onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “self-love”

All my books were dirty-and I don’t mean smut

One of the hardest things about writing a weekly blog on the same topic for over a decade is that there is a lot of mundanity at certain points in a year, and we are in one of those times right now. The big holidays are over and winter in cold climates is a lot of staying home. (OK, admittedly I am a huge proponent of staying home in all seasons. But in winter, most regular non-hermit types do as well.) So I don’t have a lot of out-of-the-ordinary situations to write about.

So I guess what I will say is that getting my eating under control means I don’t eat when I am bored, or eat as a means of filling the void. And winter always used to be the perfect time to be bored, and therefore, to get cozy and eat. 

The other day on a social media group for readers, I saw someone wondering why anyone would eat while they read? They thought that sounded crazy! And I thought to myself, that is a normal eater posing that question because eating while I read was my absolute favorite! So many of my old paper books have food stains or crumbs in the creases because while I was eating compulsively, I loved to cozy up in a chair with a book and a blanket and a bunch of junk food to eat and read. 

I do still love to cozy up with a good book. But now it’s usually an audiobook, with a cup of coffee or herbal tea, and my knitting. 

Sometimes when we give up a thing that is killing us, we have to change other things about ourselves. Ways that we have integrated a bad habit into our days. Like the way I always had a cigarette and a cup of coffee on my roof first thing in the morning when I was a smoker, so when I quit smoking I had to change my morning routine and stopped going on the roof in the morning. Because certain actions set up a craving. They gave my body an expectation and triggered a particular appetite.

So I didn’t read as much when I first got my eating under control. And if I did I often did so at the bookstore, or if it was particularly late at night, at a bar, where I could drink Diet Coke in my pajamas and not worry about eating. (It was New York City, where a girl drinking Diet Coke in her pajamas at a bar after midnight is the least weird thing a bartender has to deal with.)

I am so grateful that I can still love books without eating. I am grateful that I have found a way to keep the best parts of certain habits and practices, and still give up the parts of them that were killing me. I still love a cozy day with a good book. But now I don’t also hate myself afterwards because I can’t control my eating.

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Mad, but not at me or my integrity

Years and years ago, before I got my eating under control, I used to occasionally do “The Artist’s Way” which is a creativity workbook. I did not know it at the time but it is based on the 12 steps. And part of doing the “program” (for lack of a better term) is to write 3 pages of handwritten stream of consciousness every morning. The woman who created it called them “morning pages.” And they are based on the practice of prayer and meditation that is a big part of the 12 steps.

So when I was still eating compulsively, I was doing this workbook. And I hated morning pages. They made me frustrated and angry. And there were whole days in a row that I would literally just write “I don’t want to do this” over and over for 3 pages. 

I certainly didn’t understand it at the time, but I was angry because there were so many things on my conscience that I had shoved down so I didn’t have to look at them. And the writing was trying to bring them to the surface. To be healed. To be dealt with. To be put to rest. 

But putting them to rest meant I would have to acknowledge them. And my part in them. And the ways that I was behaving that left me ashamed. And while I was still in the food, I was never going to be able to deal with my shame.

For the last several years I have been struggling to pray and meditate. I have been angry at life. I have been so afraid for so long that it just sort of lives inside me now. My constant low level anxiety ramping up into a constant mid level anxiety. And the basis of my belief system, that Life is always right and always giving me exactly what I need, suddenly seemed untrue. Not just untrue. Like bullshit.

So I stopped praying and meditating. But that wasn’t really working for me either. I did try to get back to the happy, daily meditation I had been doing for years. And it never worked. That old routine was broken for me now and it was not going to get fixed.

But I did still want to get back into some sort of meditation practice. So I went back to “morning pages.” And it has been a great opportunity for me to clear my head. And get a good look at the things that are not clear while they are rattling around in my brain. 

But here is what I have noticed. There is no anger. There is no frustration. The past 17 years of having my eating under control, and looking at my life, and making amends for my mistakes, and owning the harm I have done, means that there is nothing in my head or heart that I can’t look at. There is nothing shoved down so I don’t have to deal with it. And if there is something that makes me uncomfortable or gives me that sense of dread, I know to look directly at it. To put it down on the page. To put the idea into words and deal with the reality of the situation.

I don’t remember what it was like to be filled with shameful secrets most of the time now. I don’t generally remember how it felt; all of the thick, slimy, suffocating feelings that went with being a person I could not like or respect. But when I do remember now, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my freedom from self hatred.

I may still be angry. And I may still be frustrated. And I am still very much afraid. But having those feelings project out, at an unfair and cruel world, is so much easier than having them project inward, at me and my own integrity.

Can one exorcize the exercise demon?

Over the past few months I started a new workout. Because I didn’t want to chart a new outdoor 2 mile path. And I was bored with my workout video. And I hate the gym and exercising on equipment. So instead I have been walking the stairs in my apartment. And it has noticeably changed my body.

This is a nice thing. Or it should be a nice thing. But I am crazy. I am stupid and blind and can easily become weirdly obsessed with my body in a heartbeat.

And this in spite of the fact that I actively avoid things that trigger my body obsession. I actively avoid thinking of my body in terms of weight and societal beauty standards. I actively avoid thinking about my size in relation to food. I do not want to measure my life in terms of how worthy other people find me. And when I say actively I mean I have structures in place. I make sure that my social media feeds include images of all sorts of people. And I block diet ads and shapewear ads and companies and profiles that promote thinness as ideal and show heavily doctored photographs. And I don’t wear makeup most of the time so that I am used to what I look like. I enjoy my natural face and don’t think there’s anything wrong with it when it’s bare. That was not the case when I wore makeup every day. 

But even after all of the ways I have changed my environment to cultivate the kind of thinking I want to have, I still have a Pavlovian reaction. A change in my body, especially *toward* societal beauty standards, can make me salivate for increased results. How can I do this but bigger, better, faster, more. 

So I, in a great show of reflection and restraint, recognized my crazy, and decided that there was nothing to change. That there was no “more” to do. And if I wanted to do something more, I could add back in some push-ups and planks that I had been doing before in a different workout. OK. Good enough.

And then on Friday, at the end of my stairs workout, but before my push-ups and planks, I got a nosebleed. So I stopped. You know, to Google if I was dying. (I am not. It’s probably just dry in my apartment and the heavy breathing of exercise caused it.) But it said to stop my workout because I need my blood pressure to go down to stop the bleeding. 

Friends, before I read that I was not going to stop. Because I am crazy. Because I had a plan to do this workout. Because I am constantly terrified of not doing enough. Because even after 17 years of having my eating under control and about 7 years of consistent, manageable exercise, when I get into one of these obsessive moods, I still feel like I’m never doing enough.

There is nothing to do about this but my best. There is no magic answer to solve this, or cure it. I will do my workout tomorrow, because I workout on Monday. And I will do my push-ups and planks, unless I encounter more unforeseen circumstances. And in all likelihood, this body obsessive period will pass and go dormant again. But it is a part of me and I don’t think it will ever fully go away.

Nothing To Resolve Today

It is January first. And I have nothing to resolve. 

One of my favorite things about having my eating under control is that I don’t have to wait for a certain day or date to change. 

Don’t get me wrong. I often do. I put boundaries around my eating on January 2nd. (Tomorrow will be 17 years!) And my first day as a non-smoker was my 35th birthday. (Ten years ago already.)

But the deal is that I don’t need to wait for a date or a circumstance or a sign to make a change. I just need to be fed up enough with my current reality to do something about it. And that really came from getting my eating under control. 

So I don’t have any resolutions for 2023 except the one I always have. Act in a way that makes me like myself more, not less. Have integrity. Do what I say I’m going to do. Be where I say I’m going to be. Tell the truth.

And all of these things became possible when l was telling the truth about food. When I was keeping my promises to eat only what I committed to a loving friend who would hold me accountable with love and without judgement.

This integrity opened me up to have more time, more energy, more creativity, more peace. So I have nothing to resolve. Except to keep growing. Which I can do any day. Not just the first day of the first month of a new year.

First steps Vs Last resorts

I went to a doctor this week. The truth is, I went because my husband was at the end of his rope with worry. I would not have done it on my own accord. I don’t like doctors. At all.

I don’t have good associations with doctors. The closest I ever got to liking one was the sweet nurse from Planned Parenthood who did my yearly exam in my 30s and who was kind and gentle and patient with me. From the time I was very young I can remember being shamed by medical professionals. First for being afraid. Eventually, as I got older, for being afraid and then also getting emotional. And of course for being fat and “not following my doctor’s advice.“ But no doctor ever gave me any advice other than “don’t eat so much.” Or “just have one.” And never a word about *how* to just have one. (Spoiler alert: I am constitutionally incapable of just having one.)

I don’t remember the doctors that I had growing up ever offering me any kindness. Perhaps they did, but I don’t recall it. I remember the judgment of my being fat, but the doctor was also fat. I remember being terrified of having my blood drawn, and the nurses rolling their eyes and trying to shame me into calm. I remember asking for a phlebotomist who does babies and being told that it’s all the same and they are all professionals, and then leaving with a giant bruise from my bicep to my forearm and the understanding that I was the problem. (Planned Parenthood was the only place that took that seriously too. And I had a wonderful phlebotomist who used butterfly needles and called over a maintenance crew to talk with me and keep me distracted while she drew my blood.) 

Even this most recent doctor experience was frustrating. When she first examined me she was positive I had pneumonia so she had me take a chest x-ray. And when my lungs were clear and my heart was normal, she seemed annoyed. So annoyed that I literally had to ask her if that was a good thing, which she eventually agreed it was. And when I told her that I did not, in fact, have any kind of chronic lung problems and I had never had bronchitis before, she seemed incredulous. Why would I lie about having bronchitis???? I’m so sorry my relatively good health is such a blow to your ego! 

The truth is that because I went to the doctor I feel better and it’s a relief. Yes, I am glad I went. And I will have to remember this relief the next time I get sick. One thing I have learned in getting my eating under control, it’s to quit the thing that is killing you quickest. I quit sugar first. And then smoking.

But there is this other side to that. There were things that I was not doing that needed to be done. Things like drinking water and working out and meditating. And like those things, I can see objectively that going to a doctor makes sense. 

But I am a baby steps kind of person. So I am not going to start searching for a primary care physician today. All of those negative associations are still there. But maybe I can start to find my way to seeing a doctor as a first step instead of a last resort.

When the cooler head is not mine

I have had a particularly difficult week. I have been feeling awful. I have had breathing problems from my acid reflux, and on top of that, I got my flu and Covid vaccines and they knocked me on my ass. It has almost been a week and I am still all aches and pains. The injection sites even still hurt.

I don’t even want to eat! I have, of course, been eating my portion controlled meals, but kind of suffering through them. If that doesn’t tell me I am sick, I can’t imagine what would.

I have written about it here before, but one of the ways I know I am taking care of myself is to give myself commitments and keep them. And as I have also written before, working out is one of those commitments. And a good friend said to me this week, “take some time off from working out. Your body needs rest.” 

I am not naturally good at self-care. I don’t mean manicures and massages. I’m pretty good at doing things I like. If you have read my blog for a while you know that I actually think doing the work of self-care sucks. It’s drinking water and working out and going to bed in time to get eight hours of sleep instead of staying up all night listening to a great novel. But just like I don’t have that thing in me that tells me I am full and have eaten enough, I don’t have that thing in me that tells me it’s time to work or time to rest. I weigh out three meals a day. I work out 5 days a week. I only know I am taking care of myself because I am honoring these commitments. 

So when my friend told me to take some time off from my workout, I kind of panicked. In my very anxious head, this seemed like the opposite of a good idea. Working out is caring for my body!

Of course she was right. I got winded a few times in the grocery store yesterday. And I was feeling better than I had all week. How did I think I was going to walk up and down the stairs a hundred times? (I did think it, by the way. I thought I was just going to push through.)

So I am once again reminded that I can’t do this alone. I need cooler heads to prevail. I need people who love me and want the best for me to come through. 

I’m not saying I always follow the advice I get. And I have plenty of issues that I still need to work through around the ways I take care of my body. But I am not an island. And I am grateful to have a community of people who are looking out for me. And I am happy to return the favor when my head is the cooler one.

Doing the work scared.

I saw a meme with a quote the other day that really struck me. The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.

I love my comfort zone. Adore it. If my options are go big or go home, I’m going home. I’m putting on some yoga pants, taking off my bra, putting on an audiobook and doing some garter stitch knitting.

A friend of mine is an artist who makes her living painting. She was recorded speaking about it and she said one of the things that makes her a success is that she loves being afraid. I have never been a fan, personally. And perhaps that is a gift she was born with. But for me, it had to be cultivated and nurtured. And I still don’t love it. I just love the results.

When I got my eating under control I learned to make friends with being afraid. Or I became willing when I realized that the things that I wanted for myself, like a body I was comfortable in, and a level of integrity I was proud of, and a clear mind, and great relationships, and love were all on the other side of things I was terrified of. These were all things I both desired and lacked. And I wasn’t going to find them in any of my usual haunts: my couch, my bed, a pack of cigarettes or a box of Little Debbies.

In our Western culture, we have a lot of fad diets. And one of the most common things about them is they claim that you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight. One of the hardest lessons I learned was that in order to change my life, I had to change the way I was living my life. If I could eat whatever I wanted and still lose weight, I wouldn’t have needed to lose weight. (Not that I needed to lose weight. I was a beautiful fat woman! I needed to get my eating addiction under control.)

I am ready for a new chapter in my life. I would love to find a job I love. I would love to write some fiction I am proud of. I would love to complete some fiction whether or not I am proud of it! I would love to create new crochet doll designs that bring my skill level up a notch. Or ten.

But right now I’m in my comfort zone and right at this moment I don’t even know exactly how to get out of it and scare myself proud. But I am keeping my eating under control, and doing my spiritual writing and meditation. And trusting that Life will lead me in the right direction. I know that the next right thing will come to me as long as I’m willing to do the work scared.

The living declaration of my priorities

The other day I was talking to somebody who is just starting to give up sugar and put boundaries around her eating and she was saying she is worried about not being organized enough to do what I do. Which is an understandable fear when you hear me talk about all of the things I do to keep my eating boundaries.

But there is a secret I told her that I will tell you. It’s not about doing all of the things like shopping and chopping and preparing. It’s about *making the commitment* to get your eating under control and *having the willingness* to do it no matter what.

You can still keep your eating boundaries without doing all of these seemingly time consuming things. It’s just harder. It’s just a lot more work. It just doesn’t make sense when you are going to keep the boundaries anyway. But the prep and the time and the effort do not create commitment. All of the trips to the grocery and the hours in the kitchen are the symptoms of that commitment.

Someone on social media once asked “how do people start working out first thing in the morning?” When I am working, I work out in the morning. Often when it’s still dark out. And the answer is, first you make the commitment to work out. And you do it whenever you can. And eventually you realize that you don’t want to take two showers a day. Or you don’t want to have to bring a change of clothes with you. Or you don’t want to have to stop back at home after work before going out. So you work out first thing because that is more convenient. But it’s only more convenient if you already knew for a fact that you were going to work out no matter what.

Someone once told me that making a commitment changes the whole trajectory of your life. And I didn’t understand that until I got my eating under control. Until I chose to get my eating under control and decided it was the most important thing I could do in a day. A commitment is a kind of living declaration of our priorities, and I love that my life is an example of that.

A memory of exhaustion

The other day I was writing my stream of consciousness meditation pages and I wanted to stop. Just stop in the middle. More like the beginning, but I had already started. I did not stop, but it gave me a kind of emotional flashback.

I used to do this particular form of quitting all the time when I was eating compulsively. It is specifically around some commitment I have made to be a better person. Or at least a person I personally like better.

There is a particular example of this that I sometimes think about just because of the timing. In September of 2001, I was taking a self-help seminar in the World Trade Center. I think the seminar was on a Wednesday or a Thursday so it was probably the 6th or the 7th, and I don’t specifically remember but I am reasonably certain I didn’t do my homework, and I was probably ashamed of that. And just in general I didn’t want to show up, and I knew that I should. And on this particular day, I schlepped myself all the way there to the World Trade Center, which was nowhere near anything else I did like my job or my home. I walked in the big doors into the giant corridor with the security stations and the big banks of elevators on the other side, and then I just turned around and left. Got all the way to the seminar, spent all of that time and energy to travel there and still didn’t show up to take care of myself. And of course, I would never go to the WTC again.

I did this with all sorts of things that I had started doing to make myself feel better, feel good, feel like I had my shit together. I would get my running clothes on, and start a jog, but I would just quit. In the middle of a jog. Just stop and decide I didn’t want to do it anymore. And I would feel awful about it. But the idea of effort was so terrifying to me that I often just shut down. I feared any pain, but especially the pain of growth.

It was interesting to have that feeling again about a writing meditation. Kind of scary, a little uncomfortable. Because that part of me is still there. But since I got my eating under control, it doesn’t win. I can feel it, acknowledge it, but not bow to it. I can want to quit and not quit.

When I put boundaries around my eating I got what some people call “abstinent references.” I learned, first hand, that I would not starve if I didn’t eat between meals. I learned that I would not die if I admitted my mistakes and made amends for them. I learned that effort is not the level of suffering I always feared it was. I learned that that once something was begun, like a workout, or showing up at the place I was supposed to be, it was actually easier to keep going and follow through than to quit. That the level of justification I would have to maintain to not feel awful about myself over it would be way more effort than just doing the workout or attending the meeting.

To remember what I used to be like is to remember how exhausted I was all the time. Because second guessing myself and stressing about everything, and being afraid of the world, and being afraid of my life was so much more exhausting than all of the food prep work and the shopping and chopping and working out and writing and meditation and that I do.

Suffering and sustainability are mutually exclusive

The good and bad of a person like me with food boundaries moving to a new place is always getting to know a new grocery store. Or a few. Inevitably there will be new things that I haven’t had yet that I am happy to find, and old things I can’t find anymore. And that, my friends, is why I love shopping online. Because if I can’t find it in my new grocery store, I can get my sugar free barbecue sauce delivered to my door.

I am obsessed with food. Eternally. I love to eat. Keeping my meals within my eating boundaries lets me eat without guilt or shame. Loving my meals keeps me within my boundaries because I don’t feel deprived. There is no boneless skinless chicken breast and steamed broccoli for me. There is no chicken breast at all! If it’s chicken it’s wings with the skin on or thighs or drumsticks. And the broccoli is definitely sautéed and seasoned and maybe even has some hot sauce in it.

Every place we have lived I have gotten a new menu of meals within my boundaries. And acquired a new list of foods and flavorings to find online from the things I now need but can’t get locally. But no matter where we are or for how long, I make sure my meals are delicious, satisfying, and a haven for me 3 times a day. They are still a source of joy and contentment for me.

I could never “eat to live.” I could never consider what I put in my body as a tool as opposed to a joyful experience. And I could not do this for over 16 1/2 years if eating were an aside or an afterthought, and not the main event. I could never sustain that kind of relationship with food. And ultimately, if I can’t do something long term, it doesn’t work. If you want to understand how a person like me, an addict, has maintained over a 100 pound weight loss for over a decade, you have to recognize that I am not on a diet. And that I continue to do what I do because I am not doing it “just until I’m thin enough to eat what I want.” I do it because I genuinely love my food.

If I’m going to sustain, I can’t suffer. The two are mutually exclusive.

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