onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “peace”

Mad, but not at me or my integrity

Years and years ago, before I got my eating under control, I used to occasionally do “The Artist’s Way” which is a creativity workbook. I did not know it at the time but it is based on the 12 steps. And part of doing the “program” (for lack of a better term) is to write 3 pages of handwritten stream of consciousness every morning. The woman who created it called them “morning pages.” And they are based on the practice of prayer and meditation that is a big part of the 12 steps.

So when I was still eating compulsively, I was doing this workbook. And I hated morning pages. They made me frustrated and angry. And there were whole days in a row that I would literally just write “I don’t want to do this” over and over for 3 pages. 

I certainly didn’t understand it at the time, but I was angry because there were so many things on my conscience that I had shoved down so I didn’t have to look at them. And the writing was trying to bring them to the surface. To be healed. To be dealt with. To be put to rest. 

But putting them to rest meant I would have to acknowledge them. And my part in them. And the ways that I was behaving that left me ashamed. And while I was still in the food, I was never going to be able to deal with my shame.

For the last several years I have been struggling to pray and meditate. I have been angry at life. I have been so afraid for so long that it just sort of lives inside me now. My constant low level anxiety ramping up into a constant mid level anxiety. And the basis of my belief system, that Life is always right and always giving me exactly what I need, suddenly seemed untrue. Not just untrue. Like bullshit.

So I stopped praying and meditating. But that wasn’t really working for me either. I did try to get back to the happy, daily meditation I had been doing for years. And it never worked. That old routine was broken for me now and it was not going to get fixed.

But I did still want to get back into some sort of meditation practice. So I went back to “morning pages.” And it has been a great opportunity for me to clear my head. And get a good look at the things that are not clear while they are rattling around in my brain. 

But here is what I have noticed. There is no anger. There is no frustration. The past 17 years of having my eating under control, and looking at my life, and making amends for my mistakes, and owning the harm I have done, means that there is nothing in my head or heart that I can’t look at. There is nothing shoved down so I don’t have to deal with it. And if there is something that makes me uncomfortable or gives me that sense of dread, I know to look directly at it. To put it down on the page. To put the idea into words and deal with the reality of the situation.

I don’t remember what it was like to be filled with shameful secrets most of the time now. I don’t generally remember how it felt; all of the thick, slimy, suffocating feelings that went with being a person I could not like or respect. But when I do remember now, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my freedom from self hatred.

I may still be angry. And I may still be frustrated. And I am still very much afraid. But having those feelings project out, at an unfair and cruel world, is so much easier than having them project inward, at me and my own integrity.

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Nothing To Resolve Today

It is January first. And I have nothing to resolve. 

One of my favorite things about having my eating under control is that I don’t have to wait for a certain day or date to change. 

Don’t get me wrong. I often do. I put boundaries around my eating on January 2nd. (Tomorrow will be 17 years!) And my first day as a non-smoker was my 35th birthday. (Ten years ago already.)

But the deal is that I don’t need to wait for a date or a circumstance or a sign to make a change. I just need to be fed up enough with my current reality to do something about it. And that really came from getting my eating under control. 

So I don’t have any resolutions for 2023 except the one I always have. Act in a way that makes me like myself more, not less. Have integrity. Do what I say I’m going to do. Be where I say I’m going to be. Tell the truth.

And all of these things became possible when l was telling the truth about food. When I was keeping my promises to eat only what I committed to a loving friend who would hold me accountable with love and without judgement.

This integrity opened me up to have more time, more energy, more creativity, more peace. So I have nothing to resolve. Except to keep growing. Which I can do any day. Not just the first day of the first month of a new year.

A memory of exhaustion

The other day I was writing my stream of consciousness meditation pages and I wanted to stop. Just stop in the middle. More like the beginning, but I had already started. I did not stop, but it gave me a kind of emotional flashback.

I used to do this particular form of quitting all the time when I was eating compulsively. It is specifically around some commitment I have made to be a better person. Or at least a person I personally like better.

There is a particular example of this that I sometimes think about just because of the timing. In September of 2001, I was taking a self-help seminar in the World Trade Center. I think the seminar was on a Wednesday or a Thursday so it was probably the 6th or the 7th, and I don’t specifically remember but I am reasonably certain I didn’t do my homework, and I was probably ashamed of that. And just in general I didn’t want to show up, and I knew that I should. And on this particular day, I schlepped myself all the way there to the World Trade Center, which was nowhere near anything else I did like my job or my home. I walked in the big doors into the giant corridor with the security stations and the big banks of elevators on the other side, and then I just turned around and left. Got all the way to the seminar, spent all of that time and energy to travel there and still didn’t show up to take care of myself. And of course, I would never go to the WTC again.

I did this with all sorts of things that I had started doing to make myself feel better, feel good, feel like I had my shit together. I would get my running clothes on, and start a jog, but I would just quit. In the middle of a jog. Just stop and decide I didn’t want to do it anymore. And I would feel awful about it. But the idea of effort was so terrifying to me that I often just shut down. I feared any pain, but especially the pain of growth.

It was interesting to have that feeling again about a writing meditation. Kind of scary, a little uncomfortable. Because that part of me is still there. But since I got my eating under control, it doesn’t win. I can feel it, acknowledge it, but not bow to it. I can want to quit and not quit.

When I put boundaries around my eating I got what some people call “abstinent references.” I learned, first hand, that I would not starve if I didn’t eat between meals. I learned that I would not die if I admitted my mistakes and made amends for them. I learned that effort is not the level of suffering I always feared it was. I learned that that once something was begun, like a workout, or showing up at the place I was supposed to be, it was actually easier to keep going and follow through than to quit. That the level of justification I would have to maintain to not feel awful about myself over it would be way more effort than just doing the workout or attending the meeting.

To remember what I used to be like is to remember how exhausted I was all the time. Because second guessing myself and stressing about everything, and being afraid of the world, and being afraid of my life was so much more exhausting than all of the food prep work and the shopping and chopping and working out and writing and meditation and that I do.

Sensible Priorities for a One Track Mind

I have spent my week building furniture. Two night stands, two end tables, a TV stand, a coffee table, a small dresser, and a platform bed frame with headboard. The dining set and couch should be delivered this coming week.

We ended up buying all of our furniture on line, and I am the one who is here. So I am the one who has to build it. To be honest, I kind of love it. I like building things. I’m good at it. And there is something deeply satisfying about taking an array of stuff, putting it together, and getting something useful. Not that the things that I am building are particularly complicated. They are not. And some of them, like the end tables, are literally just screwing the legs directly into the table tops. No tools or hardware required. (The bed was more complex.)

And any time there was something particularly difficult, or really more like cumbersome and meant for more than one person, I figured out a way around it. Because I like problem solving too. And I am good at that too.

A project like those kinds of projects are fun for me. But they can also make me obsessed and obsessive. Once it’s begun I don’t want to stop until it’s finished. Even if there is something else important I should be doing. Like eating lunch. Because it’s time, and I’m hungry, and I am not thinking as well as I would be once I ate my lunch. 

That is one of my many gifts of getting my eating under control. Common sense priorities. 

I can have a one track mind. Even when I was in the food I could have a one track mind, even about things that weren’t sugar or carbohydrate related. (Though that was a huge part of it.) I can get caught up in a crochet or knitting project and not want to stop. One more row, one more line, one more pattern repeat. I can get caught up in making a costume or some other kind of art piece, and look up and realize it’s after midnight and I have been at it for hours. 

But getting my eating under control taught me that eating my weighed and measured meal at a reasonable time is more important than the momentum of building a bed frame. And the bed frame will still be there when I get done, and my body is sated and my brain is getting enough fuel to not put the piece on backwards and screw the hardware in so tight I strip the screws. 

I have a lot of crazy. A lot of intense feelings. And not just weepy sadness or incandescent rage. I have a lot of strong desire and driven ambition. It’s not a particularly useful kind of ambition that makes me a boat load of money, like the desire to build a company from the ground up, or be a CEO. It’s definitely centered more around arts and crafts. But it can still make me crazy and single minded to the detriment of my health and well-being.

So getting sensible priorities was a gift of putting the food down. Yes, I can still get lost in a project. Start designing a new part of my latest crochet doll and miss my usual workout time. Or get caught up in fixing a mistake in my blanket and look up and realize I need to stop and eat lunch or I will have to push dinner back. Or stop trying new crochet techniques for nothing in particular but my own learning and go to sleep if I want my 8 hours. And I most definitely want my 8 hours. 

Getting my eating under control didn’t change my personality. It just made me able to manage my own natural craziness. But that is definitely a gift worth having.

It’s not mud. It’s quicksand.

Part of my sugar addiction is physical. When I used to put sugar in my body, it caused a chemical reaction that got me high, and then set up a craving for more. I’m a sugar addict. I can understand that not everyone has that reaction to sugar, but I do and it will never go away. Like how plenty of people drink alcohol responsibly, but once someone has become an alcoholic that is pretty much it. Once a pickle is a pickle, it can never go back to being a cucumber.

But another part of my addiction is behavioral. And for as rigid as it seems to some people, it is where so much of my peace lies. 

I strictly control my food portions. I eat exactly 3 times a day. And I weigh all of my food except for a few very specific things and even those have very strict rules.

When I was eating compulsively, I never wanted anything to be quantified or clear. I wanted the rules to be muddied. I wanted to be able to stretch them. And eventually break them. I wanted to feel like I was doing something without having to actually do anything. I didn’t want to give up my drug foods. I just wanted to feel like I was trying. Or feel like I looked like I was trying. And I definitely really did want to be skinny. But to be specific, and to make clear boundaries was to have to face the reality of my situation. And I didn’t really want to know.

But what happened when I did put real, quantifiable boundaries around my eating, was my head got quiet and I found peace. 

I had never realized how much mental gymnastics I was doing to be able to cheat on my diet without feeling like I was cheating. Or how much I actually ended up hating myself for lying to and cheating myself.

Until it stopped. 

Withdrawal sucked. And it took a long time. But it was entirely worth it to be on the other side *knowing* for a fact that I was honest. That I kept my promises to myself. That I took care of myself. 

The muddy rules alway seemed like freedom, but were absolutely quicksand.

My comfort arsenal

So far, 2022 has been a great year for books for me, but a terrible year for my health. I fell down the stairs on January 1st, got myself a bruise bigger than my head on my thigh, and before it was even remotely healed, I caught some kind of cold, had a really intense reaction to my covid vaccine booster, followed by some other sickness that has been lingering for months. (I have never tested positive for Covid, but I have sure had something.) I have had some form of hurt or illness every day this year. Every. Single. Day. So well over 6 months. And I am frustrated and exhausted from it.

But one thing I appreciate is that throughout this year, I have never thought about eating compulsively. And that’s a miracle. Because before I got my eating under control, food was always my comfort. It didn’t make everything better, but it got me high enough that I didn’t care. 

I still take comfort in food. I expect I always will. But it used to be my comfort at the expense of being at the mercy of my drug foods, a whole different kind of discomfort lurking underneath, waxing and waning with my high. And now it’s comfort in the safety and peace of self-care.

I don’t miss sugar. I don’t crave it. I don’t think about it. But eating for me is still about the sensations and the ways they make me happy. Crispy bell peppers, and creamy homemade ice cream, and snacky cheese bites, and fresh, citrusy pico de gallo. All of these things make me happy and take my mind off of my troubles. 

And when meal time is over and the next meal is not for hours, I have learned to have other things that give me peace and comfort. Crafting, and listening to audiobooks, talking books with my reading buddy or my mom, writing, or binge watching some show or other. 

It certainly took time to acquire this comfort arsenal. I was not good at it right away. It was years of managing to just not eat a cake. To get by as best I could. But now I am well equipped to deal with discomfort in a healthy, sane way. 

And of course, like all things, this too shall pass.

When the math didn’t math

I am a control freak by nature. I want what I want and I am interested in figuring out how to get it. I remember a line from a movie when I was a kid. Something about control being an illusion. And at the time I didn’t think it was true. After all, it seemed to me that all of the grownups in my life had it. And I wanted it too.

And the other thing was that it seemed logical to me that if actions have reactions, if you could figure out the “right equation,” you could create the right reaction, the one you wanted. What I didn’t fully understand was that when this bumped up against other people and what they wanted, this was just manipulation. And also, I wasn’t always great at knowing what I wanted.

There are some important things that getting my eating under control has taught me. 1) Usually, that kind of control does not get me a worthwhile return on investments. I almost never want the thing I think I want as much as the machinations cost me. 2) I can make myself feel positively crazy trying to think and plan myself the right “equation” to get what I think I want. 3) I usually want something much more theoretical than the practical thing I think I do. Like I want to feel pretty, more than I want that specific dress.

For 28 years I wanted to eat whatever I wanted to eat, but also be thin. And I did a whole lot of things to try to make that equation work out. Dieting, exercise bulimia, regular old bulimia bulimia. But none of that math ever mathed. 

When I gave up sugar and simple carbohydrates 16+ years ago, I thought I was throwing in the towel and agreeing that I would accept being skinny as the best I could get. And even that I was skeptical of. I had never been skinny and also had never been able to control my weight. But (eventually- there was still the long slog of sugar withdrawal) I got all of the things I really wanted. The things I thought eating whatever I wanted and still being skinny would get me. To be happy and comfortable in my body both in private and public. To love my food without guilt. To like myself and not doubt myself or my choices.

I don’t always do it perfectly, but today, I try to remember that when I keep my eating under control and do my best to be my authentic self, I get exactly what I really wanted, whatever that looks like, even if I didn’t know I wanted it.

Growing, just really slowly. (Still counts!)

I feel like every year around this time, I eat a too-big-for-comfort half cantaloupe. And about once every 2-3 years, I write a blog about it. Because I never learn. 

That is not true. I learn. Just very veeeerrrrry slowly. 

Over the years, my need for gargantuan breakfast fruit has mellowed. When I first got my eating under control, giant fruits saved me. They helped me make it through the morning to lunch without eating. Because eating was a habit, not a need. I was not hungry, I had cravings. My body did not need fuel or nourishment. I was used to eating all the time, and the things I was eating, man made sugar and simple carbohydrates, got me high. And triggered cravings for more of the same. So a giant apple that weighed over a pound, or half of a cantaloupe bigger than my head, made me feel like I could manage to get through.

But years later, I already know that I don’t need that much food. That the amount I eat is enough, and more than enough. In the past 16+ years, I have almost never been hungry. It does happen every once in a while. Maybe 1-3 times a year, I am ravenous by the time lunch or dinner rolls around. But not anything major. Barely a blip on my radar. And it never lasts.

And yet, I still occasionally find myself buying cantaloupes that are bigger than I need. And I still eat the half of it. 

In my defense, the cantaloupes I buy now are much smaller than the ones I used to buy 16, and 10, and even 3 years ago. The one I ate half of today was not only not bigger than my head, it was not even the same size. A cantaloupe smaller than my head! This is progress, people! Look at me growing and changing!

But the truth is, there is still something in me that is afraid there will not be enough to satisfy me. I expect it will always be there. 

And here is the other thing I want to make clear. Even if it does make me a little ill, it is more important to me to satisfy and nurture that thing in me that is afraid of deprivation, than it is to “eat a reasonable amount of food.” If you think the discomfort of eating too much is worse than the fear of not eating enough, my guess is that you, my friend, are not a food addict or a compulsive eater.

I eat within my boundaries. Always! And it is still possible for me to eat more than is comfortable while staying well within those boundaries. So even if I am stuffed, I have zero guilt and absolutely no shame.

I think people think about addiction, especially food addiction, as being a thing you can eventually get over. Like after 16 years, can’t I just “eat like a normal person?” But I am not now, and never will be, “normal” around food. It is still a huge part of my life and my heart and my thinking.

So I don’t expect to ever get over it. But maybe, someday, I will not go out of my way to buy too-big cantaloupes every summer. Wouldn’t that be some growth. Anyway, today is not that day.

The ability to just exist

My whole life growing up and even a few years into having my eating under control, I was obsessed with my weight. I thought about my weight all the time. I don’t mean that figuratively. If I was awake, some portion of my mind was occupied with thoughts about my body, specifically my fatness. I was constantly on the lookout for potential shamers. And I mean always and everywhere, since many of them were in my own family. Someone asking me if I was sure I wanted to eat that. Someone making a roundabout fat joke. Or a blatant fat joke. Someone assuring me that I was somehow lacking. Lacking willpower, lacking proper pride, lacking beauty, lacking sense. 

Even when I first lost weight after I gave up sugar and carbohydrates, I was still very much obsessed with my body. With its new thinness. With the (often, though not always) exciting attention I was getting as a suddenly conventionally beautiful woman. But also, with what occurred to me as a kind of lie. Beneath my clothes there were stretch marks and loose skin. I was not smooth and lean and perfect. Beneath my clothes was the evidence that I was not a “regular girl.” There was a fat girl under there.

That is one of the meanings of the title of this blog. Once a fat girl. Once, as in the past. But also, there is more to that saying. Once a fat girl, ALWAYS a fat girl. There were things about growing up fat that will never go away. There is a kind of trauma to it. And that trauma is not about what I did to myself. It’s not about eating or food addiction or the ways I dealt with or felt about my own body. Because in getting my eating under control, I got to work through those things. I got to confront myself, and look at my own soul and mind and life.

But in many ways I am still not over the trauma of the way I was treated by others because I was fat. So let me say it clearly. It was abuse. I was traumatized. I was harmed. It was not OK. 

The greatest gift of putting boundaries around my food is guilt-free eating. But right up there is the fact that I don’t have to think about my body. Almost ever. I don’t walk into a room wondering who is going to shame me. I don’t have to look around for potential abusers and make a plan for how I will escape. I don’t have to think about how I am going to be judged. I get to just exist. 

Fat people don’t get to just exist. And I think that is a terrible thing for everyone.

Panic! At the Grocery

On Monday last week I dropped my phone in the grocery store (I do basically everything on my phone including keeping my shopping list) and it broke. The screen did not work at all. 

It was very upsetting for me. Number one, how was I going to remember what I had on my grocery list? (And yes, I did, indeed, end up missing a couple of important items that day in my panic. Yes I managed anyway.) But also, as I mentioned above, I do everything on my phone. So I was totally out of sorts. 

There was a store from my service carrier in the same parking lot as the grocery store, though. So I went in there to discuss my options. And friends, they were anything but helpful. Two of the three employees in particular were rude, gave me condescending looks and side eyes, and made it clear to me that I was interrupting their conversations. They basically told me that I needed to take it up with Apple. Even though I had insurance through them. 

But I had not eaten lunch. Which would have to be my first priority because keeping my eating boundaries is alway my first priority. And I had promised my husband that I would do laundry that day because he was running out of work clothes. And I had just made a promise to my career coach that I would get him my first draft of my cover letter and a revised resume by the end of the week. And now, on top of that I needed to find an Apple repair place and everything would be more difficult until I did.

I was pacing around my apartment, on the brink of hyperventilating, too distracted to do one thing at a time. Making part of my lunch, but then walking away to sort laundry. And then looking at the time and realizing I still hadn’t eaten any lunch. Too worried about getting everything done to get anything done with any grace. Too muddled to finish a task. 

This is a default setting of mine. When things seem too complicated and unthinkable to process, I just don’t process them. I shut down.  

And then I made a decision. I was not going to deal with my phone that day. I just made the choice and let it go. I made lunch and then sat down and ate it while watching Bridgerton. Again. (Don’t ask how many times. You really don’t want to know. Or at least I don’t want to admit it to you.)

In making the choice, I was able to stop my mind. I decided that when my husband got home, I would use his phone. I would call and make an appointment at an Apple repair place for the next day. And I would manage for the following 24 hours. 

And moving forward, everything went smoothly. I used my husband’s phone to make an appointment. The next morning I ate breakfast and packed myself a lunch. I got there on time. They took my phone and told me to come back in an hour. And I had Apple Care so they fixed my phone for free. I got back home with a working phone in time for lunch.

The ability to pause, to actively make a choice, to *accept* that it is always life on Life’s terms, is a gift of having my eating under control. My default may be to pace and mutter and flit from unfinished task to unfinished task, but I now have the option to *choose* something else. 

Does that take something? Some effort? It does. I had to learn how to do it. I have to continue to practice it. All the time. And even after 16 years of having boundaries around my eating, that panic still pops up first. But in having priorities, especially when my first priority is that of self-care, I can change the way I think and act in any moment.

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