onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “peace”

Can I Borrow a Feeling (iykyk)

I am obsessed with feelings. I have always been obsessed with feelings. But in the past 5-10 years, I have come to understand a lot about the reality of that.


What I mean is, when I was eating compulsively I wanted feelings. But I only wanted the feelings I wanted. Comfortable feelings. And when I say comfortable, I don’t mean pleasant, I mean any feelings I wanted to feel. Feelings with a payoff.

When I was a kid, I watched the same movies over and over again. I know that this is not unusual for kids. For the most part all kids do this. But I also did it well into my twenties. And not just with movies. When learned to read and I got into books, I read the same books over and over again. For many years I read all of Jane Austen’s novels at least once a year. And sometimes more often than that. And I had other books that I would keep going back to. I think it was easier for me to pick up an old familiar book or movie than to delve into a new one. Especially if the familiar one gave me the kinds of feelings I wanted. The feelings I already knew I loved. Revelatory relief, vindication and victory after deep humiliation, love against all odds, and selfless sacrifice, to name a few.

There were also in-real-life feelings that I cultivated over others. I still loved vindication, but also hilarity and pride. I was good at despair, resignation and righteous indignation too. I was comfortable with these. I knew what I would get from these emotions.

But when I got my eating under control, this particular skill set, the ability to curate my emotions, especially through media, was a solution to a problem. I have mentioned before that when I first put boundaries around my eating, I watched the same anime series over and over again. (It’s called Fushigi Yuugi, in case you are curious. People have asked in the past.) I would play the 3 dvds in order from the first episode to the last, and then just put the first episode right back on. By the end of that first two years, I wasn’t even having the feelings anymore. The sad parts didn’t make me cry. The romantic parts didn’t make me flutter. The funny parts didn’t make me laugh. But I still got the echo of those familiar, comfortable, desirable feelings.

I’ll tell you what that did for me, though. It quelled the cravings for sugar. It got me high without getting high. It helped me manage my feelings until my feelings were more manageable.

Now I only occasionally go back to reread books, or rewatch movies or shows. (With a Goodreads goal of 100 books a year, there is no time for slacking!) Though when I do, it is always because they offer the kinds of feelings I want to cultivate. 

But I am no longer afraid of new feelings. I have learned that what I feel doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone but me. I don’t have to act out in my rage or my fear or my sadness. I can feel what I feel, and still act according to my values. And if I want to manage my difficult feelings, I have tools for that too. 

I got the opportunity to understand all of this because I am not eating compulsively. Eating did things to my feelings; changed them, muted them, buried them, warped them, but never let me move past them. In having my eating under control, I can feel my naked, real feelings. And then I can let them go. Unless they are worth keeping, and then I can hold them dear.

It Sucked, But Then It Passed: A Life Story

This past week was challenging. In particular, because so many things happened all at once. One of the wheels on one of our sliding glass shower doors broke, so we couldn’t touch that door at all, or the door would fall off the track into the tub and inevitably shatter. But then, our pipes got clogged and we had to call a plumber to snake out the tree roots that grow in our pipes sometimes. (It’s an old house with old pipes in a neighborhood with a lot of trees.) So we needed to make sure everyone knew not to touch the door while neither of us could be there personally. And of course that was also the day the mechanic called to say that my car, which had been damaged in a small accident a month ago, was finally ready to be picked up. And we had been paying a lot of money for a rental car. All while I’m working 12-13 hour days with an hour commute each way, and my husband is doing the same, only also on Saturday and he works the night shift. 

Thankfully, I know how to ask for help. My mom and step-dad really came through for me. Coming to my house to deal with the plumber, *and* picking up my car from the body shop. 

I also know how to take care of things myself. I drove my rental back to the airport, and took a ride share back home on my own so my husband and my mom didn’t have to deal with that as well after doing so much. 

And my husband ordered parts for the shower door and managed to fix it himself. Though the parts didn’t come until after the plumber came. 

In other words, it all went to hell in a day or two, and within another day or two, all of it was resolved. 

This too shall pass. 

I don’t want to say that it was easy. And it would be a lie to say that my husband and I didn’t fight over logistics, and who needed to be responsible for what. Because we did. Because we are both tired and overworked and having emergencies come up in our personal lives, while we are already putting out work fires left and right, is a lot, and sometimes felt like it was more than we could handle. Or at least more than *I* could handle. But in the end, it was manageable. And together, and with help, we managed.

When I was eating compulsively, I could never see a way out of any difficult situation. It always felt like every problem would persist eternally. And that terrified and troubled me. And it often made me make stupid, reckless decisions. Or paralyzed me so I couldn’t do anything at all, a kind of stupid, reckless decision in itself.

The truth is, I can’t usually see a way out of difficult situations now, either. The difference is, I know now that all things pass. I know that situations change and work themselves out. I know that resistance usually makes things worse, not better. I know that if you ride the ups and downs, they all smooth out in the end.

That surrender, that willingness to trust that this or that rough patch will get worked out, either by me, or someone else, or perhaps just by life, is something I got only by putting boundaries around my eating. The addict in me has no use for patience or peace or trust. Chaos was a great chance to retreat from the world and eat a cake. Both because I wanted to forget the chaos, and because I got so high on the cake.

When I was in the food and eating compulsively, my life was mostly trouble and chaos with very few moments of peace and clam, or at the very least it felt that way. Since getting my eating under control, my life is mostly peace and calm, with a few moments of trouble and chaos. Part of that is my perception. But part of that is also my ability to take action with a clear head in the face of fear. The fear has always been there. It just gets less of a say in my life now.

“How do I flip this PDF?”and other terrifying questions.

I have been having a hard time thinking about what to write today. Because all I do right now is work. But I suppose there is something to say about work in my food addiction blog. It’s about what I sometimes call my “primordial brain,” and how much of my thinking stems from a deep seated expectation that I am always in trouble. 

Regularly in my job, my boss will call me into his office. And every time he does, my immediate thoughts are that I am in trouble. That I have royally screwed something up. That I have single handedly, through some colossal data entry error, cost my company *billions* of dollars. And every time he calls me in, it is over some form of IT trouble he is having. Why won’t this print 11×17? How do I flip this PDF over? How do I get rid of/add this line to a Word doc?

For over a month I have been having a mild panic attack every time he calls out to come to his office. Even though I have never been in trouble. Because being in trouble is so old and historic that it lives in my body like a truth.

So here is why having eating boundaries saves my life. When my eating is under control, I can feel the primordial panic, tuck it away into a far corner of my brain, and walk into the office. Once it is clear that I have not cost the company billions and brought ruin upon my home and family for all of eternity, the little nugget of panic can fall away. 

But if I were eating my drug foods, that panic would eat at me. I would hear that call and immediately begin cataloguing all of the things I did wrong. Or potentially did wrong. Or could be perceived as wrong by someone in charge of my job. I would be coming up with excuses to make and people to blame for problems that didn’t even exist. I would be figuring out how to avoid going into that office. The point is that even if I didn’t do anything wrong, I would do “wrong,” or desperate, or disingenuous things to avoid getting in trouble. I would be *making* trouble for myself to get out of my fear of being in trouble. It wouldn’t matter that I had not done anything wrong in the first place. 

When my eating is under control, I see things clearly. I see myself clearly. And I don’t have to project my greatest, and unfounded fears onto the future. I can stand up, walk into the office and face whatever there is to face. Like a frustrated boss asking, “why can’t I open this attachment?”

A life beyond your wildest dreams will spoil you for anything less

Oh guys. This one is going to be short because I am tired. 

I worked 56 hours this week. Fifty-six. And that doesn’t count my hour commute each way. (Thank heaven for audiobooks! They make the commute a pleasure rather than a chore.) If you know me, you know this is not how I roll. I like a lot of free time. I like my time even more than I like money.

Since I took this job (19 days ago. Not even 3 full weeks.) the workload for me alone has increased fourfold. And my husband, who was not even on this job, has agreed to run the night shift. An actual night shift. Until December. So we will barely see one another for the rest of the year. 

Here’s the thing. I am not entirely unhappy. I do really like the job just because I am that good at it. In many ways, this job was custom made for me. I was trained for exactly this kind of detailed tracking. And the company I work for just gave me a *huge* raise. I mean, I asked for it, but they gave it to me. 

But I am tired. And I hate the idea that I won’t get to spend time with my husband. I married him because I genuinely love his company. We have talked about the times we can spend together. 4 am, my wake up and before his bedtime. The time we may be at work at the same time when he has a break. And I am trying to work out the best way to get the job done and still take care of myself. How to fit in my run and my meditation and my full night’s sleep and cooking my meals for the week.

Because, as I have said in this blog before, self care is not all bubble baths and spa days. Self care kind of sucks. I don’t want to wake up at 4 to run. But I do. I don’t want to spend hours of my precious weekend cooking for the week. But I do. I don’t want to stop and meditate and have to be still for 3 minutes when I am busy and already feel like I don’t have enough hours in the day. But I do. (OK, mostly I do. I sometimes forget. But I am committed to 3 minutes daily.) I don’t want to put down whatever I am doing to go to bed….Actually, nope. That last one was a lie. I like the shit out of going to bed.

Having my eating under control gives me the possibility of enjoying living the life I have instead of lamenting the life I think I should have. It lets me be flexible. It lets me prioritize. And it keeps me clear about the reality of my situation. If I come to be miserable, if it starts to hurt my marriage, if I make myself sick, I know that I can ask for help, or back off my hours, or even just quit. Having my eating under control lets me see myself clearly, my options clearly, and the reality of my situation clearly. 

Putting boundaries around my eating offered me a life beyond my wildest dreams. I am not going to settle for less than that anymore. So for now, I am going to do the best job I can. And if it ever no longer serves me, I know that I can move on. I will trust that life is giving me what I need, and that it will continue to do so.

Boundaries are a Love Language

I am planning a fun little trip to LA in September. I will fly in on a Thursday, and out on a Monday. I am specifically going to see a friend, and my husband doesn’t want to take the time off of work because we are planning a big Florida trip in October. So I will be going go by myself. And in making my plans I got in touch with my friend about dates and times and whatnot. And she very generously, and very kindly, told me that she would only have a certain amount of time to give me in the days I will be there. And can I just say, I freaking loved it!

One thing I understand now after 15 years of having boundaries around my eating is that as a person with boundaries, I love it when other people have boundaries too.

The truth is that I was not expecting my friend to give me all of that time in LA. I’m a loner, by nature. I can and do amuse myself alone. All the time. I am good at it. I enjoy my own company. But knowing, in no uncertain terms, what I can expect, what I can ask for, what is on offer, and what I will be responsible for makes my life easier.

Boundaries are a life tool. They are how I manage my priorities and my time for myself. They are how I organize and create my day and my experiences. But when offered up to someone else, they are a kind of love language. This is how you can care for me. This is how you can honor me. This is how you can respect me.

Before I got my eating under control, I did not have any boundaries. And I hated other people’s boundaries. I wanted to please people so they would like me. But that is not how people pleasing works. People pleasing makes people like what you can do for them. They stop seeing the person, and only what can be gained from the person. I didn’t have any way to say no, so I would give more than I could and then behave badly when I couldn’t take any more. I was “an exploding doormat.” I let you walk all over me until I blew up.

In setting boundaries, in taking care of my own needs first, I don’t need to blow up. I can walk away. I can disengage with love. I have told you how I will be treated. And I *will* be treated with the respect that I dictate. Or I will walk away. 

My relationships are very different now than they were when I was eating compulsively. I like myself better. I like the people in my life better. Not because they are different, but because I am different. Because I have set the tone of respect and honor. Because I offer honor and expect it in return. And the people from my past who could not or would not learn to honor me and allow me to honor them, have all fallen away. 

Because there is another little tidbit to this. To set a clear boundary is to preempt drama. To speak your truth, and ask for what you want, and make clear what you have the capacity to give, is to give shape to expectations.

My first boundaries were around my food. But those boundaries I set for myself forced me to set them for others. If I wasn’t going to eat sugar and carbohydrates, I had to say no when my beloved grandma wanted me to eat her spaghetti and meatballs. Or when someone brought a cake especially for my birthday, or when someone wanted a taste of my meal that I had weighed out and committed and could not share. 

I am eternally grateful for the gift of having my eating under control for many reasons. But learning to have and keep boundaries is one of the most useful and freeing aspects of that gift.

Would you [date] me? I’d [date] me.

I really like my husband. A lot. I am a fan. I have a very happy marriage.

I feel like this should be an obvious thing. Of course I would like the person I married. Of course I am a fan of my partner. Isn’t that why we chose each other? Isn’t that why anyone chooses a partner?

It turns out that this is not an obvious truth for a lot of people.

This week my husband came home from work and said one of his crew members was being a jerk on the phone to his wife in front of everyone. Making faces to show his disdain for her to the other guys, while being rude and patronizing to her. 

Somehow it came up that he asked my husband if he liked his wife. (Me!) And he said “I adore my wife.” (Well, that is what he told me, anyway. Swoon.) He said “We like and respect each other.” (Give me a sec. I’m going to have to swoon again.)

The reason I am bringing this up is being a recovering addict is the primary reason I have a happy marriage. I got the tools to be who I want to be in a relationship by getting my eating under control and then living in a way that I could keep my eating under control, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I grew up fat and sugar addicted. And in that time my relationship to love and romance was twisted and sad. I thought for all of that time that being fat made me unlovable. And I am not going to go into it today, but being fat really is a huge obstacle to dating in US culture. And it is not about attraction. Because I certainly had plenty of that kind of attention. It’s about what it says about you (especially as a man) when you date a fat person. The implication being that you must be somehow lacking, because if you were better, you could have a thin person. If you were better, you could do better than fat.

So needless to say, when I got my eating under control, and I lost a lot of weight, and was a total knockout by societal standards, I expected to find the man of my dreams right away. I thought the problem had been my fatness, and now that I was not fat anymore, it was inevitable that “The One” would be right there. 

But “The One” didn’t show up! In fact he wouldn’t for over 6 years!

But in that time I got some advice from a woman who does what I do with food. She had been single for many years like myself and she had just recently found her wife. And she said to me, “Stop looking, and take this time to make *yourself* into the person you want to date.”

And I’ll be damned if that didn’t work!!! I don’t think I had really ever thought before about what someone would get by being with me. I was too wrapped up in what I would get from them.

But then I got “The One” and I had zero experience in being in a romantic relationship. And boy, was that a learning curve.

One of the most important things I learned in addiction recovery is that I am responsible for cleaning my side of the street. I am the one who has to right the wrongs I have done. I have to make amends for the ways I have done harm. I have to acknowledge my part and fix what I broke. 

So much of my relationships for all of my pre-boundary-life was shifting blame. It was to never admit to anything bad. It was to manipulate all situations so that I looked like either the hero or the victim. Especially when I was actually the perpetrator.

Some things I learned through my recovery about being in a relationship include that my husband is a grown-ass man and he must be allowed to make his own choices without my nagging or unsolicited advice. That I don’t get a say in how he does things, and that if I think it’s important for a thing to get done a certain way, I better do it myself. That I must not take his emotions personally, and he is allowed to have feelings that I find difficult. That Ruth Bader Ginsburg was onto something when she said “Sometimes it helps to be a little deaf.” That not everything needs to be a conversation. Sometimes I need to work things out for myself, and often, something that irks or annoys me is really my own problem and has nothing to do with him. (Look, sometimes we have to have a conversation about something that has upset me. Obviously. But I don’t go in assuming it is all his fault.) But maybe most importantly, that I must give him the benefit of the doubt. My husband is a good man who loves to provide material things, but also, a happy home. So I spend a lot of my marriage energy making sure he feels comfortable and peaceful in the space we are creating together. It’s about the way I respond to a question with a generous spirit, or give him my attention when he asks for it, or anything else I can do to let him know that our marriage is the most important relationship in my life.

And in return I get the same. I get a man who likes and respects me as much as he loves me. I get days filled with laughter and affection. I get honest communication from a position of resolution rather than “winning.” I get appreciation and honor. I get a happy home and a happy home life. 

I don’t think I would ever have been able to be the wife I am if I had not put boundaries around my eating. I don’t know if I would have been able to get out from under my own selfishness or victimization. I don’t know if I would have been able to see my own bad behaviors or cruel actions in the food fog and downward spiral of my sugar addiction. And I don’t know that I ever would have been in the vicinity of someone with the life changing advice that I should make myself into the person I wanted to date. But even if I had, I can’t imagine I would have been able to take it.

Managing in my contentment

It is sometimes the hardest to write this blog when I am happy. And I am happy now. I am content. My life is free of real-world drama and filled with fictional drama, exactly how I like it. But it makes it hard to think of something to write here.

When I was eating compulsively, my life was filled with drama. And not the kind I find in novels and comics. 

I sometimes write about learning the skill of changing thoughts. In fact I wrote about it last week. And for the most part it is not really something I deal with consciously anymore. Because I have already done 2 things. 1) Created a new set of “default settings,” and 2) learned to keep my mind elastic enough that changing my mind is not that complicated.


My default settings growing up were always selfish and nearly always to argue. I did not trust anyone to do anything in my best interest. I expected the worst from people. Or I had a thought about the way something or someone should be and any deviation from that created a need to fight in me. Well…fight or manipulate. I was a better manipulator. I was a kid, and I knew that kids don’t win fights. At least not fair fights.

My current default settings are to trust. They are to trust Life, but that also means to trust people. I don’t mean blindly. I am sure I will never be that trusting. I am not now, nor do I expect I will ever be a “turn the other cheek” kind of girl. If you got the one cheek, that’s life. But I don’t believe in anything like a Christian heaven. So the other cheek will stay facing the direction it is, thank you.

But there is a relief to trusting first. I don’t think I ever understood to how much energy I used in being constantly ready for battle. There is peace in not always expecting war. This is obvious in retrospect. And certainly when you put words to it like battle and war and peace. But growing up it felt like the way it was. It felt like reality. I didn’t understand what choices I had or even that there were choices. I felt like the world, or life, or other people threw circumstances at me and I had to throw them off as best I could in order to just survive. How exhausting.


And as I said last week, I have learned how to change my mind. I know how to stop a thought in its tracks. I know how to change a thought. I know how to switch my focus. It’s not always easy to accomplish, but it has stopped being hard to fathom. The obstacles to it are usually about pride and self-righteousness, or about not wanting to give up my grasp on something, or about not wanting to lose. They are about being right and wanting to be right. They are about willingness, not capability.

Growing up addicted to certain foods affected my braid chemistry which affected my thoughts which affected my actions which affected my habits which affected my food. My food life and my inner life were like an echo chamber, feeding and reinforcing more of the same, taking me deeper and keeping me ever more entrenched.


What changed was I changed my food. I stopped giving myself the fix. I stopped giving myself the drug foods that perpetuated the same cycle. I interrupted the pattern in a very specific, concrete way. I did not only change my mind, though I did, indeed, do that too. But I also acted differently. I acted differently by eating different foods and that stopped a literal, physiological, chemical reaction. And then I continued to do that until what felt normal to me was something new. Something I created.

I created my own peace. It was not easy. And it was not immediate. And it is not even done yet. I am still working at it and growing into to it and pushing toward it. But I created it for myself and made myself into a different person.

I made myself into a person I wanted to be. And now that person is happy and content. And happy, peaceful me still managed to write a blog post in the midst of all of my contentment, so wins all around I guess.

I do what I want and have the privilege of knowing it.

I feel like my life is finally opening up again. Tomorrow I get my second COVID vaccine shot. My husband and I have a new job lined up for the not-so-distant future. And I am doing some planning and plotting for some fiction writing. (Plot is hard, for those of you who don’t know.)


I have been very happy to stay home and not deal with people for the past year. I am absolutely a home body who can contentedly consume and\or create art and media with little to no human interaction. (Besides my husband. I’m certainly grateful to have shared our space together for this long stretch. I would definitely not have felt so comfortable being alone without him, home body or not.) But the truth is that I am excited to see our friends again. I am looking forward to hugging people. I even want people to come to our house. And I almost never want that!

But lets go back to fiction writing. When I was eating compulsively, I had a warped relationship to time. I didn’t have a clear idea of how long things took. I didn’t have any skill with planning my day. I was late for everything. I didn’t know what could be done and what could not. I lived as if wanting to do something should necessarily create the time in which to do it. And I was frustrated and angry at life when it did not.

Getting my eating under control didn’t change my relationship to time over night. It changed because it became wrapped up in the idea of commitment. First with the food. I had a commitment to eat three meals a day. To have the first meal between 6am and noon, the second between noon and 4pm, and dinner before midnight. And sometimes that meant stopping what I was doing in order to eat. It meant looking at the time I had and making sure I could fit meals in. Eventually my commitments grew and I needed to fit time in for those as well.

And that made me prioritize. Meals have been first priority for the whole time I have had my boundaries. But then other things became second and third priorities too. Sleep. Exercise. Rest. Creating. Being places on time. Working to make enough money to pay my bills. (Believe it or not, this was not a priority before I got my eating under control. How did I live? With a lot of stress.)

When I started working for my company a few years ago, I had not been working regularly and I had been writing fiction. (My husband was working.) But when I took on my job, I gave up writing. I stopped consciously. It didn’t peter out or fall by the wayside. I made a calculated decision that reading, knitting and crochet, sleeping, and quality time with my husband were all more important than writing when the majority of my time was going to a good job making good money, on top of all of my other commitments. And in working full time I had the added time suck of having to prep meals for the week since I would no longer be home to make them on the spot. 

It was a gift to make the choice. I didn’t have to feel resentful of the things I was doing over the things I was missing. I could honor the path I chose. And in choosing it I was free to change my mind and choose something else. I could have, but I didn’t. Until now? 

Lately I have been thinking about writing again. I have a new novel bouncing around in my head. And the prospect of writing it is both exciting and daunting. And I don’t know what I want to do about it. Or if I am going to be willing to make time to write when I am back to my 40-hour-a-week job. But I know how to use priorities as a tool. And I first learned that by making my eating boundaries a priority. 

I found that once I understood how to choose my priorities and use them for living, I was free to find peace around the choices I made, and to love my life the way it is. Because I *knew* that I chose it.

The honest to god truth is that we are all choosing our priorities every day. But some of us don’t know it yet. It seems easier to blame situation and circumstance. But once I chose my commitments, I had power over my life. So I am going to make writing fiction a priority. For now. And if I don’t like it, I can change my mind. It’s my life and my time. I do what I want. And I have the privilege of knowing it.

I still love food. I just don’t feel bad about it anymore.

I love to eat. It is my favorite thing to do. That did not change when I put boundaries around my eating. In fact, it got so much better.

For almost all of the first 28 years of my life, I had a very complicated relationship with food. I loved food, and I loved to eat. It was my friend and my solace. But I was fat. And I was judged and harassed and tormented for it. And that made eating humiliating. Because when you are fat, everybody treats you like what you eat is their business.

And I also did not have control over my eating. I could not stop when I wanted to. I could not have one and walk away. I could not “just push away from the table.” 

People often talk about chasing that first high, but I have been addicted to sugar for longer than I can remember. I don’t have any recollection of that first high. I just knew that I wanted to have a thin body, and that I hated my fat body, and that I still could not manage my eating.

So food was my best friend in secret and my worst enemy out in the world. To be a fat person who openly loves to eat is to be a target. It opens you up to the judgment of family, friends and strangers alike. You are accused of promoting ill health, and of propagating such deadly sins as gluttony and sloth. 

But when I eat within my boundaries, boundaries that don’t include my addictive drug foods, I eat guilt-free. And when I keep that promise to myself, to eat within my strict parameters, I don’t have to even acknowledge judgments about it. My food and my body ceased to be anyone else’s business in my own mind. Because my food and my body were never anyone else’s business. But I didn’t know because I was all wrapped up in the simultaneous shame and euphoria of eating to get high.

If the only way to get my eating under control was to stop caring about food, I never would have been able to do that. I needed to be able to work with what I had. And I already had a deep love of eating. So now I use the food as a defense against the food. I eat the most delicious meals I can 3 times a day. And they don’t include foods I am addicted to. And that means that I still love to eat. But I don’t have any of that guilt or shame. I don’t feel like I need to hide it. And it doesn’t control me anymore with cravings.

Contentment: It’s not about where I am but where I’m going.

I have been off of work this week while I wait to get assigned to a new job. I have been cleaning my house and listening to audiobooks. Working out in the afternoon instead of first thing in the morning. I have been enjoying the freedom to get things done in my own time and on my own schedule. And I am feeling ridiculously content. 

Contentment is absolutely a direct result of having my eating under control. I don’t think I ever experienced it until I was literally years into having boundaries around my eating. Perhaps when I was a very small child I was content. But definitely not once I was school-age. For nearly all of my memorable life, I was anxious, worried, fearful, unhappy, and/or overwhelmed. Life was hard for me. Not because I got a bad one. In fact, on paper I got a great one. But that didn’t really matter. It didn’t mean I was happy. It didn’t mean I was grateful. I was not. 

I think a thing that happens to a lot of people is that we can see how good we have it, and it makes us think we *should* be happy. We can see who has it worse. We can see the disparities and it makes us feel like jerks. And society tells us we are jerks. There are children starving. There are kids with nothing. We have it so much better than the ones who came before us.

And all of those things might be true. But what getting my eating under control has taught me is that it is ridiculous to compare my life to anyone else’s. For the good or the bad. It is not a competition. It is not a race. It is not a zero sum game. There is no winning or losing. There is only my experience and my journey. There is only my path, and the places my path intersects with other paths. 

There is a saying that people who do what I do with food say: Keep your eyes on your own plate. This is practical advice. That person may be eating cake, but I don’t need to look at the cake. I don’t need to judge the cake eater. I don’t need to be jealous of the cake eating. And I don’t need to romance thoughts about the cake. I don’t need to focus on who has what I don’t. Especially when I have a full plate right in front of me. (Especially especially when my plate has bacon and homemade chocolate ice cream and melt-in-your-mouth carnitas.)

There is always a thing I think I want, because someone else has it. Sometimes I read a book that is so good, or beautiful,or creative that I am insanely jealous that the writer both had it in them, and could get it out so perfectly. Sometimes I see a dress that is so stunning I ache for it, but it is prohibitively expensive or made for a different body type than mine, and I have to mourn that I cannot have it. Sometimes I see someone do something I have no talent for, like drawing, or ballet, and I get frustrated that I cannot simply have it just because I want it. 

This used to seem so unfair. I was filled with envy and cruelty and shame. 

In these past 15+ years of keeping my eating boundaries, I have learned to treat the acquisition of skills as a practice rather than a gift. If I want to learn ballet, I can learn. I may not have a natural talent, or be naturally shaped the way most ballet dancers are, but I could study it if I wanted to. I could practice. I could try. I could put in the hours and the sweat. I don’t know what the results would be. But that really wouldn’t matter. I could write a book if I wanted. I could read up on the craft, and plan and plot, and sit in front of the blank page and see what uniquely me thing came out. I could give up on the expectation of genius or grace or perfection. I could be willing to make bad art.

One of the best lessons I have learned in my life is that in order to make great art, you have to be willing to make bad art. This is not just about art. I have learned to be willing to make bad life too.

The contentment that comes from having my eating under control is about accepting what is so, deciding what I want, and taking actions to create the life I want to have. It is about eliminating expectations and being willing to do something, anything, without knowing that it will turn out the way I want it to. It is about doing for the sake of doing. And not for the outcome. 

When I was eating compulsively, food was control, even if my eating was out of my control. Food helped me control feeling my feelings, which felt entirely out of my control most of my life. If those feelings were too much for me to handle, food made me numb, so I didn’t have to handle them. Getting my eating under control helped me control the experience of those feelings without feeling like I had to control the results. I could let them wash over me, use them as sign posts and guidelines, and then make choices with my higher self: my head, my heart, and my conscience.

I am still an anxious person. I am still an addict. I am still occasionally jealous and regularly ache for something that seems out of reach. But more than any of those things, I am content. I learned to choose what I already have first, and to strive for something better second. I learned to put in the time and the effort and let the chips fall where they may. I learned to define myself by how willing I am to move forward, rather than where I stand at any given moment.

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