Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “personal choices”

I adjust for conflation

I was talking with a group of friends the other day about International Women’s Day, and someone mentioned movements like “fat is beautiful,” and “fat as a feminist issue.”

The truth is that I do think that fat is a feminist issue. I do think that being fat and being beautiful are not mutually exclusive. And at the same time, I absolutely hated being fat, and I never want to go back.

I think that part of the problem with these ideas is that we conflate them. Let me break it down for you. There is a difference between what you, as an individual with a body, want to believe about and do with your body, and what our society and culture tell you about what you *should* believe about and do with your body.

I have had to deal with this for myself. I had to do some serious and painful soul searching. Because I really hated being fat. I was miserable and I felt ashamed. I hated my body. I hated the way that I looked, and the way that I felt. I hated that I could not stop eating. I hated how hard it was to live in that body.

But separately, I also hated the way I was treated by others. I hated that people were given the “right” by our culture, to openly comment about my body. After all, this body is me and I am this body. Whatever its size and shape. If you shame my body, you shame me. If you disrespect my body, you disrespect me.

I have come to really understand, only after years of being in a comfortable body, a body that I am comfortable in, that just because I was unhappy with myself didn’t give anyone else the right to judge me. It was not ok that I was shamed and abused. It was not ok that I was humiliated by others. That I hated myself did not give friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers a pass for being jerks.

My food problem is a sickness. It is not cured by “pushing away from the table,” or “just not eating so much,” or “having willpower,” or “having some self-respect.” I don’t now, and never did, earn my place in the world by being beautiful, thin, accommodating, and feminine. I have always had a place in the world. I was born into it, by virtue of having a body.

And I will say that I consider myself to be incredibly beautiful (and my husband would add humble.) And I love it. And I don’t apologize for loving it. But it doesn’t define me. And I don’t owe it to others. Not to men on the street, not to my parents, not to friends, not to bosses. Not to my husband, either. I do not owe any particular body to anyone but myself.

So in honor of International Women’s Day, let me recommend to you that you love your body exactly as it is right now in this very moment. Remember that it *is* your place in the world. And if, like I once was, you are unhappy with the body you are in, love it anyway. I believe that it is only by loving ourselves first that we can make lasting change. If we are waiting to be “perfect” before we love ourselves, we will be waiting a very long time.


Hit ‘em where it hurts. The bank account.

My husband and I are in a town outside of Indianapolis for the next month or so, and I am having a hard time finding some of the things that I love to eat. So far, I have not been able to find Italian sausage that doesn’t have sugar, but that’s nothing new. However, I can’t find bacon without sugar here either. Ugh! Let me say that again. Ugh!

I cannot tell you how it makes me furious that companies put sugar in everything. Not only because I can’t eat them, but also because I believe that they are eroding our palates and our minds.

When I gave up sugar, my palate shifted. A lot. As a little kid, I loved Brussels sprouts. I loved cauliflower. As an older kid, teen, and young adult, I hated them. Hatred. Passionate, unyielding hatred. When I put down sugar in all forms except artificial sweeteners, and some fruits and vegetables, I gradually came to love them again. Now I also love chard, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, and mushrooms. I also enjoy carrots and squash, winter or summer.

By adding sugar and starch to everything, I think food companies are doing us a huge disservice. They are creating a culture that equates food with a “rush.” They are getting us addicted, as a society, to an additive that is cheap to them, but incredibly expensive, health and well-being wise, to us. They are setting us up to eat more than we know we need, and more than we want. They are getting rich off of giving us diseases and disorders.

I want to say clearly that I believe in personal responsibility. I don’t want to imply that I don’t. But doing what I do is hard. Seriously difficult. Worth it every time and in every way, but not simple. It takes a kind of determination and individuality, the ability to disregard the pull of “normalcy” in a culture that has taken up the mantle of pleasure over contentment, instant gratification over long-term fulfillment. And food companies are using our own survival/evolutionary instincts against us. They want profits to grow exponentially. How can they do that if we eat their food in moderation? The fatter we are, the fatter their profit margins are. Frankly, I think it’s sick. Morally bankrupt.

I know that many people can eat junk food in moderation. Bless them! To them I say, “Enjoy every bite!” But the rise of obesity in the western world shows that the way food is being produced, processed, and marketed is making most of us fat and sick.

And it’s making a girl who can’t find bacon she can eat annoyed and cranky. I don’t expect this to change any time in the near future. But I am going to make a recommendation to you. Read your labels. Even if you don’t change what you buy. Look at what these companies are offering. Notice them change. I have had to give up things I ate for years because someone decided to add sugar or starch.

But I will say this too. About 4 years ago, a company that made wheat germ changed its ingredients to add sugar. In that time, people who do what I do sent out the word to one another. We all stopped eating it. Now I am not saying that my small group was the reason, but less than a year later, the company changed back to the original, sugar-free formula. My guess is that the kind of people who eat wheat germ are generally people who care about what goes into their bodies. And when they saw that they were now getting sugar, they switched brands. Just like myself and others in my food community.

So remember that you can eat what you want, but also. you can vote with your wallet. And I highly recommend that.

Back to normal, which is still not all that normal

I gotta be honest. I have no idea what to write about this week. I am emotionally exhausted. And just as life was finally leaving “surreal” and returning to day-to-day, we were told that we have to leave Texas. Again…

When I got my eating under control 12 years ago, I made my life kind of small. I wrapped myself in my own comfort zone, like a cocoon. And that really worked for me. It kept me protected from food. At that point, food was my problem. I mean I had other problems, but they would all manage to get worked out as long as I took care of the food problem.

But about 6 years in, (yes, 6 whole years of having my eating under control) I wanted a bigger life. And I ended up falling in love with a man who travels for a living. And I agreed to spend my life living in different towns for somewhere between a few months and a few years.

So I don’t really want to leave Texas yet. But this is the life I agreed to. And, really, I love it in general. Though, not all the time. But who loves their life all the time?

Tomorrow I will cook meals for two days of travel. And we will head back to Texas to pack up our apartment. And soon enough, we will find out what’s next.

So I guess this is normal life. It’s the “normal” I chose 5 years ago. And I’m grateful for all of it.


Gratitude for the guilt-free bare minimum

I have been thinking about my fitness level a lot lately. I have been slow on my jog, and not getting any faster. And not trying to get any faster. My experience is that faster comes in its own. Or it doesn’t.

But I am fascinated by the fact that in about 2 weeks of not jogging (October 26th to November 11th, due to such extreme, though temporary, changes in my time and living situation) I managed to lose all of the progress I had made over a year. And two months of being back on my regimen hasn’t done much to catch me back up.

The truth is, it’s fine. I don’t actually care about my run time (though I do still track it.) I don’t care about “leveling up.” I care about making a commitment, and sticking to it.

Just like I have rules around my eating, I have rules around my workout. I jog 2 miles a day, 5 days a week. I can’t jog 4 miles in one day and have that count as 2 jogs. I have to do the 2 miles at the same time. I can’t walk, but I can be slow as long as I keep up a jogging pace. As long as I hit these marks, I have fulfilled my promise to myself.

I learned this from getting my food under control. That was the first time I understood guilt-free eating. There were rules, and as long as what I was eating was by the rule book, I didn’t have to feel guilty. Pork rinds and bacon are on my food plan. I used to eat apples that weighed over a pound for breakfast. (Lately I find a 14 oz apple is enough. That’s still a pretty huge apple, by the way.) Some people consider this “working the system.” I know because I have had people tell me as much. But that is because they don’t understand the goal. They think the goal is weight-loss. They think the goal is a diet. They think the goal is skinny. Or when it comes to working out, they think the goal is to look like a fitness model on a magazine cover. But none of those things are my life goals.

The goal of a regular, specifically defined workout for me is not beauty or perfection. The goal is not even progress. The goal is not to be skinny. It is not to be muscular. It is not to be an award winning athlete. It is not to be an athlete at all. My goal is to help this body, that I had abused with food and excess weight for so long, age as gracefully and healthily as possible. And to keep a promise to myself that is sustainable and makes me feel like I have accomplished something.

I spent the first 28 years of my life completely undisciplined, and unfocused. I was a slave to food, but also to instant gratification. I hated living in a fat body, but didn’t do anything about it and didn’t know how. Because I didn’t know how to be gentle with myself. I didn’t understand the power of the bare minimum. Because I would not be able sustain this lifestyle without a clearly defined bare minimum. If I didn’t know it was ok to do the least, on the days I couldn’t manage to do my best, I would quit.

Now, on the days that I don’t want to jog, I still jog. I jog slow. I jog cranky. I jog resentfully (until the endorphins kick in, anyway.) But I jog. And that is enough to keep the guilt at bay. Because if I am not guilty, I don’t need to quit. But more importantly, I don’t have an excuse to quit.


Happy, joyous and free, though not necessarily excited.

On Tuesday this past week, I celebrated 12 years of having my food under control. (And 6 years of writing my blog about having my food under control!!!)

After a dozen years, it’s less “exciting” than it used to be. At this point it is my every day. But I want to briefly mention some of the gifts and joys of giving up sugar and carbohydrates, and strictly controlling my portions, because even if I don’t think about them very often, when I do, they actually still are exciting!

I love living in a body that’s easy. I love the ease of movement, the comfort and confidence I have in it. Today I walked for miles with a friend. Not to exercise, not to lose weight, not to do anything other than have an experience. I would not have opted for that kind of experience in a big body.

I love not being ashamed of what I ate. I used to live in constant guilt over what I was eating. I didn’t have any rules or boundaries, so everything that I ate that was delicious felt like I was being a terrible person. Now, even if it’s decadent, if it’s in my boundaries, I eat it without guilt.

I love not second guessing myself. With a clear head that isn’t in a food/sugar fog all the time, I don’t worry about my decisions. I don’t pretend that I always make good decisions. But I always know that nothing is permanent, that I can always make an amends, or change my mind, or do better next time. Having my eating under control helps me see clearly.

So I am grateful for my 12 years of sanity and comfort. I don’t need them to be exciting. It’s enough to know that for many years I was drifting through life unfocused and unhappy, and now, I am happy, joyous and free.


There are more options than surgery and moderation

I have been struggling for the past few hours to write a post. I read part of an article on bariatric surgery that made me so mad I had to put it down. The beginning of the article says that since it is already established that diet and exercise don’t work, people should be turning to weight loss surgery. And that they don’t because they wrongly believe that obesity is a problem with willpower.

Now, I absolutely agree that obesity is not a character flaw, nor do I believe it is the result of a character flaw (i.e. lack of willpower.) I could never “just push away from the table.” And boy did I want to. In fact, if you think you have “the answer” to the obesity epidemic and it begins with the word “just,” like “just stop eating so much,” I promise you don’t have the answer.

But one factor that I do believe is a problem is our culture of prizing and romanticizing junk food. By everyone, including the medical and scientific communities.

I keep reading over the past year that “diet and exercise don’t work.” But I am not convinced that this is “already established” as a truth. It is my personal experience that diet does work. Just plain diet all on its own works. No exercise necessary. And I personally know hundreds of people for whom this is true.

Is this true for everyone? Of course not. But to come to the conclusion that diet doesn’t work, is ridiculous. And I have to question the science that claims it. Especially when the biggest change in the past 40 years, the years leading to our current “obesity epidemic” has been a significant increase in the amount of sugar, carbs, and processed food we eat.

So changing the American diet made us fat, but changing our diet won’t fix the problem?

Of course, the “problem” for most people is the extremity of NEVER! I never eat sugar, or simple carbohydrates. The only carbs I eat are fruits and vegetables. And not even some of those that are high sugar/high starch. Because “in moderation” has never been a viable option for me, but “never” worked immediately, and changed my life for the better.

See, I’m pretty sure that is what the medical community and the media mean when they say “diet and exercise don’t work.” They mean they have told people to eat junk in moderation, and people fail at that. Because it is hard to eat junk in moderation. *That* is what does not work. And part of the reason it does not work for society as a whole now is that food companies are working at making their junk more addictive. They want people to eat past the point of hunger. They want us to eat as a reward, and a cure for boredom. They want us to crave and salivate. They have scientists in their labs working to eliminate that “full button” normal eaters used to have. And they are seemingly succeeding.

I was never one of those people anyway. Nobody turned off my “full button.” Mine never worked in the first place.

Does surgery help some people? I’m sure it does. But it is not a solution. It is a harm reduction technique. And if that is good enough, then that should be an individual’s choice. Not everyone has the proverbial stomach for giving up junk foods. But I think it is a problem that the people we should be able to trust, specifically the medical community, are not even offering complete abstinence from sugar, junk, and processed foods as an option. They are saying right off the bat that it doesn’t work.

I want you to know that it does work for some of us. And I think before you have dangerous and invasive surgery, you might want to give it a shot.


A new learning curve

I have been working for about a month now, and there is a learning curve when it comes to time management and priorities. Finally this past week I started jogging again. But I have not been writing. And frankly, I am too exhausted.

But ultimately, that is not good enough for me. I have a novel that I have been working on for about a year. And I love it. I’m proud of it. I want to finish it and get it published. And right now, the way things are, that is not an option. So I have to change the way things are.

I forget that it takes time to get my bearings after a major life change. More than just a week or a month. I forget that I have blind spots where I can’t see the pitfalls, or recognize what can be changed. Change is so scary to me, often it feels like nothing can be changed safely. That all change is the potential for ruin.

And there are things that must get taken care of. First and foremost, I still have to take care of my food. Every day. No matter what. And what that means in practical terms is grocery shopping for the whole week in one go, and spending hours of my time packing breakfasts and lunches in advance for the week ahead. It’s an area I cannot cut corners in.

Food addiction is my problem. Really the only problem I have. Other things go badly and need to be remedied or cared for or dealt with, but they are not “problems” like food is a problem. When my food is out of control, my entire life is out of control.

The truth is, I like my job. The work is interesting. I like that I am good at it. I take pride in it. I like learning new skills. My difficult co-worker has calmed down and returned to behaving in a normal, respectable, and respectful manner. (I have also remembered that people in the world, especially in the workplace, have a wide range of personalities, but that I honor my principles in the face of difficult personalities.) But in all honesty, right now, I am not very happy. I’m just too tired. And I am having a hard time imagining how I can change my circumstances in order to both, not be constantly exhausted, and still do all of the things I want to do.

This is a luxury problem. If I were eating compulsively, I would have already given up on writing. I would not have figured out how to get my jog in 5 days a week. I would not have made time for it. But then again, if I were eating compulsively, I would already have been looking for a way to not jog, to not write, to not take care of my head and heart and body. I was always waiting for any excuse to abandon my goals and dreams, or really anything that was work, anything that took something, but made me feel good about myself.

There’s one more thing that I haven’t been doing that I need to get back into, and that is meditation. I think my first priority this week will be to get back into that habit. If any practice will help me figure out the next right step, and how to get the things I want, that’s probably it.


What makes for a pretty damn sweet life

I am back in the airport again right now, heading to South Carolina to meet up with my husband who has been there for about a week for work. I could have waited another week at our Chicago home for him to return on his own. It would have saved me yet another day of cooking and packing. It would have saved me a ton of airline points. But I have my priorities straight, and being with my husband is one of my top priorities.We will be heading back to Texas (again) next week when we get back from South Carolina, and I will be working when we get there. And my husband asked me, when will you run? I have been asking myself the same questions. And he didn’t ask, but I have also been wondering, when will I write?

One thing that I learned when I got my eating under control, is that we all have priorities, and they come down to action, not thoughts or beliefs. I could say that my food is my priority, but if I say eff it when it gets hard, or inconvenient, or I just don’t feel like it, then in practice, it’s not. 

My food is my first priority, always. But spending time with my husband, and my workout, and my writing are all pretty high up on the list. 

So I told him I don’t know when I will run. When I get there I will find out if there is a gym in our apartment complex, or if there is a good place to run outside, or if I have to join a gym. And I will see what my work hours are. So I can also fit in time to write 5 days a week. I will figure it out. Because I have my priorities straight. And that means *doing* something about them. 

When I was eating compulsively, I had things I wanted to be my priority, but in terms of what I *did*, shoving food in my face was number 1. And numbers 2 and 3, too.

I am grateful for the clarity that I have from having my eating under control, because when I keep my priorities where they should be, I actually get the life I want, not the life that circumstances dictate for me. And that makes for a pretty damn sweet life.


Just because you won’t look at it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there

The New York Times apparently thought I’d be surprised by how many foods contain added sugar. The New York Times obviously doesn’t know me very well. Or read my blog. Which is fine…I guess…

But really, do people not know?

I know that I read labels and not everybody does. So maybe I know that there is sugar or starch added to all sorts of things you wouldn’t expect, like pork and fish. And maybe people who don’t read labels don’t realize that. But in the grand scheme of things, if you are not addicted to sugar the way I am, maybe in small amounts it’s not enough to affect you. (Though, seriously, fish? Why does anyone need to add sugar to fish?)

But do people really not know that if something tastes like candy, it has sugar in it? Seriously. Do you, as an adult, really still think Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch is part of a balanced breakfast, just because when we were kids they said so in the commercial and printed it on the side of the box? (Alright fine, it does have 25% of your recommended daily riboflavin.)

Here’s the thing. I’m not talking about everybody quitting sugar. I am sick around sugar, but I don’t pretend that everyone is. And I am a firm believer in freedom. Like I think that people have the right to smoke. But nobody is pretending that cigarettes are good for you. I was a smoker for many years, I knew what I was doing, and I did it anyway. Smokers know that smoking is dangerous. And if you tell a smoker that smoking is bad for them – which people sure do like to do for some reason – and you get a shocked response, it is sarcastic. Because everyone knows and you’re being a moron.

But we pretend that certain sugar foods are “packed with nutrition.” And we let people be shocked when somebody says that a granola bar is not that healthy; it’s mostly just sugar. But have you had a granola bar? If it tastes like an oatmeal cookie, that’s what it is. Even if it’s rectangular, and says “organic” on it. As a culture, we say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but we eat doughnuts and Pop-Tarts. Or frosted cinnamon rolls. Or various kinds of bread with syrup.

Again, the judgment is not about what we are eating, but how we are lying about it. If you want to eat sugar for breakfast, I will not try to stop you. More power to you. But you know that doughnuts are just cake. Breakfast cake, yes. Sure! But still just cake. And if I see you “look shocked” when you “find out” that the snack that you bought at the health food store, which totally tastes like a candy bar, is just a candy bar, I am going to have to call bullshit.

But here’s the thing. I get it. Because when I didn’t want to give up sugar, I also pretended that health food store candy was not candy. And I pretended that healthy meant it wouldn’t make me fat. But I wasn’t losing any weight. And I wasn’t interested in looking at the truth if it meant that I was going to come face to face with my relationship with sugar.

As a culture we are playing dumb for one another. We’re a bunch of enablers. And I think it’s ridiculous. Eat what you choose. I hope you enjoy every bite. But I also hope you have your eyes open. Not looking at the sugar, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.


To hang out in the uncomfortable unknown and trust

First, for those of you who were wondering if that internal growth spurt I mentioned last week meant I was pregnant, I am not.

I was referring to a spiritual/emotional/personal kind of growth spurt. I am talking about getting better and better. I mean becoming more and more my authentic self.

Perhaps it does have some similarities to being pregnant, though. Like in how I forget the pain and I get excited to do it again.

For some reason, every time I make a move and take action to grow and change, I expect it to be easy. I expect the experience to be that of getting consistently happier, and more confident, with a steady acquisition of new skills.

Yeah…not so much. The truth is, while I am in the middle of it, it sucks. It’s painful and humiliating. And before I am graceful and happy and better than I have ever been before, I have to stumble and fall, fail and persevere. I forget that, like having a baby, it takes the blood, sweat, and tears of labor.

And there’s something else I have noticed. Life will always, always, ALWAYS give me a chance to backtrack. Usually more than once. Life makes me choose change over and over again, depending on how committed I am. It makes me say out loud, ‘I want something better.’

When I made the decision that I wanted to be in a serious, committed relationship, I took actions and made different choices. And out of the blue, multiple men from my past started calling and texting me. Seriously. Guys I had not heard from in months or years decided that they were curious about me.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like such a hard test, but familiar relationships are comfortable. Even if they are bad, or mediocre, or unfulfilling, there is such a temptation to go backwards into a set of circumstances you already know. Especially if what you want hasn’t shown up yet.

I didn’t know that my current boyfriend would turn out to be the love of my life. It was an act of faith in the benevolence of Life to turn away from men from my past. But I did it. I told Life that I wanted something more. And that I was willing to hang out in the uncomfortable unknown and trust.

And here I am right now, once again in the middle of a huge transition. Learning how to drive. Writing samples and interviewing for a dream job. Staying at a job that I absolutely abhor while working my way into a bigger, richer, gooier life. And sometimes it hurts so bad that I cry. And sometimes I hate it so much that I behave badly, like a little brat. And sometimes I am terrified that I will get stuck in the middle of the transition and never reach the other side. But somehow, I always manage to make it. And I live to forget how terrible the pain was. And again, like childbirth, I have this person that I love more than I thought I could. Only, in my case, that person is me.

Having boundaries around my eating is not the reason I can change. But it puts the whole thing on a fast track. Not being able to numb my disappointments and dissatisfactions means that I either have to live with them or change them. So I usually choose change, because I am very bad at sitting in discomfort. And that is a very special gift, because it has given that incredibly unhappy little fat girl a life beyond her wildest dreams.


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