Proper Place

I’ve arrived at one conclusion as I’ve explored my eating and fitness habits.  I must keep food in its proper place in my life.

I promised I wouldn’t turn this into a diet and fitness blog and the reason I won’t is that there are so many more interesting things to me.  I know fitness is a hot topic, and if you want to see some great stuff on fitness, just click on my brother’s picture at your right.  He’s got it going on, for sure.  It seems to me, though, that people who are super thin become consumed by the quest, and I don’t want to be consumed by being thin.  I don’t want to concentrate on calories every waking moment.

That said, I also don’t want to rely on food as my only comfort, my only venue for celebration.  It shouldn’t be my go-to.

I don’t want to be consumed by limiting food and I don’t want to be consumed by relying upon food.

Balance.  That’s what I want.  That’s what I need.

And that’s going to be my goal.  A healthy, balanced attitude toward food and fitness.  For me, that means a walk with the kids every evening when I get home.  It means eating when I’m hungry and not going past full.  It means taking some vitamins and drinking plenty of water.  It means enjoying my food and refusing to rely upon it for comfort.  It means taking care of my body, but not waiting until I’m a certain size to be confident in myself as a woman.  It means not letting food consume my life, whether that be limiting my food or overindulging in food, but using food as a fuel for energy, a blessing to others, and a gift from God to help me move on to living the life He has for me.

I write this with a feeling of satisfaction in my tummy, having enjoyed a delicious dinner, but didn’t stuff myself.  I’m going to go on to bed and get a balanced night’s sleep.  I’m glad to have explored this area of my heart and ready to apply what I’ve learned.  Hopefully, putting food in its proper place will be more like riding a bike than walking a tightrope!!  Thanks for taking this journey with me.

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Tin Man (Woman)

This little dietary exploration has been fun for me so far.  I’m feeling a little like the Tin Man who just needed some parts oiled and was able to move again.  By simply paying a little attention to what’s going on, I’ve been able to have some little successes.  Yesterday, for example, I noticed a slight hunger sensation and went ahead and had a small snack since I had an appointment that delayed my lunchtime.  That way I wasn’t ravenous at lunch so was able to have a reasonable portion and stop when full.  I’ve also noticed thirst playing a part in the way I feel.  I’m definitely not drinking enough water.

I downloaded a handy period tracker app for my phone (sorry fellas) and it has lots of cool features that help track cravings, moods, and other symptoms.  I played around with that a little and it’s been interesting to note my cravings and moods and their relation to my cycle and stress level.  It’s helpful to notice that how I’m feeling physically and emotionally has a profound effect on my appetite.  A little preparation can go a long way I would imagine, especially when I know a vulnerable time is coming. 

Another drip from the oil can fell on the part of me that knows food isn’t an adequate comfort mechanism.  I suppose it isn’t enough to be aware that I use food for comfort, but I must be further aware that food ISN’T DOING A GOOD JOB.  There is a much more perfect Source of comfort and He (God) is always available in plentiful supply.  That knowledge has made me want to turn to food a little less…  I know God and the glimpses I’ve had of His majesty make food seem like a pretty dumb substitute when I could have Him.

I’m feeling more able to “move” and function in a healthy way, especially since I’ve focused less on the food and more on my rationale.  Another drop from the oil can fell on my brain, I guess.  So I’ve noticed it makes a difference when I’m thinking about what I’m doing rather than making mindless decisions.

I had a stressful phone conversation at work and was startled to notice that my first thought upon hanging up the phone was “I need chocolate.”  Hmmm….  I didn’t refuse myself the chocolate, but I got up and walked around the building outside to breathe some fresh air and clear my head, telling myself I’d get something if I still wanted it after I walked.  The few moments diversion worked and I was onto another task that presented itself when a resident stopped me for conversation.  I forgot about the chocolate, but learned a little lesson from that.

Hmmm…   I’m still not going on a diet.  Still not even setting a weight loss goal.  But I feel like progress is being made.

 

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What IS Hungry, Anyway?

Who said we needed to be hungry to eat??

My stomach evidently can’t tell the difference between hungry and BORED.  Yep.  I totally eat when I get bored.   I also find myself vulnerable to feeding myself regardless of the presence of a hunger sensation when I’m tired and when I’m lonely.  Oh yeah, and when I’m happy, too!  I mean, it’s my BIRTHDAY, so I’ve GOTTA eat cake, right??  I also eat because it’s TIME.  And because it’s polite to eat what someone else lovingly made for me.

Here’s the difficult part:  Ignore your body’s signals long enough and they become harder to understand and recognize.

It’s a challenge for me, especially with the constant presence of food around me and food-centered activities, to listen to and figure out my body’s hunger signals.  Do I even know what they are?  (The experience of hunger CAN be different for everyone.)

Let me think…

Well, I know what REALLY hungry feels like.  (My husband and I laughingly refer to this as “pissed-off hungry”)  Sometimes, when I get home from work he’ll ask if I’m hungry.  I’ll reply that I’m so hungry I could injure someone. Then, I’ll tear up in envy of my thin husband with his superman metabolism and immunity from overeating.  I’ll stalk off or start to cry.  (See where we got the name?)  This is because serious hunger for me causes irritability.  Even aggressiveness actually.  I also sometimes start to shake, get a headache, or experience nervousness or anxiety.  I know this is caused by the drop in blood sugar.

But what does regular hungry feel like?  You know, just the body’s gentle signal that it’s time to refuel.  I have to admit I’m not too sure. I know that I overeat often when I get REALLY hungry, but what if I could recognize the signal early enough to go ahead and feed myself while I’m still in control and not in a desperate attempt to alleviate the REALLY hungry symptoms?

I know God built this mechanism into my body.  I guess it’s time to take a few days to dust it off and figure out how to use it!!

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Never Just One

What’s the snack with the slogan “No one can eat just one.”? I can’t remember at this moment, some kind of potato chip, I think, maybe Pringles. Anyway, that’s issue #2 that I can identify when it comes to my eating habits. I can’t just have one.

Seriously. It’s hard for me to imagine sitting down and having, say, just TWO doublestuf oreos. Nope, I want a minimum of ten. At least til the milk runs out, right? Yesterday my husband took me to lunch and I really slowed down after the first half of my cheeseburger but I felt compelled for some reason to continue eating until it was gone. I knew I should stop, but it BOTHERED me to leave it there.

When I think about it, when I’m using something like an Oreo for comfort or stress release, it makes sense that I would need to eat until the bad feeling temporarily recedes. But there are times of happiness, and other times when I’m just eating a regular meal, that I have trouble stopping at one or two. When it tastes good and I’m having fun eating, I’ll tend to go overboard also. For the record, this also happens exclusively with things that taste good. As in, I’ve never gone crazy eating too many carrot sticks. It seems easier to stop when I’m eating cottage cheese, but not so easy when I’m eating cheesecake.

I’ve tried the “no junk in the house” method, and it works for a while. Then the total deprivation gets to me and a trip to Winn Dixie produces a package of Doublestuf or a bag of chips. Then, said bag of junk doesn’t just sit in the pantry and go stale. It disappears as quickly as possible and calls to me in the night if I take too long to finish it off.

It seems I have an imbalance here. I’m either eating none until I can’t stand it anymore, or I’m eating it ALL until it’s gone. Why don’t I just have a little at a time and stop there? Here are my ideas:

1) I have some unreasonable anxiety that when I return later and want just a little bit more, there won’t be any left. (This probably stems from growing up in a house full of kids that was usually grand central for our friends also. Treats never hung around long. If I didn’t get my share, there very likely would be none later.)

Solution: Remind myself that I’m an adult now. I’m not rich, but I have the ability to get myself another bag of Oreos anytime I want. God Bless America.

2) I often have to eat in a hurry. If I don’t finish right away, it’ll be cold later, or I may not get another chance to stop and take a break. I remember this starting right after I had my first baby and barely had a chance to shower regularly, much less eat a meal uninterrupted. I began noticing that even when I did get a chance to enjoy a leisurely meal, I made it disappear as fast as possible, in the habit of choking it down before the baby needed me again.

Solution: USE A MICROWAVE if it gets cold. Figure out some way to remind myself that I don’t HAVE to rush.

3) (This one might be reaching, but here it is anyway:) There is so little in my life that I can control. So few things that finish up nicely and wrap up neatly. Life is messy, often yucky, and seldom easily tied up with a bow. A bag of Oreos, however, CAN be finished. It can be put away. I have control over it, and I can watch it disappear. I don’t do many things right, but finishing off a bag of Milano cookies is an easy success for me.

Solution: Find something else I can accomplish quickly and easily to give myself a “success” without eating. I just got a used piano. Maybe I’ll try to conquer a new piece of music here and there.

4) I know I shouldn’t be eating the bag of Oreos, so I finish it in order to get rid of it. I then promise myself I won’t get any more, and I feel better because the “bad thing” isn’t in the pantry anymore. This all falls apart, of course, when the deprivation gets me mad enough to go get another bag. It’s like any other forbidden thing, it often is the object of obsession.

Solution: Take away the stigma. Again, I AM AN ADULT. I must stop shaming myself. There is nothing inherently shameful about Oreos. There is no such thing as a perfect diet, so since I can’t possible achieve dietary perfection (who even knows what that IS?) then there is no reason to outlaw something or obsess over it because I see it as a “mistake” food or a “bad grade” on my eating report card. No shame means no rush to get rid of the “forbidden” item. GOD STILL LOVES ME!!!

5) I sometimes eat angry. Overeating when angry is a way of punishing myself or another person.

Solution: Learn to express my anger in healthy ways. Get a punching bag.

Good thing I’m writing this down. I may be onto something here!!

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Bad Drug

I use food for comfort, stress relief, and even expressions of anger. In other words, much like a drug addict turns to drugs for all of the above, I turn to food.

Not just any food, mind you. It has to taste good. In other words, I don’t console or reward myself with plain tuna or unsalted popcorn. (Ewwww) Think chocolate truffles, macaroni and cheese, or Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies. Think Doublestuf Oreos, Ruffles chips and French onion dip, and loaded cheese fries. Think cheeseburgers, chocolate mousse cake, and cookie dough. But, I digress…

Why do I do this? FOOD for thought… (hahaha)

I was raised a VERY good Southern Baptist. We don’t smoke, drink, or chew, or go with boys who do…

But we EAT.

I can give you a very long list of the “don’ts” I was taught as a child, those sins to be avoided at all costs. Funny, but eating isn’t one of them. I’m sure somewhere along the way, some preacher preached against overeating, but it musn’t have been very memorable because I have zero recollection. I have to wonder if overeating had been as taboo as say, smoking weed or premarital sex, would things have been different? If bingeing on junk food were treated like a bad behavior like going to a bar, seeing rated R movies, or getting a tattoo, would I have developed this habit? Now some of the “bad behaviors” I just listed are things I’ve done, some aren’t, but NONE of them are habits of mine. Then again, there are others who experienced a very similar upbringing and they DO struggle with things like drugs, alcohol, gambling, or sex addiction. That would mean I can’t totally blame my upbringing for my dependence upon food. It still wouldn’t change the fact that I use food much in the same way anyone uses a vice for consolation.

There’s one problem with this method of comfort, of soothing my sadness:

It doesn’t work.

Sure it tastes good while it’s going down. But I eat too fast (read more about that later) and so even that part isn’t as enjoyable as it should be. Then afterward comes the guilt, the frustration, and the stomachache, not to mention the extra pounds and sluggishness. Food is no more effective than vodka when it comes to solving one’s problems, and it’s nearly as harmful in the longrun.

OK, so I’m turning to an inadequate outside source for comfort. What can I do about it?

Here are my ideas:

1) Realize that food isn’t doing the job I’ve assigned to it. It isn’t a good enough provider of comfort and solace. I’ve simply given food a task it can’t perform.

2) Find something else to which I turn for comfort. (Hear God going: “ME ME ME!!!”)

3) Figure out what’s bothering me so much and see if I can eliminate or solve any of those issues.

What do ya’ll think???

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Speaking of resolutions…

Alright.  It’s a new year and I can’t help my infatuation with the idea of a fresh start.  I love starting over every new year, I just hate failed resolutions. 

I’ve been tempted to make a weight loss resolution, but I’m not.  Honestly I’m more than frustrated with my body’s sluggish reaction to my weight loss efforts, and my own inability to “stick to it” when it comes to diet and exercise.  I’m not ready to try and fail again.

However, I read an article this morning that made me think.  The article pointed out that (as we all know) a lifestyle change is necessary to maintain weight loss.  A restrictive diet or rigorous exercise regimen will pull the pounds off but they come right back once the diet or exercise stops.  The article suggested that at some point, some introspective investigation needs to be done to discover the “why” behind one’s eating and exercising habits.  That made sense to me.  I don’t want to start another diet, but I don’t want to become a type 2 diabetic either, so it’s worth a try to think this over.

My friend, John Frady has been blogging about his weight loss, and knowing his wife, Kathy’s weight loss success, I’ve been inspired.  John’s decided to publish his daily eating choices as a way to keep himself accountable.  Admirable, but in an effort NOT to appall my readers, (though it probably would amuse you as well) I’ll spare you my dietary details.  I will, however, bare my heart instead of my stomach.

Why do I eat what I eat?  Why do I do what I do?  How did I get this relationship with food? 

I promise not to turn this into a health and weight loss blog.  I’m not going to obsess about food or fitness.  I’m not going to start eating salad with no dressing, and I probably won’t run a marathon.  But maybe my own exploration of my emotions, my habits, and my feelings about food and fitness will help someone else, and maybe me too, to discover exactly what’s going on behind those “bad” habits and maybe if we find the “why” and address that issue, well, maybe the bad habits won’t be so hard to break. 

Stay tuned, and we’ll see…

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My Christmas Gift

Christmas Day I got an unexpected gift. It was one of those gifts no one but God could have orchestrated for me. I was feeling a little blue because we had an early Christmas with the big kids before they left for their holiday visit to Florida, so Christmas morning was rather anticlimactic at our house. We are in a time of financial recovery, so there weren’t any big gifts under the tree. Dwayne was working, so little Caleb and I got up and went about getting ready just like any other Sunday morning. We made it to church and I got all set up for the service I would be leading since the Pastor was out of town. I had a few minutes to drink some coffee before time to start, but got to the kitchen to find the percolator had lost it’s “perc” and there was nothing but yellow hot water. I sat in a chair, hoping for a quickly passing morning so Caleb and I could get home and relax. I was in no mood to be making merry.

All of a sudden, I heard a voice behind me and turned around in time to get “bum-rushed” by a friend I hadn’t seen in quite a while. I had heard she recently had moved into her own apartment. Not a surprise to me since I knew of the very difficult marriage situation she has been in for years. I yelled “HEYYYYYY!!!” and we embraced, both of us in tears. There just isn’t anything like the open arms and understanding smile of an old friend.

She just decided on a whim to come by and see me at the church that morning. Well, we all know it wasn’t a whim. She woke up to her first Christmas morning alone. I know what that feels like. She knew I know what that feels like. God knew she needed me and He knew I needed her. We don’t attend the same church anymore or live in the same neighborhood, so we hadn’t seen each other in too long, but as kindred spirits can do, we picked up right where we left off. It didn’t take much arm twisting to get her to come home with me, so we spent Christmas together. Hearing her voice in the congregation, catching up over an awesome Christmas dinner made by my sweetheart (duck, oyster dressing, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, apple pie) and then just lazily baking cookies, snacking, and having coffee as other friends stopped by the house. We laughed, talked, ate, baked, laughed, talked, ate, and baked some more. She went home long after dark with hugs and, I hope, a warm heart. I certainly was left with one.

My first Christmas alone included a visit to a church service where the pastor commanded everyone to kiss his or her spouse. I stood there alone feeling horribly rejected, disgusting, useless and gross. But God brings beauty out of ashes. Because I knew what a terrible feeling a first Christmas alone can be, there was nothing more natural to me than to give someone else a better first Christmas alone. I’m THRILLED that my sweet friend knew where to go. She knew whose arms would be open. Believe me, in this town, she could have easily found a party anywhere. What an honor to have been her safe place.

This is my calling. It may have taken on different forms. It may look way less Beth Moore-ey than I expected, but it hasn’t changed. I once thought God calling me to minister meant that He would use me in one certain way. For a while, He did use me just as I expected He would. Then… well, then things changed, and sometimes it’s easy to feel that God isn’t or won’t use me anymore. What a gift it was at Christmas to know that He is not finished with me. No nasty divorce, no hurricane, no crazy job, no amount of stress has taken away God’s ability to use me.

Can’t wait to see what’s next.

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Continue to Grow

Thanksgiving night our table was crowded with people, lingering over coffee and pie, laughing loudly at this story or that one, even crying a little.  Kids ran around, fought over toys, and asked for more ice cream.  Inside, I felt sad.  I missed my mom and dad, my sister and brother.  My inner pity party was practically a rave when I realized something…

My table just then looked remarkably like the one at my mom’s house.  The laughter, the stories, the noise of playing kids sounded just like the ones often shared and heard around my parents’ table for as long as I can remember.  Some of my sweetest memories are of my family and a few friends lingering around the table long after our stomachs were full , telling stories, laughing hard and loud.  Daddy always had a story or joke, and we’d all get started and before you knew it, the hour was late and we were all nearly ready to eat again.  There might be an occasional political debate or deep theological discussion, especially as we all grew up and began to wrestle with those things for ourselves.  Family legends (all true, of course) were passed down to another generation, friends were turned into family, and I’d wager some hearts were mended in the process.

I wasn’t at that table this year, but I had created another just like it.  There was, there is, something special at that old table we’ve gathered around for so long.  Though it nearly breaks my heart to be away from that place, I’m realizing that I’m never truly away from there.  I’ve taken that special something and brought it over seven hundred miles away to share it with more people who need the comfort and love it brings.

Around our table this year was a couple whose grown children are far away, a single mom with her two kids, another family of our dearest friends who live life along with us, and of course our family of five.  Me, Dwayne, and three great kids.  Hmmmm…. three kids.  Sounds like another family of five, only I was one of the three kids.  In what is, I think, the ultimate parenting success, my mom and dad raised children with generous doses of God’s love, laughter, and friendship.  And that love is so big, so strong, that I’ll never have to leave it behind.  It simply expands far enough to reach wherever God places me.  Now that I’m grown, I carry that love with me, pouring it into my own kids who will one day have tables just like that old one I grew up with.  Who knows where they’ll be, but the same love of God will surround them, just as it did at my mom and dad’s and just as it does at ours.

This is how it happens, the day-to-day sharing of our faith and His love.  This is how it expands, how it travels around the world.  This is my mother and father’s goals accomplished and me on the way to accomplishing mine.

Maybe I couldn’t be with my dad, my mom, my sister, and my brother this year.  But I took what I share with them and spread it generously around my own home, and in that way I was very much with them and always will be.  Some things need never end, thank God.  They only continue to grow.

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Winn Dixie Milk Man

It was one of those days.  About 5:30pm, I was making a stop at Winn Dixie on my way home from work.  No doubt the worst time to be in the grocery store, and just about my least favorite thing to do on the way home, but with three kids we go through a minimum of five gallons of milk a week and since I’m not making my own anymore….  there was nothing to do but stop.

I approached the milk case with a sigh.  I was glad to be off of work and doing my best to keep my head up.  My job in assisted living is a passion, a calling, and a blessing.  It also has its difficult moments.  Older people tend to throw tact to the wind, and sometimes kindness too, and our residents often give a running commentary on… well, anything and everything.  We’ve all had a grandmother or elderly aunt who blurted out “You sure have put on weight,” or “Are you pregnant again?” right in the middle of the family dinner.

These types of remarks are commonplace where I work, and that’s ok.  Normally, I let them slide, especially since the occasional “You’re putting on weight” is nothing compared to all the “Honey, you made my day” and “What would I do without you?” and “Sweetheart, you are looking good.”  But on this particular day, perhaps it was my mood or elevated stress, I’m not sure, but it seemed as though everything was up for scrutiny, from my middle that needs some “toning up” to the size and placement of my breasts.  “You still nursing honey?  They’re hangin’ kinda low today. What kinda bra you wearin’?”

I stepped up to the milk cooler beside the milk man who was busy stocking the shelves.  “Howya doin” he said without looking up and I answered back in kind as I reached out for a gallon of whole.  I was pondering picking up a second gallon when he turned to me and said “You are so pretty.”  I looked up at him and started to get tears in my eyes.  “Thank you.  You have just made my whole day,” I told him.  He said “I didn’t expect you to come walkin’ up like that, and I didn’t expect to say that.  It just came out.  I’m usually shy about sayin’ stuff like that.”  Sounds like a pickup line I guess, but I wish you could have heard his tone, very matter of fact, not a hint of suggestion.  I thanked him again, not finding any better way to let him know how he had just been a gift to me.

I did grab the second gallon (maybe W/D would sell more milk with more milkmen like that one) and made my way to the checkout with a new outlook.  I knew without a doubt that Mr. Winn Dixie Milkman had been a messenger from God to lift me up.  A few weeks ago I had asked God to help me approach my marriage with more love, and one specific area I’d been working on is my arrival home from work.  My family has normally been home for a few hours and they’re ready to play, often leaving me with no time to decompress from my day and transition to home.  This can make for a grouchy wife and mom in that first half hour at home when they’re rarin’ to go and I just want to be left alone.  That day, the Winn Dixie milk angel had given me a boost, a leg up from God to help me put my gloomy day behind me and greet the ones I love with my best and not the dregs of me that are left after a long day.

I have two observations from this:

1)  How often I hold back a positive remark, and how often I’m free with negative ones.  Thank God the milkman had the grace that evening to let the good thoughts come out.  I needed to hear them.  I want to tighten the weave of the sieve that catches my negative commentary and let the positive commentary virtually flow out unrestricted.  So often the opposite is true. We never know what a kind word could mean to someone and it costs us nothing to give one.

2)  When we ask God to work in our lives, He will do it.  He’s a good Teacher, and even gives openbook tests sometimes!  He might even use a Winn Dixie milk guy to give you a hint.

 

 

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