onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “self-care”

More fulfilling than weight loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

My comfort arsenal

So far, 2022 has been a great year for books for me, but a terrible year for my health. I fell down the stairs on January 1st, got myself a bruise bigger than my head on my thigh, and before it was even remotely healed, I caught some kind of cold, had a really intense reaction to my covid vaccine booster, followed by some other sickness that has been lingering for months. (I have never tested positive for Covid, but I have sure had something.) I have had some form of hurt or illness every day this year. Every. Single. Day. So well over 6 months. And I am frustrated and exhausted from it.

But one thing I appreciate is that throughout this year, I have never thought about eating compulsively. And that’s a miracle. Because before I got my eating under control, food was always my comfort. It didn’t make everything better, but it got me high enough that I didn’t care. 

I still take comfort in food. I expect I always will. But it used to be my comfort at the expense of being at the mercy of my drug foods, a whole different kind of discomfort lurking underneath, waxing and waning with my high. And now it’s comfort in the safety and peace of self-care.

I don’t miss sugar. I don’t crave it. I don’t think about it. But eating for me is still about the sensations and the ways they make me happy. Crispy bell peppers, and creamy homemade ice cream, and snacky cheese bites, and fresh, citrusy pico de gallo. All of these things make me happy and take my mind off of my troubles. 

And when meal time is over and the next meal is not for hours, I have learned to have other things that give me peace and comfort. Crafting, and listening to audiobooks, talking books with my reading buddy or my mom, writing, or binge watching some show or other. 

It certainly took time to acquire this comfort arsenal. I was not good at it right away. It was years of managing to just not eat a cake. To get by as best I could. But now I am well equipped to deal with discomfort in a healthy, sane way. 

And of course, like all things, this too shall pass.

When the math didn’t math

I am a control freak by nature. I want what I want and I am interested in figuring out how to get it. I remember a line from a movie when I was a kid. Something about control being an illusion. And at the time I didn’t think it was true. After all, it seemed to me that all of the grownups in my life had it. And I wanted it too.

And the other thing was that it seemed logical to me that if actions have reactions, if you could figure out the “right equation,” you could create the right reaction, the one you wanted. What I didn’t fully understand was that when this bumped up against other people and what they wanted, this was just manipulation. And also, I wasn’t always great at knowing what I wanted.

There are some important things that getting my eating under control has taught me. 1) Usually, that kind of control does not get me a worthwhile return on investments. I almost never want the thing I think I want as much as the machinations cost me. 2) I can make myself feel positively crazy trying to think and plan myself the right “equation” to get what I think I want. 3) I usually want something much more theoretical than the practical thing I think I do. Like I want to feel pretty, more than I want that specific dress.

For 28 years I wanted to eat whatever I wanted to eat, but also be thin. And I did a whole lot of things to try to make that equation work out. Dieting, exercise bulimia, regular old bulimia bulimia. But none of that math ever mathed. 

When I gave up sugar and simple carbohydrates 16+ years ago, I thought I was throwing in the towel and agreeing that I would accept being skinny as the best I could get. And even that I was skeptical of. I had never been skinny and also had never been able to control my weight. But (eventually- there was still the long slog of sugar withdrawal) I got all of the things I really wanted. The things I thought eating whatever I wanted and still being skinny would get me. To be happy and comfortable in my body both in private and public. To love my food without guilt. To like myself and not doubt myself or my choices.

I don’t always do it perfectly, but today, I try to remember that when I keep my eating under control and do my best to be my authentic self, I get exactly what I really wanted, whatever that looks like, even if I didn’t know I wanted it.

In my circle sitting in it

As a person who has lived with a kind of constant, low level anxiety for basically all of her life, you might think I am not feeling much different in the face of some of the more terrifying things that have been happening here in the US over the past several days, months, years. But you would be very, very wrong.

It’s a funny thing to know that things are bad, but that also, there is really nothing to do about it except carry on. I read a really interesting article a couple of years ago with this quote. “Collapse is just a series of ordinary days in between extraordinary bullshit, most of it happening to someone else.” 

So here I am, more and more afraid every day, but someone has to go to the grocery store and do the laundry and make dinner. And I can. I have money and time. Everything terrible and horrific that I am afraid of has happened to someone else. For now.

I have to constantly remind myself that there is nothing to do but what is right in front of me. There is no difference I can make except in the place I am at any moment. That I cannot fix any part of the world I can’t reach.

It helps me to think about my life in concentric circles. I am alone in my first circle, and that is where I have the most control. I keep my eating boundaries. I exercise. I drink my water. In the next circle is my husband and our marriage and all of the ways I can make a difference in our partnership. And so on.

Another thing that helps to “sit in it.” I hate that part. The sitting in my fear and discomfort. The being alone with my powerlessness. The letting Life be what it is. I absolutely abhor it, but it is necessary for me and my sanity.

I could eat a cake. That would certainly numb me for a while. But a while is not that long. And then I would just need more cake, and nothing would change. Except that I might not be able to do the mundane stuff anymore like grocery shopping or laundry. Because I am a low bottom, non-functioning food addict. 

So I am going to keep my eating boundaries and navigate the fear and just put one foot in front of the other. I don’t think that will make a difference in the world, but I know that it will make a difference in my very small part of the world. Even if that means only that very small circle around just myself.

The ability to just exist

My whole life growing up and even a few years into having my eating under control, I was obsessed with my weight. I thought about my weight all the time. I don’t mean that figuratively. If I was awake, some portion of my mind was occupied with thoughts about my body, specifically my fatness. I was constantly on the lookout for potential shamers. And I mean always and everywhere, since many of them were in my own family. Someone asking me if I was sure I wanted to eat that. Someone making a roundabout fat joke. Or a blatant fat joke. Someone assuring me that I was somehow lacking. Lacking willpower, lacking proper pride, lacking beauty, lacking sense. 

Even when I first lost weight after I gave up sugar and carbohydrates, I was still very much obsessed with my body. With its new thinness. With the (often, though not always) exciting attention I was getting as a suddenly conventionally beautiful woman. But also, with what occurred to me as a kind of lie. Beneath my clothes there were stretch marks and loose skin. I was not smooth and lean and perfect. Beneath my clothes was the evidence that I was not a “regular girl.” There was a fat girl under there.

That is one of the meanings of the title of this blog. Once a fat girl. Once, as in the past. But also, there is more to that saying. Once a fat girl, ALWAYS a fat girl. There were things about growing up fat that will never go away. There is a kind of trauma to it. And that trauma is not about what I did to myself. It’s not about eating or food addiction or the ways I dealt with or felt about my own body. Because in getting my eating under control, I got to work through those things. I got to confront myself, and look at my own soul and mind and life.

But in many ways I am still not over the trauma of the way I was treated by others because I was fat. So let me say it clearly. It was abuse. I was traumatized. I was harmed. It was not OK. 

The greatest gift of putting boundaries around my food is guilt-free eating. But right up there is the fact that I don’t have to think about my body. Almost ever. I don’t walk into a room wondering who is going to shame me. I don’t have to look around for potential abusers and make a plan for how I will escape. I don’t have to think about how I am going to be judged. I get to just exist. 

Fat people don’t get to just exist. And I think that is a terrible thing for everyone.

Panic! At the Grocery

On Monday last week I dropped my phone in the grocery store (I do basically everything on my phone including keeping my shopping list) and it broke. The screen did not work at all. 

It was very upsetting for me. Number one, how was I going to remember what I had on my grocery list? (And yes, I did, indeed, end up missing a couple of important items that day in my panic. Yes I managed anyway.) But also, as I mentioned above, I do everything on my phone. So I was totally out of sorts. 

There was a store from my service carrier in the same parking lot as the grocery store, though. So I went in there to discuss my options. And friends, they were anything but helpful. Two of the three employees in particular were rude, gave me condescending looks and side eyes, and made it clear to me that I was interrupting their conversations. They basically told me that I needed to take it up with Apple. Even though I had insurance through them. 

But I had not eaten lunch. Which would have to be my first priority because keeping my eating boundaries is alway my first priority. And I had promised my husband that I would do laundry that day because he was running out of work clothes. And I had just made a promise to my career coach that I would get him my first draft of my cover letter and a revised resume by the end of the week. And now, on top of that I needed to find an Apple repair place and everything would be more difficult until I did.

I was pacing around my apartment, on the brink of hyperventilating, too distracted to do one thing at a time. Making part of my lunch, but then walking away to sort laundry. And then looking at the time and realizing I still hadn’t eaten any lunch. Too worried about getting everything done to get anything done with any grace. Too muddled to finish a task. 

This is a default setting of mine. When things seem too complicated and unthinkable to process, I just don’t process them. I shut down.  

And then I made a decision. I was not going to deal with my phone that day. I just made the choice and let it go. I made lunch and then sat down and ate it while watching Bridgerton. Again. (Don’t ask how many times. You really don’t want to know. Or at least I don’t want to admit it to you.)

In making the choice, I was able to stop my mind. I decided that when my husband got home, I would use his phone. I would call and make an appointment at an Apple repair place for the next day. And I would manage for the following 24 hours. 

And moving forward, everything went smoothly. I used my husband’s phone to make an appointment. The next morning I ate breakfast and packed myself a lunch. I got there on time. They took my phone and told me to come back in an hour. And I had Apple Care so they fixed my phone for free. I got back home with a working phone in time for lunch.

The ability to pause, to actively make a choice, to *accept* that it is always life on Life’s terms, is a gift of having my eating under control. My default may be to pace and mutter and flit from unfinished task to unfinished task, but I now have the option to *choose* something else. 

Does that take something? Some effort? It does. I had to learn how to do it. I have to continue to practice it. All the time. And even after 16 years of having boundaries around my eating, that panic still pops up first. But in having priorities, especially when my first priority is that of self-care, I can change the way I think and act in any moment.

It’s not what it looks like and other unbelievable truths

I have been thinking a lot lately about what having my eating boundaries looks like from the outside. And I really get how it looks crazy to some people. I can really see how it can look like an eating disorder instead of a solution to my disordered eating.

I weigh all of my food with some very few exceptions, and even those have rules. I entirely avoid a whole group of foods that most people all over the world eat every day. I make a point of *not* trusting my body and it’s feelings about whether or not I am hungry. So I really get how that can look crazy and weird.

So here is what I think the real difference is. I am happy and at peace in my life in a way I have never been before. And I never want to lose that. I would rather be this happy and never eat sugar again while simultaneously dealing with how upset people get when they learn I plan to never eat sugar again.

I can’t trust my body to tell me when to eat. And I know that because I have eaten things I didn’t want and didn’t like because they were there and I just could not stop eating. I have eaten when I was full to sickness and did not physically want anything more, but I could not stop eating. I have stolen food and lied and cheated for food, even though I felt intense guilt and humiliation, because I just could not stop eating.

Whenever I tell someone what I do with food and their reaction is to tell me that they “should” do what I do, I tell them that I don’t care what they eat. I am not judging. I am not the food police.

I eat the way I eat because I am an addict, and eliminating my drug foods is a solution to my eating problem. Not a weight problem or a health problem. A self-esteem problem. A self-love problem. A sanity problem.

I have had/do have eating disorders, by the way. Not just binge eating, but also exercise bulimia, and stick a toothbrush down your throat bulimia, and I have occasionally exhibited anorexic behaviors, though not very often. I have never had much “willpower” when it comes to food. (If you have read my blog for any period of time, you probably already know that I don’t believe in willpower.) So I want to say I have points of reference for eating disorders. And I never felt less peaceful or more crazy than when I was “managing my weight” with actual eating disorder behaviors.

So if you look at what I do and you see an eating disorder, I don’t really blame you. If I were doing what I do and starving (I am not, by the way) I would also be worried. But I am happy, joyous and free. I love my life. I have relationships that I never thought I could. I do things I never had the courage or drive to do before. I love my life *because* I have boundaries around my eating, not in spite of it.

Vanity, Pride and wanting to be skinny enough to be loved

I was talking to some friends who do what I do with food the other day. And I was reminded that the difference between me as a kid eating compulsively and me as an adult with boundaries around my food is much bigger inside than outside. I did lose a lot of weight. And that is one thing. But most people I still have in my life didn’t care about my weight when I was fat. And they really think that I am basically the same as I ever was. Only not fat. And they don’t care about that.

This is interesting to me because I feel like an entirely different person. On the inside. And not just because I don’t think about my weight or my body anymore, which is HUGE, because when I was eating compulsively I thought about my body and my weight all the time. I worried about what other people thought about my body. But more importantly I worried about who was going to humiliate me because of my size and shape. Because people loved to humiliate me. People love to humiliate fat people in general.

But aside from not having that constant nagging fear and shame, I feel entirely different than I did when I was in the food. And it is about having my addiction under control. I have a clear head. I have a clear conscience because I have done my best to clean up my past messes and to “clean as I go” in my relationships now. I have a peace around not only my actions and words, but also my circumstances. I have a new relationship to what happens to me and how I react to it. One where I assess what is the reality of the situation, accept it, and act (or abstain from acting) according to who I want to be in my life.

Here is the deal. I believe whole heartedly that the people in my life would still love me if I were fat. I believe my husband would still love me. I believe my friends and family would still love me. That they would not see me as all that different.

And if what I do with food were only about being thin, and I knew that people would still love me fat, I would have quit. A long time ago. If it were about my body, and my weight, and I knew that my husband did not really care about my weight, I would have said screw it. I would have gone back to cake. Because when I got my eating under control, it really was to be skinny enough to be loved.

But now I do what I do because when I do it, I love myself. And I do not love myself because I’m skinny. I am not skinny. I love myself because I do what I say I am going to do. I be where I say I am going to be. I tell the truth and I honor myself. These were not things I could do before. Because how could I have been honest about anything when I could never be honest about food? I have sometimes heard “how you do anything is how you do everything.” And I was a liar about food. How could I not be a liar in any other aspect of my life?

As time goes by and I get more clearheaded, I know that weight is less and less important to me. That I don’t keep my eating boundaries for physical vanity. Though I’ll admit it is a kind of vanity. I like looking like I’ve got my shit together. But also, I like that I actually have my shit together. So maybe that’s more pride than vanity. (Do I sound like Mary Bennet now?!?) Either way, I am grateful that my happiness is not all tangled up with my weight anymore. Even if it is still tangled up with my food.

Listen to your h…ives?

When I eating compulsively I was willfully disconnected from my body. I hated my body. I blamed it for not being good enough. Mostly not pretty enough. But I didn’t really have an alternate way to relate to my body. Everyone made it clear that bodies were made to be beautiful, and that if mine was not, it was worthless.


That is a thing that happens in a fat-phobic society. We learn to internalize hatred for any body that is considered bad, mostly as a defense mechanism. To love your fat body is considered shameful. To be ashamed of your fat body shows that you are properly embarrassed by your shameful body. That you are on the “right side” of what is good and right and honorable.


I have spent the past few years actively shifting my view of fatness. It has nothing to do with my eating. At least, I am working consistently at disentangling my love of my body from its shape and size. I am an addict. I keep my addiction under control through the way I eat. I think of my eating as a way to honor my whole self, emotional, physical and spiritual, not just how pretty I am by societal standards.

So I have reconnected with my body over the years. I have learned to love it for all of the things that it has done for me, all of the ways it serves me. All of the things it wants to teach me. And it has taken a long time to get to understand it as well as I do. And I know that there is much more to learn.

One thing that I have come to understand over the past 15+ years, since I put boundaries around my eating, is that my body shows me how well I’m doing through my skin. I can feel “fine.” I can look on the outside like I am doing “fine.” I can seem to be managing everything just “fine.” But my skin can tell a whole different story. This is coming up this week because I am officially hive-free, for the first time in 4 months, since I started the very stressful job that I left this week.

In late July, I started a new job. And less than a week after I took it over, it got crazy, and I started to break out in hives. They were on my chest, in my armpits, and in my bellybutton. 

And as I changed the job, personally developing and implementing structures and procedures that streamlined the process while still capturing all the necessary information and creating the needed output, some of those hives went away. First my chest cleared up. And then, eventually, after many weeks, my armpits cleared up. But my bellybutton has been hanging on to those hives the whole time.

But I left my job on Monday. And yesterday, for the first time in months, my skin, all of my skin, is clear. There are no more hives anywhere. And it makes me a little weepy to realize how unhappy I was, and how I was holding it together with pure willpower.

I can remember having had stress-related skin conditions as far back as high school, though I didn’t know it at the time.  I could barely walk at graduation because of a terrible outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema on the bottom of my feet, that at the time was misdiagnosed as athletes foot. 

But when I was eating compulsively I thought about my body as little as possible. I just sort of suffered through. And I had lots of practice, since I avoided thinking about my fatness because it hurt my heart to be fat.

I want to acknowledge my body today, for always trying to look out for me, even when I treated it like the enemy. I want to be grateful for everything it has done for me, even when I was actively hating it, and sometimes trying to hurt it, with exercise bulimia, and good ol’ fashioned stick-things-down-my-throat-bulimia, and abusing laxatives, and drinking castor oil, and binging and starving. I want to be grateful that I have learned to listen to it, with love.
I am grateful to be in a place in my life where I can see that those hives were a defense mechanism against me harming myself. That my body was telling me that I was in the wrong place. That there was something wrong. And I am especially glad that instead of blaming my body for the hives, instead of treating them like one more way my body was broken and wrong, I could see them as a loving warning that something was wrong outside of myself, but within my control. And it took me a while, but I managed to listen and do something about it.

A chance to make healthy choices

I started my morning workout again this week and it has been amazing! I am only doing 1 mile instead of 2 for the moment. After months of no exercise, I decided to ease back into it, rather than jump in with both feet. But it feels great. I look forward to getting back up to 2 miles. And I can see that I was doing myself a disservice by not doing it.

I knew when I took my job that I was not going to be able to work out and work the hours I was working. At least not if I wanted to sleep. And sleep is a huge priority for me. This is not meant to be a judgement on my choice. I did what I needed to do with options I had. I chose the job and the money. It seemed like the obvious right answer at the time. And even if I can now see that the choice did not serve me as well as I would have hoped in terms of happiness and self-esteem, I learned when I was dabbling in Zen meditation that there is only ever what actually happened. The past could never have been a different way. If it *could* have been different, it would have been different. Even in Multiple Worlds Theory (or Many-world Interpretation) there is still only one outcome in the world I am in. Hindsight may be 20/20, but it is also useless in a practical sense.

I have also had a revelation about my meditation practice this week. A realization that for years now, I have not been doing the “praying” part. That I have only been doing half of it. I have been trying to do a lot of listening to what Life had to tell me, but I was not doing the part where I tell Life what I am willing to offer. I had stopped offering my service, and my surrender. I was all take and no give.

I am reminded this week that self-care is hard but worthwhile. That doing the things that suck in the moment, like working out, and praying, and drinking water, make my life easier and better. And that I have suffered for letting them fall by the wayside. And that I didn’t even recognize that I was suffering from the lack of them until I started doing them again.

Everything feels better in just a few days with just a few changes. And I look forward to everything getting even better from here. And I want to note that I never got lax with my eating boundaries. And it is because of that that I can move forward to more and better self-care. Because as long as my addiction is under control, I have a chance to make good, healthy choices.

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