onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “self-love”

Rewards that are not

The other day when I put on a pair of yoga pants, I realized that they were a little loose. Which meant that I have lost weight. And my first reaction was to be really pleased. 

I don’t mean that I have been trying to lose weight and taking actions toward that end, and I was therefore excited by the payoff of my work. In fact, I am personally actively against weight loss as an end goal. I do not want to consider my weight or size as deserving of notice in any way. I take care of my eating. My eating takes care of my body. Whatever my weight is while I am keeping my eating boundaries is exactly the weight I should be. I don’t need to worry about it beyond that.

But the idea that thinner is always better is wired into my primordial brain. I didn’t have a “thought” that I was happy or pleased. There were no words. An electrical pulse made its way up my spine to my brain and lit up my reward center. 

There was a time when this weight loss would have motivated me to look at what i did differently and then try to do more of that. Change my food. Change my lifestyle. Get more brain chemical rewards. Get more people to tell me I look great or better (but what they really mean is thinner.)

Society tells us (women especially, but the men are catching up) that we are in a zero sum game. That there is a perfect body. And each of us is judged based on our proximity to that ideal. And we know that this is true, because people with a lot of money pay a lot of money to get that body. Or as close to that body as they can get. And even those bodies get photoshopped to be even more in line with the ideal. 

When I was working in an optometrist’s office many years ago, there was a guy who came in, and I don’t remember how the subject came up, but he wanted to make sure that myself and the ladies in the office understood that models were not really that pretty and he should know because his job was to photoshop them to appropriate beauty. I think he was trying to be nice. But all I remember is how appalled I was. He was reducing women to their flaws. And “fixing” them for consumption. 

But I also want to say that I think it is a lot easier for me to dismantle my fat phobia because my eating is under control. When I was fat, I was also eating compulsively. And I could not stop, no matter how much I wanted to. And I hated myself for that. I felt weak. I felt like a loser. I have been the size I am now when I was in the food, but then I hated myself and my body. 

It turns out that when I got my eating under control, I could separate my eating from my body. I could really know that I was being kind and gentle to my body with food. And that meant that I could disconnect from the narrative that there was an ideal body. I had a body. It was a good one. And it didn’t need to be anything else.

If you can’t be in a body you love, love the body you’re in.

Ten years ago today I smoked my last cigarette. I had decided that I didn’t want to be a 35-year-old smoker. (Tomorrow is my birthday, in case that wasn’t obvious. And I turn 45 this time around.) It was about vanity for me. Quitting smoking felt like a really grown up thing to do. It felt like getting my shit together. So I did it. And it mostly felt great. 

Except in less than 6 months I had gained 30 pounds. Weighing all of my food. Eating quantifiably less food than I had been before quitting smoking (I know because I was weighing my food, and had already been doing so for years.) Eating less of foods like bacon and starchy vegetables. And still growing out of my clothes. 

I felt crazy! I was terrified! I had literal nightmares about stepping on the scale, about my weight going out of my control, about being fat again. Was I going to go right back up to 300 pounds again? Even with my eating boundaries?

I did not, of course, go back up to 300 pounds. My weight eventually stopped growing. But also, I have never been thin again. Ever. No more size 4s and 6s. No more tiny little dresses. No more little jeans that I held up thinking *these will never fit me*, but I was skinny, so they did. After the weight gain, I had to get rid of most of my clothes. It was hard. I cried a lot. Over the clothes, over my body, over my hormones going crazy trying to heal me after decades of being a smoker.

If I had known how it would go, I guarantee you I never would have quit. Because I cared so much about my weight. I had hated being fat and hated myself for being fat. When I had lost weight it felt like such an accomplishment. And people reinforced that idea. They were “proud” of me. They were “impressed.” They wanted me to “keep up the good work.” 

Except people didn’t want me to keep up the good work. They wanted me to stay thin. They didn’t care *how* I got there or maintained it. And in fact, a lot of them were freaked out or repulsed by the “good work” I actually did do to keep my eating under control which is what maintained the weight loss they were so “impressed” by.

And here I was *doing* this thing people wanted me to do (quit smoking) and it was making my body do this other thing people really *did not* want me to do (gain weight.)

So I did the only sensible thing, which, from the outside, to a lot of people, looked like a very stupid thing to do. I stopped caring about my weight. I made friends with the body I have. I started to dress the body I have. I started to exercise the body I have. I made a point to actively love the body I have. 

Obviously I am not sorry I quit smoking. Since 10 years later I am still a non-smoker, and I still keep my eating boundaries, even though I am not skinny. Because Life must have known what it was doing. Gaining weight with my eating under control was an excellent first step to dismantling my internalized fat phobia. It has let me see how we as a society shame and cow and control women with our body and beauty standards. And it let me heal a lot of the self-hatred that I had because I was fat in a world where fat is the worst thing a woman can be. It taught me in a practical way what no theoretical lesson could. That not all bodies can be shamed, cowed, and controlled into socially acceptable ones. At least not without the harsh and harmful methods I was now unwilling to subject my beloved body to. And that all I really need is to love the body I have exactly as it is.

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.

Driving my meat car with the low fuel light always on

I was talking to a friend yesterday who forgot to eat for a long time and didn’t understand what was wrong. And it reminded me that there are a lot of us who don’t have bodies that function like other bodies.

My friend was raised with intuitive eating. (Not that it was specifically called that, but she was taught to only ever eat when she was hungry.) And that worked for her sisters and her parents. But my friend was feeling stressed out last week, and she did not feel hungry, so it never occurred to her to eat. So she didn’t. And it made her sick. Obviously.

And it reminded me that some of us don’t have the bodies with properly functioning “indicator lights.” My “hungry light” never goes off. My “full light” never goes on. For my friend, her “hungry light” never goes on. She usually takes her cues to eat from people around her, so when she is not around people, she can forget.

Before I got my eating under control, I thought hunger lived in my stomach. But since I have put boundaries around my eating, I have learned that my feelings live in my stomach. So any feeling used to feel like hunger. Unhappiness occurred as hunger. Anxiety occurred as hunger. Excitement occurred as hunger. And joy, and fear, and worry and dread. 

It turns out that actual hunger doesn’t really *feel* like anything to me. I’m more irritable, and my thinking less cogent. I am more likely to be scattered and not know what to do next. And I might, under extreme circumstances, feel wobbly or lightheaded. But none of those things *feel* the way I always thought hunger felt. They don’t feel like much of anything.

So I am grateful that I found a solution to my eating problem that doesn’t have anything to do with “listening to my body.” And I am grateful to have a point of reference for *not* listening to the feelings I have when it comes to food. 

I am not opposed to intuitive eating. I think that when all of your indicator lights function properly, it’s a smart way to nourish yourself. But here is to all of us driving around in our meat cars with the “low fuel” light always on (or off.) May we all find the best way to keep ourselves on the road.

A Shot At Resilience

Over the past few weeks I have been obsessing over plans for a character doll. (Yes it’s more Bridgerton. Do you not know I am an obsessive person? I am!)

There are two parts of art/craft for me. There is what I can imagine and envision, and what I am capable of executing and delivering. And my friends, those are so rarely in alignment.

Capability is very emotionally loaded for me. It always has been. Perhaps because I was a very capable child. I always liked being good at things. I liked the effortless way I did things early in my life. I liked the praise I received. I liked the feelings I got for being naturally good at things. I did not like the feelings I got from failure.

I avoided things I was bad at. I was easily paralyzed by fear, not only of being incompetent at something, but also of the accompanying shame, frustration, worry and guilt. So I ate. But in not even attempting new or difficult things, I experienced another kind of shame and embarrassment. Somehow knowing I should at least try, and being disgusted with myself for being stuck, and how that made me feel lazy. So I ate.

I ate to be numb. I ate to get high. I ate to forget about all of the ways I was ashamed of myself. I ate to find oblivion.

Here is the thing. Oblivion makes it really hard to learn anything.

One thing that changed when I put boundaries around my eating was that I ended up with a lot of time. A ridiculous amount of time. Cooking took up a lot more time than it had, but eating took up so much less. Once I put eating boundaries in place, the act of eating took up, at the very most, 3 hours of my day. And that was a stretch. In reality I probably spent an hour and a half, total, eating every day. But I had been used to eating all day. So what was I supposed to do with all the rest of this time?!?!

I decided to learn things.

I tried (and still occasionally try) lots of things, and I have made all different kinds of art. I tried drawing. I have designed and created clothes and even made an award-winning cosplay (awarded by a small, since-defunct English language manga magazine.) I have written prose and plays and poems. But perhaps most zealously, I threw myself into yarn craft. I learned new, advanced crochet techniques. I taught myself to knit from YouTube videos. I tried more and more complicated methods and processes. And I built on those skills, and used them to acquire new, even more Intricate ones. You know…learning.

I still don’t like learning curves. I still growl and swear and occasionally throw crochet hooks and knitting needles. I flex my toes and grit my teeth and make angry faces. And I definitely cry. But I still have all that time that is not being used to eat. So I do it anyway.

This week I did a thing I had never done before. I crocheted a doll body without a pattern. It took some math (a surprisingly necessary skill in yarn craft.) And lots of written notes. And a few stops and starts. And definitely some ripping back trying again. But it’s good. Really good. I am proud and pleased. Accomplishment unlocked!

I am grateful for this learning. Not eating helps me learn, true. But learning also helps me not eat. It gives me pride in my accomplishments. And something to do with my hands and my head. And a frame of reference that shows me that failure is not the end of a thing but the middle. It gives me a shot at resilience. Whether or not I choose to take it.

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.

A Case of Unshaken Identity

For a long time now, years, more often than not, it is hard to think of a topic for this blog. Committing to write weekly is a lot. And more than once I have wondered if it is time to put the blog down. For one, the name, which I thought was so clever when I started, hasn’t aged well for me, since my journey has steered me well away from weight and more into food addiction. And I definitely consider myself more interested in fat liberation now than in teaching someone else how to lose weight, which is not how this started for me.

But then I think about how keeping my eating boundaries is the most important thing in my life. And how not eating sugar, and honoring that there are behavioral aspects to my addiction, has led me to a life I love and to me being a person I respect. Which was not the case when I was eating compulsively. 

Being a sugar addict, and specifically being a sugar addict in recovery, and abstaining from foods that turn into drugs in my system, is my primary identity. More than knitting and crochet. More than fantasy novels. Even more than audiobook versions of fantasy novels! The first thing I do every day is know what I am going to eat, and when, and how. And writing this blog every week is just one more reminder that my eating boundaries are my first priority always. 

So for now, I will keep writing posts. And I will keep figuring out something to say. Because while I hope you get something out of it, mostly I do it because I am positive that I get something out of it. To claim my identity.

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.

Right or Married?

This week was my sixth wedding anniversary with my husband. We have been together for 9 years. I am still madly in love with him too! And I am positive that it is because I have my eating under control.

When I first put boundaries around my eating, I lost a lot of weight. And I had always believed that my fatness was why I was single. So I really expected the man of my dreams to show up right away. I was gorgeous! (I had always been gorgeous, but then I was thin and gorgeous and in a socially acceptable body.) So where was my husband?

In the end, it would be over six years of having my eating under control and a pretty significant weight *gain* before I found (was reunited with) the man of my dreams.

My husband has always been supportive of my food boundaries. He bought me a refrigerator full of vegetables the first time he flew me out to stay with him. But he told me early on that he would not care if I were fat. That if I wanted to give up my eating boundaries, it would be OK with him.

I believed him that he didn’t care about my weight. But I don’t think he knows what he would get personally, spiritually or emotionally if I gave up my eating boundaries. 

We argued just yesterday. It happens. We are humans in a relationship. But we are not still in an argument. Because having my eating under control allows me a certain amount of clarity. What is worth standing my ground on, and what is better to let go? What is my fault and my responsibility? What are his triggers and fears, and how can I not rub up against them?

I never cared about anyone but myself when I was in the food. I didn’t know how. And I didn’t trust that anyone would care about what I wanted. So I lied, cheated, stole and manipulated. 

In putting boundaries around my eating, I learned how to take care of myself so well, that it was not a burden to care for another person. I was so nourished personally by my own hands, that I had more to give. More time, energy, compassion and grace. 

I really believe that all of these things are dependent on my eating being under control. So yes, I am so grateful to know that my weight is not an issue for my husband. I am happy to know that he can see my beauty as not directly linked to thinness. But I like my insides as calm and peaceful and happy as they are now. Because that peace extends to all aspects of my life. Including, and especially, my marriage.

Priorities and Resentments

I am good at change because having my eating under control taught me about priorities. I often say that my eating boundaries are the most important thing in my life. What I am really saying when I say that is that taking care of myself is the most important thing in my life.

In many ways that can be seen as a weakness, or at least a mark against me. Shouldn’t my husband be the most important thing in my life? Shouldn’t I be focused on others? Isn’t that where my worth as a woman comes from? Even in 2022, I see messages every day across all kinds of media that tell me what my priorities should be. And in general, they are not, apparently, supposed to be me.

But my life is better because I do have priorities. And my husband’s life is better because I am my own first priority. And it comes down to one word. Resentment.

I am madly in love with my husband. He and my marriage are absolutely my second priority. But a big part of that is that I don’t put myself in a position to resent him. I don’t put his needs above my own. I take care of myself first. I take care of him second. Everyone and everything else falls into place when I act on what is most important to me.

I used to poison myself with people pleasing as much as sugar. And the sugar facilitated the people pleasing. I wasn’t even very good at people pleasing, for all of the numbing I did with sugar and drug foods. I *did* the thing to please, but I did it in such an unpleasant way, that everyone was unhappy. And then I ended up with a resentment on top of everything.

In getting my eating under control I learned to say no. It started out about food. No, you can’t have any of my food. No, I won’t eat the thing you are offering me. But it grew to be something more. No, I can’t help you. No, I am not available. No, I don’t have time.

And eventually I even stopped feeling guilty about it. I could say no with joy! And no hard feelings. At least on my part. And I learned how not to worry about hard feelings on other people’s parts too.

Putting boundaries around my eating created a ripple effect that has ended up transforming every aspect of my life for the better, letting me set boundaries, and honor my own priorities. I get to say how my life goes. And frankly, it goes pretty smoothly.

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