onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “integrity”

Sensible Priorities for a One Track Mind

I have spent my week building furniture. Two night stands, two end tables, a TV stand, a coffee table, a small dresser, and a platform bed frame with headboard. The dining set and couch should be delivered this coming week.

We ended up buying all of our furniture on line, and I am the one who is here. So I am the one who has to build it. To be honest, I kind of love it. I like building things. I’m good at it. And there is something deeply satisfying about taking an array of stuff, putting it together, and getting something useful. Not that the things that I am building are particularly complicated. They are not. And some of them, like the end tables, are literally just screwing the legs directly into the table tops. No tools or hardware required. (The bed was more complex.)

And any time there was something particularly difficult, or really more like cumbersome and meant for more than one person, I figured out a way around it. Because I like problem solving too. And I am good at that too.

A project like those kinds of projects are fun for me. But they can also make me obsessed and obsessive. Once it’s begun I don’t want to stop until it’s finished. Even if there is something else important I should be doing. Like eating lunch. Because it’s time, and I’m hungry, and I am not thinking as well as I would be once I ate my lunch. 

That is one of my many gifts of getting my eating under control. Common sense priorities. 

I can have a one track mind. Even when I was in the food I could have a one track mind, even about things that weren’t sugar or carbohydrate related. (Though that was a huge part of it.) I can get caught up in a crochet or knitting project and not want to stop. One more row, one more line, one more pattern repeat. I can get caught up in making a costume or some other kind of art piece, and look up and realize it’s after midnight and I have been at it for hours. 

But getting my eating under control taught me that eating my weighed and measured meal at a reasonable time is more important than the momentum of building a bed frame. And the bed frame will still be there when I get done, and my body is sated and my brain is getting enough fuel to not put the piece on backwards and screw the hardware in so tight I strip the screws. 

I have a lot of crazy. A lot of intense feelings. And not just weepy sadness or incandescent rage. I have a lot of strong desire and driven ambition. It’s not a particularly useful kind of ambition that makes me a boat load of money, like the desire to build a company from the ground up, or be a CEO. It’s definitely centered more around arts and crafts. But it can still make me crazy and single minded to the detriment of my health and well-being.

So getting sensible priorities was a gift of putting the food down. Yes, I can still get lost in a project. Start designing a new part of my latest crochet doll and miss my usual workout time. Or get caught up in fixing a mistake in my blanket and look up and realize I need to stop and eat lunch or I will have to push dinner back. Or stop trying new crochet techniques for nothing in particular but my own learning and go to sleep if I want my 8 hours. And I most definitely want my 8 hours. 

Getting my eating under control didn’t change my personality. It just made me able to manage my own natural craziness. But that is definitely a gift worth having.

Setting myself up

Thank heaven for all of the structures I keep in place for myself. For example, just a minute ago my alarm went off. The one that goes off every Sunday morning asking if I posted a blog. 

Today I am in Chicago for a couple of days, so I am not in my usual routine. And I had not only not written a blog, but I forgot about it entirely. So when my alarm went off, I had to stop crocheting and write!

When I was younger, I not only thought I had to do all of the things I wanted to do, or at least thought I should do, I thought I had to keep all of it in my head. I wanted to do things “the right way” but ultimately, I was setting myself up for failure. And more often than not, the thing I wanted to do perfectly, didn’t get done at all.

Now I keep alarms for everything. I will set an alarm to remind me to turn back on an alarm I turned off.

One thing I see a lot in knit and crochet forums is new crafters asking about stitch counts and how to keep track of complicated patterns. And the advice that comes from long term crafters is usually something like “use stitch markers, and use as many as you need.” Stop trying to keep everything in your head. Put structures in place. Even if you think it looks ridiculous. Even if it does look ridiculous.

Getting my eating under control taught me my priorities. But it also taught me to set my self up to succeed. Because wanting to do a thing is not the same as actually doing it. And to get things done, I need to do things like plan ahead. Prepare. Put my self in a position to get it right.

I am not saying there isn’t some gold in knowing how to go with the flow and succeed in the face of absolute chaos. But success when the odds are stacked against me is exhausting. It’s a moment of triumph, but it’s not sustainable. It’s a once in a while exercise. Not a way of life.

The kitchen in between

On this coming Friday, the furniture rental people are coming to take back their stuff. On Sunday, we will pack up and move out of here. But we won’t have an apartment in Rochester NY until the end of September. And that means 2 weeks in an extended stay hotel with a kitchenette. And that means 2 weeks without all of my kitchen comforts, and most of my favorite foods.

I will survive I don’t doubt. With my eating boundaries in tact I also don’t doubt. But it won’t be possible to make a lot of my go to foods. There won’t be an oven to bake bacon, so if I want it I will have to make it on the stovetop, which takes forever. So I probably won’t. (Maybe I won’t. Ok, I might but definitely not as often and I will feel the right to complain about it.) And my guess is the freezer won’t be cold enough to thoroughly freeze my ice cream making bowl, because they often aren’t in places like that. And I am already cataloging the handful of kitchen items I will need to bring with me, like a coffee cup because the ones they provide are so tiny, and a good frying pan because the ones they provide usually have the Teflon so scratched and warped I want to call poison control just from looking at it.

There are many things I love about traveling, but these in between times are not one of them. This is the closest I come to camping, and I don’t love it. 

I will take care of myself. I will love my food, whatever that takes and whatever that looks like. Even if it’s not the way I am used to. But I do have to brace myself. Be prepared in both the practical sense – like pack my coffee cup and my frying pan in an easily accessible crate in my car – and the emotional sense. But I will be prepared. And then pretty soon, I will be back in an apartment, with an oven and very cold freezer, and a chance to get to know a new place.

Night shift shift

My husband has been working the night shift this week. And he will be for the rest of the month. And it sucks. For him and for me.

I have adjusted my schedule and started staying up late to get to see him when he comes home, and waking up later so that there is less time when I am home and awake while he sleeps.

I like my routine. And this totally screws up my routine. It changes my meal times, as well as what I am eating. Since I don’t make the kinds of dinners for only myself that I do for both of us. So I don’t love that.

But my priority is my husband. The best parts of my day are with him. I like him. I like the time we spend together. I want that more than I want to eat dinner at 7:30 and go to bed at 9. (Though I really want that too.)

Getting my eating under control is how I learned to accept the reality that I have limited time in my day, and I get to decide how I want to spend it. And it’s how I learned how to get my priorities straight. 

Taking care of myself first. With food, and water, exercise and rest. Taking care of my marriage. Whatever that looks like. And for now, it looks like shifting my schedule and tiptoeing around in the morning, and changing my workout time and the day I go to the store, and anything I can do to spend quality time with my husband for this little while. 

But obviously, I am still looking forward to getting back to normal.

More fulfilling than weight loss

I have lost weight recently. I don’t weigh myself and I have not for years, but I do, in fact, wear clothes. And it is clear to me that things are significantly looser. Dresses that used to be formfitting now hang on me. And I have not (knowingly) done anything to facilitate that.

I have a theory about why. I have recently started taking an OTC medication for acid reflux. (Remember when I said a few weeks ago that I have been sick for months? Well my mother-in-law, who worked for a GI doctor for over 20 years, told me my persistent wet cough was acid reflux. And I’ll be damned if she wasn’t right!) And this weight loss coincides pretty closely with my starting the medicine. 

But the truth is, I don’t know what affects my weight. And the other truth is, I never have. 

Obviously when I gave up simple sugar and carbohydrates, that had a huge impact on my weight. I ate significantly less because I was not craving my drug foods, and therefore eating much less.  I was also eating much less of processed, high calorie/low nutrient foods. And I was managing my portions by weighing my food. But even since getting my eating under control, my weight has still fluctuated wildly. (Not hundreds of pounds, but as much as 30 or more.) And my eating has not changed that much. And even when I took specific actions and changed my foods, and my quantities of food, I could not get my body to “behave.” Gaining weight eating less, losing weight eating more. I could never get my weight to work like a math equation. I have never been able to predict my weight, or manage it, by food choices. And I have stopped trying. 

I don’t want to care about my weight. I don’t want to even think about my weight. But I live in a world and a society that cares very much about weight. So that is a struggle. And the first 28 years of my life revolved entirely around my weight. My shame over my weight. The humiliation of other people openly judging my weight. Those are hard things to forget. And those are things that shaped the way I thought and felt and interacted during my formative years.

Sometimes it has felt like those formative ways of being are “just the way I am.” Set in stone and unchangeable. But I have noticed that giving up my drug foods and changing my lifestyle has been an opportunity to change thought and behavior patterns that I thought were just “me.” It turns out, I can change me. Way more easily than I can change my weight. And way more fulfilling as well.

It’s not mud. It’s quicksand.

Part of my sugar addiction is physical. When I used to put sugar in my body, it caused a chemical reaction that got me high, and then set up a craving for more. I’m a sugar addict. I can understand that not everyone has that reaction to sugar, but I do and it will never go away. Like how plenty of people drink alcohol responsibly, but once someone has become an alcoholic that is pretty much it. Once a pickle is a pickle, it can never go back to being a cucumber.

But another part of my addiction is behavioral. And for as rigid as it seems to some people, it is where so much of my peace lies. 

I strictly control my food portions. I eat exactly 3 times a day. And I weigh all of my food except for a few very specific things and even those have very strict rules.

When I was eating compulsively, I never wanted anything to be quantified or clear. I wanted the rules to be muddied. I wanted to be able to stretch them. And eventually break them. I wanted to feel like I was doing something without having to actually do anything. I didn’t want to give up my drug foods. I just wanted to feel like I was trying. Or feel like I looked like I was trying. And I definitely really did want to be skinny. But to be specific, and to make clear boundaries was to have to face the reality of my situation. And I didn’t really want to know.

But what happened when I did put real, quantifiable boundaries around my eating, was my head got quiet and I found peace. 

I had never realized how much mental gymnastics I was doing to be able to cheat on my diet without feeling like I was cheating. Or how much I actually ended up hating myself for lying to and cheating myself.

Until it stopped. 

Withdrawal sucked. And it took a long time. But it was entirely worth it to be on the other side *knowing* for a fact that I was honest. That I kept my promises to myself. That I took care of myself. 

The muddy rules alway seemed like freedom, but were absolutely quicksand.

How I became a unicorn, one day at a time.

I keep a day count on my phone of how long I have had my eating under control. Today is day 6,047. 16.5 years. And that seems like such an insanely long time.

In the beginning, I was looking at people who had a year and that seemed like such a far away goal. And then, by the time I got a year, 3 years seemed like such huge amount of time. I didn’t even pay attention to the people who had more time than I had even been alive. They may as well have been unicorns. 

For those first few years, I was so used to being a liar and a cheater, and so used to not being able to stick to a diet, that I would sometimes sort of panic. I would think to myself, really? Have I really not eaten anything I said I wouldn’t in 6 months, or a year, or two? Am I really doing this?

But I had a strict set of rules. And I had a person I was accountable to every day for those rules. And I could ask myself if I followed those rules. And the answer was yes! Miraculously yes!

I have heard a lot of compulsive eaters say that when they first came and started to do what I do with food, they thought people were liars. That there was “no way” anyone could actually not eat any sugar for years, or actually weigh all of their food without lying about it. Even my husband said in the beginning of our relationship that he didn’t believe anyone else was doing it as “perfectly” as I was. But I knew that they were. Because I was and I was as hopeless a case as there was.

So here is the trick. You don’t just wake up one day and have over 16 years. It’s one day at a time. It’s one meal at a time. It’s one moment at a time. It’s one feeing at a time. It’s one messed up situation at a time. It’s one terrible restaurant experience at a time. It’s one telling a family member thank you but you don’t eat that anymore at a time. And all of those add up. And now, 16 years later, I am somebody’s unicorn.

When the math didn’t math

I am a control freak by nature. I want what I want and I am interested in figuring out how to get it. I remember a line from a movie when I was a kid. Something about control being an illusion. And at the time I didn’t think it was true. After all, it seemed to me that all of the grownups in my life had it. And I wanted it too.

And the other thing was that it seemed logical to me that if actions have reactions, if you could figure out the “right equation,” you could create the right reaction, the one you wanted. What I didn’t fully understand was that when this bumped up against other people and what they wanted, this was just manipulation. And also, I wasn’t always great at knowing what I wanted.

There are some important things that getting my eating under control has taught me. 1) Usually, that kind of control does not get me a worthwhile return on investments. I almost never want the thing I think I want as much as the machinations cost me. 2) I can make myself feel positively crazy trying to think and plan myself the right “equation” to get what I think I want. 3) I usually want something much more theoretical than the practical thing I think I do. Like I want to feel pretty, more than I want that specific dress.

For 28 years I wanted to eat whatever I wanted to eat, but also be thin. And I did a whole lot of things to try to make that equation work out. Dieting, exercise bulimia, regular old bulimia bulimia. But none of that math ever mathed. 

When I gave up sugar and simple carbohydrates 16+ years ago, I thought I was throwing in the towel and agreeing that I would accept being skinny as the best I could get. And even that I was skeptical of. I had never been skinny and also had never been able to control my weight. But (eventually- there was still the long slog of sugar withdrawal) I got all of the things I really wanted. The things I thought eating whatever I wanted and still being skinny would get me. To be happy and comfortable in my body both in private and public. To love my food without guilt. To like myself and not doubt myself or my choices.

I don’t always do it perfectly, but today, I try to remember that when I keep my eating under control and do my best to be my authentic self, I get exactly what I really wanted, whatever that looks like, even if I didn’t know I wanted it.

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.

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