onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “integrity”

The good sense to remember I’m an addict.

In this blog I can sometimes write a lot about the periphery of my sugar addiction. I write about the ways I had to change my thinking, or my behavior. I write about how I became more confident by becoming more humble. I write about the ways my life is different because I dealt with my sugar and carbohydrate addiction. But today I want to touch on the food.

I know I have written about it before, but I think it’s worth coming back around to. Because ultimately, all of the peripheral issues I get to wax poetic about, are only available for me because my eating is taken care of. And my eating is taken care of, partially because I have strict rules about my eating behavior, as in strict portion size and 3 meals a day with nothing in between but zero calorie drinks. But mostly my eating is taken care of because I do not put sugar, grains, or starch into my body. This even goes as far as certain vegetables and fruits. I don’t eat potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, cherries, grapes, or bananas. I don’t eat quinoa or brown rice.

Sometimes people balk at this. “Those foods are healthy,” they say.

I am not denying that they are nutritious foods. I am not saying that they are “bad for you.” I’m not saying *you* should not eat them. I am saying that when I put those foods into my body they create a phenomenon of craving that defies all rationality. I am saying that if I eat a sweet potato, it is just a hop, skip, and a jump to me eating an entire cake. That is not hyperbole.

Sometimes people talk about moderation. I do, in fact, practice moderation in the “unhealthy” foods I do still eat. I limit my pork rinds and my sausage. Because I *can* eat those things and limit them. I can eat my portion of sausage and be satisfied until the next time I can eat it.

But I am physically incapable of moderating my sugar intake.

Sometimes people offer me a cookie or a piece of chocolate. Sometimes they say things like “it’s just one,” or “it’s just a little.” And they are correct. It is, indeed, just one, and just a little. But even a little is too much for me and I will not be able to stop there. I will be forced by my addiction, against my will, to go out and get more, and more. It will never be enough. I cannot eat a cookie without finishing the box and then going to the store to get another box and finishing that one too. And again. And again. Forever.

This came up for me because on Twitter the topic of willpower popped up in a series of tweets I was reading. People get very judgy about willpower. Especially when it comes to food and weight. The implication is that people who cannot eat one cookie and then go about their lives are lacking some kind of basic moral foundation. That this thing called “willpower” is somehow the measure of a person’s character and worth. (Especially if that person is fat.)

I want to be the first to say that while I am willful as hell, I do not now, nor have I ever had willpower over eating sugar. When I was eating sugar, I had to eat more sugar, no matter how much I did not want to. I hated my body and wanted to change it, but I could not stop. I wanted boys to think I was pretty and did not want to be fat, and I could not stop. My family was filled with diabetics and I knew it was only a matter of time before I became one too, and I could not stop.

I have now abstained from sugar, grains and starch for over 12 years. So clearly I do have some control, but what I have is not willpower.

What I do have are 2 things: 1) A body free of the substance that causes cravings for more of the substance, and 2) A commitment to remember that one bite of sugar (or flour, or brown rice, or banana) will inevitably mean I will be thrown back into the hellish cycle of craving, eating, and by eating, perpetuating craving.

So I am grateful that I can write here about my emotional and spiritual growth. But that is only possible because my drugs, sugar and carbs, are not in my body. And I take actions every day to keep it that way. Because I don’t have willpower. I just have the good sense to remember every day that I am an addict.

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I prefer bite-sized, individually wrapped inconveniences

It has been yet another week of “not my week.” Someone at work who is stressed is going out of their way to stress everybody else out. Including me. I’m having a hard time dealing with a group I belong to. There is a decision that has to be made that I have strong feelings about, and it remains undecided and I need to consider what I want to do about it for myself, my peace of mind, and my own integrity. And that sucks. I am a person who doesn’t remember dreams, and recently I have regularly been having nightmares. And then yesterday, we had sewage coming up from our bathtub. And after the plumber snaked the drain, one of the pipes to our water heater started leaking, soaking our carpet. So someone else came to fix the leak, and someone else came to dry the carpet because we thought the leak was fixed, but it wasn’t, so it’s leaking again and getting the carpet wet again.

Oh, and I cut myself with a knife I had just sharpened while I was making dinner.

I’m tired. I’m scared. I’m frustrated. I’m angry. I’m annoyed. I am having a lot of difficult feelings. And they are eroding my confidence. And that is a scary place for me.

In general, I walk around with a lot of confidence. I am happy with my life, with my integrity, with my honesty, with my marriage and how I interact in it, with my work and my work ethic, with my gifts, and with my resilience. I have a lot to be confident about.

And usually, difficulties come into my life in drips and drabs, in easily manageable portions. Bite-sized, individually wrapped inconveniences. Fun size, if you will. But this past 2 weeks have felt like non-stop bludgeoning. I’m unhappy.

There. I said it. I am unhappy. I’m feeling a little whiny, a little resentful. Why me? Waaah waaah waaah!

It hurts my pride a little to say it. I like being the girl who can shake stuff off. And I definitely like being *seen* as the girl who can shake it off. But really, it’s OK. It’s OK to be unhappy. It’s the truth. I don’t have to pretend to be invulnerable. I am definitely not.

I lived my whole life unhappy before I gave up sugar. I lived my whole life resentful, and scared, and angry, and sad. But then, I was the one making myself miserable with my lying, cheating, stealing and instigating drama, and I was entirely unaware of how I was responsible for my misery. Everything seemed like something done *to* me, not by me. And every circumstance and disruption seemed immovable, insurmountable, unchangable.

And I know now that very few things are immovable, and that the things that are usually have a workaround of some sort. Like I’m a sugar addict. And I believe that will never change. But I found a solution to my problem with food. I didn’t have to learn to live with being fat and obsessed. I just had to learn to live with being an addict. I had to learn to give up sugars, grains and starch. I had to learn to eat 3 meals a day in specific portions. I’m still an addict, but the things about being one that used to plague me, don’t anymore.

In some ways this is good for me. First, I am sure there is a growth experience in here somewhere. Maybe lots of them. And I am committed to growth, as a lifestyle. And second, I can sometimes equate my easy, happy life to some sort of virtue on my part. And that is not entirely misguided. I don’t lie, so I don’t deal with the consequences of having lied. I actively try to maintain a positive attitude, so a lot of my happiness is created by me. But life is not made so that only good things happen to good people. And it is not that a happy life is a reward for pleasing an old white man on a throne in the sky. Bad things do happen to good people. And apparently so do a string of uncomfortable inconveniences that cost time, money, and energy.

Oh well. Breakfast was delicious. And lunch is coming.

Roller coaster buddies

The past few days have been an emotional roller coaster. But seriously, that’s the good news.

First, a particularly annoying guy at work asked for documents that I have already given him, and at least 2 other people, *at least* once before. That ticks me off. I am good at my job, and I don’t like doing the same thing repeatedly because other people are not good at theirs.

And then I got a call that a particular shady landlord did a particularly shady thing, even though I was sure I had taken care of everything. And they did so in an illegal manner. (So I am pretty sure I did take care of everything, because that’s how I roll, and this person came after me out of spite.)

It’s not a big deal in terms of money. But it is a *huge* deal in terms of honor, honesty, and integrity. And now I have to decide what I want to do about it and how hard I am willing to fight. I have a lot going on. And it is work to fight for what’s right, and the financial loss is so minimal. Essentially I have to decide what my priorities are, free time or principle.

And then I found out that someone has been repeatedly lying to me for the past two weeks, about something I take incredibly seriously. And they told me in a way that made it seem like they thought it should be no big deal to me. And tried to convince me that they didn’t have to tell the other people they have been lying to. That they didn’t owe honesty in a community that is based on honesty.

But none of any of this ruined my day, and that is amazing! That is a gift! That is a miracle of having my food under control. And of having “a roller coaster buddy.”

My life was a roller coaster of ups and downs for a couple of days. But when I was eating compulsively, this would have been all down and no up. Not a roller coaster, just a long drop straight to hell.

I often write in this blog about getting high on sugar. But I also used to get high on things like anger. I use to get high on drama. There was something perversely comforting about my blood pressure going through the roof, and my pulse thundering in my ears. And all of my anger could be turned into “righteous anger” in my own head.

Now I know that I can’t afford “righteous anger.” I am not saying I swallow whatever someone else is trying to shove down my throat. I am saying that I can’t get high on it. I have to take an action. I have to be proactive. I have to calm myself. I have to keep everything in perspective. I have to enjoy the enjoyable, and take actions to right the wrongs. I have to make decisions and keep priorities straight. I have to keep loving my life.

So my first strategy was to call my best friend, who is a voice of reason for me when I lose my shit. And I am the same for her. We have a commitment to one another not to “yes” each other to indignation, but to help one another find some peace and perspective in difficult moments. So this is a plug for having “roller coaster buddies,” people in your life who will help your life be a roller coaster of ups and downs, and not a bleak, angry, downward spiral. People who won’t feed your misery and “righteous anger,” but who will feed your happiness, your integrity, your love of life.

Because you can’t escape the ups and downs, but you can have a friend who can help you enjoy the ride.

I love nothing. And I always will.

Yesterday, I did not leave my house, and it was glorious.

I was thinking that the older I get, the more time I need to be still and alone. But then I realized that I used to spend the majority of my time still and alone. Back then what I needed was to get out and mix with the world. It turns out that my day-to-day life is totally different than it used to be.

I am a loner. I really always have been. Even as a child. I need a lot of time to spend in silence. I need a lot of time in my own head. I love my own company. I like getting lost in my thoughts. I can be fascinated by ideas that occur to me only after I have let my imagination wander deep into unknown (to me) territory. And that doesn’t even cover how much I loved (still love) reading novels and comics.

And I have always been a fan of projects. I used to make things all the time from the time I was young. Mix tapes (I’m showing my age, I know), costumes, jewelry, posters, scrap books, crochet projects, etc. As recently as the past 3 years I even taught myself to knit.

When I was eating compulsively, this was the majority of my time. I spent little time doing anything else besides thinking about whatever, accompanied by occasionally feverishly working on making something. I would often manically work on something all night until morning and then pass out and sleep half (or all) of the day away.

There was school as a kid, but I always did less than the bare minimum there. I was super smart, so I got away with it, for the most part. And also charming and manipulative, so what I may not have gotten away with in certain circumstances, I got away with anyway. And pretty much the same with work. Though work was harder. Being a waitress isn’t the same as being a student. People notice when you suck at doing the work. I was a better nanny.

When I got my eating under control, I suddenly had less time to do all the nothing I wanted to. I had groceries to buy, and fresh, homemade meals to prepare. I had to go meet up with people who had boundaries around their food. And then, the longer I had my boundaries, the more I had to “show up” for things like work. I had to get better at life because not being in a sugar fog meant that I could see clearly all of the things I was doing (or not doing) that I was ashamed of. And there was no cake or pizza to mask the shame, to hide it from myself anymore.

And getting my food under control, and getting good at life got me a relationship with a man I am madly in love with. And we started a life together. So there was necessarily more time that I did not get to spend alone doing nothing. And it also ended up meaning that the way I worked and the kinds of jobs I had changed. I wanted to spend time with my husband. So I didn’t want jobs where the hours were flexible, and I worked odd shifts. I wanted to work when he worked so I could be home when he was home. Eventually I wanted to exercise too. So there was even less time to do nothing.

I am not complaining. I am very happy. I love my life. And I know that I love my life *because* I have so many commitments that keep me from doing so much nothing, and so many projects, not in spite of it. But I still love my nothing time, and my projects. (I just finished a baby blanket yesterday!) And I am grateful for having had a whole day to not leave the house.

But now I have to go to the grocery store and then cook meals for the work week. Because that is how I maintain this happy life.

Money, fame, and prestige

I just turned 41 about two weeks ago. I love my birthday. I love getting older. I love that at this age I am in the best shape of my life, and the happiest I have ever been.

In the wake of two high profile celebrity suicides, I read an article about the problem of American culture that can lead people who seemingly “have it all” to end their own lives. And the answer the article gave was that we are a culture that prizes accomplishments that reward us in the forms of money, fame, and prestige, and we believe that these things will bring us happiness. And when they don’t, we despair.

I don’t know if this is true, but it happens to be a very clear illustration of the difference between my own personal mental and emotional state as a compulsive eater, and as a keeper of eating boundaries.

Because in order to stop eating compulsively, I had to make friends with my life exactly the way it was. I had to stop thinking I should be doing “something” to make me stand out, when I didn’t even know what that something should be. I had to stop thinking I needed to be making huge strides toward some great goal, when just the thought of such a stride left me paralyzed with fear. And I had to relinquish what I thought was control, but what just tujrned out to be wanting, followed by the pain of not getting exactly what I wanted. That was the pain of thinking that if I were better, if I were “good enough,” I would have perfectly executed my plan and received full marks, and my award of money, fame, and prestige. I numbed that pain with food.

I had to learn that I can want. And that I can do whatever is in my power to the best of my ability to get what I want. But then I have to get what I get, and trust that what I get is what I am supposed to get, even if it is not what I wanted.

That is a hard lesson to learn in a culture that prizes material rewards over everything.

I also learned that I didn’t have to “accomplish” anything to like and love myself. In the beginning, all I had to do was not eat a cookie. All I had to do was keep my food boundaries. That was it. I could sleep the rest of the day and still feel good about myself, still be proud. At first, that was the sum total of how I measured my integrity. But the thing about integrity is that it grows outward, as if in concentric circles. When it butts up against a lack of itself, it feels the need to integrate it. (It’s kind of like The Borg, only benign, and unfortunately, much easier to break out of. You have to really work for integrity to keep it.)

And as for the kinds of accomplishments I wanted to accrue, I had to learn that they didn’t have to bring me money, fame, or prestige to make me proud, happy, or content. I could work out on a regular schedule. I could learn a new knitting technique, and finish a project using it. I could write a weekly blog that a handful of people read. I could crochet a gift for a friend. I could have a difficult conversation with a person, and build intimacy in our relationship.

And there is another thing that I learned by happy accident when I got my eating under control. It is that all of my satisfaction lives in my relationships with myself and other people, not in how much money or how many accolades I have. I am content in my life because I am content in my relationships. And I am content in those relationships because I am not constantly trying to manipulate people into giving me what I want, or think I want in order to accomplish things I think I should, so I can acquire money, fame, and prestige. I am content because I am offering an authentic human self (me) with a commitment to grow and change, and accepting another authentic human self, and allowing them the space to be who they are, and to also grow and change.

I learned all of these things because I got my eating under control. Could I have learned them if I hadn’t? Maybe. Probably. But it would not have been the crash course it was.

P.S. I am not done learning.

Real hard before it gets real sweet

At my job, I am working in an office with a bunch of strangers from different companies right now, though I may be moving to a private office trailer soon.

A lot of people at work are very curious about my food. In a lot of ways it is frustrating the way they talk about it. It’s all filled with a certain kind of praise and awe, that I don’t identify with.

I don’t do what I do to be envied or put on a pedestal. I am saving my life. To me, it can be like praising someone with a disease for taking their medicine. It reminds me of a woman who wrote about having a child with high-maintenance special needs, and how everyone would say, “I could never do that.” And she always had to hold herself back from saying “Of course you could. You just don’t have to, and I do.”

That is, of course, not entirely true that I “have to.” We all make our choices. Parents of disabled kids and addicts alike. We all have to decide what our priorities are. But if you can eat a cookie with impunity, it doesn’t make me feel good that you “could never” do what I do. And if you can’t, like me, and you choose the cookie anyway, I don’t know what to tell you except that you could and can do what I do. Yes it will suck for a while. A long while. But a friend once told me what her mother-in-law said to her when she first got married.

“It’s gonna get real hard before it gets reeeeeal sweet.”

I feel that way about putting down sugar and carbs. I feel that way about playing the long game with my life. Do I like getting up at 5 to get to the gym before work? No. I really don’t. But I love feeling comfortable in my body, loving my life, feeling like I accomplished something, and like I did something toward my ultimate goal of aging gracefully.

And as someone who just turned 41 last Wednesday, and feels healthy, happy, and beautiful, I would say it is all worth it.

They call them accidents for a reason. That still doesn’t make them fun.

In a twisted way, I am sort of happy to have to write this blog today. Because I am a firm believer in authentic sharing. I want people to know that I have bad days and bad moments. I make mistakes. I don’t like the way social media has made us frame ourselves in a “perfect” light, where we only show our best sides and hide our wrong-doings and our problems.

I was in my first car accident as a driver this week. I rear-ended someone. Nobody was hurt. His car had minimal cosmetic damage. My car has minor damage. It was a fender-bender.

But good lord was I humiliated and ashamed. I cried on and off for about 24 hours. I did manage to get back on the road the next day. It was not as terrifying as I thought it would be. I am incredibly sensitive. I have a lot of very big, unwieldy feelings. So I was deeply shaken at first. But I got back in the car, and it was OK.

My mom’s mom never drove in my lifetime. She once told me she drove as a teenager, but got into a minor accident early and never got behind the wheel again. That could easily have been me.

And driving has always been loaded for me. As a small child I used to have nightmares about having to drive a car and not knowing how. They started when I was about 4 or 5. In fact, they may be my earliest memories. I was so small that in my dreams I had to lean all the way out of the car to pull the door closed. That is how vivid they still are. So a real-life car accident brought up some really old wounds.

Also, the guy was awful. He kept calling me a stupid bitch and a stupid motherfucker. His girlfriend showed up and she refused to look at me. And all of this upsets me because I was so sincere in my apology. I did not argue or try to blame him. I really wanted to make amends and do what was right. I called the police myself. I got the ticket. I called my insurance company. I was taking responsibility for my actions. And he could not see my sincerity. He would not look at my humanity.

But I did not have to eat these feelings. Not the humiliation of having hit someone’s car, or the humiliation of being verbally abused. I did not have to numb them with sugar. I hated feeling them. But to eat them would just be to stuff them down. A good 24 hours of crying helped me get them out. The only way out is through. It always has been. And not being high on food meant that I could think; I could be calm and rational. Ok, rational-ish. But I didn’t have to stew on it. And I didn’t do anything to make the situation worse because I couldn’t be honest or responsible.

I am grateful to have my eating under control every time my life is difficult. A difficult situation is just a situation. Food is the only real problem I have. And while I keep it under control, it’s not even that.

I hated what happened. It was a terrible experience for me. But life is not only made up of good experiences. This is how it is. And it could have been so much worse. I could have had an accident, and then eaten sugar over it. And then I would be miserable, would probably have done something really stupid, and without a chance of getting over it.

Sometimes it’s not just about “not eating too much.”

Lately I have been pretty stressed out. Nothing too major, but I am a sensitive, anxious person. And I have some stuff on my mind.

When I was a compulsive eater, I was a stress eater. In all honesty, I was an all-circumstances eater. But since I put boundaries around my eating, when I get freaked out, just the thought of food can make me nauseous.

If you have been reading for a while, you know that I eat what I eat because it is what I do. My boundaries are not just about not eating too much. They are about eating nourishment three times a day in specific portions.

The reason for this is because I am sick when it comes to food. The thoughts I have can be crazy. I cannot trust myself to be rational about eating. Intuitive eating doesn’t work for someone like me. I can’t trust my body to tell me when I have had enough or too much. I used to eat a cake in a sitting. Even when I didn’t want to I couldn’t stop. That “full” gauge is broken on me. Clearly the “empty” one is too, occasionally.

So now I have rules that I follow whether I want to eat or don’t want to eat. 3 meals, of controlled portions, no sugar, grains, or starch.

But I do have options. If I am not hungry, I can make smaller and/or lighter meals. As long as they hit the marks, my integrity is intact.

So I will be eating less bacon and sausage for a bit. Not as many portions of vegetables cooked in fat.

And also, that is for now. I do not doubt that this, too, shall pass. I expect it won’t take long for my appetite to return. And my love of bacon with it.

Commitments, alarms, and reminders. Oh my!

I set alarms for so many things in my life. Just now, an alarm went off asking if I posted a blog this week. And the answer was no, and I had totally forgotten. But I had an alarm set, so here I am.

Before I got my eating under control, I had people in my life, people I paid in either time or money, like a personal trainer, and a life coach, telling me to make plans, and keep those plans, regardless of how I felt. And I refused. Where was the joy in that? What about spontaneity? What about fun? What about what I “felt like” or “had a craving for?” What about eating out with friends or last-minute adventures?

When I got my eating under control, I realized how much I was self-sabotaging by clinging to what I thought was spontaneity and fun, but was really just an out to let myself not do something uncomfortable. I didn’t want to plan what I was going to eat because then, if I didn’t follow through, I might have to look at myself. If there was no rule, there was no rule to break, and no behavior to scrutinize.

The truth is that 1) planning makes it easier, not harder, to eat out with friends and take on last-minute adventures. With my eating under control and firm boundaries around food, there are fewer moving parts. The food has to hit certain marks. Once those marks are hit, everything else can be pretty loosey-goosey. And 2) the things that I was fighting against were not boredom or monotony, but long-term fulfillment.

Instant gratification and long-term fulfillment occupy the same space, so you can really only choose one. If I don’t want to go for a jog, I can think of a million excuses not to. I need the sleep, my hip is tight, I should do x instead. But what happens is it becomes easier to not jog. Every time becomes easier. And suddenly, I don’t do that anymore.

That is how every diet ever worked for me. I went on a diet. Instant gratification won once. Then it gradually became the norm. Then I was not on a diet. Then I gained back all the weight I lost, and then some.

I love my life of rules and reminders. I love my alarms. I love the sameness of people calling me every day at the same time to make a commitment of what they will eat the next day, and my call every day at the same time, to commit to what I am going to eat the next day. To have a plan and a commitment to that plan. To have a witness and to be a witness.

I won’t pretend that I am a particularly spontaneous person, though I have my moments. My rigorous adherence to my rules and reminders and commitments gives me a great sense of peace. And I cherish that peace. But also, I have made some bold choices and some daring leaps, because I am grounded in my commitments. After all, I left my home and my city about a month after I re-met my husband, to start a new relationship where I travel around the country with him, constantly moving. That’s pretty bold, if I do say so myself.

I did not used to like promising things to myself. And I used the excuse of freedom. But I was never free until I gave myself boundaries. Since I put boundaries around my eating, I have found that many things that seem counterintuitive are absolutely right. Boundaries lead to freedom. Commitment leads to spontaneity. Rigidity offers fluidity.

Where the love is

On Friday I celebrated my 2nd Wedding anniversary. I don’t really think about it on a day-to-day basis, but it’s a miracle. Certainly to my child self it’s a miracle. I felt shameful and unlovable for nearly all of my early life. I had resigned myself to being alone forever at a very early age. And to my early-teen self, it’s something more than just any miracle. Because I married the guy I had a huge crush on from about 12 to 14, until we lost touch. If you told 13-year-old Kate that she would marry him, she would have told you that you were crazy.

Of course, it took more than 20 years of separation, and a whole lot of personal change, physical, emotional, and spiritual, but it sure did happen.

And that is all thanks to keeping my eating boundaries. All of it. Period. Sometimes my husband says very sweet, romantic things about how he would still love me if I gained weight. And I believe him. Because I don’t think he understands what would actually come along with weight gain. I think he is thinking in terms of physical beauty. And I think he believes that I am just beautiful no matter what. Which I love! And I am grateful for.

But when I am eating compulsively, I am not beautiful for a few reasons that have nothing to do with size. I don’t like myself when I am eating compulsively. I get depressive and ashamed. I second guess myself. Also, I don’t have a whole lot of integrity when I am in the food. I lie, cheat, and steal. I hide truths and manipulate people. I am just generally difficult, angry, and unhappy. And I don’t think about anyone but myself. Everything is all about me.

When I started writing this blog over 6 years ago, it was to open myself to love. It was to stop thinking all of those thoughts I had about not being worthy. And there was something to do about it. I took an honest, searching look at myself, took stock of what about myself I wanted to change, and started working toward being the kind of person I wanted to be in a relationship with. There is a saying: Self-esteem comes from doing estimable acts.

But I could only do those estimable acts because I put sugar and carbs down. When I am eating sugar and carbs, I am only thinking about that. If something I want would impede my eating, I would let that thing, that wish, go. Because eating sugar is the most important thing in the world when I am eating sugar. When I am not eating sugar, my life and my relationships are the most important things.

So at this time of the anniversary of my marriage, I am so grateful for that 28-year-old Kate who decided that a life that revolved around sugar was not enough. That there was something better to be, and something better to be had. And that she was willing to go through the dark, scary world of withdrawal and uncertainty, to get to the other side. That’s where the love is.

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