Fat Fridays: Week 8 There’s a Place for Law

I read a book recently, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Rooftop, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master” by Rachel Held Evans. It’s a good book. She explores the whole idea of what does it mean to be a biblical woman, and in the process points out how we tend to pick and choose which “biblical womanhood” principles that we like. In the book she set out different tasks to achieve each month. One of those tasks was to observe an orthodox Sabbath day. At the end of a very peaceful day where she found herself truly at rest, she observes,

“I knew in a way that I hadn’t known before that we had created a false dichotomy, that sometimes the law is grace.”

That statement has stayed with me. We talk about law versus grace, always coming down on the side of grace, but, as Ms Evans observed, following the law can be a form of grace. I have noticed this in the realm of exercise. I set myself a law: no reading unless you are on the elliptical. I love reading so I got on the elliptical a lot. I am now doing thirty minutes to an hour every day on the elliptical. It’s become a habit. But it’s also become a source of dealing with bad moods, irritation, lethargy. I notice I’m feeling bad and so I go get on the elliptical. I have fallen in love with exercise and all the benefits it gives me. I’ve relaxed the “read only on the elliptical” law because I no longer need it. I now want to exercise.

I have also been thinking about this in terms of food. I have already come to the conclusion that I’m not going to do well living in a rigid, highly structured “diet” plan. It goes against my personality, it sets me up for a big crash. But, there is a place for discipline, “law”. I have a very real sugar addiction. It is my go-to, feel-good, substance of choice. Feeling irritated? Eat chocolate. Feeling angry? Go buy a donut. Wanting to celebrate? Eat ice cream. I was kind of hoping that as I adopted a healthier lifestyle that I would just naturally reduce my sugar intake. So far that hasn’t happened. I am realizing that in order to eat less sugar I’m going to have to put down some heavy Law in my life and fast from sugar for a while. I do not want to make a statement that from this day forward I will no longer eat sugar. I can’t do it. I don’t want to do it. But, I think I’m going to have to take a break from it so that I can get rid of the addiction and form a bit healthier relationship with the substance. It’s really hard to gradually reduce your intake when you are dealing with addiction. I have found in the past that if I could completely go off sugar for a week, sugar lost it’s hold on me. I no longer had this daily craving to go eat something sweet. Fruit started tasting sweet and satisfying again.

So, this is my goal. Fast sugar for a week. Break the addiction. Start treating sugar as an occasional treat instead of a daily need. I’ll let you all know how it goes. Of course, I’m not starting today. My husband gave me box of chocolates for Valentines Day. When those are all gone, then I’ll start. 🙂

Fat Fridays: Week 6 Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

I’m on Week 6. You would think that by now I’d be able to report some magnificent number of pounds that I have lost. Except that wasn’t my goal. When I first started thinking of losing weight I started clicking around on the internet and found all kinds of weight loss programs that promised wonderful things like, “LOSE 20 POUNDS IN 10 DAYS!” or “LOSE 60 POUNDS WITHOUT CHANGING YOUR DIET!” or “JUST TAKE THIS LITTLE PILL AND YOU WILL INSTANTLY LOSE 5 POUNDS!” Kind of like Get Rich Quick schemes. One particularly well-written advertisement promised I’d lose 20 pounds in one month just by following their very simple meal plan. I went and checked out the meal plan. It had charts and stars and complex computing systems. And the recipes had exotic ingredients and were the type of food that my family would never eat. Good grief.

These lose-weight-fast programs have a lot of appeal. You look at yourself in the mirror and you feel almost panicky. Like, I’ve got to lose this weight RIGHT NOW. Also, if you are going through all the sacrifice to start exercising and stop eating all the food that you like, you feel like you need some compensation. By Golly, if I’m going to suffer I better see some results, RIGHT NOW!

Well, I’ve tried those diets before. I never stuck them out very long. I think the most dramatic weight loss I ever had was 10 pounds in one week. I didn’t keep it off though. I eventually found the diet plan to be very burdensome and irritating and gave it up and gained back 10 pounds shortly afterwards.

So, I’m trying something different. I’m trying to get to the root of why I’m overweight and start addressing those issues and start making small daily choices that will put me on the road to better health.

It’s hard to track progress when you’re doing this, but I’m going to try. First thing is that I’ve started exercising. Instead of sitting in a chair reading my book I have made myself read my book while doing my elliptical machine. I am now doing 30 minutes to an hour every day on my elliptical and lots of stretching  afterwards. I am starting to get addicted to it. I feel grumpy and irritated and so I get on the elliptical and 30 minutes later I feel relaxed and happy. I’ve been doing this for close to 2 weeks now and it’s starting to become a habit.

As far as eating is concerned, I’ve started getting more organized with meal planning. My husband gets paid every 2 weeks and so I started planning out 2 week menus and doing one big 2 week grocery shopping.  I still have to go back to the store to restock fruit and bread and milk, but everything else is bought. This has helped reduce greatly the number of times I run out for pizza or McDonalds simply because I’m not prepared to cook a meal. I just wrote out my next 2 week menu and this time I made sure that all the meals had lots of vegetables and lean meat and healthier carbs. Of course, I’m still going to have to learn how to eat the right portions and how to stop the excessive snacking, and not eating my kid’s cereal…But, it’s progress.

Last night my husband and I had a date night. My husband loves ice cream and so we stopped at the store on the way home and each bought ourselves a pint of ice cream. We got home and it was late and we collapsed on the couch by the fire. I had stuck the ice cream in the freezer when we got home, uncertain if all my littles were asleep yet and not wanting to be caught red-handed holding ice cream if they came downstairs to find Mama. As we sat on the couch I thought about the ice cream in the freezer. I thought about how I felt and realized that I was still full from supper and really didn’t need to eat anything. And so I didn’t. I just left the ice cream in the freezer. For me, that’s really big progress.

Gradual progress. One small change at a time. One good decision at a time. The hope is that one day, I’ll look in the mirror and realize that I look I different. I feel different. And it all came about one small step at a time.

Elliptical Machines and the Kindle App

About two years ago our family got a membership at the YMCA. It was during a time when I was really struggling with depression. The gym became a life-saver for me. It was only a five minute drive away. I would tell my older kids they were babysitting, drive down to the gym, get on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes then quickly come back home, usually only being gone for 45 minutes. I felt better from the exercise and from having a short break from the house. I went as much as six times a week, usually no less than four.

Well, after we decided to stop homeschooling and my kids started going to public school, I no longer had a “big kid” to babysit, which meant I had to load up my little ones (there were three at home at the time) and take them to the gym with me and leave them at the daycare room. My trips to the gym now became long, drawn-out hassles that involved dressing little children, finding missing shoes, loading kids in and out of car seats, and then abandoning screaming children to a daycare worker. Just so I could get a 30 minutes workout. My trips to the gym quickly decreased. We were also still getting accustomed to everyone being gone all day at school and by the time the kids got home and I had a babysitter available again, I did not want to leave them to go do my own thing. I started only going on weekends. This past summer I finally pointed out to my husband that we simply were not using the gym to its full potential anymore and should probably cancel our membership. He asked me when I was going to exercise and I said something like, I’ll take a walk, or get a video workout or something.

So, around the time of my birthday, this fall, my husband informed me that he was going to buy me an elliptical machine with his bonus he had received. WOW! I was surprised, excited, and a little nervous. Elliptical machines have been my go-to because they have been the only form of exercise that has worked consistently with my various back problems. Having my very own at home would be a dream come true. Having my husband fork out a chunk of money so that I can exercise at home felt a little more dangerous. Especially when he calculated the cost of the machine (we found one on sale!) versus the cost of a gym membership and said I would need to exercise diligently for two years before having a machine at home could be considered cheaper than the gym. Yikes. To say I felt a bit of pressure to use my new machine would be putting it lightly.  

I am proud to say that I have, until Christmas time, been very faithful with using my machine. Christmas really threw me off, but I started back yesterday and I feel a renewed desire to keep exercising. Since I am not a particularly athletic or disciplined person, you may be surprised at this. So, here’s my little secret. I read when I exercise. I have a kindle app on my phone and I have a book at the ready, put it on the little shelf and just incorporate finger swipes to turn the page as part of my exercise routine. This is proof that if I am reading I can endure almost anything. The nice part about reading is if you get to a particularly intense part of the story, you automatically speed up and get an even better workout! 🙂 I guess this probably points to the fact that I am a bookworm, have been since second grade, and probably will be all my life. I average 4 books a week. Sometimes more. Rarely less. The library and I are good friends. All this to say, it is very exciting to find out I can make exercise (which can be boring!) into a time when I can read a book without any guilt. Long live elliptical machines, and long live the kindle app!

(Ok, I’m aware that people often watch TV or listen to podcasts while working out. I have found that I really don’t enjoy TV much, it doesn’t hold my attention, and I am not an auditory kind of person, so listening to someone speak into my ears through headphones is kind of stressful for me.) (Yes. I’m weird.)(Maybe there are more weird people out there like me though, so I’m sharing this amazing discovery with them!) (Ok, I also understand this is not exercise-guru type advice, I know, I need to do some other types of exercise as well, but, hey, something is better than nothing!)(I love parenthesis, they are so handy!) (And fun.) (I might just possibly over-use them.) (Maybe.) (Perhaps I should take a poll.)