onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “keeping my food boundaries”

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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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.

I put on my bedroom slippers like everyone else, one foot at a time.

Gosh am I exhausted. My job is finally ramping up, and I am back to working full time. And because of my food boundaries, that means a lot of meal planning and prepping. Not to mention going for my jog at 5:30 in the morning so I can knock it out before work. Because trying to tackle it after an 8 hour day is too much for me.

I am behind on all kinds of social responsibilities. Especially calls I owe my family and friends. But I learned something when I got my eating under control 12+ years ago, and that is “bedroom slippers.” Bedroom slippers is a code word in my community that means “take care of yourself by taking it easy.”

I have commitments I make to myself, and I have to put them first. Food is the biggest one. Sleep is a close second. It also makes the food boundaries easier to keep. Exercise is right up there.

And now that I am working 40 hour weeks, I don’t have a lot of time for other things. And I am OK with that. I have to be. I cannot kill myself to take care of other people. I cannot hurt myself to make them happy.

I wanted to be productive yesterday. I wanted to catch up on my calls, and work on my knitting project. I wanted to get things done. But after my jog and the grocery shopping, I was done. I didn’t have anything left. I couldn’t even manage to lay on the couch to read. I had to lay in *bed* and read for about 3 hours before dinner.

Today I have to meal prep for the coming week. I’m about to do that once I finish this post. And maybe I will have time to make my calls and do my knitting later. But if not, I will have hit my benchmarks. I will have done the things I need to do to keep myself happy, healthy, and sane.

I expect that I will find my groove sooner, rather than later. I have worked 40 hour weeks before, and managed to have a life. But I don’t feel any pressure. As long as I keep my promises to myself, I know that all will be well.

It’s when I start putting other people’s wants before my needs that I start running into problems. Problems of resentment, exhaustion, sickness, and unhappiness. And those are completely avoidable if I put on my bedroom slippers.

Imitation is the sincerest form of culinary

My husband has been on a cooking jag lately. We eat very differently. When I cook for us, I generally make us the same protein, like steak, pork, or chicken. But while I may have broccoli or Brussels sprouts, he will have corn on the cob and potatoes. I don’t eat corn or potatoes.

And when he wants the kinds of things where you put food in your food, well, I’m out. My food boundaries require that my portions of protein be separated from my portions of vegetables. At least when I am measuring them out. Of course, I can, and sometimes do, mix them up later.

So last weekend he made a Sunday gravy complete with wine, braciola, meatballs with breadcrumbs, and sausage (with sugar, because, as you already know if you read this blog, it is nearly impossible to find an Italian sausage without sugar in the grocery store.) It’s the kind of thing I already could not eat, even if I wanted to put it on spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti.

And last night he made steak fajita quesadillas.

But wait! I can have steak fajitas. I can have the homemade salsa he made that has the whole kitchen smelling like heaven. No, I can’t have the tortilla. And my cheese portions are too small to make cheese worth it most of the time. But it got me thinking. I want tacos! I want lettuce wrap tacos with cilantro lime (cauliflower) rice and meat with homemade taco seasoning, and sautéed peppers, and my husband’s salsa! I want that!

So when I am done writing this blog, I am going to the store to pick up some ingredients. Because when I gave up sugar, I did not stop loving food. I still loooooooove food. I still get excited! I still look forward to every delicious meal. And I am a great cook, so I make sure every meal is delicious.

It sometimes takes some creativity to eat the things I want and have them fit my boundaries. I like simple foods very much. I can be deliriously happy with a nice portion of steak with some roasted vegetables. But I will tell you that a “fried rice bowl” of riced cauliflower sautéed in sesame oil with garlic and ginger topped with soy sauce is positively transcendent! And fits my food plan. And feels decadent. And doesn’t set off food cravings, or fuel my self-loathing.

So I am going to make myself some “tacos.” Yes, I know that to some people, lettuce wraps are not tacos. And cauliflower rice is not rice. I got it. But when you haven’t had corn products or rice or starch in over 12 years, it doesn’t matter. It’s good nourishing food with an abundance of complimentary flavors that are satisfying and pleasurable. I promise, my “tacos” will make me just as happy as your tacos make you. And significantly happier than your tacos could make a sugar and carb addict like me.

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.

What could be more convenient than that?

In February of 2011, about a year before I started writing this blog, I was having a talk with one of my roommates and good friends. He pointed out to me (it was solicited, I might add) that I had a very small comfort zone. This was spot on. Whenever it was implied to me by any person or circumstance that it would behoove me to step out of that comfort zone, I clung to the edges like a Looney Tunes character in a doorway.

As I said, it took me nearly a year after that conversation to start writing this blog, the purpose of which was to help me take risks with my life, so I could have things like love and adventure. In other words, it took me a year to be ready to be ready, to be willing to be willing.

Now, I have been married to the love of my life for over 2 years and we travel the country for work, moving every 3 months to year and a half.

I love this life. It is fun and exciting. I love seeing new places and learning new things. But it can be exhausting. This week I worked from home part time, plus secured my husband and myself an apartment in our next town, including electricity and internet. Plus, I had to deal with some seemingly shady dealings with our last landlords. Not to mention cooking, laundry, dishes and grocery shopping.

There is a lot to working on the road. And let’s face it, moving sucks. And while we get better and better at it every time, it is almost never just smooth sailing.

Having my eating under control is absolutely the rock that makes it possible for me to not only live, but love, this life. Knowing what I am going to eat, how much, and when, leaves so much of my brain free to deal with inevitable hiccups and snafus. Knowing that I must eat my meals within certain times reminds me to stop what I am doing to eat lunch, no matter what it is or how important it seems at the moment. Eating my meals is the most important thing. Period. Not eating foods that get me high keeps me sane, clear-headed, and focused, which keeps me able to get things done quickly and efficiently.

When people hear about my many rules and boundaries around eating, they often marvel at what they consider to be inconvenience. Sometimes it is. But mostly, it is the thing that makes everything else in my life fit into its proper place. And I can’t think of what could be more convenient than that.

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.

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