onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “quit smoking”

Don’t quit quitting just because your doctor is an arrogant ass.

I was talking to my mom this week and she told me a story that made me angry. She had a friend who quit smoking, gained 30 pounds, was put on a strict diet by her doctor, and didn’t lose the weight. So they sent her to a psychologist (maybe a psychiatrist, I am not positive) with the implication that she was lying about what she was eating, and that is why she was not losing the weight.

I cannot say how this makes me burn, how it fills me with rage. When I quit smoking almost 6 years ago, I also gained 30 pounds. And because I have body dysmorphic disorder, it took a real toll on my mental health. So I started scouring the Internet.

Now, in general, don’t do this. The internet can be a dark, crazy-making place. But I am really glad I did. Oh, I was not at first. Because the first thing that I found was a lot of sites like Web MD telling me that people only gain 2-10 pounds, and mostly because they eat more to make up for not smoking.

Then I went on forums where I found a bunch of traumatized people asking why they gained 20-40 pounds after quitting smoking, and a bunch of trolls telling them it was because they were making up for their “oral fixation” with food. And often fat shaming them. (And it felt like they were fat shaming me. As if I haven’t gotten enough of that BS in one lifetime.)

I read a lot of things along the lines of.

Stop eating so much and exercise. Quitting smoking doesn’t affect your weight. There is no scientific evidence that says that quitting smoking makes you gain weight.

But by the time I quit smoking, I had already had my eating under control for 6 years. I had already been strictly controlling my portions. And my quantities on some foods were cut in half. I was not eating more. I was eating less. And I knew it. It was quantifiable. And I was keeping track like I always had. Plus I had started walking more. While I had been generally walking 3-5 miles a day in my daily life in the city, I then added 8 mile walks 2 or 3 times a week.

What eventually helped me was when I found forums for fitness buffs. These were filled with people who, like me, were already tracking their food and exercise routines. They already knew what they were eating and how much fuel they were burning.

What they had to say was not pleasant. And I did not want to believe it. But in the end, it turned out to be true for me. They generally gained 26-40 pounds. And their bodies and metabolisms didn’t go back to normal for about 3 years.

I quit smoking in June of 2012. Between June and December of that year, I gained 30 pounds. I went from a US size 6 to a US size 10, I stayed a 10 for 3 years, and then in June of 2015, pretty suddenly, I was a size 6 again.

There is also an article in Time from 2017 (5 years *after* I quit smoking) that says that one French study showed that while a quarter of participants gained less than 3 pounds or even lost weight, a quarter of participants gained more than 17 pounds.

When people, especially doctors, say that there is no evidence that quitting smoking causes weight gain, I remember those fitness forums. I hope more studies like the French study are done about smoking cessation and weight gain. Because gaining weight when you quit smoking is basically understood to be the norm. But blaming the people who quit for being gluttons also seems to be the norm. And I, personally, have had enough of that crap. It’s already hard to quit. And blaming people for something they have no control over makes us feel crazy! I was committed to quitting, no matter what. And I had a food regimen in place that kept me grounded. But I promise you, if I hadn’t, I would have said “screw this” and just started smoking again. Because I am vain. And because society judges us on what we look like, more than how healthy we are. In fact, society equates thin with healthy. It does not ask if that person is a smoker.

I am not sorry I quit. But only because I got through those awful 3 years and got my body, the one I am comfortable in, back. So if you have quit smoking and gained more weight than is comfortable, and you feel crazy because you know you are not overeating, I have been there. And this, too, shall pass. You are not crazy. You are not a glutton or a liar. Your body will stabilize again. Don’t quit quitting!

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If you are looking for a warm fuzzy, this is not it.

So yeah. Really not looking forward to writing this particular post. In fact, thought about what else I could possibly write about. Anything. But nope. It’s this.

I have gained weight. My jeans still fit, but different. And my arms and belly are bigger.

I am still not weighing myself. And thank God. I don’t do well with numbers. I am bad at rational thought when it comes to my weight. I know that to some people (including myself in the not-so-distant past), knowing the number would be a chance to look reality square in the eye. This is not true for me anymore. When it comes to me and the number on the scale, I lose all sense of reality and it is all about shame. I am sick in the head about these things.

I want to be clear. I believe that knowing things is better than not knowing. I think that most people who are interested in managing their weight and their bodies should get on the scale every once in a while. Before I quit smoking, I got on once a month. And it was fine. Maybe not fun, but not an issue. But since my quit-smoking-weight-gain, getting on the scale has been a kind of torture. So I stopped.

I need to acknowledge that for over a year, I have been waiting to lose the weight I gained. I feel like I deserve it. I feel like it’s due me. I feel like it’s my right.

I am going to be honest. And the Good Girl inside me doesn’t want me to say this. But if I had known that this is what was going to happen to me, I never would have quit smoking.

Look. I quit. It’s done. I don’t have any intention of starting again. But my relationship with my body has suffered badly in the past 2 years. I feel ugly a lot of the time. I feel fat most of the time. And feel like the whole thing is completely unfair.

Perhaps if I really went back and inventoried all the benefits I personally received from quitting smoking, I would see that I would do it all again in a heartbeat. But when I think about how I was once, miraculously, for a time, at peace with my body and now I am regularly unhappy and sometimes deeply ashamed, it’s hard to be objective.

Having been a fat girl, I have always had a strained relationship with my body. It has always been an issue and it always will be. But having had that reprieve from 30 to 35, where my weight was not a constant torment, has made this past 2 years all the worse. Because I have the distinction, and I can’t seem to get back there.

The Good Girl is telling me that this is where I am supposed to tell you about how I am going to accept my body because it is the beautiful vessel for my soul. That as long as I honor myself by keeping my boundaries around my eating, I am honoring Life and the Universe, whatever my size. But the part of me that feels frustrated and cheated says that the Good Girl can go f*** herself.

Think before you google.

I did something today that I shouldn’t have done.

I googled.

If I were a friend of mine, I would give myself a good, stern talking-to. I even have a specific good friend whom I have (lovingly) made promise me that she will not google. Because no good can come of it.

Let’s face it, when you google, everything you see convinces you that all hope is lost. You have cancer. Or a sexually transmitted disease. Or dementia. Or whatever. But never anything good.

I googled: When will I lose the weight I gained from quitting smoking?

And all it did was piss me off.

Apparently I didn’t gain weight from quitting smoking. Or if I did, it’s because I ate too much. And there is nothing wrong with my metabolism. And quitting smoking didn’t change my body in any way except to make it healthier.

In other words, if I can’t lose weight, it’s my own damn fault.

This makes me feel like a big, fat loser. And rational thought doesn’t help. Because I will give you the rational low-down.

When I quit smoking, I had had boundaries around my food for 6 ½ years. I started gaining weight. First slowly, but then 10 lbs in a month. And then the weight gain slowed down again. But it didn’t stop until after about 10 months. So all together, I gained 30 lbs in 10 months.

I eat an exact amount of food. I had for 6 ½ years before I quit smoking. And I have for the 2+ years since I quit. And after I gained 10 lbs in a month, I (with the help of a sane and loving friend) significantly reduced the amount of food I eat every day. Still exact. Just less. And I continued to gain weight. Until it stopped.

And I have not lost the weight.

I suppose I could be extreme, even within my food boundaries, with the hope that I would lose weight. That I could choose skim milk and fat-free yogurt instead of 2%. That I could stop eating bacon once a week. That I could stop eating steak and carrots and squash. And eat steamed broccoli. And chicken. And lettuce. (I hate chicken. And lettuce.) With the hope that I might lose weight. But even in that there is no certainty. I went from full-fat to 2% and still gained weight. From bacon 3 times a week to once, and still gained weight. From full portions of carrots and squash, to half portions, and still gained weight. I went from cooking in fat, to fat on the side and still gained weight.

I did the smart and obvious things to lose weight. I did the science and math things. So it makes me angry to read that my truth is perceived as a lie. Or at least as a misguided and mistaken notion.

But why was I even googling in the first place? Why do I need to know if I can lose weight? If I will? When and where and why and how? Why do I need to be something I am not? Why do I need it to be different than it is?

And why still? Why, after a year and a half, am I still not content to live in this body? Why can’t I just be peaceful? Why can’t I just let it go?

When I read all of those posts that pissed me off, I did eventually get the message. The message from God to me. That I should mind my own business. That it is none of my business when, or how, or even if I lose weight ever again. That I should trust the way my life is going. That it’s a great life.

And it is a great life.

Of course the answer to why I googled today is Because I am a woman with eating and body image disorders. And I always will be. And just like I’m sick around food, I’m sick around my body and how I think and feel about it.

But it has occurred to me that there might be another reason. Maybe I needed to write my truth for the people like me who gained weight when they quit smoking, simply because they quit smoking. And are being told that they did not. That there is something that they are doing that is making them gain weight. And they feel crazy. And angry. And like nobody is seeing or hearing them.

Well, I do. I see you. I hear you. I believe you. Because in my heart, my head and my soul, I know my truth. And no amount of googling can make my truth false.

Though I’d still do better not to google in the first place.

As every parent knows, “There’s nothing wrong with the one you’ve got.”

I’m in a funny place about my body lately. Not terrible. But not great either.

I have not been weighing myself for many months. And I am grateful for that. For some reason, numbers make me irrational. But I can tell I go up and down. In the way my clothes fit. And how big my butt is.

For whatever reason, a few weeks ago, I was up. And I can tell that I am in the process of going back down. And while I don’t know how much in terms of pounds, it is not a lot. I am not growing or shrinking out of my clothes.

But I am disappointed lately. Because I had hoped that I would have lost more weight by now.

If you don’t know, I quit smoking for my 35th Birthday. And I will turn 37 in less than 2 months. In the first 9 months of quitting, I gained 30 pounds. Not because I was eating to compensate. But simply because that was one of my side effects. I had others too. For the first 6 weeks I had open sores in my mouth and for about 10 months I was depressed. But it was the weight gain that was most devastating to me.

As a former fat girl, I have all sorts of eating and body image disorders. Sometimes they are dormant. And sometimes they are active. Though only in my head…When it comes to eating, starving, binging, purging, laxatives, over-exercising, and all other manner of acting out with food, I have the action part under control with strict rules and boundaries. And I have for over 8 years.

So gaining 30 lbs, especially with my eating under control, was triggering for me. It made me crazy. And unhappy. And it was hard to reconcile myself to it. I felt like I was being punished. And it was especially frustrating because I felt like I was being punished for quitting smoking. You know, no good deed goes unpunished, and so on.

But I felt like I could handle it, because I thought it would be temporary. I thought that after some time went by, I would lose that 30 lbs. Or at least the greater portion of it. And here I am almost 2 years later, and a full year since the excessive weight gain stopped, and I have not lost any weight.

There is something that I have told more than one person recently, and I would do well to remember it myself. When I was actively eating compulsively and eating sugar, my eating habits were surely the reason I weighed 300 lbs. (Duh.) But since I got my eating under control and stopped eating sugar, I have noticed that what I eat has generally had the least to do with my weight. The thinnest I ever was in my life was the time that followed the illness of my Dad’s mom, who was the first love of my life. In the months that led to her death, I must have dropped 15 lbs, and I was already thin. Then, and in the years following that time, it did not matter what I ate. Drenched in butter, deep-fried, bacon, full-fat dairy, huge portions. Every day. Just to maintain a tiny little body. And then I quit smoking. And even cutting portions in half, reducing fat content and limiting how often I ate certain foods, I still gained weight. I gained 30 lbs, eating less than half of what I had been eating before I gave up cigarettes.

I’m saying I don’t want to start worrying about what I eat. That I don’t want to start drinking skim milk and eating nonfat yogurt. I don’t want to start steaming my vegetables. I don’t want to stop eating roasted squash and carrots. In the (possibly vain) hope that I will lose 20 lbs. Because for years now, what I eat has not had nearly as great of an impact on my weight as all of the other things going on in my life. My stress, my sadness, my anxiety, my withdrawal, my unwillingness to let things go.

And I’m also saying I want to stop judging my “willpower” and my looks so harshly.

I know that my eyes are broken. And I can see that sometimes I think I look like women who are significantly bigger than I am. But also, the truth is that I am not particularly thin right now. And I don’t like it. And dammit! I don’t like that I don’t like it.

I really want to be comfortable in my own body. Exactly as it is. And I don’t want to feel like I should eat diet food. And I don’t want to judge myself on what I am eating. And I don’t want to feel like my worth is based on how “good” I can be. And I don’t want how “good” I am to be based on how much I can deprive myself, and how much I can suffer for a smaller body. And I don’t want to buy into the notion that a smallest possible body is always healthier, prettier, better.

Because that is the notion in modern Western culture, right? That any body bigger than tiny is fat. That the best body is the smallest one. That as a woman, that’s the one to strive for. And if you are not striving for the smallest possible body then you are somehow lacking. Lazy, or shameful, or ultimately unwomanly.

There is a kind of person that I want to be. And it involves having peace around what is so. And it involves trusting that I have exactly the body that I am supposed to have. And knowing that this body is beautiful. Because it is well cared for. Well fed. Well hydrated. Well maintained. Well used with out being abused.

And I want to be the kind of person who has some perspective about bodies. Specifically my own body, but also in general. Human bodies in the world. To have a realistic and sane outlook on them. To see that they aren’t all created to grow into doe-eyed, pouty, ectomorphs, if only their owners would behave properly. To understand that they all grow into different shapes and sizes. And at different rates. And that I got as good of one as anybody else. And you did too.

Don’t make me double dog dare you, 2014

I know that I am outspoken about not loving the holiday season, but there is something I do love about this time of year. I love the New Year. And I don’t just mean the parties. (Though there are aspects of New Year’s parties that contribute to it being one of my favorite holidays. Getting dressed up and dancing, traditional staples for New Year’s festivities, are two of my favorite things ever in the whole world ever.)

But what I really love is the opportunity to look back. To remember and reflect. And I love the opportunity to look forward. To anticipate and plan.

And I love when we choose to do this. That we do it around winter solstice. (Historically, the New Year has been celebrated either around the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, or around winter solstice, the first day of winter.) There is something beautiful to me about having the year end just after the darkest days are done. To make a new beginning just as the days begin to get longer again. We begin as it’s getting better. Waxing.

I have been thinking a lot lately about how different this time of reflection is for me since I got my eating under control. I was trying to remember which were the great years for me before 2006. And I thought about the fact that I don’t remember looking back on any year before then with fondness.

Not because they were all bad, I realize. But because I was a whiney, whiney complainer. Because I was always unhappy. Because I hated myself. And I hated life. And I was sure that God was out to get me. When I look back at my life, the things that I accomplished and the opportunities I was given, I can see that some of those years were pretty great. Exciting things happened for me. But I didn’t have any gratitude for them.

And then I started to think about the past 8 years and how wonderful they have been. But then I realized that they were not necessarily wonderful. They were certainly not all light, easy and fun. I realized that I had occasionally had some crazy, or terrible or painful things happen to me. But that my attitude about any particular year was never that it was all bad.

In 2007, I lost my Grandfather. He was the first grandparent I lost. I was also evicted from my apartment. I couch surfed for months before I got back on my feet. I had some incredibly generous and amazing friends come through for me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It was scary and difficult and stressful. But I also loved that year. I got a whole new appreciation for my own capabilities. And I went through that whole period keeping boundaries around my eating. I never said screw it. I honored my commitment even though I’m sure nobody would have “blamed me” if I had numbed my fear and anxiety with food. It was also the year I came out of my sugar-withdrawal fog. For the previous year and a half, I had been walking around in a daze. I had been high on sugar so consistently and for so long that being sober made me feel high. I was scared, but I was so grateful to feel empowered and in control. And loved.

2010 was particularly hard. I lost my grandmother and my aunt that year, two women who were incredibly important to me. I spent a lot of time crying. And I was not sorry to move on to 2011. But I didn’t write the whole year off as awful. I wasn’t miserable. I was sad. That’s all. Just sad. And not only sad. When I look back on it, I can remember that 2010 was a year when I gained a whole new level of confidence in my beauty and my worth. It was a year I went on a whole bunch of dates. And I went on those dates looking for a man who would deserve me, not for one who would “take me” or “put up with me.” I still had a lot of things to work through on that front. I wouldn’t even start this blog until January of 2012. But I liked myself in 2010. And I loved life. And I didn’t take the hard stuff personally. I had gratitude for all of the good stuff. That the women I lost had loved me and I loved them. That I was growing as a woman. That I had hope.

And in 2012 I fell into a depression after quitting smoking. Because it made me stop producing important brain chemicals. And because it affected my metabolism and I gained a bunch of weight. Which is hard on a woman with eating and body image disorders. But it was not a bad year. I also started writing this blog that year. And I took some risks in terms of love and relationships. And I took some new actions in terms of work and money. And depressed or not, I had quit smoking. I did a lot of growing that year. I changed a lot. For the better. And I was grateful for it.

That is one of the many things that getting my eating under control has afforded me. Gratitude. For life. It has taught me to be grateful for the gifts and the miracles. And to remember that the bummers and the upsets are not God pushing me down. They are not personal. They are life. Not just mine, either. Everybody’s life. And that they are also opportunities to be better if I want to use them.

So when I look back on this past year, and I see that it has been gift after gift, it brings tears to my eyes. I came out of that depression from quitting smoking this year. I found a love beyond my wildest dreams this year. I jumped with both feet into a new life and a new lifestyle of travel and excitement. Even though I was nervous and anxious. And I found that I love it. And just yesterday, I started a new job.

I could have found plenty to be grateful for this year. Even without love and adventure. Because I am so grateful to be in a body I love, free from my obsession with food, with my integrity intact. But 2013 has been the best year I can ever remember having. Ever. In my whole life. And while I don’t expect that every year will necessarily be so filled with so many extraordinary life altering joyous events, or so devoid of losses and pains and hardships, I can’t imagine that I’ve hit my peak yet. I fully expect for life to continue to get better.

How could life get better than this? I don’t know. But 2014, feel free to consider this a dare.

That actions have consequences, and other things that piss me off

I’m having an interesting week with my body. I have been continuing to think it’s beautiful. Loving the way it curves. Really enjoying how big and round my butt is. No seriously. I’ve never had a butt before. I carried all my weight up front when I was fat. I’m not trying to escape my body. I’m not disowning or disparaging it.

But then, weigh day is coming up again. Like it does once a month. So I am attempting to stay off the roller coaster that has me worry myself sick, and then be devastated by any weight gain anyway. Even just writing this I am starting to panic.

I want to start being in control of my body again. I want it to go back to making some semblance of sense. Eat less, walk more, lose weight. Or at least even out. At least stop gaining.

I wonder how much of the panic and unhappiness is the lack of control. How much is about feeling crazy. And wanting to explain all the time that I haven’t eaten sugar! I’m not eating compulsively! I haven’t done anything wrong!

Because I feel like I look like I’ve been doing something wrong.

When I was eating compulsively, it felt like a moral issue. Eating the way I did felt wrong. Shameful. If I were a good person, I would be able to control my eating. And that I couldn’t control my eating, that I was weak and pathetic, or just plain bad, was written all over my body. And here I am, being incredibly “good”. In fact, some people think my boundaries are “extreme”. And I feel like my body is saying I’ve been bad. I feel like I have gained more weight than is natural.

Of course, it is natural. It is what happens when people stop smoking. And I was a heavy smoker. My poor body surely doesn’t know what the hell is going on. It’s doing the best it can. It’s built to survive. That’s how life works. It’s the nature of evolution. The body that is best equipped to survive goes on to produce survival-equipped offspring. Humans have been around for a while now. So it’s probably safe to assume that the human body has learned a few tricks. And I’m sure my body is doing its best to keep me alive.

But that feels so incredibly unfair. I want everybody to know it’s not my fault!

But that, of course, is not exactly true either. I was a heavy smoker for 20 years. I can’t expect that doing a drug 20 times a day for most of that 20 years isn’t going to affect my body. It’s like saying “I wish actions didn’t have consequences.” Um…Ok, Kate. Good luck with that. And wouldn’t I be pissed if my body didn’t get healthier because I quit. How interesting that I want it to all work out the way I want.

But I have also been thinking about beauty culture in America. And how standards have gotten more and more narrow throughout my lifetime. And that as we as a population have continued to get fatter, we have glorified skinnier and skinnier woman. Women who are so skinny that their bodies stop working. Women who only exist in photographs, because even the model was “too fat” to represent the clothing line, shoe line, makeup line.

I keep saying that the amount of weight I have gained (27.4 lbs from June 1st to Feb 1st) is a lot for a girl with eating and body image disorders. I have just exclaimed to you that it’s not fair! I weighed 300 lbs. I completely changed my life to get into a healthy, beautiful body. I did my time. I paid my dues. I should be exempt from this.

But I am not the only one who is in a body they wish were different. I am not the only one who feels less than. Who feels judged. Who feels her body isn’t “perfect enough to be beautiful.” Welcome to being a woman in media saturated 2013 in America, Kate.

I never wonder why I bother maintaining my food boundaries. Even in the face of gaining so much weight. My weight certainly has something to do with why I keep boundaries around my eating, but I mostly do it to stay sane and clear-headed. I do it so I can keep on liking and respecting myself. I do it because it affords me dignity. I know that food makes me crazy. That I am bad at life when I am eating sugar. Plus I know that this weight gain has to stop at some point. Where as if I were eating compulsively, it would never stop. Screw 9 months. The way I eat when I’m eating compulsively, I can gain 30 lbs in two weeks.

So let me tell you what I would like. I would like to stop pitying myself. I would like to stop comparing myself. Even just to myself a year ago. I’d like to be grateful that I quit smoking with ease. That I have not struggled or relapsed. I would like to be grateful that I have gotten through the hardest part. And most importantly, I would like to remember that I am incredibly lucky to have a solution to my food problems. When so many women don’t. And that while my food is under control, I stand a chance to love my body. And myself. And my life. While so many women can’t.

I don’t know what will happen this week. Or on weigh day. And I don’t want to be too hard on myself. Because I have a serious problem with eating and body image disorders. Which is not trivial, or shameful, or something I can just “get over.” And I do a fantastic job of living in the solution every day. But I want to have a good attitude. I want gratitude and humility. I want to love my life the way it is. And I want to be an example of that. Of self-love and grace. So I’m telling you now, that what I want is to love my body as much on weigh day as I do today. And maybe, just maybe, because I have told you, I can have that.

For my next trick, I am going to *not* juggle…

So it happened. I gained more weight. 3 more lbs. I weigh 160.4 now. Over 160. I’m kind of devastated. It makes me wonder if it’s ever going to stop, let alone reverse. It also makes me feel crazy. Because my clothes are getting looser.

And I wanted to not write about it. I wanted to not mention it this week. I have never been happy to tell you my weight in numbers since I quit smoking and started gaining. But 160. Holy shit! It feels epic. It feels shameful. I imagine you sitting at home thinking Wow (or ewww) (or so pathetic) 160 is really fat. So I wanted to skip talking about how I gained weight this month. Not because I have better things to write about (though I do have better things to write about…) but because I wanted to keep it a secret.

I can’t keep secrets. It’s not that I’m not capable. I am much too good at it for my own good. But secrets eat away at me. And feed my ugly thoughts. And skew my view of the world and reality.

I have made a point to tell you my weight through this whole experience. Not just that I gained weight. But how much. And the number. This may not make any sense to you, but if I kept the number a secret, it would make me question if I was actually keeping my food boundaries.

Secrets live in me like a form of lying. And they trigger that same lack of clarity, muddled thinking, and hatred, or at least distrust, of others that lying perpetuated. That I can tell you the number, no matter how embarrassing, is a reminder to myself that I am not lying cheating or hiding my food. That my integrity is intact. That even if I am ashamed of the number, I don’t have to be ashamed of myself. And it’s a reminder that I’m ashamed of the number because I’m sick in the head around my body image. Because I don’t know what I look like. Not because the number or my body are shameful.

And it’s the same as it has been while I have been gaining weight. Not only am I not fat, I’m gorgeous. I’m sexy. Men dig it. Why do I have to feel so ugly? And crazy? Why can’t I just be with it? Why can’t I just trust that like every other person who has ever quit smoking, my body will readjust?

A friend told me to forgive myself for being unhappy. And scared. Irrationally afraid. Because these issues are at the core of my personality. To give myself a break. That I am doing a great job. Keeping my food boundaries. Being in touch with my feelings. Being present. And then she said, “Get on your knees and pray.”

Now let me tell ya, I pray. A lot. But I don’t get on my knees for much.

But I got down on my knees.

At first I just did a lot of whiny-baby-poor-me complaining. And a little how-could-you-do-this-to-me accusing. But finally I asked God, what’s the solution?

And God said “Sweetie, you are going to have to drop your fortress.”

I know that quitting smoking really did slow my metabolism. And I know that there are things about food and weight that are basic math. Calories in, calories out. But I also believe that thoughts, ideas and beliefs can affect me physically. And when I heard this, on my knees, asking for a solution, I understood.

I collect fortresses. So I can juggle them. A fortress of fat. A fortress of bitch. A fortress of indifference. I spent my life building them with food and cigarettes and drugs and drama and taking my toys and going home. When I would drop one, another would go up in its place. Something had to keep men out of my heart. Or there was going to be love. And love inevitably leads to getting hurt. Even when it’s beautiful. And reciprocated. And lasts.

But who am I kidding. I built them because I “knew” the beautiful, reciprocal and lasting weren’t meant for me.

The truth is, I really do have better things to write about this week than gaining 3 lbs. I have had some really intense epiphanies about love. And a personal paradigm shift. I have to reevaluate the impact I had as a girl growing up, even though I was fat. And the assumptions I made about myself. Then and now. And how I painted the girl I was into a corner. And how she painted herself into a corner. And how I projected my beliefs about my own insignificance on others. And possibly (probably) provoked it, fed it, created it.

But if I did that work, if I got down to the business of healing, I would have to dismantle my fortress(es). And that would leave me unprotected.

See, I think that maybe I don’t want to lose this weight. Because this weight let’s me feel bad about myself. Irrationally. Ridiculously. It let’s me say that no one will ever love me so fat (while men go bug-eyed when they check me out on the street…) And it gives me something to make a big dramatic stink about. And I even wonder if I manifested it so that I could have a nice upset to distract myself. Because my clothes are getting loose. And clothes don’t lie. But a “significant” weight gain when I thought my metabolism had started up again sure did give me a break from all of my progress toward love and intimacy and partnership. Because it was starting to look like a possibility. And a reality. And close. Like it could be just around the corner. And I could be ready for it when it showed up.

Good thing I had a weight/body image crisis! Phew! Dodged that bullet.

I don’t want to be hard on myself. I know that I am doing the best I can. And that it’s pretty fantastic. Especially for a girl who spent the first 30 years of her life expecting to be eternally alone. I am just telling on myself. Because I would like to move on from here. Soon. I want to get back to the task at hand. To take down my fortress. And not put up another in its place. To be available to be loved. In whatever body I happen to be in at any given moment.

Knock knock. Who’s there? Dopamine and metabolism. Thank God!

I have had an exciting couple of weeks! I got my dopamine back! To tell you the truth, it didn’t occur to me that it went anywhere. But now that it’s back, it’s obvious. And my metabolism started back up again!

It’s funny. I knew that quitting smoking was affecting me. And it was clear from the weight gain that it was affecting me physically. But it didn’t exactly register that it was affecting me chemically.

I knew that I was not quite right. That I was having a hard time. I think I thought about it as a “spiritual” problem. Or a “mental” problem. I knew that I had to readjust the way I dealt with things. I knew I had to learn new coping mechanisms. And I definitely learned a lot about my feelings. And how to deal with them. And (one baby step at a time) how to honor my own life without regard to how I would be judged by others. And how to make decisions that honor my heart even if they seem unreasonable, or foolish. Or scary. But I didn’t understand that my brain had stopped producing happiness chemicals. That just like my body was going to have to heal, my brain was going to have to heal. I think I thought about it as mind over matter.

In practical terms, I suppose it is just mind over matter. At least in terms of waiting out the withdrawal. It’s the actions I take and don’t take in the end that make up my life. My self-respect. My character.

I don’t smoke. I don’t eat compulsively. I don’t eat sugar. I don’t take laxatives. I don’t make myself throw up. I don’t take any drastic actions. I don’t act out. I just live with the fact that it sucks until it stops sucking. It doesn’t matter how I feel. It doesn’t matter how much weight I gain. It doesn’t matter what thoughts I have. The promises I made to myself matter. Commitment matters. Everything else is vapor and ego.

What I have learned is that these commitments end up culminating as my self-respect. They are my self-esteem. They are my dignity. And I don’t need a substance to get high. I don’t need to eat sugars, grains or starches to numb out. Or create enough crazy to escape reality. I could skip a meal. And lie about it. And I would be just as high and sick and screwed up as if I ate a chocolate cake.

But I was keeping my commitments these past seven months, and still having dark thoughts. I was unhappy. And I couldn’t seem to “bright side and gratitude” myself out of it. On a good day, the best I could do was change the channel in my head and not obsess about how much I hated my body. Or what a loser I felt like. Or how I was certain that I’m unlovable and destined for loneliness. And on a bad day, all I could do was cry. And manage to not hurt or numb myself. All I could do was keep my promises to myself and live in pain.

And now that I can feel the relief, I can see how scary that time was. How it’s kind of a miracle that I came out on the other side with my integrity. I wrote in this blog that I was unhappy, but that I was not depressed. But I was wrong. I was absolutely depressed. But it was exactly that integrity that kept me from despair. My brain was incapable of producing happy without cigarettes. My dopamine levels dropped severely. But it was nothing like the horror of 28 years of sugar addiction and self hatred.

What is interesting to me is that I knew that it would pass, because I know that’s how life works. All things pass in time. But I didn’t expect it to pass all at once. I didn’t expect it to turn on a dime. I didn’t realize that my brain would just start producing dopamine again. I didn’t even know that my dopamine levels had dropped until this week when I realized I was happy again and googled “quit smoking depression”.

And as if it couldn’t get any better, my clothes are getting looser. I bought a very sexy dress when I gained the bulk of my weight. It was sexy because it was tight. Now it’s not tight. And it’s not so sexy anymore. Now it’s just a cute dress. And I can’t tell you how happy I am about that! Plus for the first time in many months, I have been hungry between my meals. (Is that you metabolism? I’m so glad you’re here! Why don’t you stay a while…)

So hooray for going through hell and coming out on the other side! And thanks to you for being there while I got through it. I’m hoping that I am now back to my grateful, joyful self. And that I’ll get to stay here for a while.

It’s always an eating disorder blog because I always have eating disorders

I wrote a post earlier today, but I don’t think I want to share it. Not today. Not yet. It’s about my anger. My hate. My distrust. I have a lot of it. I am overflowing with it. And it’s ugly.
I am not afraid to show you my ugly. But it would not do any good right now. It would not serve me. Or you. There would be nothing for either of us to learn from it. Except that I am human. And that I have ugly feelings. Which I already knew. And you probably did too.

I am doing my best not to be ashamed of my ugly feelings. I am doing my best to remember that denying them doesn’t stop them from existing. And that the closest thing there is to making them disappear is to eat them. which is not an option. And I would like to say that I know that there is nothing virtuous in turning my hate in on myself instead of hating the people who have hurt me. But I have always used self-abuse and martyrdom as a kind of substitute for virtue. And I can forget when my rage scares me enough.

So for today, I will spare you my ugly feelings.

A friend said recently that my blog is as much, and maybe more, about quitting smoking lately than it is about compulsive eating. I think that may be true. And I told him that I made a decision a while ago to let it be what it is. That both the experience of getting control of my eating and that of quitting smoking are similar for me. I’m actually pretty sure that in time, my eating disorders will return to the forefront. I just happen to be going through a particularly difficult time with regards to quitting smoking. I am having a hard time with the feelings and the weight gain. I am having a hard time finding my footing after making a significant choice about who I want to be in the world. And who I want to be in the world is even more awake and aware and alive. I want to be not numb.
But there is something that I know, that you might not. In my mind, every day, always, I think of myself as a woman with eating disorders. I am a compulsive eater and bulimic with body dismorphia. A woman with a sugar addiction. And more specifically, woman who painstakingly takes care of her life with food so that she can be sane and stable. That is my primary identity. (I know…sounds super sexy, right?)

I have given up many things as a compliment to that identity. Smoking is one of them. Along with alcohol, and smoking pot, sugarless gum, diet soda and excessive caffeine. And behaviors like making rash decisions, and acting out in anger. But first, last, and always comes the food. Food was my first drug. It was my first numb. And getting control of my eating and letting go of getting high on sugar led me to realize that I actually wanted to be alive. That I don’t actually like numb. And that one step at a time, I want to come back to life fully.

I am in excruciating pain at the moment. I am more angry and hurt and scared and tormented than you can possibly imagine. I am burning with rage. I am overwhelmed with grief. I wake up puffy and swollen and encrusted with dry tears. My throat is sore from how tight I clench it. I am more miserable than I can remember being in the past (almost) 7 years.

But I do not eat to numb it! I would rather be here in honest, living, livid pain than be numb. Than be dead. Because eating compulsively is death to me. Numbness and death.

Yes, I have been talking a lot about smoking. And I’m ok with that. But my life, all of my life and every fiber of my being, is about being free from the food. I was able to quit smoking because I have my food under control. Because I learned how to feel pain when I let go of sugar and put boundaries around my eating. And if I thought that my eating boundaries were in danger, I would certainly go back to smoking. Or caffeine. Or chewing gum. Or whatever. Because the food will kill me quickest and make me hate myself the most.

So I hope you’re ok with my smoking talk. That you can somehow see that quitting sugar and quitting cigarettes are connected. Or if you can’t, that you still think I’m brilliant whatever I write! Or that you’ll humor me…

Is it just as judgy to judge people for judging?

I’m a little less body-miserable these past few days. Maybe it’s because, with weigh day behind me for the rest of the month, I put my body hatred it in its compartment. Maybe it’s because I have hope that by next weigh day, my metabolism will have started regulating itself again, and I will start losing this weight I have gained. Or maybe it’s starting to seep in that I am not, in fact, grotesquely fat in this body, and that I can have some peace if I can surrender to it being what it is. (That last one’s a stretch, but I believe in miracles.)

My big issue this week is how aware I am of people giving me unsolicited opinions and advice. And how offensive I find it. And how aggressive it makes me feel. (Not act…Ok, maybe a little. But I have managed to keep my clever and cruel remarks to myself.)

There is a saying I love. “If you want what I have, do what I do.”

I keep hearing from people who do not have what I want.

For example, I do not want health and lifestyle advice from a morbidly obese girl more than 10 years my junior.

I do not want to be told that my quitting smoking is “really for the best” by a woman I never see smile. And who looks something between bored and disgusted. Always.

I am glad that I quit smoking. For all of the pain that has come with it, there has been a new clarity and a deeper level of self-love, self-awareness, and self-confidence. I love that, even though it has not been an easy six months. But I don’t want other people telling me what is best for me. I like to decide that for myself.

And today, I can. When I got control of my food, I stopped doubting myself. I could trust my eyes and ears. I could trust my thoughts. I could trust my assessment of situations. I stopped wondering if I had it all wrong and was doing it all wrong.

And another thing I lost when I got control of the food, was the need to get it all right. (Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. There are still things that I get very angry at myself for getting wrong.) But every day that I don’t eat compulsively, I have a lot more room for my humanity. And for everybody else’s.

And even one more thing is that I stopped feeling the need to give other people advice. I stopped needing to show that I had all the answers. That I was so smart. I started to understand the value of minding my own business! Who knew!?!? (By the way, I had zero answers when I was eating all the time. I sure hope nobody was actually taking the advice I kept forcing on people…Oh well. Too late now…)

So why am I so upset with people giving me their unsolicited opinions and advice? Why can’t I have room for their judgment? Why can’t I let it roll off my back?

I think because cigarettes were how I numbed the feeling that other people didn’t like me. Didn’t approve of me. Didn’t think I was doing it right or well. Didn’t think I was good enough. Being judged hurt. And cigarettes made that pain go away. It was a kind of manufactured indifference.

But now I have to acquire a new coping mechanism. And I don’t think I want it to include indifference. But I don’t want to own someone else’s judgment of me either. I need to figure out what that’s going to look like. Because I don’t know.

What I do know is that I don’t want to judge those who judge me for judging. I want to acknowledge their right to have thoughts and opinions about me and my actions. And know that those thoughts and opinions are none of my business. Even if they insist on telling me. I want to have room for their humanity, whether their words come from love or spite. I want to be protected by my confidence and personal sense of security. I want to learn to love my fellow human beings. Not because they deserve it. Because I do.

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