onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “sugar addiction”

Clunky and graceless is OK for now

This week I celebrated my 13th anniversary of keeping boundaries around my eating. One thing I was taught early on was to set boundaries with people. Even if they were “clunky.” Even if they were graceless. Even if I sounded like a jerk. Even if I *was* a jerk.

It has occurred to me in the past few months that I avoid difficult conversations. In some ways, this came as a surprise to me. I like to think of myself as a model of self-expression. And I thought I had already overcome this. Which I had. But I should not be surprised. My experience is that we all have our lessons. And we have to learn those lessons over and over, deeper and deeper.

Once I realized this, I knew that I wanted to do something about it. And I have. A little snappy. And a little pushy. But moving ahead.

Right now, I don’t know what to do about it in terms of concrete actions. There are ways to make commitments to things like this, but they are not as obvious to me as food boundaries or water drinking promises. Those are no brainers. 4 oz of meat, weighed on a scale. Three 20 oz bottles of water a day from my reusable water bottle. That’s easy. Or at least, easy to wrap my mind around. But having uncomfortable conversations occurs to me as less clear-cut.

Still, I will work at it. I want it. I want to say the things I need to say so that I don’t feel resentful, or self-pitying, or stifled. I don’t want to be “nice.” I want to be kind. I don’t want to be “likable.” I want to be authentic. I don’t want to be “good.” I want to be powerful.

When I don’t muddle my thinking with food and sugar and carbs and things that make me fuzzy, I can feel my uncomfortable feelings, and consider what I want to do about them. I am in no hurry. I can be happy for now with the baby steps I have begun to take, even if they are clunky and graceless. I can think about it a little bit longer. I am in no rush. I have all the time in the world to grow. And there will always be more growing to do.

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A holiday post. (In other words, it’s very short.)

Oh, good Lord! It’s the Sunday before Christmas and I have to write a blog! 

Needless to say, this is going to be as short and sweet as can be.
I am going out to lunch with family today. And that meant calling the restaurant and when I made my reservation, letting them know that I have special food needs. It meant making sure I have a food scale to bring with me and extra batteries for that scale. And boy am I glad I checked ahead of time, because the scale I was going to bring is dead, and I thought I had extra batteries for it, and I don’t!!! Thankfully, I have a backup scale and extra batteries for that one. Plus a little one I always carry in my purse. Just in case.
I will also bring backup food for myself, just in case I’m short when my order comes. I care a lot about just-in-cases. It’s how I keep my boundaries, and have managed to do it no matter what for over a dozen years. (Coming up fast on 13!!! What!?!?!)
Ok, that’s it for me. I’ve still got too much holiday stuff to do. So Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Wishing you peace!

This is me not holding my breath

When it comes to keeping my food boundaries, I am willing to go to any lengths. God, that is such a pain in the ass! 

I’m not willing to give it up, or say “not today” for even one day, or even one meal, but good lord, it can be exhausting. And it can be inconvenient.
I heard someone say the other day that before she put boundaries around her eating, she was waiting to not *want* to eat anymore. I feel like that is the myth perpetuated by society. That if you are good enough, or spiritual enough, or “conscious” enough, you won’t “want” to eat. It’s why things like “mindful eating” are talked about so often in regards to obesity.
I have nothing against mindfulness. But it’s not practical for any addict, and truthfully, for most people when it comes to food. We, as a society, put too much emphasis on what we want. The idea of “listening to my body” is hilarious to me. My body wants pizza and cake and coffee day and night and to skip my morning jog basically every morning, and never drink a sip of water. Or at least, that is what my brain tells my body I want. In a modern culture with devices we hold in our hands, while we watch devices that mount on our walls, or put devices in our ears so we can hear our very own soundtrack while we go through life in our temperature controlled pods, it may be asking a lot to expect our bodies to *feel* what what we should be doing and eating and drinking to take the best care of ourselves. I feel like in order to really be attuned to one’s body, one has to be used to squashing desire, in a way most modern people would call deprivation.
Just look at the way people deal with those who choose not to indulge. Seriously, go to a holiday party and don’t eat the sweets. Say “no thank you,” to the host’s “famous” cookies. People will act like you have given up all of your worldly possessions in favor of one robe and one bowl.
I don’t want to imply that I don’t like my modern conveniences. I love them! I listen to books and check social media, and am even writing this blog right now on my handy-dandy iPhone. I read comics and shop and look up knitting patterns on an iPad. I have an internet TV, along with myriad streaming services. I am not saying these things are bad. I love them! But so much comfort makes it harder, not easier, to wake up in the morning, drink a bottle of water, and jog two miles before I go to work. It makes it harder, not easier, to meal prep on Sunday and weigh my food portions out for the week so I can grab them and go in the morning before work.
I have boundaries because I want results. And I gave up on needing to get those results by becoming “spiritually fit” enough to want them naturally. I never “don’t want to eat.” And I don’t feel like being fat and miserable until that becomes true. I never want to get out there and run. But I do it anyway, because I love what it gives me, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And I think it’s unfair to tell people that they will ever “want” to do the things that make them healthy. I’m sure there are a few people on the planet for whom that is true. And I would bet they are all fitness bloggers making their money by making the rest of us feel like jerks, or meditating monks in the mountains praying for for us, because gosh do we need it!
Maybe someday I will not need boundaries and commitments to force me to do the things that give me a life I love. But I’m going to prep my meals and fill my water bottle, and wash my workout clothes in the mean time. And I’m not going to hold my breath.

The ability to be uncomfortable long enough to make a change.

I am having some problems at work. Personality problems. And they difficult to navigate. It takes a lot of restraint on my part. 

The other day the personality I have the most trouble with made trouble between me and another worker. Thankfully, I calmed down (way way down) before I talked to this other worker. And because I went in calm, and did not act out like the crazed person I felt like, all turned out just fine. It turned out to be a miscommunication. It was presented to me differently by that first personality.
That first personality likes to create panic. I don’t have time for panic. I don’t have room to be guided by my feelings. (Not my intuition, from which I do have room for guidance. Feelings. Yucky, human, unpredictable, physical reactions to situations.)
Feelings are useful, certainly. They let us know when we are on the right track. They also let us know when we need change.
I masked my feelings with food for the first 28 years of my life. It was easy to live in the discomfort of something being wrong when I never had to experience the discomfort.
When I first got control of my eating, I was so bad at living with discomfort that I would rush headlong into “fixing” my problems so I could get past the uncomfortable part. I didn’t have much grace, but I did start to get myself some boundaries. Not just around my food, but around all aspects of my life. And while I had a lot of apologies and amends to make for my rashness, I was actually getting things done for myself and making changes in my life.
But now, I try to be softer on myself. I have frustrations, and things make me angry, but I can take my time to consider how I am going to deal with them. Not everything has to be now. Because I can be uncomfortable. (That’s a blessing!)
If you don’t know, I am blunt. I don’t like to talk around things. I don’t like to give wishy-washy answers to things for the sake of politeness. I think direct honesty is infinitely more polite. And I don’t think “no” is rude or wrong. I think it’s quality information. I like quality information. It saves me time and trouble.
For example, if I go to a restaurant and ask if the asparagus can be made without the parmesan cheese, and my server tells me “Probably not,” they have not helped me. They have not done me any favors. They have now forced me to ask more questions about the asparagus. And they have not been any more polite than if they had said, “No. it’s already pre prepped with the cheese.” At least then, I could move on.
But being blunt at work is harder. It’s harder to set boundaries with people who, technically, could get you fired, even if they can’t fire you themselves. It’s also harder to be straightforward with people who are passive-aggressive. They have already set up the context for a given communication, and trying to navigate that with both honesty and grace is not simple.
There are two major life lessons that I got from getting my eating under control that apply to this work conflict. The first is “When you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.” I get to take my time and trust that the right answer will come along at the right time. I don’t need to leap into action. I need to be committed to change, and keep my eyes and ears open for the best time to take the right action.
The second is that we do the best we can and let the chips fall where they may. I can certainly allow myself to bullied and cowed on a regular basis in order to avoid having a difficult conversation with someone higher up in the company than myself. I can let that difficult personality get me riled up and panic-stricken. And I can be constantly worried about the quality of my work, because that personality is looking to find fault (or maybe just looking to push someone around). But I am bad at that. And that is not the best I can do. The best I can do is set boundaries around how I will be treated.
I know that I am good at my job. Really really good at it. I know that I am friendly, efficient, organized, consistent, and that I have a great work ethic. I do not have any qualms about whether or not I am doing a good enough job. But that has nothing to do with office politics. And if I am going to be reprimanded for not accepting unacceptable treatment, then this is certainly not the job for me.
But the truth is, I don’t think this personality would ever really try to get me fired. I think they like the threat, and the power of the threat. I think everyone knows that I do quality work.
I forget that as an addict, I am not the only one who is sick. I forget that other people are sick and cruel and behave badly all the time and they’re not necessarily addicts. Or they are and it’s not obvious to me.
I will not make any rash decisions around this. But I will also not be treated poorly. I owe that to myself. Because I don’t have cake to numb the pain of abuse. And I do have the ability to be uncomfortable long enough to take a stand and make a change.

That ship has sailed

I know that I am a real, and serious sugar addict because there are fresh foods that I cannot eat normally. When I was trying to manage my eating in my 20s, I would binge eat sweet potatoes and bananas. I thought that since they were fresh foods, they wouldn’t make me fat. I might eat 5 whole sweet potatoes, one after another. Same with bananas. (Spoiler alert: binge eating sweet potatoes and bananas will totally make you fat.) I have a friend who is also a sugar addict with boundaries. There was an article a few years ago where some nutritionist said that people go crazy over high fructose corn syrup in a way they’d never do with an ear of corn. To which my friend said, “She’s never seen me eat corn.”
One thing I believe about addiction, a thing that I have experienced, is that once you are an addict, you can’t go back. Perhaps if I had never become an addict, I would be able to eat sweet potatoes with impunity, but that ship has sailed.
I read something 5 years ago that really stuck with me. Genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.
I believe that I was born with a genetic predisposition toward sensitivity to sugars, grains and starches. As a kid growing up in a home with overweight people, I was overweight. If I had grown up in a home with people who still had the sensitivity to sugar, but managed their weight with anorexia and bulimia, I might have started that early. As it is, I had to move to New York City to become a bulimic. Different environment, different trigger.
Maybe, if my sugar addiction had never been activated, I would be able to eat sugary fresh foods and not have to eat 6 of them at a time. Who knows? But now I’m an addict and there is no turning back.
I think that is part of the the thing that non-addicts don’t get. After 12 years and 11 months of strict boundaries and no sugar, haven’t I proven myself back to normal? Haven’t I proven that I can eat a sweet potato?
But now, a sweet potato gives me the same high as chocolate cake. It lights up the same reward centers in my brain. And my reward centers are broken. That is essentially what addiction is. And I have it.
I have no complaints. I love my food. I eat it without guilt. I love my body. I nourish and exercise it, and it thanks me by being healthy and pain-free. (Relatively. I was once 300 lbs and I am currently 41 years old, so *relatively* pain-free.) All of this is worth not eating certain foods. Even if they are nutritious. Even if they are whole. Even if it seems like I should be able to handle them. I cannot.

I’m in good company with Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Oh, my friends. We have a social media problem. And I feel the need to talk about it. I have heard it called “the rage economy,” and I think it is too lucrative. There is too much currency.
The thing in particular that got me thinking about this was Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy the Vampire Slayer herself, from the iconic 90s TV show (that I will say, in the interest of full disclosure, I still think was a brilliant piece of television that holds up 20 years later.)
If you don’t know, Gellar put some lingerie photos of herself from years ago up on social media and captioned them (I believe tongue-in-cheekily)
“I’m just going to pin these up all over my house as a reminder not to overeat on Thursday #thanksgivingprep”

And some of her fans were angry and accused her of fat shaming. And she felt like she had to apologize.

Seriously, people? Do we really have so little room for other people? Do we really have to shame a woman for not wanting to overeat? Do we really have to assert that she is ultimately just a shallow, vain, void-of-substance bimbo who only cares about the size of her thighs (a very loose paraphrase of one person’s comment) because she *does* care about the size of her thighs? Do we really have to be so sensitive to things that have nothing to do with us, but with another’s personal choices?
I know she’s a celebrity. And I know that the point of social media is to let everyone know exactly what you are thinking, feeling, wearing, eating, and doing or thinking of doing at all times throughout the day, but I think that may be part of the problem.
I don’t care about your outrage. I don’t care that you had a feeling because a celebrity had opinions. I don’t care that either celebrities or you have opinions. I have always known that everyone had them. I have never cared except for a very few exceptions. And, with a very few exceptions, I still don’t.
But I do want to note, for the sake of illustration, what Gellar did not say. She did not say, “ I am going to post pictures of some other woman in lingerie to inspire me.” She did not say “I am going to post these pictures of myself in lingerie to remind myself that being thin is the only way to be beautiful.” She did not say, “I am putting these up to remind myself that being fat is disgusting and I don’t want to be fat.” She said she didn’t want to overeat.
Guess what? I don’t want to overeat either. I don’t want to be fat. I stuck to my food boundaries on Thanksgiving too. I even wrote a whole blog about it.
There is a fitness coach I know who says, “willpower is just remembering what you want.” And while I, as an addict, know that willpower is a loaded word, her point is an important one. If you want to learn to play the piano, you have to practice, even when you don’t what to. If you want to save up for a fancy vacation, you have to deal with your money and actually save it instead of buying everything you want the moment you want it. If you want a body that you love living in and looking at, you have to care for it. 
I’ll tell you what I hear when I hear someone shaming a celebrity for being clear and honest about wanting to be in control of the way her body looks and feels. I hear that the person doing the shaming is not in control of the way their body looks and feels, and wants someone else to subscribe to and approve of their bullshit. They want someone to say that it’s not only OK to overeat, that it’s necessary! That one is somehow obligated to participate because it’s Thanksgiving.
But participation is not mandatory. And I, for one, salute Gellar. She is making choices for herself. She is remembering what she wants and acting on it. Like me.
I have never looked like her, and I never will. And I am OK with that. I am perfectly comfortable in my body. I love it the way it is. My food is under control, and my head is clear. And maybe most importantly, I keep my eyes on my own plate. And I wish for the kind of peace and comfort I have in my body for everyone. And I hope Sarah Michelle Gellar did not overeat on Thanksgiving, and feels great in her body. Like me.

Will I still respect me in the morning?

Halloween has passed and Thanksgiving is this week. As many of you know, I don’t participate in Thanksgiving. It is essentially a food holiday. The whole thing revolves around one big meal. You can say it’s about family, or gratitude, but tradition says it’s about turkey and potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie. Every family has their own traditions, and they are all about the meal. 

I don’t miss those foods. I don’t even like turkey. It’s not that I can’t be around foods I don’t eat. I do it all the time in my daily life. And I am willing to do it for Christmas, and the occasional birthday party if I happen to be home. But Christmas and birthdays are about something else.
I love to give gifts. I love the idea of peace on Earth and good will towards human kind. I love celebrating the life of a human I am tied to in this life. That there is food is fine. Humans all over the world and for all of time have eaten special foods at festival times. That is as it should be.
But there was a time when festive food only happened at festivals. For much of my life, in the modern, wealthy, food-rich world, I ate like it was a festival every day. And I was not the only one. Especially from Halloween to the New Year.
I am grateful to not eat myself drunk on sugar every day anymore. And if I have to skip eating myself drunk on sugar on holidays, well I have had more than my fair share.
And if I skip one holiday out of the many we Americans celebrate, so be it. I will wake up with dignity on Friday morning. Like every morning. And I didn’t wake up with dignity almost ever for more years than I would like to think about.

I need to worry about the kitchen scale, not the bathroom scale

In the past 12 1/2 years, since I gave up sugar, my weight has fluctuated many times. Sometimes by a lot. When my beloved grandmother was dying, I lost 20 lbs, eating exactly the same as I had been. When I quit smoking I gained 30, eating significantly less than I had been at my thinnest. When I was eating sugar and carbs, I was morbidly obese. But since I have given them up, I have been in regular sizes, but not one regular size. 

I have gained weight again recently. And I have not changed my eating or my exercise regime in any way. For you regular readers I will also add that I have not had soy nuts in months now. I am still in my size 8 pants, but now, just barely. And it’s difficult and uncomfortable. Physically and emotionally.
You would think that a woman who weighed 300 lbs and wore a size 28, would not fret over potentially having to buy a pair of size 10 pants. But you would be wrong. I still have all sorts of fears about my weight. And all sorts of body image disorders. I have a pretty serious case of dysmorphophobia. If I look at my thighs and butt and belly in the mirror lately, I see a hugely fat woman. My eyes are broken. And while my body image problem is often dormant, when I gain weight of any kind, even small amounts, it can flare up pretty seriously.
I do not look at women around me who are a size 10 and see fat women. But when it comes to myself, I am pretty sick in the head.
But there is ultimately only one thing to do about it for myself. And that is keep my food boundaries. Keep doing what I am doing. Don’t let body struggles interfere with my food issues. They are related. But they are by no means the same. And “going on a diet” isn’t going to help me. It never did before. It would be ridiculous to think that it would now.
The truth is, I could eat lighter if I wanted to. But that is another experience of mine. Since giving up sugar and carbohydrates, eating all salads and lean proteins doesn’t necessarily facilitate weight loss. And I have to love my food. I must. It’s why I can do it for over a dozen years. Because I am not on a diet. And I never have been.
At this point, the second best thing I can do for myself, after keeping my strict boundaries around my eating, is not worry about my weight. If I eventually need to buy a new pair of pants, so be it. If I naturally lose the weight I gained, which has happened to me in the past, well that’s great too.
I am here to take care of my food problem. My morbid obesity used to be a manifestation of that problem. Now, my dismorphophobia is a holdover from that time. But my weight is not a problem. At least not anywhere but my own head. And as long as I continue to consistently and unfailingly use my kitchen scale, I don’t need to worry about the bathroom scale.

Not my candy, not my problem, not my business

I made it through my 12th Halloween without sugar and carbohydrates. And it was painless. 

We had plenty of candy on hand for trick or treaters, and we only got 4. But it didn’t tempt me. And not because it wasn’t “the good stuff.” It was exactly the stuff I wanted as a compulsive eater. (And even the stuff that wasn’t my favorite, I would have eaten anyway.)
I wanted all of the candy. Any candy. I have heard people in food recovery day that they ate their favorite things first, and then when they were gone, “ended up” eating things they didn’t particularly like. Not me. If I thought it was just OK, I ate it first, and saved my favorites for last. Because I always already knew I was going to eat it all.
I’ll say this for my food addict self. There wasn’t a lot of lying to myself about not eating it all. There was, however, a lot of lying to myself about how long it would last. And a lot of lying to other people about how much I could, would, and did eat.
But the big bowl of candy was a non issue for me at home. And now it’s at work where I hope a crew of construction workers will eat it. But whether it gets eaten or just thrown away, it is not me who will eat it, and it’s none of my business what happens to it.
There are 2 aspects to my immunity to the very candy I once lived for. First, the drug is not in my system, and has not been for over 12 and a half years. And second, I changed the way I think about candy, and about sugar and carbohydrates in general. It’s not mine. None of it is mine. It can be anyone else’s. I don’t have an opinion about that. I don’t need to know who it belongs to. Just who it doesn’t belong to. That’s me.
It’s simple, but not easy. At least not at first. It takes retraining your thoughts. And that takes practice. It doesn’t come naturally. I had to work at it daily before it became my default setting. Now it offers me the gift of giving out candy with a smile, and without a hint of either longing or self-loathing.
I think that aspect of it, the mental aspect, is a thing that is lacking when we talk about “fighting obesity.” Doctors and nutritionists tell us what to eat, and expect that whatever it is they are warning us against will make us obey. Diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s. It’s like the dietary version of “scared straight.” I have even heard medical professionals speaking to one another say, “If you were told you needed to change your diet or you were going to have a heart attack, don’t you think you would?” The implication being that people who don’t are lazy or stupid.
But a change like that takes resetting a lifetime of impulses and beliefs, truths buried so deep we sometimes don’t have language for them. It takes struggling through a million instincts to eat the candy.
Changing takes a certain amount of mental flexibility. And that is not easy, or obvious. Absolutely possible! But not a no-brainer. It takes lots of brain. And lots of action. And lots of sitting through pain. But there are peace and freedom on the other side. And I like peace and freedom better than chocolate.

A Sasquatch hat and a dream

Yesterday, I tried to knit a hat for myself without a pattern. And I failed. Not entirely. I mean, I ended up with a hat. It’s even a really cute hat. But it is waaaaay too big for me. It may be way too big for most people, (and Sasquatches.) But, that can be fixed. OK, *this* hat can’t be fixed. It’s just a cute, ginormous hat. But next time I can make adjustments and correct my mistake. (I will only cast on about 2/3 of the stitches.) And I did figure out how to shape the top of the hat evenly, and it looks exactly like I wanted it to. That was something I had been worried about. 

It may seem silly, but I worried a lot about making this hat in the days before I attempted it. Why worry? I don’t know. There was nothing at stake. Worrying is just in my nature.
I completed my first knitting project, a simple baby blanket, right about 3 years ago.  And then immediately jumped into making a baby sweater with a free on line tutorial, which was an excellent lesson and made me realize that I was both good at, and thoroughly enjoyed knitting. And while I do love knitting from patterns, I want to be able to make the kinds of things I want. I have a particular style and one thing I really want to do is design clothes for myself.
That will take a few things on my part. 1) To continue to knit from patterns and learn from from them. To see what kind of stitch patterns make which shapes. 2) To continue to stretch myself by learning new, more difficult techniques. And 3) to attempt (and at least sometimes fail) to design my own patterns.
In other words, I am playing a long game here. I will not be a great pattern designer over night. I will not be making up complicated cable knit sweater patterns any time soon. I have to steadily practice, learn, and attempt.
When I was eating compulsively, I had no patience. I could not handle any kind of difficulty. I could only attempt things I was fairly certain I would succeed at. And I could not improve. Because improvement takes work. It takes the willingness to fail. It takes frustration and perseverance.
But once I felt the frustration, I almost always quit. Because feeling discomfort of any kind was too much for me. If I had a difficult feeling, especially a feeling of inadequacy, I ate it. I shoved it down with cake.
In getting my eating under control, I had to learn to sit in discomfort. I had to let it be there, and let there be nothing to do about it.  I had to accept life the way it was, and myself the way I was.
But on the other side of acceptance was that I could try again. And not just that I could, but that I wanted to. When there is no sugar to numb those feelings, the best way to quell feelings of failure is to give it another go. I understood for the first time that my life wasn’t set in stone. I wasn’t “just that way” about anything. In fact, if I wasn’t “just that way” about food and being fat, which I had truly believed for the first 28 years of my life, then I knew I must be able to do other things. Maybe even anything.
And I learned that I liked trying better than not trying. I learned that I liked the feeling of success after failure so much more than being “a natural.” I liked learning more than knowing.
So I have a ridiculously huge hat, with perfect decreases in the crown. And I also have everything I need to try again: the yarn and the needles, and the desire to get better and do more.

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