onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “sugar-free”

I am a precious thing

One of the most important lessons I have been learning over the past 13 years is to stop worrying about my weight.

I used to think I had a weight problem. What I had was an eating problem. It resulted in me being fat. In living in a body I didn’t like or love. It resulted in a physical vessel that was hard to live in. A body that I was embarrassed of. But also a body I was shamed for. A body that was considered ugly and unworthy by society.

And I had it particularly rough, because I was particularly fat. But I can see now that over the years, none of us, especially women, get out unscathed. If we’re fat, we should be thin. If we’re thin, we should be thinner.

I want to stop that kind of thinking in my life. I still don’t want to be fat, but I want to stop thinking of my worth as tied to the size of my body. I want to stop thinking of my beauty as tied to how big my belly is, both compared to other women, and compared to other times in my life. I want to stop thinking about “losing 5-10 lbs.” I kind of have. But I want to more.

Here is what I can tell you. I have peace in my body when I treat it with care, no matter its size and shape. I don’t have to be my thinnest to enjoy my body. But I do have to keep my food boundaries, and my exercise and water drinking commitments. I have to floss. I have to sleep 8 hours a night. I have had to *show* my body love before I can love it.

Action is an important part of loving my body. As soon as I do something good for myself, I like myself that much more. I did not have to lose all of my weight to get comfortable in my body. First I just had to put boundaries around my eating. The longer I kept my boundaries, the more confidence I had. And it grows. The better I treat myself, the more self-care I take on, the more comfortable I am in my own skin, the more I love my body. The more I love my body, the more I want to honor it with self-care.

I guess what I am saying is that I am not always comfortable with how I think others see my physical beauty, and sometimes I want to look the way society says beautiful women look. And *that* is what I want to stop. I want to decide my own beauty. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I want to judge what I see in the mirror as true beauty. And I think I can, as long as I treat myself as a precious thing.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Tight food, loose life

St Francis of Assisi said “Wear the world like a loose garment.” 12 step folks use this phrase a lot. 

I like to think of it like I keep my food tight, so my life can be loose.
I am in New York City for the weekend, at a kind of convention for people with boundaries around their food. But I lived in NYC for almost 15 years, so I have all sorts of friends here. And last night I went to hang out with some old friends after the convention. Friends from before I had my food under control. I meant to leave at 10 (already way past my normal bed time) and I didn’t leave until after midnight. I was having too much fun catching up with people I only see once a year or so, and whom I haven’t seen in two years this time. So today I will be late to the 2nd day of the convention. But that’s OK. My life is loose. And my relationships are a priority. I get to choose that.
I will have a blog posted. I will have my food together. I will get to the convention when I get there, with myself taken care of. And I will have gotten that extra time with people I love.
When I was in the food, I was bad at priorities. I wasn’t self-aware enough to know what I wanted, what made sense for *me,* what I should do to bring me the most happiness, love, and joy. I did things because I thought I *should* do them. Or because I had it in my head that I was going to do one thing, and I couldn’t wrap my head around doing something else. Now I feel and know and am aware of the things that I want to do very quickly. I know that laughing with loved ones until past midnight was worth it. I know that being late to this convention is OK. I know that even if it weren’t, I would be able to make the choices that mean the most to me, not anyone else.
Having the food down means there is no buffer between me and life. That’s the good news and the bad news. It means I feel all of the feelings, good and bad. And it means I get to go with the flow. Joyous and disappointing alike. If my friends had told me I had to go at 8:30, I would have been able to go along with that as well.
So as it is, I am running late to get to the convention. But I will be happy to be there, not pressured, or resentful, or annoyed. I will have taken care of myself to the best of my ability. And not feeling pressured or forced leaves so much room for me to move around in my life.

Broken eyes and second breakfasts

My eyes are broken when it comes to size. When it comes to food portion size and my own body size. I am bad at those.

I think that there is an expectation, by others, and occasionally even myself, that over time certain aspects of my thinking will normalize. That somehow I will know what a portion looks like. Or that somehow I will see my body clearly.

After over 12 and a half years, that is still not the case for me. Even right now, when my body dysmorphia isn’t looming large, I am subject to my own broken eyes.

I gained weight a couple of months ago. It hasn’t come off, even though I stopped eating soy nuts (the weight gain offender, in this case) and I have come to terms with the fact that it may not. At least not on my schedule. My weight fluctuates. Or stays stubbornly static. I had to make friends with that.

Also, it occurs like more than it is. My weight does change from time to time. But I am particularly sensitive to it. So a little gain will feel like a huge one. My jeans got a little tighter a couple of months ago with the soy nuts. But in my head, I got “huge.” The same jeans still fit, just differently. But I sometimes wonder if anyone notices, and thinks bad things about me, if people at work can see the difference. (Spoiler alert: nobody at works cares enough about me to notice if I have gained or lost weight, except my husband, who actively avoids thinking about my weight, because “nothing good can come of that.” – His words. Compulsive eating ladies, this is the kind of man you want to marry.)

And then this week I bought some new workout clothes on the internet. Based on the size chart, I was supposed to buy a medium. But I thought for sure I would need a large. This is ridiculous when I think about it rationally. A medium was for size 8/10, and I am an 8. I could still go up a size and need a medium. It was still so hard to buy a medium.

When they came, they were hard to get on, and for a moment I thought, “damn it! I knew I needed a large.” And I almost didn’t even bother to try to get them on. But I did, and they actually fit perfectly. I just forgot how hard it is to struggle into new workout clothes. (My old ones were pretty stretched out, because I’m cheap, and I have only had 3 sets of clothes for over 2 years, but I work out 5 days a week. So my old ones have been worn and washed twice a week for years. Hence the need to buy new ones.)

As for food size, I control my portions with a scale. Some people seem to think this is extreme. It may be. But I have an extreme problem. I don’t know when I’m full. I don’t know what enough means.

This morning, I ate some bacon, sausage, and egg, plus whole milk in my coffee, and a quarter of a ginormous honeydew, and I will tell you, I could have eaten a whole other one. I mean a second complete breakfast. Seriously. Please know, sometimes I fantasize about it. Because I love to eat. I love food. It’s why I control my portions. Because how does a girl who would happily eat like a hobbit, know what enough is? The answer is, she doesn’t.

I am glad to be aware of the fact that my eyes are broken, and to have measures in place to make that irrelevant. I weigh my food to know exactly what I should eat. And as long as I control my portions, and keep boundaries around my eating, I don’t need to know what my body looks like. As long as I stay rational and look at the size chart when I buy clothes off the internet, I should be OK. Also, there is always sucking it up, and paying for return shipping. (I better keep an eye on the size chart, because let’s face it , once it’s here, it’s probably not getting sent back.)

And the Kate award for Kate awesomeness goes to…Kate (Who could have seen that coming?)

When I gave up sugar, I figured I would end up with an average, boring, mediocre life. And that did not thrill me, but I had become so unhappy in that previous year with eating and body image disorders that I was willing to go to any lengths.

I had always despised the thought of my own mediocrity. Perhaps it was being a child who grew up in the 80s. Sesame Street told us we were all special. Perhaps it was that I had a huge personality and love of the attention of strangers. People expected me to be a performer. And that made me expect to be a star. Or perhaps it was that I was born with a lot of a particular kind of talent, the kind of keen intelligence that made understanding the world around me easy as a kid. People called me precocious. I expected that I would be able to win for my whole life as easily as I had early on.

This was not the case for several reasons. Obviously, my pool got smarter. It turns out, they put smart kids with other smart kids. Also, I was pretty fragile emotionally. I did not take failure well. And I didn’t learn much from it. The lessons I took from failure usually ended up being not to do that thing I was bad at anymore. And, probably most importantly, early in life I figured out that sugar and carbs would make all of my difficult feelings go away.

This life that I have now would almost certainly make child and teen Kate cringe. It would occur to her as pathetic and pointless. It would occur to her as mediocrity incarnate.

But I look at this life as particularly extraordinary. And I think it’s specialness, and the fact that I think so, is all about having my eating under control.

Being the person I am now means I judge my success in terms of my integrity, my growth, and my contentment, not accolades or prizes from outside. This lack of outside approval is exactly what mediocrity looked like to my young self. How would I know I was awesome unless someone else told me. Unless everyone told me. Unless *important* people told me.

I am not diminishing the power of “important” prizes. But not everyone is going to win a Pulitzer. And I don’t have to base my pride in my life on whether or not I do. (I am not even writing right now. But even if I were.)

When I got my eating under control, it finally clicked for me that wanting an outcome had nothing practical to do with getting it. By putting boundaries around food, I learned about taking action. I learned about practice. As crazy as it seems to me now, I somehow had it in my head that wanting to lose weight was enough. But it’s not that crazy when you consider that sugar gets me high like a drug. The thing that was making me fat was also muddling my thinking. It was a win-win for sugar and a lose-lose for me.

Sometimes people in the self-help world talk about visualization. I used to think this meant something like visualizing myself winning the Pulitzer. And while science says that there is a case for that kind of visualization being effective, what is more effective is visualizing oneself *doing the work.* Because if you picture yourself doing the work, you are more likely to actually do the work.

Through having my eating under control and thereby getting a body I could love and be comfortable in, I came to understand about the practicality of achieving something. I got this body by entirely changing the way I eat. I did something about my body. I didn’t just “want” it to be different, I did the work.

Between my meals, I do the next right thing in my life, whatever that is for my next goal. When I wasn’t working full time, it was writing. Now that I am working, it can be dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s on a particular work task, making sure I am doing my job to the best of my ability. Or in my free time it can be ripping out a section of knitting because I realized I did something wrong and I want to get it right. Or it can be drinking my water quota or going on my jog.

I practice the things I want for myself and the things I want to get better at. And in understanding practice, I have come to recognize that one doesn’t win a Pulitzer Prize by aiming to win one. One writes the book or the music. One does the thing. And maybe it strikes a chord with one’s fellow humans. Or maybe it doesn’t.

The idea that something I do won’t wow the world no longer feels mediocre to me. The idea that I do *anything,* especially with any semblance of integrity and consistency, whatever that may be, feels like I have become a powerhouse in the world. I feel like a shining example of accomplishment. And I haven’t won an award of any kind since high school.

I used to think that everyone understood life but me. I used to think that knowing with certainty what to do next was obvious to everyone else. I felt incapable compared to all of the confident, well-adjusted beings all around me. But I realized that most people are flying just as blind as I always was. They are just better at hiding it.

And I realized that wanting to be liked by others more than honoring oneself is about as average and mediocre as it gets. And here I am trying to impress the hell out of myself. That sounds pretty extraordinary to me, if I do say so myself.

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