Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “this too shall pass”

With all due respect to FDR, I fear food more than I fear fear.

I had some high anxiety days this week. And while I am sure that my life would be more comfortable if I didn’t have moments of…well, discomfort…I won’t complain. It turns out that’s just not the way life goes. For anybody. And it was good to be reminded of some things.

Like that it’s nice to not only be able to feel, but also to be able to accurately recognize feelings. To be able to name them. I can say, “Hey! I’m feeling a little anxious today.” Which I couldn’t do when I was eating compulsively. Because I would eat my feelings before I knew what they were. I wouldn’t even recognize that I was having feelings, because everything masqueraded as hunger. I was well into adulthood before I realized that my yearning for food was really just yearning to get high. I just wanted to numb out.

When I stopped eating sugar and carbohydrates, and put boundaries around my food, one of the rules I took on was eating 3 meals a day. They are big, abundant, filling, and healthy meals. But there are exactly 3 of them. I do not snack. I do not save a little of a meal and put it aside for later. I do not graze. Three times a day, it is time for eating. And the rest of the time, it is not. The rest of the time it is time to do something else.

This is important because I cannot eat my feelings anymore. I may get to escape them for 20 minutes to an hour at any given meal time. But when dinner is done, and especially since there is no sugar in my meals to drug me, there is no getting away from myself. And that has proven to be a blessing.

Because it happens that you don’t get to pick and choose your feelings. You don’t get to feel and enjoy fun, joy and camaraderie if you insist on stuffing pain, anxiety and unhappiness.

It was actually something that surprised me when I stopped eating sugar. I found that I often wanted to eat because my happiness or excitement was overwhelming. It wasn’t just “bad” feelings that I found uncomfortable, it was all feelings.

So when I first stopped eating sugar and started only eating 3 times a day, I would think that I was hungry, but I wouldn’t eat. Because it wasn’t time. And then that hunger would grow and change. First into discomfort, and then into a feeling. A feeling I could grasp and name.

And none of those feelings ever killed me. Look! I’m still here! Breathing, even! And no longer afraid to feel things. Even yucky things. Like shame and jealousy and anger and embarrassment. I may not like those feelings, but I don’t have to fear them either. They always turn out to be paper tigers. Where as the food, the sugar and the constant eating and the obsession that I used to use to avoid those feelings, was killing me. Both physically and emotionally.

There is one other thing that my anxiety this week has me grateful for. It was good to remember that every feeling doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes feelings mean something. Many of my less pleasurable feelings have been signs that I needed to make some changes in my life.

But I don’t think I was learning any major life lessons this week. There was nothing in particular that triggered my mild panic. I don’t think recreational crocheting should make my heart race and fill me with dread. Which is what I was doing when I started to feel the impending doom. I think I am a person with a naturally anxious disposition. And it doesn’t mean anything about me.

I used to think that everything was a sign. That everything had a deeper, hidden meaning. That I was a puzzle that I was supposed to solve.

Now I suppose that may be true. But I stopped trying to solve the puzzle that is Kate. I stopped worrying about the hidden meaning. I figure that hormones and brain chemicals have a lot to do with my reactions to day to day experiences. That living in a body is complicated and strange no matter how healthy, sane, and well-balanced you are. And that if there is a major life lesson to learn, I will certainly learn it. It’s my experience that life is a strict schoolmaster. It doesn’t just let you off the hook. If there’s a lesson, there’s a test. And you will have to take that test as many times as it takes for you to ace it.

So for today I am grateful that my anxiety has passed. But more, that I know when I am afraid. And that I know better than to fear fear.


Stupid Mirror! I said fairest, not fattest!

In my post several weeks ago I said that I was worried that quitting smoking would make me gain weight. And then I said that I was being a whiner. That 2 or even 5 lbs was not worth considering. Well since I quit smoking, I gained 3 lbs. And I’m going to admit it. I am upset. Not just upset. It’s making me crazy in the head.

It’s all mixed up with feeling fat, hence feeling ugly. With being obsessed with what I look like.  And with analyzing what I am eating to decide if it is making me fat. In other words, I am having a body image disorder attack.

I want to say that the 3 lbs is probably water retention. That is one of the side effects of quitting smoking. And the only part of my body that is noticeably bigger is my stomach. (I should say the only part noticeably bigger to me. Because I don’t know if anybody else has noticed. But in my head, everybody can tell. And they all think it’s disgusting…Because people have nothing better to do than take note of, and pass judgment on my body. Obviously.) If it is that I am bloated, it will go away. It has only been 6 weeks. I am trying to remember that that is not a long time. That my body is going to be adjusting for a while yet. That just because my brain has stopped thinking of me as a smoker, doesn’t mean my body is done dealing with the change.

I have had this “big belly” for about 6 weeks now. And it has annoyed me. But my face and skin look great, so in general I had been feeling pretty damn beautiful. Sure, I have been dressing in a way that I think hides my belly, because I have been a little embarrassed. And a week ago I told a friend over the phone that I look six months pregnant, and she laughed at me and said, “I’m sure you don’t. Your eyes are broken, sweetie. Remember?”
And she is right. My eyes are “broken”. From time to time, and to varying degrees, I cannot see myself clearly. Even when I am looking in the mirror. When I am having a body image disorder attack, my brain will distort how I see myself. For me, it’s one of the other issues that comes with having eating disorders. So that attack happened to be mild. And in that moment, I agreed that I probably didn’t actually look six months pregnant. And we laughed. And I remembered that, all things considered, even with the belly, I really was looking fantastic, and I went on with my life.

And then two days ago, it hit me that I am so incredibly fat. Grotesquely fat. Jabba the Hut fat. I have cried over how ugly I think I am. How distorted my body looks. How ashamed I am.

I am having a severe body image disorder attack. And when my body image disorders flare up, they often get tied up with food.

There is a restaurant here in New York City that makes deep-fried onions. No breading. Just onions cooked in the deep fryer. Totally within my boundaries. So incredibly satisfying and delicious. And a huge part of my food life. For years now I have gone there at least once a week. Often twice a week. And even occasionally, three times a week. For years!

I went there this week. I ended up bringing home some leftovers (again, a very common occurrence) and they started to make me crazy. I looked in the mirror and saw myself as a disgusting blob. And then I thought about the onions in the refrigerator, and I started to obsess over them. Wondering if they were the real reason I gained 3 lbs. Wondering if I would get fat from the leftovers. I couldn’t stop thinking about what eating them would do to me. To my body. To my stomach. So finally, I had to throw them away. I had to get them out of my house. I had to get them out of my head.

Let’s say for argument’s sake that I did, indeed, actually gain these 3 lbs because quitting smoking slowed my metabolism. Let’s say fried onions are the culprit in my weight gain, and not water retention. Perhaps you are thinking 3 lbs, Kate? Really? You used to weigh 300 lbs, and now being 136 instead of 133 is making you crazy?
Yes. The answer to that is absolutely yes. I am not saying it makes sense. The truth is, I have been 141 lbs and totally happy in my body. And I am 136 now and could not be more miserable. My brain gives rational the middle finger when it comes to weight and my body. There is no rhyme or reason to why I feel about my body the way I do. These bouts of body image disorder can come from out of nowhere.

Let me explain to you what rational Kate knows. I have not broken my food boundaries. I am not eating more or heavier within those boundaries than I have in the past. In fact, I am probably eating lighter these past few months than I have in a couple of years. There is no way that I will get fat from eating the way that I eat. Even if quitting smoking has slowed my metabolism. Even if I eat deep-fried onions and bacon twice a week. And I don’t even think it’s true that quitting has affected my metabolism! I really think it’s water. I really think it will pass in time. And I weigh 136 lbs and I am 5’6.5″. I am not fat. I am not even chubby. At absolute worst, I am just not skinny.

Now let me explain to you how knowing this rationally helps with my eating disorder brain.

IT DOESN’T! It doesn’t make me see myself clearly in the mirror. It doesn’t make me love my body. It doesn’t make me compare 136 to 300 and thank God. It does not help to know!

I feel like there is an expectation by society for an intelligent, beautiful woman to be able to see herself clearly. To be able to think critically and rationally and “snap out of it.” Or maybe that is just my projection. Maybe it’s that I think that I should just be able to snap out of it. But I can’t. I am sick. All I can do is sit tight and wait for it to pass.

If I give up control of my food and go back into my eating disorders, I can expect to live in this place where I think I am gargantuan, until I eat myself back to actually being gargantuan. But as long as I keep my food under control, I know that this will pass. I have been here before, and it has always passed. If I maintain my food boundaries, I will eventually go back to looking in the mirror and thinking I’m a knockout. And being so grateful that I am beautiful. And being vain. But for now, this sucks. And hurts. And it’s no fun. And there is nothing to do about it but wait…

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