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 7 Crying Babies, Stress, No Autopilot Eating

Today my kids had an unexpected day off from school. We decided that the best thing to do on a wonderfully warm February day with nothing scheduled, was to go visit Grandma and Grandpa, about an hour away. I took the six youngest with me and we had a wonderful day playing outside, helping Grandpa with projects, doing crafts with Grandma, just relaxing. Finally, the kids started getting tired and fussy. I checked the time, almost 7 pm. Time to load everyone up and head home. My plan was to leave at seven and that would get us home at bedtime so the kids could just go straight to bed. It was dark and I was driving on poorly lit, country roads. I hate night driving. I can see, but I feel tense the entire time, sitting up straight in my seat, gripping the steering wheel. I put on a Disney Music Station and had it blasting in the car, trying to drown out any whining and fussing and also make it clear to the kids that we were going to sit and listen to music instead of trying to talk to mom or get into fights with siblings or start a loud obnoxious game. I turned down the volume just long enough to remind the kids that Mom didn’t like driving at night and she needed to concentrate on driving and please don’t try to talk to mom.

Well, the two year old was sitting in his car seat right behind my seat. He got into the car crying and then proceeded to cry for the entire trip. All seventy-five minutes of it. I asked my older kids to try and figure out what he wanted/needed. All they were able to establish was what he didn’t want. He didn’t want a bottle of juice. He didn’t want a water bottle. He didn’t want his toy fire truck. He didn’t want his brother’s pillow. And he didn’t want anyone to talk to him. In desperation I finally bent my arm behind my chair and offered him my hand to hold. He held my hand for a couple minutes, taming his crying down to a whimper, and then he would suddenly push my hand away and start kicking at my seat and start up crying even more. Meanwhile, I am trying to drive carefully at the speed limit, straining to see the road in the dark, trying to not get blinded by the headlights of oncoming cars. Music is blasting and the other kids are singing along gustily. And the baby keeps crying. I put my hand back again and he holds it for a couple minutes and then pushes it away. We then proceeded to repeat this process for thirty minutes. To say that I was stressed would be a bit of an understatement.

As we were getting closer to home I started thinking about what I was going to do when I got home. The first step would of course be to hand the crying baby to my husband. Tag, you’re it. And then I thought. Toast. Some nice hot toast with melted butter and maybe a bit of jam. That sounds really good. That sounds really soothing. That sounds heavenly. And then I stopped. I realized what I was doing. I was majorly stressed and so I was now fantasizing about what yummy food would help me feel better. This was not good. I wasn’t hungry. It was past supper time, heading towards bedtime, I didn’t need any food. Really, a much better way to handle this stress would be to get home and immediately step on my elliptical machine and walk off the stress instead. Of course, I am a mom of many children and it was coming up on bedtime. Fitting in a workout right away was not going to happen. So what could I do?

We finally got home whereupon the baby instantly stopped crying. Of course. I handed him over to my husband and went about the business of emptying the car and getting everyone headed off to bed. Then my little girls wanted me to sit with them while they went to sleep, they were afraid of the dark. Then after they finally went to sleep the nine year old needed a bit of one-on-one time and then finally everyone was where they were supposed to be and I could finally check out. It was almost 10 pm. Too late to make toast. And I thought about what had just happened. I had been stressed and reacted in my normal, habitual way: think of what food will help me feel better, make plans to eat it as soon as possible. And then I had stepped back from the habitual thought process and recognized what I was doing. Instead of it being a non-thought-out process, it became something that I was thinking about and analyzing. And when I recognized what I was doing, I was able to put off the food until I finally didn’t want it anymore. Because really, my old me would have told my kids to go to bed, made toast, quickly ate it, and then run upstairs to sit with the girls.

This is my takeaway. I need to continue to make Thinking about Why I am Eating, a priority. When I realize that I am eating for reasons other than hunger, I am able to take steps to stop. If I go about in a haze and just eat on autopilot I’m never going to get anywhere. So, that’s my goal for this week, no autopilot eating. Think about what I’m doing. And then hope I can make good decisions.

P.S. Clean Jeans Test this morning told me that my jeans are definitely getting a bit looser!

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.

Fat Fridays: Week 5 It’s All A Mind Game

I’ve been thinking about rules and diet plans and cheating on those rules and diet plans. I am feeling ready to move forward…I feel like I’ve been learning a lot about how I think, figuring out why I eat, but I want to make some changes now. The problem is, when I think about diet plans I start feeling panicky. Let’s see, if I do this diet plan, it means I can no longer ever eat sugar. Ok, well, before I start this diet plan, I need to go buy a box of chocolates, and maybe eat a bit more ice cream and maybe have some cake and pie one more time, because, I really love desserts and if I’m going to have to give them up, then I better have one last fling! Oh wait, I could do this other diet plan instead, it says no animal products. Ok, well, first I need to have one more cheeseburger and some bacon and maybe a really good piece of grilled BBQ chicken, cause if I’m giving up meat, I need to have one last fling! And on and on it goes. Someone tells me that I can’t have something ever again and I instantly want to have it.

I’ve been trying to think how I can circumnavigate this tendency of mine. What if I decide to go on a certain diet and I just go in with the idea that I can cheat whenever I want to? Or what if I just give up on diet all together and just make small healthy changes, one at a time? Here’s the problem. My baseline behavior is to crave food that isn’t good for me and eat it in quantities that I don’t need. I need structure. I need a system. I need a chance to wean myself off of some of the more addicting foods like sugar and excess salt and fat. Processed foods that excite my taste buds, but give me a stomach ache. I need to get off of all that stuff so that I can re-learn how to enjoy the taste of fruit and vegetables. I need to restrict myself so that I re-learn how to be satisfied with a much smaller serving. I need a diet plan. I even have a diet plan. One of my own making that is simply based on what my body seems to like and not like: unlimited fruits and vegetables, limited grain, limited fat, lean meat, no dairy except maybe the occasional sprinkle of cheese, no sugar. Over years of dieting and “lifestyle changes” I’ve discovered that this particular way of eating makes me feel good and I drop weight when I do this.

What I’m trying to figure out is how to deal with things like birthdays and holidays and potlucks with friends. I find that when I severely restrict myself I do good for months and then suddenly something snaps and I just get tired of depriving myself of dessert and so I cheat and then that cheat just seems to open up the floodgates and suddenly I am no longer eating healthy any more and am instead bingeing on all of my favorite unhealthy foods. This is what I’m trying to figure out how to avoid.

Maybe if I go into the diet telling myself, you are going to eat healthy, but if temptation should rear it’s head on a special occasion, then you can just go ahead and have a small helping of the bad stuff. And maybe, if I know that I can cheat whenever I want, it won’t be so hard to resist or go back to the healthy eating after I’ve cheated. It’s a mind game. All of this is a mind game.

Well, I think that’s going to be the plan. I hope to start when I do my next grocery shopping. Here’s to healthy eating and here’s to winning the mind game.

Fat Fridays: Week 4 First Things First

This year January first came and went and I never started up on a new diet. You know that saying that goes something like, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results..” . Well, that’s how I feel about diets. Years of starting diets have done me very little good over the long term. I have decided this year that instead of jumping on the latest dietary fad wagon, I wanted to get to the root of why I am overweight. Why do I overeat? Why do I turn to food? Why do I constantly fail at adopting a healthier lifestyle? Perhaps if I can understand these things, I can change the base behavior that has brought me to this state. Writing the Fat Fridays blog has been a good step in this direction as far as starting to analyze why I do what I do, but I still have felt like I needed a plan, something to actively be working on.

This past Sunday in church we had several different people give words of encouragement, words of counsel, words of wisdom, and the theme I kept hearing over and over again was, you need to get off your devices (phone, internet, kindle) and give more time to God instead of submerging yourself in entertainment.

This has been nagging my conscience for a while. I have definitely developed a really bad phone addiction. I would see all these memes trying to show people just how bad their phone addiction is and I would cringe because I knew that was me. How did this addiction develop? Well, I would say that I had a real desire to not be “present” in my surroundings. It was a way I coped with depression…don’t think, just read books…don’t think, just get on Facebook…don’t think, just read some mindless articles on the internet.. It has become a full-blown addiction. Subconsciously I knew this, but I didn’t want to deal with it so I tried not to think about it.

So, this was the message I felt like God was telling me, the path he was leading me down…You want to lose weight? Ok, disconnect from your phone.. Deal with that addiction first and then you’ll be in a better place to deal with your weight loss issues.

On Tuesday I laid down the law. No more than one hour a day on the internet. Only get on my kindle when I’m exercising on my elliptical or when I have to wait in a doctor’s office or some such place as that.

It’s Thursday night and I can tell you that this has been extremely difficult. That one hour seems to disappear really quickly. I’ve done twice as much exercise because my book got really good and I didn’t want to stop reading. I went over my internet time a bit yesterday and felt guilty about that. Disconnected from the world-wide-web, I find myself just thinking, pondering things instead of automatically trying to find something to read or look at. I find myself talking to my children more, being a bit more present. I find myself getting more projects done as I have a restless energy to keep myself occupied. This has been difficult and necessary and exciting. Difficult because breaking any kind of addiction is hard. Necessary because it’s hard to assess your life and habits and make changes when you’re completely tuned out of your life. And exciting because I feel like I turned off the background noise and suddenly I’m hearing the birds singing again, and the wind blowing in the trees and I find myself thinking about the future and dreaming and imagining and feeling hopeful again.

I don’t know why, but getting space from my device is making me happy. And I find it a lot easier to tackle weight loss problems and challenges from a place of happiness than from a place of depression.

I don’t know what the next step is going to look like in this weight loss journey, but I’m feeling optimistic.

Fat Fridays: Week 3 Emotional Eating

I was trying to think about the reasons why I eat. If I was just eating because I was hungry, I don’t think I would have weight issues. From what I can tell, your body naturally regulates how much food you need and when you need it with this thing called hunger and fullness. It’s when we start eating for reasons other than hunger, and when we keep eating even when we’re full..that’s when we run into problems.

So, top of the list. Emotional Eating. I looked up the definition and it says, basically, overeating to relieve negative emotions. For some reason, when I am angry, depressed, angry, bored with life, angry, or maybe just angry, I eat. Eating gives you this short rush of nice feelings and usually you can continue on and pretend like those negative emotions never happened. Until, of course, they pop back up again. But then you just eat again and put it off again and on and on it goes.

I seem to have an intense dislike for feeling negative emotions. I don’t want to feel angry. I don’t want to feel sad. I don’t want to feel melancholy. I just want everything to be pleasant. I don’t just use food to avoid these feelings. I use entertainment. Read a book and forget about it. Check Facebook and calm down. Scroll through useless articles on the internet and zone out.

So here’s the question. Why? Why am I so opposed to feeling negative emotions? Is it because I am a peaceful person and things like Anger feel wrong? Or maybe I have just always tried to fill the role of the “good girl” and feeling bad doesn’t fit that image? Or maybe, our society does not give healthy examples of people dealing with strong emotions and so I have no role models?

There is a verse in the Bible, Ephesians 4:26-27 that says,

“In your anger do not sin: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

I have always liked the fact that the verse seems to assume that you are going to get angry. Getting angry is part of being alive. It’s what you do with that anger that can get you in trouble.

My anger tends to erupt when people have inconvenienced me. Which just shows how deep my sin nature and selfishness is. I struggle with borderline road rage. I’m not out of control, I just sit there and mutter about the other drivers. I am aware that this is a problem and I have started repeating to myself when I drive, “It’s not all about you…It’s not all about you..” Because really, road rage is the presumption that all the other vehicles in the road should do everything possible to make sure that YOUR driving experience is smooth and trouble free. When someone is going  too slow when I’m in a hurry, I feel inconvenienced, and my little selfish self speaks up and says, HEY! How dare you! Don’t you know I’m in a hurry! Stop driving like that, it’s inconveniencing me! (Of course, not so eloquently put, more like me muttering under my breath about idiots and people who don’t know how to drive.)

Of course, the way I get inconvenienced the most is by my children. Those lovely, beautiful human beings my husband and I helped create. They have this amazing way of spilling cups of juice on my freshly mopped floor, or wiping snotty noses on my clean shirt, or accidentally breaking my favorite mug, or wanting me to intervene in an argument right when I’m trying to cook supper…They are masters at inconveniencing me. Unfortunately, my selfish side tends to react and I get angry. And I really don’t want to be angry at my kids. When I first had children in my early twenties and had two toddlers on my hands, I indulged in some pretty impressive temper tantrums when the kids wouldn’t cooperate.  The most dramatic was when my little ones wouldn’t help clean up their toys and I stood at the doorway and threw their toys into the yard. Hopefully, I’ve matured a lot since then. I’ve learned to walk away when I’m angry and go cool down. I’ve learned a bit better how to hold my tongue and not say things I’ll regret later, and most important, when those tactics fail, I’ve learned better how to go and apologize to my children when I mess up. Good things. Bad thing though is that somewhere along the way I figured out that when I’m really upset, eating something helps you calm down faster. In fact, eating something can help you calm down without having to do any thinking or analyzing about Why you got angry, and What can you do to change things so you don’t get angry again over the same thing?

That’s the problem. Eating something makes you feel better for a short amount of time, but it never gets to the root. It never forces you confront your own sin nature, beg God for forgiveness, seek reconciliation, make changes so that you can handle these things better. All it does it covers up the emotion for a while so you can postpone feeling it.

I think I am scared about feeling strong emotions. Like I might not be able to handle it. Like it’s a giant wave that’s going to knock me down and I might never resurface. I don’t know why I’m afraid. I’ve got Jesus. He said he was never going to leave me or forsake me. He said his grace was sufficient for me. He’s not going to leave me alone with these uncomfortable emotions. I have a feeling that if I actually started confronting the anger and trying to dig down to the roots of it, I have a feeling that it would lessen, ease up, that I would be a healthier person.

So this is my challenge for this week: to stop trying to cover up the emotions with food. Those emotions are there for a reason. I need to let myself feel them. Take them to God in prayer, ask for wisdom to understand where these emotions are coming from and what to do with them. That’s the plan. May God give me the courage to do it.

Fat Fridays: Week 2 The Number of Shame

How much do you weigh? The answer of course is, NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! As I thought about writing this weightloss blog, I wondered whether I should disclose where I am starting from. How much do I weigh. After much mental agony I decided that the answer is NO. That is just way too vulnerable, way too out there, way too painful. And here’s the question of the day. Why? Why is it so painful to share our weight? What is it about that horrible number that stirs up so many emotions?

Think about it. We have this system of weights that we invented to give a numerical value to how heavy an object is. It’s scientific. It’s helpful. It helps keeps things fair and equal and even. When we buy food we do it by weight. That way, I know that every time I give you a certain amount of money, you will give me the exact same amount of food every time. 1 gallon of milk. 2 pounds of flour. 4 pounds of apples.

I’m not sure why we started weighing people. Haven’t looked up the history of it. I’m going to presume it has to do with medical science attaching value to certain weights, coming up with a system that says if you are this tall and weigh this much then you are healthy. But, if you are this tall and weigh this much then you are not healthy. Those lovely BMI charts. I am not saying that medical science is incorrect. I’ve read all the articles. I fully understand that the more extra weight I carry around, the more likely I am to develop a whole host of unwanted diseases and syndromes. But why does that number, my weight, evoke so much shame?

When I think about the giant array of heights and body types for women, the idea that there is a certain number that we all want to be is ridiculous. It’s a person-by-person situation. My ideal weight will look nothing like your ideal weight. So, why do we hold that number so close to our chest. No one needs to know how much I weigh!

I think for me that number has come to represent just how far away from perfect I am. Ok, forget perfect. Let’s just say normal. If I was a normal, self-disciplined, healthy individual, I would weigh this much. And I don’t. And what does that say about me? It says I’m a slob. I’m a glutton. I’m without discipline. I’m gross. I’m unworthy. I’m unlovable. And I have a numerical value that tells me exactly how far off the mark I am. And so it becomes a number of shame. And there’s no way I’m going to share my shame with you and so…It’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS how much I weigh.

Here’s the problem with shame. It’s not a very good motivator. I have tried to use shame as a self-motivator to lose weight. “Look at you! You’re disgusting! You don’t deserve to eat anything but vegetables and water for the next year. You look horrible. You have do something to fix this mess you’ve made.” And so I go on a diet. And I’m angry. Angry at myself for getting  into this horrible state. Angry that I now have to deny myself all the foods that I like. Angry that other people seem to be able to eat whatever they want and don’t have to deal with weight problems. Angry that I am such a failure at life. Eventually a temptation arises that is too big to overcome, I cave, the diet crashes, and I slowly go back to my relaxed way of eating which is to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, without giving it much thought. So yes, shame is a horrible motivator.

I have heard people say that you need to love yourself. That is the way to overcome weight issues. If you love yourself then you will want to take care of yourself, take care of your health. You will care about the fact that being overweight is actually causing you to be more sick, less energetic, less confident. You will care so much about yourself that you will willingly take on the lifestyle changes and make the sacrifices necessary to lose weight. That sounds good. I like it. It fits with the theme I have been coming back to over and over again. Love God, Love your neighbor as yourself. It seems that in order to love our neighbor as ourselves, we would need to love ourselves, right? So, here’s my question. How do you get to that place where you love yourself?

This number, how much I weigh, I’ve been carrying that around for my entire adult life. I left high school trim and fit, went to college and immediately gained 15 pounds. That crept up to 20 pounds before I got married. This number has been staring at me from the scale for 20 plus years now, speaking it’s message of shame. The higher it goes the lower my head hangs. It’s really hard to love myself when this number is loudly proclaiming how unworthy I am.

When I sat down to write this I had no idea where I was going to go with this. Apparently God has some ideas. I guess it’s going to have to come back to my identity in Christ. The world with all it’s systems of measuring, tells me very clearly that I don’t measure up. Not skinny enough, not rich enough, not smart enough, not connected enough. The world’s message is I AM NOT ENOUGH. Right now I am feeling that so strongly. I’m not a good enough wife. I’m not a good enough mother. I’m not a good enough friend. I’m not a good enough anything. I don’t measure up. How can I, miserable failure that I am, ever hope to change my ways and lose weight? I have tried so many times and I have always failed. I’m just don’t have what it takes. So, what does God say about me?

Here’s a list I found:

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I can add a couple more. I am loved by my husband. I am loved by my children. I am loved by my family. Maybe this person, the one that God says I am, can love herself enough to willingly take on the lifestyle changes, willingly make the sacrifices necessary to be healthy again. We’ll see.