onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “New York City”

A city of not-so-secret admirers

I am in New York City for a few days. I’m here for a kind of conference. It’s a conference about eating disorders and getting your eating under control. It has been two days of community and fellowship. And I’m exhausted.

It’s good to be back. I like it here. There are things I had forgotten about living here. Things that I miss. Not all of it. I don’t miss the stress. People keep telling me I look so relaxed. And I am. There is a buzz in the city. Not always a pleasant one. Sometimes an anxious, neurotic, unfocused one. But there is something else here. Something that I used to thrive on and I don’t get it other places. New York is a city of show offs. Hence, it is a city of audience members. At any given moment, you are the player or the viewer. Looking to impress or be impressed.

Last week I was in tears over my body. Angry at God that I have not lost weight. Feeling fat and ashamed. Not wanting to come here. Worrying that I would be judged harshly for not being skinny.

But the truth is, I had been in the city for 20 minutes and I couldn’t even get the half mile to the farmers market without being admired. Without being called beautiful. Without being asked if I was having a nice day. Without being smiled at.

I had forgotten how much that was worth to my self-esteem. I had misunderstood what had changed. My beauty had not changed. My surroundings had. I had noticed that fewer men were making note of my attractiveness. I wondered if I was not aging well. If I was not a pretty as I had been. If it was because I was fat.

Now I just want to note that my boyfriend tells me I am beautiful every day. And I know he means it. And I love that. And need it. But, you know, he’s in love with me….

What coming to New York did was give me some perspective. That I live in a perfectly lovely body. That my weight is not affecting my beauty. And that, really, my weight is not a problem. All of these men kept telling me so in kind, gentlemanly ways. Not aggressive or objectifying. Just in admiration.

I will always have body image issues. Those will never go away. I know that. And they are not rational. I know that too. But I hope I get to take this with me back home. At least for a little while. This experience of being a beautiful woman among beautiful women. This knowledge that there is nothing to be ashamed of.

And, a woman at the conference said that her doctor recommended walking at night in order to jumpstart her metabolism. And she said it helped. So I am going to try that too! Not because there is anything wrong. Just because why not.

Stopping to smell the roses, the spices, the coffee, the cooking (but not the garbage. Hurrying past the garbage.)

I’m writing this from the airport on Thursday, though I won’t be able to post it untl Sunday because my time over the next three days is jam packed. I’m waiting to fly to New York City.

I spent yesterday cooking and packing my meals for the plane trip. Plus my meditation books and my food diary. And various accouterments that pertain to my food boundaries. Plus extra food just in case. And I only fly with carry on bags. So clothes are secondary. (Though of course I brought really cute clothes. I mean it is New York. Just not a lot of them. Food is more important.)

Clearing security means some changes to a lot of my regular eating habits. For instance, no yogurt (a personal favorite of mine). It also means no glycerin-based vanilla flavor. (In case you didn’t know, glycerin in airports tends to get you stopped, swabbed and checked.) And it means packing as small as possible. Again, not the norm for me. I love to eat! I am a quantity eater.

But I’m looking forward to a few days in the city with friends. And even more, I am looking forward to grocery shopping! No seriously!

I want to go to Fairway! I want to go to little India and buy flavors and tea in the shop that smells like exotic spices. I want to go to the farmer’s market for 1 lb apples.

I’m looking forward to walking! Walking from shop to shop. Passing bodegas and fruit and vegetable stands. Bouquets of flowers on the streets.

My boyfriend takes incredible care of me. If I want something, he makes sure I get it. Whether that is over the internet, or driving to the nearest big town. But living in smaller towns means there is one store for groceries. If I am lucky, there are two. I always always always get my needs met. But living in a one store town eliminates one option I miss (just a little bit – I love my life with him). Browsing.

When I lived in New York, Saturday was a day of lazy shopping. It was about strolling. I would mosey through the markets and shops. I would leave the house in the morning, and manage to make it back home in the early evening laden with apples and cantaloupes, brussels sprouts, heads of cauliflower, bunches of greens, turnips, radishes, flavors, teas, spices, and all manner of deliciousness. It was slow and easy. There was no hurry. It was as much about the experience as it was about the haul.

I am going to miss my boyfriend this next few days. I wish he were able to come with me. And I don’t miss New York now that I’m with him. I’m much happier with love than I was with farmer’s markets. But I sure am going to enjoy a couple of days of slow shopping where I get to drink in the sights, sounds, and smells.

I love you more than bacon. Just please don’t make me prove it.

So I’m unpacked and settled and happy at home. My new home. South. Hot and slow. And surprisingly enjoyable. I’m writing from the pool. And I’m wearing my bikini. In public.

I love it by the way. Wearing my bikini in public. I’m still a little insecure. Of course. I have a lifetime of thinking “nobody wants to see that.” But it’s my sun. And my summer. And my body. Just the way it is. And I am in love. And someone really amazing is in love with me back. Which makes my insecurities a little less. Seem a little silly. Who am I trying to impress? Plus it’s not New York City. It’s the south. Where people love their barbecue. And don’t care so much about body size.

I love the sun. And how it makes me look and feel. I’m allowed to just love it. It’s the first thing I am loving about leaving New York City.

And other things have changed already, as well.

When I stopped eating compulsively 7 ½ years ago, I went from eating constantly, to eating three times a day. But I still cherish eating. Or maybe “still” is the wrong word. I used to live to eat. Now I love to eat. Because I do it without guilt or shame. So I really wanted to relish those 3 times a day. I never wanted to share my meal times before. I always wanted to eat alone. I used to hole myself up in my room to eat. I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to think. I wanted to be entirely wrapped up in my delicious, glorious, guilt-free meal.

Another thing that happened when I put boundaries around my eating, is that I would go through long phases of eating the same things. I refer to periods of my life by foods I ate. There was the summer of turnip “french fries” and coffee shakes. There was the winter of baked custard. There was over a year when I ate deep-fried onions three times a week. I just recently ate carrot cake and pickles every night for dinner. All specially made by me, without sugar or flour, of course. All within my boundaries.

But I just moved. And some interesting things about my eating rituals have changed. Like there’s somebody to eat with. Not that my boyfriend eats the way I do. And I certainly don’t expect him to. Or wish he would. But it’s nice to sit across from him. Not somebody. Him. This man whom I moved half way across the country to be with. I’m not wishing somebody were there to eat lunch with during the week when he’s at work. But when we are together, sharing my meal times with him feels sacred. Like family. Like home.

And the things I have been eating since I got here keep changing. I have had so many different things and I haven’t even been home for a week. Plus there are new things I want to make. To try. I am looking forward to experimenting.

So here’s the epiphany I just had. Before I fell in love, food was my biggest source of joy. And experimentation was a risk. I was risking how much joy I would experience on any given day. So I didn’t. I wouldn’t take the risk. But now my joy comes from love. So I have more room to risk not loving my food.

Don’t get me wrong. I still really love my meals. And loving them is still really important to me. But I love my boyfriend more. (And that’s sayin’ something!)

The first thing I miss about New York

So I have left New York City. I don’t have a home there anymore. I’m officially living with my boyfriend now. But before we go home, we had to make a stop this weekend to go to a special first birthday party.

I love being with my boyfriend’s family and friends. He’s an amazing guy all the time, especially with me, but I love seeing his warmth and generosity with them. It’s a fantastic reminder that I have impeccable taste.

But let’s get to the big birthday party, with lots of food. I already know that most catered events are not for people like me, who don’t eat any sugar, grains, or starch. Ever. (No, not just this once.) Plus thinking that something might be ok for me to eat, (like it’s a green vegetable) but then still having to ask how it’s prepared isn’t the most agreeable part of my food boundaries. Especially when people don’t understand. (Of course, I don’t expect them to.) And they can’t imagine that it could be that big of a deal. “I’m not really sure how it’s prepared. But I’m sure it’s fine,” doesn’t actually mean it’s fine for me. And taking care of myself and my food needs is my own responsibility. The way I eat is high-maintenance. And I know that. So I can never expect someone else to take care of it for me. I wasn’t going to show up unprepared and hope for the best…

So I packed my lunch before the party. And I’m really glad I did, because about an hour or so in, I got really hungry. So I sat down with my boyfriend and pulled out my food.

All of a sudden I looked over, and a woman at the next table clearly said to the rest of her table, (with a malicious sneer, I might add. And lot’s of appalled emphasis.) “Look over there. That girl brought her own food.” And the rest of the table, about 6 people, proceeded to stare at me.

I really wanted to ignore them. But I couldn’t. And then I really wanted to show that it was incredibly rude. So I gave a pretty good what are you looking at? look to one of the people staring at me. (Who obviously got it, and proceeded to pretend to be watching the hockey game on TV behind me.) And I really wanted to be impervious to their judgment.

But here’s the problem, I can’t not give a f*ck. As much as I want to be indifferent and untouchable, I am not. It hurts me. It bothers me.

But even at that point, I was uncomfortable, but still ok. Until the person who was going around taking pictures of all the guests came by and wanted to take a picture of me and my boyfriend. And I had my tupperware out. And I could see it now. It would be immortalized in pictures. And I would eternally be that girl who brought a tupperware of her own food to this little girl’s catered first birthday party.

So when she asked if she could take our picture, I had a mouthful of lunch. And I looked at my boyfriend. And I started to cry.

He was great. He said, “Let’s just let her eat and we’ll take a picture later.” And we did.

Obviously, I’m going to eat the way that I eat. And it has been that way for years. I once brought my own food to one of my best friend’s big New York City wedding. But I have just thrown over the life I had for over 14 years. And I have been running around, saying goodbye, packing, sorting, throwing away, and generally moving nonstop for about 2 weeks to prepare for probably the biggest step I have ever taken.

I’m exhausted. And I feel like I’m under a lot of pressure. And I’m emotional. And I’m not home yet. And some woman who doesn’t know jack sh*t about my life decided it was ok to shame and humiliate me at a party I was also a guest at. So the first thing I miss about New York is that there, nobody gives a f*ck about how I eat, or what I do with my food. Or what I do in general. (As long as I don’t steal their cab or stop at the top of the subway stairs to look around before I get the hell out of the way.)

I looked fantastic yesterday. Because I keep boundaries around my eating. And I got to enjoy the company of my boyfriend and his family because I wasn’t obsessed with food and cake. But I’m glad it’s over now.

Nobody gets a say in how I eat. And I will never ever ever cross my food boundaries to please or accommodate someone else. Because I’m not normal around food. And I like me when my eating is under control. And I hate me when it’s not. And I have to live with me all the time.

I’m telling you this because I’m telling myself. And I am reminding myself that I can’t not care. That not caring never got me anywhere. That to not care is to shut down my heart. And I just finally got it open. And getting it open is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Even better than getting my eating under control. (Of course, opening my heart was only possible because my eating is under control. But you probably already knew that.) So I have to remember that being sensitive is part of being open and available and madly in love. And I don’t want to give that up for anything. Ever.

My life in boxes

This week’s post is early. And short. Because I have going away parties tonight and tomorrow. Plus I still have meals to prepare. Because life-altering moves are no reason to cross my food boundaries. (And thank God for that!)

It has occurred to me that I haven’t yet freaked out. I haven’t cried. I haven’t mourned. I haven’t panicked.

Maybe I won’t. Maybe.

But I love New York City. Obviously I love my boyfriend more. But I’m still going to miss this place. This city shaped me. I grew up here. From a 21-year-old, fat, compulsive eating, dishonest, bad at life, wreck of a girl to a beautiful, capable, woman of integrity. (Did I mention humble?) With a handle on my eating. In a body I love.

It will also always hold a very special place in my heart because I got my eating under control here. And this place made it easy for me. Or at least as easy as it could have been. If I needed to get out of my house at night because I was afraid of binge eating, I could go to a bookstore that was open until midnight. Or I used to go to a bar down the street from my apartment. In my pajamas. To read comic books and drink diet coke. Nobody gave me a hard time. Or even looked at me funny. It’s New York City. Neighborhood regulars are expected to be neurotic and weird.

Plus, you can find anything in New York City. So if I needed vanilla extract with no alcohol, I could find it. If I wanted pasta when I stopped eating sugar, grains and starch, I could find soy pasta. If I wanted a cantaloupe bigger than my head, or a 1 ½ lb apple, there were famer’s markets.

I never expected to leave. But when I look at my life, the way it has turned out, so many things make sense.

My boyfriend and I knew each other 23 years ago. When I wasn’t ready for him. So God sent me to the big city. To grow up. To learn about myself. To become the kind of person I wanted to be. To become the kind of woman I wanted to be. To dismantle my fortresses. And to learn to love myself. And to learn how to be awake and alive and good at life. Without being numb. To learn how to deal with my feelings. To learn how to stop eating compulsively.

New York City was a fantastic 14 ½ year adventure. I’m so grateful for my life here. Because of all of the things that I did here, I am available for this next adventure.

But by next week’s post, neither this apartment nor this city will be my home any longer. And as I look around at my life in boxes, I’m a little sad. Not sorry. Not for a moment. But a little sad. (Ahhh. There are the tears…)

If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. You just might not realize how good looking you are…

About 2 years ago, when I was skinny (and didn’t know it) my mom came to visit me in New York City. When she saw me her first reaction was “You’re so skinny!” And not in a you’re so beautiful way. In a should I be concerned for your health? way.

I, of course, scoffed. I was not skinny. I was thin, certainly. But not terribly so. I was regular. She was just used to me being about 10 lbs heavier.

Later, as we were standing in front of the restaurant waiting for my stepfather to join us after parking the car, my mom watched a woman walk by. She made a funny face when the woman was past and said something like, “Oh. Does everybody here just look like you?”

I think my response was something like, “Sorta. It’s New York City.”

I am bringing this up because until a few days ago, I was feeling big and fat and uncomfortable in my skin. But for the past few days I have been down south with my boyfriend again. And a lot of my body image issues have calmed down. I mean I look in the mirror and I am not any smaller. But I am not embarrassed. Or ashamed. I feel normal. Better than that. Beautiful. Sexy.

Of course, I am spending my time with a man who thinks I am incredibly beautiful and sexy. And I am sure that that helps.

But I knew that he felt that way about me when I was in New York. And I am in love with him. I was not walking around the city looking for male attention. I am perfectly clear that I am madly in love and don’t want anyone else. And yet even knowing that the man I love is deeply attracted to me, I felt fat. Big and gross and ugly. Or maybe just not good enough.

One thing I will say about New York City, often people don’t notice that I have special food needs when I eat in public. Because almost every New York woman is on a diet of some kind. Low fat. No fat. No carb. Just a salad. Dressing on the side. Is there oil in that? Can I get it with no oil? No potatoes, no toast. Can I get tomatoes instead of potatoes? Whites only. No skin. Steamed. Is it baked or fried? How big is it? Just one, two plates.

Women in New York City are hyper-aware of their food. Because they are hyper-aware of their bodies.

New York is filled with thin people. So many, that skinny seems to be average. I think it is self-perpetuating. You look around and see that the majority of people are thin, you work hard to stay thin. The woman you are looking at in comparison to you is looking at you. You are thin, she needs to stay thin.

And it is a culture of judgment. Everyone is being critiqued on their appearance at all times. Usually silently. But it’s around. It’s almost as if it is in the air. There’s an ad that was up in the subway for a while. “New Yorkers. Tolerant of your beliefs. Judgmental of your shoes.” It’s funny ‘cause it’s true.

Please don’t misunderstand. I love New York City. I love the fashion. And the energy. I love the people. And I even love some aspects of the “judging appearances” lifestyle. I love the parade we put on for each other. It’s a real-life runway show all the time. Love your dress! Fantastic shoes! Where did you get that bag? Fabulous!

And I am the one with the issues. I have the eating disorders, and the body image problems. They live in my own brain. I am the one judging my body and my beauty. And my worth based on my body and my beauty. Nobody else gets to dictate how well I love myself.

But being away has me see that the city has its stresses for a girl like me. That it makes it harder for me to love myself the way I am.

I guess more about my body image disorders will become clear as time goes by. I have the whole rest of a life to deal with them. And get to know them better. And I’m sure that they will morph and change as I do. But it’s nice to be in a place, and a time where I can enjoy my body as it is, and not have it be an issue.

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