onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “sugar addiction”

I feel it because I don’t eat it

I am cranky. So incredibly cranky. I am exhausted and emotional and overwhelmed by all of the things that I have to do today, which is not anything more than what I normally have to do on a Sunday. But I am so frustrated about it. And so tired. I just want to sit at home and do nothing. But I have groceries to buy and meals for the week to cook and pack. I have to get payroll in for work. And I just want to stop. To take a nap and read and think about crafting for hours but never actually craft anything. 

It’s nothing. It’s not any one thing. And it’s not even triggered by anything that I am aware of. Maybe it’s hormones or maybe it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder. Maybe it’s the stress of the year finally catching up with me. But no matter what it is, I am a wreck. 

But I keep my food boundaries no matter what. I not only don’t eat sugar, grains or starches, but I keep my portions controlled like I always do. I do exactly what I have done every day for the past almost 15 years. I do it because it is what I do, no matter how I feel, or what I think, or what kinds of things are going on in my life. I keep my food and my life separate.

All of this will pass. It always does. Funks or celebrations, situations and circumstances all make way for one another. And as long as I don’t put the foods I use as drugs in my body, I can make my way out of a bad mood. 

And I don’t have to worry about it. I don’t have to judge myself for it. What I do have to do is be with it. 

Perhaps that is the hardest part of having my eating under control. I have to live with the feelings. Sit in them. Go through them. That is the only way to the other side. When I quit sugar, I had to feel 28 years of feelings that were festering inside me. I had eaten to numb them. And I did not feel them in the moment. But they were still there. And I still had to sit with them. But by that time, they were rotten and moldy and putrid. 

I think part of withdrawal is that. It is not just the physical effects of the addictive, toxic substance in the body. It is the sweating out of a lifelong emotional fever. It is the purge of all of the toxic thoughts and feelings that were stuffed in and down and out of reach, but never actually released. 

So now I sit in my yucky feelings. I cry and I complain. I brood and I pout. And that is not pleasant. For me or for anyone else. But it is also not poisoning me from the inside. So there’s that.

Gratitude for my very normal, very human body

I used to be angry at my body all the time. It was my enemy, and I treated it accordingly. Mostly, I hated it because it was not the size or shape other girls’ and women’s bodies were. It did not look the way magazines and television told me it should look, and indeed *could* look if I worked hard enough.

I was smart and interesting and funny. I had a wonderful mind. So I felt like a brilliant human stuck in a broken vessel. Broken is a great way to express what I thought of my body. Broken like a machine. Bad parts. A lemon.

When I got my eating under control I started to think about my body in a different way. First, giving up man made sugars, and most grains and starches, made my body smaller. And while I could not really change the shape of my body without surgery, I started to think about all of the ways that it served me, even when I was abusing it. 

And I didn’t just abuse it with drug foods. I abused it with over exercising to the point of injury, and still exercising more because I wanted it to be thin, but I couldn’t stop eating. I abused it with laxatives. I drank castor oil. Eventually, I started to stick toothbrushes down my throat to make myself throw up the food that I could not stop eating. 

But when I got my eating under control, I necessarily had to have a different relationship with my body. I had to ask not what my body could do for me, but ask what I could do for my body. Not to whip it into shape. Not to make it lovable and attractive to anyone who happened to be in its vicinity, but to make sure it was taken care of. For me, because it *was* me. Make sure it was nourished and hydrated and strong and healthy. 

And that changed how I dealt with all of the unappealing parts of having a body. I am 43. My hormones are crazy right now. And I should probably expect that to continue for maybe another 10 years. That is a whole *decade*!!! But also, that is normal. It is completely expected for my woman’s body to experience this.

And this past week was hard. I was exhausted all week. I needed to lay on the couch and do nothing, not even knit or crochet! I had several outbreaks of cystic acne which are painful as well as ugly. I was cranky and sad and did lots of crying. And at least half of it was *not* over imaginary characters in novels, comics and TV shows. And of course, I still had to do all of the things that I have to do. I had to prep food and clean the kitchen (I totally half assed a lot of that, and my husband did some as well) and do the shopping and go to work.

But because I have a level of clarity about my life and my body from having my food taken care of, I am not angry at my body. I do not blame it for doing what bodies do. I feel like it is a very modern concept to think of one’s body as getting in the way of one’s life. We have created so many workarounds to get out of dealing with our physical humanity, that we don’t necessarily see what is natural and good. We spend so much time powering through, that we think our bodies are the problem, and not the lifestyle we have created that doesn’t have any room for the basic needs of actually *being* a carbon-based machine.

My eating boundaries have given me a sense of reality about my body. Not only about what it can and should look like in the real world (not according to the latest Photoshopped ad for designer jeans, or the ad promoting some supplement guaranteed to make you lose 10 pounds in 10 days), but also how I can expect to feel and what I can expect to be able to do. Realistically. Because I have a normal body doing normal things.

I like my full life. I like my job and my commitments. I like the people I work with and the friends that I have. I am not campaigning for less modern conveniences. I love my gadgets and my technology. I just don’t want to forget that my body is not some separate gadget. It doesn’t need an upgrade. It isn’t in the way of my life. It is my life. It is me. And I show myself how much I love me, by loving my body and honoring it exactly as it is. Flawed and sometimes uncomfortable, and gloriously, normally human.

The Blessings of Benchmarks and Bare Minimums

I have been particularly fortunate over the past several months. I have been working less, but I have been working consistently. And while my husband and I are not making as much money as we were last year, we have never suffered financially through this difficult time.


I have enjoyed the lightened work load, frankly. I am not a workaholic. I like more free time, not less. I like to do nothing. I like to do nothing for whole days. I used to feel like this made me lazy. And I am sure that is how it occurred to people when I was in the food and getting nothing done.


But in having my eating under control, I have learned how to manage work and rest. I have learned how to be incredibly productive, and also make time to be a vegetable on the couch. I know how to feel accomplished by accomplishing things, and to accept that I not only like, but need, a ridiculous amount of down time.


When I got my sugar addiction under wraps, my experience of time changed much like my experience of food. When I was eating compulsively, I was obsessed with food, but I was miserable all of the time. Either I was eating something I wanted, but felt guilty for eating it, or I was eating something I felt I should be eating, but hating it the whole time. I was either lamenting chocolate cake while it was in my mouth, thinking I was a bad girl, or suffering through lettuce or celery, hating the experience of being a good girl. Either way, I had set myself up to be miserable around food.


But then I put boundaries around my eating, and suddenly I was eating guilt-free. And that was a revelation. That was the greatest part of getting my eating under control; following rules eliminated guilt by giving me bare minimums and benchmarks. As long as I hit my marks, I could eat with impunity.


Time is much the same for me now. Before I was trapped in my own narrative about not being good enough. I thought I was lazy. I thought I was incapable. I thought I was ill-equipped to do anything worthwhile. And in many ways, my addiction made that true. I was always second guessing myself. I was easily overwhelmed. I was constantly afraid of failing, and failed because that fear meant I was unwilling, or unable to try. But since I got my addiction on a leash, I can see the bare minimums and the benchmarks. As long as I hit them, do the work that needs to get done, send the email, make the call, follow up, get to the next right action, I don’t have to worry about a day spent watching mindless TV, or listening to a book, or crafting. I don’t have to feel guilty about a day in my pajamas.


I was never super woman. But somehow I always felt like I should have been. Now I don’t worry about how to be “great,” I worry about how to honor my word and keep my integrity intact. And I often end up being great anyway. And sometimes I’m just meh. And every time, whether I’m just so good, or just so-so, it’s enough.


I am in the beginning stages of a very big job right now. I am doing the slow dance of bureaucracy, getting big things done, one small step at a time. But it is stressful. And it is exciting. And while today I have to go grocery shopping, and prep lunches for the week, and be emotionally and practically ready to jump through hoops and wait in lines and navigate a maze of red tape, yesterday I did a whole bunch of nothing. And it made today possible, and bearable, and I don’t feel bad about it at all. And to not feel bad about myself is perhaps the second best thing about getting my eating under control. Because guilt-free eating is still, and will probably always be the first best thing ever.

More safe, less sorry

On Friday I was up at 5, went on my jog, took a shower and got ready to head into the office, and then my husband said he had a little sore throat. So we agreed that he should get a Covid test and neither of us should go into work until we get the results.


Before anyone gets worried, he is feeling fine right now. We have not officially gotten the results back, but he has not had a sore throat since. He does not have a fever. Chances are he is just fine.


In the past, he probably would have gone to work. And I absolutely would have gone to work. But these are strange times. And to go to work feeling a little under the weather is to potentially put people at risk. Our office also agreed that it was better that we stay home.


Here’s the takeaway for me about the positive aspects of having boundaries around my eating. I am not afraid of what my boss or coworkers think of me. Because I know that I am always doing what I think is right and for the best. For myself, for my coworkers, and for my company.


When I was face first in the food, I would have been terrified and overwhelmed by this monkey wrench. Any and every circumstance of life that was not me going along in my usual routine, threw me for a loop. I would have been worried about my personal standing, my personal money, my personal well-being, and would not have thought about how my actions affected anyone else. As a food addict, I am an addict. Just as selfish, reckless, and destructive as any addict.


But with a strong foundation of having my eating under control and a way of life that facilitates that, I can trust in my decisions. I can trust myself to deal with my life as best I can in the moment. I can trust myself to be calm and rational, even when I am afraid.


A friend of mine in New York City, who had a particularly scary bout of Covid in March asked me if I was worried for my husband. And my response was that I was terrified. (I am *much* less terrified now that he is feeling well again.) But not paralyzed. I was nervous but I was moving right along, doing the next right thing.

My eating being under control does not mean that my life is without terrible moments and circumstances. Having my addiction under wraps doesn’t keep my loved ones or myself safe from illness or accident. What it does save me from, at least mostly, is me making terrible rash decisions, and awful, selfish mistakes.

Excuse me while I go grow

I have recently been given a job at work that is bigger and more complicated than any job I have done before. I am going to have to learn new things. I am going to have to stretch and grow as a person. And I am scared.

I don’t mean I am terrified. I don’t mean I am paralyzed. But I am most definitely anxious and worried that I will not measure up.

I know that I am good at what I do. I am a good leader, willing to take responsibility for the things other people shy away from. I am smart and organized. I know how to think ahead and keep an eye on potential problems before they become actual problems.  And I have enough humility to admit when I have made a mistake or I am in over my head and I need to call for reinforcements. 

I also know what I am bad at. Diplomacy is not my strong suit. I’m a straight shooter who values honest, efficient (blunt) communication, and I have a hard time with the idea that we can’t just say what is right in front of us. But knowing what areas I am weaker in is also a strength. I am not leading a meeting to find out why we haven’t gotten paid or where our money is. And therefore, I am not messing that up with my bluntness. Besides, my husband is excellent at that. And I am happy to let him be reasonable and charming with clients while I be exacting behind the scenes.

But if I were still eating compulsively, things would be very different for me. First, I would not be good at my job. And I might not even have this job. Because when I was eating compulsively and high on sugar all the time, I was not the list of assets above. I became paralyzed easily, and as soon as I got a job or task, I could become overwhelmed to the point that I shut down. I could not think ahead. I was terrified of responsibility and would avoid it at all costs. And if I did end up in a position of power, I used whatever means necessary to pin any blame for failure on someone, anyone, anything, else. I was not organized or focused because the sugar fog I lived in made it hard, if not impossible, to stay focused or organized. What I was was very smart. Probably even smarter than I am now, but it was almost useless. Like I had a big bucket of paint, but no brushes or rollers or tools. I just threw it around, with no precision. And that worked as well as it worked. Which was better than I had any right to expect, frankly.

But even knowing all of this about myself, about my gifts and the tools I have at my disposal, and the honesty and integrity I live by now, and the willingness to admit mistakes and faults and problems, I am scared. My fear of failure, and its consequential humiliation, is still very much alive in me. And in many ways it is worse since I gave up the sugar that used to numb those particular feelings. But it is also better. Because I don’t have to work (eat drug foods) to avoid those feelings today. I can be scared. That fear can hang around in the back of my mind. And it doesn’t have to mean anything. It can just be fear, skulking around in my head, with no calculable effect on my actions. 

When I gave up sugar over 14 years ago, I did it to lose weight. And I did. But I also changed the way I thought and lived and worked and related to people and the world. And my life is better for it. Not just my body, though that too. But my whole life. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grow into a new set of skills.

Even in a hard world, my life is easier

I feel rather out of sorts this week. My routine has been off. And some things have gone wrong. My hormones are slightly out of whack. Our very expensive kitchen faucet broke and I won’t get a new one for at least a week. Our refinished bath tub is peeling and the guy is coming early tomorrow morning to fix it, which means getting my run, shower and breakfast in before he gets here. And this is on top of what has been a hard year for me, like it has for everyone.


I am tired of feeling so stressed out. I am tired of worrying. I’m tired of the uncertainty of so many important things. I’m tired of all of it masquerading as normal in my head so I can deal with the day-to-day.

There is a thing that I have noticed. When I am faced with having to actually deal with something I don’t want to, as in take an action or even just look at the honest truth of it, I have a thought: “I’m exhausted.”

It does not mean what it used to mean to me. Exhausted used to be a body experience. It was what happened after a long day of physical exertion. It was the kind of thing that was satisfying. It meant a good, restful sleep. It meant a feeling of accomplishment, or at least it felt earned.


But when I say it now, it means something entirely different. It means emotional fatigue. It means spinning and spinning without ever feeling like I’m getting anywhere. It means a kind of spiritual and emotional impotence that is hard to put my finger on, except that it feels like I should be doing something, but everything I think I could do feels too small to make a difference. It feels like fight or flight with nothing to strike out at and nowhere to go.


But my eating is taken care of. And that means that other things, important things, are taken care of. My integrity, my self-esteem, my relationships. All of those things are in a place where I can look myself in the eye and feel like I’m honoring myself. I’m sad, and I’m frustrated, and I’m just so tired, but I still like me and love me. And I lived so many years hating myself, even when things were going right. Even when circumstances were easy, my life eating compulsively was hard.


I try to remember today, and every day, that life is not always easy or fair. And I am allowed to be having a hard time. And I am grateful to have tools and practices in place to help me take life a day/minute/step at a time. But most of all I remember to be grateful. Because even in the face of a scary world on the outside, treating myself with love and honor, first around food, but also around everything in my life, is a better life than the one of shame and self-loathing I had when I was eating compulsively.

Wrong, But Quite Alright

I made a mistake with my food yesterday. It was a stupid mistake. I weighed out some raw veggies and they came out to 4 1/8 oz. And then I weighed out my cooked vegetables. And I should have weighed out 11 7/8 oz, because the total weight of my lunch vegetables should be 16 oz. But instead I got confused and weighed out 12 1/8 oz. So I ate 16 1/4 oz. 1/4 more than I was supposed to.


Again this was a mistake and an honest one. And the amount I went over is most definitely not a big deal. But I called someone and told them anyway. I “turned it over.” And I have told the truth of it and given it away and I don’t have to live with it.

Now, you might be thinking that it’s strange that I made a call over 1/4 oz. And it was broccoli. So it wasn’t even something all that decadent. (Though it was cooked in butter, *and* olive oil, plus hot sauce, so it was super yummy.) You may think it “doesn’t count.” Or “isn’t worth thinking about.” But the deal for me is that it all counts. Every morsel and crumb. Because I can’t stop thinking about these kinds of things. My thinking is not normal around food. I am obsessive about it. Or at least I am when I don’t keep boundaries and follow rules. That 1/4 oz was a chink in the armor. It was a small hole in a dam. As in small for now, but with enough pressure behind it, the whole thing could burst.


I hear all the time how crazy what I do seems to people. I see how extreme they think it is. How it looks exactly like the obsession I claim it curbs.


Here’s the difference. When I was eating compulsively, I was obsessed with food, especially sugar and simple carbohydrates, and I was miserable. Now I eat my portion controlled food, I love it, and when it is done I am no longer thinking about it. Now I am meticulous with my food, rather than obsessed, and I am joyously free. I am happier in my life than I have ever been before as a direct result of giving up sugar and weighing my food.


And part of that is making a call to say that I made a mistake, and that I want to give it away so I never have to think about it again.

I was raised Catholic. So I used to go to confession. And I always thought it was a punitive measure. I thought it was about humiliation and shame. I thought it was about having to be judged by God and God’s agent in the human realm.


But now I can see how telling the truth about things, mistakes and missteps and falters and failures, is freedom. It’s a lightness that I never felt telling a priest I had lied, which I had to tell a lot of priests because I told a lot of lies.


I understand that for many people, there is no need to turn over 1/4 oz of broccoli. Hell, most people aren’t even weighing their food to know! But that meticulousness and honesty are the foundation for me to have an honest relationship with food. One where I am not ignorant of what or how much I am eating, or ashamed of what I have eaten, or embarrassed to make an honest mistake. One where I can say I was wrong, and still feel quite alright.

Work Wonders

Having my eating under control has transformed my work life in ways I never expected but I am so grateful for it.


When I was in the food, I was a terrible student and employee. I was either high on sugar, or crashing from it, all of the time. I couldn’t concentrate or think straight. And I was so afraid of being reprimanded that I was willing to be dishonest or disingenuous to keep blame off of myself.


One of the things that I got from putting boundaries around my eating is the ability to be wrong, even very wrong, and be honest about it. Just let it be. And take the consequences as they come.


I did not know how to do that growing up. I didn’t know how to own up, apologize, or make amends. And I did not have any idea how transparent I was to everyone else.


I see it all the time now. The way people humor liars, cheaters, and thieves. The way they pretend to believe and accept. And the way the offenders, relieved, believe they have gotten away with it. And I suppose they have. Though not in any meaningful way. They have escaped outward consequences, if not the judgement of peers and superiors, but they have not escaped the internal consequences. Knowing you have lied does something to you inside.


I should know. I was one of those offenders for much of my life. Fear ruled me. And appearances, the appearance of innocence and rightness, seemed to be the most important part of getting through life.


In getting a handle on my sugar addiction, and fixing the wrongs I have done in my past and my present, I have changed the way I think about “trouble.”


Trouble used to be what I got in with other people. It used to be me against them. Now trouble is something I get in with myself. Now it’s me, my Ego and my fear, against me, the person I respect and like and love.

That shift has made me an excellent employee. It has made me an excellent coworker. It has made my work life one of pride in my work, and camaraderie with the people on the teams that I work with.


And not being high or strung out all the time has meant that I do quality work. I understand what I am taught. I learn quickly. I am willing to stretch my comfort zone and take on new and more complicated responsibilities. I am also up front about what I don’t know and what I have attempted but failed at.


My husband and I have just been given two new jobs to run for big clients. It’s a big deal. And there will certainly be a learning curve and probably more than a few hiccups along the way. But I don’t doubt my ability, or my worth. I know I can rise to this challenge, because I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to take it one step at a time, be honest about where I am, and willing to do things that are scary or uncomfortable.


And those are all skills I got from giving up sugar, putting boundaries around my eating, and cleaning up the messes I make in my relationships with people.


I did not expect my work life to change when I put boundaries around my food. I thought it would change my relationship to men, certainly, because when I was in the food I thought my love life troubles were about being fat. But now I can see that my troubles in all areas of my life were about my addiction. And with the sugar out of my system and out of my life, so much is different and better in ways I never expected but am eternally grateful for.

With respect to Sally Field, I like me! Right now! I like me!

This week I had to go into the office for a meeting. And there was a new woman who recently joined the company. And about half way through the meeting, it became clear to me that she doesn’t like me. Because I am a know-it-all.


There was a time in my life, before I had my eating under control, and for the first few years that I did, when this woman not liking me, or my perception of this woman not liking me, would have haunted me, and I would have done anything in my power to try to coerce this woman into liking me.

Don’t get me wrong. I *do* want people to like me. Certainly this woman. We are colleagues. We work for the same company. And I tried to be pleasant, friendly, and relatable.


But ultimately, I don’t actually care. If this woman finds me insufferable, may she never have to suffer me. Because the reason I come off as a know-it-all could be that I am excellent at my job and I do “know it all.”


All of my life that I spent in active food addiction was spent hating myself, second guessing if I was “doing it right” and thinking that being liked meant I was doing it right, and being disliked or sneered at meant I was bad and wrong.


Having my food addiction under control means that I like myself. A lot. I like being me. I am not embarrassed or ashamed. I love myself. I love my life. And if I don’t, I have the clarity to pinpoint the things that are making me uncomfortable or ashamed, and take some action to make a change. To change me, really, and not simply someone else’s perception of me.


In my addiction, I was paralyzed by the numbness and the muddled thinking that came from using sugar as a drug, as well as the pain that came from looking at myself with an eye towards my faults and my character defects. Because it felt like I was my faults and defects, and they were me.

One great gift of having my eating taken care it is that I can look at my bad actions and see that they don’t mean anything about me as a person. Except that I am exactly as failably human as anyone else, and that in some particular situation or another, I need to make some amends.


But it also gives me the clarity to know what is not my problem, or my business. And how this woman at work sees me is really none of my business. I am coming from a space of helpfulness and generosity. And I don’t get a say in how those intentions are received.


I am grateful to have this clarity of mind and spirit. I don’t want to use my time or energy trying to force someone to see me the way I see myself. And that is the best gift of having these boundaries; how much I like and love myself has everything to do with me, and my integrity, and nothing to do with anyone else.

Outsourcing the tough choices is a definite life hack

There is an aspect of my food boundaries that is very important to me that I don’t talk about a lot. Mostly because it doesn’t come up a lot. But there are times when I don’t make decisions about my food, when I have other people make those decisions for me.

The primary reason it doesn’t come up a lot is because I don’t make a lot of mistakes with my food. I am generally meticulous and focused when it comes to my food because i take my addiction seriously. But, if I do make a mistake or have a problem, I don’t decide what to do about it. I call someone and they make the decision for me. And this is a thing that has saved my life and my sanity more than once. And it happened this week.

So the short version is that I knew I was going into the office this week – they had work for me to do that had to be done on site – so I prepped my food over the weekend. And one thing I did was weigh out some raw peppers and wrap them in foil and put them with all of the other food I had weighed out. But my husband cut an onion, wrapped it in foil, and instead of putting it back in the produce drawer, he put it on the shelf with my pre-weighed lunches. So when I got home from work and packed up my lunch for the next day, I thought I was grabbing a pepper, and instead grabbed half of a raw onion.


When I opened my lunch the next day, I had a moment of panic! But then I made some phone calls. And I managed to reach a friend and she told me what to do about it. So I just did what she told me to do. And it was done. And I could eat my lunch in peace and calm and not have to worry about it.


Here is the deal. I am crazy when it comes to food. I am addicted. I am obsessive. I can go in crazy circles. And if I had made a decision about the onion-pepper problem myself, I could have second guessed myself right into a chocolate cake.


True, it may not have happened immediately, but the chatter in my head could (would) have led to other decisions that bent rules. After all, I would have already made a choice that was not strictly within my boundaries. And that could have led to lies to myself and others about my food or my eating. And that most certainly would have led me to eating foods I am addicted to.


I want to say that I chose these boundaries. They were not forced on me, nor was I coerced. I chose them because my food addiction was ruining my life and they were a solution because 1) they exclude foods I am addicted to, and 2) these boundaries come with a community for help, support, and camaraderie.


So when I say I don’t make decisions about my food, I don’t mean anyone tells me what to eat on a regular basis. I have a huge list of foods that are available to me for guilt-free eating and I choose the foods I love. I make those food choices every day. Lots of people who do what I do don’t eat pork rinds, or make their own sugar-free ice cream, which are favorite choices of mine. And unlike many of my comrades-in-eats, I am not going to eat a chicken breast, or lettuce, or celery.
But when it comes to a moment of upset, problem, or panic, it is a great relief to not have to make a decision, and instead to give it to somebody else.


The other part of that is that I am available to make those decisions for someone else. And I do regularly. And let me tell you, it is *much* easier to make a decision like that for someone else.


So I am grateful to the people who do what I do. To the ones who have picked up the phone to give me guidance when my heart is pounding and my head is spinning because there is a problem with my food and I don’t know what to do. I have a community in place that assures me that in a scary or difficult food situation, I don’t need to know what to do. I just need to make a phone call, and be willing to heed the advice on the other end. And that is a safety net I never knew I needed or wanted but feel very lucky to have.

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