When I got my eating under control 13+ years ago, I expected to find my husband right away. I thought that the only thing keeping him away was my being fat. Because even when I wasn’t fat while I was still eating compulsively, any hold I had on staying the size I was was tenuous at best. I could always feel it slipping away.
I have been struggling with how I feel about a recent(ish) weight again. I feel like this happens once a year or so, in the past 4 years. I gain weight. For no discernible reason. I do not change the way I eat, at least not it in any major way. I just gain weight. Eventually I lose it. (At least that has been the case so far.) And then I gain it back months later. And then lose it again. Back and forth, over and over.
I have had a difficult week. My husband and I have moved into our new place. Getting adjusted to a new town is difficult. This is a small town. It’s no Corpus Christi, TX. It’s no suburb of Nashville. And we have begun our new job. It is not going particularly well right now and that is stressful. I have not done my workout at all this week. For the past month I have been gaining weight with no change in my eating or exercise habits (until this week). I am frustrated and annoyed and kind of unhappy.
I have to remember that I often miss my workouts when I first get to a new place. It’s hard to get accustomed to a new home. To know where I can run. To know what time is best for me to do it. To get a new routine and to get my workout firmly set up in that routine. I think it happened when we moved to Tennessee. I know it did when we moved to Corpus Christi. But I need to figure that out this week. My workout is a priority. Not because of my weight, even though I am gaining. And not even for my health. But for my mobility and my mindset. I feel better about myself and my life when I work out. I feel better about my body, whatever its size and shape, when working out is a priority built into my day.
And I have to remember that this new job is going to be just fine. That the beginning is always bumpy. I am already doing a good job, because I am good at my job. It’s just a lot of things are not panning out. And there’s nothing to do about that except take accurate stock, and solve those problems. Solving problems is a thing I am good at. But I am vain. And proud. I would like to make it look easy. And right now I am not making it look easy. I am making it look like it takes work. Because it is taking a lot of work.
I am also afraid I am not going to like it here. I was afraid of that in Corpus Christi too. I remember crying in my new tiny kitchen when we got there. I was afraid of that in Tennessee too. Especially when I got into my first car accident when I had been there for 3 days. I cried there as well. But when a woman at the grocery store last Saturday asked me where my favorite place my husband and I had lived was, I told her it was Corpus Christi. So obviously I’m no Oracle.
And as for the weight gain, which I am taking in stride, I have to remember that I am stressed out. And that since I have had my eating under control, stress has always been a factor in my weight. I eat the way I eat, within my boundaries. And weigh what I weigh. Sometimes more. Sometimes less.
When my dad’s mom was in the hospital before she died, I lost weight like crazy. Was the skinniest I had ever been. Eating the same as before, and more because my weight was dropping so fast. When I quit smoking, I gained all of it back and then some. Even though my food quantities were cut drastically to stop the weight gain. After the smoking cessation weight gain, I decided that I was not going to try to wrangle my body into some size or shape by eating or not eating things that may or may not affect my weight. But I still don’t like it. I used to weigh 300 lbs. That will give a person some serious issues that will never quite go away. And a sudden weight gain is never any fun. And does crazy things to my head.
But I will tell you this. Two weeks ago, I made all of the lunches I needed for two weeks. Packed them and froze them. Stuck them in a cooler when I drove for 8 hours and put them right back in the freezer. And I did not have to worry about cooking all week. I didn’t have to take hours out of my busy schedule. I did not have to eat mediocre fare to get me through. I had what I needed to make a rough transition that much more bearable.
And my food is what it has always been. Delicious. And within the same boundaries that it has been for over 13 years. The lady at the grocery store yesterday said sort of shocked, “You sure have a lot of vegetables!” And I thought, yep. That’s what is saving my life. And that is another thing that helps me emotionally deal with weight gain. That my food is nourishing. So I don’t have to worry about what I ate or didn’t eat. I know what to eat. And I get to love every guilt-free bite.
There is a saying I heard many years ago. Do not pray for patience. Whatever you pray for, God will test you.
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!
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.
I did something today that I shouldn’t have done.
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.
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.
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.