onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “personal choices”

The kitchen in between

On this coming Friday, the furniture rental people are coming to take back their stuff. On Sunday, we will pack up and move out of here. But we won’t have an apartment in Rochester NY until the end of September. And that means 2 weeks in an extended stay hotel with a kitchenette. And that means 2 weeks without all of my kitchen comforts, and most of my favorite foods.

I will survive I don’t doubt. With my eating boundaries in tact I also don’t doubt. But it won’t be possible to make a lot of my go to foods. There won’t be an oven to bake bacon, so if I want it I will have to make it on the stovetop, which takes forever. So I probably won’t. (Maybe I won’t. Ok, I might but definitely not as often and I will feel the right to complain about it.) And my guess is the freezer won’t be cold enough to thoroughly freeze my ice cream making bowl, because they often aren’t in places like that. And I am already cataloging the handful of kitchen items I will need to bring with me, like a coffee cup because the ones they provide are so tiny, and a good frying pan because the ones they provide usually have the Teflon so scratched and warped I want to call poison control just from looking at it.

There are many things I love about traveling, but these in between times are not one of them. This is the closest I come to camping, and I don’t love it. 

I will take care of myself. I will love my food, whatever that takes and whatever that looks like. Even if it’s not the way I am used to. But I do have to brace myself. Be prepared in both the practical sense – like pack my coffee cup and my frying pan in an easily accessible crate in my car – and the emotional sense. But I will be prepared. And then pretty soon, I will be back in an apartment, with an oven and very cold freezer, and a chance to get to know a new place.

Night shift shift

My husband has been working the night shift this week. And he will be for the rest of the month. And it sucks. For him and for me.

I have adjusted my schedule and started staying up late to get to see him when he comes home, and waking up later so that there is less time when I am home and awake while he sleeps.

I like my routine. And this totally screws up my routine. It changes my meal times, as well as what I am eating. Since I don’t make the kinds of dinners for only myself that I do for both of us. So I don’t love that.

But my priority is my husband. The best parts of my day are with him. I like him. I like the time we spend together. I want that more than I want to eat dinner at 7:30 and go to bed at 9. (Though I really want that too.)

Getting my eating under control is how I learned to accept the reality that I have limited time in my day, and I get to decide how I want to spend it. And it’s how I learned how to get my priorities straight. 

Taking care of myself first. With food, and water, exercise and rest. Taking care of my marriage. Whatever that looks like. And for now, it looks like shifting my schedule and tiptoeing around in the morning, and changing my workout time and the day I go to the store, and anything I can do to spend quality time with my husband for this little while. 

But obviously, I am still looking forward to getting back to normal.

I couldn’t do it alone

I had another crochet doll breakthrough this week. And it was an interesting reminder about how other perspectives from other actual humans can change things so drastically for me.

I am making a character doll from my most recent favorite series, and this character wears sandals. So I had to figure out how to crochet a bare foot. A bare foot!

Well I mentioned it on a crochet forum online, and lots of people asked to see it. And the first attempt was hilarious. Hilariously awful. But I posted it. 

Now the crochet forum is full of really nice, really supportive people who love crafting. And lots of people said my first try was not as bad as I thought. Which may have been true. But I was not satisfied. And I was not going to waste fancy, expensive, DISCONTINUED yarn to make something I thought was meh at best. (I may be a yarn snob, but I’m still cheap.) But one of the commenters said I should try a particular stitch for the toes. (Popcorn stitch, in case you know or care.) And it is something I never would have thought of myself. But it was perfect! And I am thrilled with the results! I even made her right foot with my fancy, expensive, discontinued yarn!

I am a loner. I love my own company. I am content in my own head. I can go for days and not see another person and be perfectly content. I mean, I do see my husband. But even he, who is probably a bit of a loner himself, can be home with me and we will happily do our own things for long periods of time. 

But this can make me forget how other people can shift my perspective, my thoughts, my choices.

When I was in the food, I didn’t talk about food or eating with people. My eating was simultaneously shameful and deeply private. I did not talk about the crazy things I did. I did not want to say them out loud. And that made me feel very much like I was not only bad, but I was the only one. 

When I got my eating under control, and got into a community of people also getting their eating under control, I heard people say that they did the exact same things that I had. And even some crazy things that I had never done. (Yet. There’s always time. It’s why I still do all of the things I do and I don’t pretend I’m cured.)

I needed a community. I needed to know I was not alone. I needed to know that other people were crazy the way I was. And I needed to know that even those people who had been in it even deeper than I had, had somehow found a solution.

With both design and eating, I have learned that my accomplishments are both mine, and the community’s. I had to do the work. I had to show up, put in the effort, make the mistakes and feel the feelings. But I could not do it alone.

More fulfilling than weight loss

I have lost weight recently. I don’t weigh myself and I have not for years, but I do, in fact, wear clothes. And it is clear to me that things are significantly looser. Dresses that used to be formfitting now hang on me. And I have not (knowingly) done anything to facilitate that.

I have a theory about why. I have recently started taking an OTC medication for acid reflux. (Remember when I said a few weeks ago that I have been sick for months? Well my mother-in-law, who worked for a GI doctor for over 20 years, told me my persistent wet cough was acid reflux. And I’ll be damned if she wasn’t right!) And this weight loss coincides pretty closely with my starting the medicine. 

But the truth is, I don’t know what affects my weight. And the other truth is, I never have. 

Obviously when I gave up simple sugar and carbohydrates, that had a huge impact on my weight. I ate significantly less because I was not craving my drug foods, and therefore eating much less.  I was also eating much less of processed, high calorie/low nutrient foods. And I was managing my portions by weighing my food. But even since getting my eating under control, my weight has still fluctuated wildly. (Not hundreds of pounds, but as much as 30 or more.) And my eating has not changed that much. And even when I took specific actions and changed my foods, and my quantities of food, I could not get my body to “behave.” Gaining weight eating less, losing weight eating more. I could never get my weight to work like a math equation. I have never been able to predict my weight, or manage it, by food choices. And I have stopped trying. 

I don’t want to care about my weight. I don’t want to even think about my weight. But I live in a world and a society that cares very much about weight. So that is a struggle. And the first 28 years of my life revolved entirely around my weight. My shame over my weight. The humiliation of other people openly judging my weight. Those are hard things to forget. And those are things that shaped the way I thought and felt and interacted during my formative years.

Sometimes it has felt like those formative ways of being are “just the way I am.” Set in stone and unchangeable. But I have noticed that giving up my drug foods and changing my lifestyle has been an opportunity to change thought and behavior patterns that I thought were just “me.” It turns out, I can change me. Way more easily than I can change my weight. And way more fulfilling as well.

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.

How I became a unicorn, one day at a time.

I keep a day count on my phone of how long I have had my eating under control. Today is day 6,047. 16.5 years. And that seems like such an insanely long time.

In the beginning, I was looking at people who had a year and that seemed like such a far away goal. And then, by the time I got a year, 3 years seemed like such huge amount of time. I didn’t even pay attention to the people who had more time than I had even been alive. They may as well have been unicorns. 

For those first few years, I was so used to being a liar and a cheater, and so used to not being able to stick to a diet, that I would sometimes sort of panic. I would think to myself, really? Have I really not eaten anything I said I wouldn’t in 6 months, or a year, or two? Am I really doing this?

But I had a strict set of rules. And I had a person I was accountable to every day for those rules. And I could ask myself if I followed those rules. And the answer was yes! Miraculously yes!

I have heard a lot of compulsive eaters say that when they first came and started to do what I do with food, they thought people were liars. That there was “no way” anyone could actually not eat any sugar for years, or actually weigh all of their food without lying about it. Even my husband said in the beginning of our relationship that he didn’t believe anyone else was doing it as “perfectly” as I was. But I knew that they were. Because I was and I was as hopeless a case as there was.

So here is the trick. You don’t just wake up one day and have over 16 years. It’s one day at a time. It’s one meal at a time. It’s one moment at a time. It’s one feeing at a time. It’s one messed up situation at a time. It’s one terrible restaurant experience at a time. It’s one telling a family member thank you but you don’t eat that anymore at a time. And all of those add up. And now, 16 years later, I am somebody’s unicorn.

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.

If you can’t be in a body you love, love the body you’re in.

Ten years ago today I smoked my last cigarette. I had decided that I didn’t want to be a 35-year-old smoker. (Tomorrow is my birthday, in case that wasn’t obvious. And I turn 45 this time around.) It was about vanity for me. Quitting smoking felt like a really grown up thing to do. It felt like getting my shit together. So I did it. And it mostly felt great. 

Except in less than 6 months I had gained 30 pounds. Weighing all of my food. Eating quantifiably less food than I had been before quitting smoking (I know because I was weighing my food, and had already been doing so for years.) Eating less of foods like bacon and starchy vegetables. And still growing out of my clothes. 

I felt crazy! I was terrified! I had literal nightmares about stepping on the scale, about my weight going out of my control, about being fat again. Was I going to go right back up to 300 pounds again? Even with my eating boundaries?

I did not, of course, go back up to 300 pounds. My weight eventually stopped growing. But also, I have never been thin again. Ever. No more size 4s and 6s. No more tiny little dresses. No more little jeans that I held up thinking *these will never fit me*, but I was skinny, so they did. After the weight gain, I had to get rid of most of my clothes. It was hard. I cried a lot. Over the clothes, over my body, over my hormones going crazy trying to heal me after decades of being a smoker.

If I had known how it would go, I guarantee you I never would have quit. Because I cared so much about my weight. I had hated being fat and hated myself for being fat. When I had lost weight it felt like such an accomplishment. And people reinforced that idea. They were “proud” of me. They were “impressed.” They wanted me to “keep up the good work.” 

Except people didn’t want me to keep up the good work. They wanted me to stay thin. They didn’t care *how* I got there or maintained it. And in fact, a lot of them were freaked out or repulsed by the “good work” I actually did do to keep my eating under control which is what maintained the weight loss they were so “impressed” by.

And here I was *doing* this thing people wanted me to do (quit smoking) and it was making my body do this other thing people really *did not* want me to do (gain weight.)

So I did the only sensible thing, which, from the outside, to a lot of people, looked like a very stupid thing to do. I stopped caring about my weight. I made friends with the body I have. I started to dress the body I have. I started to exercise the body I have. I made a point to actively love the body I have. 

Obviously I am not sorry I quit smoking. Since 10 years later I am still a non-smoker, and I still keep my eating boundaries, even though I am not skinny. Because Life must have known what it was doing. Gaining weight with my eating under control was an excellent first step to dismantling my internalized fat phobia. It has let me see how we as a society shame and cow and control women with our body and beauty standards. And it let me heal a lot of the self-hatred that I had because I was fat in a world where fat is the worst thing a woman can be. It taught me in a practical way what no theoretical lesson could. That not all bodies can be shamed, cowed, and controlled into socially acceptable ones. At least not without the harsh and harmful methods I was now unwilling to subject my beloved body to. And that all I really need is to love the body I have exactly as it is.

Post Navigation