Learning to Prioritize My WHOLE Health

It means so much when we can see the impact of our health behaviors. You change your diet, and you notice the scale move. You increase your physical activity, and you notice you are getting stronger, and your clothes are fitting better. It’s rewarding to see that it matters.

But, what if you are in a season where you don’t see the outcome of your behaviors? You eat differently, you work out, and you see absolutely nothing on the scale. Will you still go forward? Will you still practice your health behaviors? Will you still live with intention?

I believe I am preparing to enter one of the seasons. My heart drops just thinking about it. I was here before, and to be honest, it was no fun. However, I think I handled myself well. I was faithful. I worked out, ate as well as I knew how to in the season, and it didn’t benefit the scale. Not one bit. I remember regularly running laps with my workout partner, but actually ended up gaining weight. If it was not for the grace of God, I would have been so discouraged. However, I wasn’t it. For some reason, I just wasn’t.

I think we are coming to a place in the discussion about weight loss, where we realize, promoting health behaviors is way more important. Often, you don’t have control of your weight. Actually, you really don’t have control over it at all. You cannot tell your body to lose the pounds. All you can do is throw as much at it as you can and hope that it makes a difference.

I did learn one thing in that season—–I am so much more than that weight. It really doesn’t define me. Some days I feel like it does, but I am ever seeing that all of me is enough, whether it’s more to love or less of me to love. Though I look back and remember the seasons where I carried less weight, I also realize that carrying less weight did not automatically mean my life was any better. In fact, I was much happier in the last season I had where I weighed nearly 300 pounds. It was a great season in my life. God is healing, perfecting me, restoring me, all while the outside looked like death was near my doorstep. I was growing so much on the inside. It was beautiful. 

I prefer to be thinner. I also know that I prefer to be whole. And wholeness does not equate with a number on the scale. It doesn’t. Wholeness is the sum total of our soul ties, our heart longings, and the emotional and spiritual health that we have achieved in our inner most parts.

I’ve wanted to be thinner, but God has me on a journey to wholeness. Not necessarily the same thing. It looks so much different than I thought it would look, but as I continue to travel, I find I am at peace.

Defining Arrival

What does arrival look like?

Since I last posted, I feel like I have been making major progress toward my weight management goals. Visiting the dietitian was a very good decision; I finally got the chance to get a little guidance so I could tweak the nutrition content of my meals. Since doing that, and combined with a little physical activity, I have seen the scale begin to move again (yay!). I was finally on my way to arriving at my weight loss goals.

In these last few weeks, however,  I have not been doing as well. I have been struggling more with overeating, and saying no to things I did in the past. My once daily physical activity has transitioned to 1-2 days per week, definitely a far cry from what I know I need to be doing. It’s just, well….harder.

I gained a bit of clarity today after church. I can now see that along with the victory came something else that is often coupled with success: self-sufficiency. For a few weeks, I was thinking of my weight journey as nearly complete. Something in me started to believe “I got it.” It really was quite subtle. I had arrived, I told myself. My, it felt so good to think that way. I just stopped believing I needed any more help. I stopped asking for it. I stopped praying about my eating and weight. I quit seeing the dietitian.  I am doing a good job, I say. I can take it from here, God. Thanks for all the help you gave me–I now know what to do. I will let you know if I need anything in this area.  

Arrival has always meant the end. But, today, I was reminded that we are not built like that. God has made us all needy and dependent; We are ALWAYS going to need his help again. He made it like this on purpose. We are always going to need what he only can gives us (John 4). I am now seeing that arrival in its healthiest form looks a whole lot like dependence. I am practicing all I have learned, but am depending on God to help me do it. I make progress with all that has been revealed, but I remember that it is never my strength that causes me to prosper. As Jesus says in John 15:5: , “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

I finally am able to see again. My “not doing as well” is because I have stopped drinking from the source of my strength. I detached myself from the vine, and without knowing it, placed myself in a position to fail. The truth is this: making eating choices is just the surface of my freedom. I also have to contend with matters of the heart (e.g., loving food more than God), my worship (e.g, turning to food to make it better), and obedience (e.g., stopping because I know I had enough). Oh, God. Help.

I am now rethinking arrival. I recognize how that word does not fit when I think about my struggles and this journey. I am working hard to stay dependent. I will always need God’s help. And that’s ok–it’s how we are built. Journey on, friends.

Taking the Next Step

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Last week, I made an appointment with the nutritionist. It was my first one.

Since March, I have been maintaining my weight (mostly). Though I would have told you I had a desire to work toward weight loss, that was not apparent in my actions. I took a step in the right direction, but really wasn’t ready to move forward with the focus needed to lose weight.  I was just looking to not do further harm.

A few weeks ago, the baby stopped nursing. I realized I had a bit more free time. I had a long talk with myself.  If I was going to lose weight, I was going to have to change my behaviors.  I would have to do more. (sigh).

My accountability partner recommended I try the nutritionist. I first felt uncertain and maybe even some pride–I never needed the nutritionist before, why would I start now? But, I quickly pushed that thought away; I had enough evidence from the last four months to know that things are different. I quickly called and made an appointment.

On the morning of my appointment, I looked longingly at the pan of cookie bars in the kitchen, knowing my relationship with them was likely to change. Sigh. Thought about eating one “just because,” but I decided against it at the last minute. It was time to move in a new direction.

I logged into my appointment, preparing myself for the worst. It actually was nothing like I thought. I first went through a triage process, and the counselor I met with assessed my goals and current barriers. She asked me questions that were directed and logical–do you track your calories? Do you meal prep? How have you lost weight in the past? She then provided me with a meal plan to try for the next week, with some encouragement to use a tracking tool.

So, after reminding myself that my way wasn’t really working that well, I decided to try it. First stop?  The grocery store. I went and stocked the house with all the foods that I needed to eat. I followed the plan. I tracked my calories. I ate the foods on the recommended food sheet. I increased my physical activity. And as always, I prayed and asked God to help me.

As you can imagine, when I followed the plan, things went well. I felt better. I had more energy. It actually wasn’t that hard–I just needed a little support. Though I have traveled this journey many times, I am realizing that the way is different, every time. I have new stressors and new challenges that influence my relationship with food. I cannot be tied to the method that God uses to answer my prayers; I just move in faith, knowing that he is answering.

Sending well wishes to you all, friends. Keep going.

 

 

CHOOSING a new relationship with food

Every day I have to choose. Every day. I have to remind myself-not the old way. No longer. You have been raised to life in Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ that lives within me.

Some days are harder than others. Especially during COVID-19.

I remember and I still experience the sensation of  “just wanting to eat.” Food served as a pseudo-source; it was supposed to make things better, and it did…until it didn’t. I often felt like I made the “Ursula” deal (remember? From “The Little Mermaid”?) when I chose to satisfy my needs with food; at first, I felt like I won, but later awoke to realize more of my freedom had been taken, hastening my plight to end up in chains.

I have to choose.

Its the hardest when my heart is screaming. It is the moments when I am full of emotion, feelings raging like a river inside of me. My flesh raises up like a screaming toddler, demanding I satisfy it RIGHT NOW. DEMANDING.

But, I have learned. I ignore the voice. I turn aside. I move in a new direction.

Instead, I have learned to utter these words. Ever so softly. God help. Help your daughter. Aid this heart that is so overwhelmed.

And HE DOES. He really does. The way he does it looks different every time

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, but often, I awake to see the storm has passed. Unbeknownst to me, somewhere between a crying heart and thunder clouds, my God has saved the day.

Isn’t that what we want? To be rescued? To be made whole? To breathe again once more?

Praise be to the God who does all things well. Selah.

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.