threw myself into yarn craft. I learned new, advanced crochet techniques. I taught myself to knit from YouTube videos. I tried more and more complicated methods and processes. And I built on those skills, and used them to acquire new, even more Intricate ones. You know…learning.

I still don’t like learning curves. I still growl and swear and occasionally throw crochet hooks and knitting needles. I flex my toes and grit my teeth and make angry faces. And I definitely cry. But I still have all that time that is not being used to eat. So I do it anyway.

This week I did a thing I had never done before. I crocheted a doll body without a pattern. It took some math (a surprisingly necessary skill in yarn craft.) And lots of written notes. And a few stops and starts. And definitely some ripping back trying again. But it’s good. Really good. I am proud and pleased. Accomplishment unlocked!

I am grateful for this learning. Not eating helps me learn, true. But learning also helps me not eat. It gives me pride in my accomplishments. And something to do with my hands and my head. And a frame of reference that shows me that failure is not the end of a thing but the middle. It gives me a shot at resilience. Whether or not I choose to take it.

I love convenience only slightly less than getting what I want

I went to a new grocery store yesterday. And I ended up hating it. Which was kind of unexpected. It was significantly bigger than the one I have been frequenting. It was fancier. I drove farther to get there. The parking lot was packed. I had high hopes. But in the end, it was just really frustrating.

Both the meat and frozen vegetable selections were bigger, but didn’t have the things I specifically wanted. The produce was no better, but noticeably more expensive and several things I needed were sold out. The layout was confusing and sprawling, and frankly, a little maddening.  And in the end, the smaller grocery store closer to me is the owned by the same company as my local grocery store in my Chicago suburb neighborhood. So I already have a discount account for it, unlike the big fancy one. 

But there were actually 2 things I wanted that I can’t find at the closer store. My very favorite yogurt, and fresh half sour pickles. So that means I will almost certainly stop by that grocery store every couple of weeks to stock up on them.

Because I love convenience. But not as much as I love getting what I want. Especially when it comes to food.

I eat within my eating boundaries. I am fastidious. But I can be because I don’t feel deprived. I am not struggling against a diet. I am not struggling at all. And part of not feeling deprived and not struggling is giving myself those things I have the power to give. And fancy yogurt and fancy pickles are definitely in that category.

Right or Married?

This week was my sixth wedding anniversary with my husband. We have been together for 9 years. I am still madly in love with him too! And I am positive that it is because I have my eating under control.

When I first put boundaries around my eating, I lost a lot of weight. And I had always believed that my fatness was why I was single. So I really expected the man of my dreams to show up right away. I was gorgeous! (I had always been gorgeous, but then I was thin and gorgeous and in a socially acceptable body.) So where was my husband?

In the end, it would be over six years of having my eating under control and a pretty significant weight *gain* before I found (was reunited with) the man of my dreams.

My husband has always been supportive of my food boundaries. He bought me a refrigerator full of vegetables the first time he flew me out to stay with him. But he told me early on that he would not care if I were fat. That if I wanted to give up my eating boundaries, it would be OK with him.

I believed him that he didn’t care about my weight. But I don’t think he knows what he would get personally, spiritually or emotionally if I gave up my eating boundaries. 

We argued just yesterday. It happens. We are humans in a relationship. But we are not still in an argument. Because having my eating under control allows me a certain amount of clarity. What is worth standing my ground on, and what is better to let go? What is my fault and my responsibility? What are his triggers and fears, and how can I not rub up against them?

I never cared about anyone but myself when I was in the food. I didn’t know how. And I didn’t trust that anyone would care about what I wanted. So I lied, cheated, stole and manipulated. 

In putting boundaries around my eating, I learned how to take care of myself so well, that it was not a burden to care for another person. I was so nourished personally by my own hands, that I had more to give. More time, energy, compassion and grace. 

I really believe that all of these things are dependent on my eating being under control. So yes, I am so grateful to know that my weight is not an issue for my husband. I am happy to know that he can see my beauty as not directly linked to thinness. But I like my insides as calm and peaceful and happy as they are now. Because that peace extends to all aspects of my life. Including, and especially, my marriage.

Priorities and Resentments

I am good at change because having my eating under control taught me about priorities. I often say that my eating boundaries are the most important thing in my life. What I am really saying when I say that is that taking care of myself is the most important thing in my life.

In many ways that can be seen as a weakness, or at least a mark against me. Shouldn’t my husband be the most important thing in my life? Shouldn’t I be focused on others? Isn’t that where my worth as a woman comes from? Even in 2022, I see messages every day across all kinds of media that tell me what my priorities should be. And in general, they are not, apparently, supposed to be me.

But my life is better because I do have priorities. And my husband’s life is better because I am my own first priority. And it comes down to one word. Resentment.

I am madly in love with my husband. He and my marriage are absolutely my second priority. But a big part of that is that I don’t put myself in a position to resent him. I don’t put his needs above my own. I take care of myself first. I take care of him second. Everyone and everything else falls into place when I act on what is most important to me.

I used to poison myself with people pleasing as much as sugar. And the sugar facilitated the people pleasing. I wasn’t even very good at people pleasing, for all of the numbing I did with sugar and drug foods. I *did* the thing to please, but I did it in such an unpleasant way, that everyone was unhappy. And then I ended up with a resentment on top of everything.

In getting my eating under control I learned to say no. It started out about food. No, you can’t have any of my food. No, I won’t eat the thing you are offering me. But it grew to be something more. No, I can’t help you. No, I am not available. No, I don’t have time.

And eventually I even stopped feeling guilty about it. I could say no with joy! And no hard feelings. At least on my part. And I learned how not to worry about hard feelings on other people’s parts too.

Putting boundaries around my eating created a ripple effect that has ended up transforming every aspect of my life for the better, letting me set boundaries, and honor my own priorities. I get to say how my life goes. And frankly, it goes pretty smoothly.

Nothing went wrong with my food

Today’s post is going to be extra short because I am already tired and out of my routine. We are living temporarily in New Jersey just outside of Philadelphia. So last week I secured a temporary apartment, and this past week I got ready to move. Then Friday I drove 12 hours to a new town and yesterday moved into a new apartment.

It’s small. It’s expensive. You know, very East coast.

One thing didn’t change. My eating. I made days worth of food ahead of time. I packed easily transported meals. The night before we drove, I actually packed the food up in the coolers I was going to use, and packed them into my car, only to take them out and put all of the food back into the refrigerator overnight.

Is that weird and obsessive? Perhaps. Did it make me feel better to already know at 5 o’clock in the morning exactly how the food was going to fit into the coolers and the coolers into the car? Absolutely.

I know what my priorities are. And I plan for them accordingly. Especially with food. And nothing went wrong with my food.

This one can tide me over

I mentioned in my last post that I was having a hard time getting my internet provider to come fix my internet. That continued, so on Monday I set up an appointment with a new provider and cancelled my service, which meant that I was without internet for 3 days. And friends, I LOVED it. 

I knit and crocheted and listened to an amazing audiobook series, and just generally had a very peaceful time.

I had some homework to do for my career coach, rewriting my resume and creating a LinkedIn page, but I would get internet on Thursday and I could do it on Friday. 

But while the internet technician was here on Thursday, I got a call that my husband had been asked to run a job in New Jersey for 4 months starting next week. 

So I got internet just in time to have to find us temporary housing immediately. 

All of a sudden, my Friday became grocery shopping for the week, and finding an apartment on almost no noticed, on top of creating a LinkedIn page, researching resumes and updating my own resume for my career coach. 

I was overwhelmed. I was frustrated. I felt in over my head. And it made me feel physically ill. 

And then I realized two things. Those feelings were tied up in very old stories about myself and whether or not I am lazy and if I do “enough.” And that I felt like that nearly every day for nearly all of my life when I was eating compulsively. 

I was a kid who never did my homework. I procrastinated. I intended to do it later, but by the time I knew I must do something I had waited long enough that I was too exhausted. I was easily paralyzed. I was afraid of doing wrong, so it was easier to do nothing. And having to rewrite my resume felt like that. I knew I had to find housing. But it felt awful to do that first, and not my resume. And by the time the housing was taken care of, I was too exhausted to deal with my resume.

So I did a thing I did a million times when I was a kid. I told myself I would do it in the morning.

I slept uneasy. I tossed and turned. I kept thinking about that resume and how I didn’t know what I was doing and how I had a meeting with my coach in the morning, and how I was in over my head. 

But here is the catch. This time I really did do it in the morning. Because I keep my promises. To myself. To other people. And then I had an amazing call with my career coach. And once that was done I felt spectacular. I felt free.

When I was eating compulsively and I hated myself, I thought I hated myself because of who I was. That I was broken. That I was lacking. But I hated myself because of what I did or failed to do. And in getting my eating under control, I learned how to do things. Not to be perfect or right. I learned to do them so I could sleep at night. I learned to do them so I could like myself. 

It is no coincidence that these feelings are coming up when I am looking for a new job, a new career, a new way of living and making money. They are all caught up in what I am worth. 

But the first thing I ever did that made me feel that I was worthy was to promise myself and another person that I would stop eating sugar and put boundaries around my eating, and then to keep that promise. 

I am always grateful for these moments when I get a glimpse of what it felt like to hate myself again. To remember that that was my reality for 28 years. After 16 years of keeping my eating under control and loving my life, it can escape me how much pain I lived in thinking there wasn’t a way out. But don’t get me wrong. This can tide me over for a long time. I don’t need any more reminders for the time being.

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