onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “keeping my food boundaries”

Yucky feelings and all

I have a love/hate relationship with feelings. I live for feelings. I spend all of the free time I can listening to books and reading comics and watching soap-opera-y TV shows. I am in all of those things for the feelings. If they make me so uncomfortable that I have to pause and calm down, I love that! If they make me cry, even better! (Sometimes my poor husband comes home and I am huddled under a blanket with tear streaks on my face and I have to explain that I was just reading a comic, and everything is fine…)

But when it comes to my own feelings, well, let’s just say I am not nearly as comfortable with those. Having my own feelings makes me panic. Even after 13 years of feeling my feelings, my first reaction is to freak out and shut down.

This week, I had a problem come up with my food. Part of what I do is tell someone who does what I do what I am going to eat the next day. It’s essentially making a promise. I consider it sacred. And I found out this week that I had to find someone else to make that promise to. And that was terrifying.

I understand that to you, it may not make sense why this was so scary. But it was. You will just have to trust me on that. And my first thought was to panic.

But of the many things I have learned in keeping my food under control, one important step is to take care of the most pressing problem. And another is to stop, calm down, and think over my options for the long-term problems. And to definitely not make any rash decisions.

So I called someone and made my promise for the next day. And then I went to bed and I dealt with the problem of finding a new promise-taker in the morning. By morning, the problem was not nearly so scary.

Panic and paralysis were the standard of my life before I got my eating under control. I would panic, and then I would shut down, and then I would eat myself into not caring about my problem. Which never took care of the problem causing the uncomfortable feelings, just the uncomfortable feelings themselves.

The other part of getting my feelings back is that I didn’t just get the yucky ones back. I got the panic and the hurt and the terror, sure. But I also got the joy and the love and the swooning, and the pride.

I don’t have to like my feelings. But I am now able to honor them. And that means I can be effective in my life. And that ability to live life as it is makes me like myself and love my life. Yucky feelings and all.

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I am a precious thing

One of the most important lessons I have been learning over the past 13 years is to stop worrying about my weight.

I used to think I had a weight problem. What I had was an eating problem. It resulted in me being fat. In living in a body I didn’t like or love. It resulted in a physical vessel that was hard to live in. A body that I was embarrassed of. But also a body I was shamed for. A body that was considered ugly and unworthy by society.

And I had it particularly rough, because I was particularly fat. But I can see now that over the years, none of us, especially women, get out unscathed. If we’re fat, we should be thin. If we’re thin, we should be thinner.

I want to stop that kind of thinking in my life. I still don’t want to be fat, but I want to stop thinking of my worth as tied to the size of my body. I want to stop thinking of my beauty as tied to how big my belly is, both compared to other women, and compared to other times in my life. I want to stop thinking about “losing 5-10 lbs.” I kind of have. But I want to more.

Here is what I can tell you. I have peace in my body when I treat it with care, no matter its size and shape. I don’t have to be my thinnest to enjoy my body. But I do have to keep my food boundaries, and my exercise and water drinking commitments. I have to floss. I have to sleep 8 hours a night. I have had to *show* my body love before I can love it.

Action is an important part of loving my body. As soon as I do something good for myself, I like myself that much more. I did not have to lose all of my weight to get comfortable in my body. First I just had to put boundaries around my eating. The longer I kept my boundaries, the more confidence I had. And it grows. The better I treat myself, the more self-care I take on, the more comfortable I am in my own skin, the more I love my body. The more I love my body, the more I want to honor it with self-care.

I guess what I am saying is that I am not always comfortable with how I think others see my physical beauty, and sometimes I want to look the way society says beautiful women look. And *that* is what I want to stop. I want to decide my own beauty. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I want to judge what I see in the mirror as true beauty. And I think I can, as long as I treat myself as a precious thing.

Clunky and graceless is OK for now

This week I celebrated my 13th anniversary of keeping boundaries around my eating. One thing I was taught early on was to set boundaries with people. Even if they were “clunky.” Even if they were graceless. Even if I sounded like a jerk. Even if I *was* a jerk.

It has occurred to me in the past few months that I avoid difficult conversations. In some ways, this came as a surprise to me. I like to think of myself as a model of self-expression. And I thought I had already overcome this. Which I had. But I should not be surprised. My experience is that we all have our lessons. And we have to learn those lessons over and over, deeper and deeper.

Once I realized this, I knew that I wanted to do something about it. And I have. A little snappy. And a little pushy. But moving ahead.

Right now, I don’t know what to do about it in terms of concrete actions. There are ways to make commitments to things like this, but they are not as obvious to me as food boundaries or water drinking promises. Those are no brainers. 4 oz of meat, weighed on a scale. Three 20 oz bottles of water a day from my reusable water bottle. That’s easy. Or at least, easy to wrap my mind around. But having uncomfortable conversations occurs to me as less clear-cut.

Still, I will work at it. I want it. I want to say the things I need to say so that I don’t feel resentful, or self-pitying, or stifled. I don’t want to be “nice.” I want to be kind. I don’t want to be “likable.” I want to be authentic. I don’t want to be “good.” I want to be powerful.

When I don’t muddle my thinking with food and sugar and carbs and things that make me fuzzy, I can feel my uncomfortable feelings, and consider what I want to do about them. I am in no hurry. I can be happy for now with the baby steps I have begun to take, even if they are clunky and graceless. I can think about it a little bit longer. I am in no rush. I have all the time in the world to grow. And there will always be more growing to do.

A holiday post. (In other words, it’s very short.)

Oh, good Lord! It’s the Sunday before Christmas and I have to write a blog! 

Needless to say, this is going to be as short and sweet as can be.
I am going out to lunch with family today. And that meant calling the restaurant and when I made my reservation, letting them know that I have special food needs. It meant making sure I have a food scale to bring with me and extra batteries for that scale. And boy am I glad I checked ahead of time, because the scale I was going to bring is dead, and I thought I had extra batteries for it, and I don’t!!! Thankfully, I have a backup scale and extra batteries for that one. Plus a little one I always carry in my purse. Just in case.
I will also bring backup food for myself, just in case I’m short when my order comes. I care a lot about just-in-cases. It’s how I keep my boundaries, and have managed to do it no matter what for over a dozen years. (Coming up fast on 13!!! What!?!?!)
Ok, that’s it for me. I’ve still got too much holiday stuff to do. So Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Wishing you peace!

This is me not holding my breath

When it comes to keeping my food boundaries, I am willing to go to any lengths. God, that is such a pain in the ass! 

I’m not willing to give it up, or say “not today” for even one day, or even one meal, but good lord, it can be exhausting. And it can be inconvenient.
I heard someone say the other day that before she put boundaries around her eating, she was waiting to not *want* to eat anymore. I feel like that is the myth perpetuated by society. That if you are good enough, or spiritual enough, or “conscious” enough, you won’t “want” to eat. It’s why things like “mindful eating” are talked about so often in regards to obesity.
I have nothing against mindfulness. But it’s not practical for any addict, and truthfully, for most people when it comes to food. We, as a society, put too much emphasis on what we want. The idea of “listening to my body” is hilarious to me. My body wants pizza and cake and coffee day and night and to skip my morning jog basically every morning, and never drink a sip of water. Or at least, that is what my brain tells my body I want. In a modern culture with devices we hold in our hands, while we watch devices that mount on our walls, or put devices in our ears so we can hear our very own soundtrack while we go through life in our temperature controlled pods, it may be asking a lot to expect our bodies to *feel* what what we should be doing and eating and drinking to take the best care of ourselves. I feel like in order to really be attuned to one’s body, one has to be used to squashing desire, in a way most modern people would call deprivation.
Just look at the way people deal with those who choose not to indulge. Seriously, go to a holiday party and don’t eat the sweets. Say “no thank you,” to the host’s “famous” cookies. People will act like you have given up all of your worldly possessions in favor of one robe and one bowl.
I don’t want to imply that I don’t like my modern conveniences. I love them! I listen to books and check social media, and am even writing this blog right now on my handy-dandy iPhone. I read comics and shop and look up knitting patterns on an iPad. I have an internet TV, along with myriad streaming services. I am not saying these things are bad. I love them! But so much comfort makes it harder, not easier, to wake up in the morning, drink a bottle of water, and jog two miles before I go to work. It makes it harder, not easier, to meal prep on Sunday and weigh my food portions out for the week so I can grab them and go in the morning before work.
I have boundaries because I want results. And I gave up on needing to get those results by becoming “spiritually fit” enough to want them naturally. I never “don’t want to eat.” And I don’t feel like being fat and miserable until that becomes true. I never want to get out there and run. But I do it anyway, because I love what it gives me, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And I think it’s unfair to tell people that they will ever “want” to do the things that make them healthy. I’m sure there are a few people on the planet for whom that is true. And I would bet they are all fitness bloggers making their money by making the rest of us feel like jerks, or meditating monks in the mountains praying for for us, because gosh do we need it!
Maybe someday I will not need boundaries and commitments to force me to do the things that give me a life I love. But I’m going to prep my meals and fill my water bottle, and wash my workout clothes in the mean time. And I’m not going to hold my breath.

That ship has sailed

I know that I am a real, and serious sugar addict because there are fresh foods that I cannot eat normally. When I was trying to manage my eating in my 20s, I would binge eat sweet potatoes and bananas. I thought that since they were fresh foods, they wouldn’t make me fat. I might eat 5 whole sweet potatoes, one after another. Same with bananas. (Spoiler alert: binge eating sweet potatoes and bananas will totally make you fat.) I have a friend who is also a sugar addict with boundaries. There was an article a few years ago where some nutritionist said that people go crazy over high fructose corn syrup in a way they’d never do with an ear of corn. To which my friend said, “She’s never seen me eat corn.”
One thing I believe about addiction, a thing that I have experienced, is that once you are an addict, you can’t go back. Perhaps if I had never become an addict, I would be able to eat sweet potatoes with impunity, but that ship has sailed.
I read something 5 years ago that really stuck with me. Genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.
I believe that I was born with a genetic predisposition toward sensitivity to sugars, grains and starches. As a kid growing up in a home with overweight people, I was overweight. If I had grown up in a home with people who still had the sensitivity to sugar, but managed their weight with anorexia and bulimia, I might have started that early. As it is, I had to move to New York City to become a bulimic. Different environment, different trigger.
Maybe, if my sugar addiction had never been activated, I would be able to eat sugary fresh foods and not have to eat 6 of them at a time. Who knows? But now I’m an addict and there is no turning back.
I think that is part of the the thing that non-addicts don’t get. After 12 years and 11 months of strict boundaries and no sugar, haven’t I proven myself back to normal? Haven’t I proven that I can eat a sweet potato?
But now, a sweet potato gives me the same high as chocolate cake. It lights up the same reward centers in my brain. And my reward centers are broken. That is essentially what addiction is. And I have it.
I have no complaints. I love my food. I eat it without guilt. I love my body. I nourish and exercise it, and it thanks me by being healthy and pain-free. (Relatively. I was once 300 lbs and I am currently 41 years old, so *relatively* pain-free.) All of this is worth not eating certain foods. Even if they are nutritious. Even if they are whole. Even if it seems like I should be able to handle them. I cannot.

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.

I need to worry about the kitchen scale, not the bathroom scale

In the past 12 1/2 years, since I gave up sugar, my weight has fluctuated many times. Sometimes by a lot. When my beloved grandmother was dying, I lost 20 lbs, eating exactly the same as I had been. When I quit smoking I gained 30, eating significantly less than I had been at my thinnest. When I was eating sugar and carbs, I was morbidly obese. But since I have given them up, I have been in regular sizes, but not one regular size. 

I have gained weight again recently. And I have not changed my eating or my exercise regime in any way. For you regular readers I will also add that I have not had soy nuts in months now. I am still in my size 8 pants, but now, just barely. And it’s difficult and uncomfortable. Physically and emotionally.
You would think that a woman who weighed 300 lbs and wore a size 28, would not fret over potentially having to buy a pair of size 10 pants. But you would be wrong. I still have all sorts of fears about my weight. And all sorts of body image disorders. I have a pretty serious case of dysmorphophobia. If I look at my thighs and butt and belly in the mirror lately, I see a hugely fat woman. My eyes are broken. And while my body image problem is often dormant, when I gain weight of any kind, even small amounts, it can flare up pretty seriously.
I do not look at women around me who are a size 10 and see fat women. But when it comes to myself, I am pretty sick in the head.
But there is ultimately only one thing to do about it for myself. And that is keep my food boundaries. Keep doing what I am doing. Don’t let body struggles interfere with my food issues. They are related. But they are by no means the same. And “going on a diet” isn’t going to help me. It never did before. It would be ridiculous to think that it would now.
The truth is, I could eat lighter if I wanted to. But that is another experience of mine. Since giving up sugar and carbohydrates, eating all salads and lean proteins doesn’t necessarily facilitate weight loss. And I have to love my food. I must. It’s why I can do it for over a dozen years. Because I am not on a diet. And I never have been.
At this point, the second best thing I can do for myself, after keeping my strict boundaries around my eating, is not worry about my weight. If I eventually need to buy a new pair of pants, so be it. If I naturally lose the weight I gained, which has happened to me in the past, well that’s great too.
I am here to take care of my food problem. My morbid obesity used to be a manifestation of that problem. Now, my dismorphophobia is a holdover from that time. But my weight is not a problem. At least not anywhere but my own head. And as long as I continue to consistently and unfailingly use my kitchen scale, I don’t need to worry about the bathroom scale.

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.

No going back to 1975

I have been thinking a lot lately about how fat people are here to stay. It was a real epiphany for me a few weeks ago when I read an article that pointed out that Americans, and in general, Westerners, are statistically more overweight than we were 40 years ago, and that is not going to change any time soon.

I already knew we were fatter. It was the realization that this trend is not going to get “fixed” that hit me. After all, I learned a long time ago that the first step in changing anything is acknowledging the reality of the situation.

Heath articles and reports of statistics always seem to imply that somehow we could get back to 1975. It reminds me of the way I used to feel about my own body and weight problems. Every time I got fatter, I said to myself that I just had to get back on track and then I was going to lose the weight. For good this time. But I wasn’t doing the things that I needed to do to lose weight and keep it off. And neither is the U.S.

That has me think it’s time for fat representation. That it’s time to stop judging fat people. That it’s time to get used to seeing fat people. That we need to watch them on TV, and in movies. Let’s see them in magazines and on billboards. Let’s stop telling them fat and beauty are mutually exclusive. Let’s stop treating them like they are lazy and shameful.

I read once, a million (or at least 10) years ago, that Ancient Egyptians had high rates of obesity, diseases like diabetes, and lots of dental problems, much like our own society. And that it probably had to do with their high-carbohydrate diet. After all, they may not have had sugar, but they almost entirely ate fruits, vegetables, and grains. Lots of bread. But I remember that they had something else that we have too. A glorification of the thin body. That struck me as more surprising than the fact that so many were overweight.

It seems the fatter a culture of humans gets, the more we adore skinny, and the skinnier skinny is, the more we adore it.

I think we need to stop glorifying skinny, and start representing who and how we really are.

Now, before you freak out and complain that I am promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, stop. Just stop. I am not promoting anything of the kind. What I am promoting is kindness. I am promoting minding your own business. I am promoting respect and honor for the human in front of you.

When I was fat, I hated myself. And I didn’t lose weight and then start to love myself. I took a million small actions that let me like myself enough to take bigger actions that led me to feel like I deserved to take care of myself. I started to like myself and then I lost weight. You cannot shame anyone thin. But you *might* be able to love them thin. And if not, all you lost was your hate.

And if you really want change, then you are going to need to get political. Let’s talk about labeling. Let’s talk about food deserts. Let’s talk about the food industry in general. Let’s talk about how the government lets a cereal company say right on the box that its product of processed carbohydrates is “heart healthy” (even when the FDA says this is misleading.) Let’s talk about subsidies for corn that make high fructose corn syrup cheap and readily available to add to processed food. It’s already too late to go back to 1975.

I am not dismissing personal responsibility. I firmly believe in it. And I do believe change is possible. I am living proof. And I will happily be a beacon to those who want to put boundaries around their food as a means of losing weight, or getting free from food addiction. And I do not pretend that I liked or enjoyed being fat and in the throes of my addiction. But I am one person, making decisions for one person.

When I got my eating under control, I was single. I didn’t have to worry about feeding a family on a budget. And now that I am married and a DINK (Double Income No Kids), I am very well off. I don’t worry about the price of vegetables, meat, or dairy. If farmers didn’t get enough rain and cauliflower is expensive, I buy it anyway. In other words, it was easy for me to get my eating under control, not because I was “good” or had “willpower.” It was easy because my class and my lifestyle let it be easy.

And ultimately, I did it for myself. Not because I was a burden on the U.S. healthcare system. Not because “nobody wanted to see” me in a bathing suit. Not because strangers and/or doctors told me I was ugly or lacking.

So I am calling for our society, and each of us as individuals, to stop thinking, speaking, and acting like another human’s weight is our business. I am telling you that unkind words, judgement, cruelty, and intrusion never helped me. They did not help me lose weight. They did not help me change my life. They really only made everything worse. If you don’t already know, addicts use, in part, to stop the pain. If you are causing pain, you are not helping.

So can we stop treating fat people like they owe us something? Can we stop acting like their weight gives us the right to invade their privacy? Can we start showing them we see them? And can we actually start seeing them? Not as a problem to be fixed, but as other people just doing the best they can to get through life. Like all of us.

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