onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “taking risks”

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.

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.

Not a special kind of fat

I forgot I had to write a blog today. That, my friends, is what the alarm is for. I have an alarm that goes off on Sunday morning, asking if I posted a blog. Today, the answer was no. Actually, the answer was a lot of profanity, because I was just about to cook for the week. Anyway, time to write.

I have been thinking a lot about the fact that this blog has changed significantly over the years. And as I have gotten healthier, spiritually and emotionally, it has become less compelling.
I am not saying that I don’t have a compelling blog occasionally, but compared to the kinds of things I was writing 7 years ago, when I was working through a lot of leftover stuff from growing up fat, my writing has been…I don’t know. Maybe just less compelling. 
I am not yet ready to hang up my keyboard on this. Not yet, anyway. The act of writing every week makes a difference in my life. It helps me remember that I am a compulsive eating sugar addict every day. Even when it all seems like regular old life. It helps me remember that there are still people out there suffering who should know that if they are unhappy in the life they are in, and the body they are in, and the mind they are in, that there is a solution. One that works.  Not just “for a time” but for months. Years. Over a decade! Who would have thought it? 
When I think about the fact that I spent the entire decade of my 30s with my food under control, that seems like a miracle. Quite frankly, it was a miracle. When I think about the fact that my 40s have me as a person who works out 5 days a week, like a practice, that also is a miracle. 
I was a person who shunned things like caring about my body because I thought they were impossible for me. I thought I was a special kind of fat. The kind that could not be changed. So I hated people who could maintain a healthy weight. I hated people who could and did work out. In my head I ridiculed them. For being shallow. For being obnoxious. For being “normal.” 
But the longer I grow into a person who honors self-care, the more I see that people who care for their bodies are not “normal.” That they are rare. And ever rarer. They are the ones making a difference for themselves and for others.
I am not skinny. I talk about this a lot. Especially lately, while I am getting older and holding more fat on my body. And because I don’t eat low calorie foods in order to maintain a lower weight. It also helps that in my happily married (not so) old age, I don’t have to judge my body through the eyes of some imagined future partner. And that has changed my perception of self-care. I work out because I love my body. I don’t eat sugar because I love my freedom from food addiction. I don’t worry about the weight of my self. I worry about the weight of my protein at each meal. I weigh that out exactly. I weigh all of my food. I follow rules. And by doing that I can let my body be what it is.
So perhaps this is not as compelling as when I was working out my past in front of all of you. But I am currently particularly grateful that I am here, being the proof that even the most “specially fat” of us has hope. And that even the most steadfastly “anti-health”-on-principle of us can have a change of heart and a workout routine.
And yes. I did my workout my 5 days this week. Outside. With the big ol’ hill. And it felt great to keep my commitment.

Stretching, strength, and grace (ish)

I have had a pretty intense week, all focused around my job. Some things needed to get done. Things that were (are) “above my pay grade,” as they say. But there was nobody else there to do them. So I got them done. I had to ask for a lot of help, and ask a lot of questions, and there was a pretty steep learning curve, but the work got done. And I learned a lot. 

When I compare who I am as an employee, and as a worker in general, since I got my eating under control, to when I was growing up eating compulsively, the difference is stark. I would say that the biggest change in my life is not my body, or even my relationships, and those are entirely made new. I would say the biggest change in myself is as a worker. 
In the food, I was a liar, a cheater, and a thief. Which is some serious sinning. But it all stemmed from the fact that I was easily overwhelmed, plus terrified of failure and judgment to the point of paralysis, and rash-decision-making. In the food I was engulfed in a sugar fog that impaired my thinking, and temporarily numbed any feelings of guilt. 
In the food I was fighting for survival, but just barely, because I didn’t have any life skills or the ability to be sober long enough to learn some. I was getting by, minute to minute, waiting to either be rescued by someone who wasn’t me, or to eat enough chocolate cake that it didn’t matter anymore that I was drowning. Or both. Usually both.
In getting my food under control I became honest. I became a good worker, and a person of integrity. I started worrying less about how I might fail, and caring more about how I might help. 
In getting my food under control, I learned how to be strong and graceful (or at least graceful-ish). The way one learns to be strong and graceful is to get stuck in a bad situation, and to get ourselves out. In having my food taken care of, and having a clear head, I learned how to ask for help, how to take direction, how to take baby steps, how to figure out the right questions to ask, how to do the best I can, and then let the chips fall where they may.
In the end, that work thing I did that was “above my pay grade” helped us nail down our next job assignment. And that means we have to wind down here, pack up our apartment, and move on to the next town and the next job. 
That is par for the course in this way of life. And after almost 6 years of it, the husband and I are pretty good at it. It can be a little stressful. And I do enjoy it when we get to a place and we can settle in for the time being.  But by the time we leave, we will have been here about a year. And that is usually enough time to be done with a place. 
I am excited to move on. And grateful that I helped make it happen by stretching myself. And that I have the skills to do so with strength and grace(ish)fullness.

Pop quiz! How committed are you?

There is a saying I heard many years ago. Do not pray for patience. Whatever you pray for, God will test you. 

It is my experience that God, or Life, or whatever you want to call it, will always test a commitment, and give you a chance to turn back. Those of you who have been with me from the beginning may remember that the week I quit smoking I acquired a stalker. (Are you *really* committed to quitting smoking, Kate? Even in this stressful situation?) Well, I was really committed, but seriously!?!?!
I once heard a man say that the hardest time to keep his eating boundaries was when his mother died. Because it was exactly the kind of situation where nobody would blame him. You ate cake? Well, your mother just died. Who could blame you?
Last week I wrote that I only jogged 4 days instead of 5 after I slipped on the ice. And I said that I was worried that it meant that I wasn’t committed. And I declared to you that I was, and I *am* committed. So life decided to make me prove it.
I have lived in my apartment complex for about 10 months and I have been working out at 5:30am for about 9 of those months. And on Monday, there was a woman in the gym using the treadmill. Well, not just the treadmill. She was using all of the machines, and weights, like some kind of circuit. (Don’t ask me. I just jog.) But I asked and she let me have the treadmill. But then on Tuesday, there was someone else with her and it seemed like I wasn’t going to get to jog that morning, so I came back after work. (I *hate* working out after work. I am already exhausted. That jog was brutal.)
The next day I got there 20 minutes earlier, and again, she was already there. But again, she let me have the treadmill. 
I spent a lot of time being worried about my workout. All week, I stressed about it. I came up with alternate plans like going to a regular gym where I still keep a membership, in case of emergency. But I didn’t have to. I saw this lady every morning, and I still managed to get my workout done. 
My commitment to keeping boundaries around my eating has truly taught me about commitment. It has given me reference points for how to problem solve when life doesn’t go according to plan. And it has allowed me to prioritize my long game. 
I didn’t have a long game when I was eating compulsively. I lived for the comfort of the moment. If I had kept on that path, I would doubtlessly be well over 300 lbs right now. I would not be jogging. I would be in great physical discomfort much of the time, and I would numb the physical and emotional pain of that with more sugar and only exacerbate the problem. I am sure I would not be married, because I would hate myself so much that I would shut everyone out. And I would not love my life, even if there was much to love, because I would not have the confidence or pride that I have gained through my accomplishments. And I am not taking about losing weight, though I don’t diminish that as an accomplishment. I mean all of the promises I have kept to myself, all of the skills I have acquired through patience and practice and work, and all of the risks I have taken to stretch and grow out of old ideas and an old life. 
I don’t want to go back to my old habits and choices and ways. I didn’t like myself or that life. But it’s not comfortable to have to come up with an alternate plan to get my workout done. Especially when my workout is work. 
There is a famous writer’s quote, attributed to many authors, but I am going with Dorthy Parker. *I hate writing, but love having written.* I feel this way about many things in my life. Writing, certainly. But exercise is also high on that list. Anything that is work, but yields a high reward. Meal prep is right up there too. (Eating, however, is not on that list. Even without sugar and simple carbohydrates, I love eating. And having eaten. And looking forward to eating.)
But in some ways, I am glad to have had this test. It lets me prove, not just to Life, but to myself, that I honor my priorities and my promises. And let’s me know I can be trusted. Which in turn lets me know that I can strive for more. (Baby steps, mind you. But baby steps are still moving in the right direction.)

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.

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.

Routine and adventure

I travel with my husband for work. And I love it. I love the kind of travel we do. Long stints in a bunch of places. (So far we have done Mississippi, a couple of places in Kentucky, a couple in Texas, a couple in Indiana, and one in Tennessee.) One of the things I particularly like is it occurs like the perfect balance between routine and adventure.

I like routine. It makes the food boundaries easier. Having a home with all of the cookware I need to cook delicious meals, and getting to know the grocery stores and butcher shops, and what they have, and where to get what I need as well as what I want. And there is an indescribable peace that comes with knowing that my highest priority is always taking care of my food addiction. I know that if I do that, everything else will be well.

And I like adventure. I like seeing new places and meeting new people. I also like trying new foods, new seasonings, new flavors around the country. My husband and I are on a hot sauce kick at the moment. And it’s fun! And a mini adventure in itself. (Just reading all of the labels and ingredients lists is like an adventure within an adventure. And yes, there are a lot of hot sauces I cannot try because they have a lot of sugar.)

What I love too, is knowing that I can keep my food boundaries anywhere. Some places are less convenient than others, of course. But it is all about my commitment. And sometimes, that inability to get whatever I want at a moment’s notice gives me the opportunity to try new things in a different way.

When we were in small town Mississippi, I did not eat out at restaurants. I knew that they could not accommodate me. I made sure I had my own food all the time. But there, I figured out where to buy beautiful steaks, sugar free bacon, giant cantaloupes and apples. It’s also where a friend found me a recipe for making my own vanilla without alcohol. And I was lucky to have another friend who would bring me kabocha squash and fried tofu up from New Orleans once a month when she came to visit. I had yet another friend who introduced me to a bowl for making my own ice cream. It’s also where I was introduced to Chinese Five Spice, which I still use all the time. So obviously, in terms of food, small town Mississippi was not too bad for me. I did not miss eating out at restaurants.

I love my happy lifestyle, gently swaying from adventure to routine and back. I love the things I learn and the things I get to try. Some of them become staples, and some pass with the next move and the next town. But no matter where I end up, my food boundaries go with me. And I always make sure they are delicious.

What could be more convenient than that?

In February of 2011, about a year before I started writing this blog, I was having a talk with one of my roommates and good friends. He pointed out to me (it was solicited, I might add) that I had a very small comfort zone. This was spot on. Whenever it was implied to me by any person or circumstance that it would behoove me to step out of that comfort zone, I clung to the edges like a Looney Tunes character in a doorway.

As I said, it took me nearly a year after that conversation to start writing this blog, the purpose of which was to help me take risks with my life, so I could have things like love and adventure. In other words, it took me a year to be ready to be ready, to be willing to be willing.

Now, I have been married to the love of my life for over 2 years and we travel the country for work, moving every 3 months to year and a half.

I love this life. It is fun and exciting. I love seeing new places and learning new things. But it can be exhausting. This week I worked from home part time, plus secured my husband and myself an apartment in our next town, including electricity and internet. Plus, I had to deal with some seemingly shady dealings with our last landlords. Not to mention cooking, laundry, dishes and grocery shopping.

There is a lot to working on the road. And let’s face it, moving sucks. And while we get better and better at it every time, it is almost never just smooth sailing.

Having my eating under control is absolutely the rock that makes it possible for me to not only live, but love, this life. Knowing what I am going to eat, how much, and when, leaves so much of my brain free to deal with inevitable hiccups and snafus. Knowing that I must eat my meals within certain times reminds me to stop what I am doing to eat lunch, no matter what it is or how important it seems at the moment. Eating my meals is the most important thing. Period. Not eating foods that get me high keeps me sane, clear-headed, and focused, which keeps me able to get things done quickly and efficiently.

When people hear about my many rules and boundaries around eating, they often marvel at what they consider to be inconvenience. Sometimes it is. But mostly, it is the thing that makes everything else in my life fit into its proper place. And I can’t think of what could be more convenient than that.

Back to normal, which is still not all that normal

I gotta be honest. I have no idea what to write about this week. I am emotionally exhausted. And just as life was finally leaving “surreal” and returning to day-to-day, we were told that we have to leave Texas. Again…

When I got my eating under control 12 years ago, I made my life kind of small. I wrapped myself in my own comfort zone, like a cocoon. And that really worked for me. It kept me protected from food. At that point, food was my problem. I mean I had other problems, but they would all manage to get worked out as long as I took care of the food problem.

But about 6 years in, (yes, 6 whole years of having my eating under control) I wanted a bigger life. And I ended up falling in love with a man who travels for a living. And I agreed to spend my life living in different towns for somewhere between a few months and a few years.

So I don’t really want to leave Texas yet. But this is the life I agreed to. And, really, I love it in general. Though, not all the time. But who loves their life all the time?

Tomorrow I will cook meals for two days of travel. And we will head back to Texas to pack up our apartment. And soon enough, we will find out what’s next.

So I guess this is normal life. It’s the “normal” I chose 5 years ago. And I’m grateful for all of it.

Post Navigation