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 1

I would very much like to start a blogging day devoted to weight loss. I think it would be cathartic (if you don’t know what that means, look it up). I think it would be encouraging and have a lot of potential for helping me understand some of my mental issues that revolve around food. I think there would be a lot of potential for encouragement from my readers. It would also likely give me a feeling of accountability to write about this journey, knowing that other people were expecting me to keep on and keep them informed about it. I can see a lot of good coming out if it.

And then I can see a lot of bad. Weight is such a sensitive subject. I mean Really Sensitive. I mean, I would rather talk to you about my sex life than to talk to you about my weight. In fact, knowing that my acquaintances were reading about my struggles with weight would make me embarrassed to show up in public. In fact, I start blushing even now, thinking about people at church reading about my weight loss issues. Especially men. I know that most women are familiar with the struggle to maintain a good weight, it’s something we joke about with each other because it seems that most of us understand. But, it seems to be a lot more of a foreign concept for men. I know my husband has grown a lot from when we first got married to now. He understands. Is understanding. Supportive. I trust him. But that was a hard-won trust. 19-years-of-marriage-worth of trust. I don’t particularly trust the random guy on the street to understand where I’m coming from or have any sympathy for my plight. In fact, I’m presuming that his attitude towards me, a stranger, would be rather uncomplimentary, in regards to my weight.

The question is, are all subjects really bloggable? Should all subjects be bloggable? The fact of the matter is, I know that if I was writing for a strictly female audience, I would have no problem being frank and open about my weight problems. But, this is a public blog, I have no control over who reads this. Which means I have to be resigned to writing to a co-ed audience. Weight loss is such a huge problem in our country these days. It really should be spoken about much more just because there are so many of us struggling with this, very real, health issue.

I was told by a trusted friend once, that she saw me as a fierce and bold person. This is rather surprising as I do not see myself this way at all. I would classify myself as mild-mannered, quiet, unassuming. Writing a blog about weight, to me, feels like a very bold undertaking. One where I would have to be vulnerable with the world and trust that God’s going to protect me, even as I make myself open to getting hurt. Can I be bold? I’m not sure. If me, writing about my weight issues somehow is going to help other people, then yes, I can be bold. I’m going to need a lot of hand-holding along the way though, as the very thought of being that honest rather terrifies me.

Well, here’s the plan. Fat Fridays. I will reserve Fridays to write about weight. Sundays and Wednesdays will be anything and everything, just not my weight journey. I’m not even sure I’m going to share my Friday posts regularly on my Facebook. At least not right away, not till I get a little more courage. I have a goal, a plan, a dream. I need to lose 100 pounds. Yikes. I want this coming year to be the year of victory. Maybe as I blog about it, I can overcome my mental hang-ups that always throw me off track and ultimately defeat me. Maybe I can encourage other people on their journey as well. We’ll see.

On the Edge of the Wilderness

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I wrote about the topic of weight loss because it was on my mind. After I wrote it, I had to think really hard about whether I wanted to share this or not. I have decided to do so because it occurs to me that I am not the only one dealing with these issues and perhaps in sharing I offer someone else a chance to not feel so isolated in their struggles.

For years I have attended a weekly meeting of women who gather together to just talk. We have rules.When you are not talking, your job is simply to listen to the others. You may not interrupt or comment. You may not try to fix them. You may not sympathize or try to add on a similar story of your own. Your only job is to just listen. Be a safe place. When it’s your turn to talk you can be sure that everyone is listening to you. Through this group I’ve also done something called “storywork” where we explore stories from our past that have been instrumental in shaping the way we view the world. While exploring our stories we often discover lies that we believe about ourselves or the world and we are offered a chance to start replacing those lies with truth. It has been a life-changing experience for me. If anyone is interested, the website for this ministry is here: Look Inside

Through this ministry I have been learning the art of curiosity. When I do something that is self-destructive or just not very logical, I’ve been learning to stop and be curious about why I just did that. I’ve been learning a lot about myself as I’ve slowly stopped and taken the time to be curious.

So, today I decided to be curious about something. Why is it so hard for me to start a diet/lifechange/healthierlifestyle/etc? I am significantly overweight. Being overweight has started to cause health issues. I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like the way feel. I greatly desire to be back at a normal weight. So why is it so hard to do something about it? I have started so many diets or “lifestyle changes” that I’ve lost track of how many attempts I’ve made. And it’s down right discouraging. I don’t even want to try again because I feel like I’ll just fail…again.

I was thinking about it and what came to mind was the Israelites, leaving Egypt, heading towards the Promised Land…But first they had to go through the Wilderness..And it wasn’t a short journey. Forgive me for using such an historic, important event to describe my weight loss troubles, I mean no disrespect.

Being overweight is definitely a form of slavery. One I sold myself into. Food addictions are real. Emotional eating is real as well. When food becomes your number one way of coping with stress and sadness and anger, it is very difficult to step away from your bad food habits. It’s like you’re in an extremely difficult moment and you no longer have your normal method of coping and you don’t know what to do with yourself. And in the end it just seems better to go eat something rather than launch into a fit of rage, or eat something before your head explodes, cause that what it feels like it’s going to do when you’re so stressed you can physically feel your blood pressure rising. It just seems like a better idea to eat that chocolate bar, or whatever it is you crave. Food makes you feel better for a couple minutes. It’s hard to step away from that. It involves developing an entire new set of skills, new coping mechanisms that are beneficial instead of harmful. Change is hard. And not fun.

On the other side of the Wilderness is the Promised Land. Everything good is waiting. Good weight. Good health. Good body-image. Younger looking. More energy. Cuter clothes. A sense of pride in accomplishing a major goal. It’s all there waiting. It’s what I’m longing for, dreaming of, wishing I could already be there.

But there’s this thing separating me from the Promised Land. I’m over here in slavery, longing to be over there in freedom, but I’ve got to go through this thing called the Wilderness. Hardship. Dryness. Hard work. Repetition. Same boring view. Eating food that is healthy but not particularly exciting. Forcing myself to exercise when I really just want to sit on the couch. Doing it every day. No breaks. Going to parties and saying No to all the party food and then standing in the corner munching on vegetables and fruit while everyone else eats cake and icecream. Going to the movies and watching everyone else eat popcorn and drink soda while I sip on my water bottle and eat the baggie of blueberries I smuggled in my handbag. Trying to establish new habits, new patterns, when the old ones feel so comfortable. And while you’re in the Wilderness you try to encourage yourself…the Promised Land is coming! You weigh yourself regularly, hoping the numbers are going down as proof that you are heading towards your goal. You measure yourself to see if any inches have come off. You keep logs and records of how you feel so that you can prove to yourself that you are getting closer. And then one day you hit a major holiday and everyone else is eating Pumpkin Pie and you are eating your fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free faux dessert and you suddenly think, why am I doing this? This Wilderness stinks. Everyone else looks so much happier than me, you forget all about the Promised Land and you say, I’m over it, and you grab a piece of pie. And those chains of slavery that you’ve slowly been shedding, start tightening their hold on you again as you fall prey to the lure of food and how good it makes you feel. Because once you turn your back on that path that’s taking you towards victory, once you get lured back towards that slavery, it’s really hard to break free again and set yourself back in the right direction. This is the place where I always fail and I just slide right back into my slavish habits.

I’m sitting here, longing for my Promised Land but I’m eyeing that Wilderness. And I wonder if I really do have what it takes to make it through. Is it really worth it? Is there even really a path that will get me all the way from here to there? I’m uncertain and so I stop. I stand there in my slavery and I glimpse, over the horizon, the Promised Land waiting for me, but can I make it through the Wilderness? I don’t know.

TIME BREAK

I have sat and thought about this all day and a couple more thoughts come to mind. First, God was with the Israelites the whole time they were in the Wilderness, guiding their steps, taking care of them, teaching them things they needed to know. Second, I imagine the Promised Land was that much better and appreciated that much more due to the Wilderness experience. Third, none of the whole adventure would have happened without God.  In other words, this whole journey is going to require a measure of faith.