Filling My Heart Through Trauma-Informed Weight Loss

Heart Jar

At the New Year, I set an intention to create a practice of embodiment and decided to re-evaluate what I was doing to manage my weight given what I have come to know about trauma. We all seem to understand that stress and trauma impact the way we eat and the way our bodies metabolize what we eat, and yet, we all still seem to suffer under the delusion that weight loss is something that is performance-based, will power dependent, and a commentary on our moral character. Wanting to avoid this seemingly universal pitfall, I decided that if I were going to try to lose weight again, the way that I did it was going to have to feed my soul somehow. 

When it comes to trauma, the issues around eating and weight are the symptoms and not the problem. The real problem is the unhealed trauma. When we focus solely on addressing the symptoms, we fail to address the real problem and therefore find ourselves stuck in a pattern of disappointment and failure when we can’t keep the weight off. Life is short, friends, and I don’t want to spend one more second of it inside of this negative pattern, so I set out to find a way to address the real issues that would result in real healing and then hopefully translate into lifelong healthy habits and a healthy weight to match. 

To me, creating a lifelong habit begins with keeping it simple and easy. Basically, we begin with what we already have and already know. I began by returning to a habit of tracking my meals in the Fitness Pal app. I wasn’t really worried about meeting the goals set by the app, I just wanted to be mindful of what I was eating and how often. This is the only habit I focused on for a week.

At the end of the week, I had lost a pound, so I spent some time reflecting on what I had done that week that felt healing to me. This was the week that I had hit my breaking point with the clutter in my house, particularly on our table. I had spent the previous weekend re-arranging the furniture in 3 rooms in our house so that we had a more functional space. As we lived in our new arrangement that week, we ate more meals together and those meal times were less rushed and much more pleasant. 

I decided that being mindful of these things was going to be a super important part of the process if it was going to be successful, and so I created a little therapeutic exercise out of it. I took an empty jewelry-sized gift box and filled it with small, decorative stones. They represent the things that are keeping me stuck, holding me back, and preventing me from obtaining my healthy goals. I also took a glass jar shaped like a heart, and it is waiting for me to fill it up with new, healthy thoughts, habits, and intentions. The idea is that with each pound lost, I take a stone from the pile of “dead weight”, hold it in my hand while I mindfully let go of what was working against me, and then as I place it in my heart, I mindfully fill my heart with the new healthy habit.

For the first week where I rearranged the furniture in my house, I practiced this mindfulness technique by setting the intention that I was letting go of cluttered, unworkable space and filling my heart with ordered, workable space. Obviously, that is a big project that can’t be completed overnight, but with the intention set, I’ve found that I really do make it a priority to get a little bit done each week.

The next week, I continued the pattern of being mindful by tracking my meals, still not worrying too much about meeting calorie goals or tracking macros or any of that. I continued to try to create order and workable space a little bit at a time. When I lost another pound at the end of that week, I again reflected upon what felt healing to me that week, and it was my confirmation into the Episcople church after spending several years without a faith community. That week as I picked up a stone from the pile and held it in my hand, I set the intention that I was letting go of isolation and filling my heart with community.

I continued into the 3rd week being mindful of what and how often I was eating and prioritizing orderly space and community. The third week was much more difficult. I started physical therapy for issues in my neck and back and had been in a great deal of pain. When I lost a pound, I set the intention that was releasing physical pain and filling my heart with a practice of attending to and caring for the pain. What I have learned as I have been mindful of the pain is that my body craves carbs and sugar when it is in pain and sleep deprived. I’ve also learned that pain is an enormous trigger to past trauma and the old patterns of compulsive behaviors, like eating my feelings. 

Being aware that all of those things are working inside of my mind-body system, I have had much more realistic expectations for my health this week. As in, I do not expect to lose weight this week. I won’t be surprised or devastated if I gain a little of the weight back. While I have continued to mindfully track my meals, my focus has been on managing my pain by making sure I’m taking my medicines on time, doing my physical therapy exercises, that I’m practicing correct posture, that I’m spending quality time with my heating pad, and that I’m keeping appointments with my therapist. It’s ok if I don’t lose weight this week; my body may have other priorities right now. And if I continue to be mindful about my nutrition, I won’t get way off track and will be much more able to jump back into losing weight when my pain is managed. 

I have found myself to be much more grounded with this exercise when it comes to my health and weight. My expectations feel more in line with reality, and honestly, I feel like I am actually working towards healing my body rather than punishing it or pushing it to perform a certain way. There is no restricting or withholding from myself in this way of doing things. In fact, it is more like I’m giving myself a gift each time. I’m filling my heart with something that will benefit my whole life for the long haul and not a superficial band-aid fix. 

This is my sincere wish for everyone who has experienced trauma and its effects on the body: to be grounded, healthy, happy, and healed. May we all give ourselves such a lovely gift in whatever ways that we can. If we are going to lose the weight of anything, let it be the weight of stress, hurt, and pain. If we are to gain anything, let it be peace and healing.

 

Untangling Perfectionism

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The “Before” Pic: The stats on my watch mark where I am today. They do not tell the story of the 13 weeks of conditioning it took to get here, nor do they predict where I will be at the end of this 18 weeks of training. Today is both a finish line and a starting line. 

I’m a recovering perfectionist. The fact that I was a perfectionist was news to me when the label was so casually thrown my direction for the first time. I genuinely looked around like, “who is she talking to?” Given that it was my turn in the group therapy circle, I was obviously the topic of the discussion. So, with that little seed planted, I walked around for many, many months noticing all of the thoughts, habits, reactions, and internal dialogue that validated my struggle with perfectionism.

That was a tough time, friends. Insight and awareness are often overwhelming when they are brand new, and my head felt like a very loud and hostile place to be. What I was learning, though, was priceless. I was learning that I had some really high standards for myself. Like ridiculously high. All the Marvel superheroes in the world could never conquer my high expectations. They were wildly out of control, but that didn’t stop me from excoriating myself each and every time I fell short, which was the only possible outcome given the nature of the standards I was holding myself to. The result was a never-ending cycle of mental and emotional gymnastics that was guaranteed to produce failure at every turn. Even actual successes didn’t measure up, and therefore, were marked as failures and added to the never-ending list of ways I had failed.

The physical result of that cycle was a lot of unhealthy habits. Perfectionism by its very name and nature demands that every first attempt results in a perfect end product. As a result, the risk of making a first attempt is often too daunting to try and many opportunities are lost to fear. When first attempts are made and not perfect, then no more attempts are made. Throw it all away and start over from scratch or simply quit entirely. Of course, throughout all of this, the harsh internal dialogue has been constantly playing in the background, steadily creating and increasing symptoms of anxiety and depression. When those symptoms become too uncomfortable to tolerate for one second longer, then it’s time to crack open the carton of ice cream.

By doing my trauma work with an amazing group and amazing therapists, I was able to begin untangling some of those perfectionistic tendencies and the resulting emotional eating. Inspired by that progress, I reached out to a friend who had made great strides in her own health journey, and she introduced me to the coaches at The OmniFit. For the past 2 years, I’ve been working with both the trauma professionals and the nutrition coaches, and it has been quite the journey.

Marathon training begins today, and I feel newly inspired to take my health goals to the next level and dig a little deeper into the mental game that will make that possible. The Transformation Blueprint course offered by The OmniFit has been a huge help in that regard. The first module is all about perfectionism, and these are some of the things I took away from that first module:

  • What I see in others is the end result and not the process. This helps me quiet that inner critic when I want to compare my “now” me to someone who has been at this for a decade. I like to follow this up by telling myself a story about how once upon a time this now perfect human specimen was also once a sweaty, smelly pathetic little thing that grunted and groaned when they tried to stand up.

 

  • “Goals are measureable. Expectations are emotional”- so focus on your goals. This quote from Coach Kala is really the most important piece to me and has become an almost daily mantra. It moves me out of the unwieldy emotional turmoil and into something concrete and within my grasp. Learning to acknowledge my emotions while shifting my attention to my goals has been such a lifesaver.

 

  • Set realistic goals.For me that means dialing it way back and then dialing it back some more. It means doing a little research to check my expectations for myself against reality. It also means breaking things down into steps, and then taking each step one at a time. Finally, I check in with my schedule and my body before I finalize any goals for the day, and I adjust accordingly.

 

  • Celebrate the victories.When I accomplish a step, I take a minute to really appreciate and celebrate it. I do not let any success, large or small, just float by unnoticed anymore. I give myself credit for the achievement and “put it in the bank”. No more long running lists of failures. I’ve got a vault of achievements, and they are drawing interest.

 

  • Find some real motivation. I’m pretty sure that I’ve spent most of my life having no clue what really motivates me. I’ve bribed, rewarded, punished, and deprived myself in an attempt to find the drive to complete a goal, and none of it worked. The fact is, if a carrot is dangled in front of me, I’ll immediately feel manipulated and annoyed, and like I’m being treated like a dog or a child. At that point, hell will freeze over before I play that stupid game. If punishment or loss is involved, I’ll just get mad and opt out, believing I never really deserved it anyway. For better or worse, I have the heart of a rebel-with-a-cause, and if I can champion an underdog while also proving to myself (and others) that I can do something I (and others) didn’t think I could do, then I’m ALL in until the very end. Learning to embrace this part of my personality rather than judge it has made all of the difference.

These are the tools I’ve picked up so far and that I’m taking with me into marathon training, but there is still so much more work to do. Currently, the biggest challenge in this house is getting our sleep schedules back to a normal school and work routine. I’m also preparing for my least favorite activity- meal planning. I know that very soon I will be running longer miles that require that I properly fuel my body, and I will also be short on time when the school year and soccer schedule kicks in. Meal planning is such a chore to me, but I know it will make my life easier. So, how does a rebel-with-a-cause find motivation to plan a menu, anyway?

I think I’ve come to really believe that finding what really motivates you and living into it is the secret to enjoying a fulfilling life. It has been surprising how much mental and emotional work and healing it has taken to come to this conclusion. As it would turn out, it is all valuable- the physical, mental, and emotional- because it all works together to provide health and healing. It’s more than running, eating a proper meal, and going to therapy; it’s learning about yourself- how you REALLY tick- and valuing what you learn.

 

Diary of a Reluctant Half-Marathoner: Managing Goals and Gators

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Today begins my 2nd week of pre-training for the St. Jude half-marathon in December. The first week had some interesting twists and turns, but overall I’m happy with how things went. Compared to last year, my approach and attitude toward this training cycle is totally different, and that shift in mindset has come from working with the coaches at the OmniFit through their 7 Day Challenge and the Transformation Blueprint course.

So much of my growth over the past year has been around setting realistic goals and managing expectations and my emotional response to those expectations. The reality of managing my expectations is much like wrestling an alligator, in that they are powerful, ornery, and unwilling to be tamed or controlled. It gets really ugly when I let my emotions attach to that power struggle, because clearly, it is going to end badly with me feeling like an exhausted, wrung-out failure. Which is entirely ridiculous, given the fact that I was never meant to wrestle alligators. Goal setting is never supposed to be a power struggle. When properly designed, it is an avenue of empowerment by which goals are achieved.

But in order to do that, expectations have to exit the alligator wrestling arena that I have conjured in my mind and shake hands with reality. That means moving past denial and telling the truth about everything: my time and schedule, my energy level, my attitude and motivation, and my current unhealthy patterns and how deeply entrenched they are in my life. It means accepting that this is going to be hard and I’m going to be uncomfortable and sometimes I’m going to hate this and it is going to bring out the worst in me at times and I’m likely going to act really immature at some point and whine like a small child and NOTHING ABOUT THIS PROCESS IS GOING TO BE PRETTY OR PERFECT.

If this sounds like I’m talking about lowering the bar substantially, then you are picking up what I’m laying down. If that makes you panic, sit in that feeling for a minute and ask yourself why. What I’ve discovered is that when I sit with that feeling and ask myself why, the answers usually reveal wildly unrealistic and unhealthy expectations for myself that I didn’t even realize I was holding on to. The more I reflect on that, I realize that it has been those silent, hidden expectations that have been operating in my life without my conscious permission. They are the drivers behind the unhealthy patterns, like eating my emotions or numbing out or making myself invisible with food.

In light of all of that (and that was A LOT, wasn’t it?), when it was time to start planning my 1st week of pre-training, I created a basic “skeleton” schedule for workouts. After I told the truth about my schedule and my time, I used that information to identify the days of the week that I was going run or walk and the days that I was going to do strength training. As I wrote out the workouts I was planning to do, I wrote them like the stars do align and the day actually does go as planned, because when that glorious day actually happens I want to have a plan in place that allows me to maximize that time for all that it is worth. Knowing that more often than not my days fly off the rails at some point, I identified the part of each workout I could do come hell or high water.

Having that kind of plan in place- a plan with built-in flexibility- made me feel so much more peaceful and less intimidated about starting this training cycle. It also removed the shame of “failing to do exactly what has been prescribed to do” and gave me the freedom to adjust according the realities that life throws at me. Last week, that looked like canceling a run/walk night entirely because my child was exhausted and falling asleep on the couch at 6 p.m., and I wasn’t too far behind her.

It also gave me the freedom to make it fun, which looked like including my child on all the other run/walk workouts. On my scheduled track night when I intended to do an easy, short workout, we ended up doing an almost 2 mile walk. During that walk, we enjoyed time to just chat and catch up with each other that is so rare these days. My scheduled weekend 1 mile run ended up coming in at 0.88 miles, because I also used that time to introduce my new bike rider to the bike trail. I ended up stopping many, many times during the 1st half mile to coach to her, even laying my body down on the paved trail to demonstrate how wide the path really was to relieve her fear of suddenly losing control of herself and rolling into woods. The things we do to calm our children’s fears!

Before I started this journey of wrestling with my expectations, having these things “interrupt” my workout would have caused me a ton of anxiety. Now, I enjoy seeing my daughter get excited about doing any form of exercise. She doesn’t look at me all confused when she walks in the living room to find me in plank position; she simply joins me. This week, she has paid close attention while I measured out and planned my food to take to work and asked important questions about nutrition, which happens to also be the 1st week in a very long time that she has not fought me about eating a proper meal.

So, did I achieve all those “big goal” markers and finish the entire “big goal” workouts that I wrote out? No, I didn’t. But I got close. I certainly did more than I did the week before. More importantly, I stuck to that skeleton structure I created and put some flesh to it by figuring out what is actually going to work inside of my real life and what is not going to work, and figuring that out will set me up for long-term success.

Most importantly, I was a good mom this week. I enjoyed some real, quality time with my child, and she achieved some goals and conquered that fear of bike-riding that she has been trying to work out for over a year now. If I keep on working out my goals and managing my expectations this way, my whole life may get healthier, including my relationship with my daughter, and that will be a way bigger win than shedding a few pounds or shaving a few seconds off of my mile time.  

 

It’s Training Time!

The Garmin is charged, the half-marathon schedules are out, and My Fitness Pal has been downloaded. It’s training time!

After such a great experience last year, I’m REALLY looking forward to running the St. Jude half-marathon again this year. It is officially 18 weeks away, which kind of makes my heart stop. Slow down life!

Unlike last year, I’m taking that whole “6 weeks of pre-training” thing seriously, because I chose to sit out the summer and didn’t run at all. Today is Day 1 of the pre-training.

What that looks like in real life is doing 3 sets of 15 squats with no resistance other than my own body weight. And when I trotted down the steps of the porch this morning and my legs went all wobbly, it affirmed the level of seriousness with which I need to approach this pre-training season 😂.

But, what I am MOST pumped about for this running season is that I’m working with Coach Kala Duncan of the OmniFit to get my nutrition sorted out (because my stomach always rebels long before my legs or lungs).

Plus, the insights she offers into the mental piece of nutrition and exercise is invaluable. Let’s just say, I have some issues around those things, I’ve thrown them all at her, and she ain’t scared 😂.

The Weekly Recap: A Good Measure

Who I Am as a School Parent

This week as I was cleaning and going through a stack of papers, I came across May Lee’s final report card for the 1st time. I walked to the calendar hanging in the pantry (I still have paper calendars. I will defend this choice to the death) and counted back the days to the last day of school. A week and a half had passed since the report card had come home, and all I can say is that is about right. A week and a half is a good measure of how far behind I was with life by the end of the school year, and I think we should all just be grateful that it wasn’t a larger spread than that. I am slowly catching up now that summer is here.

Closet Demons

Spring Cleaning in this house has been more about creating lasting organization than anything else, so it has taken awhile to yield visible results, which can be discouraging at times. In fact, most of the time, it has been much more visually messy than it was before the organization process started. But this week I experienced a real sign of progress: I can now close my closet doors. In fact, they now stay closed, like, all the time. What a lovely experience!

As I finished working in the closet, I timidly held the knobs and gently pulled the doors to. When they met in the middle, I just stood there for a minute, mentally putting the former closet chaos behind me and letting the peace of new order really sink in.

A memory came in that moment. A memory of married life and an actively addicted husband who became so anxiety-ridden one night that he shot out of bed and closed the closet doors because “demons were in there”. In the morning, despite the fresh light of day, he would again request that the closet doors stay closed, relaying some story about demons coming through the closet. I remember looking at him and seeing on his face how completely convinced he was of the fact that demons had been in that closet and also thinking that I hadn’t seen his face look that sober in a very long time. Then I turned and looked at our closet. A black chef coat, a white chef coat, a pair of cargo pants, and a few of my dresses were hanging there. I remember feeling like they appeared remarkably unspectacular for playing host to demons, if that were in fact the case.

Thinking back, I don’t think I have ever closed a closet door since our split. I don’t know if there is any spiritual significance to that, or if it is simply a good measure of how deep my stubbornness can run. He always had to have the closet doors closed, so I’m going to leave each and every last one open from now until eternity. A picture of emotional maturity, I am.

Maybe that is why I smiled as that memory began to fade and my eyes refocused on the closed doors of my newly organized closet. His demons don’t live in my closet anymore, nor do they live in my mind and manifest in my behaviors of closing or not closing the closet doors. I’ve reclaimed my own closet territory, and he holds no more influence there.

I wonder what other household structure or appliance is next up on the batting order of unexpected exorcisms? I feel I should be more prepared if this is going to be “a thing”. Perhaps I should be gathering some sage and essential oils….

Shaking Hands with God

Tropical Storm Alberto made landfall this week, and do you know where he decided to land? He came right up the beach access that was MY beach access when I lived in Florida.

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Little May Lee walking down the beach access at the very beginning of Tropical Storm Isaac

Tropical storm Isaac came through when I was living there. Schools were closed and work was cancelled, so we walked down that very access to the beach. I remember the feeling of complete awe, watching an angry ocean churn up the most remarkable things and deposit them on the beach. Among other things, we came across a whole section of beach covered with starfish bearing the marks of being pushed from the safety of the sandbars to the beach by the storm surge. We tried to put a couple of them back in the ocean, but the ocean just kept spitting them back out onto the sand.

We walked past a giant tree and wondered where on earth it came from, how long it had been in the ocean, and what would happen to it now. I remember feeling the constant push of the wind and thinking the sensation matched the pressure in my heart. If only I had understood what that meant at the time.

Hurricane Earl
Hurricane Earl

About 2 years earlier, on a beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I stood and watched the outer bands of Hurricane Earl push waves against the pier to the south of us. I remember the lights looked so lonely in the foggy dimness that comes with storms. I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband was spinning out, and a category 2 hurricane was coming ashore.

To this day, I struggle for words to express the deep, deep love I feel when I think of these memories of the beach and these storms. When I share the memory with people, I try to persuade them to go to the beach during a tropical storm. Put it on your bucket list. (And please use your good sense.)

When I watched the footage of Alberto coming up my beach access, my mind immediately went to calculating the distance and time from here to there, because I wanted to be there. I wanted to be in it. When there is a storm coming, my first instinct is to run to the beach and meet God there. I cannot think of any other time I have witnessed His power like when my eyes have seen the spirit of the ocean and the wind change like they do when a storm is coming ashore.

Since Alberto, a deep longing to go home to the beach has taken up residence in my chest. My child is languishing with the same unmet desire. Being born and raised at the beach for the 1st three years of her life, the love of the beach is as deeply etched into her soul as it is mine. We missed out on the beach last year, and right now, it looks like the same fate awaits us. Perhaps Alberto has reignited a desire that will see us to the beach this year after all. The need to walk out on the beach and shake hands with God is pressing.

I Told You

On Thursday night, May Lee and I went to see A Wrinkle in Time on the last night it was playing at the local discount theater. I was super excited, because it was one of my favorite books as a kid, and I thought May Lee would love not only the story but also the visual beauty of the movie.

What actually transpired can only be called a disastrous miscommunication regarding vomit. She ate an entire bag of gummy bears during the movie, then spent the last 45 minutes complaining of a stomachache. I asked about needing the bathroom, and she said no. On the way home, I glanced back and saw that she had “the look”. I again asked, and she said she didn’t feel well. I drove as fast as I could, as we were only 1 block from home at this point.

I pulled in the drive, and she immediately opened the door and puked everywhere. She looked up at me and accusingly said “I told you”. Then she leaned back over, and puked again.

I can’t even begin to describe what I was thinking and feeling, as I draped my entire body over the steering wheel. I pressed my head into it, alternating between sighing deeply and chuckling to myself.

After May Lee was cleaned up and the driveway hosed off, we had a little chat about the day and where we failed in the movie-going vomit portion of it. She reported a day of many cookies and other sweets that I was not aware of. She also let me know that she thought when I asked about the bathroom at the theater that I wasn’t going to go with her. I assured her that I would have been following close behind and that I would never send her to the bathroom alone to be ill.

We now have a well developed plan for any illness that may befall either of us in a public place. I feel like the day it actually goes down and one of us takes ill, we will move will military-like precision and speed. It will be a thing a beauty. Also, May Lee has taken a vow of “no sweets” for the month of June and has already broken it many times over.

Bring Your Kid to Work Day

I declared Friday to be Bring-Your-Kid-to-Work-Day, and so that is what I did. As you know, bringing your child to work can go 1 of two ways: your child will either be a delightful presence or they will make you regret the day you were ever born. Fortunately, the former was our experience, and we had a lovely day.

In fact, my daughter and I enjoyed time doing activities we never get to do together at home. This was due, in part, to the fact that the internet was down all day at the office, severely limiting how much work I could actually do. Being stood up by my clients was the other factor providing time for us to do things like play Upwords, draw together, and organize the art supplies. I can’t remember the last time my daughter and I had that amount of uninterrupted time to just sit and play a game in it’s entirety without some other event or chore pushing us for time.

Once I was done seeing the clients that did come to their appointments, May Lee and I went to lunch at a local place that was recommended to us. We played more games as we waited for our food. After lunch, we went to the local Wal-Mart and loaded up on summer toys and necessities. Then, we checked back in at the office to see if the internet had been restored, which it had not.

Lake-swim picAfter finishing up the work day, we changed into bathing suits and prepared to head to the lake. This is when I discovered that my tried and true bathing suit was no longer true. I have been making changes in the way I eat and exercise, and I knew that my weight hadn’t done the “yo-yo” thing in a long time. Clearly, what I failed to realize is how much my body had changed, but this fact was now shockingly evident as the top of my tankini refused to stay up and kept threatening to slide all the way off.

I had not thought to pack 2 bathing suits, as I had packed the “never fail” bathing suit. I stood there, not understanding this new reality but understanding that I needed to come up with a solution. The pieces I had packed already didn’t really match, but they fit correctly (so I thought), so I had to wear them. But in order to keep the tankini top in place, I had to add the additional layer of my gray t-shirt, tied up in a knot just above my waist to keep it out of the water.

After driving the hour back home, I was able to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror while donning this swim get-up, and I laughed out loud when I saw what it looked like in real life. It explained a lot of the looks I was getting as we played in the lake. Oh well! We had a good time!

Also, I’m choosing to spend at least a few days living in denial that bathing suit shopping is now completely unavoidable. I need to be in the right state of mind and emotional space for that undertaking.

Saturday Morning Bliss

It is now Saturday, and May Lee and I are fresh-spirited after the good night of sleep that swimming and time in the sun always brings. Spending all of our free time yesterday at the lake meant that we had no food in the house this morning, so for breakfast May Lee ate PBJ and I ate the last hot dog remaining from our backyard campout rolled up in a leftover pancake. I think that is a good measure of how far I have fallen off the meal-planning wagon.

In fact, “good measure” is a phrase that has shown up a few times in this recap of our week. Good Measure is also the name of our local health foods store, so perhaps this whole thing is word of prophecy exhorting me to higher planes of getting my life together that do not include leftover campout food wrapped in stale pancake. I wonder if they also sell sage and essential oils. This could be a one stop shop for all kinds of health and healing!

Church, Casseroles, and Lent

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My daughter and I visited a new church for the second time today. The first time, she went right into the kid’s program with zero hesitation. Today, she clung to my arm until I actually entered the kindergarten classroom. At that point, she released my arm and remained just outside and around the corner, which left me standing there, childless, in a room full of tiny tables and chairs.

Once the both of us were comfortably seated in the sanctuary, (comfortably meaning my rear end was straddling 2 chairs so that my lap could accommodate all 3 feet and 10 inches of my soon to be 6 year old without bumping either of our neighbors) we listened to the church announcements. In one announcement, they were seeking volunteers to make casseroles for foster families.

May Lee leans over and whispers, “We should ask Nana to make a casserole.”

“I can make a casserole.” I say in reply.

“Oh,” my child says in confusion and disbelief. I’m pretty sure she’s going to ask Nana if it’s true that her mother can make a casserole, and regardless of the answer she receives, continue to ask her Nana to make a casserole.

During the sermon, the pastor spoke a little bit about Lent, which is not a faith tradition that I have ever learned much about or practiced before, but I’m coming to see the usefulness of such a tradition in spiritual growth.

Upon returning home, we dined on a very traditional Sunday lunch of macaroni and cheese shaped like the characters from Trolls and some warmed up green beans. I pretended it was pot roast with potatoes and carrots. May Lee and I talked about church, Lent, and Easter. We talked a little bit about what Lent is, and I mentioned that I was thinking about giving up unhealthy food for Lent. Without missing a beat, she said “I think I’m going to give up….”

I interrupted her at this point, because I was startled by her eagerness to jump in, “You want to give up something for Lent too?!”

“Yes. I am going to give up trying to look so pretty all time. Trying to be all fancy.” she replied.

I was stunned. I really didn’t even know how to respond. Her response seemed wise beyond her years, and part of me felt really proud of that. The other part of me died a little inside that at not even 6 years old she is already struggling with the appearance thing.

“And I’m going to add exercising a little bit,” she said, finalizing her ideas for Lent. Which again, left me rather speechless as she is rather vocal about her disdain for exercise and how she finds it highly fatiguing.

“Well,” I said, “I think I’ll join you in adding exercise for 40 days. You know, Lent starts on your birthday.”

Her eyes grew wide. “It starts on my birthday?!”

I could see the wheels turning behind her eyes, thinking about the cake, ice cream, and candy involved with birthdays.

I leaned over and whispered, “Maybe you and I will start our 40 days on March 2nd”.

She grinned up at me in agreement and with relief all over her face.

So, I guess we are now a family that celebrates Lent….in one form or another. This year will certainly be an educational experience for us both.

When You Tempt Fate by Being Grateful for Your Health

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I’ve been sick. I tempted fate one afternoon by saying to my child as we drove home, “I’m so thankful that we have been so healthy this season.” The very next morning, I left work 15 short minutes after clocking in, because I felt like I had morning sickness while aboard an Alaskan fishing boat that happened to be cruising through at category 5 hurricane. I continued to feel that way for a full 24 hours as the bug ran it’s course.

A few days later, I came down the generic head cold/sinus infection/upper respiratory bug that people tend to share this time of year. And oh, how it lingers for days and days and many more blessed days, even after the worst has passed.

The illnesses, among other things, have put a serious damper on my training for the next 10K. Yesterday, I convinced myself that I was going to get out there and run no matter what. In my mind, I deluded myself into thinking that I was feeling well enough to run a few miles. Never mind that my clogged ears still cause multi-person conversations to sound as if they are taking place beneath the waters of the deep end of the swimming pool or that my sinuses remain full of vile substances that they have not fully released. Whatevs, man, I’m going for a run.

Let me tell you, if yesterday’s run is any indication of what the Little Rock 10K will look like for me, it is going to be an ugly affair. My delusions of getting a few miles in were quickly swept away as the physical activity caused the pressure in my sinus cavity to pound against my skull like a million, tiny, angry fists beating war drums. When I failed to heed their warning, the sinuses began releasing the vile substances that they had been hoarding in full retaliation against my delusions of grandeur, which were effectively swept away as I choked, gagged, and spit out all of my foolish pride onto the side of the road.

Sinuses- 1; Me- 0. Lesson learned. You win for now, you cruel caverns of darkness and abuse. But I’m coming for you, with all the essential oils and over-the-counter decongestants that the stray dollars and cents soon to be corralled from the bottom of my bag can afford.
You have been warned.

Gratitude & The Blessing of Health

After reading The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown, it is has been on my to-do list to create a practice of gratitude that May Lee and I could and would consistently do on a daily basis. November 1st ushered us into the season of Thanksgiving and provided the catalyst for simply doing something to express our gratitude. The something we came up with was verbalizing one thing we are grateful for as we drive to school in the morning.

With the daylight changing in step with the season, it has been really easy to contemplate our many blessings as we drive toward the pink and lavender hues of the sunrise. In fact, that was our first statement of gratitude. Yesterday, May Lee stated that she was thankful for playgrounds. Feeling the sore muscles and aching joints from running, I said that I was thankful for healthy bodies that allowed us to play on playgrounds.

Those sentiments rang in my ears and pricked my heart today when I received the text message from St. Jude that it is officially 30 days until the race. So many children and parents are battling cancer instead of playing on the playground together. I am so grateful for my daughter’s health, and I am working daily to increase my own. What a blessing to know that if our family ever does hear the word “cancer” that a place like St. Jude exists.

If the blessing of health is on your gratitude list this year, I invite you to honor that by supporting St. Jude.

http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3466532&pg=personal&fr_id=59186

St. Jude 10K: Hiding a Mountain of Sin Behind How Well I Comply.

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All the dynamics of the physical overhaul of my life have been at play this week. I would love to simply report my compliance to my running schedule, because I am highly skilled at hiding a mountain of sin behind how well I comply. Yet, the truth remains that a person can truly go off the rails internally while appearing to be right on track externally, and that, in a nutshell, sums up the last few weeks of my physical health.

Therefore, in an effort to bring my internal and external world more in line with each other, I’m going to lay the truth out there. First, I fell off the food tracking wagon about 3 weeks ago. My life got really busy, and I would legitimately forget to check in. I was still losing weight, so I felt no need to change my behavior even after my life slowed down. Thus began the slippery slope…

Next, the short morning exercise routines started to become less consistent. It is no surprise that I began to gain weight back at this point. Unfazed, I continued to be lax about my food intake and my exercise routine. When I was well enough to get back to my running schedule, the consistent running allowed me to justify increasing my food intake, i.e. allowed me to justify eating large quantities of junk food.

For 3 weeks, I have gained weight back. Not only that, I have experienced the aches and pains and physical complaints that had just resolved when I started consistently eating well and exercising. I ignored all the evidence and justified carrying on in my old patterns. To wrap this neatly in a bow, the old habits still live, and I still have work to do on my mental and emotional game to really care for my health the way I am called to care for my health.

The plan for week 4 is to shift my course to get back on track, which means once again going through the painful process of killing the sugar monster. That beast is my greatest nemesis. It also means finding a way to increase my personal accountability and taking a deeper look at this pattern of self-sabotage I have going on. Ironically enough, I had a video in my email this week about that very issue, so it seems like a good idea to unbury from the mountain of emails and actually watch it. Finally, I’m going to let myself feel the victory of recognizing I was off course and taking the initiative to make a change after 3 weeks rather than letting it go for 3 months or 3 years!

That last piece is crucially important. Overhauls of any sort do not occur in big pieces or in short durations of time. It is all about the long game. It is about incremental change over a long period of time to reach an ultimate goal. As much as I rail against our culture of immediate gratification, I’m lying to myself when I believe that I am somehow above that particular struggle and that the greater culture hasn’t affected me in that way. It is that lie that keeps me incrementally sliding down the slippery slope of my bad habits.

This week, I make the turn to begin the climb back up. If you have any personal experience with this struggle, I’d love to hear your experience, your victories, your struggles, your strategies, and most of all, your heart change through the process.

As always, if you have heart for the work St. Jude does for children battling cancer, please visit my fundraising page: http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3466532&pg=personal&fr_id=59186

 

St. Jude 10K: Pre-training

woman-1562560_1280As you may already know, I have been taking a graduate level course this fall, in an effort to gain a professional certification that I have been working toward, slowly and painfully, for many years. If you have read any of my other posts, you also know that my daily schedule has been jammed packed to the point of insanity. It was becoming more and more apparent to me that I was doing many, many things, but I was doing none of them well. So, after some serious soul-searching and prayer, which led to some chart making (yes, God speaks even to my inner nerd), a conclusion was reached: there will be a better season to take this class. You know, a season that is not smack dab in the middle of a major overhaul of my job responsibilities or my daughter’s kindergarten year. Even though I completely adore my instructor and absolutely feast on the content of the class, it is time to drop it like it’s hot.

Clearly, this will free up a great deal of my time, and we may finally be able to wear clothes that have not been sitting in a wrinkled heap in a laundry basket for 2 weeks. But I quickly realized that since I will no longer be in class, I will be able to participate in the St. Jude 10K that I signed up for over the summer. This is a big race and a big deal, and may I just say, that I am not prepared. I gave up running the second I started class and realized that I wouldn’t be able to participate in the race. Yes, I have tried to keep up with strengthening my core and working in a quick HITT workout when I could, but that is not the same as training for a 10K. Also, have I mentioned that I have not successfully run a 5K? I have work to do, people.

I am tempted to be overwhelmed, which would essentially be trading “class overwhelmed” for “training overwhelmed” and I really don’t want to go down that road. So yesterday, I hit the running trail to see where I was in my running game and try to find a little motivation to get after it. Even though it is completely embarrassing, I’m going to share my stats with you so that you can a) feel sorry for me, and then b) maybe offer some encourage and motivation to keep me going now that you know how far I have to go in this journey.

stjudepennySince I just wanted to see where I was physically,  I just did a mile at a pace I felt good about to see where I clocked in. So, according to the FitBit, I ran 1.1 miles at a pace of 12’24”. This is much slower than where I left off at the end of last season’s running clinic, but it’s a start. I found this penny along with way, and I picked it up and deemed it my lucky penny for my training. You will notice that it had landed on tails, but that did not scare me away. To me, it was a perfect metaphor about how this thing isn’t going to come easy, nothing in life ever does. But my life is not altered or directed by bad juju, it is authored and perfected by my faith in God. God has been asking me, begging me, pleading with me to get healthy, and that is the true reason I am out there doing this. So, game on.

Friends, I need all the support I can get, and by support I mean accountability. That is why I am putting this out there, so it will not be easy to just quick when it gets hard. If you can support my fund-raising effort with a few dollars, I would really appreciate it. But even more so, I covet your encouragement! This is the link to my St. Jude page: http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3466532&pg=personal&fr_id=59186
Thanks in advance!