Thursday, December 30, 2004

Confessions of a Binge Eater

At 3pm, I broke out the Belgian chocolates.

I should have been eating my 3pm protein bar, but there was that whole box of Belgian chocolates, and the HR manager and my new boss were trying to figure out who the hell was in charge of getting me to Denver (my credit card is maxed out and can't be used even if it's later company reimbursed), and I was filling out applications for my own corporate credit card (limit: $3500), and I'd been doing some paperwork for my new boss and getting weird reactions, and then he e-mailed someone else to take care of my travel info, and said I was going to be doing even more traveling to oversee document controls at other locations, and oh, Belgian chocolates...

I ate four of them before forcing myself to close the box, and it was an immensely sad moment, because I knew in that moment that I'd have to throw them all away now. And I'd have to throw away the rest of the brownies at the house. I tried to figure out how to keep them in the house until Jenn got home on the 5th. I hate wasting food, and my only out for these treats was to have her take them to her fellow Ph.D. candidates when she got back. I thought I could tie them up in a garbage sack and hide them under her bed... no. No, that won't work.

Believe me. I know.

I've mentioned several times in this blog that I'm a binge eater, but I don't know that I ever really discussed what that means for me.

My buddy Jenn knows that when I go out to buy some sort of treat I'm craving and eat my fill of it, whatever remains - whether it's the other 11 cookies in the dozen box, or the remaining 1/4 lb of the 1/2 lb of gingerbread - either has to get thrown away (and, if it's a *really* bad day, I actually have to take the garbage out to the street - yea, I'm one of *those* binge eaters), or she has to take it in to her fellow students, or she has to hoard it for herself in her room (she's an amazing hoarder).

I can't have it in the house.

Because when I feel out of control, when my confidence starts to break, when I despair, I go straight for all the processed crap food I can find. And if I get a taste of it and there's more to eat and I'm in freak-out mode, I'll start shaking like some sort of strung-out drug addict. The physical need for that entire box of chocolates becomes overwhelming.

When I finally made the decision to get my shit together (again) last January, I remember how difficult it was to walk past the shit-food stand by the train station where I'd allowed myself to pocket crap once a week. I mean, hey, I was doing my two or three days a week on the elliptical machine, and some free weights in the morning, so what did it matter, right?

Well, it did and does matter, because sharp increases in glucose are immediately followed by really shitty depressing lows - the old, binge eat and then lie around feeling like you want to kill yourself afterward because you've been so "bad." I realized that if I really wanted to get control over my mood, I had to start controlling what I was eating. That didn't mean being a Nazi: I go out to dinner, have a sweet and coffee on Sundays. But it means no binge eating. No stocking-up. No more highs and lows.

In South Africa, I was a chronic stressball. 1) I was truly living on my own for the first time (outside a dorm) 2) I was going to grad school 3) I was living in a 3rd world foreign country.

I must have eaten enough food for a family of four, smoked enough cigarettes for an army, and downed enough wine to put any alcoholic in my family to shame.

And I told myself when I was there: this is how I'm going to get through this. If I have to eat too much and drink too much and smoke too much, so be it. But when I leave, it's done.

The smoking was easy to kick, but the eating, being a lifelong way of dealing with stress (and something you have to do to survive, at a basic level), was a lot harder. And I struggle with it now and will for the rest of my life.

I think I always hoped, growing up, that one day I would just get it all figured out. For three years - in Alaska and a year just before it - I really thought I'd figured out the fat girl thing. I was eating well and exercising and staying at a good weight in a strong body... I loved being outside. I biked everywhere. I lived mainly on eggs and rice during the week and some pizza and coffee treats on the weekends. But I forgot that being better is something that you have to consciously reaffirm every morning. I forgot that if I'm left to my own devices, I'll fall back on my old ways to deal with stress and uncertainty, and that involves overeating.

In my mind, if all else goes to hell, I know it'll all be OK as long as I've got food, as long as I can eat.

And today at work I was starting to realize what was going to be asked of me in this new job, and I seriously doubted myself.

"What if I can't do this? What if I totally fuck this up?"

I thought of how many millions of dollars these projects are worth, and how being in charge of getting all that documentation means I decide when we get paid, and I thought how easily I could lose my job.... and I started shaking, and needed chocolate.

I got as far as the train station after work before I had to dump the chocolates. It was painful to do. I hate throwing away perfectly good food. I hate being wasteful.

But when those chocolates were in the garbage and I was on the train with an empty box, I felt incredibly light. I felt like somebody'd been pushing down on my shoulders since 3pm, and they finally got off.

I went home and dumped the brownies, too.

And I thought about my job.

And I thought:

What's the worst that can happen?

I can fuck up and get publicly humilated and laughed at in a meeting where I am then fired, and people throw things at me, call me fat and stupid and totally ignorant and unworthy of love, and then toss me out on my ass and refuse to give me a positive reference for my next job.

And I was like, "Oh, is that all?"

Because really, that's the worst that can happen. And somehow, imagining the absolute worst that can happen really frees you up to just take what comes.

So I went home, ate some sushi and had a cup of hot cocoa, rented a bunch of movies (Bourne Supremacy, Napoleon Dynamite, Rambo & Midnight Cowboy - how's that for eclectic taste?) then went out and bought a 2005 wolves calendar, a copy of Bitch magazine, and the extended edition of Return of the King.

And I am prepared for a good, long, weekend of media excess.

You get up every morning, and you start again.

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Yes. I should be writing. You should be too.

"I worshipped dead men for their strength,
Forgetting I was strong."
- Vita Sackville-West

"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."
- John-Paul Sartre

"As long as there are entrenched social and political distinctions between sexes, races or classes, there will be forms of science whose main fucntion is to rationalise and legitimize these distinctions."
- Elizabeth Fee

"Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else."
- Gloria Steinman

Fixing Up the Fighting Life

So, I'll be 25 this year.

So, I have a lot to do.

The idea is to go on a deep-burn: that is, three days a week of fighting classes, two days a week of jogging. I've got the three days of fighting classes down fine - it's the damn jogging routine that I need to get into.

I'm also fiddling with my diet again, because I'm so incredibly sick of protein bars, and because they're damn expensive. I'm moving to meat & vegetables, relying more on mixed-nuts and veggies for snacking, cutting out my week-long rice and whole-wheat pita routine and moving those "treats" to the weekends (with the Thai food), and getting rid of some of my sillier craziness, like macaroni & cheese and white bread.

In April, when the weather's better, I'd also like to start biking to work at least once a week. In June, I'll need to decide if I want to stay at my MA school or move to another gym that offers boxing and rock climbing classes (it's also closer to my house). We'll see what sort of shape I'm in by then.

Pick somebody you want to be. Be that.

Dusting Off the Old Books

Liberated a copy of Gloria Steinem's Revolution From Within from my mom's bookshelf. I don't relate to all the inner child stuff because, well, I really do have fantastic parents, and I didn't have to deal with childhood abuse, but she's got some really fascinating stuff in here about self-esteem and how teaching people self-worth can acutally topple empires (Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement did great things for black South Africans. Her biggest example was Ghandi and the liberation of India).

The idea being that when you're told you're not worthy, you're at the bottom of the pile, when you don't see yourself represented as smart, as worthwhile, you're more likely to act like a loser.

What I found interesting was when Steinem compared the women she'd gone to college with who *then* either got a job, got married, had kids, to the women who'd stayed in her home town, got married, and raised kids. She felt that the women who *didn't* have the higher-end education learned *over time* to have a greater sense of self-worth than the women who'd gone to college.

Her thoughts on why?

College women:

"- Being taught to rever "the classics" of Western civilization, most of which patronize, distort, denigrate, or express hatred for the female half of the human race.

- Learning systems of philosophy that depend on gender dualisms at best and female inferiority at worst; surveying a tradition of art in which women are rarely artists and often objects; studying biology that focuses more on human differences than on human possibilities; [my emphasis] absorbing ethical standards that assume masculine values; and learning theologies that assume all-male dieties.

- Reading history books in which almost all power and agency is assigned to men and being graded for memorizing male accomplishments - with the deep message that we can learn what others do, but never do it ourselves.

- Seeing fewer and fewer females in authority as we climb the education ladder: fewer as faculty, fewer still as deans and presidents, and fewest of all in the fields of science, engineering, poiltics, business, foreign policy, or other specialities valued by the world at large. And if we are of the "wrong" race or class or sexuality, perhaps seeing no one we identify with at all.

- Finally, being isolated from other women - perhaps respended by them - because we are educated like men."

Some interesting stuff to chew on.

Just Work For Free

Can you believe this?

What's Education About, Again?

Poor repressed conservative students. Forced to read the Quran. Having liberal teachers "suggest" that homosexuality might have to do with our biological makeup. Might. Ha.

You know what one of the books we used in one of my women's history courses was? The Bible. Did I start screaming and crying that I was being indoctrinated by conservative professors?

No. I didn't. Why? Cause I was in school to learn stuff. Stuff that I would never have been exposed to outside of college life. Are colleges liberal leaning? That is, do most colleges preach inclusiveness and tell people that hating other people based on their beliefs is bad?

Sure they do.

You run into problems when you get people whose beliefs say that I have to die because I don't believe what they do. If I can tolerate people who think I'm going to hell, why can't they tolerate me?

Oh, that's right:

Because their strength of belief isn't quite so strong as they'd hoped.

If you've got faith: REALLY got faith, learning about what other people think isn't going to be dangerous to you and yours. In fact, it might help you get along better with others. And isn't that the whole point of reaching outside your comfort zone anyway?

The Worklife

I'm back in the office today, and I discovered a box of Belgium chocolates on my desk from one of my male coworkers.

No, not from Yellow. It's never from the one you'd like it to be from.

They're from the most annoying guy in the office, the workaholic who doesn't date because he's at work all the time (in fact, I think he's a 7 on the sliding sexuality scale, but he's got a picture of George and Laura Bush in his office, so I feel he may be sexually repressed in his leanings toward boys).

In any case, I'm really, really, hoping he got *everybody* in the office some Belgium chocolates. Or, knowing him, all of the *women* in the office some Belgium chocolates.

I'm just trying to figure out what the hell to do with these things. I guess I'll put it in the "food items that can't live in my house so Jenn will take them over to her colleagues" pile.

I've also gotten a summons to Denver for next week: I'll be in meetings there the 5-6th and again for a daytrip on the 12th (happy birthday to me) for the project "kickoff."

Wow. Working for a living is really gonna suck.