onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “truth”

If I end up in the political correctness slammer, please don’t sneak a file to me in a cake…

Perhaps you read the article in the New York Times this week called Losing It In the Anti-Diet Age. If not you can read it here

I found it interesting. Especially because the author is, herself, a fat person who can tell you first hand what it’s like to be a fat person in America. I too know what it’s like. I know how it feels to go on a diet, and lose weight, only to gain it all back, even though you don’t want to, don’t mean to, would literally do anything to not, from sticking things down your throat to make yourself throw up (something I did personally), to, say, getting your stomach removed (something I did not do, but know people who have). I know what it is like to be made fun of and have people talk about you as if you are a thing, with no feelings. To have them question your goodness, your honor, your worth; a fat person must be lazy, stupid, careless, and pathetic, or they would deal with their weight. I was struck hard by the author’s mention that a commenter on another article she wrote said, “Why doesn’t she stop eating so much?” As if we hadn’t effing thought of that ourselves already. There is talk of willpower. A doctor talked about getting an individual down to a goal weight with medication so that they could make a fresh start, but then they were going to have to get willpower. (Seriously? Screw you.)

All of this sounds to me like thin people who have no idea what it is like to be fat, trying to solve a problem they don’t even understand in the first place. Thin people don’t need to figure out how to stop eating. They already don’t overeat. That’s like having a person with a lot of hair try to cure baldness just because they have hair and bald people don’t.

But another issue in this article that I wanted to address is the change in the language of dieting in the culture. Words like “diet,” “dieting,” and “weight loss” are becoming taboo. We want to talk about “health,” and “strength.”

Except that we only want to talk about them. Ultimately, we want, as individuals, especially fat individuals, to not be obese. I didn’t want to be fat. I still wanted to be treated like a whole, worthwhile human being, fat or not, but I did not want to be fat.

Perhaps this is where the disconnect lies. See, I hate this new cultural phenomenon that I call “the feelings police.” We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, so we don’t talk openly and honestly about difficult subjects, for fear of being branded politically incorrect, hence heartless and out of touch.

But not facing these things head on is not helping anyone. Strike that. It’s helping the sugar and junk food industries. And it’s helping companies like Weight Watchers. Who are still selling a diet, but are marketing it, in true politically correct fashion, as a program for getting healthy.

Here’s the problem: Weight Watchers never changed the barometer for how you would know it was working. It’s the same barometer. Did you lose weight? If we were truly having a conversation about health, we would have a different measuring stick. Stress test results, for example. Getting off your diabetes medication. Being able to run with your dog in the morning. If you are calling your program “Beyond the Scale,” perhaps you should measure success with something other than the number on the scale.

But I am not actually condoning that; I am merely pointing out the problem with consistency. If you want to be healthy, and you don’t care what your weight is, and you use some benchmark other than weight for your own happiness, good for you! You go! Do it! I am all for fat acceptance. I will not judge you for loving yourself at any and every size. In fact, I encourage it. I truly believe that it is in loving ourselves without caveats and conditions that we can begin to make changes that are both healthy and lasting. But I think that if you want to lose weight, really, you are going to have to look at it for what it is. You have to stop worrying about political correctness. You may have to deal with a late night knock on your door from the feelings police telling you that you have violated statute whatever-whatever stating that you will not say anything that could, intentionally or unintentionally, hurt the feelings of any person, or group. You are going to have to get real.

The author talks in the article about going back to Weight Watchers for a third time in her life. And perhaps you are asking why. She already knows from her own experience that it does not work, so why yet another attempt? I don’t have to ask why. I already know all too well why. Because if you hate being fat, you will do whatever you can, whenever you can to stop being fat. And you will hold out hope against hope that this time will be the special time where the thin “sticks.” And also, because, in my experience, programs like Weight Watchers tell people that if they are “good” they will get results. If they get some willpower, they will be thin. As if willpower is out there to be had, if you are lucky enough to run across some, like a perk in a video game. You have acquired willpower. Lose 100 pounds and level up.

But here’s the thing that I found lacking in the article, perhaps because the author doesn’t have a context for it: when she talks about going around the Obesity Week conference she says, “…it [made me sad] because if you have this many hundreds of smart and educated people trying to figure this out, and nobody has anything for me but superfood and behavior modification and an insertable balloon and the removal of an organ, it must be that there is no way to solve fatness.”

To this I say, abstinence from processed, and sugary foods. Or, perhaps it is better to say, abstinence from your personal binge/trigger foods. (I know a man who knows that his personal trigger foods are “the guy foods,” like barbecue ribs, as opposed to me and cake.) Total and complete abstinence. To my mind this is not behavior modification, because that term seems to imply that the problem is with my hand, rather than my brain. “Doctor, my hand just keeps grabbing donuts and shoving them into my mouth! What should I do?” This article in no way addresses food as an addictive substance, or mentions any modification in diet (specific foods as opposed to portions) as a lifestyle change. The author talks about Thanksgiving as a kind of food hell for dieters. But of course it is! It’s a room of foods that trigger our reward centers and create a craving for more. If you go to Thanksgiving and you eat the things you have not been eating for the past week/month/year, and they are back in your system, so are the cravings.

I cannot think of a person that I have met who has had long-term weight loss by “managing.” In fact, I believe it is exactly this “managing” that keeps us in the cycle of losing and gaining it all back, feeling like this time we can do it, and then feeling like failures. If you cannot or will not give up your binge foods, then I recommend that you either get comfortable with that cycle of yo-yoing, or you stop trying to lose weight in the first place.

I am not talking about thin people. We all know that thin people are not having these problems. They can, as the author ends the article noting, lovingly lick the icing off a cupcake with impunity. They already are managing without having to think about it. I am talking about people who are fat and don’t want to be. Eat whole foods, in moderation, and abstain from foods that make you want more of them.

Perhaps you are thinking, “But cupcakes are so good!” Or “I could never give up barbecue ribs!” Cool. Then get your fat acceptance on! Work that! Eat your cupcake and love your beautiful, fat self! But if you want to lose weight and keep it off, chances are you are going to have to give up certain foods forever.

That is an unpopular opinion. Feel free to call the feelings police. I may get sent to political correctness jail, but I’ll be there in a comfortable body with my dignity intact.

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I trust my gut (except about cake)

I have had a couple of things happen in the past week or so that have made me question my savvy.

The first incident happened late last week. I jog my two miles in the morning, and I usually start before sunrise. On this particular day, it was drizzling. (In case you are wondering, I wear one of my husband’s reflective vests so I can be easily seen.) At one point on that route, I would run for about a quarter mile with no houses nearby. There are some buildings, but they are set back about a block from the sidewalk where I would run, not to mention that the whole area is fenced off.

While I was approaching an intersection on that houseless stretch the other day, I noticed a black pick-up slow down, and then stop. I was wary. I veered off a little to run farther away from the truck, when the man inside it got out. Now I know that southerners are friendly, but this was a huge red flag for me. I yelled at this guy to “stay the f*** away from me,” but he kept approaching and just smiled at me and asked if I wanted a ride. Now I don’t care where you are from, if a woman tells you to stay the f*** away from her, the next right action is always to immediately leave her alone. So I veered even farther away from him and yelled at him that I was going for a run, he was scaring me, and “don’t get out of your f***ing car!” At which point he got back into his truck and sped off, clearly furious, tires squealing.

This man set off my fight or flight reaction. Do I know that he was up to no good? I don’t. But do I think so? I sure do.

When I talked to my husband about it later that night, he said that he suspected that this man was just flirting with me. But we agreed that I would change my route so that there are houses around me the whole time. Plus he got me a whistle and a can of pepper spray.

Then this week, a man knocked on my door and said that he was from the local fire department and he wanted to check that my smoke detectors were working properly. I believed him, but I told him that I was not from the south and that where I am from, we do not let people into our houses. Then I posted about it on Facebook, and a handful of people I know from New York and Chicago freaked out. They thought it was a scam. They were sure this man was dangerous, or at least out to rob me. But this man did not set off my fight or flight reaction. I was simply being cautious. However, I did call the fire department and it turned out that the guy was legit. I live in an apartment that is attached to another apartment, and in those circumstances, the fire department here does, indeed, send someone out to check the smoke detectors.

The man who answered the phone at the fire department was very nice. We joked and laughed a little, and he said that it was fine that I did not let the man in the house. That my safety should be a priority and that I did the right thing.

When one lives in places like New York City, or Chicago, one acquires a set of skills for reading the atmosphere. I have long prided myself on my street smarts. But the truth is that living in a smaller town, especially a southern one, is different. People tend to be more trusting, and friendlier. And because of that, the way official business gets done is in a friendlier and less “official-feeling” way. I’m sure that the people who were born and raised here think it’s better this way. I’m sure they appreciate the neighborly ambiance of their culture. But to a Chicagoan and a New Yorker, yeah…not so much…

So these two incidents, and more specifically, other people’s reaction to them, had me start to doubt myself. They started to make me feel crazy, or at the very least, like I was losing my “instincts.” My husband thought I was overreacting to the man in the truck. My city friends thought I was not being vigilant enough regarding the man at the door. And I started to question myself. Am I losing my street smarts? Am I not seeing things clearly?

I often talk about the clarity and confidence I get from keeping boundaries around my eating. One of my favorite benefits is that I don’t doubt myself. I always felt that getting my eating under control only made those atmosphere-reading skills stronger and more reliable. But when my reactions were repeatedly called into question, especially after years of small town living, I began to call those skills into question.

When I first put boundaries around my food, people in my life (and strangers too) had a lot of opinions. People questioned whether it was healthy to give up carbohydrates. They thought I was losing too much weight. Or losing it too quickly. They thought it was “crazy” to give up sugar forever. They said I should eat it once in a while. They said I should have a cheat day. They said it was okay for my birthday, a holiday, a special occasion. They said it was just one bite. Thankfully, at that time, I had the wherewithal to realize that I was experiencing, from my strict boundaries, a peace and freedom that I had never experienced from moderation, or just one bite, or sometimes. I trusted my gut. (I mean my instincts, not my stomach. My stomach was still campaigning for cake then.)

I think what happened in the past week or so was an important lesson for me. It was a good reminder that I am still clear-headed and perceptive. It was a good reminder that I not only can, but should, trust my instincts. It was an opportunity to reaffirm for myself that, while I may ask for help sometimes, or for a sounding board sometimes, or for someone else’s opinion sometimes, I don’t have to doubt myself or question my clarity. That I am just as savvy, even after all this time in small town America. And it was a chance to recognize that I do not have to listen to the chatter that tells me to question myself.

The truth is, I was pretty sure that the man from the fire department was who he said he was, and I still did not let him in the house. You can take the girl out of the city, but it’s a damn sight harder to take the city out of the girl. But I am grateful that these incidents brought something to my attention; it was not that my instincts were getting eroded, but my confidence in them. And now I feel pretty confident. I know that the people who questioned and doubted did so out of love. And I can be grateful, and honor that. But I don’t have to trust them more than I trust myself.

(Ba ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba ba) I wanna be sedated.

I keep boundaries around my eating, but I am not on a diet. And sometimes, I eat for comfort, but always within those boundaries.

I ate heavy on Wednesday. Lots of high-fat, high-calorie foods. Since then, I have reined it in. Because having boundaries around one’s food doesn’t necessarily mean being thin. I could be fat and still be eating within my food boundaries. I make different choices because I don’t want to be fat. I don’t like it. I have my priorities.

The big difference between me now, and me when I was active in my sugar/food addiction was that back then, even if I wanted to rein it in, I couldn’t. I was a slave.

Look, I don’t “like” to eat lighter (i.e. less fat on my vegetables, less fatty meat, smaller fruit portions, fewer high calorie foods in general.) Ever. I want to eat all big and juicy, fatty, greasy, ooey gooey all the time. I want to roll away from the table because I’m too stuffed to walk properly. Much like the late, great Joey Ramone, (Ba ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba ba) I wanna be sedated.

But, of course, I don’t want what comes with that. I don’t want the extra weight. I don’t want the lethargy. I don’t want the obsession with food, even foods that are “by the rules.”

Food got me through difficult times when I didn’t have tools. But it’s important to note that I still gave up sugar and put boundaries around my eating before I had life-coping tools. Because I was never going to learn to cope without food until I gave up food. I was never going to figure out what my options were while sugar was still an option. Because as long as my substance was a possibility, I was always going to choose it. So I made a commitment. And something happens to you when you make a commitment. It looks and feels a little like magic, but I’ve come to realize that it’s pretty standard. I closed the door on numbing out with sugar. I chose that I was going to maintain my food boundaries no matter what happened in my life. Yes, I still use food as a comfort sometimes. But I do so with integrity. More than just eating within my boundaries, I bear in mind what I want for myself, and my body, and make food choices that coincide with those desires.

Since I stopped eating sugar, food no longer runs my life. I have the clarity and wherewithal to take a step back and look at the long-term consequences of what I eat. I don’t have to make decisions based on temporary discomfort. I have tools to deal with unhappiness and upset that are not edible. I get anxious, nervous, upset, unhappy ALL THE TIME. Food, even within my boundaries, had to stop being my go-to answer. I was forced to come up with some alternatives.

But what happened was that for a while there in the beginning, I was bad at life. I didn’t have sugar, and I didn’t have tools. But the commitment I made was clear. The sugar was not coming back. And it turned out that the old saying was right: necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention. I invented new ways of dealing with my problems. And I did it pretty damn quick. I found coping strategies. I got honest. I got grateful. I got responsible. I stopped blaming circumstances and started making choices and taking actions. Sometimes I effed up. Sometimes I effed up royally. But I learned. And I grew. And I got better at life. Hell, I got good at life.

When I was eating compulsively, and lying about food, I was always going to come clean about my transgressions after I got myself back under control. You know, (or maybe you don’t) I was going to admit that I ate a chocolate cake once I went a week without eating chocolate cake. I was going to admit that I gained 10 pounds cheating on my diet once I got back on that diet and lost the 10 pounds. I was going to be honest once I took care of the consequences.

Spoiler Alert! It doesn’t work that way. Instead of getting my shit together so I could come clean, I needed to come clean so I could get my shit together. I have never ever once gotten my integrity back before I got honest. And let me tell you, I sure did try a whole bunch of times, over and over, for most of my life.

So I let myself take comfort in comfort food. And that was nice. I am not ashamed. I love food. I will never be neutral about it. But food is not my coping mechanism. I have actual life skills for that now.

Because fear makes the wolf bigger than he is…

Just in case you don’t already know, I am the yellowest coward of them all. And since I’ve decided that I am going to go ahead and publicly document my experiences as a woman living with eating disorders, I thought the first thing I should do is share what scares the hell out of me about it.

First, I am afraid of not following through when it gets trying, or boring. That when it comes to the point of finding something about myself that I don’t want to acknowledge, instead of accepting my humanity, honoring my life, and sharing it with you like a gift, I will come down with a terminal case of the fuck-its. And worse, that the day someone asks “Are you still writing that blog?” I will make up some paltry excuse about how it didn’t work out, but it wasn’t my fault.

Second, I am afraid of boring you, annoying you, and/or being rejected by you. I worry that I will tell you about the gross, pathetic, and wicked parts of myself, and instead of gaining some insight for yourself, you will despise me. And it will be more evidence that I am broken. That my thoughts and feelings are grotesque and unnatural. That there really is something fundamentally wrong with me. I’m afraid that in order to avoid that humiliation, I will mince words, beat around the bush, soften, stretch, and smooth so as not to offend you or expose myself. In other words, that I will lie. See, I have discovered that the best way to save face is not to save face. It’s to admit, to honor, and if necessary, to apologize. It is to surrender to the truth. Yet that is never my first instinct. So I am afraid that to please you, I will dishonor myself.

But most of all, I am afraid of losing control of my food. And only slightly less, of doing so in front of you. I fear that this blog might some day include “relapse installations.” But that’s a ridiculous fear, really. Because if I lost control of the food, there would be no blog. There would be no examination of my soul. Hell, my bills wouldn’t even get paid. (No, that is not hyperbole.)

A friend warned me before I started this that I would get a lot of difficult feedback if I chose to write this blog. And she was right. I have already received a personal message (from someone I like, by the way) explaining that I don’t actually have eating disorders. I’m just eating the wrong foods. I just need to become a vegan! (She was more specific, but that was the general idea.) Now, I know that her message to me was an expression of love. And I am overjoyed for everyone who has a relationship with food that works for them (like I do now). But I do have eating disorders. And the body image disorders that come with them. Of course it is about my food choices and  how my body reacts to sugar. But it’s also about my head and my heart and thoughts that I have been thinking so long that I cannot even distinguish them as thoughts. This person also explained that if I ate her way, I could eat all day long and not gain weight. This is not welcome communication! It is DANGEROUS for me! I’m a fat girl. I could take up any excuse to quit the solution I have found and go off in search of something “better”. Something flexible that let’s me feel like I’m normal around food. But, hello! I weighed 300 pounds! Do you really think that if I am going to eat all day long, that I want plants and seeds? What I *want* is to get a pizza, a cake, a box of ice cream bars and a shit load of chocolate. I want to lock myself in my house, and binge eat myself into a food coma so I’m too fucked up on sugar to feel the pain and discomfort of my life, where I am constantly making mistakes, saying stupid things, and embarrassing myself.

My fat girl does not like being human. She is not good at it. She would jump through hoops for the chance to get her cake back. (She could get real agile for cake.) What has worked for me is rigid structure. Incredibly inconvenient and worth every single obstacle I have had to maneuver in the past six years.  I do not want people to explain to me that they have the answer to my food issues. I’ve found the answer to my own food issues. That is not why I’m here; to talk about diet, food, or weight loss. Nor am I here to promote my way of eating. I am writing this blog to find some peace around my heart and soul issues. I am writing to tell the truth and get the poison out. I am doing this, terrified as I am, because I don’t want to have secrets anymore. I want to stop feeling ashamed of myself all the time. Secrets and shame have been feeding each other all my life. And it’s me they have been eating.

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