healthy choices

The Journey, February 26, 2014, I gave up diet soda!

Sugar by any other name…

Imagejust isn’t sugar.

So, 6 days ago I decided it was time to give up diet soda. Brilliant, right? I wasn’t really happy with my decision. It was more of a deep-seated recognition that I needed to do something different. I needed to drink something different. Like, something that didn’t taste like liquid Raid.

You may be asking, “Marilyn, why would you drink something that you don’t like?”

Excellent question. As a matter of fact, I have been asking myself the same thing for, oh, the last 25 years or so.

I didn’t start drinking diet soda until later in my high school years. Prior to that, I drank things like iced tea (strong, no sugar), milk, juice, water, and the occasional Coc’-Cola, which, by the way, is my favorite carbonated beverage. Once in a while, I would play refined and have a nice cup of Earl Grey with cream and sugar. But diet pop? Ugh. Until…

Somewhere around the age of 16, I decided that my size 10 Irish/Italian curves could benefit from a bit of slimming down. Mind you, being a size 10 in 1986 wasn’t a bad thing. There were no size 2, 1, 0 or 00 to obsess over in the Wal-Mart Lees for Her section. But, what if…I was thinner, would I get asked out more? Uhm, no. Even after my conversion to diet soda, I only went out on a date like twice in my entire high school career. — junior and senior proms – with guy “friends.” And, honestly, after looking back at old pictures documenting my size 8-10 fluctuation over those years, I don’t really think my size was what kept me from getting asked out, but that’s a different post entirely.

But, what really matters is that at the time, I thought it was why I didn’t get asked out. So, I drank diet soda by default. Real soda was for people who didn’t have weight problems. Right?

Ahem. Well, I’ve learned a lot since then. It’s not necessarily about what I eat or don’t eat, or what I drink or don’t drink. It’s about portion and variety and self control.

For over two decades, I have consoled myself with something I didn’t really like, but felt that I deserved because what if I couldn’t control myself with the “real thing?” What if I stopped drinking diet soda and gained weight?

Well, guess what? Drinking diet soda didn’t keep me from gaining weight, and it wasn’t the “secret weapon” back when I was thinner. I gained weight because my input exceeded my output. When I was thin, my output exceeded my input. Period.

I’ve been drinking alternative beverages for 6 days now, and I haven’t gained an ounce. (Yay, me!) And guess what else? I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve had to drink. Milk, iced tea, water, vanilla chai, and the occasional Coc’-Cola. 🙂 And an unanticipated bonus? A fuzziness that I didn’t realize was there seems to have lifted from my brain. BOOM! How cool is that?

What’s the takeaway from my a-ha moment? Don’t be afraid to try something different. Change course just a little bit. Be brave. Be wild and crazy. Be daring. Go left instead of right. Try a vanilla chai. It might just be worth it 🙂

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Worthy; recovering from emotional abuse, January 10, 2014

Image Most of us step into marriage with the greatest expectations of a lifetime spent loving and being loved. Sure, we’ll have our ups and downs, just like everyone else, but we’ll work through whatever comes our way, together, because that’s what people who love each other do, right?

I married my second boyfriend. Throughout high school and college, I can count on one hand the different guys I went out with, so it’s safe to say I didn’t date a lot. I was that other girl, you know, everyone’s “little sister.” I had a herd of “big brother” friends and protectors, but few expressed any romantic interest.

When I married “Don” (not his real name), I was just finishing nursing my wounds from the “big breakup” with my college sweetheart. It had been two years, and “Don” seemed the antithesis of my first boyfriend. He was a few years older, reserved, cerebral, in the ministry, and an east-coaster. My first boyfriend was from Chicago, so dating someone with a completely different philosophy on pizza might be a good idea, right? Word to the wise, don’t base your dating decisions on hand tossed versus deep dish. Just sayin’ ;p

“Don” and I took a lot of walks. He was a great conversationalist and offered a lot of deep thoughts and clever phrases. He was fun in a dark, droll kind of way – Mr. Rochester to my Jane. The romantic in me thought it was a match made in Victorian literature. Ahem.

The first few months of our marriage were nice. Peaceful, quiet, normal, until that morning – the morning “Don” wasn’t waking up for church. He was going to be teaching, and I was supposed to lead worship, but I decided to let him rest a few more minutes since he obviously was tired. When I still couldn’t rouse him, I became worried. He seemed totally unresponsive. I remember sitting down next to him on the edge of the bed, my hand on his shoulder. “Don?” I asked with a gentle shake. Nothing. “Don?” A little louder, a little more urgent. Then, he awoke, but the man who lunged from the bed was no one I recognized.

He was raging, and I was dumbfounded, confused and silent, just watching at first, trying to wrap my head around what was happening in front of me. Words spewed from him like venom. Harsh, unfounded accusations, cruel curses, and anger. Still, the only thing I understood was that I needed to keep out of his way.

I watched what seemed like slow motion as he flew his fist against the hallway wall, leaving a crooked imprint. I remember thinking he seemed so calm and focused on his movements. Elbow back, fist tucked under chin, then a deep breath and BAM, another hit, this time splintering a hole in the coat closet door.

The energy rolled off of him, and he suddenly seemed exhausted. He walked to the bathroom and locked himself inside. Quiet.

I sat on the couch, feet tucked under my knees, nightgown pulled down tight, like a little girl watching a scary movie. The phone sat on the coffee table. I stared at it, weighing my options, my future. All I had to do was make one call. My brother would come and get me, and that would be that. But…

If I made that call, there would be no hope of saving my marriage. No hope of rescuing that happily ever after. My family would lock me in a closet before ever letting me come back, and there would be no vouching for “Don’s” safety. I am the baby of five, and let’s face it, big brothers are big brothers.

That’s when I heard him crying, from the other side of the bathroom door. Obviously, “Don” must be sick. He had never acted that way before. Maybe he needs some medicine, and some counseling. Something must be wrong, and it was my place to help him, wasn’t it?

And so it began. Friends, finding yourself in an emotionally abusive relationship is as easy as a Sunday morning gone wrong. If you find yourself in a situation where you need help, or you see that someone you love needs help, please, be brave. Make the call.

Love you, lovelies.

The Journey, December 21, 2013

Image

Many years ago, when I was overweight the first time, a dear family friend offered to pay for a few counseling sessions for me. The counseling was a gift of guidance through some rough waters I was navigating at the time – college, boyfriend, my father’s deteriorating mental health. I met with the counselor for my first session. She and her husband shared a counseling practice in a detached office space behind their Chicago-land residence. She was middle aged, blonde, and petite. We talked briefly about a few things at first. I call it the “getting to know you” stage. Then, she said something that took me by surprise.

“You’re really tiny, aren’t you?”

Confession – I was VERY overweight at the time, considerably more  than I am now. Her words stunned me.  And, they frightened me. My obesity failed to hide my 5’2″, small-boned frame from this woman. Somewhere inside, I was tiny, and the realization that she noticed was terrifying, even though I didn’t know why. And, at the time, I wasn’t willing to find out. My first visit to that counselor was my last – I didn’t go back.

Over the years, I have occasionally thought about that day, about her words and my reaction.  As miserable as being overweight can be, it can serve as a great excuse to get you out of all kinds of situations, both passively and actively. It provides a protective barrier of insulation, literally and figuratively. Unfortunately, it’s not very versatile. There is a price to pay for trying to make yourself invisible to the world. The price? Success. For every bad thing you think you’ve protected yourself from, there is a multitude of positive experiences that you deny yourself, and the people around you.

Invisibility doesn’t equal immunity.

Whatever any of us thinks we’re saving ourselves from by hiding behind weight isn’t worth it. There is suffering even in the so-called invisibility. Trust me, being overweight doesn’t make you invisible. It makes you misrepresented. You don’t take as many chances. You deny yourself opportunities. You don’t let your talents shine. You don’t contribute as fully as you might otherwise. You can’t fulfill your true earthly purpose when you’re not being true to yourself. And, you know what? That’s really sad.

It came as a surprise.

Until that day in the counselor’s office, sitting in a plush, overstuffed chair, I had no idea that I was invisible. I wasn’t consciously trying to hide who I was from the world. What’s more, I had forgotten that I really was, well, tiny. Could it have been that, instead of hiding myself from the world, or at least, in addition to hiding myself from the world,  I was attempting to hide myself from myself?

Why would I do that?

I don’t know if I have the answer to that question. When I consider it, I think of words like self-preservation, denial, fear, lack of confidence. That’s probably a good start. I think that when we are in situations we feel we have no control over and we need comfort that we can’t seem to satisfy, we turn to alternatives. Some of those alternatives are healthy, and some are not. I don’t think any of us do it on purpose. Who would want to be unhealthy? Who would want to be overweight? Who would want to be invisible?

Breaking true.

So, I’ve lost around 15 pounds now. I probably have around 80 to go, at least. And, that’s okay because I’m moving in the right direction. I’m more comfortable with who I am than I have ever been. I’m looking forward to moving forward in this journey, and to learning more about myself and the world and my place in it. The exciting thing is that the ride is so much more fun with my eyes open 🙂 Because I am willing and able to look at myself and the truth of my situation – the truth of my health, my priorities, my options, my dreams, my environment, my family and friends, my job, my past, my now, and my future, I have all the tools I need to break through to my next goal, and the next, and the next.

I hope that, as you move forward in your journey, whatever it may be, that you choose to be bold. Be willing to open your eyes to yourself and the world around you. You deserve to live and walk in the truth of who you are. Brave is as brave does 😉

 

 

 

 

The Journey, December 1, 2013

The time…
2013-12-01 13.52.42 (551x640)
has come.

My diet survived Thanksgiving, I think.

I haven’t weighed over break, but I will be doing that tomorrow at work. My biggest worry is that I’ve gained, my biggest hope is that I’ve remained steady, and my biggest wish is that I’ve lost. Right now, I’m hoping for keeping steady :). Y

Regardless of the results of tomorrow’s weigh in, I have come to an unsettling realization of truth. Yes, I have been making more healthy eating decisions. Yes, I have been making progress, and I’ve lost 13 pounds. But, I know something is missing. I know that I need to once again take up exercise (insert noir film foreboding music – DOM, dom, DOOOOMMMMMM!).

I have mixed feelings about exercise. In the past, I have enjoyed it, and I have loathed it. It has served as both an escape and a punishment, and as leverage by a man who once swore an oath to love me and cherish me. At one point, I ran several miles a day, every day. Biked, hiked, and did ridiculously challenging (and effective) toning exercises, all in pursuit of that elusive carrot called “good enough.” Good enough to love, good enough to keep. Even though it’s been 7 years since that relationship dissolved, it is still a struggle to tune out his words. Yes, it was a very dark time in my life, but I always had hope. Sometimes I borrowed it from the few people who had an idea of what was going on. Sometimes I pulled it up from somewhere deep inside. Sometimes God poured it over me in the most unexpected ways.

So, today, as I look at my running shoes, mocking whispers from the past rise up, trying to tell me I’m a failure. Trying to tell my I’m not pretty. Trying to tell me I’ll never be “good enough.” And, do you know what I say to that? ENOUGH! I’ve always been enough of anything I’ve needed to be. I’ve worked hard, I’ve learned, I’ve grown, I’ve given, I’ve loved, I’ve hurt, and I’ve failed. But, I have NEVER GIVEN UP. I might have a soft voice, but in my heart of hearts, I am a fighter. I am stubborn, and when I’m broken, I am remade stronger than I was before. It might take me a while to heal. It might take me a while to tie up the laces. But I always have hope that I will, one day. And today, my friends, is one of my many, many “one days.”

If you are struggling with, well, ANYTHING. Know that your one day is coming, perhaps today. Hang in there, be strong, and have hope. Lace up those shoes, lovelies. 🙂

The Journey, November 20, 2013

So, have you ever had one of those days when you just felt icky? You look at yourself in the mirror, and you don’t just feel like you have a double chin – you feel like you have a double face?? Yeah, me too.

Just last week, the day before my weigh-in, I felt that way. I almost didn’t weigh. I thought, maybe I’ll put it off a week. Besides, it won’t help my self-esteem if I’ve gained, right? Then I thought, no, be true to yourself. If I had gained weight, then I at least needed to face the truth and deal with it. Take my medicine like a big girl, so to speak.

While I was walking downstairs at work, heading toward the scale several of us use to track our weight, I kept thinking things like, “Well, I’ll do better from now on.” “Hopefully, I won’t have gained more than 1 or 2 pounds.” Or, my favorite, “I sure hope nobody notices my second face.” You think I’m kidding, don’t you? LOL

I stepped on the scale, expecting the ceiling to open up above me, and the scale to explode, ejecting me up and out. Usually, I look away from the number display, waiting a few seconds for it to settle before I face the truth. This time, I figured, go big or go home. So, I stood there, watching the LCD digits go back and forth, bravely awaiting my fate. Finally, they stopped. The number I saw took my breath away. I had met and EXCEEDED my 10 pound goal! Yes, friends, I’ve lost 11 pounds!!

I walked back to my office with a spring in my step, and stretching maybe a centimeter or two taller. I was so proud of myself! Then, since it’s a bit of a walk to the opposite wing of the building, I had a little time to think. I had almost chosen not to face the truth. I had almost chosen to hide. Again. If I hadn’t weighed, I would have accepted the idea that I had gained weight (and possibly had a double face), that I had let myself down and failed. I might have let myself become trapped in disillusion and decided to give up. But, I took a chance on the truth, and I’m so glad that I did.

Is there something holding you back from facing the truth? You know, if you’ve ever watched the old G.I. Joe series, you’ll be familiar with the saying, “Knowing is half the battle.” Friends, it’s so true.

If you can face the truth of your situation, no matter what that might be, you will have power in your life and over your life. When you make decisions from a vantage point of veritas, your north will always be true, and you will reach your destination.

The Journey, November 5

Well, it has taken a little while, but I am now down 8 pounds, and hoping to hit that first 10 pound goal by sometime next week 🙂 In the long run, I have many more 10 pound goals to go, but I am going to celebrate this one and not worry just yet about the next one. Afterall, there is (or should be) joy in the journey, right?
I have struggled a bit this week with enjoying where I am, not only with my weight, but in other areas of my life, as well. I have had to remind myself more than once that there is beauty, value, and worth in my life, in me, in the here and now. Of course, there are things that never fail in bringing a smile to my face, like my wonderful son and his effervescent personality. Or a beautiful sky. Or chocolate. ;p But, I think that there is something in all of us that wants to be seen, to be known, to be recognized as a precious, unique being. We desire affirmation.
For too many years, and even now at times, I looked to others for validation. Of course, this is normal to a degree. But, there is a difference between seeking the approval of others in your life and seeking permission and empowerment from them. We can trust some people with our power, but not all, and we are never meant to relinquish it. It was given to us to wield in love each in our own way.
Our power is made up of many things – the sum of our experiences, our strengths and our weaknesses, our gifts and talents, our motivations and passions. It is unique to each of us. Custom-fitted to our path in life by God to perfectly equip us for the long road before us.
It can be easy sometimes to forget who you are, who you are meant to be. It’s easy to blind yourself to your giftings and worth, to deny the fire that burns within. But, my friends, when we choose to do that (and yes, dears, it is a choice), we live a lie. We are commanded to walk in truth, yet we are so easily misled into thinking it’s okay to be false to ourselves. We are meant for so much more.
When I was a senior in high school, I had to select a personal motto for the yearbook. I chose, “To thine own self be true,” from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. I stumbled away from that many times. But, the words served as sort of a North Star over the years. I may have felt lost over and over again, but knowing that there was something more, somewhere, gave me hope that I would find the high road once more.
So, wherever you are on your journey, whether you’re working toward a healthier lifestyle, a new career, or a brighter outlook on life, remember that there is a better way, a higher way. And, every journey walked in truth will be a positive experience in the end. Hang in there, put one foot in front of the other, and soldier on.

The Journey, October 25th

So, I have now lost 7 1/2 pounds! If I can just replicate these results say, 10 more times, I’ll be close to my goal :0) Seriously, though, I am so happy to have surpassed that dreaded 5 pound wall. It feels good to be a winner!

Have you ever noticed how, when you set out to accomplish something, the emotions in the process run through a cycle? It reminds me of the classic cycle of grief. Now, of course I’m not trying to liken weight-loss to something as devastating and painful as losing a loved one. I’ve been there, as have most of you, and we know that that is a cruel beast unto itself. But, when we lose weight, we are letting go of something.

We like to say that we’re losing weight to be healthy, and we act excited. But, many times, the trigger for losing weight is negative, at least it is in our minds. We feel bad about how we look. We feel guilty for not being more energetic with our kids. We feel ashamed when we compare ourselves with others. We feel we’ve been irresponsible when we get a bad health diagnosis. We can even feel invisible and ridiculous for trying to lose weight when it seems so difficult or even impossible to accomplish.

We have to fight an uphill battle not only against outside forces (like doughnut Friday at the office or lonely nights with Ben & Jerry), but against our inner voice as well. And we grieve. We grieve the past. We grieve a little part of us that seems to have been lost. We grieve our bad habits.

Even so, we have hope. We must have hope somewhere deep inside, or we wouldn’t try in the first place, right? Before starting this weight loss journey, I was very upset with myself. I felt I had let myself down, and perhaps even those who love me because I was not living up to my full potential. When you are overweight, you say no more than you say yes for a million different reasons, and you try to tell yourself this is reality – deal with it. But, when I decided (again) to lose weight, I started to feel excited. I wasn’t really dreaming of being a size 4 again, but instead was looking forward to wearing the next size down jeans that have been in my closet for 2 years. That sounded like something I could do.

The first few weeks were a bit of a struggle. I fought against my old ways. When something upset me, I couldn’t run for chocolate. (Well, not every time anyway 🙂 ) For some reason, this time I powered through. I didn’t give up. I allowed myself to feel the emotions instead of drugging them down with sugar and denial. I found myself living in the moment more. I found myself being real more. And you know what? I like it!

Years ago, I heard a message by T.D. Jakes. He was talking about accomplishing goals, and he said the key to accomplishing a goal was having discipline, desire, and delight. Back when I was beginning as a runner (something I hope to pick back up one day), I thought of that message. I found myself disliking the discipline in the beginning, but as I progressed, I found myself desiring that time on the road. And, as I made it a habit to run 3-5 miles a day, I took delight in it. I used the time to pray, to meditate, and enjoy the mythical “runner’s high.”

I think this formula can be applied to anything in life that we want to turn into a habit, like living a healthy lifestyle. The discipline hurts at first. We strain and struggle against so much – emotions, apathy, environment. Then, we have a taste of success, like breaking through the 5 pound wall. This creates a desire for more. And, one day we wake up to realize that we are taking delight in our new lifestyle.

Be encouraged, friends. Losing weight is truly a journey, and our emotions will make for interesting scenery and pit stops along the way. But, just remember to get back on the road and keep moving. You’ve got this!