onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “self-love”

Irrational thoughts about value

So work. It’s a thing for me again. I started working for my husband’s company (again) this week. 
First, there is the whole food thing for me. I have to make lunches in advance so I can grab them in the morning and go. But, of course, that is something that I have been doing to travel a lot lately, so this has been, in some ways, on a smaller scale. I haven’t had to prep every single meal for days. I have just had to make lunches. And I have worked before. I was single for 35 years, after all. So I know how this goes.

But the first few days of work have been bumpy. Mostly, it’s just that there is some sort of problem with my work computer that the company sent to me. And instead of sending me a new one, they are trying to fix it remotely. For days. Several days.

But all of my work is to be done on this computer. In other words, there is nothing for me to do without it. So they are just not having me come in. So my first week of work has barely included any work. And I still have no idea when the computer, or at least computer, will be available for me. And nobody is telling me anything.

Needless to say, I’m frustrated. 

But there is something else. I am having a hard time not feeling like should be doing something about it. Or it is my fault, or my responsibility.

Rationally, I know that this is stupid. I didn’t build the computer. And I didn’t break it. I have done everything I could to help the IT people fix it. I have offered information. I have stayed on the phone and helped with lost internet connections. And I have stayed home and not worked when I was asked to. 

But there is this nagging feeling like I could do more. That I should be doing more. 

And I need to squash this feeling. Because it is false, and blaming myself for things beyond my control is not only silly, it’s destructive to a person like me.

Work is an area in my life where you could say I still have a lot of fear. It’s not that I haven’t been a good employee. I certainly have. I am smart and capable. And I am willing to take direction, and I love to learn new things anyway. 

But I have issues. Value issues. Worth issues. I have had them all my life. And I am sure that in some ways they are tied to the fact that I am an addict.

My inability to control my eating for so long made me feel worthless and ashamed. How could I expect to succeed in anything when I couldn’t even take care of my own body? How could I fix or help others when I couldn’t even fix or help myself? What does a person like that, a person like me, even deserve? Money? Money for services rendered? 

Of course, the answer to that is yes. If I do the job, I deserve to get paid for it. But even as I write yes, there is a part of me that says “just for doing the job? Don’t you have to really prove your worth?”

I am talking about the irrational here. If I do the job, I am worth the money. Obviously. But that is not always obvious to the shamed, embarrassed, sorry compulsive eater that lives in me. 

I am sure this will change. Slowly, but surely. Already it is changing. It’s changing because I am writing about it right here. And saying the scary things out loud, and shining a light on them is the surest way I know to start a shift.

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My heart, not my ass

I like routine. Love it really. Or at least can become attached to it. I can get stuck on the way things “should be,” if only because that is the way they have been. Friday morning, I woke up at 5:30 like I do on weekdays. I drank a bottle of water, and put on my running clothes, also like I do. But I was tired. I had only gotten about 6 hours of sleep. That may seem like a lot to you, or at the very least enough, but I am very much used to a full 8 hours a night. And I was afraid that I would hurt myself if I went to work out when I was too tired. It took some serious thought, and it made me a little anxious about my time and the things I needed to get done in the day, but in the end I decided to rest a little more, and run later.

When I was an exercise bulimic, I hurt myself all the time. I was so obsessed with getting rid of the excessive amounts of food that I was eating, that I ignored any injuries I inflicted on myself. I played through the pain, as they say. Now I’m a grownup, physically and emotionally (you know, for the most part) and I don’t want to get injured in the first place. Because I don’t like pain (obvs), and because I can’t, in good conscience, exercise when I am injured. I would have to rest and heal. And I would rest and heal because I am not obsessed with getting rid of the food I ate, because I eat a healthy amount of nutritious food.

Each of us acts, on a daily basis, according to intentions that we have created within the context of our belief systems. And I believe that most of us are not present to those intentions, because we are unaware of these beliefs. I’m not talking about our beliefs in, say, God, or science, or fairies, or astrology. We know that we believe in these things, or not. I am referring to things that we don’t even see because we cannot fathom that there could be any other way. Before I got my eating under control, one of my beliefs was that I was fundamentally broken, and that my fat body was both punishment for me, and a signal for others, like my own scarlet letter (but a big F for FAT.) That there was some other explanation (like addiction) never crossed my mind.

When I was fat and eating compulsively, all of my exercise was to force my body into a shape and size that I believed to be socially acceptable. I thought that was the only reason to work out in the first place. I thought that everyone who exercised was doing it for that reason (only more successfully than myself.) I didn’t understand that for some people it was about health, or peace of mind, or self-care, or because it felt good. (Gasp!) That exercise was punishment was so ingrained in the way I saw myself and the world that I didn’t recognize that there could be another way. Exercise was a punishment for not being able to stop eating. Or for just being born broken. It was the price I had to pay for being fat. It didn’t matter that it hurt. It didn’t matter that I was miserable. It did not matter that I was harming myself. I wasn’t doing it for me. I was doing it to please strangers on the street. I was attempting to preemptively silence the people I believed would shame me. And I was doing it for God. I was exercising as a form of penance for my shameful body, self, and life. And people supported me in that. They did it because, according to society, I was a “good girl” for recognizing my shamefulness, laziness, unattractiveness (or whatever it is that they decided being fat meant about me) and trying to do something about it.

We definitely live in a culture that praises people who work out. But what we praise them for is being beautiful. If someone is fat and working out, we (usually) praise them. But it’s an automatic reaction, and we don’t even realize that what we are praising them for is trying to lose weight and become the Western standard of beautiful. If someone looks like a fitness model, we praise them for being that standard of beautiful and maintaining that beauty. If someone is skeletally thin, we praise them too, for having willpower, or looking like a supermodel. But we never ever praise anyone for being overweight. That is the worst thing you can be physically in our society. That is the context of weight and exercise that permeates our culture.

But we frame it in the context of “health,” while what we really honor is skinny. In our culture, we love to talk about obesity and it’s ramifications on our health, but we judge people on their weight as it affects their appearance. Somehow we have it in our collective psyche that a woman who is 20 pounds overweight is a scourge on our healthcare system, but we let a girl dying of anorexia be a model, a standard for beauty, while she dies in the middle of a fashion show. (If you think I am being melodramatic, in 2006, a model died from heart failure due to anorexia after passing out on her way back to the dressing room in the middle of a runway show.)

Because I was an exercise bulimic (as well as a regular old vomiting bulimic), when I got my eating under control, I did not work out. I walked to places that were close enough. I took the stairs instead of the elevator. (Still do.) But I did not put on spandex and move to the point of sweaty breathlessness, as is the socially expected definition of exercise.

When I started running again about a year ago, I had made a decision about the context of my exercise: I was doing it exclusively as an act of self-care. I was not trying to lose weight. I was not trying to force my body into a socially acceptable shape or size. My only goal was, and is, to keep my body working well and easily as I age. After all, I will turn 40 this year. It was about my heart (literally and figuratively) not my ass.

I have made the decision to love my body as it is. I am not skinny. I am a slow runner. I do not diet or feel deprived. I eat in a way that keeps me satisfied and content in terms of my appetite, my physical appearance and my health. I am not always trying to lose that last 10 pounds. I am not always managing and obsessing, doing the math in my head about what I have eaten and how much more I can eat and what ramifications what I eat will have on my weight. I eat and exercise as a practical means of loving the body I live in, which is perfectly lovely right now.

 

 

Three sentences and a pretty picture

I read a meme the other day that said “Make yourself a priority once in a while. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary.”

It seemed innocuous enough, but good golly did it get under my skin. Let me tell you what frustrated me about it.

First, we should always make ourselves a priority. Not once in a while. Not when we are on the brink of a nervous breakdown. As a way of life, we should be making it a point to meet our own needs. I am talking about self-care. You could call it “radical self-care,” but that is simply an illustration of the way so many of us think we have to be some sort of revolutionary extremist to love ourselves.

Many of us (especially, but not exclusively women) put a kind of grotesque value on diminishing ourselves for the benefit of others. And for the most part, society praises us for this. I do not. I do not honor or cherish this. You will not get a high five from me for neglecting yourself for someone else.

If our own health, happiness, wellbeing, and life are our real priority, as the rule and not the exception, then we will be exponentially better equipped to handle a situation where we have to help someone in real need. And we will be better able to deduce when it is time make someone else a priority, and what exactly it is that we can sacrifice that will help our loved ones without harming ourselves.

Second, self-care is not ever selfish. For some reason, the way this meme is worded, it feels more like it reinforces the idea that to care about one’s self is actually selfish (unless you only do it “once in a while”, then it’s necessary. *blech*) When I say self-care, I am not talking about getting everything you want. But I don’t think this meme was made for people who choose to live out a perpetually drunken party life rather than spend quality time with their children. It is almost certainly for the people who can’t manage to eat a balanced meal, or make time to work out, or give themselves 20 minutes a day to meditate, or pray, or walk outside, or just pause, because their schedule is full of everyone else’s errands, needs and appointments.

I would like you to consider that all of the time that we spend making someone else a priority is time that the other person is not exercising their ability to be, or experiencing themselves as being, capable and self-sufficient. And regarding children, they do not learn by hearing what we say, they learn by watching what we do. So when we make everyone else a priority at the expense of our own health and wellbeing, we are teaching our children to do the same.

No matter what is going on in my life, I eat within my boundaries. It is my primary act of self-care. It keeps me nourished, grounded, clear-headed, and peaceful. Nobody’s wants, needs, feelings, or agendas come before that. I don’t allow anyone to get in the way of it. And it goes beyond that. I am constantly gauging what I can give and what I can’t, in every area of my life. I am always looking out for myself first. Not only, but first. And what the people in my life get in return is a healthy, confident, happy woman who is available for them. I am able to help, guide, nurture, and love, because I take care of myself. And my ability to make myself a priority, and even say “no,” means that when you get me, you get me 100%. You get me present, capable, efficient, and useful.

Third, on the surface, these acts might seem like acts of love and sacrifice, but I have played this game, and for me, and I think for many, they were, and are a scam. When I have made everybody else’s life a priority, I was actually making myself a priority. But not in the obvious way. Not in the way I was selling it. I was making my drama the priority. I was saying “I put your life first, constantly put your needs in front of my own, and sometimes even at the expense of my own needs. And now you owe me.” Maybe I want martyrdom, a holy place where I am lauded for having done the most, but in return have gotten nothing but pain and suffering (and maybe even a nervous breakdown.) Or maybe you owe me everything done exactly my way. Or maybe you owe me your feelings of guilt, shame and misery. Or maybe you owe me staying forever and never being able to leave, even if the relationship is terrible for both of us. Or maybe you just owe me “the right” to be mean and cruel, a free pass to crap all over you when I feel like it. Like when I’m on the verge of a breakdown. But make no mistake. You owe me, and I plan on collecting.

When I put myself first, you don’t owe me anything. Why not? Because I am already taken care of! So if I make myself a priority, and I help you, it’s because I have something to give, and I get to enjoy being generous. And I am able to be generous because I am giving from my surplus.

And finally, I really hate the phrase “once in a while.” It is so non-specific. I know it’s a meme, but it’s still wishy-washy. “Every once in a while” is a limp handshake (along with it’s cousins “more” and “more often,” as in I’m going to drink “more” water, and exercise “more often.”) And the vapidity of it means one gets to feel like one has done something, without ever having to actually change.  When I hear “once in a while,” what I think is “Not today.” Phew! Dodged that bullet! (*wipes sweat from brow*) And then I forget about it. I am not out in my daily life looking for that “once in a while” moment. I am business as usual.

If you want to take care of yourself, for realsies, then figure out what you can do to nurture yourself, every day, or every week, as a practice. Perhaps it’s making time to cook every day so you eat less fast food, or carving out 20 minutes for yourself to journal so that you can get your thoughts out of the echo chamber that is your own mind. Find one thing that makes your life happier and more fulfilled, or more peaceful and less stressed, and don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of it.

So what is my contribution? What would my meme be?

If you want to live in a world of love, love yourself first. Self-care keeps us whole and healthy. And a world of whole, healthy people must necessarily be world of love.

img_1948So, fine, it’s not catchy. But it makes my point in 3 sentences with a pretty picture.

 

Let’s not spread it around like germs

It is hot here in Kentucky. For the past few days, it has been in the nineties, but the heat index has it feel like 100-105 degrees. And yet, I am not suffering. In fact, I am enjoying it. (Though I could do with fewer bugs, thank you.) In recent years I have found that I am always cold. Sometimes I sit out on my porch in the morning and if it’s only in the high seventies, I need to put on a sweater. Seriously. Always. Freaking. Cold. So I am absolutely loving that I can go sit outside in as few, teeny tiny clothes as possible.

 

When I was eating compulsively, I was basically always hot. I was so generally warm that I didn’t wear a coat in the winter in Chicago. I would sweat pretty much constantly, no matter the season, no matter the temperature. And on top of that, I was so ashamed of my body that in the summer, I would keep myself covered up. I would wear jeans under long dresses no matter how hot it got; so that was even more sweating.

 

I would guess that between the ages of 14 and 22, I didn’t own a bating suit. If I did, I don’t remember, and I would guess that I didn’t use it very much. The idea of being seen in a bating suit was terrifying to me. I want you to think about that. I was more comfortable wearing layers of clothing in the scorching heat than I was letting people see my legs, arms and shoulders. I probably didn’t get in a pool, lake or sprinkler for eight years because it was more comfortable to be oppressed by the sun than it was to be oppressed by the potential judgment of strangers. I was both ashamed of myself, and afraid that others would shame me as well.

 

And here is the thing about body shame: it doesn’t go away easily. It didn’t go away because I lost 150 pounds. In fact, it was never just going to go away. It had to be dismantled and I was the one who had to dismantle it.

 

I still have to dismantle it. Here’s the thing, I am not fat. I am 5’6 ½”, I wear a size 6/8. But I am curvy. I have wide hips and round thighs and a belly. And those things can make me feel fat. My thighs rub together. For various reasons, one of which is being fat during my formative years, I am knock kneed. (It is actually a pretty common phenomenon among women because we tend to have wider hips than men.) My upper legs lean toward one another while my lower legs lean away. Because of this, my thighs have always rubbed together. Even at my very thinnest, probably 20 pounds lighter than I am now, when I was wearing size small clothes, my thighs rubbed together. The only way they would stop rubbing together is if I became skeletally thin, and frankly, maybe not even then. Sometimes that makes me feel fat. I have a lot of extra skin and stretch marks and sometimes that makes me feel fat. I have broad shoulders, I have large calf muscles, I have flabby arms. Sometimes every single one of those things makes me feel fat.

 

And it’s not just because I used to be fat. It’s definitely not just me. The other day, on Facebook, there was a picture of a friend (a real natural beauty by any standards) and she made a comment about looking “pregnant” (which I read as fat.) Just to be clear, she did not look either pregnant or fat. And I commented on it, because frankly, it freaked me out. I will admit that it was none of my business, and I probably shouldn’t have made a comment, but I did. In my wishful thinking, I hoped that at least she would acknowledge that like me, while she might feel fat, she at least understood intellectually that she was not. But she declined. She said that at least we could agree that it was an unflattering picture. At that point I had already overstepped my bounds, so after that I kept my opinion to myself, but you know what? No. I am telling you, my lovely readers, that I refuse to agree that it was an unflattering picture. It was a picture of a real woman with a real body, doing real things. What is unflattering about having a body big enough to actually house a full set of human internal organs?

 

I refuse to accept that the only beauty is the hyper-specific set of characteristics that the beauty and fitness industries acknowledge. I refuse to accept the idea that what I am right now at this very moment is anything less than enough. I refuse to look a beautiful woman and agree with her when she tries to convince me that she is lacking.

 

I know that I cannot change others. But I can change myself, and the best way to do that is not always by changing my body, though obviously as a woman who lost over a hundred pounds, I am a proponent of that as well. Sometimes, the best way for me to change is by loving and accepting my body as it is. And what that often looks like for me is to take small actions that make me feel uncomfortable, until they are comfortable. And then I can take another small action that makes me uncomfortable.

 

I can think of so many examples of little obsessions that I managed to let go of. When I was overweight, I never wore a top that didn’t cover my butt. Even after I lost weight, it took something to get over this. It was burned into my brain that by not hiding that I had a lower body, I was somehow being rude to others. When I first started working out about 15 years ago, I wouldn’t wear spandex workout clothes; I would only wear things that were loose fitting, never mind that they might be less comfortable or might even make it more difficult to move around.

 

Several years ago, when I was my thinnest, I started wearing a bikini when I went to my (mostly) secluded New York City roof to sunbathe. I would never have gone out in public like that, but at that point just putting on a bikini was a huge step for me. That I owned a bikini felt daring. Years later, and thirty pounds heavier, I started wearing my bikini in public. And not in a shy, apologetic way. I didn’t hide. I didn’t avoid talking to people (I am a friendly person.) I was just being myself, with more skin showing. It was uncomfortable the first few times, but when I did it often enough, it became “just the way it was.” In fact, I have four bating suits right now, but I only wear two of them, because the others are not bikinis and I decided that I prefer bikinis. My running clothes are spandex now. I wear them because they are made of moisture wicking material. Do they look great? I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t wear them to dress up, I wear them to run.

 

I’m not saying that I am totally free of self-judgment, especially around my body. I have some super-serious body image disorders that I expect will dog me my whole life. But I refuse to kowtow to them. I refuse to spread them around like germs. I refuse to accept them as truth. And I absolutely refuse to prioritize my life around hiding things that some people call flaws, which are really just the realities of living in a human body on the planet Earth.

I love my boring life.

The past few days have been perfectly delicious. Cooking, cleaning, writing, reading, crocheting, watching TV with my boyfriend. Peace and quiet. Nothing exciting.

This life I live now is exactly the thing I was terrified of before I got sober from sugar. I knew that I needed to give up sugar. My eating disorders were making my life unbearable. But I thought all of my happiness was over. How could I ever enjoy life again without chocolate cake? Without drinks at the bar?

I was so afraid of being bored to death. I was afraid of not feeling alive. The irony is that I was so trapped in my fear and insecurity, or sometimes the fantasy life in my head, that I was not actually living.

Don’t get me wrong. I had a lot of fun when I was younger. I was definitely a party girl. And I have great friends. But fun is not happiness. Fun is not serenity. Fun is not joy. It’s just fun. And it has its place. But it is external.

Chasing fun is no longer a necessity in my life, because I have a kind of peace and contentment that comes from inside me.

A lot of the fun I was having was so I could escape thinking about the things in my life that I was ashamed of. I was so easily overwhelmed to the point of paralysis. I had so much anxiety that I didn’t know how to take a small step because I was intimidated by looking at the whole journey. So there I was letting my life pass me by, not doing things that needed to be done, telling lies to cover that up. Constantly worried about the state of my life and what was going to happen to me.

Very exciting. If you’re into that kind of thing…

For me, being sober from sugar is not just about not eating sugar. It’s about dealing with all of the things in my life that I was using sugar to avoid. Because without sugar, I was forced to deal with them. They say if you want to know what you are eating over, stop eating. All that stuff comes right up and pokes you in the forehead.

I am not done dealing with myself. The point for me is to never be done dealing with myself. And the changes I have made so far were not quick. Or clean. Or smooth.

But I got myself to a place where I don’t have to escape the life I have. I am not ashamed of myself. And I don’t have to enjoy everything. Some things in my life are not sunshine and roses, it’s true. But every day, at any given moment, I love my life. The mundane is a sweet reminder that I can be with my reality exactly the way it is and be perfectly happy.

I make me feel like dancing

I have been listening to pop music and dancing around the house.

This is something I used to do all the time. Singing and dancing have always been a huge part of my life. From the time I was a small child.

There are two things about this that are important to me.

1. I don’t think I have done this since I quit smoking.
2. I am so grateful to be in a body that I am comfortable both moving in, and moving in front of people.

I have always danced. I danced as a small child. I danced when I was fat. I have always been a good dancer. (No seriously. A really good dancer. Like strangers feel the need to tell me.)

But when I was fat, I was always ashamed. As if I shouldn’t subject other people to having to look at my body. That my inability to control my eating forfeited any right to love moving that body.

It’s not that I didn’t dance. I did. Even in public. Because that’s how much I love dancing. But I was always self-conscious. And through my teenage years, I can remember being mocked at school or park district dances. But kids are mean. Even then I knew that kids were mean. And that I couldn’t stop dancing because of it. But it meant that I could never “dance like no one was watching.” I could never dance like I did alone in my bedroom.

And then, thank God, in my early 20’s I made friends with people who loved to dance as much as I did. They were great dancers too. And they knew that I was a great dancer. They told me. And to them, being fat and being a great dancer were not mutually exclusive. And we went out dancing two to three nights a week. And sometimes I forgot to be embarrassed. Sometimes it was just me and the music and I was free to honor my body by moving and shaking. Only sometimes. But that meant that I was no longer always worried and ashamed and embarrassed.

But even though I was graceful and talented, it was hard. It was hard on my body. I have always had an incredible amount of energy. But I had pain. My feet especially would ache. I wanted to dance all night, but I physically couldn’t. So I would sit out a few songs. But inevitably some song would come on that I just could not sit through. And I would hurt. I was hurting my body to nourish my soul.

But when I got control of my eating and lost my excess weight, dancing became one of my greatest joys in life. In public or private. I no longer worried if people were looking at me because they were disgusted. I no longer had to sit out any song. I could choose to dance to every song if I wanted.

I don’t know why I have started dancing again all of a sudden. I do know that I go through phases. With almost everything. I read constantly for 3 months and then don’t pick up a book for another three. I crochet in fits and starts. I eat the same thing every day for a year and then forget it exists. (What can I say, I’m a Gemini.) So maybe it’s a coincidence that I haven’t done it since I quit smoking. But I’m glad it’s back. It feels good. In my body and soul.

If you are wondering what I am dancing around my house to, here’s a sample.

Glamour is pain. Beauty is something else.

I have been thinking about beauty lately. Not just prettiness, though that too. But beauty. And where it comes from. And what it means. And what it is.

When I was a very small child, I was stunning. No, seriously. At 4 years old, I was positively striking. I had unusual coloring. My skin was on the darker side, and my hair on the lighter. Big deep brown eyes. I was a beauty. And I knew it, but not in an obnoxious way. In an innocent, 4-year-old way. It was just the way it was. And it was nice.

And then I started being told that I was fat, or that if I wasn’t careful I would get fat, or even if I was careful, I would get fat. And then I eventually did get fat. Really, truly, and undeniable fat.

I come from a fat family. In my childhood, the people I grew up around either were and had always been fat, had been fat and would be fat again but at any given moment might not be fat, or were fat, but had once been quite thin.

We were all scrutinized from a very young age. There was no accounting for growing and changing. There was no recognition that growing bodies look awkward. That bellies and thighs plump and elongate and shift as little people grow into big people.

And let’s face it, I would get fat. 300 lbs fat. But sometimes I have seen pictures of myself at some time or another and I see that I was not fat yet. And I can think back to that time and know that I believed I was. In truth, I think that 4-year-old beauty was the last me who didn’t think she was fat. I think by 5 I was ashamed. It’s a sad thought, really.

Because it was also never my experience that my fat family believed that you could be big and beautiful at the same time. The attractive ones were the thin ones. And the ones who went up and down were attractive when they were thin and not when they were fat.

I sometimes wonder if starting out so pretty made being fat such a hardship for me. Perhaps if I had been plain, or even just merely “cute enough”, I wouldn’t have devastated me the way it did. I wished so desperately to be beautiful, and at the same time, shunned all things pretty and girly. I wore men’s cologne and men’s clothes. I hated pink. It infuriated me whenever people called me Katie. Because Katie was a pretty girl’s name. (I still don’t love to be called Katie, by the way. But more because I am Kate. It so obviously suits me better than any other name.)

So yesterday, I had a group of ladies come over to my home for lunch. We are all women who work every day at keeping our eating disorders under control. And we are all beautiful. We are different ages, different sizes, different styles. But we all sparkle.

I remember years ago meeting the mother of a man I was seeing. And she loved me. And I loved her. (Frankly, she liked me more than her son did…) I think she liked me because I sparkled the way she did. I certainly liked her because she sparkled the way I did. And that sparkle was her beauty. She was a very pretty woman too. But it was her sparkle that made her beautiful.

And then I think about the women that I have known or met or just encountered who are beautiful, but not pretty. And conversely, the women that are very pretty, but in no way beautiful. I am very clear that prettiness and beauty are not the same.

So I have a theory about what that sparkle is. I believe it is self-care. Not just the physical part, like eating well, and keeping hydrated and getting enough sleep and exercise. Though, of course that’s a good part of it. But also taking care of yourself in other ways. Like taking care of your integrity. Doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. And being honest. So you can look God and yourself in the eye. And being confident. Not just in the way you look, but in your thoughts and actions. Doing things whole heartedly. Being bold. Knowing that it’s OK to be wrong, and get it wrong. Knowing that all will still be well if you fail. And feeling free to be yourself. Without regard to people and their judgments.

In other words, I believe beauty is peace.

In retrospect, I can see that I was still pretty when I was fat. In a different way, of course. My face was pretty. Rounder than it is now, but still pretty. And I had an hourglass figure. Just a very big one. But I was not beautiful. Because I hated myself. And because I had no confidence. And because I believed I was ugly.

I was not beautiful because I had no peace.

Just call me Judgy McJudgerson

I have been thinking lately about judgment. About what it means to be a judgmental person. And about what it looks like to live and let live, while at the same time judging.

I have written before about the difficult relationship I have with obesity and judgment. (In this post right here.) And that turned out to be a very important exercise for my growth. It was the first step in my reconciliation with the girl I had been growing up. I did make peace with the person I had been and the body I had been in. And there have been some subtle changes in my thinking since then. But some things remain true. I have been fat and I hated it. And I hated myself. And it was so difficult and painful. So I pity. And pity is a kind of judgment. And I don’t ever want to be fat again. And that is a kind of judgment.

There is this thing I hear in some of my circles and on social media a lot. It’s this idea that nobody should be judged. With an unspoken yet clear undertone that says nobody except those who judge. And those who judge should be judged harshly.

Well I am going to tell you, I judge. And I have come to realize that I like it that way. And that I don’t have any intention or desire to change that.

First, some clarification. I don’t think it is ever ok to be unkind. I don’t think it is a favor to anybody to shame and humiliate them. Or anybody’s right to do so to another person. Also, judging does not mean vomiting my opinion all over the place. It does not mean unsolicited advice. It does not mean meddling. As I said in my last post, I am looking to focus on minding my own business. I believe in live and let live. I believe in keeping my eyes on my own plate and my own life. Not that I am perfect at it, but that is what I strive for.

Judging also does not mean liking or disliking people based on anything other than liking them. The truth is that there are people in my life whom I am judging about certain aspects of their lives, and I really like them. And there are people whom I do not like at all, but there are things about them that I cannot help but respect and admire. There are people I want to like, but I don’t. And people I do not want to like and I just can’t help it.

But I am a judger. I believe in judging. I believe in having a critical eye (tempered with a loving heart.) Because how else would I know what I want? And how else would I know who to ask to help me get it?

There is a saying that I love: If you want what I have, then do what I do.

When I was desperate to get my eating under control, I found people who had their eating under control. I asked them for help and support. I learned what they did and I did it. And it worked.

When I wanted to have a breakthrough in my love life, I went to a friend who had the kind of relationship I wanted and I asked for her to teach me. To point me in the right direction and show me the next step. She did. And it worked.

When I wanted inner peace, I went to the people whom I could see had peace. The ones who radiated self-love and serenity. Even when their lives were in turmoil. I asked them what I could do to have peace, and I followed their directions. And it worked.

If I hadn’t been judging, how was I supposed to choose what I wanted? If I hadn’t been judging, how could I have known if I was succeeding or not?

Now seriously, would you take fitness advice from an out-of-shape trainer? Would you take marriage advice from someone in a miserable marriage? Would you take dating advice from a single person? Would you take career advice from someone who hates their job? Would you take food advice from someone obese and unhealthy?

Here’s the thing, maybe you would. Maybe you do. It turns out that many people do. Maybe you think that it is wrong to judge. Maybe you think that anybody’s advice is as good as anybody else’s.

But I do not see it that way. Now I look for who has what I want. And to figure that out, I am out here judging. Looking around with honest and clear eyes. And a head that is not fogged up with sugar. Using my gift of discernment. I believe God gave it to me for a reason. To use it. Not to call people out. Not to shame and humiliate. To use it for myself. To make myself the person I want to be. And deciding who I want to be, and if I am that person, takes judgment too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Girls Get Fat

On the train to New Orleans with my friend last weekend, we were talking about something that made me remember that I had written a poem. Three years ago. March of 2011. And it was relevant to what we were talking about. And I was proud of it because it was good. So I found it on my phone and I read it to her.

I am not a poet. Don’t get me wrong. I know that my style of writing can be poetic. Frankly, my style of speaking too. And I have written a handful of poems in my adult life. Because I love words. And language. And that concentration of meaning and emotional experience that a good poem offers. But I don’t spend a lot of time writing poetry. Or wishing I had the time to write poetry. Or thinking, “Gee. That would make a really good poem.”

What I am, though, is available to be a channel. For what I call God. But you can call it art, or creativity, or expression, or life. Or you don’t have to call it anything. My point is that I am available to be moved, and in turn, to move others.

But I am only available since I got control of my eating.

For one, I am no longer worried about being judged. Being a fat girl means constantly being judged. By others and by yourself. And it overflows past just the body.

I already knew that my body was being judged. People are very vocal about their judgments of fat women. But there was also a sense of other things I “should be.” Whether real or imagined. That I should be selfless. That in order to be good enough, I should be perfect. That in order to be loved, I should fully understand my worthlessness.

This made it hard to be proud of the things that I was good at. Writing, learning, teaching, among others. And not being able to be proud of these things made me not want to do them in the first place.

Also, I stifled so many of my gifts and talents by living in a sugar-induced fog.

There is this thing that used to happen to me a lot when I was eating compulsively. (So essentially the first 28 years of my life.) People would come up to me and tell me how I had said something to them that had changed something in their life and their way of thinking. That my words had had a profound impact on them. And then they would tell me what I had said, and I would think that it was, indeed, brilliant and profound. But I wouldn’t remember saying it. In other words, I was giving people gifts that I couldn’t give myself. And I couldn’t even be proud to have given them to other people because I couldn’t remember them.

I don’t remember a lot of my life before I stopped eating sugar and put boundaries around my eating. Seriously. Sometimes family members will say, “Hey! Remember that time…” And I will have to say no. And sometimes I even ask if they are sure I was there. But the truth is I probably was. And I just don’t remember because I was too high. Because I was always too high. I spent too much of my time escaping from life in any way I could. But mainly with sugar. I was so disconnected from reality that I couldn’t even remember my own wisdom. And I sure as hell couldn’t hear it for myself.

But now, I am not high. I am free from food addiction. I am sane and happy (most of the time.) I like myself. I trust my instincts. And I remember my own wisdom. And if you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I always err on the side of thinking I’m awesome.

So here is my poem. Because I am proud of it. And because I don’t care if you like it. And because it has some of my most profound wisdom.

I wrote it for me. But you can get wisdom from it too, if you like.

Good Girls Get Fat

Good girls get fat. Extra good girls, accomplished girls, starve themselves. Good girls who are just not good enough, make themselves throw up. Good girls who are just not good enough eventually get fat. Extra good girls die young. Or get fat.

I am not a good girl.

Good girls take care of everyone. Good girls manage. Everything. And be everything. All at once. And are exhausted. And are hungry. And eat the tasks that didn’t get done. And eat the leftover unkindness. And eat their own humanity. They are that hungry.

I take care of my own needs, and leave the rest to life. I am not a good girl.

Good girls give and take. Good girls give the good and take the bad. And chuck the bad. At someone they love. And that makes them hungry. And they eat their words. And wash it down with their shame. Good girls believe that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

I give it all and take it all, and get what I get. I prefer my medicine bitter. I am not a good girl.

Good girls fill the gaps and meet the needs. Good girls keep the world running. Keep themselves running. An endless string of marathons. Good girls stumble and fall. Good girls are spent. Like money. Spare change.

I run when it’s time to run. And then I rest. I am not a good girl.

I am a fucking fantastic woman.

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