onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “love”

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.

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Where the love is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I adjust for conflation

I was talking with a group of friends the other day about International Women’s Day, and someone mentioned movements like “fat is beautiful,” and “fat as a feminist issue.”

The truth is that I do think that fat is a feminist issue. I do think that being fat and being beautiful are not mutually exclusive. And at the same time, I absolutely hated being fat, and I never want to go back.

I think that part of the problem with these ideas is that we conflate them. Let me break it down for you. There is a difference between what you, as an individual with a body, want to believe about and do with your body, and what our society and culture tell you about what you *should* believe about and do with your body.

I have had to deal with this for myself. I had to do some serious and painful soul searching. Because I really hated being fat. I was miserable and I felt ashamed. I hated my body. I hated the way that I looked, and the way that I felt. I hated that I could not stop eating. I hated how hard it was to live in that body.

But separately, I also hated the way I was treated by others. I hated that people were given the “right” by our culture, to openly comment about my body. After all, this body is me and I am this body. Whatever its size and shape. If you shame my body, you shame me. If you disrespect my body, you disrespect me.

I have come to really understand, only after years of being in a comfortable body, a body that I am comfortable in, that just because I was unhappy with myself didn’t give anyone else the right to judge me. It was not ok that I was shamed and abused. It was not ok that I was humiliated by others. That I hated myself did not give friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers a pass for being jerks.

My food problem is a sickness. It is not cured by “pushing away from the table,” or “just not eating so much,” or “having willpower,” or “having some self-respect.” I don’t now, and never did, earn my place in the world by being beautiful, thin, accommodating, and feminine. I have always had a place in the world. I was born into it, by virtue of having a body.

And I will say that I consider myself to be incredibly beautiful (and my husband would add humble.) And I love it. And I don’t apologize for loving it. But it doesn’t define me. And I don’t owe it to others. Not to men on the street, not to my parents, not to friends, not to bosses. Not to my husband, either. I do not owe any particular body to anyone but myself.

So in honor of International Women’s Day, let me recommend to you that you love your body exactly as it is right now in this very moment. Remember that it *is* your place in the world. And if, like I once was, you are unhappy with the body you are in, love it anyway. I believe that it is only by loving ourselves first that we can make lasting change. If we are waiting to be “perfect” before we love ourselves, we will be waiting a very long time.

Three gifts for hard times

Yesterday was a typical lazy Saturday with my husband until we got a call that a family member is dying. Someone my husband is very close with, whom I also love very much. It’s funny how the whole world can shift at a time like this. It’s the kind of thing that gives one a whole different perspective on one’s day-to-day life. The things that we worried about become insignificant. Work, or our apartment, or our cars, or money don’t seem to mean anything at a time like this. Suddenly everything is about connection, love, being there, saying I Love You.

I had worried so much about paying for this out-of-town apartment that we rent while our jobs were up in the air. But in this moment, paying this rent is not an issue. Paying to fly home is not an issue. (My husband is already on the road.) All of my anxiety about material things just flew out the window.

Having my eating under control meant that I could not go with my husband. I had to cook and prep and pack food for traveling. Because I keep my food boundaries no matter what. Even loved ones being sick and dying. Not taking care of myself is not proof of love. It’s not going to make anyone better if I say that my food, which is how I take care of my addiction, is not important. And even after this family member is gone I will have to go on living. So it makes sense to take care of my food, even if it means being separated from my husband for a few days, and taking longer to get home. That’s fine. It let my husband get on the road as soon as he could while I close up the apartment in case we are away for a long stretch. I’m sorry to be apart from him, but maybe he needs a little time to himself anyway.

There are 3 things that having my eating under control gives me that I am particularly grateful for in a moment like this.

1) I am able to be unselfish. Because when I am in the food, everything is about me, my life, how things will affect me. But today is not about me. I can be calm and clear headed. And that lets me be of service to my husband. Am I sad? Of course. But my sadness is not important right now. It’s my job to strong and useful.

2) I am aware of what is really important. And that is relationships. It’s the people that we love that make our lives what they are. And this is coming from an introvert and borderline misanthrope. At some point, all of us will die, but when you can see it coming, that’s an amazing opportunity to get completion and closure. It’s a chance to say “I love you.” “You were important in my life.” “You made an impact.”

3) I am able to go with the flow. This situation is the kind of thing that comes out of the blue. There was no preparing for it. So the only thing there is to do is go with the flow. Fighting and resisting are not going to help. They won’t change the situation. I learned that when I got control of my eating. I spent my time as a compulsive eater trying to control everyone and everything. And not doing a very good job of it. Today I can let life be what it is. That doesn’t mean I don’t care. It just means I don’t waste my energy trying to will the world to be that way I think it should be. I can use that energy to love, to help, to make others comfortable.

So for now I have a lot to do. And I am grateful for the personal power and clarity that my eating boundaries have given me at such a difficult time. And I am most grateful to be present for the person I love most when he needs me to be available for him.

Failure, shame, love and trust

I wonder what it is about failure that makes me want to hide it. Not that I think I am the only one. Obviously, it is part of the human condition. But the overwhelming fear of humiliation is so intense that I want to show everyone (friends and strangers alike) that everything is super extra awesome! Nothing disappointing here! I live in a perpetual state of happiness, and life couldn’t be going any better!

That is a lie. 

I was doing some writing work for the dream job I am being looked at for, and my first attempts were a failure. What I thought was going to be a natural, and seamless process of just doing my best and getting the job (easy peasy), turned out to have snags and bumps. And there is the chance that I will not get the job. Not that it’s over, but that what seemed simple is, in fact, complicated. 

I am sharing this because I don’t want to be ashamed of being humiliated. (No, that is not an oxymoron. Shame is about being embarrassed of who you are. Humiliation is about being embarrassed of what you have done, or failed to do.) We already live in a white-washed world. So many of us use social media to display our victories and hide our defeats. We spin everything to show it in the most flattering light. We love filters. We, as a culture, even Photoshop super models, because the most symmetrical of humans are no longer viewed as “pretty enough.” 

So what kind of loser broadcasts their imperfections?

That loser would be me.

The truth is, I might fail. For real. I have gone out on a limb, and chased after my dreams, and done everything to the best of my ability. And I still might not get this job. After I told everyone how bad I want it! *cringe* How uncool can you get?

Getting my eating under control meant that I had to learn to sit in uncomfortable feelings. And what I am experiencing now are uncomfortable feelings. But there is a positive spin to this, and it’s not false. It’s not bullshit. It’s not me blowing sunshine up your ass. The positive is that I trust that whatever is happening is the right thing. 

That did not come naturally. I was not born that way. I am not a special golden child with the gift of self-knowledge. Yes, I trust that life will always give me better than I think I want. But I had to work at it. I had to change the way I think. I had to change the way I act. I had to be willing to tell the brutal truth about myself, and hope I wouldn’t die. By the way, I didn’t die.

 If this job does fall through, I will be disappointed. I will be embarrassed. I will not enjoy telling everyone that I failed at something I attempted. But I won’t be ashamed. I won’t hide it. If it’s my job, I’ll get it. If it’s not, I won’t. 

I will most certainly cry if I fail at this. But life hurts sometimes. Rejection hurts. But since I stopped eating sugar and carbohydrates and put boundaries around my food, I know that it’s not about whether or not I am “good enough” for what I want, but what is the right thing for me and my life. I like and trust myself enough that nothing can make or break me. For the rest of my life I am going to want things. I may or may not get what I want every day for the rest of my life. It would be exhausting to be too attached to every single desire I have.

So I am going to continue to go full out and do the best I can. And I may fail. And if I do, I will tell you about it. With the same love of my life as I will if I succeed. No, not the same joyful excitement, but absolutely the same love. 

Commitment and cleanliness

It is my experience that life will test you. Especially when you make a commitment. When you really want to recreate some aspect of your life. 
If you are committed to drinking 8 glasses of water a day, suddenly, all of the bathrooms in your office are out of order except one. On a different floor. For a week. And you have to decide if you want to keep that commitment.

Recently, I decided that I wanted to leave my current job like a grownup. I want to go on good terms. I put in my two weeks notice just yesterday morning, in fact. (Yay!)

But when I got my schedule for the week I don’t have a day off for six straight days. And I have two assignments for my new dream job as a writer due on Tuesday morning, 8 am. 

I knew immediately that it was a test from life, but it took me a minute to figure out what the test was. It was not, in fact, to test if I was committed to my new job. It was to test if I was committed to leaving my old job like a responsible adult. 

And I assure you, when I saw that I wasn’t going to get a day off, it crossed my mind to say screw this, I have a super sexy writing job now. I’m not going to my crappy food service job.

But there is another story I want to share with you. Many years ago, before I was reunited with my boyfriend, I was going on a lot of dates. And that often meant packing a dinner and eating it in the city at a Starbucks before I met the guy.

Now, I have a person who helps me when something happens with my food. One evening right before a date, I was eating my strictly portioned dinner and I dropped a speck. Seriously a speck. I called my friend and I told her. She said that I didn’t need to call for a speck, but I said I was about to go on a date, and I wanted to be as “clean” as I could be. I wanted my integrity to be solid. I was looking for love. I was looking for an awesome relationship. I did not want a speck of food to get in my way.

The truth is, the date was horrible. I ended up telling him that I was not having a good time because he was not being nice to me. Then he tried to make out with me. (Apparently that’s how he showed how nice he was? Ew. Whatever…)

I left that date. I didn’t stay longer out of politeness. I didn’t let him drive me home. I saw that I wasn’t getting treated the way I deserved, and I ended it right there.

I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t called in that I dropped a speck of my food. Maybe the same thing. But maybe, if I thought my integrity had a crack in it, I would have stayed and let myself be treated poorly.

So here I am, fulfilling my commitment to write my own blog. And I will fulfill my commitment to get my writing assignments for my new job in on time. And I will also fulfill my commitment to stick it out at my other job for the next two weeks. So I can leave knowing I did the right thing. Not for them, but for me. Because I want to start this new job as clean as I can be. I don’t want cracks in my integrity while I am fulfilling my dreams.

In Defense of Giving A S*** (Please note, I use the “s” word freely in this post)

A friend of mine recently posted pictures from her trip to Burning Man this year. In one, she has a button that says “Give A Shit.”

I used to have a skill that I cultivated. It was the ability to not flinch. It was part of my “cool” persona. I was very good at it. When people did things to try to get a start out of me, I would barely react.

Not just friends playing pranks. Even when I was mugged and punched in the face when I was about 24 years old, I can still remember the look in the eyes of the guy who punched me. It clearly freaked him out that I didn’t scream or cry, or even cower. In fact, I remember looking at him with a disgusted look. I made him flinch. (Of course, I would later realize that I was a bloody mess because he punched my teeth right through my lip. I suppose that would be scary if you punched a seemingly weak girl in the face and all she did was look angry at you…)

From the time I was a very small child, I was very good at building fortresses. My fat body was a kind of fortress against intimacy. So was smoking. So was that unflinching bitch attitude. And being high on sugar.

Sugar may, in fact, have been the most useful tool I had against giving a shit. Because it made everything foggy. And surreal. And it made life-moments incidental. My real life lay in food and eating and getting high. Everything else was simply something to be endured until I could get my next fix.

But then I got my eating under control and I quit sugar all together. And then slowly, (very, very slowly…one at a time, after years of being sober from food) I dismantled my fortresses.

Because you can’t have love without pain. Because you don’t get to pick and choose what you let in. A fortress doesn’t keep the bad things out. It keeps EVERYTHING out. All of it. Not just the sadness of rejection and the pain of being wounded, but also the love and the joy and the trust and the intimacy.

I made a choice when I decided that I wanted to let myself fall in love and be loved. I made the choice to give a shit. I knew that it meant getting hurt. I was a grown woman in my 30’s. I didn’t have fairytale delusions about how love made everything easy. I was quite clear that the life I had chosen until then, behind my very secure, safe walls, was the easy way. Not giving a shit is, by far, the easier way. Love is not safe. Intimacy is not easy. It is complicated and messy.

Admitting you are wrong is scary. Making amends is scary. Restoring a broken relationship is scary. Being vulnerable is just plain terrifying.

I could make all of it go away by just not giving a shit. Still can.

But that would make the love go away too. And the joy that comes from loving. And the warmth that comes from being loved. Because ultimately, love is giving a shit.

I choose love, so I choose to give a shit. And I wish the same for you.

Vulnerable, unpredictable, and intense – just as it should be

When I was in New York last weekend, I was with a group of people who make it their lives’ work to be present and honest. And it’s intense.

Now, it is also my life’s work to be present and honest, so quite frankly, I loved being there. But it was still really intense.

When I strip away the pretense of day-to-day living – like wanting to be liked, wanting to look cool, wanting to be acknowledged for being “good” or “right,” or any of the things that I do out of fear so that I don’t have to acknowledge my truth or be present for my life – what I am left with is unguarded love. To love and to be loved in return.

Here’s a secret. Love is scary. It’s vulnerable and unpredictable. It’s intense. Sometimes it can feel like it’s too intense.

I wouldn’t understand until years after I got my eating under control and got sober from sugar, but food was my main defense against being present and honest. And it was my first fortress against love. It did not matter how much love was sent my way. I had a wall up, and that wall allowed me to filter how much of it got in. I could take my love in easy-to-swallow, palatable doses. A lot of the love meant for me went to waste.

Being with this group of people was also interesting because I met them before I got sober from food. One of them was the one who sent me to get sober. Because of having known them for so long, I have memories, in my body, of how uncomfortable I was when I was eating compulsively. I could feel very clearly how free and peaceful I have become in the last 9+ years. I remembered how much I thought I had to hide then. I could feel so clearly, in contrast, how open I am now.

Another dear friend of mine talks about how getting sober from sugar and compulsive eating lets her discover who she really is, as opposed to who she was trying to be. And how she really likes the person she is discovering. That is my experience too. That in being who I am, I really like and love me. That I am happier being my flawed self than I was trying to be a perfect someone else.

So I am posing a question to you. (Yes, you. Who else?) Who would you be if you were totally yourself? What would it look like if you could let that true self be loved without filtering how much of the love you let in?

Otherwise how would I learn?

I’m on the road again today. To Kentucky for a bit. Maybe not more than a week. But I’m happy to be going.

My boyfriend and I were apart for 2 weeks. The longest since I moved in with him. And I didn’t like it.

It’s funny that when I lived in New York I used to fear/hate leaving home. Because food is easy at home. And now, I would rather be on the road with a cooler as long as I can be with him. My definition of home has changed. My definition of comfort too.

We will stay in an extended stay hotel so I can have a kitchenette. And there is a grocery store within walking distance. So it’s not as if I am flying by the seat of my pants with my food. And so far I haven’t had to. But I really think I could if it came to that. For a short stay in a small town.

But the other thing I get to do is not worry about that right now. That’s not what is going on right now. I only have to deal with now. I don’t have to figure out how to deal with vague possibilities in the distant and uncertain future.

When I was eating compulsively I would often give up before I started something. The fear of having to deal with hardships and discomforts that may or may not pop up was an excellent excuse to quit. And quitting gave me more time to get high on sugar.

But for today, right now, I am incredibly happy to have my eating under control, my food taken care of, and to be available for adventure. Or at least life in the form I chose it. Which happens to be rather adventurous.

I was not the kind of person who would have chosen a life of regular travel. I chose love, of course. And it happened to come in the form of wandering. But I have learned that life likes to give me things I don’t think I want. Otherwise how would I learn that I love them?

When the worst thing VD stands for is actually venereal disease and not that February 14th holiday…

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. And it was my first ever Valentine’s Day where I had a valentine. Ever. And I am 36 years old.

I didn’t need this Valentine’s Day to be a special day. And it really wasn’t. My boyfriend and I both worked a full 10 hour day plus commute. We came home and had dinner. We watched an episode of Heroes on Netflix. It was no big deal. But Valentine’s Day being no big deal was a VERY BIG DEAL for me.

I have very much hated the day for as long as I can remember. I didn’t even want the chocolate, though I was a sugar addicted compulsive eater. Because it came in a heart-shaped box which I was sure was only going to make the contents taste bitter. Like my heart.

Because I was sure that not only was I not going to get any romantic gifts that year, but I was never going to get any romantic gifts any year ever. I was going to be alone for my whole life. I was positive that I was fundamentally unlovable. And VD (as I used to call it) was a day when everything seemed to revolve around being single or not being single. Being loved or not being loved. Being somebody’s chosen, or being alone and neglected. It was about measuring up. And I not only didn’t measure up this time, I was never going to measure up.

For the first time, because I am in a relationship, I can look at the day with some clarity. Because it was too loaded for me to ever see it properly before. And I have to say, it is an unkind holiday to the single. I can see that there is first a kind of shaming of people who don’t have “a valentine.” There is an expectation that you should at least have something. A date. An admirer. A booty call. There is this underlying idea that to be alone on the day is pathetic.

And then there is a shaming of single people who hate it because they are being shamed. There is a clearly stated reprimand if you don’t like it, and especially if you say so. You are ruining it for everybody with your bitterness.

Seriously? Bitter single people are ruining your Valentine’s Day? Are you joking? It was so hard to choke down your chocolate? It made your filet mignon with the person you love taste bad? You had to throw away your bouquet of roses because you couldn’t stand to look at it while Bob and Mary were hating February 14th?

I have compassion for those who suffer on that day. I’m serious. Not pity. Compassion. Because I suffered too. I hated the holiday. And I felt ashamed of myself for hating it. And for being bitter. And I am so grateful that I have a new context, and can see it from a new perspective.

No, I did not shun this Valentine’s Day. I have to admit that it felt amazing to have someone to give a gift to because I love him so much. My boyfriend did indeed get heart-shaped chocolate from me. And I am graciously (and very happily) accepting my gift of being whisked away to Florida for a long weekend at the end of the month. But it didn’t feel amazing because I “finally” got chosen. It felt amazing because it’s him. Because I have a relationship that has continued to exceed all of my expectations. Because it took 35 years, but I ended up with love that is better than a fairytale. Because it’s not “happily ever after.” It’s a day at a time of honor, and respect, and laughter, and music, and Netflix, and dinner together, and grocery shopping, and laundry, and cleaning the oven, and making the bed, and mundane life.

Getting my eating under control gave me a ridiculous amount of clarity in my life. Not being high on sugar, not being obsessed with eating, not being obsessed with my body and my weight opened up so much room in my head for understanding, and critical thinking, and hearing my intuition. But for the 7 years that I had clarity but no romance, I could not have been this clear about Valentine’s Day.

This has been a powerful reminder for me. That there are still things that exist in my blind spot. That there are still things I can’t see, for all of my heightened perception and lucidity. That my life will continue to change as long as I continue to grow. And it is my intention to grow. It is what I want and what I work for. So I’m looking forward to the next time I get taken out of my own context and watch the world shift.

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