Six Tools to Help you Manage your Eating during Covid-19

Friends, these are crazy, crazy times. I have been steadily learning how to stay a float during Covid-19. Extra time is rare these days. Between homeschooling, caring for a newborn, and trying to work my full-time job, I do not have a lot of time to be worried or super-focused on my weight and eating.

I had a good routine before corona.  Everything had to change.

First, I had to readjust my goals. Years later, I hope to look back and be proud I survived this pandemic, while remaining whole of heart and spirit. Survival.

I have committed to one thing–covid-19 WILL NOT be setting me back RE: eating. Though I have every reason to give myself permission, I do not want to resurrect old habits and older versions of myself that I have worked to put to death. Versions of myself that use food inappropriately.   I wonder if you may be feeling the same as me–struggling with your eating, but being determined to not lose the momentum you had been making before the all this began.

I have been scared. Overwhelmed. Worried that the very fabric of my American life, and things that I had unknowingly relied upon (e.g., the presence of toilet paper whenever I wanted it) would  vanish. I am doing the very best I can. We all are these days.

I know two things: 1) I do not have a lot of time; and 2) I am not going backward. This is not the season for me to plan to run a marathon, or to try new healthy cooking methods. I need easy. I need quick. I need reliable. Maybe you do too.

I am implementing safeguards to help me control myself. I know that this is an EMOTIONAL season, and whenever I feel a flood of emotions, I tend to eat differently. I may not always realize that I use food to cope, or even know that is happening. Though I know eating may be my natural method to use to regulate my emotions, I have acquired a few more tools over the years–prayer, listening to encouraging music, calling a friend, taking a walk, journaling, getting out of the house, taking a nap.

Below, are some additional practices that help me stay in control:

1) Say no to seconds: I eat what I want, but I don’t go back for more. I hate this one. Really, I do. However, when I

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STOP going back for “just a little bit” more, my eating behaviors are much more manageable. A “little bit more” is often underestimated, and it turns out to be a whole lot more. I was doing this for a few weeks and seeing good momentum; I stopped (because I hate it!), but I stopped making as much progress. I realized and I am going to start do this again.

2) Stop eating at the point of fullness: I am ever realizing there is no benefit of eating past the point of fullness. It does not matter WHAT it is: I must stop when I sense my body telling me I had enough. I have to recommit to this daily, and ask God to HELP me because I often want to keep going.

3) Move 3-4 times/week: Some days, all I can do is take a walk. On good days, I try to do some type of workout video. Either way, I move.

4) Cut the Snacks (no grazing): This has been SO helpful. I have been focusing on eating every 3-4 hours. Period. No in-between. I try to aim for one snack per day, between lunch and dinner.  I cut out lots of tempting situations because of this. If I am really hungry in-between meals, I eat a piece of fruit. I practice this regularly, but not rigidly. Grace reigns in this season.

5) Weighing myself regularly: I step on the scale at least twice per week. This is my point of accountability. If I see the numbers going up, then I know I need to make some changes with my eating and physical activity behavior.  Regular weighing facilitates a healthy relationship with my weight. There are no surprises, and I see the consequences of my decisions. Regular weighing + long-term behavior changes = peace with my weight.

6) Weekly calls with my accountability partner. Every week, my partner and I confess (ha!) and tell how each other how our eating has been going. We set goals. We pray together about our struggles. We encourage one another. We swap ideas with one another. This has been one of my most helpful tools in my weight journey.

The end product? I have maintained my weight over these last few months. I wanted it to be more, but I have had to readjust my goals. We survive and care for ourselves in pandemics. I remember–I am doing the best I can. I am loving and being loved by my friends and family. I am enough at all sizes.  

Journey on, friends.

Creeping

I’m having that feeling again.

The one where I want to eat everything in my sight.

Its been slowing coming on since this coronavirus thing started.

Slowly. Creeping. Like a silent intruder. But still coming nonetheless.

I fight, but sometimes I don’t want to HAVE TO fight. I just don’t want to.

But if I don’t fight, IT wins. And I have to win, not IT.

So, no. I won’t eat that extra piece of pound cake. Nope, not today. And no, I won’t indulge myself in that thought, the one that says this “food” will make things better. Nope, I won’t do it. Its a lie.

I find myself taking comfort in food. Almost an attempt to find little bits of joy in each day. I know it won’t really produce joy, but it definitely serves as a mask.

Growing

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I thought I would take the time to check-in about how I have been doing. The most important update is that I am growing.

I have been working on my relationship with food for about 15 years. I see now there is always more work to do. I must always work to keep from resurrecting behaviors and eating patterns that should be left dead. If I practice the chain-breaking things (e.g., eating only for physical hunger, turning to God for strength, limiting my self-indulgence, regular accountability), I walk closer to freedom in my heart and in my mind. My clothes fit better. I am stronger and closer to wholeness. I see another truth at work as well: if I indulge my flesh (e.g., overeating, self-soothing with food), I am inevitably on the road to slavery, and I will find myself at the place where I awake once again to chains.

The most difficult place for me? Times of stress. I still have this track that plays in my mind, rhythmically, almost like a song: “Food will make it better.” The track gets louder when I feel like I am overwhelmed and tired. I awake to ringing in my ears.

I saw this clearly once I had my second child about 6 months ago. The cravings were so intense and I thought about food all the time. I was planning my next meal before the last one finished. All I wanted to do was eat. I saw this pattern: I begin to believe I deserve a “treat.” Look at how hard things have been, I say. You have earned this.  And then my mind starts to plan. Though I have tried not to indulge that part of myself, I still have that path in my heart, and at any moment, I could walk down that road again. However, I know where it leads and I am done with all of that.

I now know to practice my faith in times of stress. I instead decide to pray, meditate on a scripture, or take the time to show my gratefulness to God. My go to prayer? “God give me strength.” And he does. I see the truth in my heart now; food is a counterfeit. Though I crave it at times of greatest vulnerability, I now know that it does not save. It does no more than to satisfy the desires of my heart for but a moment. My relationship with God, however, bears fruit. It gives me what I truly need, and I can see clearly the space food once occupied is and should be all HIS.

I have lost 7 lbs. since I re-started the weight loss journey. I’m ok with the pace, realizing that once the weight is lost, my son will likely no longer be a baby. Trying to keep things in perspective. I don’t want to rush or miss anything.

My focus is on practicing my health behaviors (e.g., at least 2 gym workouts weekly; no seconds (though I want them at EVERY meal), pizza and dessert alternate every other week; fresh fruit and vegetables for snacks. I am far from successful every week, and that’s ok. I just keep reaching for the goal.

I’m growing. I hope you are too.

Keep going, friends.

Imprisoned in your own body

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About 2 years ago, I was in such a painful season with my weight. I had gained nearly 70 pounds. I did not even recognize myself.  I also could not lose the weight. No matter how hard I tried. You cannot imagine the pain of trying nearly EVERY thing –gym visits, changing my diet, etc., only to see the scale continue to go up and up. I felt judged and ashamed. I eventually just quit trying.

I imagine some of you may be in a similar place. There is no pain like that of being “stuck.” I know the reasons are many and varied, but the feeling is relatable. Just stuck. Like a prisoner. Stuck inside a body that you feel is foreign and unwanted.

What do you do if you cannot lose weight?

Well, first, I imagine you probably will cry. Lots of tears of frustration. Please allow yourself to do this. This is a painful season, and you have every right to be hurt, angry, and discouraged. Give yourself the moment.

In the Bible (Jeremiah 29), there was another group of people who were in captivity in a foreign land. They were hoping to leave, but God told them to settle in–it was going to be awhile (70 years to be exact!). As I was reading over the instructions he gave them, I saw some things that may encourage you.

Take care of the place you are in.

Though you may not like your current weight or your current body, this is still your body. Love it. Be a good steward over it. Take care of it by feeding it good food and engaging in activities that are good for your physical and mental health. Being stuck does not equate to living stuck. When I looked my absolute worst physically (at least from my point of view) a few years ago, I made sure that my clothes “game” was on point. I made sure to dress myself really well. I spent extra time on my hair, working to improve my ability to be creative in other areas. It made me feel better, and it was fun. I really needed some fun to distract me from how difficult the season was for my heart. Maybe you do too.

Remember, God is thinking good thoughts toward you, and he has good plans for your future.

 This is a bit more difficult. Though your faith may be weary, just know that it will not always be this way. Though I don’t know the intricate details of your particular story, I do know that seasons end and they change. I felt more encouraged by meditating on the good things God whispered to me were coming. By focusing on the future, I did not have to allow my heart to be overwhelmed by fear of the finality of this moment. Though, for now, this is my reality, I have hope that good things are coming and joy will fill my heart once again.

 Take a wholehearted approach to seeking God while you wait for him.

This, too, may be hard. You may be really angry with God.  You all may not even be speaking. I get it, and he does too. However, if you feel up to it, just tell him how you feel. Just speak it. To him. When I was in this season, I often had to remind myself that I was not getting out of this season without God. I needed him, so we were going to have to work it out.

There was one part of Jeremiah 29 that encouraged me to rethink my spiritual cold war. As the people were settling into their new “home”, God told them that they would seek and find him when they searched with their whole heart. God told them that they would be found by him and he would bring them from their captivity.

I choose to believe the same applies to our story. Though I don’t currently feel lost, maybe there is a part of me that is missing. Maybe there is something in me that needs to be found.

If I take my cues from this passage, I will take care of my body and my heart, believe God has good plans for me to keep my heart encouraged, and do my best to seek, and get closer to God while I wait. He alone is the one who can release me. I also recognize that God is doing a deeper work; I trust him. I know that he is always doing more than I think he is in my life.

Eventually, I did get released from my season of “captivity.” My release date took longer than I thought it would, but as I look back, I understand. I see and am enjoying the things that God was preparing for me in that season. I had some ways about me that needed to change. I didn’t see it then, but I understand now. It just took some time.

Keep going, friends.

 

 

I can’t do this alone

I need accountability. Maybe you do too.

I have realized that two forms of accountability are helpful: 1) person-to-person and 2) weighing myself on the scale.

I want to believe that I can do this on my own. But, if I reflect on all the times I have been successful at losing a significant amount of weight, I have always had help. Every single time. I just don’t think I can focus long enough to do what is needed without it. So now, my accountability partner and I talk on the phone weekly about our goals and troubleshoot the areas where we are struggling. It is so helpful. Sometimes the only reason I don’t make a poor health choice is because I know I’ll have to share it with my accountability partner. What a deterrent! I have learned God has not made us to be alone. This verse often comforts me: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. For if one falls down, his companion can lift him up, but pity the one who falls without another to help him up (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10).” I often see this verse applied to marriage, but it sure is applicable to this weight loss journey!

I currently weigh myself 2-3 times per week. Yes, I want to know if I am making progress, but more importantly, I am making myself accountable for my eating choices. I think of the scale as a visual “check me” session. This goes one step further than my accountability partner. She responds to what I tell her. The scale responds to what I would rather no one else know: The sum total of my eating decisions. I have had seasons where I have not used the scale regularly; in all of those seasons; I gained more weight than I thought I would. In all of those seasons. Without this measure of my accountability, I have no way of really knowing if what I am doing is helpful. When I step on it and the numbers are higher than I would like, I quickly make adjustments and make sure that I am engaging in disciplined behavior once again. If the scale is showing progress, I can look back on my most recent behavior and recognize something that needs to continue.

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I am a person who needs accountability. How about you?

 

Learning how to MEASURE progress

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“I don’t feel like I am making progress.”

Isn’t that how this weight journey typically begins? So often, our progress is invisible to us. In my experience, the beginning is SLOW. I often feel like I have lots of false starts.

I often measure my progress by the scale. If the scale is going down, then I must be doing well. If the scale is staying the same, then I must not be doing something right. Sigh. It can be exhausting.

Maybe I need to change my measure.

My husband and I went to Popeye’s and I DID not order anything. Oh, how I wanted a spicy chicken sandwich! Instead, I went across the street to Chick-fil-A, and got a grilled chicken sandwich. Growth.

 I realized it was a nice day outside. I was feeling good.  I decided to go and take a 30-minute walk with the baby. Growth.

 I ate my dinner last night, and I left the table feeling satisfied. I did not overeat, nor did I get seconds. Growth.

 I spoke with my accountability partner, and we both told each other how we had accomplished most, if not all, of our goals for the week. We ended the conversation praying and we also established new goals. We have been speaking consistently for 3-4 weeks now. Growth.

 After all that “growth,”  I hopped on the scale this morning. I had to see what my “measure” told me. I had lost .5 pounds from the last read a few days ago. Hmm. Not as much as I had hoped. But that’s ok. Thank you for the information, scale. I am learning—you are not my source of approval.

Am I improving my health behaviors weekly? YES

 Am I using food appropriately and NOT relying on it as a coping source? YES

 Did I increase my physical activity from the week before? YES

Did I JUST have a baby 4 months ago? YES

 Breathe, mama. Breathe.

I realize I am doing better than I thought. Maybe you are too. Let’s remember to measure a little more accurately the next time. Keep going, friends.

 

Seeking Rest

I don’t know about you, but there are often times when I need shelter in this whole weight journey thing. I can think of so many seasons of weariness. A sense of sheer exhaustion with a recurrent battle that often seemed pointless and wearying to fight. I was just so tired. Tired of caring. Tired of it mattering. Just tired. I did not want or did not know how I could even imagine life without this battle continuing. It was just too much.

In the past, beginning my weight journey meant that I was starting a new diet plan. THIS was going to be it. All I have to do is follow these few rules, and not eat________ . Easy, right?

Child, please. If there is ANYTHING that feels like a burden, it is the act of following a diet. Oh, my. It always seems doable at first, but after the first few days, the burden of slavery has finally settled. I just traded masters. Instead of being bound to food, I am now bound to this new set of rules. These rules are oppressive. I feel doomed to fail, scared that if I don’t follow the rules exactly then I will not see the results I hope to achieve. I have done SO many of these diets, and I believe they are ALL the same. Burdensome.

There is a passage in the Bible that talks specifically about this:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentile and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Ok, God. Your promised me rest. Where is it?

When I started asking God for his help with my weight, he gave me one rule: “Eat when you are hungry and stop when you have had enough.” When I started, it was not about what I was eating, but rather, when and for what reason. At first, I felt that this rule was burdensome, just like all of other diets. However, once I decided to listen, I quickly saw the freedom that followed. As long as I ate within these boundaries, God allowed the choices to be mine.

Since that first step of obedience, I have seen God honor my efforts. He saw that I was trying,  and even though I was not perfect, it seemed that my small step toward trying to listen, would reap bigger rewards. I had his help. I was his friend. He wanted to help me win. I just needed to do it his way.

Now that I am beginning yet another journey out, I will begin as I learned– by asking him where I should start. God, what would you have me to do? How should I move forward this time?  I need your help. As I listen for the answer, I would encourage you to consider asking him the same thing. Remember, He wants to help you. Just let him.

 

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Why I am losing weight

When making a behavior change, we often discuss the importance of finding your “why.” I think we just need a focal point, a factor that motivates after the intrinsic motivation wears thin. There are several reasons why I have decided to take this weight loss journey, yet again. I write because I know I’ll need to be reminded, and maybe this will help you too.

First, I’ve lived in both places–carrying excess weight and not carrying excess weight.  I like the peace and focus I feel not carrying excess weight. There is this slow process that begins once I gain weight, and without knowing it, I often awake and realize I feel like a slave around food. Even if I wanted to be free, I cannot see a way out. It just feels impossible. Or, I find there is a point where my weight becomes a distraction in my mind. I will think about it A LOT. I will look in mirrors more–trying to assess my appearance from different angles. When I am carrying more weight than I should, I tend to think about weight and food more than I should. I do not like my mind being consumed by any individual thing. In previous seasons, vile, incessant, and attacking thoughts about how “fat” I was often accompanied my thoughts about weight. While those feelings are no longer, I do find myself looking in mirrors, wondering if this particular outfit is flattering, and second-guessing taking pictures ( you know how pictures NEVER lie). These are all signals that my weight needs some attention.

When I was younger, my reason for weight loss was simple: I just wanted to be thin. I assumed thin people had better lives, and if I attained a certain size, then all would be right with the world.  I now know that is untrue. Problems and pain accompany all seasons. I remember joking with my sister that I wanted to be able to wear a sleeveless shirt, and have my arms out in the summer. Or I just wanted to wear a size 14 jean instead of 20, and not have to shop in a plus size store. I wanted options. Some people dream of being famous; I dreamed of being thin.

I remember visiting Paris in early 2001 with my friends. Being in Paris in the early 2000s equated to traveling to a place where there was NO “big girl” love, i.e. no plus size options in stores.  We went clothes shopping, and it was absolutely dreadful. NOTHING fit. I could not try on any clothes. I was humiliated. Oh, that feeling!  I remember it distinctly. Now, you can argue, that the Parisians not having clothes that fit plus size women was more of the problem. Maybe it was. Either way, that experience is seared in my mind. I DON’T want to experience that again.

I want to lose weight because I want to abolish the perceived barrier that now exists in my mind. I often think, “because of my weight, I can’t do xx. I won’t feel as comfortable doing xx.” I will second guess wanting to run, swim, take pictures, go on rides, sit in chairs etc. It is SO much easier for me to think self-deprecating thoughts. Also, I always have the “what if” clause–what if I were smaller? Would I be experiencing ______ differently right now? Or, because of my weight, will my husband be as attracted to me?  Or, will I be taken seriously in my work? These thoughts are just TOO much.

Health reasons also push me to lose weight. My knees hurt, and I know injury is not too far away if I place too much strain on my knees. Also, I have polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS, and I will not ovulate regularly or at all when I reach a certain weight, thus making it harder to plan for pregnancy. In fact, regulating my ovulation cycle pushed me to lose weight this last time;  I knew if it was not regular, it would make having more children biologically either extremely difficult or impossible. Furthermore, my excess weight was increasing my risk for diabetes. During my last weight loss journey (2017), the doctor told me that I was pre-diabetic. After I lost about 30 pounds, however, I was no longer pre-diabetic. Simply put, I have learned that body just does not operate as well at a higher weight.

And last, I also want to lose it for YOU. I know there is at least one person who is reading my blog who feels that freedom from excess weight is a hopeless endeavor. I had to come back yet another time ( this will be my 8th time having to lose weight) to let you know that, while understandable, that feeling is untrue. It can be done, and you can be free, healthy, and whole, while maintaining a weight that is best for your body. Don’t give up, dear weary one.

So, yes, I have my reasons that push me forward. I felt it was necessary for me to answer the question of why weight loss BEFORE I get started. The journey is long, and I will have setbacks that discourage me from accomplishing my goal. I also have a list of victories to encourage me that this is not in vain. We can do this.  Let’s push on together.

What is your “why”?

A Hope for the New Year

I am back trying to lose weight. I had a baby in September, and the dust has settled to where it is now time to move forward again.

Things have changed, however, since I last traveled this road. Weight loss is now bad? Fat acceptance and body positivity is now in? Who knew things would shift this way?

This time around, I have access to one thing that previously felt in low supply: hope. I’ve been down this road SO many times; I know its sharp turns, endless plains, and dark, despairing nights. I also know how the story ends, and have experienced some victories.  It makes the journey that much easier.

But, what of those of you who decided to sit this one out?  Those of you who decided that this particular journey is far too long, and far too difficult, or maybe even not worth it. First, let me say this–I get it. This road is very daunting; the journey can be filled with too many false starts. To much hard work for what often amounts to nothing.  And some of you have decided that taking this journey is more than many of you can bear. So, you wave at me, wish me well, and settle into your new home, vowing to make the best of it.

Well, wait one minute. Please. Before I go.

Please reconsider coming with me.

You see–there may be a shard of hope that may still exist in your heart.  A piece of you that believes that this can happen. The hope you place can be worth it.  You CAN experience victory.

We may have to make a few modifications though.

First, though you have an image of what this looks like, or is supposed to look like, I encourage you to “tear it up.” Yea, I know, you want THIS picture, and this whole journey may not be worth it to you if it doesn’t turn out the way you desire. Again, from a seasoned traveler, THIS doesn’t exist. And the end may not look exactly like you hoped. Still come.

Just to be transparent–“ideal weight loss” was the land I was hoping to go to. I’ve heard it was pretty great there –at least that’s what they say.  Seems that people will do whatever it takes to get there.  I should let you know–I no longer try to make the trek THERE.  I’m going to try to go to a different place this time. Took me awhile, and couple of previous attempts, but I believe I have been convinced.

God has previously traveled with me on all my trips.  His companionship has made all the difference. He just had a WAY ABOUT him, you know? He helped me see things differently or push through my despair and fog with someone who encouraged me to hope again.  His voice calmed and his presence guided. He introduced me to freedom and peace; two places that were so comforting for this weary traveler. He just helped, and I will be taking him with me again.

Since I have been to the destination before, it is tempting to just leave others behind. But no. It is not enough for ME to be free if others are not.

So, I guess I’m getting ready to leave. Along with my companion, we will be traveling to, well, I guess I’m not entirely sure. God promised it would be worth it, and that I’ll be whole and free at the end. I’ll be writing about this journey, and encourage you to join me.

Just think about it.

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Yes. Free.

I think I’m at the place where that is good enough for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Deeper Sense of Freedom

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I think I am feeling free? Maybe? Perhaps? In past years, freedom has been something that I thought I had, but realized that I hadn’t quite obtained. With as many times as I have lost or gained weight, I should be an expert. When I was bemoaning all the extra weight I was carrying, I didn’t understand. What more could I need to learn? I now see that God was trying to give me a deeper sense of freedom.

The first time I lost a significant amount of weight my focus was only on keeping the scale in a certain place. As a result, my habits were not strong. I often re-gained the weight, and seemed to only have a superficial level of “health.” I appeared healthy because my weight was in a normal place, but it wasn’t very deep.

The second time I worked on my physical activity behaviors, and learned to exercise just because it was and is good for me. This was right after I had my son, and my weight loss was very limited. I remember when my gym called and asked where I had been.  I lived 2 minutes away!  No excuse. In that season, I was not motivated to work-out.  I had learned the bare minimum maintained my weight (e.g., eating within the bounds of hunger), and that’s all I did. I, however, was still immature and had to learn to practice health behaviors just because my health mattered. That led to a season of regular physical activity, but no real changes on the scale. Painful, but necessary for my growth.

So, this time around, after gaining 65 pounds, and losing about 80% of it, I think I finally learned a couple of things. Yes, my weight matters, but it also doesn’t matter. I’m still Rachel. Still full of all the wonderful things that make me unique and special, loved by my family and friends. Ten more pounds won’t change that. Freedom.

It is, however, more important than ever that I practice my health behaviors.  This REALLY matters.  When I at my heaviest, the doctor told me that I was pre-diabetic. Wow, her words were a hit to my heart. When I was younger, it was only about fitting into a certain size or type of clothes.  However, now that I am closer than ever to 40, I am learning to make wise choices–just because they are wise. So, when I choose whole foods, or decide to take a walk, I find the decision is far less about achieving a certain number. The scale is a form of accountability, not my source of approval. Freedom.

I imagine there is likely more (with God there always is), but I think I see more clearly now. I can fly a little further on my journey without carrying this excess emotional, spiritual, and physical weight. I can worship God by making choices that honor all he has allowed me to learn, and act accordingly. I will continue to help others do the same. Thanks for journeying with me, friends.