Fat Fridays: Stress and Weight Loss are Incompatible

Today has been my first glimmer of hope that I can have a peaceful semester with my children in school. Today, the last of the sick kids went back to school (we are in our second week back, first week back, one child brought two different childhood viruses home). My preschooler went for another staggered day of preschool today (first two weeks he only goes part time, full time starts next week). My homeschooler finally had his first day of homeschooling co-op this week where he got assignments for the next week in all his core subjects. And this morning he diligently sat down for four hours straight and got all his work done without a murmur of complaint. 

I went to an appointment, had a quiet breakfast, did my exercise for the day, cleaned the house, washed the dishes, made some phone calls. I picked up the preschooler from his half day and then we read books together. I’ve got homemade blueberry muffins in the oven for after school snacks for all the kids. I’ve got supper prepped and ready to start slow cooking for the rest of the afternoon. This, right now, is the moment I have been waiting for. A peaceful day where everything is getting done in a non-frantic way. And here I am, writing my blog hafl a day early. Woohoo!

So, let’s talk stress. I did a cursory internet search which gave me all kinds of articles explaining how stress makes you gain weight. Last month, when I was on vacation, I did not stick to my diet. I exercised. I didn’t go crazy. But I was eating donuts. I still managed to lose two pounds. That made me kind of scratch my head in bewilderment, but whatever, I’ll take it. But, now, I am pretty sure that weight loss was connected to how little stress I was under. Yeah, there was wilderness adventure stress, but that was short term, and still not a lot. 

Since I’ve gotten home from vacation, my stress level has been off the charts. The last two weeks my heart has been randomly racing, kicking up my anxiety. Just because. (And yes, I talked to my doctor about it, she said it definitely sounded stress related.) I’ve decided that I’m not going to try and lose weight this month. Just keep exercising (it helps with stress!) and not gain any weight. I know that as we get more and more settled into our new routine, this stress is going to ease up. Lord willing. Or at least get to more manageable levels. Like today. It has been idyllic. I know when the kids come home, the activity will ramp up, but it helps to counterbalance it with a more peaceful morning. 

I am seventeen pounds away from my end of the year goal! Argh! It seems so far away and so hard to do. But I also have a daily goal of staying sane and helpful to the people around me. So, I’m not going to focus on pounds this week. I’m going to keep trying to make good food decisions, but I’m not counting calories right now. 

To any other parent out there who is looking at starting your kids in school soon, while still dealing with pandemic life…

Fat Fridays: Success with Low-Carb

Good morning everyone. I hope your week has gone well. I’ve had a super-busy, super-stressful week. But here I am. It’s Friday. I have survived. 

Despite the craziness of this week, (or maybe because?) I managed to lose FIVE pounds since last Friday. I don’t know if I’ve ever lost that much in one week. Which is great because I had stalled out. I had seventeen days where the scale didn’t budge. Of course, during those seventeen days I went on vacation and ate vacation food and then I went on a retreat and ate retreat food and in general I was eating more processed foods. Last Saturday I decided I was going to take a break from grain and sugar (the two things I crave the most) and see if I could get this weight loss moving again. And apparently, it worked. 

I’ve been trying to be really low-key about it. I keep telling myself I’m just going to do this for a week. This is not forever. I have a tendency to go into binge mode whenever I feel like I’m being deprived. So I’ve been trying to be gentle with whatever it is inside of me that reacts that way. Soothing. It’s Ok! You can do this! You can eat that bag of popcorn next week! (I think the bag of BOOM CHICKA POP sweet and salty kettle corn that is in my cupboard has been the only thing that has offered real temptation.) I haven’t missed rice or gluten-free stuff at all. 

I bought this giant box of SPRING MIX mixed greens and that is quickly becoming a main staple. I also found this stuff called SKINNY GIRL salad dressing that has no fat or sugar and actually tastes really good. Only 10 calories per serving. Yay! Cause I can eat all kinds of salad if I have salad dressing. So, my go-to this week has been a big pile of mixed greens with some tomatoes and then some beans and either some grilled meat or some vegan sausages. Add a sprinkle of cheese and the Skinny Girl Honey Dijon dressing and it’s yummy and filling. I’ve also been eating lots of blueberries. 

I’m not sure how long I’ll keep up the NO GRAIN, NO SUGAR. Losing five pounds is pretty motivating though. I’ll definitely do it again this week and see how things go. 

By the way, this weight loss now puts me at a grand total of FORTY-ONE pounds lost! Woohoo. It’s been 6 months and a week since I started this journey. 

Besides changing my diet, I’ve also been exercising more. Or more intensely. I’ve been getting my 10,000 steps most days and I’ve been jogging three times this week. Plus some yoga and weights and swimming. I am finding that an intense workout really helps with all the stress I’ve been going through. I am feeling strong and fit. Which is a brand new sensation for me. 

Well, I’m off for another week of Low-Carb and exercise. I’ll let you know how it’s going next week!

Fat Fridays: Fatigue

I do not like being tired. I hate it. It feels like I have to do a task that requires 10 units, but I’ve only been given 4 units. And then what do you do? 

Fatigue is one of the leading reasons I started pursuing a better diet and exercise. I needed energy. Really bad. My poor diet messed with my blood sugar. I would eat too many carbs and then my blood sugar would spike and I would feel like I was about to pass out and I would have to lie down. My lack of exercise made climbing the stairs at my house a major event. I felt like I was dragging myself through each day. 

So, I changed my diet, I started really keeping tabs on my carbs, trying to not go over 30grams per meal or snack. I started exercising and felt my endurance growing by leaps and bounds. I now started running up the steps at my house. I stopped taking naps every day. I started averaging about seven hours of sleep, instead of needing eight-plus. I started taking a handful of supplements, like B vitamins and Vitamin D.  And while I will never be accused of being the Energizer Bunny, I felt fine getting through my day. 

And then this past couple weeks happened. Last week I was on a stress-high from the recent gun-violence in my kids’ highschool and our community. Then this week that stress turned into depression. I have barely been able to get out of bed in time in the mornings. I do all my early morning stuff of getting kids off to school, getting young kids fed and settled in, and then I crash mid morning. Fall asleep. And though I don’t sleep too long, it takes me several hours afterwards to get myself up and functioning again. 

I’ve been rolling with it. Been sitting on the couch reading to my little boys instead of trying to tackle grammar and math lessons (I homeschool my six year old). I haven’t attempted to fold the six baskets of laundry, just made sure the kids grab something clean out every night for the next day. I haven’t tried to do any heavy-duty cleaning, just the basic daily tidy-up. My personal trainer is still sending me daily workouts, but twice I’ve traded in a tough workout for a long walk instead. And I’ve just been trying to be patient with myself. Depression is something I’ve fought before and I know it will pass. 

But, I have to say, I’ve been a bit surprised at the fatigue. I think, in the back of my mind, I always presumed that all my fatigue came directly from lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet. I never thought a lot about stress and depression being a significant factor as well. But, I think it is. 

The big reminder I’ve had to give myself is, even though my diet and exercise aren’t giving me energy right now, it would be a hundred times worse if I went back to my old lifestyle. I am still nourishing my body in the way it needs, moving it the way it needs. Fatigue is not an excuse to stop. It’s a motivation to keep going. No reason to make this any worse than it already is. 

Fat Fridays: Climbing Back on the Wagon

If you’ve read my previous blog, you’ll know that I had a pretty rough week. On Monday there was a shooting in my daughter’s highschool and it was a very chaotic, stressful afternoon. It was also one of my younger daughter’s birthdays. Fortunately, we had a birthday party on the weekend, so she had been fully celebrated before Monday. I still wanted to make the day special for her and I had plans to make spaghetti for her and then serve the rest of the birthday cake left over from the party. I had made lentils at lunch time, and I was planning on eating lentils and vegetables for supper while everyone else had spaghetti. 

Then, just when school was going to be let out, craziness erupted. School lockdowns, police, sirens, helicopters… After finally getting all my kids home, I sat in my room, listening to the live news reports, scanning other news sites, fielding calls and texts from people who were worried about our family. 

In the middle of all this my husband suddenly asked, Do you want me to just order some pizza for supper? What? No! I’m supposed to make spaghetti. Then I looked at the time. It was already six o’clock and I hadn’t even started the meal. Oops. I pondered whether I had the energy to just do a speed-cooking session and make it happen anyway. No. I did not have the energy. Ok. Order pizza. 

When the pizza showed up I was in an I-don’t-care mode. I helped myself to two slices. They tasted great. I served up cake and served myself a piece too, though I did scrape off all the icing (just cause I’m not an icing fan, not because I was counting calories). The cake didn’t taste as good. In fact, the rest of the evening I felt full and bloated. Not the best feeling, but it didn’t stop me from grabbing one more piece of pizza later, when I stayed up late to watch a movie. 

So, the question is, what do you do the next day, when you’ve ditched your diet? That is always a dangerous time for me. I’ve broken the rules once, why can’t I break them again? Fortunately, I had some encouragement from my trainer and from my mom and it helped me get out of the anything-goes mentality and remember that my diet is still important to me, even when I am extremely stressed. 

The rest of this week has gone well as far as diet and exercise are concerned. I have been clinging to my exercise routines as a balm for my nerves and trying to make good choices with my food. 

Life is crazy. There are going to be moments where eating a careful diet just isn’t an option, either physically, or mentally. And for me, the part I have to work on, is getting back on track after swerving off for a moment. Part of what has also helped me this week is just remembering why I am doing this. Good blood sugar, energy, health, fitness. I especially need these things when I am going through a stressful moment in life. I just have to keep reminding myself. I forget so quickly. 

More Tragedy

This past Monday our community, school, family walked through yet another tragedy in a year that has been full of them. My daughters’ highschool had an “officer involved shooting” in the school. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations wanted to make it clear that this was not a “school shooting” where someone has brought a gun to the school with the intent of hurting people at the school, but was rather the result of a police officer engaging a student who was suspected of having a gun, and gunfire was exchanged. A police officer was injured, but is recovering, and the student is dead. 

For our family, we had an entire hour, from the moment the highschool was put in lockdown at the end of the school day, until we managed to get everyone home, that we had no idea what was going on. All we knew was that there was danger, a really big situation, and my daughter was in the building where all this danger was happening. 

The school district did not communicate with the parents during the whole thing which made the fear worse. Monday night I wrote the school district, voicing my complaints about the lack of communication with parents, and they personally called me the next day to apologize and say that this was an area they were going to improve in. 

My elementary school kids were also put in lockdown, (the school is relatively close to the high school) moments before they were to be dismissed. The teachers at the elementary school did not know what was happening, just that they were in a hard lockdown. They presumed there was imminent danger, and their fear and stress leaked over to the kids they were watching. My 1st and 2nd grader were crying when they finally were released to come get in my car. They told me later that they thought they were about to be shot by a bad guy. 

After I finally had all my elementary kids in my car, we then had to maneuver through police barricades until we finally found an access point where we could get to my daughter who was waiting at the high school for me. And during all of this there was a police helicopter swooping overhead making us all feel that we were in a war zone. 

When we got home I wouldn’t let the kids play outside because the helicopter was still present, making circles over our house (we live close to the highschool) and I had no idea if the helicopter was actively looking for someone in our neighborhood. So the kids huddled inside, looking out the windows, waiting for the danger to pass. And I sat, scanning all the social media and news sites I could find, trying to get information on what was happening. 

My husband came home early and I walked into his embrace and as he held me, I felt everything going black in my head, and was sure, for a moment, that I was going to faint. Rumors were flying and we heard that our principal, a man I admire, might have been shot. Was the office staff all wounded? How many people were dead? At one point in time I just hid in my kitchen and cried. Trying to avoid the kids, not wanting to increase their stress by having a complete breakdown myself. 

It took quite a while for all the details to come out. And now, On Wednesday, we still have not heard the name of the student who has died. And my daughter is supposedly supposed to return to school tomorrow, but I have a million questions, and none of them have been answered yet. 

Yesterday I gathered up all the kids, emailed all the elementary teachers telling them my kids would not be in school, and we left town and spent the day with my parents. 

Yesterday I would say that my stress level was at ninety-five out of a hundred. This morning I think I’ve got it down to maybe a forty? 

Yesterday morning I was feeling pretty horrible. Angry, agitated. I sat down and found myself rocking back and forth. Good grief. I was also feeling a lot of condemnation. Look at you! Where is your faith and your peace? And I had to stop and speak some truth to myself. You have just gone through a very stressful situation and your body and emotions are responding to that. You have to give yourself permission to recover from this. And, God is still good, and still in control, so we are going to cling to that and give ourselves some time to decompress and recover. 

So, Wednesday morning, I’m doing better than yesterday, but still feeling a bit shell-shocked. 

I haven’t even started processing the situation at our school, but I feel like I at least got the rocking boat of our family back onto calmer waters. 

Fat Fridays: Fighting Stress with Exercise

Good morning everyone. It is an early Friday morning here. My kids are just getting up, grabbing their breakfast, getting ready for a virtual day of school. We have been in-person this year, but have had to move to virtual occasionally for covid, weather, and now, this week, gun violence in our neighborhood that has been taking the lives of our school kids. On Tuesday, there was an incident of someone shooting a gun in the parking lot of our elementary school, while children were playing on the playground. On Wednesday, we learned that the fourth high school student in six weeks had died of gunshot wounds. On Thursday, my body kind of shut down from all the stress, and in between doing life: helping kids with virtual school, doing my daily exercise, preparing meals, I climbed into bed and just slept. I think I took three separate naps. All of  them interrupted, none of them long enough. But I just couldn’t stay awake. 

Last night I went out on date night with my husband and we took a long brisk walk in the woods. It was nice to get physically tired instead of just mentally. 

This is one thing I have found as I’ve done my new exercise and diet program, I am finding myself starting to crave physical exercise.  

I especially like walking. There is something very therapeutic about being outside, breathing fresh air, getting out of your house. 

Almost every day my trainer has me doing some kind of weight/body resistance kind of workout and then she gives me twenty to thirty minutes on the elliptical. Sometimes I go on the elliptical, but sometimes I just go walk outside. The elliptical gives a better workout, but walking outside is more rejuvenating. 

You know, 2020 was crazy for everyone. But, I had high hopes that 2021 was going to be a lot better. So far this year, I haven’t had a normal week yet. Each week has had something big and crazy in it. And the stress of that can really pull you down. So, I am very thankful for exercise and the role it has been playing to keep me sane. 

Fat Fridays: Fighting Stress

Emotional eating has always been a thing for me. It’s a source of comfort for every imaginable problem. Since I started this journey, about six weeks ago, I noticed that after the first couple weeks, food stopped having such a strong hold on me. I haven’t been tempted to grab something every time my mood swings. I think a big part of it is that I am losing weight, and I have a definite goal that I want to achieve this year, and that goal has been front and center in my mind. No, I don’t want to just eat whatever, whenever. I wouldn’t reach my goal if I do that!

This week has been a bit of a test. On Wednesday I received word that my father’s cousin had died, (someone I had made a connection with online and who often commented on my posts and engaged in conversation with me), and then that same evening I received word that a dear lady from our church (who had long been a source of encouragement to me) had also died, of covid. 

I admit, my first reaction was that I just wanted to binge eat. Forget this diet. I’m just going to make a bunch of food and eat it. Maybe I will feel better. But, by the grace of God, I walked past the fridge and went in my room and cried instead. Which is actually what I needed to do, instead of trying to stuff the emotions down with food. 

The next day I was pretty out of it. We’ve had a lot of death in our neighborhood due to gun violence and everything just seemed to be crushing me down. My trainer asked how things were going, and I mentioned briefly what was going on. She suggested that I use exercise as therapy, and later that day I went outside for a long brisk walk in the sunshine. It helped. 

In the past, I have always had this mentality that I can’t start a diet until my life calms down. Like, adding a diet and exercise to an already stressed out life would just send me over the brink. But this year I am realizing that the exercise and diet are actually tools to help deal with the stress. Bingeing on donuts does not help you deal with stress. Knowing that you are eating healthy DOES make you feel better though. Like, the world is falling apart, but at least I am taking care of my body! 

In other news, I woke up early this morning and took my fasting blood sugar and it was 96!! I haven’t had a reading below 100 in years. That also made me feel better. 

So, my takeaway for this week is diet and exercise aren’t causing me stress, they’re fighting stress. 

Breathe

Sometimes I am shockingly disconnected to my body and what it’s going through. And then my body responds to a situation in a very normal physical way, and I’m like, What’s going on?? What is wrong with you?? 

The past two days I have been so tired, any time I sit down, I start falling asleep.

Crazy.

Am I sick? Vitamin deficient? Coming down with something? 

And then I stop and try to assess the situation.

Ok. I had to surrender my dog to a shelter on Monday. On Monday I also started a new diet/exercise program that I am sure is a shock to my system. On Tuesday I had an important meeting at the kid’s school, had to put myself forward and stand in the gap for a child that needs some special help. Everyone was nice, but any time I have to speak my mind in front of strangers, I get stressed. Last week my teenager was walking home from school and shooting broke out, half a block behind her. Now I am feeling hyper-vigilant as I listen to all the sirens throughout the day. It’s not been a tranquil month for relationships. In short, while I have decided to pump up on vitamins, stay hydrated, etc. I am also just trying to be kind to myself and acknowledge that maybe my body is trying to tell me something. 

Like,

You are Tired. 

The following are the words to the final chorus in the song  Breathe put out by Jonny Diaz.

When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear you say just

Breathe, just breathe

Come and rest at my feet

And be, just be

Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to take it in, fill your lungs

The peace of God that overcomes

Just breathe (just breathe)

let your weary spirit rest

Lay down what’s good and find what’s best

Just breathe (just breathe)

Just breathe, just breathe

Come and rest at my feet

And be, just be

Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to just breathe

Just breathe

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Jonathan Smith / Jonny Diaz / Tony Wood

Breathe lyrics © Songtrust Ave

And that’s where I’m at right now. Needing to acknowledge my body’s efforts to slow me down. Needing to rest. I’m not up for solving any of life’s mysteries or thinking really deeply, or being anything amazing. I just need to rest at Jesus’ feet and breathe for a while. 

Life Feels Fragile

This afternoon I was at the park with the kids. A beautiful winter afternoon, blue skies. Warm enough that the kids could run around, cold enough that I was still wrapped up in a jacket. My phone started ringing. I looked down and the caller ID said it was one of the kid’s schools. My heart rate immediately went up. Are they calling to say, don’t come to school tomorrow, we’re doing virtual instead? 

Fortunately, it was just routine announcements, except sports are now only allowed to have immediate family members in attendance. 

I have been getting the same elevated heart rate every time I see an email from our Superintendant, or any school official ID pops up on my phone. 

It’s not a fun way to live. 

Our schools seem determined to stay open, for which I am thankful, but it is a shaky, fragile thing. We’ll stay open, as long as we have teachers, staff, enough students, we don’t hear otherwise from local or state officials…

We did one week of virtual school before school let out for Christmas break. My two kids, whom I have been homeschooling, got a significantly less amount of school done that week. My high schoolers were fine. My 5th and 4th graders were fine. The second grader was often baffled by technology and time schedules. She took it personally when she wasn’t able to get into a planned meeting. “They won’t let me in!! Nobody likes me! They don’t want me in the class!” 

I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to give the second grader the amount of help she needed because I was busy dragging the first grader out from under tables, or chasing her down, or trying to get hold of her teacher because she had purposefully hit the Send button on unfinished assignments because she simply didn’t want to do them. 

We are diligently working with all the professionals necessary to see if this particular child has some learning differences that make school more difficult for her. But whether these exist or not, I do know, without a doubt, that virtual school is not the right answer for her education. If, for some reason, our schools needed to switch to virtual, I have a feeling that we would all be better off if I simply enrolled her in straight-up homeschooling. And so I feel this sense of limbo, what is this year going to look like? 

I’m feeling that way about a lot of things. Our government has some important stuff happening tomorrow, and right now, I don’t think anyone knows how it’s all going to turn out. 

The spread of the virus is constantly in the news. I have now had several people I know personally affected. A vaccine is being touted as the cure to end the pandemic, but I am not convinced. On many counts. 

We are all so happy to be out of 2020, but nobody knows how this new year is going to turn out either. Life feels fragile. 

And so, I put one foot in front of the other. I do what I know to do. Take care of my family. Take care of our home. Try to keep my focus on God and his power and wisdom, instead of the chaos that surrounds us. Take deep breaths. Let them out slowly. Read my Bible. Turn on the worship music. Try to be kind. Gentle. Keeping in mind that everyone else is operating in this same fragility. 

Seeking Emmanuel in the Crazy

We had an amazing Christmas service with our church today. The story of Jesus, starting with creation, told throughout the earth’s history, ending with his resurrection, accompanied by beautiful music. During the service my shoulders lifted from stress that had been weighing them down. My anxious thoughts calmed and focused on this story that never grows old. 

I needed that church service to hit the reset button. 

I wish that I could tell you that I have risen above the stress of 2020 and the Christmas season,, and I am peacefully gliding through the crazy, prioritizing, putting people first over TO DO lists, remembering that Jesus is the Reason for the Season etc etc…But I’m actually not doing a very great job, in my own estimation. I have been snappy, irritable, not handling things well. My family is getting irritated at me. I’m getting irritated at me. The church service this morning was good. It restored some peace. But I am shocked at how quickly I step back into my irritable mode. Once a week doses of God’s presence aren’t enough. Once a day isn’t enough. I am needing a constant turning. A constant reminder that God is good. That Christmas is about celebrating Emmanuel, God with us, not about doing all the fun activities and getting all the best presents. 

I am obviously not writing this from a place of achievement or even a place of rest and peace. I am writing this from the perspective of a mom who is frazzled, worn out, wanting to make Christmas great for her kids, but is instead rushing and stressing. And I need Jesus. I need peace. I need a constant reminder that I am not alone, that loving my family is more important than making Christmas cookies just-so, or having the house clean at all times. I need a heavy dose of patience and perspective. 

I am writing some reminders on my hands. Emmanuel. Jesus is here with us, I am saved, never alone. Peace. Christmas traditions are not as important as loving your family. Everyone would prefer a calm mom rather than a mom who has done all the stuff. 

I am hoping that over the next week I will see the words on my hands often. I will stop yelling. I’ll take a deep breath. Walk away for a minute. Reset. Start again. 

We’ll see how it goes as I seek Emmanuel and his peace.