onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “personal choices”

Art and my noisy brain

I have been working on a crochet project for a few weeks, and I am in an uncomfortable but predictable place with it. I am a good portion of the way done and I have not been working on it almost at all for weeks, because I have begun to wonder if I actually hate it and have made a terrible mistake in trying to make it.

This is predictable because it happens every time I make a project that is an original idea and not based on a pattern. Every. Single. Time.

I know that this is the way of art. That there is nothing to do about it but keep going. And I even know somewhere in the back of my mind that it will probably be amazing, even if it is not perfect. And I know that I can alway frog it back (the common term for pulling out rows of stitches, because you rip it, rip it) and try again if I am so inclined. But knowing all of this does not particularly help me move in one direction or another.

My mind can be a bit of an echo chamber. Thoughts and ideas can bounce around in there for long periods of time, and grow or change shape in all kinds of unpredictable ways.

When I got my eating under control, an important early lesson was how I am “only as sick as my secrets.” That the things that I was afraid or ashamed of were amplified by my reluctance to talk openly about them. And once I found people on whom I could rely to be lovingly honest and nonjudgmental, I started telling my “secrets.” It turns out that the ghosts that can haunt me in my own mind are just shadows and dust bunnies when I shine a light on them. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

But art (and yes, I do consider myself an artist, and the kind of crafting I do art) is not merely an idea or a concept. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say. (I know, they don’t say that. But they should.) And art is not about ideas, but execution. So even if I were to wax poetic about my current project, which I occasionally do, it still doesn’t change the fact that it is not really anything until it is finished. It is not the idea that is haunting me, but my ability to make the idea tangible, and the reality of whether I can, in fact, manage to do that.

What I have learned about making in the 16+ years since I put boundaries around my eating is to trust the process. To fully embrace this place where I am stuck. To make friends with the rattling jumble of noise in my head. To honor the uncertainty and fear, and then, eventually, push through. To recognize that the idea and the object that is born from it are never the same. That art and craft are different, and that my art will only ever be as good as my skill in the craft. That there will always be more craft to learn, so make the art now anyway. 

Like I said before, I have this experience every time I create something from my own mind. And everything I have ever hated half way through, I have come to love upon completion. So I will probably make a few smaller projects or try some new techniques, and give myself a little distance from this major creative undertaking, and then I will come back to it and power through. And we shall see what I end up with.

Driving my meat car with the low fuel light always on

I was talking to a friend yesterday who forgot to eat for a long time and didn’t understand what was wrong. And it reminded me that there are a lot of us who don’t have bodies that function like other bodies.

My friend was raised with intuitive eating. (Not that it was specifically called that, but she was taught to only ever eat when she was hungry.) And that worked for her sisters and her parents. But my friend was feeling stressed out last week, and she did not feel hungry, so it never occurred to her to eat. So she didn’t. And it made her sick. Obviously.

And it reminded me that some of us don’t have the bodies with properly functioning “indicator lights.” My “hungry light” never goes off. My “full light” never goes on. For my friend, her “hungry light” never goes on. She usually takes her cues to eat from people around her, so when she is not around people, she can forget.

Before I got my eating under control, I thought hunger lived in my stomach. But since I have put boundaries around my eating, I have learned that my feelings live in my stomach. So any feeling used to feel like hunger. Unhappiness occurred as hunger. Anxiety occurred as hunger. Excitement occurred as hunger. And joy, and fear, and worry and dread. 

It turns out that actual hunger doesn’t really *feel* like anything to me. I’m more irritable, and my thinking less cogent. I am more likely to be scattered and not know what to do next. And I might, under extreme circumstances, feel wobbly or lightheaded. But none of those things *feel* the way I always thought hunger felt. They don’t feel like much of anything.

So I am grateful that I found a solution to my eating problem that doesn’t have anything to do with “listening to my body.” And I am grateful to have a point of reference for *not* listening to the feelings I have when it comes to food. 

I am not opposed to intuitive eating. I think that when all of your indicator lights function properly, it’s a smart way to nourish yourself. But here is to all of us driving around in our meat cars with the “low fuel” light always on (or off.) May we all find the best way to keep ourselves on the road.

Having a travel plan

My husband and I flew home for the weekend. I hate flying. I know that it doesn’t make sense to drive 12 hours both ways for a weekend, so of course we flew. But I have hated flying for as long as I have had my eating under control. 

I always travel with meals. At least a day’s worth. Sometimes 2 days or more. Because when it comes to food and keeping my eating boundaries, I make sure I am prepared. And TSA makes me anxious and stresses me out.

I have lots of little tricks I do to fly now. I have learned that certain food items, like glycerin-based flavorings, will automatically get flagged, so I don’t travel with food that has them. I don’t use foil to package things, and try to use transparent plastic bags and containers . I keep plastic and non-metal utensils to travel. I keep all food, along with my scales and batteries for my scales in separate carry-on that fits in my bigger carry-on, so when I get to the conveyor, I pull the smaller bag out of the bigger bag and put them on the belt separately.

Most of the time, I am traveling with more than I need. That is, as long as everything goes according to plan. But I will not leave my food and my eating boundaries to the chance that nothing will go wrong. Obviously, I am always pleased and grateful when nothing goes wrong! But when it does, I am even more grateful to have had the foresight to make a plan and prepare ahead of time.

A Case of Unshaken Identity

For a long time now, years, more often than not, it is hard to think of a topic for this blog. Committing to write weekly is a lot. And more than once I have wondered if it is time to put the blog down. For one, the name, which I thought was so clever when I started, hasn’t aged well for me, since my journey has steered me well away from weight and more into food addiction. And I definitely consider myself more interested in fat liberation now than in teaching someone else how to lose weight, which is not how this started for me.

But then I think about how keeping my eating boundaries is the most important thing in my life. And how not eating sugar, and honoring that there are behavioral aspects to my addiction, has led me to a life I love and to me being a person I respect. Which was not the case when I was eating compulsively. 

Being a sugar addict, and specifically being a sugar addict in recovery, and abstaining from foods that turn into drugs in my system, is my primary identity. More than knitting and crochet. More than fantasy novels. Even more than audiobook versions of fantasy novels! The first thing I do every day is know what I am going to eat, and when, and how. And writing this blog every week is just one more reminder that my eating boundaries are my first priority always. 

So for now, I will keep writing posts. And I will keep figuring out something to say. Because while I hope you get something out of it, mostly I do it because I am positive that I get something out of it. To claim my identity.

I love convenience only slightly less than getting what I want

I went to a new grocery store yesterday. And I ended up hating it. Which was kind of unexpected. It was significantly bigger than the one I have been frequenting. It was fancier. I drove farther to get there. The parking lot was packed. I had high hopes. But in the end, it was just really frustrating.

Both the meat and frozen vegetable selections were bigger, but didn’t have the things I specifically wanted. The produce was no better, but noticeably more expensive and several things I needed were sold out. The layout was confusing and sprawling, and frankly, a little maddening.  And in the end, the smaller grocery store closer to me is the owned by the same company as my local grocery store in my Chicago suburb neighborhood. So I already have a discount account for it, unlike the big fancy one. 

But there were actually 2 things I wanted that I can’t find at the closer store. My very favorite yogurt, and fresh half sour pickles. So that means I will almost certainly stop by that grocery store every couple of weeks to stock up on them.

Because I love convenience. But not as much as I love getting what I want. Especially when it comes to food.

I eat within my eating boundaries. I am fastidious. But I can be because I don’t feel deprived. I am not struggling against a diet. I am not struggling at all. And part of not feeling deprived and not struggling is giving myself those things I have the power to give. And fancy yogurt and fancy pickles are definitely in that category.

Priorities and Resentments

I am good at change because having my eating under control taught me about priorities. I often say that my eating boundaries are the most important thing in my life. What I am really saying when I say that is that taking care of myself is the most important thing in my life.

In many ways that can be seen as a weakness, or at least a mark against me. Shouldn’t my husband be the most important thing in my life? Shouldn’t I be focused on others? Isn’t that where my worth as a woman comes from? Even in 2022, I see messages every day across all kinds of media that tell me what my priorities should be. And in general, they are not, apparently, supposed to be me.

But my life is better because I do have priorities. And my husband’s life is better because I am my own first priority. And it comes down to one word. Resentment.

I am madly in love with my husband. He and my marriage are absolutely my second priority. But a big part of that is that I don’t put myself in a position to resent him. I don’t put his needs above my own. I take care of myself first. I take care of him second. Everyone and everything else falls into place when I act on what is most important to me.

I used to poison myself with people pleasing as much as sugar. And the sugar facilitated the people pleasing. I wasn’t even very good at people pleasing, for all of the numbing I did with sugar and drug foods. I *did* the thing to please, but I did it in such an unpleasant way, that everyone was unhappy. And then I ended up with a resentment on top of everything.

In getting my eating under control I learned to say no. It started out about food. No, you can’t have any of my food. No, I won’t eat the thing you are offering me. But it grew to be something more. No, I can’t help you. No, I am not available. No, I don’t have time.

And eventually I even stopped feeling guilty about it. I could say no with joy! And no hard feelings. At least on my part. And I learned how not to worry about hard feelings on other people’s parts too.

Putting boundaries around my eating created a ripple effect that has ended up transforming every aspect of my life for the better, letting me set boundaries, and honor my own priorities. I get to say how my life goes. And frankly, it goes pretty smoothly.

Nothing went wrong with my food

Today’s post is going to be extra short because I am already tired and out of my routine. We are living temporarily in New Jersey just outside of Philadelphia. So last week I secured a temporary apartment, and this past week I got ready to move. Then Friday I drove 12 hours to a new town and yesterday moved into a new apartment.

It’s small. It’s expensive. You know, very East coast.

One thing didn’t change. My eating. I made days worth of food ahead of time. I packed easily transported meals. The night before we drove, I actually packed the food up in the coolers I was going to use, and packed them into my car, only to take them out and put all of the food back into the refrigerator overnight.

Is that weird and obsessive? Perhaps. Did it make me feel better to already know at 5 o’clock in the morning exactly how the food was going to fit into the coolers and the coolers into the car? Absolutely.

I know what my priorities are. And I plan for them accordingly. Especially with food. And nothing went wrong with my food.

This one can tide me over

I mentioned in my last post that I was having a hard time getting my internet provider to come fix my internet. That continued, so on Monday I set up an appointment with a new provider and cancelled my service, which meant that I was without internet for 3 days. And friends, I LOVED it. 

I knit and crocheted and listened to an amazing audiobook series, and just generally had a very peaceful time.

I had some homework to do for my career coach, rewriting my resume and creating a LinkedIn page, but I would get internet on Thursday and I could do it on Friday. 

But while the internet technician was here on Thursday, I got a call that my husband had been asked to run a job in New Jersey for 4 months starting next week. 

So I got internet just in time to have to find us temporary housing immediately. 

All of a sudden, my Friday became grocery shopping for the week, and finding an apartment on almost no noticed, on top of creating a LinkedIn page, researching resumes and updating my own resume for my career coach. 

I was overwhelmed. I was frustrated. I felt in over my head. And it made me feel physically ill. 

And then I realized two things. Those feelings were tied up in very old stories about myself and whether or not I am lazy and if I do “enough.” And that I felt like that nearly every day for nearly all of my life when I was eating compulsively. 

I was a kid who never did my homework. I procrastinated. I intended to do it later, but by the time I knew I must do something I had waited long enough that I was too exhausted. I was easily paralyzed. I was afraid of doing wrong, so it was easier to do nothing. And having to rewrite my resume felt like that. I knew I had to find housing. But it felt awful to do that first, and not my resume. And by the time the housing was taken care of, I was too exhausted to deal with my resume.

So I did a thing I did a million times when I was a kid. I told myself I would do it in the morning.

I slept uneasy. I tossed and turned. I kept thinking about that resume and how I didn’t know what I was doing and how I had a meeting with my coach in the morning, and how I was in over my head. 

But here is the catch. This time I really did do it in the morning. Because I keep my promises. To myself. To other people. And then I had an amazing call with my career coach. And once that was done I felt spectacular. I felt free.

When I was eating compulsively and I hated myself, I thought I hated myself because of who I was. That I was broken. That I was lacking. But I hated myself because of what I did or failed to do. And in getting my eating under control, I learned how to do things. Not to be perfect or right. I learned to do them so I could sleep at night. I learned to do them so I could like myself. 

It is no coincidence that these feelings are coming up when I am looking for a new job, a new career, a new way of living and making money. They are all caught up in what I am worth. 

But the first thing I ever did that made me feel that I was worthy was to promise myself and another person that I would stop eating sugar and put boundaries around my eating, and then to keep that promise. 

I am always grateful for these moments when I get a glimpse of what it felt like to hate myself again. To remember that that was my reality for 28 years. After 16 years of keeping my eating under control and loving my life, it can escape me how much pain I lived in thinking there wasn’t a way out. But don’t get me wrong. This can tide me over for a long time. I don’t need any more reminders for the time being.

Every Feeling In Its Place

It has been a few days of what some people like to call “broken shoelaces.” These are not life or death problems I’m having. They are manageable troubles that happen to everyone. They are just life. But gah! They sure do suck!

My car battery died. And the store only had the really expensive replacement battery in stock. My internet won’t work. And I can’t get my provider to send a technician. I just end up on the merry-go-round of their automated system. But also, if we change providers, we don’t know it will be any better, and they may have to drill holes in our cinderblock walls. Sigh. 

I am frustrated. I am annoyed. I feel like none of this will ever be resolved. But of course it will. Because I am not drugging myself with food. I am not making myself numb enough not to care.

I don’t like these feelings. I am not comfortable being frustrated, feeling powerless, feeling invisible. I don’t enjoy not being able to get what I want even through my own actions.

But I know how to manage those feelings. I know how to be with them. I know how to sit in the discomfort until it passes, either from me fixing it, or sometimes, life fixing it. Everything passes. And sometimes it passes because I made it. And sometimes because things change. But however it happens, in the mean time, I know how to be calm, or more likely how to calm myself. I know how to accept my situation and take stock of my opinions. And I know how to be patient. To not need everything right now. 

And I learned that through practice. And the first thing I had to practice was not eating compulsively even when my thoughts and my feelings were screaming for cake.

Having my eating under control gives me a kind of control over my thoughts and actions that I never had in the food. And it puts my feelings in their proper place. They are signposts and guides. They are warnings and signals. But they are not the truths I used to take them for. 

I am still annoyed. I am not an angel or a saint. But I am in control of my life in a way I was not when my sugar addiction was active. I am in control of my actions, and my thoughts, and how I present them to others. And that makes all of these broken shoelaces feel like what they are, inconveniences, rather than the overwhelming problems that I used to be afraid everything was.

A Pickle On An Easy Path

One thing about having my sugar addiction under control for so long is that I do not want sugar anymore. I do not crave it. But also, I do not want it. There is nothing in it for me anymore.

The idea that a little would be a “treat” is ridiculous to me now. Because when I was addicted to sugar and eating compulsively, it made me numb. And it made me embarrassed and ashamed. And that had some connection to my weight. But separately, it was connected to all of the ways I failed to show up in my life. It was connected to all of the ways I lacked integrity. It was connected to my being dishonest and manipulative and cruel. Because it made it so that I didn’t have to look at myself or contemplate what kind of person I was being. It made me numb enough that I didn’t have to be confronted by my own actions.

I am an addict. And I, personally, don’t believe that once you have become addicted to something you can ever cease to be addicted to it. You can’t get the cucumber back once it’s a pickle. But even if you could, why would I try? Why would I potentially throw away 16 years of growth and peace and happiness? Why would I give up my eating boundaries for a moment of flavor when I don’t know what other consequences would come with it?

I think that fact that I do not crave the things I used to be obsessed with is a pretty good sign for me that they were always an addiction. If it were really just about food being delicious, then 16 years later, you would think I would still want it. But I look at cake and I don’t see anything. I don’t see deliciousness or excitement or even that hit of getting high. Much of the time, even if it is right in front of me, I literally don’t see it, as in it does not even register.

I am so grateful that it is so easy to keep going down the path. Because getting on the path was hard. It was uncomfortable and painful and difficult. And it lasted a long time. It didn’t really get easy for a year and a half. And that is a long time to stick with pain and discomfort.

But it was worth it. I am free from my eating disorders and my sugar addiction. I am free to enjoy my food and also enjoy my life. And I don’t miss foods I don’t eat.

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