onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “personal choices”

All my books were dirty-and I don’t mean smut

One of the hardest things about writing a weekly blog on the same topic for over a decade is that there is a lot of mundanity at certain points in a year, and we are in one of those times right now. The big holidays are over and winter in cold climates is a lot of staying home. (OK, admittedly I am a huge proponent of staying home in all seasons. But in winter, most regular non-hermit types do as well.) So I don’t have a lot of out-of-the-ordinary situations to write about.

So I guess what I will say is that getting my eating under control means I don’t eat when I am bored, or eat as a means of filling the void. And winter always used to be the perfect time to be bored, and therefore, to get cozy and eat. 

The other day on a social media group for readers, I saw someone wondering why anyone would eat while they read? They thought that sounded crazy! And I thought to myself, that is a normal eater posing that question because eating while I read was my absolute favorite! So many of my old paper books have food stains or crumbs in the creases because while I was eating compulsively, I loved to cozy up in a chair with a book and a blanket and a bunch of junk food to eat and read. 

I do still love to cozy up with a good book. But now it’s usually an audiobook, with a cup of coffee or herbal tea, and my knitting. 

Sometimes when we give up a thing that is killing us, we have to change other things about ourselves. Ways that we have integrated a bad habit into our days. Like the way I always had a cigarette and a cup of coffee on my roof first thing in the morning when I was a smoker, so when I quit smoking I had to change my morning routine and stopped going on the roof in the morning. Because certain actions set up a craving. They gave my body an expectation and triggered a particular appetite.

So I didn’t read as much when I first got my eating under control. And if I did I often did so at the bookstore, or if it was particularly late at night, at a bar, where I could drink Diet Coke in my pajamas and not worry about eating. (It was New York City, where a girl drinking Diet Coke in her pajamas at a bar after midnight is the least weird thing a bartender has to deal with.)

I am so grateful that I can still love books without eating. I am grateful that I have found a way to keep the best parts of certain habits and practices, and still give up the parts of them that were killing me. I still love a cozy day with a good book. But now I don’t also hate myself afterwards because I can’t control my eating.

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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.

Avoiding the pit of despair (and carbs)

First, for those of you who are dying to know, I did finish my character doll in time to gift it to the author. I didn’t get to give it to her directly, per either her own or the book store’s policy, but the doll turned out better than I expected and I was sorry to give her away. So sorry that all this week in my free time, I have been working on a smaller version for myself. (She’s a particular shade of blue -like the grey blue of hydrangeas – and I didn’t have enough yarn to make another one the same size.)

I am proud. Proud of the doll. Proud of my progress as a crafter and an artist. Proud of my accomplishments but also of my work, my willingness to work, and my willingness to undo the work that doesn’t work.

In getting my eating under control I had to learn to live my life differently, and to view my life from a different perspective. Because when I was eating compulsively, my life revolved around my feelings and my feelings were volatile and always leaned towards discontent. So when I wanted to make something – and I did. I was an artist from a young age – I was only interested in the completed work, not the process. And I was obsessed with time. Or at least I was obsessed with the time I had already spent. So if I spent time on something and it came out wrong, I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to spend even more time “fixing” what I “should have done right the first time.” So I either had a thing I didn’t like, or I gave up in frustration.

In getting my eating under control I leaned to deal with difficult feelings. First hunger. I learned to be hungry and not eat. I learned that hunger, at least the kind that I was experiencing, would not kill me. (I am not talking about real hunger. I am not talking about food insecurity. I am talking about having feelings that were uncomfortable and the desire to eat my drug foods to numb those feelings.) And then frustration. And then the shame of failure.

And what I learned by feeing these difficult feelings and not eating over them is that on the other side, if I don’t numb myself, there is a choice to be made. Do I leave the mistake or do I go back and fix it? Because suddenly there was a choice. And to make it, whatever I chose, made me understand how I controlled my own life.

Of course I had always controlled my own life. But I didn’t know that. And I didn’t have the capacity to figure it out. Because I was constantly shoving those feelings down and burying them under a belly full of chocolate cake.

When I put boundaries around my eating I gave myself the opportunity to learn and grow. I did not know that I was lacking it before. Because I was smart. I was capable. I was a quick learner. But none of these things were worth anything when a stumble landed me face first in a pit of despair and carbs.

Don’t worry. Tomorrow I will be dissatisfied with my doll making skills again. In fact, I already am. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I am still proud of the work I have done. I just want to be better. Whatever that takes.

The joy of integrity

This might surprise you, but I can be an over thinker. (I know. You’re shocked.) And when I want to make a thing, especially a doll, I can spend days, or in some cases even weeks, thinking about the technicalities of a project. The plan. The design. The math. The techniques.

Well today I am going with a good friend to meet an author we both love. She had a new book come out this past week. And I devoured it in less than 2 days. (It could have been one, but it turns out my husband sometimes needs me to interact with him.) And I became obsessed with the main character. And I decided I needed to make a doll of her. For the author. Who I would be seeing in less than a week. So there was no time to plan for weeks. I had to just dive in. I decided there was nothing to do except start and keep going.

And wouldn’t you know that I worked faster, more efficiently, and just plain better than I ever have before. Ok, I am going to have to finish her hair and crochet her a dress all in about 5 hours. Can I do that? Who knows! But even with all of my meals and the regular life I have had to live, including cooking and packing for this trip back to the suburbs of Chicago, I have still managed to create a really cool thing in 4 days.

I do understand that this point I am at is a culmination of all of the work I have done up until now. All that over thinking, and all the patterns I followed, and all of the failed attempts at making my own patterns. I could not have simply jumped in like this 2 years ago. I didn’t have the legs to stand on. And I only have the legs to stand now because I have my eating under control.

It gives me the head space to learn, to build on techniques, to grow as a crafter and an artist. And it gives me the practical tools I need to keep me doing the things I need to get done outside of my art. Like eating my portion controlled meals, keeping my kitchen clean, and the laundry done, and the groceries bought. Like writing this blog even though I just want to make the dress already!

So I am going to eat my breakfast and then get back to it. Because my eating boundaries are my first priority. But making something I love and am proud of is the joy that comes from my integrity.

Planned and prepared? Priceless

Some time in the middle of next week, my husband and I will drive home to the Chicago suburbs for the holidays. And that means meal prep.

There is something really special to me about making, portioning out and packing up 3 days worth of food. I can literally see EVERYTHING I am going to eat.

I fought really hard against planning meals ahead before I started doing what I do to control my eating. I liked the uncertainty because it made it easier to convince myself that I needed, or at least “could have” the exact foods I was trying not to eat. I wanted freedom. But I really wanted the freedom to eat sugar. Because I had a bad day. Because I had a good day! Because I haven’t had it in a while. Because if I follow whatever diet, I won’t be having more for a while. Because because because.

The truth is that I have flexibility now. I can make and portion and pack 9 full meals, and still decide to eat something else. It’s just that it’s not an accident. It’s not the “only choice” I have. It’s not a case of me saying screw my food plan. I love my food plan! So if I want something else, it’s always something in my eating boundaries.

If I get to the grocery store near my house in the suburbs and they have giant honeycrisp apples and I have packed and committed to 8 ounces of pineapple, I can change my mind! But I *have* the pineapple. So if it’s time for breakfast and I am hungry and I don’t want to wait and see if there are giant apples, I am taken care of.

Back when I was eating compulsively and trying to lose weight, not having a plan was always a way to “accidentally” go off my diet. (It was not actually an accident. In case the quotation marks don’t make that obvious.) I was always either excitedly starving myself long enough to get high on some weight loss or looking for any excuse to eat drug foods. Often both. At the same time. But even if I were in the middle of a good stretch of weight loss, a holiday would mean food was going to win. It was just how holidays worked. Everyone gained weight over Christmas.

Having my drug foods down and my eating under control is a relief to me year round. Having my meals packed and ready to go is a joy. Seeing the sum total of every morsel I will consume over the next few days is a trip! Not hating myself because I can’t stop eating? Well, like that old credit card ad would say. “Priceless.”

When the cooler head is not mine

I have had a particularly difficult week. I have been feeling awful. I have had breathing problems from my acid reflux, and on top of that, I got my flu and Covid vaccines and they knocked me on my ass. It has almost been a week and I am still all aches and pains. The injection sites even still hurt.

I don’t even want to eat! I have, of course, been eating my portion controlled meals, but kind of suffering through them. If that doesn’t tell me I am sick, I can’t imagine what would.

I have written about it here before, but one of the ways I know I am taking care of myself is to give myself commitments and keep them. And as I have also written before, working out is one of those commitments. And a good friend said to me this week, “take some time off from working out. Your body needs rest.” 

I am not naturally good at self-care. I don’t mean manicures and massages. I’m pretty good at doing things I like. If you have read my blog for a while you know that I actually think doing the work of self-care sucks. It’s drinking water and working out and going to bed in time to get eight hours of sleep instead of staying up all night listening to a great novel. But just like I don’t have that thing in me that tells me I am full and have eaten enough, I don’t have that thing in me that tells me it’s time to work or time to rest. I weigh out three meals a day. I work out 5 days a week. I only know I am taking care of myself because I am honoring these commitments. 

So when my friend told me to take some time off from my workout, I kind of panicked. In my very anxious head, this seemed like the opposite of a good idea. Working out is caring for my body!

Of course she was right. I got winded a few times in the grocery store yesterday. And I was feeling better than I had all week. How did I think I was going to walk up and down the stairs a hundred times? (I did think it, by the way. I thought I was just going to push through.)

So I am once again reminded that I can’t do this alone. I need cooler heads to prevail. I need people who love me and want the best for me to come through. 

I’m not saying I always follow the advice I get. And I have plenty of issues that I still need to work through around the ways I take care of my body. But I am not an island. And I am grateful to have a community of people who are looking out for me. And I am happy to return the favor when my head is the cooler one.

Doing the work scared.

I saw a meme with a quote the other day that really struck me. The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.

I love my comfort zone. Adore it. If my options are go big or go home, I’m going home. I’m putting on some yoga pants, taking off my bra, putting on an audiobook and doing some garter stitch knitting.

A friend of mine is an artist who makes her living painting. She was recorded speaking about it and she said one of the things that makes her a success is that she loves being afraid. I have never been a fan, personally. And perhaps that is a gift she was born with. But for me, it had to be cultivated and nurtured. And I still don’t love it. I just love the results.

When I got my eating under control I learned to make friends with being afraid. Or I became willing when I realized that the things that I wanted for myself, like a body I was comfortable in, and a level of integrity I was proud of, and a clear mind, and great relationships, and love were all on the other side of things I was terrified of. These were all things I both desired and lacked. And I wasn’t going to find them in any of my usual haunts: my couch, my bed, a pack of cigarettes or a box of Little Debbies.

In our Western culture, we have a lot of fad diets. And one of the most common things about them is they claim that you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight. One of the hardest lessons I learned was that in order to change my life, I had to change the way I was living my life. If I could eat whatever I wanted and still lose weight, I wouldn’t have needed to lose weight. (Not that I needed to lose weight. I was a beautiful fat woman! I needed to get my eating addiction under control.)

I am ready for a new chapter in my life. I would love to find a job I love. I would love to write some fiction I am proud of. I would love to complete some fiction whether or not I am proud of it! I would love to create new crochet doll designs that bring my skill level up a notch. Or ten.

But right now I’m in my comfort zone and right at this moment I don’t even know exactly how to get out of it and scare myself proud. But I am keeping my eating under control, and doing my spiritual writing and meditation. And trusting that Life will lead me in the right direction. I know that the next right thing will come to me as long as I’m willing to do the work scared.

The living declaration of my priorities

The other day I was talking to somebody who is just starting to give up sugar and put boundaries around her eating and she was saying she is worried about not being organized enough to do what I do. Which is an understandable fear when you hear me talk about all of the things I do to keep my eating boundaries.

But there is a secret I told her that I will tell you. It’s not about doing all of the things like shopping and chopping and preparing. It’s about *making the commitment* to get your eating under control and *having the willingness* to do it no matter what.

You can still keep your eating boundaries without doing all of these seemingly time consuming things. It’s just harder. It’s just a lot more work. It just doesn’t make sense when you are going to keep the boundaries anyway. But the prep and the time and the effort do not create commitment. All of the trips to the grocery and the hours in the kitchen are the symptoms of that commitment.

Someone on social media once asked “how do people start working out first thing in the morning?” When I am working, I work out in the morning. Often when it’s still dark out. And the answer is, first you make the commitment to work out. And you do it whenever you can. And eventually you realize that you don’t want to take two showers a day. Or you don’t want to have to bring a change of clothes with you. Or you don’t want to have to stop back at home after work before going out. So you work out first thing because that is more convenient. But it’s only more convenient if you already knew for a fact that you were going to work out no matter what.

Someone once told me that making a commitment changes the whole trajectory of your life. And I didn’t understand that until I got my eating under control. Until I chose to get my eating under control and decided it was the most important thing I could do in a day. A commitment is a kind of living declaration of our priorities, and I love that my life is an example of that.

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.

All the angels are here.

I started a new meditation practice this week. It feels good. It has been a while since I have had a strong, long-term, daily practice of some sort of meditation and reflection. 

The most spiritual thing I do in a day is weigh my food and keep my eating boundaries. That action itself is a kind of prayer of gratitude. Thank you God/Life/Universe for this nourishment that also blocks the obsession of eating. Every time I do it I know that I am doing something that keeps me on the path I want to be on. The path that leads to my most authentic self. The path that gives me a chance for a life that I love.

I used to think that spirituality was amorphous and ethereal. A thing that couldn’t be fully understood. But now I think of it as a series of actions. Weighing and measuring my food 3 times a day. Writing 3 pages of stream of consciousness. Being still and quiet for 3 timed minutes. Writing out at least 3 things I am grateful for. (Apparently I like the number 3.) 

Every time I make a commitment to myself, for myself, and keep it, that is a spiritual act. Did my workout? Spiritual. Drank my water? Spiritual.

Having a practical spirituality changed my whole way of thinking. I no longer have to wonder about God and if I am doing what God wants. I am doing what I want, and giving myself all of the things I want for myself. Heaven is empty and all the angels are here.

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