Saturday, September 13, 2014

Thirty things that have changed in my life since I started counting calories:

This is a list of some of what has changed in my life since I started counting calories last winter.  I am quite amazed at most of these - not what I expected!  Which is why I am sharing.

1. I have lost quite a bit of weight.  (Yes, I did expect and hope for that!)

2. But I am shocked and kind of horrified at how much I ate before; probably twice as much as I do now. It took about 6 weeks to adjust, but now if I eat the amount I ate before I feel terrible and uncomfortable and yucky for quite awhile afterwards.

3. This fact (eating less) allows me to buy better quality food and some foods I didn't before because of the cost, since cutting quantity by half has saved us a lot of moolah!

4. Two large monkeys are off my back: The critical b&%*@ that harped on me about my weight every morning when I looked in the mirror is one.  When I started this I decided that I either had to shut her up or do something about what she was saying.  I chose the latter because I knew I wouldn't succeed in truly convincing myself that 'just the way I am' was okay with me.  I didn't realize how much that was affecting me, but it makes sense - I was being criticized and nagged every single morning!  Who needs that?!

4. The second large monkey off my back is worrying about my husband's health every time I heard or read about the risk factors for a heart attack.  I know there are no guarantees, but he has removed this risk factor from his life. That is a great relief to me.  (In fact it was him that got us started on this, and he has lost more weight than me.)

5.  He doesn't snore any more.  (see also number 8 and number 12!)

6. I finally eat fish twice a week, like they say we should, for our health. I always read about this and thought 'I should do that' but never did it.  Now I do simply because fish is a low cal. protein, and it is also super easy and fast to cook.  And I have discovered that I love shrimp!

7. I finally eat lots of fruits and veg, for the same reason.  Dinner is now 1/4 of our plate meat, and 3/4 vegetables, and a starch only when the protein isn't meat.

8. I don't eat junk food.  I just can't fit it into my calorie count unless I give up a meal, and I am unwilling to do that.  The simple fact is that junk food has so many calories I can't eat it without going over my limit.  And truth be told, if I have extra calories I can eat, I choose dark chocolate or Baileys in my chai tea!

9. I sleep better.

10. I feel stronger and I can do more without getting out of breath.  (I am working out twice a week as well)

11.  I am much more motivated to work out, since when I burn more I can eat more.

12.  Instead of avoiding physical activities I look for the opportunity to do them in the course of my day, both because I can do them more easily now, and because of number 11.

13. I am very happy with how I look.  (I have dropped 3 sizes)  This sounds vain I know, but like it or not it is honest.  (And I don't know a woman out there (or man either actually) who doesn't secretly and honestly want to look good.)

14.  I am not tired all the time.  When I wake up in the morning I feel rested.  (Unless I stayed up too late the night before!)  Before I started working out I felt tired and dragged all the time - even went to the doctor to find out why.  Since I have lost weight this has improved even more.

15. I pay attention when I am eating.  I don't get to eat whenever and whatever anymore, so I make sure I enjoy every bite!

16. If I don't like it a lot, I don't eat it.  I just don't have enough calories to waste some of them on mediocre food!  I even will take one bite of cake and put it down if it isn't beyond delicious!  This is amazing to me! I would never have done this before.

17.  See above: I pay more attention when I am cooking, and put extra thought into trying to make things that are delicious.  I cook vegetables much more creatively and with a lot more variety.

18. The portions in most restaurants are so huge, I have trouble eating out.  It just seems like such a waste of both food and money to only eat half of it, and a lot of the so-called healthy choices on many restaurant menus actually taste boring, dry and terrible, so I prefer to eat at home.  This is quite a switch for me! High end restaurants are far healthier both in food ingredients and in portion size. And they put a lot of effort into creating great taste without relying on salt, sugar and fat.  So I don't eat out much; I can't afford it!

19. If I decide to indulge and go over my calorie limit, it is for something absolutely grand, delicious and worth it!  Like butter tarts:  I pay attention, eat slowly and savour every single bite. Or a beautiful, expensive glass of red wine...

20. I no longer think of food as a stress reliever or something that I 'deserve' after a bad day.  The cost of eating like that longer term is too high for me.  I can feel good (eating it) for a few moments, or I can not eat it and feel good overall.  I look at food as both an amazing pleasure and necessary fuel. Eating because I am stressed out actually doesn't make me feel better, it depresses me now because I know I will pay for it in ways that I don't want.

21.  Sometimes I walk away from the snack for a few seconds and ask myself:  Which do I want more? What is more important to me right now: potato chips, or to be thin and healthy?  Because I know I can't have all three. (And actually the last time I had a couple of chips I didn't even like them as much as I remembered I did!)

22.  Each day is a unit unto itself: success has to happen within each day or almost every day, or I will not succeed.  Trying to carry things over, as in 'I will make up for this tomorrow', doesn't work for me. That quickly becomes an excuse for me to ignore my limits.  Similarly, if I go over one day I have to leave that in the past and start fresh the next morning.  One day at a time is really what I need to do.  This has got me thinking about other areas of my life where I procrastinate....

23. I don't drink pop or juice any more, because I don't want to drink up my calories, Pop and juice don't fill me up, so I am left with no calories remaining and still hungry.  So I drink water, club soda with a bit of 100% real cranberry, cherry or lime juice in it, and also lots of tea. Sometimes I decide to have a lovely Somersby Apple Cider on a summer afternoon or a great glass of wine with dinner but when I do I have to treat it as food.

24. Interestingly, I don't crave salty snacks any more.  I crave sugar.  I have no idea why this is, since my whole life I have preferred salty snacks vs. sweet.  But now sugar in fruit really hits the spot, and I will often have honey in my tea. Sugary desserts usually taste too sweet, unless (what is this?) a lot of butter is also involved.  Like in butter tarts...or pie...mmm...

25. I have learned to my surprise that 'healthy' foods are often higher in calories, such as quinoa vs. rice, whole wheat vs white flour in baked goods, nuts and seeds vs crackers.  So if I am eating these healthy foods I can't just switch them in for their less healthy counterpart like I was doing before; I have to change how much of it I am eating too, or I will gain weight.

26. Similarly, 'healthy' fats like olive oil are still fats and very high in calories!  So I have to think 'as little fat as possible' and not just 'olive oil is good for me'  or I will use too many calories up in fat.

27. I haven't had bacon in a long time...

28. Every day can be a 'special occasion' if I use that as a reason to eat more or something high in calories!  Really!  My definition of a special occasion has narrowed down quite a bit!

29. Some people (who know I am counting or know I have lost weight) are uncomfortable around me now, especially when there is food around.  I don't like this.  I decided I wanted to do this for me.  I wanted to shut up my inner b^&%* and feel better.  Whatever works for you is not on my mind.  I can't hear your inner b&*^? or feel how you feel, so how you eat/live doesn't bother me.  I care about who you are and that you are okay.  And I hate how we compare ourselves to each other.  I hope you don't feel like I am judging you just because how I choose to eat/live/whatever might be different than you. And if your inner b#$&^@ is telling you that when you are around me, then you need to slap her, because that is not true.  And I don't like it when people say things like 'you are so lucky you don't have to worry about your weight,' as though it is happen-stance or luck that I am thin now.  It isn't, it is a choice I have made. And it is hard work.  It's not that I need you to acknowledge that for me, but it bugs me because with that statement you are also saying 'I can't do this/have this for myself."  When the time is right, you can.
And I don't like how it feels like being thin and sort of in shape is something that comes between me and some people.

30. Some of my friends think I am depriving myself and hard on myself because I don't allow myself to have certain foods or large amounts of foods any more.  But in truth I feel amazing and blessed and fortunate and pretty much the opposite of deprived!  

I am working on this concept in other areas of my life...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Freedom to ...what?

I recently posted a Facebook status about how hard it is to live within my means. Why on earth should that be so hard and feel so counter-cultural?  Shouldn't living within our means be a no-brainer?  And a friend suggested maybe I should blog about it, so here I go.  This is more a stream of thought than a well thought out post, so bear with me. Maybe it will come together in the end. 

We have what we have, right?  We earn whatever money we earn, and that is what we have to spend.  We are the age that we are, and we all pretty much maintain a steady activity level, whether it is very active or inactive.  So it follows that our bodies need a consistent amount of energy to function.  No?
Our bodies need nutrition and they need to be cared for in order to function properly.
We have 24 hours in a day.
We have a fairly consistent amount of energy.  It varies from person to person for a lot of reasons, by I have a fairly consistent amount of energy, even if it is different from yours.
We need 7-10 hours of sleep each night, experts tell us.  And when I get that amount, I can tell that they are right.
We need to rest.  We need to play.
We need to eat our veggies.
We need our significant relationships to be healthy and alive.

We all read these articles and nod our heads in agreement.  We experience these things to be true in both our own lives and in the lives of people we know. Often. 

So why does it feel like we are restricting or depriving ourselves when we live within our means? 

What is it about living this way: not spending more money than I have, not eating more fuel than my body needs, not burning the candle at both ends, not saying yes to more than I have the energy to do, investing time in my important relationships, and in resting, playing, exercising...

What is it about that that feels restrictive?  Do I really think I am, in truth, so much bigger than these external realities?  Or do I think I should be beyond these limits, or that I need to function outside of them?  Why do I want to?  What am I trying to say about myself or trying to be?  Super-human?  What do I want for myself when I try to live outside these realities? 

I say try to, because they are realities we cannot actually live beyond, not in any kind of sustainable way. 

Or maybe we can.  I can live outside my financial resources by borrowing.  As a result, I can live with less financial restrictions.  Or can I?  Even with borrowing, there are limits.  And I add to my life the weight of owing money to someone, some place.  That burden feels restrictive.

I can eat whatever I want whenever I want to.  Or can I?  When I don't get the nutrition I need, my body doesn't function well, the way I want and need it to.  The extra gets stored on my body as fat.  The fat and its effect on my health restricts me from doing certain things easily and freely.  (It also gives me an inner nag, a regular critical voice I have to listen to every single day: when I get dressed and take a mirror check to see how do I look? and when I go out the door each morning thinking how do I feel today?  Up to it, or not up to it? Living with that is depressing and restrictive too.)

I can choose to stay awake as long as I need to, to get things done or in order not to miss something, or in order to avoid the dark and the quiet and being with myself.  (Not to be confused with insomnia - which is not a choice)  Or can I?  The resulting fatigue is restrictive, on my well-being, my mood, my creativity, my energy level...

So why do I feel restricted and deprived when I decide to live within my means? 

It's not just me either.  Other people have said things to me like "don't you feel like you are depriving yourself?"  and "you deserve that doughnut", piece of cake, chips, new pair of boots, dress, expensive vacation, whatever.  And, very ironically, - "you should accept yourself the way you are!" (vs. losing my extra weight).  Most of us are not comfortable living within our means.  We don't want to, and we don't like it when other people do. 

Somehow we connect this stuff with our freedom and our worth. 

But

Being in debt feels anything but free. 
Being overweight doesn't feel free either.
Being tired and/or being unhealthy feels like the most limiting feeling ever.
Having no relational support feels lonely and horrible. 

And

Being out of debt feels like I am free. 
Being a healthy weight feels amazing - I feel good about myself both physically and otherwise. 
Being rested and having energy feels empowering and I feel much more cheerful and up to the task.  I feel free to do what is in front of me to do. 
Having good friends who are there for me and a spouse who loves and supports me empowers me and helps me keep moving forward.
 
Overall I actually feel less restricted and more free, not deprived but blessed and grateful, when I live within my means.

But

In our culture our 'freedom'  in the moment is more important to us than our overall freedom.  And feeling good about ourselves in this moment of time is what we want, more than feeling good about ourselves as a whole person in our whole life.  Even though the result is what we actually want, we struggle to live within our means.

Not only have we completely forgotten about eternity, but we have zoomed in on right now so much that we have forgotten about our lifetime as a whole. 

The truth is, there is incredible beauty, value and freedom in each moment of time...and that beauty, value and freedom exists because each single moment creates the whole story.  


 
Without the whole story, there is no significance to this moment.
Beauty, value and freedom do not exist outside of the whole story.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Letting Go







I spoke to two friends this week, both of whom really  need something from God.  Okay - we all qualify for that!  Problem is, both of them, although they are in quite different situations and with different needs, both of them are holding tightly to something else - something that has met or should be meeting their need.  But it isn't.  So there is grasping, frustration, longing, wishing, and sometimes anger directed at this thing they are holding so tightly to, while they simultaneous try to deal with their unmet need. 

It reminds me of a kid who climbs a tree or tries the monkey bars but runs out of strength, and ends up dangling from branch or bar.  When we are that kid, we shout for help because the ground is way too far down and we are not strong enough to either continue to the end or to pull ourselves up from our dangling position.  Our arms get tired and our hands hurt, and we know we are going to fall, so we yell for someone to come and save us. 

I have often been the adult to the rescue, for my own kids or for my students. What I have to do, because the branch is a couple of feet above my head, is grab their legs and try to help bear their weight a bit so that they feel like they will not fall.  This position is still quite unsatisfactory however, because their center of balance is still above me.  Their hands and arms feel some relief from the weight, but they still feel the precarious nature of their position.  In order to keep their balance and not fall, head first now because I have their legs, is to hold tight to the branch.  But I have to ask them to let go of the branch.  Often this requires a great deal of persuasion.  They, too strongly, can feel the unstable nature of legs-only support.  And so it takes much reassurance - many promises that they won't fall, but that they must let go.  And then when they do let go, there is a terrible moment or two of wobbly nothingness before they reach down and grab my head for dear life or, preferably, let me loosen my grip on them enough so that I can let their body drop down just enough for me to hold their torso, and carry their whole weight.  Then I can set them carefully on terra firma.

The whole thing is risky business.  But in order for me to hold them securely and stop them from falling, they have to let go first - even though there are a few terrible moments of feeling like falling when they do. 

I think often we do this with God too...we want and need terribly for him to rescue us, but we are terrified to let go of our branch...

I thank my friends for this reminder.  Sometimes things are easier to see first in someone else's life before I see it in my own. 



 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Gift of Time - the Value of the Contemplative Faith Tradition

A word that is about these days in my church and many other evangelical churches is 'contemplative'.  We kind of know what it means, since we know the word contemplate.  We think it means something about being deep and thinking a lot, pondering, ruminating; thinking and more thinking.  It is kind of a mysterious word, since we don't really know what it refers to, or what it even means in the context of faith. 

More and more, as I 'experiment' with exercises from the contemplative tradition, I am finding that often what I experience is the value of giving something time. 

Centering prayer, where I simply sit quietly and focus on God being present with me, gives me time to just be with God without looking for a lesson or bringing an agenda to our meeting, like a list of prayer requests.  http://www.wikihow.com/Do-Centering-Prayer

The Welcome Prayer gives time and attention to how I am feeling vs. my preferred method of just sweeping that stuff under the carpet or applying a feel-good scripture to it to make it go away.  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/philfoxrose/2013/10/the-welcoming-prayer/

The exercise of Creating Sacred Space gives me time to just be 'how I really am' and to stay there until I am 'in the moment' and I realize God is in this moment with me. 

In Lectio Divina I surrender my impulse to read looking for something, and instead I read and listen for what God might be saying to me.  And then I take time to ponder what stands out to me.  http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Catholic/2000/08/How-To-Practice-Lectio-Divina.aspx


Gospel contemplation - imagining myself in a gospel story - gives the story time to speak to me in my present day life, and the opportunity to experience Jesus in a different way than thinking about his life.  http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/ignatian-contemplation-imaginative-prayer/

My spiritual director has advised me that when a passage or line of scripture impacts me, to stay with it day after day until it feels finished.  Even without spending more minutes of time, just the act of staying with something; maybe reading a Psalm or verse that moves me over and over again for days or weeks or even months - gives it more time to get inside me, vs. reading a different passage every day.

Often in spiritual direction sessions we give more time to a moment during my week that I thought was a gift from God - more time for me to receive it, think about it, talk about it, feel it...and more time for God to communicate with me.  http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/making-good-decisions/spiritual-direction/

Spending time journaling about why that movie or moment made me cry gives that emotion more time to teach me something about myself and to encounter God there. 

Even the exercise of giving something up for lent has given me time - time to see what I feel like I am missing, and time for that to teach me something about myself.  Forty days is a long time - long enough to feel whatever it is that thing I gave up lets me escape from; time to both feel that and unpack it, and maybe surrender it, if I dare. 

In the book Seeking God Together Alice Fryling quotes Parker Palmer who said "the soul is like a wild animal...it seeks safety in the dense underbrush..."  and she connects that to how Adam and Eve hid in the garden from God, and how God came looking for them then.  I think about how still I am while trying to lure a chipmunk out of the bushes to take a peanut out of my hand, or how quiet and slow I move while trying to creep up closer to a deer or a heron to get a better photo. 

I have to be very quiet, patient, and still.  In a lot of ways, this is my experience of the contemplative faith tradition: in the quiet, patient, stillness I coax my real self out of hiding and to where God is waiting to meet me. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Staying Loose

Recently in our weekly ballroom dance class, my husband and I could not get the move right.  Step, step, rock back, step forward and around...and then...
"You were supposed to turn!" 

"I know, but you didn't lead it! You have to lead it.  If you don't, I won't turn."   

In ballroom, when the leader wants the lady to turn or spin, he raises her arm up and then gives her hand a 'stir' to let her know and lead her into the turn.  She feels her arm go up, and around she goes.  Hand comes back down, and she comes out of the turn.  In this instance, our instructor suddenly appeared.  She has a knack for showing up and smiling sweetly and saying "How's it going guys?"  just when we start to argue.  We tried to explain what the other was doing wrong.  She smiled sweetly again and extended her hand to me. 

"May I?"  It is her invitation to try the move with her as the lead, and see how it goes.  Step, step, rock back, step forward and around...I focused on following her.  And then she stopped. 

I stopped too, and said "Wait, wasn't I supposed to turn there?"  She smiled. 

"Yes"  she said.  "You are. But I couldn't raise your arm."
 
"What?"  She reviewed.  And when we got to the turn part again, she pulled up on my arm.  It did not go. 

"Relax"  she said.  "Hold your frame, yes.  But you have to stay loose, so that when he wants to make a move, he can.  You have to loosen up."  Sigh...I was really hoping it was his fault, not mine.  And I was kind of shocked at how tightened up I was too.  Trying too hard I guess.

In ballroom dance, you have to hold your frame.  You have to hold your arms up, and keep your shoulders down.  You have to keep the shape of your frame, so that when your leader moves, you will naturally move too, and go with him.  You will dance together.  It will look and feel beautiful. If you are too loose and he moves, your arms will just bend and you will not move together.  If you are too tight, as I was that night, he won't be able to get you to move. 

I think this is just like my life with God.  I have to participate, to stay in the game, to do my part to pay attention. This is like holding my frame.  If I go all floppy, disengage, give up, check out, He won't be able to lead me.  He will move, and I'll just bend my arm and not even notice.  But on the other hand, like the other night, if I am too rigid, holding my arms just so, clenching my muscles with determination - he cannot lead me that way either.  I will not turn, because he won't be able to raise my arm and lead me into it. 

This year at lent time, I decided to actually give something up.  Normally I really dislike the idea of giving something up for lent, because to me it smacks of trying to make a sacrifice in order to be worthy of Jesus' sacrifice for us. Not. Going. To. Happen.  But this year, I felt like maybe, just maybe, there was something I was hanging on to, too tightly - and just like in our dance lesson, how can he lead me if I am too tight, too determined, too stiff, too unwilling to let go?