onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “peace”

Commitments, alarms, and reminders. Oh my!

I set alarms for so many things in my life. Just now, an alarm went off asking if I posted a blog this week. And the answer was no, and I had totally forgotten. But I had an alarm set, so here I am.

Before I got my eating under control, I had people in my life, people I paid in either time or money, like a personal trainer, and a life coach, telling me to make plans, and keep those plans, regardless of how I felt. And I refused. Where was the joy in that? What about spontaneity? What about fun? What about what I “felt like” or “had a craving for?” What about eating out with friends or last-minute adventures?

When I got my eating under control, I realized how much I was self-sabotaging by clinging to what I thought was spontaneity and fun, but was really just an out to let myself not do something uncomfortable. I didn’t want to plan what I was going to eat because then, if I didn’t follow through, I might have to look at myself. If there was no rule, there was no rule to break, and no behavior to scrutinize.

The truth is that 1) planning makes it easier, not harder, to eat out with friends and take on last-minute adventures. With my eating under control and firm boundaries around food, there are fewer moving parts. The food has to hit certain marks. Once those marks are hit, everything else can be pretty loosey-goosey. And 2) the things that I was fighting against were not boredom or monotony, but long-term fulfillment.

Instant gratification and long-term fulfillment occupy the same space, so you can really only choose one. If I don’t want to go for a jog, I can think of a million excuses not to. I need the sleep, my hip is tight, I should do x instead. But what happens is it becomes easier to not jog. Every time becomes easier. And suddenly, I don’t do that anymore.

That is how every diet ever worked for me. I went on a diet. Instant gratification won once. Then it gradually became the norm. Then I was not on a diet. Then I gained back all the weight I lost, and then some.

I love my life of rules and reminders. I love my alarms. I love the sameness of people calling me every day at the same time to make a commitment of what they will eat the next day, and my call every day at the same time, to commit to what I am going to eat the next day. To have a plan and a commitment to that plan. To have a witness and to be a witness.

I won’t pretend that I am a particularly spontaneous person, though I have my moments. My rigorous adherence to my rules and reminders and commitments gives me a great sense of peace. And I cherish that peace. But also, I have made some bold choices and some daring leaps, because I am grounded in my commitments. After all, I left my home and my city about a month after I re-met my husband, to start a new relationship where I travel around the country with him, constantly moving. That’s pretty bold, if I do say so myself.

I did not used to like promising things to myself. And I used the excuse of freedom. But I was never free until I gave myself boundaries. Since I put boundaries around my eating, I have found that many things that seem counterintuitive are absolutely right. Boundaries lead to freedom. Commitment leads to spontaneity. Rigidity offers fluidity.

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You are what you eat. You eat what you think.

I am a believer in language. I believe that the language we use not only expresses what we mean, but, in part, helps to create the world we live in. That it shapes our perceptions, which in turn, create our reality.

When I meet people who are trying to give up sugar and carbs, I discourage certain words and phrases. For example, I recommend they stop saying they are giving up the “foods they love,” or “favorite foods.” I recommend they not say they “miss” those foods. I suggest they not think fondly of the memory of those foods. That, in fact, they not think about those foods at all. Those foods are making them miserable. They are hurting and tormenting them. They are like an abusive partner. I believe we, as sugar addicts, need to stop telling ourselves things like “ but I love x” and “but y is so good.” These things are killing us. It’s like saying that you are bummed about having the black eye, but your abuser is a good guy. Remember all the times he bought you flowers?

My relationship with sugar and carbs seems pretty close to that kind of abusive relationship. The truth is that food was there for me at first. It wooed me by helping me get through life as a kid. I needed it to cope with a lot of unhappiness. But it turned on me pretty quickly. And by that point I was trapped. Or at least I felt trapped.

So now my “favorite foods” only include foods that I can eat within my boundaries. I only “love” foods that keep me nourished and sane. I don’t “miss” foods I am addicted to. Because peace and freedom are the most important things to me. And I don’t want to create a reality where my “favorite” things are things that are killing me and my happiness.

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.

Here’s to a peaceful 2018 for me. And wishing you growth in whatever form you choose.

Since it’s New Year’s Eve, I have been thinking a lot about this past year. It was a rough one for me emotionally. I have been tense and on edge more than I used to be.

But there is something else that happened this year. I feel like I hit a new level of boundary setting.

Setting boundaries is the basis of the way I take care of my eating. I have rules. I follow those rules no matter what.

But when I got my eating under control 11 years, 11 months, 3 weeks and 5 days ago, I was only just learning to set boundaries. And only around my food at first. Since then, I have learned how to set them in every area of my life. I have learned how to say no, how to ask for what I want, how to recognize what I really want, as opposed to what I think I should want because I believe it would please others.

This is the thing about personal growth, if I don’t stop, if I never say, “Welp, good enough…” I end up revisiting the same aspects of myself over and over, just on a different level. I have always been learning about boundaries. But the boundaries I set now are different from the boundaries I was learning to set over 11 years ago. They are more advanced, because my level of self-love, and self-care are more advanced. Those first boundaries were just about food. They were the bare minimum to not eat compulsively. And they were enough then. But for 2017, I had found they were not enough. And I had to dig deep, and have some difficult conversations, make some awkward choices. And it was worth it. But I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the foundation I started laying in 2006.

But I have not been feeling very peaceful or serene this year. Sure, I am more peaceful than I was 11 years ago. Or 7. Or 5. But I can feel myself yearning for an even more peaceful mind. (Please note I did not say life. Life is life. I would like to deal with life the way it is more gracefully.)

So I am grateful for the lessons of 2017. I am grateful to be a woman I like even more than the woman I was in 2016. But I still want more. More calm, more surrender, more gentleness.

So here’s to 2018! May it bring me more peace. And may it bring you whatever it is that will help you grow into the person you genuinely like and love even more than who you are this very moment.

Happy New Year!

It turns out I’m positively treacherous. Who knew?

At work this past week, someone in a higher position than myself has been giving me a hard time. I say a hard time, but it is abuse. Low-grade abuse, but abuse none the less.

This was hard for me at first, because I was 1) trying to be professional, and 2) trying not to be affected by it. So I took it. With a smile. And at the end of the day, I went to my car and cried before I drove home. And I thought about how much more I could take before I would have to quit.

And then I talked to my best friend who is wise, and also has her eating under control. And she said, “Stop smiling. Stop pretending it’s all OK. You wouldn’t smile like that at an abusive boyfriend.” She said, “Bullies are terrified. If you push back, even just a little, they will get scared, and change their tune.”

Now I will be honest. I had a hard time believing this. Because this person has all the power. They have been in their job for many years, and are high up in the company. I am just an office worker. And relatively new at that. Also, I didn’t even apply for this job. I was asked to take it, so from where I stand, I could just as easily be asked to leave.

I will say that I am good at my job. Really really good. But on paper, I’m nothing. I don’t have a degree. I don’t have any accounting experience. All I have is the fact that I am smart, I have integrity, and I’m a good worker. I’m not saying that those things are not valuable. I am saying that their value depends on the person doing the evaluating. And for the most part, my experience is that bosses evaluate based on what you look like “on paper.”

So here I am with no power, but I’m tired of crying in my car before I drive home. So I take my friend’s advice and I start pushing back. I openly sneer when I am berated for not knowing something I was never taught in the first place. I sigh exasperatedly when I am second guessed without being allowed to explain. I walk away when this person implies that I am not explaining something to a coworker properly. I let them do it themselves.

And you know what? Every time, this person really does change their demeanor. Not long-term. But in the moment, I can see them become afraid of me. And soften their stance. And try to explain away their bad behavior. This person is terrified of being called out by me.

So it turns out I have all the power. But here’s the secret. I only have all the power because I am sure of myself. More sure of myself than this person with so much clout in the company. My power is all in my confidence. In that relationship, even though that person has all of the hard power, I am the scary one.

But I’m only sure of myself because I have integrity. And I only have integrity because I have my eating under control.

Could this person get me fired? Absolutely! Here’s the other reason I have all the power: I have no attachment to keeping this job. I like the job. It’s rewarding. The money is terrific. I really hope I don’t get fired. But I refuse to live in fear of losing this job. What happens happens. And that makes me positively treacherous to an insecure person. Even an insecure person with all the power.

Arguing with the voice in my head 

We are finally in our new place here in Corpus Christi. And it’s mostly great. But there are still details that need to be ironed out, and everything has not gone smoothly. Which is not to say it never does. My life goes smoothly much of the time. This time is not one of those times. We had trouble with the water heater, and the internet, to name a few things. And everything we brought is all around the place in disarray. But mostly, all is well.And through all of it, the good and the bad, I didn’t have eat over difficult situations.

This morning, I was laying in bed thinking about the internet trouble, no, worrying really, and worrying about how to possibly fix it. And this little voice popped into my head, the voice that I associate with God, or Life, or The Universe. And it said “Don’t things always work out? Always?” And of course, the answer is yes. It doesn’t always work out the way I am expecting, but it always works out, and always as well as or better than I think I want it to. 

I will admit that I argued with that voice a little this morning. It took until after my husband reassured me, and a cup of coffee, for me to really relax about it. But we got there in the end. 

So it’s one thing at a time. Get the place comfortable and livable. Trust that is all going the way it should. And enjoy my life. 

My new job is rewarding. The money is a nice addition to our finances. And my new kitchen is big with a dishwasher, so taking care of my food is convenient. Which is important, because convenient or not, it’s got to get done.

So I will trust Life, and I will make a point to relax when I start to worry. And even if I do argue with the voice in my head, I know that it will always argue back that life is good, that I am taken care of, and that everything always works out in the end.

Until I can melt back into my couch 

Tomorrow morning I am back on the road. To Corpus Christi. Yet again. First, to a kitchenette hotel for 2 weeks until our apartment becomes available. My husband went ahead of me today to get to the job earlier. This time, hopefully, we will be settled down there for about a year with only occasional weekend trips home for family visits. I’m looking forward to that. Because I’m tired. Being on the move, driving 9, 12, 14 hours at a time, sometimes for days in a row, is exhausting. Or flying home from a trip and turning right around to go fly to be with my sick husband…also quite tiring. And every time is preceded by at least one day of cooking and packing. And this type of travel situation has been going on pretty consistently since early September. So I’m really really tired.

But also, it’s been pretty amazing. There is something for me in gaining all of these new experiences. Being out in the world, being around people. Because I could melt into my couch sometimes. I could happily never leave the house. I could read, and make stuff, and cook, and not think much about the world out there. I love my boring routine. Sometimes too much. 

This travel has been sometimes stressful, of course. And I am offering you the “bright side” but I want to be perfectly clear that I really can’t wait for it to be done. But it has also been a lot of fun. 

My trip to LA was a ridiculously good time. And I feel like every time my husband and I move around, we get better at it. And I, personally, get better at it. Better at cooking faster, better at packing more efficiently. We make better time, just have better travel. And I like that part of it to. I like attaining new skills. I like leveling up. In any situation. 

So tomorrow I hit the road, and drive half way. And then wake up to do it again. And I will enjoy the enjoyable parts. And I will happily take my experiences as they come, because not too long from now, I’m sure I will happily melt back into my couch. 

Not sorry, even though it sucked.

My husband and I are home for a visit this weekend. We opted for a 5:30 am flight out of San Antonio, two hours away from our apartment in Corpus Christi. So we drove the two hours the night before and got a hotel room for the night. Before we left, I made a bunch of compact, complete meals, because they are easy to pack for travel. I don’t usually expect to eat them. At least not all of them. I pack them in case of emergency.Well, our flight got cancelled, and we couldn’t get another flight out that day. So we kept our room in San Antonio for another night, flew out the next morning, and I ate the emergency meals.

And ugh! It was kind of awful. Those meals are each a third of my nutrients for the day, packed into a little cake. And by the end of dinner, I was feeling pretty sick.

But it never occurred to me not to eat them. It never occurred to me that it would be better not to finish dinner. I have never once in the past 11+ years been sorry to keep my food commitments. Not once. I have never “missed” a food I didn’t get to eat, or been disappointed that I kept my word to myself. Even when I was choking down a too-heavy brick of proteins, vegetables, vegetable substitutes, and fat. I love to eat, but at moments like that, eating becomes like working out. I don’t like doing it while I’m doing it, but I’m always grateful that I did it when I’m done. 

My food boundaries are usually awesome. I eat such delicious food, prepared in my favorite ways. But the boundaries are the important part, not the awesome. In a pinch, I will eat the plainest, grossest, least appetizing things on the planet if it means my eating boundaries are taken care of. And I will eat it when I am not hungry at all to keep those commitments to myself. 

When I was eating compulsively, I regularly woke up without a shred of dignity because of the things that I didn’t want to eat, and couldn’t stop myself from eating. 

Now I wake up with my dignity intact. Because I am willing to eat exactly what I am committed to eating, whether I want to or not.

I’ve got time, because it wasn’t really a New Year’s Resolution anyway

For me, getting my food under control was ultimately about growing up. Before that, I was irresponsible, and food let me be that way. It made me not have to feel the consequences of my actions and inactions. Under the right circumstances, vanity and fear of humiliation can be exceptional motivators. As long as I can really feel them. And as long as I am not overwhelmed with shame.

But for me, another part of growing up is recognizing the complexity of life and the world. Only children, and people who refuse to grow up, have the luxury of living in a simple, black and white world.

I have not figured out the details of my not-really-a-resolution yet. I don’t mind. I’m not ashamed. I can change any time, not just at the beginning of the year. I would rather do it right than do it “on time.” Because I want to be more peaceful, but there are other things I want too, and they make peace more complicated.

I want to be a channel for justice. I want to be a witness to the people who seem to be invisible. I want, in my own, small way to make a difference. And that means that I cannot cut ties from what is going on in the world, and in my country. Especially in my country. I believe in being a citizen of the world, but I also firmly believe that charity begins at home. First with me, and then my husband. Then our families and friends. And out in ripples. Virtual concentric circles.

January 2nd marked 11 years of food boundaries for me. (And 5 years of this blog! Whoa! That kinda took me by surprise!) That means every day without exception. And in so many ways, that one commitment 11 years ago changed the way I see the whole world.

Before I learned to put boundaries around my food, I had no boundaries at all. Not with my food, and not with my relationships. I would use and manipulate people, and I would let myself be used and manipulated. It wasn’t conscious. I just didn’t have a frame of reference for how to say no. I didn’t like or respect myself, and I was so preoccupied with trying to control every outcome that how I was affecting people in my life was not even on my radar.

At 28 years old, putting boundaries around my food was just about my food. No sugar or carbs, 3 meals a day, with strict portion control. But that quickly meant that I had to put boundaries around my time. I had to wake up at a certain time to eat breakfast before I left for work. I had to take a break to eat lunch. No, I couldn’t grab a slice to eat while I walked. I had to eat dinner, so I could meet you for coffee, but I had to leave by 8. Even if you needed me. Even if it was important. Dinner was more important. So I ended up having to put boundaries around close relationships. And eventually I had to put boundaries around all relationships, right down to the teller at the bank and the Starbucks barista. (The truth is that on a daily basis, putting boundaries around momentary relationships with strangers like that doesn’t look that different than before, though I would probably say that I am much nicer and feel less entitled, while at the same time being much more likely to ask for exactly what I want. With a smile.) What started as a simple (okay, not so simple) act of taking care of what I was eating, radiated out from me, into all of my interactions in the world.

The truth is, if I want peace alone, I can put myself in a news and politics blackout. I already have a cutoff. I will not watch physical violence. Sometimes, when my husband is watching a video I find disturbing, I leave the room, or ask him to. I do not watch videos of people being killed, tortured, or maimed.

But there is a lot of violence in politics right now. And just because it is not blunt objects, or bullets and blood, I have let my guard down. And it is painful for me. I am sensitive to violence. But I am ultimately in favor of being sensitive to it, because the alternative seems to be desensitization.

There is the complexity. How do I protect myself, while still being available? How do I do with my heart what I do with my food? How do I make sure I am true to myself and who I want to be in the world, without creating a toxic environment in my own head?

I know that I need to up my meditation. Once a day is not enough. But what do I do to limit my intake of those things that fill me with rage? The violence, the hatred, the lies, the corruption, the pettiness, and sometimes just the sheer stupidity?

It’s not like the food. With the food, I can stop seeing it. I can put myself in a blackout, because food that is not mine does not affect me; it’s none of my business. But politics does affect me, and is my business.

To not be political is its own kind of politics, and I cannot, in good conscience be a member of that “party.” It’s not that I don’t know where I stand. It’s that I need to figure out how to stand here with peace and love in my heart.

So for now, I will up my meditation. And while I am meditating, I will ask for the answer to this dilemma. And that answer will come in its own time. But I’m in no hurry. Because it wasn’t really a New Year’s Resolution anyway.

 

Ask not what 2017 can do for you…

I’ll be blunt. People dying, even people I know and love, does not affect me the way it seems to affect most people. Even when my most beloved Gram (my dad’s mom), and my favorite aunt/godmother passed in 2010, I did my crying when they were alive. I was much more hurt by their suffering than by my own loss. The hardest part for me is coming to terms with all of the ways I failed to show up for my loved ones while they were living. Once the people themselves are gone, I don’t have a lot of grief. 

And as for celebrity deaths, they are barely a blip on my radar. So yes, 2016 was a bad year to be a living icon, but that was really not an issue for me. Did I make some jokes about 2016? Absolutely! And was 2016 a terrible year for me? It was. But not entirely. I married the love of my life (after Gram). I did a lot of writing, and even got an article published. I started jogging 2 miles a day, five days a week. I knit my first adult sweater, and I learned a handful of difficult knitting techniques, like fair isle, and wraps and turns. And I was interviewed for a documentary about people who have maintained long-term weight loss.
That was some great stuff! It was a hard year because I am particularly sensitive, and it was so difficult to escape the mean-spirited, hateful, dishonest, angry, and scary rhetoric of the year’s politics. And there is no end in sight, frankly. So I have decided to take on a resolution this year.

Look, I don’t generally call them resolutions, because now that word is synonymous with “broken promise,” but I often use the new year or my birthday to make some personal changes. Both my food anniversary and my blogiversary are January 2nd. And I started jogging as a commitment the first week in January last year. Plus, I quit smoking on my 35th birthday over 4 years ago now.

Could I make my changes on, say, October 7th? Sure. And do I understand that calendars and time are arbitrary constructs (mostly arbitrary – a year is the time it takes for the Earth to make one trip around the sun, after all) created my humans? Of course I do. But they also hold a collective sense of humanity in them. We might celebrate something called Christmas in the modern world, but as long as there have been humans, they have been noticing the sun slowly go away, and celebrating it slowly coming back. And the New Year may once have begun in March rather than January, but we do generally, as a species, enjoy collectively marking one trip around the sun.

So this year I want to focus on personal peace. Obviously, that is not a new concept for me. Even the tag line for this blog is “Peace is better than chocolate.” But this year I ran into some stumbling blocks in my ongoing quest for inner peace, and I would like to make that my focus in 2017.

If you know me, or regularly read my blog, you know that I believe in, and rely on, specificity. I am not interested in lala conceptual promises. “I am going to try to be more peaceful” is nonsense. It doesn’t mean anything. I believe in being able to measure your results. So I am going to spend the next few days making a plan. It will probably be a mix of actions and abstentions, but whatever it will be, it will be defined and “knowable.” Just like I know when I am in my food boundaries, because I have specific rules. I am either following those rules, or breaking them. Some people call that “strict,” but to me, that “strictness” is a huge relief.

I don’t know what 2017 will look like, obviously. But I do know that what was so hard about 2016 for me was that I was so unprepared for the negativity. And I don’t have to have that excuse anymore. I believe in taking care of myself. I can’t expect anyone else to do that for me. So no matter what 2017 brings, what I plan on bringing to 2017 is my personal peace. And I will do my best to share that peace with you.

Happy New Year! I hope it’s a peaceful one for you and yours!

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