onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “keeping my food boundaries”

A new learning curve

I have been working for about a month now, and there is a learning curve when it comes to time management and priorities. Finally this past week I started jogging again. But I have not been writing. And frankly, I am too exhausted.

But ultimately, that is not good enough for me. I have a novel that I have been working on for about a year. And I love it. I’m proud of it. I want to finish it and get it published. And right now, the way things are, that is not an option. So I have to change the way things are.

I forget that it takes time to get my bearings after a major life change. More than just a week or a month. I forget that I have blind spots where I can’t see the pitfalls, or recognize what can be changed. Change is so scary to me, often it feels like nothing can be changed safely. That all change is the potential for ruin.

And there are things that must get taken care of. First and foremost, I still have to take care of my food. Every day. No matter what. And what that means in practical terms is grocery shopping for the whole week in one go, and spending hours of my time packing breakfasts and lunches in advance for the week ahead. It’s an area I cannot cut corners in.

Food addiction is my problem. Really the only problem I have. Other things go badly and need to be remedied or cared for or dealt with, but they are not “problems” like food is a problem. When my food is out of control, my entire life is out of control.

The truth is, I like my job. The work is interesting. I like that I am good at it. I take pride in it. I like learning new skills. My difficult co-worker has calmed down and returned to behaving in a normal, respectable, and respectful manner. (I have also remembered that people in the world, especially in the workplace, have a wide range of personalities, but that I honor my principles in the face of difficult personalities.) But in all honesty, right now, I am not very happy. I’m just too tired. And I am having a hard time imagining how I can change my circumstances in order to both, not be constantly exhausted, and still do all of the things I want to do.

This is a luxury problem. If I were eating compulsively, I would have already given up on writing. I would not have figured out how to get my jog in 5 days a week. I would not have made time for it. But then again, if I were eating compulsively, I would already have been looking for a way to not jog, to not write, to not take care of my head and heart and body. I was always waiting for any excuse to abandon my goals and dreams, or really anything that was work, anything that took something, but made me feel good about myself.

There’s one more thing that I haven’t been doing that I need to get back into, and that is meditation. I think my first priority this week will be to get back into that habit. If any practice will help me figure out the next right step, and how to get the things I want, that’s probably it.

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It turns out I’m positively treacherous. Who knew?

At work this past week, someone in a higher position than myself has been giving me a hard time. I say a hard time, but it is abuse. Low-grade abuse, but abuse none the less.

This was hard for me at first, because I was 1) trying to be professional, and 2) trying not to be affected by it. So I took it. With a smile. And at the end of the day, I went to my car and cried before I drove home. And I thought about how much more I could take before I would have to quit.

And then I talked to my best friend who is wise, and also has her eating under control. And she said, “Stop smiling. Stop pretending it’s all OK. You wouldn’t smile like that at an abusive boyfriend.” She said, “Bullies are terrified. If you push back, even just a little, they will get scared, and change their tune.”

Now I will be honest. I had a hard time believing this. Because this person has all the power. They have been in their job for many years, and are high up in the company. I am just an office worker. And relatively new at that. Also, I didn’t even apply for this job. I was asked to take it, so from where I stand, I could just as easily be asked to leave.

I will say that I am good at my job. Really really good. But on paper, I’m nothing. I don’t have a degree. I don’t have any accounting experience. All I have is the fact that I am smart, I have integrity, and I’m a good worker. I’m not saying that those things are not valuable. I am saying that their value depends on the person doing the evaluating. And for the most part, my experience is that bosses evaluate based on what you look like “on paper.”

So here I am with no power, but I’m tired of crying in my car before I drive home. So I take my friend’s advice and I start pushing back. I openly sneer when I am berated for not knowing something I was never taught in the first place. I sigh exasperatedly when I am second guessed without being allowed to explain. I walk away when this person implies that I am not explaining something to a coworker properly. I let them do it themselves.

And you know what? Every time, this person really does change their demeanor. Not long-term. But in the moment, I can see them become afraid of me. And soften their stance. And try to explain away their bad behavior. This person is terrified of being called out by me.

So it turns out I have all the power. But here’s the secret. I only have all the power because I am sure of myself. More sure of myself than this person with so much clout in the company. My power is all in my confidence. In that relationship, even though that person has all of the hard power, I am the scary one.

But I’m only sure of myself because I have integrity. And I only have integrity because I have my eating under control.

Could this person get me fired? Absolutely! Here’s the other reason I have all the power: I have no attachment to keeping this job. I like the job. It’s rewarding. The money is terrific. I really hope I don’t get fired. But I refuse to live in fear of losing this job. What happens happens. And that makes me positively treacherous to an insecure person. Even an insecure person with all the power.

Food is not my enemy (anymore)

I am not “on” a diet. I have a diet. I find that this is a distinction that a lot of people don’t have. Most of the people I interact with see no reason to maintain food boundaries when I am in a “normal” sized body. One should only “take such drastic measures” if you are fat. Other than that, it seems crazy to them to not eat a cookie. It’s just one cookie. Because to the average person, food revolves around weight.

I don’t keep my food boundaries to manage my weight, though, to a certain extent it does manage my weight. That is just a side effect of keeping my eating under control, just like being fat was a side effect of eating compulsively. My point is that fat is not the disease. Eating is the disease. And while I have never been fat since I gave up sugar, grains, and starch, I have also had times when I was not thin. I made food changes in those times, and sometimes they helped me lose weight and sometimes they didn’t. For example, when I quit smoking over 5 years ago, I gained weight. I tried to eat lighter at that time –less bacon, smaller fruits, more salad, not cooking my vegetables in fat – though still within my boundaries, and it did not help. I did not lose weight, and sometimes gained. Even cutting my food didn’t help me lose then. The only thing that helped was time. I put my body through a lot with all of those chemicals and all that tar for so many years. I suppose it needed time to heal. But in that time, though I was desperately miserable about my body, I did not seek out some other thing to help me lose weight faster – pills, exercise, fasting, extreme calorie cuts – because I had already learned that being thin wasn’t the answer to my problems.

In my mid twenties, I had lost a lot of weight by counting calories and working out. From the outside, I looked normal. In fact, I had never looked so “normal” in my life before. But I would say that I have never been crazier than in that time. I felt insane. I made plenty of poor life decisions. And I was really miserable, partly because I felt so crazy. Look, I am not talking about feeling out of sorts. I mean I thought that I must really belong in a mental institution, and I spent a lot of time trying to hide my crazy so that I wouldn’t be found out and institutionalized. I was living in fear of somebody realizing I was so unstable. And I was so thin. At the time, the thinnest I had ever been, and certainly thinner than I have sometimes been in the past 11+ years with my eating under control.

Being thin didn’t make me happy. Food was my enemy. We were at war, and food was winning. Everything I ate was either “good” and tasted disgusting to me, or “bad” and was delicious, but made me ashamed for having eaten it. I could not win, and I still hated my body, even though it was thin.

Nothing has ever made me as happy as having a handle on my food. And I do it gently. I eat foods I love, because I am not being punished. I don’t feel the need to “detox” or fast. Food is not my enemy anymore. Food is a delight, my 3 moments of respite in the day. Food is my “me time,” where I stop worrying about the things I have to do, and get to drift away into bliss. I don’t count calories. I don’t work out for more than 45 minutes a day. I don’t treat my delicious, nutritious, abundant food like a poison I need to get out of my body before it ends up on my thighs. My thighs are going to be my thighs.

I eat my meals and only my meals. My food is my food. My body is my body. And neither one is my enemy. So I am not on a diet. And I don’t plan to ever be on one again. And that makes me happy as well.

Not sorry, even though it sucked.

My husband and I are home for a visit this weekend. We opted for a 5:30 am flight out of San Antonio, two hours away from our apartment in Corpus Christi. So we drove the two hours the night before and got a hotel room for the night. Before we left, I made a bunch of compact, complete meals, because they are easy to pack for travel. I don’t usually expect to eat them. At least not all of them. I pack them in case of emergency.Well, our flight got cancelled, and we couldn’t get another flight out that day. So we kept our room in San Antonio for another night, flew out the next morning, and I ate the emergency meals.

And ugh! It was kind of awful. Those meals are each a third of my nutrients for the day, packed into a little cake. And by the end of dinner, I was feeling pretty sick.

But it never occurred to me not to eat them. It never occurred to me that it would be better not to finish dinner. I have never once in the past 11+ years been sorry to keep my food commitments. Not once. I have never “missed” a food I didn’t get to eat, or been disappointed that I kept my word to myself. Even when I was choking down a too-heavy brick of proteins, vegetables, vegetable substitutes, and fat. I love to eat, but at moments like that, eating becomes like working out. I don’t like doing it while I’m doing it, but I’m always grateful that I did it when I’m done. 

My food boundaries are usually awesome. I eat such delicious food, prepared in my favorite ways. But the boundaries are the important part, not the awesome. In a pinch, I will eat the plainest, grossest, least appetizing things on the planet if it means my eating boundaries are taken care of. And I will eat it when I am not hungry at all to keep those commitments to myself. 

When I was eating compulsively, I regularly woke up without a shred of dignity because of the things that I didn’t want to eat, and couldn’t stop myself from eating. 

Now I wake up with my dignity intact. Because I am willing to eat exactly what I am committed to eating, whether I want to or not.

More reasons to kiss the cook

My husband told me in no uncertain terms this week that he wants his props. And, in truth, he deserves them.

The most important thing in my life is keeping my food boundaries. This might sound strange, I know. The idea that my food boundaries would be more important than the people I love or my life’s ambitions sounds rather pathetic from the outside. I am aware. But let me offer a translation. The most important thing in my life is taking care of myself in a loving and responsible manner so that I can be present and available for my relationships and life goals. There’s that age-old idea that you cannot really love someone else until you love yourself. That, exactly, is why I keep my eating boundaries as my first priority.

When my husband and I first started dating, he wanted to cook for me. But all of the things that he was good at making were based on carbohydrates: homemade sauce for pasta or lasagna, rice-stuffed peppers, tacos. And to make it extra especially difficult, about 7 years ago, years before we were together, I realized that high-alkali foods, like tomatoes and peppers, were the reason for my cystic acne. So, I gave them up. I had basically eliminated any option for him to cook for me.

For a couple of years now, I have been fooling around with the idea of introducing a little bit of tomato product back into my diet, just for a change of pace. It seems that people who have a reaction to high-alkali foods mostly have a problem with raw foods, rather than cooked. And a friend of ours recently recommended a recipe for barbecue ribs that included a dry rub, steaming them in the oven over a pan of root beer, and then slathering them with barbecue sauce.

I figured it would be worth a shot, because that sounded freaking amazing! If I broke out, I would know that I really can’t have any tomatoes or peppers, and just wouldn’t eat them anymore.

Now, even if I wanted to try adding a little tomato-something to my usual fare, I still have to have one that fits my sugar requirements. Same for any seasoning. So instead of searching and searching for a ready-made dry rub and bottled barbecue sauce that met my needs, he made them himself. Not only that, but he let me look through the ingredients and make sure they, were acceptable, and substituted things that were not. For example, we steamed the ribs over diet root beer, replaced the Worcestershire sauce with my soy sauce alternative, and used artificial sweetener instead of brown sugar.

And Oh. My. God! They were so good! And, even better, they were so good and I didn’t break out!

The thing about keeping my boundaries is that, when I take it seriously, and when I am responsible for keeping them on the highest level, my husband takes it seriously too. He honors it, because I honor it. I lead the way, and he follows. But he could only follow because I lead the way. What he did for me was an act of love. And because it was especially for me, it made me feel particularly loved.

When I gave up sugar, one of the things I had to do was get over the fact that some people whom I loved and who loved me, were used to showing me love through foods I didn’t eat anymore, and now they couldn’t. And I had to learn how to show love to those people, and to show them that I got their love, without eating those things. I had to be grateful, without harming myself to show it. So there is something particularly heart-warming for me about my husband going out of his way to make me food I can eat on my own terms. So I am grateful. And excited! And positively quivering in anticipation of the possibility of pulled pork! Woot!

Killing me softly

I have been having a very emotional week.

I was talking to a friend of mine recently. The one with the button that says “Give A S***.” She said to me, “Every time I don’t eat a piece of chocolate cake, a little part of me dies inside.”

It has been a while since not eating cake made me cry. Many years, in fact. But there are things that are like giving up sugar, actions outside of my comfort zone, that are little deaths.

Giving up sugar was the biggest step I have taken on a journey I started long ago. I knew some time in my youth that I wanted to get better. I wanted to grow and change. I wouldn’t understand until many years later, but ultimately, what I was looking for was peace. Serenity. What I wanted was to rest easy, knowing that I was being the best person I could be.

But every time I get better, the girl I was dies. And while I certainly choose it, a life of little deaths can be decidedly uncomfortable.

So it turns out that driving is one of the more painful undertakings of my life.

My first lesson was just a few days ago. And since then, I have cried a lot over it. I am crying while I type this. This is the death of a very young and tender part of myself. This part of me I’m killing may be even younger than my sugar addict.

I was not terrible at driving, but I wasn’t good either. And that is kind of hard on me. I am used to being good at things quickly and without much effort. Even giving up sugar was relatively natural to me. Vigilance, perfectionism and being single-focused are things I am exceptional at. Being aware of four directions at once, remembering a whole new set of rules, and figuring out how the machine I’m controlling responds to my touch, is a lot of information to process. I find it overwhelming. It makes me anxious. It makes me cry. Either way, both giving up sugar and starting to learn to drive have made me feel raw and vulnerable. Itchy. Like I am walking around without skin.

These little deaths are not murder. It’s not bad that I am killing these aspects of myself. They were useful until they were not. Being sad or in pain does not mean that what I am becoming is worse than what I have been. But I have to be gentle with the girl in me that I happen to be killing off at the moment. It won’t do any good to kill her brutally. I am going to have to hold her hand and tell her it’s ok to go. I am going to have to let myself mourn her. I’ll still let her die, but ultimately, I’ll kill her softly.

Wanting and not wanting

One thing that I notice is that if I talk to people about food, most people equate managing one’s food with weight.

I have had a huge weight loss, so I’m sure my own personal story feeds that idea for a lot of people. But for me, keeping my eating under control is only about weight in a round about way. For me, weight was a symptom of my real problem. My problem is eating.

There are a lot of people who have a problem with eating and they do not have a weight problem. I am grateful that being fat was part of my eating disorder story. If it weren’t, I don’t know if I would have found relief. I may not have even noticed how miserable I was.

One thing that happened when I got my eating under control was that I stopped hating myself. But I didn’t even know that I did hate myself until it stopped.

I am bringing this up because something happened the other day. It doesn’t happen very often, so it’s worth noting.

I didn’t want to eat my dinner.

It was later than I usually eat. I was tired. I just wasn’t feeling it.

Now, sometimes I don’t want to eat, but then I get two bites in and it’s so good that I forget that I didn’t want to eat it two minutes ago. That doesn’t count. This time was a time that I didn’t want to eat it, and all the while I ate it, I never wanted it. Even though it was a super yummy meal, including frozen yogurt and a cookie (all homemade, sugar-free, and within my food boundaries, of course.)

I ate it. Every last bite. When I was done, I was grateful it was over. But I did it. I keep my food boundaries under control by eliminating “wanting” and “not wanting” from the reasons I eat. If my food boundaries were about weight, then I could just not eat a meal that I didn’t want. Easy. But conversely. there are many (many many) days where I would happily eat another whole meal after I finish one. So let’s say I didn’t eat dinner that day. The next day, when I wanted two dinners, could I do that? What about the day after that? Could I skip breakfast and lunch and just binge eat all night? Because when I am eating compulsively, I start to think like that. I get irrational and obsessive.

What I gained when I eliminated “wanting” and “not wanting” from my food life was peace from my obsession with food. Wanting and not wanting mean making infinite decisions around food. Because food decisions are infinite for me. I don’t think straight when it comes to eating. I feel crazy. I feel ashamed. I get all messed up and mixed up. It is so much easier to know that I will eat three meals a day. That they will consist of protein, vegetables, or fruit, and fat. That I will eat all of them and nothing more. It’s so simple. It’s a no-brainer. Because I can’t brain when it comes to my own food.

When my dad’s mother was dying five years ago, I didn’t want to eat either. I cried almost constantly. I was never hungry. But just like the other day, I ate my meals. And I will say that it was a huge blessing for me. I felt like my whole world was falling apart at that time. The person who loved me best in the world was going to leave me. I was not prepared. But there was something constant in my life. Three meals a day with protein, fruit, or vegetables, and fat. No matter what. Even if I cried through the whole thing. I had been doing it that way for four and a half years by then. It was three little respites in my day. I may not have enjoyed the food, but each meal was a little sanctuary of normality.

If I had not eaten my meal the other day, I would have invited all of my crazy in. I would have lost the peace of mind that I have had for over nine years now. That’s a pretty high price to pay for the sake of wanting and not wanting.

Not looking for a new normal

Only 10 days in, and 2015 is already normal.

It’s funny to think how normal things can become. How quickly. How seemingly permanently. And I think that works in all directions. Not just in neutral ways, like the changing of the year. Or in positive ways, like drinking 64 ounces of water every day. I think it works in whatever way it works. In whatever direction we push it.

This week I got into a heated argument. I was angry, hurt and scared. It was a big deal. I was crawl-out-of-my-skin unhappy. So in the 6 degree weather with snow freezing on the ground, I bundled myself up, pulled on my boots and went for a walk.

I was freezing. It was uncomfortable. But I needed to release some of those stress hormones making me unbearably emotionally itchy. So I walked.

There is a 24 hour big chain grocery store about 15 minutes from my house. I was going to walk there. Just as a destination. Just to have somewhere to walk to. It would be warm in there. But something in me said not to. Said it was risky. Said I was too upset to walk into a grocery store and know with certainty that I would come out with my eating boundaries in tact and my eating disorders under control.

There was another part of me, yes. The part that said, You got this, Kate. You don’t have to worry about going to the grocery store. You go to the grocery store several times a week. All alone. You don’t even want to eat sugar. You just celebrated your 9 year anniversary for God’s sake. You’re not going to throw it all away after 9 years. I mean, come on. NINE. YEARS.

But in the end, I decided not to go to the grocery store. I just walked and then looped around and headed home.

Because 9 years is a long time, it’s true. And that undeniably makes having eating boundaries and not having sugar my current normal. But it’s not a guarantee. And I know that one wrong bite, and I could be bingeing, and 300 lbs, or even more than 300lbs. And that could get really normal really quickly. And that scares me.

Not a lot. Not enough to never go into a grocery store again. I need my fruits and veggies, after all. And my herbal tea, and my artificial sweetener. And butter and bacon and all of the delicious things I eat within my glorious, life-saving, life-giving food boundaries. But enough not to go barging into one when I am emotionally distressed. Enough to know not to test my own strength when I am vulnerable.

God knows that life will test me whenever it will, vulnerable or strong. And I guess I’d like to save my strength for when I really need it.

In case you missed it, it has already begun…

Another Halloween over. Of course, Halloween kicks off our collective debauched food binge that lasts through the extreme hangover that is New Years Day. The day we firmly resolve that this year we will be better. We will lose weight and drink more water and less alcohol and stop yelling at our kids and be better listeners.

I am so grateful that I don’t have to play that game anymore. Of course, at this particular moment I am most grateful that I did not have to eat compulsively just because it was Halloween. Trick or treat would have been, without a doubt, all trick and no treat.

I handed out the candy this year. Which wasn’t hard, because I don’t crave it since I haven’t had it in my body for over 8 years. And there weren’t many kids since it was so cold, so there is still a whole bunch of candy in the house. But thank God I don’t have to eat it. Thank God it’s not mine. Thank God I don’t have to start, and then be expected to stop. Because I don’t know if I have another stop in me. And I don’t want to find out.

I also love that I still love Halloween. I love dressing up. I love my own creativity. I love the chance to show off how clever I am. I love getting to wear a costume I can feel beautiful in. (I was Miss America this year. Complete with evening gown, tiara, sash and running mascara.) In a body I can feel beautiful in. I love that I don’t have to feel deprived. Of fun. Or chocolate. Because the truth is that I would not have just eaten some chocolate. And I wouldn’t have just eaten all of the chocolate. I would have eaten the things I didn’t want or like. I would have eaten everything that was there. And then I would have gotten more. I would have needed to go get more. I would not have been able to not get more. But instead, I get to still love Halloween because I don’t have to eat myself to shame and self-loathing. I love that I get to wake up with some dignity. Even after the binge-fest that is National Candy Day.

So now it is time to beware the Holiday Season. I may not be in danger, but food is still dangerous to me. Even after all this time. I don’t take it lightly. I protect myself from my eating disorders. By remembering that I am eternally a compulsive eater. Hopeless and without a cure. By making sure that the meals I make myself are delicious and decadent while keeping them within my eating boundaries. By remembering that I am addicted to sugars, grains and starches. By remembering how eating compulsively manifests in my life. On my body in the form of 150 more pounds. And in my personality in the form of lying, cheating and stealing. And in my heart as depression and self-hatred. I remember these things because I want to continue to wake up with dignity.

I may have made it through Halloween, but there is more to come. Pumpkin Pie and Christmas cookies. Mashed potatoes and stuffing. Wine and eggnog. There is little time to take a breath between bites and gulps for the rest of the year. For other people. For me, there is plenty of time. Hours and hours between my three meals a day. To do and be. As long as I keep my head on straight and keep the boundaries around my eating.

So I hope you had a Happy Halloween. And I wish you a peaceful Holiday Season. Because it has already begun.

Better than the alternative.

Today I called a restaurant to ask about their menu. I wasn’t going to. I looked it up on line. They had vegetables. They had protein. It would have been fine.

And then my boyfriend said, “But aren’t you going to call them?” And I said “Yeah. OK.”

Here is the truth. I would have been able to eat there without calling ahead. It would have been fine. But only just fine. By calling, I gave myself the opportunity to eat better. I was able to make a special request and have them prep something for me specially. This restaurant normally braises their cabbage with a seasoning blend that has starch in it. But one of the cooks told me that he could set aside some for me that did not have that seasoning. He then answered all ten thousand of my questions. Told me what was made pre-prepped and could not be changed, and what I could get on the side. He even told me portion sizes.

I would have had to take up plenty of my server’s time if I had asked all of my questions at the table. And in the end I would have ended up with a salad of lettuce and onion and 4 orders of steamed broccoli. Dry. It would not have been my favorite meal. I would have made it work. Because I always make it work so that I keep my food boundaries. But I would probably have been kind of disappointed.

I can have a lot of anxiety. Especially around keeping my food boundaries. Because as a sugar addict and compulsive eater, I am so clear that my happiness and sanity hang in the balance. But since I have started living with my boyfriend, I have been trying to be able to be more flexible about eating out. NOT like crossing my boundaries. Ever. But being more willing to trust that I will be able to keep my boundaries in the actual real world.

Other people do it. Calmly and peacefully and with the sure knowledge that it will go well and be great. I know so many people who regularly do what I do in restaurants and in public. I know people who have done what I do anywhere and everywhere. Morocco and India and the South American Jungle. Places where it’s actually hard. And yet they have managed. Even Japan (though I have been told that Japan was the hardest.)

I want to feel free to go out into the world and live my life. And trust that I will be able to keep my food boundaries as long as I am willing. Because that is really all it takes. Willingness.

But it was nice to remember that preparing can not only make the experience less stressful, it also gives me an opportunity to get something I would not have gotten if I had not called ahead. Not only did I get to let go of some of tomorrow’s dining anxiety by being prepared, I gave the restaurant an opportunity to be prepared to serve me better.

I am sure that I will have plenty of chances in life to prove that I am willing to keep my food boundaries in all manner of circumstances, while flying by the seat of my pants, because that is what life throws at me. But in the mean time, I am grateful to have a fantastic boyfriend who reminds me that when being prepared is an option, it’s worth the effort. And I’m sure he thought to remind me because, let’s face it, a better-fed Kate is a happier Kate. And a happier Kate is better than the alternative…

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