onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “setting boundaries”

There’s a reason it’s not called “everybody else time.”

It’s Sunday, so of course I have all of my Sunday stuff to do, including cooking my meals for the week. 

But I also have a bunch of stuff that needs to get done early tomorrow for my job, and the people who are supposed to get me what I need to do that job, have not come through. And I have been having to spend a lot of time calming my mind to deal with this. Because I get stressed out by these kinds of things. And it is the kind of stress that I used to eat over when I was eating compulsively. It is the kind of thing I would freak out about, and then eat sugar over until I became inert. And then nothing would get get done. Not even the stuff that could have gotten done. Not even the stuff that really was my responsibility. And I would be looking for people to blame. And I would be making up lies to tell about who and why.

The bottom line is that this really isn’t my fault. And whatever happens will be fine, because I will do my best, and I have a great bunch of people I work with who will help me in any way they can. 
Because my eating is under control, and my life is in order, and my integrity is intact, with my food and with my life, I can see clearly what is mine and what is not mine. I can see what I must do, what I can do, and what I should do. And I can see who I can ask for help, and together we can take care of what needs to be done. 
But this craziness is not mine. And I also need to be clear with the people responsible, that they have dropped the ball. And that I will not be spending my time personally picking it up.
Another thing that I learned from getting my eating under control is how *not* to be a “good girl.” I am not interested in being liked for the ways that I can put other people above my own self-care and self-interest. I don’t want to jump through hoops to take care of something that is someone else’s responsibility, at the expense of my own time, health, and happiness. I refuse to take responsibility for someone else’s failure to do what is required of them. And I refuse to “keep quiet” about it. I am not interested in being obliging. I have a job that I do for the pay that I receive. I do not work out of the kindness of my heart. I do love my job. But not as much as, say, reading and yarn craft and spending time with my husband. 
When I was eating compulsively, I made a lot of drama, while at the same time I shamed myself and apologized for things that had nothing to do with me. It was a weird, backwards way of dealing with the world. Now I can see clearly what is mine: my fault, my problem, my responsibility. And I am eager to make right what is mine. And I am just as eager to leave alone everybody else’s sh…stuff.
I don’t have much drama in my life now. And a big part of that is giving back the trouble that someone else has tried to put on my shoulders. I want my part to be complete, because it’s mine. But everyone else is going to have to get their own stuff complete without me. I have too much of my own to deal with: my amazing food, my wonderful marriage, my fun hobbies, my riveting books, my invaluable “me” time. Notice I don’t call it my “everybody else” time.

On making friends with a new devil

I consider myself pretty good at change. I have a lot of experience with it. From all of the kinds of jobs I have had, to all of the moving I have done to different homes and different cities and towns. And I have learned to give up things. Like simple sugar and carbohydrates. And smoking. 

And I have an experience. That life will always give you the opportunity to go back to the way it was before. It will always let you choose to go back to the *you* you were before. Because when you make a commitment, you change your life’s trajectory. You set yourself on a new, unknown path. 
When I was single, and it didn’t work out with a man, he would inevitably show back up in my life just when I had moved on. Within a week of the day I quit smoking, I had a neighbor stalk me and I had to call the police and my landlord. It was very stressful. Exactly the kind of emotional upset I used smoking to soothe. 
It comes back to that old saying: “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” I find that life always gives me a chance to escape the unknown and return to that comfortable misery. 
Now, I don’t believe that the devil you know is better. And I have known plenty of devils. When it comes to change I agree with Mae West. “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.”
There was the devil of significant weight gain when I quit smoking. And wow was that difficult and painful. And there are, of course, lots of devils to keeping boundaries around my food. There is the time it takes to shop, prep, cook, and pack. There is the navigation of the feelings and expectations of people who don’t understand. There is the planning involved in having my meals be complete and accounted for daily, while still having a life. There is all of the extra work involved in eating out, when for most people, eating out is when they *don’t* have to do any work. And there are all of the *feelings* that can be painful, overwhelming, scary, uncomfortable, unwelcome, or just plain yucky.
But when I was eating compulsively, I already knew a lot of devils, and they were shame, self-hatred, self-doubt, crippling anxiety, an inability to move forward with my life, fear of failure, fear of humiliation, regular emotional paralysis, and physical pain and difficulties.
I promise, those devils were worse. But if you asked that Kate, who was suffering under all of those devils, she would most certainly have told you the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. And if you had told her that she would spend a huge portion of her time shopping and prepping and cooking, and also feeling uncomfortable feelings, she would have said that sounded like the worse devil! Who would want something like that?!?!
But now, I have reached a point of no return. I am not saying I could never go back into the sugar. I am still an addict and it is still as dangerous to me as it ever was. When I put sugar in my body, it sets up a craving for more. That is biological and inescapable. But I know all of the devils now, and I’ll never be able to think of the difficulties of food boundaries as worse than the prison of self-loathing.
I hated myself when I was eating sugar and carbohydrates. And I hated myself so much and for so long that I didn’t even know I hated myself until it stopped. But the point is, it did stop. And I found that in doing all that work, and feeling all of those feelings, I came to love myself, to like myself, to trust myself, to enjoy my life, to have fulfilling relationships, and to respect myself and others.
And I want to say something about this regarding fat acceptance. I hear a lot on social media about how society has socialized us to hate ourselves if we are fat, and to internalize that bigotry. And I don’t think it’s necessarily untrue. There is certainly an aspect of being taught that we are less than. But I want to note that after quitting sugar, grains, and starches, I did not loose weight all that quickly. And there have been many times in which I have gained weight keeping my boundaries. But my self-hatred has been stilled ever since I started. And when I was thin, but eating compulsively, I hated myself as much as when I was fat. Perhaps more, because I felt like the body I was in was a lie. I don’t want fat people to hate themselves. I don’t think it’s healthy, or helpful, or right. And it is certainly my wish for you to love yourself in whatever body you are in. But for me, it is very clear that my eating, not my body, or my weight, is what made me miserable and ashamed. And in taking care of my eating, I learned how to love my body and my life. So consider that just maybe there are angels hanging out with the devil you don’t know.

Shamelessness: A Highly-Recommended Life Skill

There is a thing that happens when you put and keep boundaries around your food. You have to learn to get what you need, and that usually means asking for what you need even if it looks ridiculous from the outside. I have literally had to ask a waiter for more vegetables when I needed less than half an ounce. But I needed that portion. (I usually carry backup with me but this particular time I did not.) And I got what I needed. 

You can’t be a people-pleaser and keep your food under control. You have to be a commitment-keeper. Because what normal eating, non-addict would bother a waiter for a ramekin of cherry tomatoes after they have already been so incredibly particular about what they are ordering and how it is cooked and how many they need. And when there is still over half an order of spinach on the table, but that is cooked in oil and they need vegetables with no fat. “And may I also have an extra plate, please? No, bigger. A full sized plate.” 
You pretty much have to be shameless. Which, by the way, is an incredible life skill that I highly recommend.
So as I mentioned last week, my husband and I are renovating our permanent residence in the suburbs of Chicago. And we agree on most things but the flooring has been difficult. It is the primary thing we tend not to agree on. And there is a very small window where we do. So I did a lot of research, and gave him a lot of options. But once we *finally* agreed on a floor, our contractor came to us and told us it was on backorder, and would not be available until our home was complete. Or maybe a little before. And he sent us some samples of floors that his supplier considered “similar.” 
My friends, *I* didn’t consider them similar. In fact, I positively hated most of them. And found one of them tolerable. But I did not want tolerable if I could help it. 
So I did it again. I looked up floor samples, and found pictures of them actually laid in a room. (Bless the Internet!) And gave my husband a bunch of options. And this time I had him eliminate what he did not like (only one this time – clearly I got a better sense of what he likes) and *rank* the others. And then I called the contractor and asked him what would be better, if I gave him a list of what I want, or if he gave me a list of what I could have. And he asked for our list, and I gave it to him ranked. And we got our first choice. Easy. 

A different Kate might have been given some suggestions of “similar” options and picked the one she hated the least. And then she may have been resentful if she didn’t *love* her floor. But this Kate, who knows how to ask for less than half and ounce of vegetables even when there is a plate of sautéed spinach in front of her, knows what she wants, what she needs, how to ask, and how to be gracious about asking.
I did my homework. I searched my options. I found the pictures. I asked my husband to rank them. I asked my contractor what was the best I could do for him to help me get what I want. I was proactive in knowing what I wanted and needed. I knew how to take care of the people who are helping me get what I want. I planned. I prepared. 
Every time I take care of myself by knowing what I want and asking for it, I become more my authentic self. I become more of the me I stuffed down with food for so much of my life. I become less the person who takes what she is given because she thinks it is what others want her to be, that they will be pleased with her, and how compliant she is. 
I can see in retrospect that my contractor and his supplier offered me those suggestions to make it easier for me. Not to limit me. They were doing me a favor, and it was up to me to choose one of their suggestions, or choose something else, as I saw fit. And I can imagine that many people don’t know what they want. I bet many people would be grateful for a recommendation, rather than feel stifled. 
So I am grateful to my food boundaries for teaching me to ask for what I want, to be clear about what I need. To know what will make me happy, and then to *be* happy when I get it. And just to be clear, now that I know that my floors are taken care of, I am most definitely happy!

Tight food, loose life, and for today, nothing to give up.

One thing that happened when I put boundaries around my eating was that I (slowly and gradually) got better at going with the flow of life. I got better at dealing with unexpected problems. I got better at dealing with difficult feelings. I got better at having peace when people did things I didn’t like, and situations didn’t work out the way I had hoped and planned.

But I got way way *way* worse at not having what I wanted when it came to food. I had given up all of my “favorite” foods when I gave up sugar and carbohydrates. I had basically deadened my palate with sugar for the first 28 years of my life and hated almost all vegetables. I thought fruit was bland. I thought nourishing foods were boring at best, and disgusting at worst.
So when I quit sugar and got boundaries I was told to love my food. Not tolerate it. Not “eat to live.” I was told to eat foods that made me gloriously happy. I have a few time periods in my life that I identify by the foods I ate, some specially made by me to be sugar and carb free and fit my portion requirements. I had my summer of turnip fries and coffee shakes. (This was a labor of love. It took forever, and I still did it almost every day because I was so obsessed. After cutting them into fries, which gave me weird calluses from so much knife work, I would salt the turnips overnight so they would sweat out all the bitterness, and they were better than real French fries, I swear!) I had a winter of homemade custards. I mean I actually used a bain-marie. I had *years* of homemade carrot cake. I had deep fried onions from a favorite New York burger joint 2-3 times a week for about 3 years, and deep-fried Brussels sprouts from a fancier New York restaurant about once a week for a year or so. (I used to go get those take-out, since I wasn’t interested in the fancy ambiance, just the sprouts. I still get these and the onions when I visit New York.)
For the past few years I have been making chocolate ice cream (ok, frozen yogurt, since it’s whole milk and full fat Greek yogurt.) And today, I opened a new bottle of the sugar-free, grain-free, alcohol-free chocolate flavor that I use. And it was *different*!!!! It was a different color and had a different smell! 
This scared the hell out of me. Of course, the first thing I did was read the ingredients list printed on the bottle I had just opened. Because if the color and smell had changed, perhaps the ingredients had changed. I still occasionally read ingredients on things I use regularly, even if there doesn’t seem to be a change, just in case. And I have occasionally caught changes that were not indicated or advertised. But when something has so obviously changed, of course I had to look immediately. 
Hallelujah! It was fine. The ingredients were still within my boundaries. And the taste was delicious, though different. 
But I have had to give up things before. And that is a change I am very bad at. It is hard for me to go with the flow of losing a food I love. For those of you who may remember, in 2014, a company whose vanilla flavor I had been using for years changed their recipe from alcohol-free, to non-alcoholic, where it had alcohol, just significantly less than an extract. I had to give it up. I literally cried. Then a friend found a tutorial on how to make my own at home. And I have been doing just that for over 5 years. (And mine is way better than the stuff I was buying, so hooray for that.) That company discontinued its walnut flavor a few years before, and I cried about that as well. Sadly, I have never found another walnut flavor I could use. There was a restaurant in New York that used to make Chinese food specifically for people with the same eating boundaries as I have. And they would make deep fried tofu. It would come to the table like a crispy, golden cloud of deliciousness. I cried when they closed. (Are you sensing the pattern here?)
I keep my food tight so my life can be loose. But my food being tight means being a bit of a control freak. Obviously. And that means a certain amount of attachment. So it’s hard for me when my food changes in any way. 
But ultimately I am committed to my boundaries, not to my food loves. I did give up the walnut flavor. And in giving up the vanilla because of the changed recipe, I got something even better in return. If I had had to give up my chocolate flavor, I would have. I would most certainly have cried. I would have had to mourn. But I would have done it. Because it’s the boundaries, that “tight food,” that keep my life loose. 
And here’s another important truth. There is always something out there, waiting to be my new favorite food thing. Something that fits my boundaries, and makes my eyes roll back and my mouth water. There is always some new thing that I am going to be overwhelmed with excitement to eat. In its proper portion. When it is time to eat. And I’m excited for that too. Even if I don’t know what it is or when I will find it.

Specific and measurable is what gets results

Last week a lot of people read my post. Thank you all for reading! I am grateful! And I heard second and third hand about some comments. And one idea stood out in my mind. That I must be really sick if I have to weigh my food.

I want to say first off that I am an addict, and I am addicted to sugar and simple carbohydrates. So yes. I am pretty sick. I was deeply unhappy when I didn’t have boundaries around my eating. I was unhappy with my body, I was unhappy with my behavior, I was unhappy with the state of my life. And only a portion of that was about my weight. 
Weighing food is a way to take a specific, quantifiable action that leads to a specific and measurable result. I am not just eating less. I am eating a specific number of ounces. How much less is that? I don’t know. I never measured before when I was eating everything whenever I wanted. 
Is it common to weigh food? It is not in general. But the idea that what I do is an indication of how sick I am is not necessarily fair. It is an indication of how committed I am. It is an indication of how much I want something. And how willing I am to get it. You might say that weighing my food is an indication of how well I am. How not susceptible to whims I am when it comes to eating. How steadfast I am.
Athletes weigh their food. Movie stars who are training to shape their bodies weigh their food. These are people who want something for and from their bodies and are willing to do what it takes to get it. I want something for and from my body too. I mean, it’s a lot less sexy than winning a gold medal or being a physical embodiment of a comic book super hero, but it’s still pretty satisfying. 
Making a quantifiable commitment is a great way to meet goals. It’s a great way to change your life. Writers have daily word count commitments. Marathon runners have scheduled practices with mileage goals they have to reach. Weight lifters have weight goals. Even sales people have a specific number of cold calls they have to make. Nearly every person who wants to achieve something does it by doing specific things. And specific means being measurable. Even dietitians will say things like “vegetables the size of your fist, meat the size of your palm, fat the size of your thumb.” Which is a way to do a less precise version of the same thing I do but not have to get out a scale.
When I was eating compulsively but wanted to lose weight, I fought very hard against measurement of any kind. But most certainly precise measurements. I wanted to “eyeball” things. And I did. And my portions got bigger and bigger over time. Because I wanted to pretend I was doing what I needed to do to get the results I wanted, without having to actually do the things. And guess what. I did not get the results. And guess what. I got to blame it on everything but what I was doing. I got to blame it on my “broken” body, or my genes, or the way the world is. I did not have to blame it on how much I was eating. And when I did not get results “eyeballing” my portions, I got to quit because it didn’t work and I would rather eat cake anyway. So then I was back to cake.
This is not exclusive to me. Humanity is made up of this. Reasons why we can’t. Reasons it’s not worth it. Reasons we shouldn’t have to do what needs to be done to get the results we want. Maybe the reason is because someone who has to do “that” is “really sick,” and we’re not that sick…
So I disagree that the reason I have to do something as “extreme” as weigh my food is that I am *so* sick. I am sure I could get through life without it. The question is not could I live without weighing my food, but could I be this happy, free, content, joyful, and available for life if I didn’t. 
I always say that I am not telling anyone what or how they should be eating. And I am not today either. But I will say that I was not any sicker than a lot of people, especially Westerners, especially Americans. I am just that interested in being well. Interested enough to do something very specific to get a very specific result. 

It doesn’t matter how you say no, as long as you say it.

I am the member of a Facebook group for people who do what I do with food, and one of the newer members asked about how she was going to explain her food to someone new. And a friend of mine recommended I make a blog post about it. And it’s a great idea because it’s a huge part of having a specific lifestyle. Especially a food lifestyle like the one I have.

People have a lot of questions. They have a lot of thoughts. They have a lot of things to say and stories to tell. They are full of “helpful” information. So it helps to have a plan when it comes to how we are going to deal with people in our lives around our eating boundaries.
The first thing I want to say is that you really don’t owe anyone anything in the way of an explanation. Truly. What you put in your body is not up for debate. Nobody is going to shove food in your mouth. And if they do, spit it out. And then file a restraining order. You have the right to eat or not eat whatever you want in whatever way you want. 
But none of us lives in a vacuum, and chances are, there are going to be people that you want to make comfortable around your (possibly weird, or at least perceived as weird) food lifestyle. You want to be comfortable around your friends and family, and maybe your boss or your clients. 
My first piece of advice is to be honest. How in depth you want to get is up to you, and will probably vary based on your relationship. 
The person I end up seated next to at a wedding, who I will never see again, will probably get the bare bones of the matter. “I do this crazy food thing. There are lots of rules. Mostly I don’t eat sugar or carbohydrates.” They will most likely say something like “Good for you. You have so much willpower. I could never do that.” And then they will be handed a piece of cake or a drink and they will forget about your crazy food thing. Because chances are, they really don’t care.
Sometimes, when I am in the middle of weighing out my food in public, strangers want to know what that is and what I am doing. Let me tell you, I hate this. Weighing my food is of grave importance to me. I weigh my food because then the portion is exact. It is as much a mental thing as it is a physical thing. Yes, I am doing it for portion control, but also because I can spin my wheels when it comes to food. When I see an exact number on a scale, there is no doubt as to whether I had too much or not enough. I could plan a whole binge around how I possibly under ate and now I can “make up for it” with something else. So when someone comes along and they want to know all about what I am doing with a scale, they are taking my attention away from this action that requires my full attention. Most importantly, I don’t answer until I can safely remove my attention from what I am doing. I don’t need my scale turning off on me, or to accidentally hit a wrong button when I don’t know what is going on. And when I do have a moment to answer, I usually say something like “I can answer your questions later, but right now I am in the middle of something.” Sometimes those people are offended. I highly recommend not caring about that. Also, when they are not watching you do it, they never come back and ask. My experience is that people don’t actually care. 
When I get invited to go out to eat, there are a few ways that can go.  
If it is something I should participate in, namely family celebrations, I tell them I need to choose the restaurant. I go on line and scope out menus, and then call ahead and ask how certain dishes are prepared and how big portions come. If necessary, I ask them to put portions aside for me so that they are not prepped with foods I cannot eat, like flour or certain marinades. And then I ask them to let the waiter know I have special food needs. Also, I make sure I have enough backup food on me so that if I don’t get enough food from the restaurant, my portions are taken care of. Is this a pain? Of course it is. But I usually get a great meal and I’m there for the company anyway. 
And there are plenty of people who do what I do with food who love to eat out. They don’t mind the questions and the calls and bringing extra food. 
In other circumstances, I sometimes recommend people come to my home for dinner and I or my husband will cook. Our boss has come to our home for dinner quite a few times now. He always asks to take us out. And I alway request that he let us feed him. Especially in the south, it can be hard to find what I need in a restaurant. (A vegetable in the south is often a potato, or if it is a vegetable I would eat, it is breaded or cooked in wine or honey or some other sugar or starch.) The last time he was here he said he felt bad that we were always cooking for him. But I let him know that I prefer it, and he has seen me eat enough times to understand what I do. 
Sometimes, I go out, but don’t eat. I either eat before, or after, and I spend my time drinking iced tea or diet soda and enjoying people’s company. 
When people want to know why I am not eating, I usually say I ate earlier, or I will be eating later. I make sure they know I came for them, and it’s worth it to me to spend time with them. It’s not about food.
There are a lot of people, well meaning, loving people, who will think you are punishing yourself. In some ways, this is the hardest group to deal with. They think you won’t eat a piece of cake because you don’t like yourself. They think that not eating the cake is terrible for you. They truly do not know that *eating* the cake would actually be terrible for you. “Why don’t you live a little?” is a very common phrase. 
I recommend you be firm but gentle with these folks. Say no, clearly. “No thank you.” “I don’t eat that anymore.” “I’m great but I appreciate the offer.” “I don’t eat sugar.” “I don’t miss it.” “Quitting sugar is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
I sometimes have to go more in depth. Be more clear about how sick I am with food. “I have a pretty serious eating disorder and this is how I take care of it.” “I was really miserable and desperate before I gave up sugar.” “This is a matter of life and death for me.” I don’t say these things dramatically, but I do say them seriously. And usually that is enough. 
It can be a struggle to deal with the expectations of people when it comes to food. For so many people, food is how they express love. It is how they show hospitality. It’s how they offer fun.
The most crucial thing I can say is “set boundaries.” Better to set a boundary and offend someone than to betray yourself. Set boundaries that are graceless and clunky. Sounding like a jerk is better than going back to food hell. Your boundaries will get smoother, kinder, more graceful. But don’t worry about that as much as you worry about taking care of yourself, being true to yourself.
Many years ago, I knew a woman who had let her mother-in-law guilt her into eating a dessert she made “especially” for her. And it sent her into an eating disorder relapse. And she said “I will never do that again, because she sees me at that party, but she isn’t going to come into the bathroom to hold my hair back when I go make myself throw up.” 
Nobody else has to live with you in your body. Nobody has to go home with you and see the repercussions of that one bite. The way it affects your job, your relationship with your spouse or your kids, your self-esteem.
So say no however you need to say it. Just say it. 

“Follow Me” and change

I was very excited this week to get to see a documentary I am featured in about sustained weight loss. It’s called Follow Me, and it features 12 people who have lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off for 5 years or more. I am honored to be a part of it. You can visit the website and see a trailer for the movie at www.followmefilm.ca
What I particularly like about the film is that it features a bunch of different approaches to sustained weight loss. But they all have one thing in common. We each had to change our lives. 
One of my biggest problems with losing weight when I was still eating sugar, was that I wanted to do what I had always done, and have it be different. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was not eating so I could eat later. The reward was the same. Just less often. And someday. Until I couldn’t wait anymore and I ate again. And I couldn’t put it off anymore, and it went back to being the norm, not the exception. 
I could never stop eating sugar when I was eating sugar. I could never *want* to refrain, because I craved it. My brain and my body told me I needed it. And when I first *really* gave up sugar I experienced a lot of physical and emotional pain. The cravings were intense. The feelings I had been numbing with sugar were overwhelming. I was cranky. I felt high from not being high. I had to cope without my primary coping mechanism. Like learning to swim by being thrown in the lake and told “don’t die.”
But I did learn to “swim.” I learned a new way to live. And it was a life I never knew I wanted. But I did. 
One of my many (many) problems with the fitness/diet/beauty industry is that so much of what it is advertising is something that will do the change for you. Hell, even the medical industry is selling that. Take these “vitamins,” they will melt away fat. Drink this shake, it will make you want to eat less. Get your stomach removed/constricted. It will make it impossible for you to overeat. Except it doesn’t. Not even the medical/surgical solutions. I have met people who have stretched themselves a new stomach after gastric bypass. They are not the solutions they promise to be. (Oh great. Now, I am going to be singing Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina all day…)
I am not saying that surgery is necessarily “bad.” Eating as a coping mechanism worked for me until it didn’t anymore. A gastric sleeve might save someone’s life. But  if one’s problem is eating, like mine, and weight is a symptom of that problem, I don’t think anything outside of oneself is going to help. 
And I am not saying that anyone “needs” to change their eating. I want to be friends with fat acceptance, body positivity, and fat pride. I want to make this a conversation about choice. 
But I hated being fat. And I *wanted* a solution. And I was doing all sorts of self-harm and acts of self-hatred in order to try and wrangle my body into a certain shape and size, hoping that one of those awful, painful, and shameful things would be the solution to my self-loathing. And none of them were. 
But finally I found a real solution. One that doesn’t require sustained starvation. One that doesn’t require hating myself into submission. One that is abundant, delicious food, plus a body I actually love, and love to live in. 
So I am honored to be part of this film, Follow Me. I am honored to talk about the fact that sustained weight loss is not a fictional fairytale. That it can be done. And that it’s not about being special or being a specific kind of fat person. That it’s about choices and change. And that if you want something else, there is a way to have it. 

The “doing” and the “having done.”

I have been feeling particularly lazy the past few days. And today is, of course, my day to get stuff done. It’s the day for laundry and cooking and writing this blog. It’s my day to prep for the coming week. And I will do what needs to be done. In fact, the laundry is already in the washing machine. And I will start my cooking as soon as this is posted. But already I am looking forward to being done and sitting on the couch with a yarn project. 
It has been a long time since I have picked up a yarn project. And this one is particularly ambitious. I am attempting to make two dolls without a pattern. Or rather, I am starting with the base of another pattern and attempting to change it to fit my own specifications. It’s complicated and is taking a certain amount of blind faith. 
In my life in the food, everything scared me. Anything that was not an obvious win for me was a no-go. And even some of those “obvious wins” turned out harder than I imagined and I would quit. Everything was so serious. And nothing got done.
Or if it did, it would get done in the least healthy way possible. I have mentioned before that I went about creating like a crazy person. I would work like a machine through the day and night. Unable to stop. Unable to evaluate. And at some point things would get done half-assed because I couldn’t break my momentum but I was too exhausted to keep going properly. I had to see the end. I had to get that hit, that chemical reward. And it was usually mixed. Because it was done, but it was never perfect. And not perfect was never good enough. Now things get done with more care and attention, *and* I don’t need perfection. Wow!
I have always enjoyed the idea of creating. I have always enjoyed having created. I have always enjoyed the beginning and the end. The idea, and the finished product. I have never enjoyed work. Until I got my eating under control. 
In the food I was always interested in knowing, but never learning. I was always interested in having, but not acquiring. 
In getting my eating under control I learned to sit with difficult feelings. And feelings like realizing that I might fail at something are particularly difficult for me. Also, work, with it’s long-game potential rewards, as opposed to instant gratification, also fills me with difficult feelings. 
These are some of the feelings I ate. I mean, I was eating pretty much all of my feelings. But these feelings that forced me to evaluate myself, these were the ones that probably scared me the most.
Since I put down the food, I am no longer afraid of work, especially the work that creating entails.  I am not saying I enjoy it all the time. Ask my husband. I get frustrated. I swear, and growl. And sometimes I even throw down the yarn in a huff. But I pick it back up again. I learn. I acquire new skills and techniques. I add them to the list and seek out newer and even more difficult skills. 
Not being afraid of work is one of the biggest gifts of getting my eating under control. Not having to care that things be good enough is another gift. I am allowed to fail. I am allowed to make bad art. I am allowed to work really hard and have nothing to show for it. 
Putting boundaries around my food has always meant freedom. Freedom from the food itself. Freedom from living in a body that was difficult to live in. And freedom from my own ridiculous expectations. So today I will do the things I don’t want to do, so I can sit on the couch and attempt to do things I still don’t want to “do,” but will find immense satisfaction in “having done.”

My anniversary of the other side

My birthday is Thursday this coming week. I will be 42. It’s pretty nice. I feel great. I look great. I have no complaints. Not about my life, and not about my age. 
It was on my birthday 12 years ago that I came out of the fog of giving up sugar. 
For most of the first 28 years of my life, I lived in a sugar fog. I was addicted to sugar and carbs from a very young age. And I was high on sugar the majority of my waking life. 
And then at 28, I gave up sugar, and went from being high on sugar all the time to not being high on sugar at all, and that felt like a different kind of high. It meant cravings, and a general slowing down of my brain function,  the adjustment of my digestive system, and a kind of low-level exhaustion basically all the time. My body and brain needed some time to heal. And then one day, my 30th birthday, about a year and a half after I gave up sugar, I noticed that I had woken up. 
In that year and a half of foggy time, I was learning to keep the boundaries around my food. From friends who wanted a bite and I had to say no, to bringing my own food to a wedding and the mother of the bride being mildly offended, to people wanting to make things especially for me and having to politely refuse.
Someone once told me that when you make a commitment, you change the course of your life. 
After that I was learning about how to keep other boundaries. Saying no to people who knew me as eager-to-please. Standing by my “no” when people wanted to coerce or manipulate me into doing what they wanted. Making life choices that made me happy, rather than choices I thought would make others happy. Making choices that I had to then stand by, because they were mine, and right or wrong, I could not pawn them off on anyone else.
If there is a hard part to change, I believe it lies in our relationships with others. I have been a relatively bold nonconformist for most of my life. I don’t particularly care what others think of me. And if I do, it is often a streak of defiance. I dare you not to like me. I dare you to judge me. 
But good lord, even with my devil-may-care attitude about fitting in, when it came to setting new boundaries with people in my life, boundaries I *had to* set to keep my eating under control, it was hard. People want us to be who we have always been. And when we make life-altering changes, like entirely revamping our food life, we will, out of necessity become different people. 
I see it all the time when people decide to do what I do with food. If they want to lose weight but they don’t want to change, they will not last long. They may lose weight. They may even lose all of the weight they want to. But then they inevitably return to old ways and old patterns. 
I have heard when women let their mothers-in-law insist they eat the special dessert made just for them. Or let their husbands convince them that they should have a glass of wine because they used to be fun. Or let their sweet grandmothers feed them that special dish. 
Refusing the homemade lasagna made by my most beloved grandmother (she made it  for Christmas and Easter and it was by far my favorite food in the whole world – in my life, it was what love tasted like) may have been the hardest thing I ever had to do. It was terrible to have to do to both of us. It hurt her. It hurt me. But I had to say no. So I did. 
I do not regret a single moment on this journey. I am grateful for all 42 years of my amazing life. And especially grateful for the past 13 and a half, where I have been learning slowly and steadily how to be my truest self. And even more for that moment 12 years ago, when I looked up from that year and a half of introspection, and pain, and discombobulation and discomfort, and saw that there had been an “other side.” And that I was on it. 

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

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

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

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

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