onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “responsibility”

I’ll just be over here doing my flawed thing that works

I have had boundaries around my eating for over 13 years, and those boundaries are really specific (as working boundaries are.) But there is a thing that happens to me occasionally, where upon hearing one of my boundaries, a person wants me to know that whatever food I have just mentioned I abstain from is “very healthy,” and I should reconsider eating it. Avocados, bananas, and grains like quinoa are the usual suspects. 

I promise I know that avocados are both delicious and packed with nutrients! Guess what!?!? I’m still not going to eat them! 

There are other times things like this come up. On Twitter the other day, someone told me that drinking water by “quota” was “flawed.” 
I always have to remember that what I do is not science. I don’t do it because scientific research says it works. I do it because in my own experience it works. I do it because a bunch of people who were fat and could not control their eating found a solution. And I tried it when I was fat and could not control my eating, and it worked for me. So I continue to do it to this day. That is the only reason I do it. Because it has worked for me for over 13 years. And really, you have to admit that’s a damn good reason. 
Is it flawed? Certainly! Are there things about it that I am not sure are valid? Yes. Does that make it any less effective? No. No it does not. I am not a stickler for perfection. I am a stickler for the rules. As they are. Because not questioning them gives me freedom. 
I fought with the food for most of my life. I don’t want to fight with the food anymore. Especially now that my way of life works.
I want to say that I believe that someday there will be many volumes of scientific evidence that say that refined sugar, grains, and starch are addictive and have adverse effects on our bodies, brains, and hormones. And that for many of us, once we become addicted to these foods, putting them in our bodies sets up the phenomenon of craving more. 
But for now, there have not been a lot of studies. And many of the studies out there are paid for by the food industry. So I have to continue to do what I do without science-based evidence.
I am OK with that. 
Because there is something else that I have, that science couldn’t give me. A community of people who are doing what I do, and supporting me to continue. 
Because all of the science-based knowledge in the world would not help me not eat a chocolate cake if I were sad or anxious enough. But a friend could.
Knowing myself has never deterred me from eating a cake. Not wanting to eat a cake has never deterred me from eating a cake. Hating myself has never deterred me from eating a cake. 
When people ask about the way I eat, I usually say it’s not rocket science. Don’t eat sugar or flour. Eat a little fruit, and lots of vegetables. Portion control.  But, of course, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. Turning down cake when your whole body seems to light up at the prospect can be daunting. And it took about a year and a half of no sugar or simple carbohydrates at all for my body to stop screaming at me about how it wanted them. A year and a half was a long time to deny that crying toddler in me who is my sugar addict. Most people can’t be in Target for 25 minutes with their kid without giving in. A year and a half is a little bit of hell. But as they say: When you’re going through hell, keep going. 
But there is a point where science becomes a “problem” for me. It’s when someone (often a doctor or medical professional, but it could be anyone, frankly) decides that the way I eat is unhealthy. That everyone “needs” carbohydrates. Without noticing, apparently, that the majority of my food is fruit and vegetables. 
(What do people think those are, btw? Also, I do eat a small amount of wheat germ most days. Though it is a choice, and not a requirement. And I know plenty of people who never touch the stuff and are perfectly healthy.)
What they never seem to take into consideration is that for me, a diminutive slice of whole grain bread is a step away from that cake. What they don’t seem to fathom is that a banana sets off a craving in me that makes me feel crazy and out of control. Perhaps it is unfathomable to someone who has never had the desire or capacity to eat an entire chocolate cake, especially as the result of eating a slice of spelt bread. But it is not unfathomable to me. It is not even hypothetical. It is a thing that has happened in my life. (Though first I ate the whole loaf of spelt bread.) It is also an illustration of much of my first 28 years. Even though there is very little science to prove it. 
What I do is not science. It’s common sense. Figure out what you are addicted to, and stop doing that. Do what works. And keep doing it. That’s as common-sensical as stuff gets. 
Do I honor that avocados and spelt bread are nutritious foods? Of course! Hooray for them! I hope all of you non-addicts enjoy them! 
And don’t worry about me. I have given up my own experimentation. I don’t need to know if I could now eat an avocado with impunity. Because the result if I couldn’t would be far worse than any potential nutrient benefit. And I promise, whatever it is that you want to offer me as a gift, it’s nothing compared to the peace of mind and body that I am experiencing doing my “flawed” thing that works.
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Not a special kind of fat

I forgot I had to write a blog today. That, my friends, is what the alarm is for. I have an alarm that goes off on Sunday morning, asking if I posted a blog. Today, the answer was no. Actually, the answer was a lot of profanity, because I was just about to cook for the week. Anyway, time to write.

I have been thinking a lot about the fact that this blog has changed significantly over the years. And as I have gotten healthier, spiritually and emotionally, it has become less compelling.
I am not saying that I don’t have a compelling blog occasionally, but compared to the kinds of things I was writing 7 years ago, when I was working through a lot of leftover stuff from growing up fat, my writing has been…I don’t know. Maybe just less compelling. 
I am not yet ready to hang up my keyboard on this. Not yet, anyway. The act of writing every week makes a difference in my life. It helps me remember that I am a compulsive eating sugar addict every day. Even when it all seems like regular old life. It helps me remember that there are still people out there suffering who should know that if they are unhappy in the life they are in, and the body they are in, and the mind they are in, that there is a solution. One that works.  Not just “for a time” but for months. Years. Over a decade! Who would have thought it? 
When I think about the fact that I spent the entire decade of my 30s with my food under control, that seems like a miracle. Quite frankly, it was a miracle. When I think about the fact that my 40s have me as a person who works out 5 days a week, like a practice, that also is a miracle. 
I was a person who shunned things like caring about my body because I thought they were impossible for me. I thought I was a special kind of fat. The kind that could not be changed. So I hated people who could maintain a healthy weight. I hated people who could and did work out. In my head I ridiculed them. For being shallow. For being obnoxious. For being “normal.” 
But the longer I grow into a person who honors self-care, the more I see that people who care for their bodies are not “normal.” That they are rare. And ever rarer. They are the ones making a difference for themselves and for others.
I am not skinny. I talk about this a lot. Especially lately, while I am getting older and holding more fat on my body. And because I don’t eat low calorie foods in order to maintain a lower weight. It also helps that in my happily married (not so) old age, I don’t have to judge my body through the eyes of some imagined future partner. And that has changed my perception of self-care. I work out because I love my body. I don’t eat sugar because I love my freedom from food addiction. I don’t worry about the weight of my self. I worry about the weight of my protein at each meal. I weigh that out exactly. I weigh all of my food. I follow rules. And by doing that I can let my body be what it is.
So perhaps this is not as compelling as when I was working out my past in front of all of you. But I am currently particularly grateful that I am here, being the proof that even the most “specially fat” of us has hope. And that even the most steadfastly “anti-health”-on-principle of us can have a change of heart and a workout routine.
And yes. I did my workout my 5 days this week. Outside. With the big ol’ hill. And it felt great to keep my commitment.

The part that’s all blessing

Even after all of the prep I did last week for this week, there is still so much to do. Plus the drive to the home office from my house in the Chicago suburbs is more than twice as long a commute as the last job I was on. So unless I am going to run at 4:30 in the morning (spoiler alert! I’m not!) I am going to have to jog after work. Which, if you have not already heard me complain about, I hate. I am tired after work. Waaaaah! And then while we are home, my husband has been asked to do a 1 day job in Milwaukee, and I may have to go get our taxes done by myself! Did I mention Waaaaaah! yet?
Having my food taken care of is the blessing and the curse of all of this. Just a little curse. The curse part is that I have to do all of the stuff myself. Perhaps someday I will be rich enough to pay someone to do all of this stuff for me. The shopping. The cooking. Washing the Tupperware to pack up my food. Though I weigh almost all of my food (with a very few exceptions, and all sorts of rules around when I don’t have to) and I do have a commitment to weigh all of my food for myself. No matter how rich I get, it will still be my own responsibility to know my portions exactly. Also, my husband and I are doing pretty well financially, but not get-Kate-a-personal-chef-well. Though Powerball is up to $750 Million….
But the blessing is that when I do this stuff, I don’t have to eat compulsively. I talk a lot about all of the great stuff I get from having my eating under control that is only peripherally related to eating. Like being a good worker, or having self-respect. Or having great relationships. But one thing that I get every day, whether I screwed up at work, or I have a good bout of “imposter syndrome,” or I have had a fight with my husband, is that I am not eating compulsively. I am not a slave to food. I love my meals and they end, and I move on with my life.
The truth is, I owe at least 4 people calls and emails. (Hi Mom! Hi Dad! I have not forgotten you!) And I had to write this blog. And I had to cook and prep for the rest of the day, and tie up some loose ends for work tomorrow. But one thing I didn’t have to do was eat something I didn’t want to eat, but couldn’t stop myself from eating. And that part is all blessing. 

Stretching, strength, and grace (ish)

I have had a pretty intense week, all focused around my job. Some things needed to get done. Things that were (are) “above my pay grade,” as they say. But there was nobody else there to do them. So I got them done. I had to ask for a lot of help, and ask a lot of questions, and there was a pretty steep learning curve, but the work got done. And I learned a lot. 

When I compare who I am as an employee, and as a worker in general, since I got my eating under control, to when I was growing up eating compulsively, the difference is stark. I would say that the biggest change in my life is not my body, or even my relationships, and those are entirely made new. I would say the biggest change in myself is as a worker. 
In the food, I was a liar, a cheater, and a thief. Which is some serious sinning. But it all stemmed from the fact that I was easily overwhelmed, plus terrified of failure and judgment to the point of paralysis, and rash-decision-making. In the food I was engulfed in a sugar fog that impaired my thinking, and temporarily numbed any feelings of guilt. 
In the food I was fighting for survival, but just barely, because I didn’t have any life skills or the ability to be sober long enough to learn some. I was getting by, minute to minute, waiting to either be rescued by someone who wasn’t me, or to eat enough chocolate cake that it didn’t matter anymore that I was drowning. Or both. Usually both.
In getting my food under control I became honest. I became a good worker, and a person of integrity. I started worrying less about how I might fail, and caring more about how I might help. 
In getting my food under control, I learned how to be strong and graceful (or at least graceful-ish). The way one learns to be strong and graceful is to get stuck in a bad situation, and to get ourselves out. In having my food taken care of, and having a clear head, I learned how to ask for help, how to take direction, how to take baby steps, how to figure out the right questions to ask, how to do the best I can, and then let the chips fall where they may.
In the end, that work thing I did that was “above my pay grade” helped us nail down our next job assignment. And that means we have to wind down here, pack up our apartment, and move on to the next town and the next job. 
That is par for the course in this way of life. And after almost 6 years of it, the husband and I are pretty good at it. It can be a little stressful. And I do enjoy it when we get to a place and we can settle in for the time being.  But by the time we leave, we will have been here about a year. And that is usually enough time to be done with a place. 
I am excited to move on. And grateful that I helped make it happen by stretching myself. And that I have the skills to do so with strength and grace(ish)fullness.

Pop quiz! How committed are you?

There is a saying I heard many years ago. Do not pray for patience. Whatever you pray for, God will test you. 

It is my experience that God, or Life, or whatever you want to call it, will always test a commitment, and give you a chance to turn back. Those of you who have been with me from the beginning may remember that the week I quit smoking I acquired a stalker. (Are you *really* committed to quitting smoking, Kate? Even in this stressful situation?) Well, I was really committed, but seriously!?!?!
I once heard a man say that the hardest time to keep his eating boundaries was when his mother died. Because it was exactly the kind of situation where nobody would blame him. You ate cake? Well, your mother just died. Who could blame you?
Last week I wrote that I only jogged 4 days instead of 5 after I slipped on the ice. And I said that I was worried that it meant that I wasn’t committed. And I declared to you that I was, and I *am* committed. So life decided to make me prove it.
I have lived in my apartment complex for about 10 months and I have been working out at 5:30am for about 9 of those months. And on Monday, there was a woman in the gym using the treadmill. Well, not just the treadmill. She was using all of the machines, and weights, like some kind of circuit. (Don’t ask me. I just jog.) But I asked and she let me have the treadmill. But then on Tuesday, there was someone else with her and it seemed like I wasn’t going to get to jog that morning, so I came back after work. (I *hate* working out after work. I am already exhausted. That jog was brutal.)
The next day I got there 20 minutes earlier, and again, she was already there. But again, she let me have the treadmill. 
I spent a lot of time being worried about my workout. All week, I stressed about it. I came up with alternate plans like going to a regular gym where I still keep a membership, in case of emergency. But I didn’t have to. I saw this lady every morning, and I still managed to get my workout done. 
My commitment to keeping boundaries around my eating has truly taught me about commitment. It has given me reference points for how to problem solve when life doesn’t go according to plan. And it has allowed me to prioritize my long game. 
I didn’t have a long game when I was eating compulsively. I lived for the comfort of the moment. If I had kept on that path, I would doubtlessly be well over 300 lbs right now. I would not be jogging. I would be in great physical discomfort much of the time, and I would numb the physical and emotional pain of that with more sugar and only exacerbate the problem. I am sure I would not be married, because I would hate myself so much that I would shut everyone out. And I would not love my life, even if there was much to love, because I would not have the confidence or pride that I have gained through my accomplishments. And I am not taking about losing weight, though I don’t diminish that as an accomplishment. I mean all of the promises I have kept to myself, all of the skills I have acquired through patience and practice and work, and all of the risks I have taken to stretch and grow out of old ideas and an old life. 
I don’t want to go back to my old habits and choices and ways. I didn’t like myself or that life. But it’s not comfortable to have to come up with an alternate plan to get my workout done. Especially when my workout is work. 
There is a famous writer’s quote, attributed to many authors, but I am going with Dorthy Parker. *I hate writing, but love having written.* I feel this way about many things in my life. Writing, certainly. But exercise is also high on that list. Anything that is work, but yields a high reward. Meal prep is right up there too. (Eating, however, is not on that list. Even without sugar and simple carbohydrates, I love eating. And having eaten. And looking forward to eating.)
But in some ways, I am glad to have had this test. It lets me prove, not just to Life, but to myself, that I honor my priorities and my promises. And let’s me know I can be trusted. Which in turn lets me know that I can strive for more. (Baby steps, mind you. But baby steps are still moving in the right direction.)

When too much comfort is uncomfortable

On Monday, I fell on a patch of ice on my way to the gym in my apartment complex, and landed right on my tailbone. Gosh golly gee did that hurt! It knocked the wind out of me. I cried. 

I didn’t go on my jog that day. And I was feeling bad about it. Because I felt like I should “power through” and “suck it up.” Thank goodness I didn’t listen to *that voice* in my head. But I jogged Tuesday through Friday, and opted not to jog on Saturday to “catch up.” In other words, I didn’t jog my 5 times last week. And I have had mixed feelings about it. 
The truth is, it is a really good thing I did not workout on Monday after that fall. I most certainly would have hurt myself even worse. And I am glad I went the other 4 days, because getting back to working out after a week without it would have been grueling. But on Saturday, by butt and back still hurt. And I made an executive decision that I was going to let it rest. And that decision, about not jogging my 5th day, is the one rattling around in my head a bit. 
I essentially have 2 modes: 100% or totally ineffectual. Or at least I feel like it most of the time. And I can have a hard time discerning what is good enough if I’m not in 100% mode. Part of my workout routine is that I do it 5 days a week unless I am injured or would injure myself. And this example seems like a grey area for me. Would I have hurt myself by jogging Saturday? Maybe not. Probably not. At least not on Saturday itself. But I felt like exercising every day was making it take a lot longer to get back to normal. With just that one day off, my backside already feels better, and my muscles aren’t so sore anymore. 
I can be really mean to myself. Which is not very helpful. And it doesn’t work. If I tell myself that I’m lazy, which is a thing I tell myself a lot, unfortunately, I don’t feel motivated. I just ask “what’s the point?” And I don’t want to jog, or go do any of the things that make my life work. I just want to sit around and do the things that make me comfortable. 
But of course, the things that make me comfortable only make me comfortable because I have already done the things that make my life work: the food prep, and the 8 hours of sleep, and the water, and the exercise, and the keeping up with my emails and calls, and getting my work done in a timely and efficient manner. I have lived the life where I only do comfortable things, and it is a surprisingly uncomfortable existence.
The other thing is that I am afraid of the insidious nature of giving up my promises. I don’t want to let in bullshit excuses for why I can’t exercise. If I let a little bullshit go, I can let more of it go. And I don’t want to find myself quitting my run because I “don’t have time,” or because other things are “more important.” I make time for my priorities. And this is incredibly important. Self-care is the most important thing I can do. It makes me the best wife and worker and friend I can be.
But not running after such a trauma was the wisest decision. And taking an extra day when my butt and back muscles were still sore 5 days later was not a cop out. I don’t run because I have something to prove. I run because I love my body, and I want to take care of it. I want to jog for the rest of my life. And I won’t be able to do that if I hurt myself in the name of “fitness.” 

Clunky and graceless is OK for now

This week I celebrated my 13th anniversary of keeping boundaries around my eating. One thing I was taught early on was to set boundaries with people. Even if they were “clunky.” Even if they were graceless. Even if I sounded like a jerk. Even if I *was* a jerk.

It has occurred to me in the past few months that I avoid difficult conversations. In some ways, this came as a surprise to me. I like to think of myself as a model of self-expression. And I thought I had already overcome this. Which I had. But I should not be surprised. My experience is that we all have our lessons. And we have to learn those lessons over and over, deeper and deeper.

Once I realized this, I knew that I wanted to do something about it. And I have. A little snappy. And a little pushy. But moving ahead.

Right now, I don’t know what to do about it in terms of concrete actions. There are ways to make commitments to things like this, but they are not as obvious to me as food boundaries or water drinking promises. Those are no brainers. 4 oz of meat, weighed on a scale. Three 20 oz bottles of water a day from my reusable water bottle. That’s easy. Or at least, easy to wrap my mind around. But having uncomfortable conversations occurs to me as less clear-cut.

Still, I will work at it. I want it. I want to say the things I need to say so that I don’t feel resentful, or self-pitying, or stifled. I don’t want to be “nice.” I want to be kind. I don’t want to be “likable.” I want to be authentic. I don’t want to be “good.” I want to be powerful.

When I don’t muddle my thinking with food and sugar and carbs and things that make me fuzzy, I can feel my uncomfortable feelings, and consider what I want to do about them. I am in no hurry. I can be happy for now with the baby steps I have begun to take, even if they are clunky and graceless. I can think about it a little bit longer. I am in no rush. I have all the time in the world to grow. And there will always be more growing to do.

The ability to be uncomfortable long enough to make a change.

I am having some problems at work. Personality problems. And they difficult to navigate. It takes a lot of restraint on my part. 

The other day the personality I have the most trouble with made trouble between me and another worker. Thankfully, I calmed down (way way down) before I talked to this other worker. And because I went in calm, and did not act out like the crazed person I felt like, all turned out just fine. It turned out to be a miscommunication. It was presented to me differently by that first personality.
That first personality likes to create panic. I don’t have time for panic. I don’t have room to be guided by my feelings. (Not my intuition, from which I do have room for guidance. Feelings. Yucky, human, unpredictable, physical reactions to situations.)
Feelings are useful, certainly. They let us know when we are on the right track. They also let us know when we need change.
I masked my feelings with food for the first 28 years of my life. It was easy to live in the discomfort of something being wrong when I never had to experience the discomfort.
When I first got control of my eating, I was so bad at living with discomfort that I would rush headlong into “fixing” my problems so I could get past the uncomfortable part. I didn’t have much grace, but I did start to get myself some boundaries. Not just around my food, but around all aspects of my life. And while I had a lot of apologies and amends to make for my rashness, I was actually getting things done for myself and making changes in my life.
But now, I try to be softer on myself. I have frustrations, and things make me angry, but I can take my time to consider how I am going to deal with them. Not everything has to be now. Because I can be uncomfortable. (That’s a blessing!)
If you don’t know, I am blunt. I don’t like to talk around things. I don’t like to give wishy-washy answers to things for the sake of politeness. I think direct honesty is infinitely more polite. And I don’t think “no” is rude or wrong. I think it’s quality information. I like quality information. It saves me time and trouble.
For example, if I go to a restaurant and ask if the asparagus can be made without the parmesan cheese, and my server tells me “Probably not,” they have not helped me. They have not done me any favors. They have now forced me to ask more questions about the asparagus. And they have not been any more polite than if they had said, “No. it’s already pre prepped with the cheese.” At least then, I could move on.
But being blunt at work is harder. It’s harder to set boundaries with people who, technically, could get you fired, even if they can’t fire you themselves. It’s also harder to be straightforward with people who are passive-aggressive. They have already set up the context for a given communication, and trying to navigate that with both honesty and grace is not simple.
There are two major life lessons that I got from getting my eating under control that apply to this work conflict. The first is “When you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.” I get to take my time and trust that the right answer will come along at the right time. I don’t need to leap into action. I need to be committed to change, and keep my eyes and ears open for the best time to take the right action.
The second is that we do the best we can and let the chips fall where they may. I can certainly allow myself to bullied and cowed on a regular basis in order to avoid having a difficult conversation with someone higher up in the company than myself. I can let that difficult personality get me riled up and panic-stricken. And I can be constantly worried about the quality of my work, because that personality is looking to find fault (or maybe just looking to push someone around). But I am bad at that. And that is not the best I can do. The best I can do is set boundaries around how I will be treated.
I know that I am good at my job. Really really good at it. I know that I am friendly, efficient, organized, consistent, and that I have a great work ethic. I do not have any qualms about whether or not I am doing a good enough job. But that has nothing to do with office politics. And if I am going to be reprimanded for not accepting unacceptable treatment, then this is certainly not the job for me.
But the truth is, I don’t think this personality would ever really try to get me fired. I think they like the threat, and the power of the threat. I think everyone knows that I do quality work.
I forget that as an addict, I am not the only one who is sick. I forget that other people are sick and cruel and behave badly all the time and they’re not necessarily addicts. Or they are and it’s not obvious to me.
I will not make any rash decisions around this. But I will also not be treated poorly. I owe that to myself. Because I don’t have cake to numb the pain of abuse. And I do have the ability to be uncomfortable long enough to take a stand and make a change.

Tight food, loose life

St Francis of Assisi said “Wear the world like a loose garment.” 12 step folks use this phrase a lot. 

I like to think of it like I keep my food tight, so my life can be loose.
I am in New York City for the weekend, at a kind of convention for people with boundaries around their food. But I lived in NYC for almost 15 years, so I have all sorts of friends here. And last night I went to hang out with some old friends after the convention. Friends from before I had my food under control. I meant to leave at 10 (already way past my normal bed time) and I didn’t leave until after midnight. I was having too much fun catching up with people I only see once a year or so, and whom I haven’t seen in two years this time. So today I will be late to the 2nd day of the convention. But that’s OK. My life is loose. And my relationships are a priority. I get to choose that.
I will have a blog posted. I will have my food together. I will get to the convention when I get there, with myself taken care of. And I will have gotten that extra time with people I love.
When I was in the food, I was bad at priorities. I wasn’t self-aware enough to know what I wanted, what made sense for *me,* what I should do to bring me the most happiness, love, and joy. I did things because I thought I *should* do them. Or because I had it in my head that I was going to do one thing, and I couldn’t wrap my head around doing something else. Now I feel and know and am aware of the things that I want to do very quickly. I know that laughing with loved ones until past midnight was worth it. I know that being late to this convention is OK. I know that even if it weren’t, I would be able to make the choices that mean the most to me, not anyone else.
Having the food down means there is no buffer between me and life. That’s the good news and the bad news. It means I feel all of the feelings, good and bad. And it means I get to go with the flow. Joyous and disappointing alike. If my friends had told me I had to go at 8:30, I would have been able to go along with that as well.
So as it is, I am running late to get to the convention. But I will be happy to be there, not pressured, or resentful, or annoyed. I will have taken care of myself to the best of my ability. And not feeling pressured or forced leaves so much room for me to move around in my life.

And the Kate award for Kate awesomeness goes to…Kate (Who could have seen that coming?)

When I gave up sugar, I figured I would end up with an average, boring, mediocre life. And that did not thrill me, but I had become so unhappy in that previous year with eating and body image disorders that I was willing to go to any lengths.

I had always despised the thought of my own mediocrity. Perhaps it was being a child who grew up in the 80s. Sesame Street told us we were all special. Perhaps it was that I had a huge personality and love of the attention of strangers. People expected me to be a performer. And that made me expect to be a star. Or perhaps it was that I was born with a lot of a particular kind of talent, the kind of keen intelligence that made understanding the world around me easy as a kid. People called me precocious. I expected that I would be able to win for my whole life as easily as I had early on.

This was not the case for several reasons. Obviously, my pool got smarter. It turns out, they put smart kids with other smart kids. Also, I was pretty fragile emotionally. I did not take failure well. And I didn’t learn much from it. The lessons I took from failure usually ended up being not to do that thing I was bad at anymore. And, probably most importantly, early in life I figured out that sugar and carbs would make all of my difficult feelings go away.

This life that I have now would almost certainly make child and teen Kate cringe. It would occur to her as pathetic and pointless. It would occur to her as mediocrity incarnate.

But I look at this life as particularly extraordinary. And I think it’s specialness, and the fact that I think so, is all about having my eating under control.

Being the person I am now means I judge my success in terms of my integrity, my growth, and my contentment, not accolades or prizes from outside. This lack of outside approval is exactly what mediocrity looked like to my young self. How would I know I was awesome unless someone else told me. Unless everyone told me. Unless *important* people told me.

I am not diminishing the power of “important” prizes. But not everyone is going to win a Pulitzer. And I don’t have to base my pride in my life on whether or not I do. (I am not even writing right now. But even if I were.)

When I got my eating under control, it finally clicked for me that wanting an outcome had nothing practical to do with getting it. By putting boundaries around food, I learned about taking action. I learned about practice. As crazy as it seems to me now, I somehow had it in my head that wanting to lose weight was enough. But it’s not that crazy when you consider that sugar gets me high like a drug. The thing that was making me fat was also muddling my thinking. It was a win-win for sugar and a lose-lose for me.

Sometimes people in the self-help world talk about visualization. I used to think this meant something like visualizing myself winning the Pulitzer. And while science says that there is a case for that kind of visualization being effective, what is more effective is visualizing oneself *doing the work.* Because if you picture yourself doing the work, you are more likely to actually do the work.

Through having my eating under control and thereby getting a body I could love and be comfortable in, I came to understand about the practicality of achieving something. I got this body by entirely changing the way I eat. I did something about my body. I didn’t just “want” it to be different, I did the work.

Between my meals, I do the next right thing in my life, whatever that is for my next goal. When I wasn’t working full time, it was writing. Now that I am working, it can be dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s on a particular work task, making sure I am doing my job to the best of my ability. Or in my free time it can be ripping out a section of knitting because I realized I did something wrong and I want to get it right. Or it can be drinking my water quota or going on my jog.

I practice the things I want for myself and the things I want to get better at. And in understanding practice, I have come to recognize that one doesn’t win a Pulitzer Prize by aiming to win one. One writes the book or the music. One does the thing. And maybe it strikes a chord with one’s fellow humans. Or maybe it doesn’t.

The idea that something I do won’t wow the world no longer feels mediocre to me. The idea that I do *anything,* especially with any semblance of integrity and consistency, whatever that may be, feels like I have become a powerhouse in the world. I feel like a shining example of accomplishment. And I haven’t won an award of any kind since high school.

I used to think that everyone understood life but me. I used to think that knowing with certainty what to do next was obvious to everyone else. I felt incapable compared to all of the confident, well-adjusted beings all around me. But I realized that most people are flying just as blind as I always was. They are just better at hiding it.

And I realized that wanting to be liked by others more than honoring oneself is about as average and mediocre as it gets. And here I am trying to impress the hell out of myself. That sounds pretty extraordinary to me, if I do say so myself.

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