healthy eating

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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The Journey, January 8, 2014 “What do you crave?”

ImageIt happens every day, more than once and, usually, more often than necessary. It starts innocently enough. Maybe you begin to feel a bit fidgety. Your toes start wiggling, and your mind becomes a bit distracted. Could you be…hungry?

Yes, of course, that must be it. It’s been at least an hour or two since you’ve eaten, and now you’re starving, famished even, and on the verge of dramatic interpretation as you stumble toward the vending machine in what you assume can only be a low-blood-sugar induced stupor. The oxymoronic vacuum of feelings sucking at you from the inside out must be a craving for something sweet. Or something salty. Something substantial, or just a little something to tide you over. Peanuts or pizza? A diet Coke and Doritos, or a handful of mini-marshmallows (don’t ask)?

I won’t pretend to be the first person to point out the differences between craving and hunger, but I’ll be happy to be the millionth person to bring it up again because I make it no secret that I’m an emotional eater.  🙂 I wear my insecurities, heartbreaks, and suppressed feelings on the outside, for everyone to see. So much for that magical cloak of invisibility, eh?

Just last night I found myself craving something. My day had been lacking in certain ways, and I was feeling unsatisfied because there are some things that I want to be different, but I just don’t know how to change them. Turning my thoughts away from the seemingly impossible, I stood up and began wandering. I wandered into the kitchen, put an errant cup into the sink and looked around at a whole lot of nothing. The last of the good Christmas treats had either been consumed or pitched, and all that remained were a few random hard candies. Bah, kids’ stuff. I leave the kitchen, disappointed and dull.

I know I should focus through this hunger and spend the energy on something useful, like writing, but I find myself standing in front of my dresser, instead, dolefully rummaging through my sock drawer (don’t ask). Nope. Nothing exciting there, unless you count the walk down memory lane courtesy of my favorite pair of socks – black with a vine of little red roses that I’ve saved since high school. (Yes, I have hosiery with history. Please don’t judge.)

And so, the walk through my house is fruitless, turning up not one bit of chocolate or chips or anything to feed my craving. So, I did the next best thing — I went to bed a little early and found myself having a good cry. Was I crying because we were out of chocolate? No. Was I crying because I was hungry? No. My tears were cathartic, calorie-free, and maybe, just maybe, what I had needed in the first place. Maybe I wasn’t hungry. Maybe I was sad, lonely and disappointed. Maybe what I craved had nothing at all to do with food. Maybe instead of chocolate chunk cookies, I had craved cleansing. Instead of shoveling something in to push down the hurt, I just needed to let it out.

As we walk this journey together, you and I, please let me challenge you as I challenge myself. Be true to yourself. But, before you can be true to yourself, you have to be honest with yourself. Come to terms with the terms of your life. If there’s something you don’t like, do your best to change it, at least the parts that you can. Cheer up and do something positive. Resist the temptations and get rid of the tasty goodies. Save your sock drawer for socks 🙂 Look for the value in the emotions you are trying to ignore. Acknowledge them, work through them, and then let them go.

Live true. Live free. We’ve got this :0)

 

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!

The Journey, October 9, 2013

I have been on my weight loss journey for about 6 weeks now, and have lost 5 pounds. While I may not be down a jeans size, I am enjoying a few perks. My work clothes fit a bit more comfortably, and there is a bit more of a spring in my step. So, for these things, I am truly thankful. However, I am a bit on guard. You see, these 5 pounds and I are not strangers. In fact, we have shared an on again, off again relationship for the past couple of years, dancing a mad tango of co-dependency.

For some reason, I get to this point, this very point which I am at today, and I hit a wall. Instead of moving forward, keeping the steady one-step-at-a-time pace of the past few weeks, I run a 180 in the opposite direction. Stumbling headlong into the siren’s song of sweet addiction, I tend to panic and binge on anything in sight – even if it’s not my favorite, even if I’m full, even if I don’t really “want” it. So, today, I recognize this Rubicon, and declare this week to be the week of its crossing.

2013-10-07 12.00.17

I chose a healthy, homemade lunch today, said no to a tempting scone, and am drinking my water. I can’t really tell you why, in the past, I’ve run away from the prize at the 5 pound mark. Maybe you have, too. But, the best thing about moving forward is that we don’t have to have all the answers about the past. Today is tomorrow’s yesterday, and I tomorrow night, I will go to sleep with a smile, knowing that I am still moving in the right direction.

The Journey, Week 3 – Greater Expectations

When I was young, my family went through some financial hardships, as so many families do from time to time. My dad was sick and unable to work, and my mom and I were sort of marooned on a bit of property in the middle of nowhere. My family had been in the middle of building a house when my dad collapsed and had to be hospitalized. Two of my brothers were able to come home and help my mom. One worked in town, and the other worked with a friend at a local dairy farm. Once the bills were paid every week, there wasn’t much left.

I remember, one night, one of the boys came home with a special treat. He had stopped to fill up the truck and had some change left over. He bought a candy bar. Instead of enjoying it all by himself (after all, we would never have known), he brought it home to share. I still remember the four of us standing around the table. Mama brought over the cutting board and her paring knife. We laughed and joked in anticipation as she carefully sliced the candy bar into 4 equal parts. Then, we sat together at the table in silence, each of us enjoying the chocolatey bliss – trying to make it last as long as possible.

I think that, sometimes, for those of us who have had to come to terms with seemingly unreasonable limitations, we set the bar low. Say, the height of a Snickers bar? Sure, I had some big dreams, but for the most part, I settled with the idea of maybe getting a Coke or a candy bar here and there. It was much easier to imagine coming up with .50 cents than say, $50. It was easy to bury my sorrows in a Hershey Bar and a Grape Nehi. It was easy to spend $1 and escape the realities of life, if only for a little while. Besides, I was never really going to explore the mysteries of The Sphinx or breathe in fresh heather on the moors, right? Surviving was hard, but it was enough. At least, that’s what I told myself. 

Now, as an adult, I realize that not everyone has an emotional relationship with their food. For instance, I have a lovely friend who has never struggled with her weight. She is active and does not overeat, although she enjoys baking and eating out. I asked her what her secret is – how on earth does she not gain weight?? She said she simply stops eating when she’s full. If she’s full, it’s no problem for her to pass up seconds or dessert. If she makes a batch of cookies, she can enjoy one and be done. Simple as that. To me, that sounds like a foreign concept. How on earth can food not be tied in with your happiness? With your dreams, and your self worth?

My sweet friend doesn’t know what it is to be an emotional eater, and I’m happy for her that she doesn’t. Perhaps she has other vices, but emotional eating is not one of them. She can say no to seconds because she trusts there will be a next time, and, from what I can tell, she has bigger things to look forward to than the next trip to the grocery store.

I’m learning to expect more from life than a candy bar split 4 ways. As beautiful as that moment of sharing was and is, I am learning that my dreams can and should be bigger. I am learning that, when I’ve had a rough day and feel sad or alone, the vending machine isn’t a time machine. Carbohydrates aren’t going to magically transport me back to my little circle of familial love and security, no matter how much I wish they could.

Fortunately, life is bigger than chocolate. I know, I know – I can hear your denials even now 🙂 But, seriously. As lovely as chocolate is, (and yes, it is quite lovely, indeed) I hope to establish greater expectations for myself 🙂 Say, a bouquet of purple/pink heather and a walk on the moors on a not too windy day? Yes. Yes, I think that is a lovely start…