onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “knitting”

And the Kate award for Kate awesomeness goes to…Kate (Who could have seen that coming?)

When I gave up sugar, I figured I would end up with an average, boring, mediocre life. And that did not thrill me, but I had become so unhappy in that previous year with eating and body image disorders that I was willing to go to any lengths.

I had always despised the thought of my own mediocrity. Perhaps it was being a child who grew up in the 80s. Sesame Street told us we were all special. Perhaps it was that I had a huge personality and love of the attention of strangers. People expected me to be a performer. And that made me expect to be a star. Or perhaps it was that I was born with a lot of a particular kind of talent, the kind of keen intelligence that made understanding the world around me easy as a kid. People called me precocious. I expected that I would be able to win for my whole life as easily as I had early on.

This was not the case for several reasons. Obviously, my pool got smarter. It turns out, they put smart kids with other smart kids. Also, I was pretty fragile emotionally. I did not take failure well. And I didn’t learn much from it. The lessons I took from failure usually ended up being not to do that thing I was bad at anymore. And, probably most importantly, early in life I figured out that sugar and carbs would make all of my difficult feelings go away.

This life that I have now would almost certainly make child and teen Kate cringe. It would occur to her as pathetic and pointless. It would occur to her as mediocrity incarnate.

But I look at this life as particularly extraordinary. And I think it’s specialness, and the fact that I think so, is all about having my eating under control.

Being the person I am now means I judge my success in terms of my integrity, my growth, and my contentment, not accolades or prizes from outside. This lack of outside approval is exactly what mediocrity looked like to my young self. How would I know I was awesome unless someone else told me. Unless everyone told me. Unless *important* people told me.

I am not diminishing the power of “important” prizes. But not everyone is going to win a Pulitzer. And I don’t have to base my pride in my life on whether or not I do. (I am not even writing right now. But even if I were.)

When I got my eating under control, it finally clicked for me that wanting an outcome had nothing practical to do with getting it. By putting boundaries around food, I learned about taking action. I learned about practice. As crazy as it seems to me now, I somehow had it in my head that wanting to lose weight was enough. But it’s not that crazy when you consider that sugar gets me high like a drug. The thing that was making me fat was also muddling my thinking. It was a win-win for sugar and a lose-lose for me.

Sometimes people in the self-help world talk about visualization. I used to think this meant something like visualizing myself winning the Pulitzer. And while science says that there is a case for that kind of visualization being effective, what is more effective is visualizing oneself *doing the work.* Because if you picture yourself doing the work, you are more likely to actually do the work.

Through having my eating under control and thereby getting a body I could love and be comfortable in, I came to understand about the practicality of achieving something. I got this body by entirely changing the way I eat. I did something about my body. I didn’t just “want” it to be different, I did the work.

Between my meals, I do the next right thing in my life, whatever that is for my next goal. When I wasn’t working full time, it was writing. Now that I am working, it can be dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s on a particular work task, making sure I am doing my job to the best of my ability. Or in my free time it can be ripping out a section of knitting because I realized I did something wrong and I want to get it right. Or it can be drinking my water quota or going on my jog.

I practice the things I want for myself and the things I want to get better at. And in understanding practice, I have come to recognize that one doesn’t win a Pulitzer Prize by aiming to win one. One writes the book or the music. One does the thing. And maybe it strikes a chord with one’s fellow humans. Or maybe it doesn’t.

The idea that something I do won’t wow the world no longer feels mediocre to me. The idea that I do *anything,* especially with any semblance of integrity and consistency, whatever that may be, feels like I have become a powerhouse in the world. I feel like a shining example of accomplishment. And I haven’t won an award of any kind since high school.

I used to think that everyone understood life but me. I used to think that knowing with certainty what to do next was obvious to everyone else. I felt incapable compared to all of the confident, well-adjusted beings all around me. But I realized that most people are flying just as blind as I always was. They are just better at hiding it.

And I realized that wanting to be liked by others more than honoring oneself is about as average and mediocre as it gets. And here I am trying to impress the hell out of myself. That sounds pretty extraordinary to me, if I do say so myself.

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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.

Please read my article in elephant journal! (Yay!)

Hello there! I know, it’s early in the week for me to post, but I have just gotten an article about food addiction and knitting published in elephant journal! Hooray! Please check it out!

You can read it here!

Please read it, share it on social media, and just generally be really happy for me!

Thanks!

Kate

From instant gratification to the long slow dance of application.

There are things about life that my addict self is bad at. Like process. Like anything slow that takes effort. Like anything that doesn’t come naturally to me.I’m good at stuff. I’m smart. And I have always had a knack for understanding the way things fit together. Literally and figuratively. 

But being good at stuff made me impatient. When “easy” is the norm, anything remotely difficult becomes frustrating. And I never dealt well with frustration. I learned to numb it early. I used sugar. I got through life that way. I didn’t shine. But I did get by. 

But it made people call me lazy. I suppose that is one way of looking at it. But in the past few years I have chosen to have some compassion for the person I was then. I was overwhelmed. I was terrified. And I was in the throes of an addiction I didn’t even understand.

When I put boundaries around my eating, I wasn’t expecting anything except to deal with my weight. But it ended up shifting the way I saw the world. It made me less afraid of failure, and more willing to take risks. And it freed up a lot of time. And time opened me up to the possibility of process.

For one thing, I didn’t have the option of zoning out on sugar, so when I came to the point where I got frustrated with something, I couldn’t get so high I just forgot about it. And also, getting high on sugar went from being the most important thing to me, to being the thing to be avoided like the plague. All of a sudden, I needed other things to fill my time. 

A little over 2 years ago, I first tried to learn to knit. I tried on and off for over a year and a half. Did you get that? Over a year and a half. From March 2014 to November 2015, I tried and failed to knit. 

In November, something clicked for me and I finished my first project, a simple basket weave baby blanket. And suddenly, I could knit.

There are different ways to knit that have to do with where you hold your working yarn in relation to the needles. (I happen to be a continental knitter, in case you were wondering.) But there are also ways that people knit that are about the way one thinks about knitting. In other words, are you a project knitter, or a process knitter?

A project knitter sees a scarf, a sweater, a pair of socks, or a bag and thinks “I want to make that for myself or a loved one.” A process knitter sees a stitch, a pattern, or a technique and thinks “I want to be able to do that!”

I, personally, think of it as a continuum, more like you fall somewhere on the spectrum of “project” to “process,” than being strictly one or the other. But I am pretty we’ll situated on the process side. 

I like acquiring skills. I like learning things. I like the challenge and the reward.

What an amazing thing that was to learn about myself! What a miracle to discover that inside that “lazy” girl who insisted on instant gratification, was a woman who loved the long, slow dance of attention and application. 

I am not saying I don’t get frustrated when something takes me longer to learn than I think it should. I occasionally groan and curse and put it away for the time being. But in the end I am always called back to learning. I guess it’s just the way I am. And I never would have known if I hadn’t put boundaries around my eating.

Not to succeed, win, have or accomplish

I was an impatient child. Especially when it came to learning. 


See, I’m smart. Really smart. And most things came easily to me. I didn’t have to work hard to learn. And things that I didn’t learn immediately…well, I hated them. I didn’t want to do them. I didn’t want to fail. It made me feel bad. And I always felt like whatever energy I put in to something that ended in failure was a waste of my time. It was all about what I had to show for it in the end.

Soon I am going to get back into the workforce, and I would like to get a job teaching crochet, and helping people fix their crochet projects. At least one place I am looking at requires that you know how to both knit and crochet. So recently I started trying to knit again.

I am a bad knitter.

That is an imprecise way of putting it. There are things that I am great at. Like the dexterity parts. I am excellent at making the different stitches. I can make beautiful patterns with them. I can make cables and laces. When it comes to the actual knitting, I am really talented.

But there is another part of knitting that I am really really bad at. I cannot fix mistakes. This is inconvenient for a girl with mild perfectionist tendencies. If I make a mistake anywhere in a project, I don’t know how to get myself back to the point before I made the mistake without unraveling the whole thing. It’s all or nothing. I either have to live with the imperfections, or start again from the beginning. And I can’t stand making mistakes. So, so far, it’s all nothing.

But there is something different about me since I got my eating under control. I am patient. I am now one of those people who believes it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. (Seriously, I never thought I would be one of those people. I promise I don’t have art with motivational sayings. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

So for the past few weeks, I have been knitting. And I have nothing to show for it. And I am a-okay with that. I must have started anew at least ten times. And yet none of the times I unraveled the whole thing and wound it back around the ball of yarn did I feel it was a waste of my time. I wasn’t doing it because I need a scarf or a blanket or a sweater. I have plenty of beautiful clothes. And my house is cozy warm. I was doing it to practice. To get better. To learn. I was knitting to knit. It’s that simple.

The events and circumstances of my life are so much less “significant” since I got my eating disorders under control. And it’s such a relief. I love being free from having to be great at everything. I love having the ability to be incapable without shame. I love being exactly who I am all the time. I can even be ok with being a bit of a perfectionist.

I’m going to put the knitting away for a while. I just finished a really amazing crochet project and I’m ready to do more of that. But it’s nice to do something for the sake of doing it. Not to succeed, win, have, or accomplish.

High on Learning? I think I saw an after school special on that…

I have been thinking lately about patience. The nature of patience. And how I learned patience from getting control of my eating.

I spent my life as a pleasure junkie. I don’t think it’s too uncommon. Food was my first drug of choice. Drama was probably my second. Then cigarettes. Marijuana. There are others. Some more benign. Reading and daydreaming are still pleasures I indulge in regularly.

There is something else that I love. That gives me a certain kind of pleasure. Learning something.

I started crocheting since I started this blog. I am pretty good at it. I have gotten significantly better in the past few months. I find that for me, there is a tipping point to learning. Or really a series of tipping points. I learn the basics. And I practice them. Then I learn something a little more advanced. And I practice it. And I mess up. And I forget some of the things I originally learned and I have to go back and relearn those parts. And I practice. And I learn a little more. And I get good at one something and I do it over and over until being good at it loses its novelty. And then I learn more. And at some point, all of this disjointed knowledge that has been teetering on the brink over my head tips over and cohesion cascades over me. Suddenly, how it all fits together makes perfect sense, and I have reached a new level of understanding and skill.

So I decided the other day that it was time to teach myself to knit. And this was kind of a big deal. Because I am already good at crochet. And I already get a lot of pleasure from it. And there is still plenty for me to learn. And when I do it, in the end I get a product I am proud of. And knitting was going to require patience. It was going to mean a lot of messing up. And frustration. And being bad. And ugly products. For now.

Now, I am good at certain things. There are things I naturally have a knack for. That I have since childhood. I have very good fine motor dexterity. (Hand-eye coordination for things like sports and video games is something else entirely. Um…yeah, that stuff not so much…) I am also good at understanding how things fit together to make up a whole. One example of this might be how loops of yarn interlock with other loops of yarn to form cloth. Or how to reverse engineer those loops.

So obviously, I am at an advantage when it comes to something like knitting. I am sure that being predisposed to be good at it made me want to do it. I don’t know that it would give me as much pleasure if I would only ever be mediocre at it. The plan is to one day excel.

But right now, at this very moment, I am one notch above sucking royally. And that is uncomfortable. But totally ok. Because I have patience. And I have patience because I got my eating under control.

Getting the hang of something sets off my pleasure centers. While the struggle before that happens can be frustrating. And sometimes it can make me doubt myself. Or be angry with myself. But that moment that something clicks, I get a nice little buzz. And that moment of greater understanding is positively blissful.

But lets face it, chocolate cake would give me that whole blissful experience in a matter of seconds without the year+ of toiling and learning and practicing and trying. With out all of that discomfort in between.

And that’s exactly what I would have done if I were still eating sugar. I would have been excited to learn something, because the prospect of learning is exciting. And then I would have tried. And sucked. And eaten a cake. And gotten that feeling. And stopped trying. And eaten more cake.

Of course cake was killing me. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. It left me depressed. Not to mention hugely fat. It made me hate myself. It took more and more, more and more often, to get that blissful feeling. And eventually, the feeling was not so much blissful as just “not in deep pain.”

Because blissing out, and then eventually just numbing out, all the time made any kind of discomfort into “deep pain.” And getting control of my eating slowly allowed my body and brain to re-regulate. Not eating over every feeling allowed that “deep pain” return to being regular old, bearable discomfort. And not eating feelings also taught me how to bear it. Not manage it. Not mask it or fix it. But just let it be there. And live with it.

And I will say that the experience of learning, the clicking and cascading, is better than “getting high.” It is worth the discomfort. I don’t know why exactly. But I’m sure it has something to do with those feelings being real. That I earned those feelings of pleasure. That I did not steal them. And that I do not expect them to be my constant state. That life, as it is, is enough for me. And maybe I’ll get a scarf out of it. Sure, an ugly scarf for now. But I’ll be patient. And eventually I will make something pretty.

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