onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “metabolism”

Resenting other people’s metabolisms is making an ass out of you and me

There is a saying among the people I know who keep boundaries around their eating: Keep your eyes on your own plate.

I have mentioned before that I don’t watch food porn. I never watch the Food Network. If one of those recipe videos comes up on my Facebook newsfeed, I click that little arrow in the corner and choose to “see less from” and “hide all from.” I don’t want to see things I don’t eat. I don’t want to see cookies and cakes, and all manner of sugar bombs.

In the beginning of getting my eating under control, I felt like the Holiday Season was hard for me because I was a compulsive eater, and there was food everywhere. But the older (and more clear-headed) I get, I realize that the Holiday Season is hard for everyone. Fine, maybe not children. (Who am I kidding? Has there ever been a single child who did not have at least one meltdown in the overwhelm of the end of the year festivities? I’m going to go with no.)

Holidays are overly emotional times of year where we obligatorily visit with the people in our lives who know best how to upset, enrage, and mortify us. I am not saying that we don’t love our families. I am saying that family is difficult. For everyone everywhere. And for many, it’s sugar (or sugar’s delinquent brother alcohol), and not music, that soothes the savage beast.

Overeating is the rule and not the exception from Thanksgiving to January 2nd. Basically everyone gains weight over the holidays. It is so pervasive it is the topic of much holiday humor and the reason practically everyone’s New Year’s Resolution is to lose 5-10 pounds.

But there is something else I want to note, that I don’t think I understood until I got my own eating under control. People who don’t have eating disorders or weight problems might gain some weight over the holiday season, they might even be doing some comfort or binge eating to deal with the stress, but most of them are still managing their food. They give themselves a little leeway, but they are not eating whatever they want whenever they want. Some do this management unconsciously, and some do it in their heads, and some might even keep a log of it. But they are actively thinking about what they are eating, and what effect it is having on their bodies.

I have spoken about this with compulsive eaters who have boundaries around their food, or I have heard them speak of it, or read their writing on it. Many of us used to think that “naturally thin” people were eating the way we were eating and not gaining weight. We decided that we were unfairly cursed. But what was often happening was we were seeing people eat the way we were eating, but we were never seeing what they weren’t eating behind closed doors.

I might pig out with someone at a holiday meal, and not realize that they were not eating the rest of the day. Or they were going home to have, as a friend’s sister would say, “a bowl of chicken soup and half a cup of dry popcorn.” While I would have another meal, plus all of the leftovers that the host sent me home with.

People with a healthy relationship with food do not “eat whatever they want and not get fat.” Or if they do, it’s because whatever they want is a salad. Or a single piece of fruit, not dipped in chocolate. Eating high-sugar, high-calorie foods and not gaining weight is not the way life works.

I suppose there are people with crazy metabolisms, but they are few and far between. If you know someone you think is “naturally thin,” chances are that what they really are is “naturally conscious” of what goes into their bodies.

As an addict, I know that I cannot handle my sugar. I am incapable of stopping at one, or a taste, or a little. And I might mistakenly think that nobody else can stop after one, or a taste, or a little either. And if I hold onto that assumption, and look around, I might mistakenly believe that life must be incredibly unfair because they are not physically large.

But that would be a lot of mistaken assumptions. So I make a point to keep my eyes on my own plate. And there is something else I do, especially over the holidays. I make sure that my food is amazing. I make sure it’s decadent and delicious and abundant. I make sure that if, by accident, my eyes happen to wander onto another plate, that when I look back at my own, I am positively enraptured.

Knock knock. Who’s there? Dopamine and metabolism. Thank God!

I have had an exciting couple of weeks! I got my dopamine back! To tell you the truth, it didn’t occur to me that it went anywhere. But now that it’s back, it’s obvious. And my metabolism started back up again!

It’s funny. I knew that quitting smoking was affecting me. And it was clear from the weight gain that it was affecting me physically. But it didn’t exactly register that it was affecting me chemically.

I knew that I was not quite right. That I was having a hard time. I think I thought about it as a “spiritual” problem. Or a “mental” problem. I knew that I had to readjust the way I dealt with things. I knew I had to learn new coping mechanisms. And I definitely learned a lot about my feelings. And how to deal with them. And (one baby step at a time) how to honor my own life without regard to how I would be judged by others. And how to make decisions that honor my heart even if they seem unreasonable, or foolish. Or scary. But I didn’t understand that my brain had stopped producing happiness chemicals. That just like my body was going to have to heal, my brain was going to have to heal. I think I thought about it as mind over matter.

In practical terms, I suppose it is just mind over matter. At least in terms of waiting out the withdrawal. It’s the actions I take and don’t take in the end that make up my life. My self-respect. My character.

I don’t smoke. I don’t eat compulsively. I don’t eat sugar. I don’t take laxatives. I don’t make myself throw up. I don’t take any drastic actions. I don’t act out. I just live with the fact that it sucks until it stops sucking. It doesn’t matter how I feel. It doesn’t matter how much weight I gain. It doesn’t matter what thoughts I have. The promises I made to myself matter. Commitment matters. Everything else is vapor and ego.

What I have learned is that these commitments end up culminating as my self-respect. They are my self-esteem. They are my dignity. And I don’t need a substance to get high. I don’t need to eat sugars, grains or starches to numb out. Or create enough crazy to escape reality. I could skip a meal. And lie about it. And I would be just as high and sick and screwed up as if I ate a chocolate cake.

But I was keeping my commitments these past seven months, and still having dark thoughts. I was unhappy. And I couldn’t seem to “bright side and gratitude” myself out of it. On a good day, the best I could do was change the channel in my head and not obsess about how much I hated my body. Or what a loser I felt like. Or how I was certain that I’m unlovable and destined for loneliness. And on a bad day, all I could do was cry. And manage to not hurt or numb myself. All I could do was keep my promises to myself and live in pain.

And now that I can feel the relief, I can see how scary that time was. How it’s kind of a miracle that I came out on the other side with my integrity. I wrote in this blog that I was unhappy, but that I was not depressed. But I was wrong. I was absolutely depressed. But it was exactly that integrity that kept me from despair. My brain was incapable of producing happy without cigarettes. My dopamine levels dropped severely. But it was nothing like the horror of 28 years of sugar addiction and self hatred.

What is interesting to me is that I knew that it would pass, because I know that’s how life works. All things pass in time. But I didn’t expect it to pass all at once. I didn’t expect it to turn on a dime. I didn’t realize that my brain would just start producing dopamine again. I didn’t even know that my dopamine levels had dropped until this week when I realized I was happy again and googled “quit smoking depression”.

And as if it couldn’t get any better, my clothes are getting looser. I bought a very sexy dress when I gained the bulk of my weight. It was sexy because it was tight. Now it’s not tight. And it’s not so sexy anymore. Now it’s just a cute dress. And I can’t tell you how happy I am about that! Plus for the first time in many months, I have been hungry between my meals. (Is that you metabolism? I’m so glad you’re here! Why don’t you stay a while…)

So hooray for going through hell and coming out on the other side! And thanks to you for being there while I got through it. I’m hoping that I am now back to my grateful, joyful self. And that I’ll get to stay here for a while.

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