onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “personal choices”

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.

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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.

The gift of desperation

I have mentioned before that the boundaries I keep around my food are strict. That do not eat sugar, grains or starch, including starchy vegetables. I control my portions exactly. I eat three times a day. No more and no less. And I do it every single day. There are no cheat days, no exceptions. No treats on my birthday. No snacks. No just this once. Not for weddings or funerals, or births. Some people find this extreme. (I used to, but I don’t anymore. After 9 years I think it is perfectly normal to only eat nutritious food in healthy quantities. I understand that it is not the norm, but I no longer think that makes it “extreme.”)

Today, I was on an internet forum for people who have boundaries around their food like I do. And a new person asked how long it took to get it “squeaky clean.” A number of people said that what we do is “squeaky clean” and that if you are not doing it that way, then technically you are not doing it. And the person responded that that was ideal but not possible. Not right away. That it must take time. So how much time?

I have seen enough people get sober to know that it takes how long it takes. Some people take years. Some people get it right away. There is no right or wrong about it.

I believe a lot has to do with a personal journey. I have heard people tell stories about how they had not had sugar for months, and then one day, they walked into a bakery. They could not really remember doing it. One minute they were sober from sugar, the next they were brushing crumbs off their shirt. They couldn’t explain it. And I don’t feel the need to judge that. It sounds horrible to me. Terrifying. Gut wrenching.

But there is something that needles at me in the question “how long does it take?” Because it lacks responsibility.

How long do I get to do what I want and still complain? I mean, I want what I want. But I don’t really want to do any work for it. This is magic, right? One day I will just stop eating too much, right?

How long am I allowed to keep being dishonest? How big does a lie have to be before it’s an actual lie? I just want to tell little lies, of course. Nothing major. Maybe just a little extra protein. It can’t hurt…

How long do I get to ask for help but not follow directions? I understand that this worked for you, but your extreme commitment makes you look pretty pathetic to me. I don’t want to look like that. I just want the results you got.

How long before I can say that I am totally a hopeless case and walk away? When do I get to quit?

When I got sober, I had what people have referred to as “The Gift of Desperation.” I was miserable. I hated myself. I was overwhelmed with pain and shame. I wanted out!

I had to ask myself what I was willing to do to stop letting food and my eating disorders control my life. I had to make bold decisions and take drastic actions. I did not ask what was going to be done for me. – Though so much was done for me! Supportive phone calls. People who were wiling to give their time and energy to address my questions and concerns. People who were willing to give me rules and suggestions. People who were willing to take a commitment from me and hold me to it, with love and generosity. – I asked what I was going to do to help myself.

I followed directions. I made drastic changes. I did things that, at the time, seemed almost sacrilegious. If I had made a meal and realized there was a problem with it that couldn’t be fixed to make it fit in my boundaries (like discovering I used a spice that had sugar in it or realizing I added too much oil and it was all mixed in now), I thew the whole thing away!

I understand that it can be difficult to grasp the kind of integrity I have around food. Especially for someone new. I would bet that the person who asked that question didn’t for a moment think it was about personal responsibility. Who is out in the world talking about personal responsibility? I get that we live in a society that has gradations for lies. That everyone around us wants instant gratification. That weight loss, especially, is a multi-billion dollar industry, based on losing weight with no hassle to the consumer. You won’t feel hungry! Eat all the foods you love! You won’t have to do anything! The pounds will just melt away!

That’s not how what I do works. I recommit to doing it exactly right every day. Three times a day. I take responsibility for what goes in my mouth, and how much, and when. I do extreme things. I have gotten extreme results.

…But that’s none of my business…

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about what it looks like to let people be themselves. Make their own choices. Fight their own battles. Live their own lives.

It’s a hard thing. I know that it is hard for everybody. And I like to think it is something that I am relatively good at.

Relatively. I mean, it’s not easy. Especially when I love somebody. Or in my pride I think I know what would be best.

And maybe what I think other people should do really would make them happy, or give them peace, or just generally make things work out for the best. But none of that matters.

When I was growing up, a lot of people wanted me to lose weight. Doctors and family and friends. Not because they didn’t like or love me fat, but because they did. They wanted better for me. They wanted me to be healthier and happier. They didn’t want me to get obesity related illnesses. Or be made fun of. Or get hurt and rejected.

But nothing those people wanted for me ever helped me. None of their opinions or advice ever landed as anything but judgment, cruelty, and conditional caring. I am not saying that that is what it was. I am not saying that it was not genuine love and concern. But it did not occur that way. It occurred as intrusion. And for the most part, it still does.

I love advice.

When I ask for it. Because I am choosy about whom I ask. I go to people who have something I want when I ask for advice. When I wanted peace around food, I went to people who had peace around food. I did what they did. Not people who were skinny. Not even people who had lost a lot of weight. I wanted food to stop being an issue. So I went to people for whom compulsive eating was no longer an issue. When I wanted to open my heart and find a powerful relationship, I asked for advice from people in the kinds of relationships I wanted. Not people who happened to be married. Not women who were trying to land a husband. It was about relationships. When I wanted to quit smoking, I went to people who had successfully quit smoking and were empowered by it. Not people who still had a puff every once in a while. Not people who had never had or wanted a cigarette. People who quit so that they could grow.

What I do around food is not for everybody. Plenty of people are not sick with sugar addiction or eating disorders, and can eat sugar and drink alcohol normally and without negative repercussions. Or have other food issues that would be exacerbated by what I do.

And no. Not everybody wants what I have. And I can understand that. I think most people can’t imagine how sweet and delicious my life is. I don’t think many people can fathom what it is like to have found a certain amount of peace. I bet they think that what I have is a dull as can be.

But even more, there are people who do, indeed, want what I have, but are unwilling to do what I do. Almost everybody wants to know how I live with the idea of never eating chocolate cake again. Or never having a glass of wine with dinner. Or they want to make sure that I know that they never could. So many people, when they hear my solution, decide that it’s too much. They want an easier, softer way. Not so hard. Not so extreme.

And who am I to tell them differently? Who am I to judge them for not doing what I do?

And it’s not just food. Food is just the most obvious example to me. My “amazing” weight loss transformation that is written all over my body. (Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I put amazing in quotes because I happen to know that my weight was the symptom of my eating disorders. That what’s really amazing to me is the gift of having my eating under control, which takes care of my weight issues. And that more than amazing, it’s work and dedication and giving myself over to grace.) Who am I to offer advice about any choice. Who am I to tell anybody anything? Who am I to tell another person how to live. Or what happiness is. Or where to find it?

Unless you want to ask me. And then I would love to tell you what works for me. And even then, I give it as a gift. With no strings. To do with what you will. Because your life is yours. And you get to live it for yourself.

Money is money. And time is money. But my attention is worth more than gold.

Twice now in the past three days I have had to speak up for myself. I have had to say no and stop.

It’s always an experience to see where I resist this. My “Good Girl” is a bit of a die-hard, it turns out.

Although it is not all about being a “Good Girl.” There is a line many of us walk. That line between self-care and egotism. I sometimes have a hard time distinguishing that line. I know that living my life generously is a gift back to myself. But taking care of, and responsibility for my own needs is also a gift to myself.

My mother and I were talking not too long ago about money. She said that my whole life, even when I was a child, if I “lent” somebody money, chances were I would never get it back. Because I never made it a priority. In some ways that was generosity, and in some ways it was a lack of self-care.

The truth is that while I like money, I don’t love it. It does not motivate me or thrill me. Losing it does not scare me. But over the past several years, as my self-care has become ever more important, I have done very little “lending.” And more often than not, if I am going to give you money, I am going to gift it. I don’t want there to be expectations. This also makes it easier for me to say no. If I pretend that I might get it back, I might feel like I “should” say yes. If I know that once it leaves my hand, it is gone, I can better gauge if I am willing to part with it. It’s a kind of Jedi-mind-trick. But it works. And brings me peace.

But what I had to do this week was not about money. It was about time, sort of. But really, it was about something else. It was about access to my attention. It was about allowing people in. And this is a line I have a very hard time walking.

My first reaction is to keep everybody out. I spent my life building fortresses and hiding within them. When I was actively in my addiction, I lived in a fortress of fat. That I fortified with isolation. I would hide away and eat. I would sit alone for long stretches and binge. I would eat all day until I passed out in a sugar induced coma. And I would wakeup fatter and more “protected” than I had been when I came to from the previous night’s passing out.

But I also have a history of doing things I don’t want to do because I “should.” (There’s that word again. I hate that word…) Things that I thought I would want to do if I were a good person with a pure heart and an honorable soul. I have a history of being a “Good Girl” and resenting the hell out of the people I was being “good” for.

The first boundary I set this week was a long time coming.

I am part of a group. A group I like and love and enjoy. We meet once a week on a video conference call. And it is important to me.

Several months ago, I was asked to help a couple of people to get set up on their computers. Make sure they had the proper accounts and software. And I did that. Even though I don’t like computers. Or interacting with strangers for that matter. And then it became expected. And for months, the expectation was that I would help everybody and their brother set up their computers. And even the few times I said no, I didn’t stick to it and ended up doing it in the end.

Part of this was my “Good Girl” who could not bear to say that my time and attention were too important to help somebody else. And my ego that told me that I had let it go on so long that it must officially be my job and that I would shame and dishonor myself by saying anything about it after all this time. And part of it was my arrogance that insisted that if I didn’t do it, it was not going to get done. And that that somehow made it my responsibility.

And I got more and more resentful. And as time went by and my resentment grew, the level of responsibility that I grudgingly and hatefully took on grew. Until this week I got a message from a complete stranger, saying that somebody had told her that there was some sort of meeting on the internet for our group and that she should get in touch with me.

First I boiled with rage!

And then I said no. I said that they should refer back to the person who referred them to me for help.

And then I wrote a message to the group and I said no again. To everybody. I said that I was not available to help people get on the group any more. That if people wanted people to join us, they were going to have to take some responsibility for it. And I am so grateful to have said it. I am so relieved.

Resentment feels awful. It feels dirty and itchy. Plus it’s exhausting. You would think that I would recognize right off the bat that it is not something I want in my life. That if a behavior of mine is cultivating it, that I should stop that behavior. Immediately.

But it can be so hard. It can be so easy to second guess myself. And this is coming from somebody who works at exactly this every day. I’m not some schlump walking through life blind. My only ambition in life, besides being an amazing girlfriend and partner, is to grow spiritually. To be an amazing friend to myself. And I can still harbor a resentment for months and months.

And then two days later the next one happened.

It was late at night (for me. I happen to be incredibly lame.) I got a PM on Facebook from an acquaintance. She wanted to ask me about something and told me that for that purpose, I needed to accept her friend request.

Now you should know that I have a hard time with Facebook and friend requests. I already have many people on my friends list that I have hidden from my news feed. If you share a lot of pictures of cakes and brownies and various foods I do not eat, chances are I have hidden your posts. If you share a lot of weight-loss/diet articles with pictures of skinny women in yoga pants, chances are I have hidden your posts. If you share a lot of violent stories and pictures, chances are I have hidden your posts. Or just generally, if what you share upsets me or makes me uncomfortable, chances are I have hidden your posts.

But there is also another aspect to being Facebook friends with somebody. It gives them license to comment on your life. When you say yes to a friend request, you are saying, I care if you “like” what I post. I am willing to hear what you have to say about what I have to say.

And guess what? If we are not friends or family, I don’t give a shit what you think.

Now the reason this was particularly poignant for me was that this is not the first time that this person has sent me a friend request. The first time, I told her no very clearly. I even gave her a brief explanation. Which I did not owe her. I do not owe people explanations for the choices I make. (And no, I did not say that I did not give a shit what she thought. I was clear but diplomatic. In case you were wondering.) And shortly after that, she sent me a Facebook message that said she did not know how to get in touch with me since I wouldn’t accept her friend request. Of course I responded, without noting at the time that she was, in fact, being in touch with me.

A few months ago I got yet another friend request from her. By then I had realized that if you just leave the friend request there, you don’t have to reject the same person repeatedly. So her request has been sitting there since then.

And last night it happened yet again. Her PM said that there was something that she needed to go over with me, but she didn’t know how to get in touch with me if we weren’t Facebook friends.

Now I was angry.

And I took a few deep breaths, and I wrote her immediately. Sure, sometimes I believe that communication should be slept on and considered. When I need to disentangle what part of it is my BS and what part of it I need to address with the other person. But there was no doubt in my mind what I needed to say. It was obvious. It was simple. It was “Respect me.” “Respect my no.” “Stop it.”

When I was eating compulsively, I ate difficult conversations. And sugar made me high enough to make the uncomfortable feelings go away. And not feeling the uncomfortable feelings allowed me to convince myself that a conversation didn’t need to be had. Or a statement didn’t need to be made. Or a boundary didn’t need to be set.

But the farther I get from the food, the harder it is to sit in the discomfort. And I will say this. I have been keeping my commitments to water and meditation this week. And it has occurred to me that it is perhaps no coincidence that I have had a little breakthrough in saying what needs to be said. Perhaps it was hard to sit still and be with myself when I was itchy and gross with resentment. And perhaps forcing myself to sit still has made not saying what I needed to say unbearable.

I don’t know. It might be a coincidence. But then again, it might not…

I didn’t know where I was going, but I got there in the end.

This week was a mixed bag.

At work, I spilled coffee on my computer while some IT guy was setting up a remote file sharing system for me. So I now have a remote file sharing system set up on a computer that I can’t use. I am waiting for the main office to send me a new computer. And in the mean time I am using a really crappy computer that is difficult to maneuver, saving all of my work on a flash drive so I can print from a printer in another room of the office, and file sharing by emailing my work to my colleagues.

It was upsetting to break my computer. It felt shameful. I was embarrassed. And then all of the inconvenience that resulted was a moment to moment reminder that the cause was my “stupidity” or “failure” or “inadequacy.”

There is a joke that I find particularly funny. When a normal person goes to their car and sees they have a flat tire, they call AAA. When an addict goes to their car and sees that they have a flat tire, they call a suicide help line.

The problem is that I have a lifetime of abusing myself for mistakes. As if natural consequences were not punishment enough. It’s a habit that is hard to break. My body and my brain are very familiar with the knee-jerk reaction of thinking I’m terrible and worthless, and feeling ashamed and humiliated.

The simple truth is that if you spill coffee on your computer, it will not work. And you will have to make do with other, less convenient, means of doing what you had done before. That is all. And it’s enough.

But I have a default setting of thinking everything is a moral issue. It’s like I’m living in the Middle Ages. My sinful existence has angered God and I am being punished with faulty electronics.

But then yesterday, I had a group of friends come over. All of them women who put boundaries around their eating. And that was wonderful. I got to spend time with people whose company I enjoy, and laugh and talk and tell stories and hear stories. And I also got to talk about the way my life has changed over the past 8 ½ years.

9 years ago, breaking my computer would have been the end of the world. Of course I would have eaten a chocolate cake over it. But back then I was going to eat that chocolate cake no matter what. I was at a point where I didn’t need a particular excuse to eat. Life was enough. And that particular chocolate cake that I had eaten after that particular incident would have let me be paralyzed in relative comfort. I would have been high enough that I wouldn’t have worried about what to do next. Until I came down. And then that end of the world would be even bigger and scarier because I wouldn’t have done anything and it would have been even later. So I would eat more cake. Or perhaps make a rash decision. Do something. Anything! Even if it was not logical or well thought out. Even if it just made everything worse and more complicated. And then I would eat more cake. And eventually life would move on. And it would drag me along with it.

I got dragged a lot for the first 27 years of my life.

The sad thing is that there might not have even been something to “do next.” I had a habit of making uncomfortable situations into all out problems. By not looking straight at them. Or making rash decisions without thinking about them.

And as I write this, it occurs to me that I have been making decisions too quickly lately. Not necessarily rashly. But without giving them the kind of time I would prefer. Because people want answers now. And I have been wanting to please.

I have forgotten that I am allowed to ask for time to think. I have forgotten that I am allowed to take time to think. Even if the person asking doesn’t want to give it to me. I have forgotten that I am a slow processor. That I need time to figure out what I want and need. That I need time to make decisions about what I should do next. And that nobody else has to like it. That I can be myself. That I don’t need anybody else’s permission.

I guess that’s the lesson of this blog, even though I didn’t know it when I started writing it. Even though as I look back at how it started, it seems like a complete non sequitur.

I suppose it doesn’t matter how I got here. It’s where I ended up. And it feels right.

It’s funny where you actually find freedom

Today was the first time since our trip to Florida that I went sun bathing. I have been working more than before and I have long work days with long commutes. And the days that I have off need to be spent cooking and prepping and packing meals for the work days ahead. Not to mention laundry and some minor housekeeping. And then there are walks for my health and sanity. And the occasional manicure and/or pedicure for my vanity. I haven’t been able to lay out until today. By late May I am usually a bronze goddess. This year, not so much.

So today I put on my bikini and I went to the pool.

On my way, I saw two women in their cover-ups with their pool toys and their kids headed there too. And I got scared. That I was going to take off my cover-up and they were going to be disgusted. And maybe even make comments to each other about how I shouldn’t be dressed like that in front of their children. Maybe even say it right to my face.

Now I have still not lost any of the weight that I gained after I quit smoking. Or maybe I have dropped 5 or so lbs. But I’m not weighing myself, so I can’t be sure. And either way, my clothes have not gotten any bigger. Nor has my butt gotten any smaller. Which is not the torture that it was in the beginning, but it rubs me the wrong way.

I oscillate between being resentful of God, and choosing peace and acceptance. Though I also spend a good amount of time avoiding thinking about it, which is like a not-unhappy-medium. I mean, it is almost 2 years since I quit smoking. And it is over a year since I stopped gaining weight. I feel like it “should be” time for me to start losing weight. Like I deserve it. Like I paid my dues and now God owes it to me to let me get back into that body I loved being in. And then there is the thought that I “should” love being in this body. That it is beautiful too.

And the truth is that I do believe this body is beautiful. When I stop comparing it to that other body. When I stop wanting to be thinner because I have been thinner.

And as I write this, I can see another part of it. A part that is embarrassing to write. I loved being on the skinnier side of thin because it was the opposite of what I had been. It felt like an “in your face” to all of the people who judged me. And it felt like a kind of redemption for the fat girl I was. Because there was a part of me when I was fat that thought that my broken body meant that I could never be “skinny.” And then I was. And it was painless. (Not effortless, of course. Because there was all of the shopping and cooking and packing. There were all of the boundaries to keep. But there was no pain. No deprivation. No torture and no crazy.) And now, on the bigger side of thin, I feel like it’s not so much of an accomplishment in the eyes of strangers. Or even family and friends. It feels like the world is secretly thinking, “Sure, she lost weight. But a fat girl can never get really thin. They are not built that way.” It feels like more of the same “fundamentally broken.”

But of course, I don’t keep boundaries around my food to be skinny. I say of course because if I did, gaining thirty pounds would have made me give up. Sure I would have gained another hundred and thirty, but that thirty felt like a hundred and thirty anyway. And I certainly don’t keep eating boundaries to impress other people. Frankly, for every person who is impressed, there are three who think that I am extreme, or unhealthy, or just plain weird.

I keep boundaries around my food to keep myself sane. To keep being a person I want to be. In life, and with money, and work. And with people. Strangers and family and friends. And especially my boyfriend. And for me. To keep liking and loving and honoring myself.

So anyway, back to the pool. I took off my cover up, and I set myself up in a lounge chair and closed my eyes. And when I opened them a while later to take a look around, I saw that one of those moms was wearing her own bikini. And she looked a lot like I did. A real woman in a real body. Getting her sun.

And then I remembered something else. That those years ago, when I was in that skinnier-side-of-thin body, I never wore my bikini in public. I was too embarrassed and ashamed then. It wasn’t until after I gained my 30 lbs that I started wearing it where people could see me. This body that I judge so harshly is the one I found freedom in.

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