You Are Loved <3

“UNIVERSAL LESSON:  YOU SEE THE WORLD THAT YOU HAVE MADE, BUT YOU DO NOT SEE YOURSELF AS THE IMAGE-MAKER.” 

Gabrielle Bernstein, “The Universe Has Your Back”

Personal development has never been something I pursued intentionally.  One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to acknowledge during my health and fitness journey is that in addition to weighing almost 300 lbs, I was toting around at least that much weight in emotional baggage.  It was literally weighing me down, drowning me in depression and despair.  Unwilling and unable to even leave my house most days, because I was so ashamed and embarrassed at how much I’d let myself go. I kept trying to claw and dig my way to the surface, only to be dragged back down again by the hands of my perception and self-loathing.  It was a cycle I didn’t know how to break.  I didn’t weigh 300 pounds just because I loved food, and I knew that part of my health journey was going to include delving deep into my heart and rooting out the negative and self-destructive emotions that brought me to the edge of the precipice I found myself on the eve before I decided to have Gastric-Sleeve surgery.  I didn’t want to ever end up back in that place, literally hanging over a dark abyss of self-hatred and fear.  I knew losing the weight was only half the battle, delving into my personal “why” was the key.  Why had I allowed this to happen to my body?  Why did I do this to myself?  I was hiding behind the extra weight.  Hiding behind the poor choices.  I needed to figure out why.  I couldn’t let this happen to me again.

Gabrielle Bernstein says something over and over in her book (The Universe Has Your Back) that really stuck with me, “Energy flows where your attention goes.”  Our perceptions create our reality or projection.  Gabrielle compares it to a movie reel.  What we perceive is what we project on the movie screens of our life.  If you find yourself struggling, whether it’s with your weight, your marriage, your relationships, your life…ask yourself, what movie have I been projecting?  I began to really think about what fear motivated me in a negative way to make the poor decisions that led me to this crossroads in my life.  I knew I had choices.  I could keep doing what I’d been doing and continue to live in the shadows, afraid to step out.  Or, I could take a different path.  I could step out of my 300 pound shadow.  I could stop being a spectator in my very own existence and make the decision to actually live!  I could make the decision to be fully present, living my best life, not just watching from the sidelines.

Somewhere along the line between childhood and adulthood, I decided that love was conditional.  I developed along the way this idea that I had to walk the tightrope of perfection in certain relationships in order to be loved and feel love.  If I missed a step, if I failed to say the right thing or do the right thing, that love was withheld from me.  It was taken away.  Whether in my mind or in reality, it was my perception and it colored my attitudes and emotions.  Food became a comfort, a coping mechanism.  Metaphorically, I could hide my shame and low sense of self-worth behind my weight.  If no one could see me, they couldn’t hurt me.  Obviously, I see the fallacy in my thinking, but when you are trapped in a particular mindset, it’s extremely difficult to see your way around it.  The self-destructive behaviors make a weird sort of sense.  You begin to find comfort in the things that ultimately will bring you down.

It’s difficult to explain in words, and I’m probably botching it up, but it’s really painful to open yourself up in this way and bare your soul.  I carry these feelings in the deepest parts of myself.  I’m always waiting for friends and family to realize how screwed up I really am and turn away from me, realize I’m not worth loving and walk away.  This is the movie, I play in my head.  This is my projection colored by my perceptions.  I don’t want to live this way.  I don’t want to gain the weight back.  I still have weight to lose, work to do and part of that work is being 100% honest and transparent.  I don’t want to always feel as if I have to hide behind humor and self-deprecation.  I want to shine a spotlight on the deepest and darkest parts of me, so I can change my “movie”, my perceptions and project a different outcome.

Sharing my thoughts and feelings in such a public forum allows me to feel empowered.  I want to reshape these negative thoughts and structure my life in a more positive and productive way.  As it turns out, losing 100 pounds was the easy part.  Changing my perceptions is where the hard work really begins.  If I want something I’ve never had, I have to do things I’ve never done.  I find inspiration in the support of others.  A big part of me expects failure.  It would be easy to listen to that voice.  That voice tends to get louder when I shut myself off from loving and being loved by others.  The stories I sometimes allow myself to believe about myself block me from feeling supported and happy.

It is difficult sometimes for me to reconcile the fact that I’ve come so far in my health and fitness journey.  I’ve lost over 100 pounds!  I don’t celebrate this amazing achievement often enough.  I usually say something along the lines of “yeah, I’ve lost 100 pounds, but I still have another 50 or so to go.”  My emotional health is an integral part of my overall health and fitness.  I can’t ignore it.  To ignore it leads me right back to where I started and I don’t want to ever visit or live there again.  I need to acknowledge and congratulate myself on the hard work that has gotten me this far.  That sense of accomplishment needs to be the light I shine on the projection I want to play in my daily life.  I don’t want to stay stuck in the negative rut of that old reality.  I want to break down those walls, squash those feelings and crush that mindset.  I have to be purposeful about connecting to the positive images of my success and accomplishments rather than focusing on the negative and destructive.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will I be.  I am perfectly imperfect, a child of God, and learning to love myself, forgive myself is essential to my growth and progress to being the person I was meant to be.

Writing the positive story of my life makes for a happier, more joyful me which radiates a power and light that forbids me from hiding in the shadows of my old self, hiding behind those old fears and spiraling down the staircase of destruction.  Being present in my life, being an active participant is my power and from that power I derive my motivation and my inspiration to continue down this new, unchartered path.  Seeking the approval of others is an integral part of who I am, connecting to those feelings, recognizing and acknowledging those feelings without letting the outcomes control me is key.

I’m worthy of being loved

The above statement, a mantra I repeat to myself daily, sometimes multiple times per day.  I am flawed.  I am imperfect.  I make mistakes.  None of those things discounts me as a person worthy of loving herself and accepting love from others.  In losing 100 pounds, this is what I’ve discovered.  I choose to look back and see my 300 pound self cheering me on, wanting me to succeed instead of trying to trip me up or praying I fail.  I understand that my intentions, my perceptions color my reality.  By being the change I want to see in myself and the world around me, I turn outward judgment into self-reflection and action against the only thing I can ever truly control, myself.

If you are feeling stuck, unloved or in a place where you harshly judge not only yourself but those around you, I hope you find comfort and solace in what I’ve shared here today.  I hope you take the time to stop and think about the movie you’ve created of your life and the part you want to play in it, realizing the power to change the direction and the outcome does truly lie within you.  Empowering yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself and others.  Forgive yourself.  Love yourself.  So that you may more freely forgive and love others.  Choosing to be intentional, empowering yourself and those around you, projecting the life you want and desire is a daily practice.  I find myself having to redirect my negative thoughts and actions over and over again throughout the course of a day.  Some days are better than others.  Don’t let fear be the guiding principle of your internal dialogue.  The point is to be intentional and purposeful in the changes you want to see and that will direct your thoughts and actions in a positive direction.  Taking responsibility for the lives we’ve created can be scary.  It’s much easier to blame those around us, or our circumstances.  Believe me, I know.  By acknowledging that my perceptions of self-worth, my negative thoughts and feelings and my destructive habits and choices were shaping the reality of my existence, my world, I was able to choose a different path, including the experiences in healing my heart, body and soul that resulted in the loss of 100 pounds and the journey to find the me God intended when he created me in His image.

The bottom line.

You are not alone.  You are loved. ❤

Get In My Belly!

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What a difference 4 months can make!  Documenting your progress with pictures is so important, even if you are the only one that ever sees them.  You might not notice any changes over the course of a month, which might lead to discouragement or a sense of failure and disappointment.  However, when you put a picture side by side, a month apart, you might just amaze yourself!

I’m so very late with this post, I meant to post last Tuesday…but life.  Better late than never though…right? We started homeschooling my 11 year old son 2 weeks ago, and I’m still trying to figure out both our schedules, but that’s a blog post for another time.  In my blog post, Believing Is Achieving, I disclosed that one of my major goals for 2017 was to plan and prep meals more consistently and eat out less.  So far so good, but the year is young.  One of the products I purchased for myself that has been a game changer in our household – meal prep containers.

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Seriously, these cost me $20 for a pack of 20 and they have been working awesome for us.  My husband can pre-pack his lunches with either leftovers or I prep some meat and veggies for the week.  It makes it so much easier to grab something healthy for lunch or snack and resist the temptation to eat out because I’m too tired or busy to cook/make something.  I ordered mine thru Amazon, but I’m sure you could find them anywhere.  I prefer the 3 way containers, but they also come in 2.

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I can’t stress this enough.  If you remember nothing else that I ever say, remember these 2 things:

  1. Throw out your scale!  DO IT!
  2. EAT EAT EAT – stop dieting

I’m an emotional eater. I eat when I’m upset, bored, lonely, happy, angry, etc… You get the picture.  I shared with my nutritionist that I don’t actually remember the last time I was truly HUNGRY.  Dieting just made me feel deprived and angry.  Angry at what I perceived to be my failings.  Anger that I couldn’t be the kind of person to eat whatever I wanted, never exercise and stay magically thin and fit.  Anger led to binge eating, losing control and hating myself.  A vicious cycle I couldn’t seem to break.  One of the key things my nutritionist and therapist taught me was that food isn’t inherently good or bad.  It’s a mantra I live by now.

FOOD ISN’T INHERENTLY GOOD OR BAD

It’s about choices.  Some foods are better for you.  They have better benefits.  I feel better when I eat them.  Sometimes you just need that slice of cake or that piece of pie or bowl of ice cream.  My life is now a series of choices.  I know that an apple is better for me than a ding dong.  I know I need to fuel my body.  Once I changed my mindset, and food wasn’t a series of things I wasn’t ALLOWED to eat, my eating habits improved.  Improving my eating habits, filling my plate with nutritiously dense foods, fueled my body in ways that I could FEEL.  I found myself with more energy, both physical and mental.  My moods improved.  I wasn’t constantly filled with self-loathing.  I didn’t feel like a failure when I reached for the mega-stuffed Oreo.  I enjoyed the heck out of that Oreo, but I stopped at 1, instead of eating 6 or more.  I started to learn to love myself.  It’s a process, one in which I’m still evolving.  I’ve found new confidence and joy in my body and what it can do now that it couldn’t do before at almost 300 pounds.

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I’m willing to put myself out there and be vulnerable in sharing my journey.  If even one person understands that they are not alone, that I understand how they feel and that I am here to inspire, motivate or just love them through it, then putting myself out here – the good, the bad and the ugly – will have all been worth it.  My goal is health.  Healthy looks different on everyone, and I think that is beautiful.  I think YOU are beautiful.  I don’t have a goal weight.  I just have goals.  Society doesn’t dictate what beautiful means to me, I define it for myself and I embrace every scar, every stretch mark, every fabulous flaw because it’s the roadmap in my journey, in my beautiful life.

So what do I eat?

Snacks

A big part of my daily nutrition comes in the form of Shakeology by Beachbody.  I usually drink one as my afternoon snack.  The long hours between lunch and dinner are my most vulnerable.  If I’m going to reach for the Oreo or bag of Doritos, it’s during the interminable mid-afternoon.  I prefer the chocolate flavor.  It curbs my cravings, gives me a boost of energy to finish the day strong and fills me up till dinner.

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I also enjoy fruit, granola and trail mix for my snacking pleasure.  I’m a creature of habit, so I’ll typically have the same breakfast, lunch and snacks every day for weeks until I get bored, then I change things up.

BREAKFAST

This is an easy one, because I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning.

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And coffee.

Lots and lots of coffee.

And eggs.  I love eggs.

I vary what I put in my omelets, but I love me some eggs for breakfast.  I always add spinach, I’m not a huge vegetable lover, so I get them in however and whenever I can.  I might add turkey sausage or diced ham.  I’ll throw in some peppers and onions, a little cheese, different kinds every week.  Sometimes I add an avocado or fruit on the side.

And yes I eat the whole egg.  Yolk and all.

Lunch

Part of my meal prep for the week is grilling some chicken for easy go-to lunch choices during the week.

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A recent favorite of mine is the turkey, avocado and red pepper roll up!  So good!  And no I’m not anti-bread.  I LOVE bread.  It’s important to meet my protein goals every day, and that’s harder to do if I fill up on carbs, as lovely as they are and as much as I love them.

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Another lunch favorite is the quesadilla.  I eat this one quite a bit, it’s easy and I love a hot lunch.  I’ll add grilled chicken, spinach and peppers/onions to a whole wheat tortilla, sometimes throwing in some cheese or avocado.  The quesadilla is great because it’s a versatile choice, there are so many directions and iterations you could try to shake things up if you get bored easily with food.

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DINNER WINNER OF THE WEEK

First, I will share my list of favorite websites that I use religiously for recipes/ideas when I’m not using Pinterest.  Pinterest is pretty much my one-stop shop, but these websites are beautiful and have deliciously wonderful recipes.

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Our favorite dinner last week came from How Sweet It Is.  It wasn’t too difficult to make, I did throw in some cheats and I was able to prep most of it ahead of time to reduce actual cooking time.  It was a hit with the family, even the man-child, and he’s impossible to please these days.  It tasted even better reheated the next day.  I can’t wait to make it again!

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I mean seriously, how good does this look?  And I’m usually a Pinterest fail, so when my food (or project) comes out actually looking very similar to the fancy picture, I’m super stoked! Even admiring how pretty it looked, I was still afraid to taste it.  I would have curled in the fetal position, crying for days, if it hadn’t tasted as good as it looked.  Luckily, it did!  Here is the actual recipe.  I didn’t grill corn on the cob and shave it off, that’s too much work for me.  I just bought the Del Monte Fire Roasted Corn (yes, in the can).  I made the bacon ahead of time, crumbled it up and stored for later use.  I also kept the grease in a bowl and reheated it for cooking per the instructions.

A small serving of this tasty dish filled me up, but not in that uncomfortable food baby belly wear elastic pants kinda way.  I love it when a recipe comes together from kitchen to table like this one did for me.  It’s just the best feeling, especially when you aren’t the best cook in the world, like myself.

Anyway, I hope some or all of my suggestions work for you and your family.  Meal prepping really does help control poor eating habits and choices, not to mention all the money we’ve been saving not eating out.  It takes a bit of organization, planning and prepping but it’s so very worth it.  Try it!

It’s a game-changer, I promise ❤

Believing Is Achieving

“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

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I get a ton of questions daily about what I eat and what kind of exercise I do, so I thought I’d write today and share what I’ve found works for me.  I plan on making this an ongoing series, posting my workouts, meal plans and anything else I find motivational or inspirational.  I know that I love seeing other people post about their meal plans and exercise routines.  I love finding new recipes and ideas.  My idea of spicing up the kitchen is buying chicken with the skin on.  I know, I’m living life on the edge!  Be jealous.

I don’t know about you but I’d much rather think about food than politics or the state of the Union which has been filling up my social media feeds here lately.  All the scrolling to find videos of puppies and kittens and things that make me happy is exhausting lately and quite frankly should be counted as exercise. All that finger swiping has to be burning calories.  I’m going to google that…

Apparently there is an app that calculates how many tweet calories you burn.  An argument could be made that swiping, liking and commenting burns about the same amount of calories as tweeting.  The average, healthy person burns about 2.65 calories per minute.  It takes 23 seconds approximately to craft a 140 character tweet, which means that sending one tweet burns about 1.03 calories.  I don’t do math, so I’m not fact checking this information.  I can’t believe someone sat around trying to figure that out, but it came in handy today.

Anyway, I digress.  One of my major goals for 2017 is to meal plan/prep every week.  So far so good.  I’ve noticed by planning my meals each week, I’ve saved a ton of money and time.  I was literally going to the grocery story every day last year, spending roughly $30-$60 each visit.  More if I was at Target.  We also ate out more often, and I’ve been scaling that back to once a week, maybe twice at most.  Since meal planning/prepping, I’m spending about $150 per week, $600 per month on groceries, approximately.  Some weeks it’s a little higher, some a little lower.  I was spending $210 – $420 per week before.  That’s just ridiculous.  Sunday is my planning day and Monday is my shopping/prepping day.  I put little stars next to the meals that go over really well, and I have theme nights.

For example:

Meatless Mondays

Taco Tuesdays

Whimsical Wednesdays (when I try something new)

Thematic Thursdays (I look for dishes from other cultures/countries – Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese, etc…)

Fallback Fridays (old favorites, comfort foods)

Silly Saturdays (fun foods – like make your own pizza or finger foods only)

I don’t always stick to these themes, but it gives me a guidepost and makes it easier when I’m trying to plan to keep things new and different.  I usually incorporate at least one crockpot meal and I don’t cook on Sundays.

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I do not diet.  However, I do believe that what we do in the kitchen, dictates how successful we will be in creating healthier, fitter, happier versions of ourselves.  I follow the 80/20 rule.  80% of the time I follow a healthy, clean and wholesome food plan.  The 20% rule is because I love Chick Fil A, Girl Scout Cookies, Chocolate and wine and I don’t believe in deprivation.  I spent years abusing my body.  Starving.  Overeating.  Binge eating.  The word “die” is in diet for a reason.  It was literally killing me.  I’ve tried every diet out there and none of it worked long-term.  I worked with a nutritionist and therapist prior to my surgery and there is a reason they require it.  My relationship with food was detrimental to my mental, physical and emotional well-being.  I had to change the way I felt and thought about food or I would end up being another statistic.  I felt like surgery was a pretty drastic action, it wasn’t something I entered into lightly, and I didn’t want to put myself thru all of the this only to end up back where I started someday.

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I learned that food is neither inherently good nor inherently bad.  We assign values to food and it creates this unhealthy relationship.  We eat something “bad” and we beat ourselves up, feeling crappy and worthless and in my case, I’d end up just eating more “bad” food in this vicious cycle of self-loathing.  We embark on these crazy diets and fads, billions of dollars are spent every year, making the fitness/health industry one of the largest, yet we are still obese as a country on the whole and that number is rising every day.  There isn’t a magic formula or magic pill to lose weight or get fit.  If there was I definitely would have found it by now.  Losing weight also doesn’t mean losing fat.  The scale lies.  I threw out my scale and it was the best decision I ever made.

THROW OUT THE SCALE!

 You will be happier I promise.  Take your measurements, pay attention to how you feel, how your clothes feel and celebrate non-scale victories.  The scale will only make you miserable and obsessed, it is not an accurate measure of your success, failure or progress.  It doesn’t tell the whole story.  In fact, the scale tells “alternative facts”.  Cheeky I know, I went there.  Deal with it ❤

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How much do I eat?

Here is the other mistake many people (especially women) make when it comes to food and eating.  We don’t eat enough.  I KNOW!  Shocking, but true.  We are starving ourselves.  Our bodies need fuel, especially if you are working out.  I use the formula below to determine how many calories I should be consuming each day and I use the MyFitnessPal app (iPhone) to track my food.  I’m not super religious about tracking, mostly I use it to ensure I’m getting my protein each day.  I aim to get about 60+ grams of protein each day.  Then I balance out the rest of my diet with fruits/vegetables, whole grains, fats, etc.

What is your gender? Your Score: 1 or less – 1,200 – 1,499 calories
Female +1 2 – 1,500 – 1,799 calories
Male +2 3 – 1,800 – 2,099 calories
4 – 2,100 – 2,399 calories
What is your weight? 5 – 2,400 – 2,699 calories
130 lbs or less +1 6 – 2,700 – 2,999 calories
131-160 lbs +2 7 – 3,000 – 3,299 calories
161-180 lbs +3 8 or more – 3,300 – 3,599 calories
181 – 200 lbs +4
201 – 220 lbs +5
221 lbs + +6
What is your current activity level?
Inactive (desk job) -1
Moderate (server in a restaurant) 0
Very Active (construction worker) +1
What is your goal?
Lean out -2
Maintain Weight 0
Build Muscle +1
Total Score

You are wondering how I know how much I weigh if I threw out my scale.  Well, I still have to go to the doctor and they make me stand on it.  You’ll have some idea of how much you weigh, even if you don’t have a scale.

Make sure you are eating enough!

Exercise – I work out 4-6 days per week, depending on what is going on that week.  Never fewer than 4 days and never on Sunday.  What I do each day depends on my mood and how I feel.  Typically, I walk 4-5 days per week, 1-3 miles.  Currently, I am doing the T25 program thru Beachbody, which are 25 minutes in length and vary each day in terms of what is focused on (i.e. lower body, total body, cardio).  I also work to hit at least 10,000 steps per day.

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I don’t love exercise, and I won’t pretend that I do.  I do it because I do love how it is changing my body and how strong it makes me feel.  I do it because I don’t want to gain the weight back, and I still have inches I want to lose.  I do it because I know how bad not doing it makes me feel.  I can’t and won’t go back there.  I wish there was another way, an easier way.  But there is not.  You have to move your body and fuel it with wholesome and nutritious foods.  It takes so much longer to take it off than it does to put it on, which is horribly unfair.  Alas, it’s the way it is and that won’t change.  Find what motivates and inspires you.  Make exercise a daily task or to-do on your list, schedule it on your calendar. Whatever you need to do to make working out and YOU a priority.  You deserve it.  You need it.  You’ll be a better person for it.

I promise.

I’m here for you.  We can do this together.  We’ve totally got this!

Next time, I’ll share meal prep ideas, meal plans and recipes.  Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you, inspire you, motivate you.

So, I’m Basically Moses

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My Bible study this week has been focusing on Moses and the Exodus from Egypt.  This study couldn’t have come at a better time for me.  When God tasked Moses with liberating the Israelites, he was full of excuses about how it would NEVER work.  Moses was a bit of a whiner.  I’m not judging.  To judge Moses would be to judge myself.  Not that I think I’m ACTUALLY Moses reincarnated or anything like that (although…), just that I completely understand his fear and reticence towards the monumental task set before him.  Moses basically attempted to dissuade God in three primary ways:

  1. Moses didn’t believe in himself or think he was good enough.
  2. Moses was afraid people would doubt his authenticity or credibility.
  3. Moses believed himself to be a terrible public speaker.

I am 45 years old and still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  I’ve always wanted to be a mother.  I’m not terribly ambitious.  I mean I can be super competitive, you probably don’t want to find yourself my adversary in a board or card game, but in the world of business, not so much.  I don’t have any desire to climb the corporate ladder or further my education.  I always knew I wanted children.  It’s the only life ambition I can ever recall truly wanting and craving.  Part of being a mother, meant helping to support our family, so working outside the home was a necessity.  I don’t have any regrets, but as I enter a new season in my life, I find myself floundering.

Our three girls are out of the house, adapting and thriving in a world outside of our little bubble.  We couldn’t be more proud of them.  Our son is only 10 and still living at home.  I don’t know where we went wrong with him.  I keep encouraging him to get a job and be a contributor in life, but he’s full of excuses (just like Moses).  Apparently, he’s under the impression that 10 is too young to work or drive.  I tell him he’s just not trying hard enough.

Obviously, I’m joking.

Or am I?

But seriously, most of the time, it’s just me and little man hanging out.  My husband (in addition to working 2 jobs) is in Seminary, completing his Masters of Divinity degree.  Unfortunately, we don’t see him as much as we’d like (never thought I’d say that!)  I’ve taken the last year off from working outside the home, choosing instead to focus on little man, my health, my faith, my husband and my girls.  We’ve focused these last few months on simplifying our lives.  We will be downsizing from 3600 square feet to 1300 square feet of living space in a few short weeks.  I feel like we are either selling or giving away our entire life and history, it’s both terrifying and exhilarating.  Like many people, we have entirely too much STUFF.

I’ve been looking into part-time jobs and opportunities, not having much luck or finding anything I’m truly excited about.  I feel lost and a little dejected if I’m being honest.  I’ve been channeling my inner Moses and whining to God about it.  I don’t do many things well, but I do think I’m a competent writer.  I haven’t figured out how to make money doing what I love, second only to motherhood.  I do feel I have a story to tell, and God has impressed this feeling onto my heart.  It’s scary to put yourself out there, metaphorically naked and under a spotlight.  I don’t like feeling vulnerable.  I’m embarrassed when I get complimented or even noticed.  I both crave and cringe that spotlight.  Maybe if I could keep my clothes on…?

As I read about Moses this week, I’m struck by his three excuses to God.  Why?  Because they sound so familiar!  Those same three excuses have been stuck on a loop in my head for months.

  1. I worry I’m not good enough
  2. I worry that people won’t like me or that I’ll annoy them
  3. I worry that I won’t be able to speak (write) confidently or authentically, that I will fall short and be judged harshly and found lacking

In short, I’m worried I will fail.

If you’ve followed my Instagram or Facebook posts lately, you’ll notice I’ve been posting more about my health and fitness journey. In my quiet moments of prayer and reflection, I feel like it’s this part of my journey that God wants me to share.  I keep making excuses and trying to ignore that little voice but it’s not going away.  I feel like there are so many people out there that have struggled with weight, poor self-image, terrible self-confidence and low self-esteem.  People who look at themselves in the mirror and feel shame, even hatred for the person looking back.  People who feel like they have tried EVERYTHING and nothing works.  People who have just given up, thrown in the towel, trying to convince themselves and others that it doesn’t matter anymore, that they don’t care.  People who are tired of failing.  Tired of feeling ashamed and judged.  People who find themselves spectators in their life instead of active participants.  People who just don’t feel good enough or that they measure up against the ideals of others, stuck in the perpetual cycle of despair and recrimination.

The other day, I shared my 21 day challenge group with all of you.  How it gave me new energy and focus, a sense of purpose and excitement.  My accountability group is comprised of an amazing group of women, who are motivated simply by helping and encouraging others.  I shared how in 21 days, I lost 3.5 inches overall.  I spoke briefly of how excited I am for my next challenge group to start.  In some ways, this group has given me a sense of belonging I didn’t even realize I was missing, a sense of purpose.

Over the last month, I’ve been reflecting and praying, listening hard for an answer.  What I didn’t realize was that it’s been in front of me all along, but I, like Moses, gave God a million excuses why I was the wrong person, at the wrong time, in the wrong place.  I will fail.  I can’t do it.  No one will listen.  No one will like me or relate to me.  I won’t find the words.  I’ll suck.  It will just be another thing in a long line of things that I’ve attempted to do that I’ve failed or given up on.  This time, I’ll fail publicly and spectacularly.  I’ll withdraw into myself again, gain all the weight back and feed on self-loathing, self-pity and cupcakes.

WOW.

For real though, this is the rabbit hole I find myself diving into, time and again.  I’ve worked so hard to change my thoughts.  Changing my thoughts has changed my behaviors.  Changing my behaviors has changed my perspective.  Changing my perspective has changed my life.

So I took the leap.

I decided to become a coach, a fitness consultant for Beachbody, run my own challenge groups, be a part of an amazing team,  and see if I can’t reach the people who struggle just like me, need the encouragement and motivation of someone who understands.  Someone who gets how hard it is.  Someone who has to fight for every pound or inch lost.  I’m living proof that perfection is not required, just a willingness to do the work, to show up, every single day.  Celebrating both scale and non-scale victories is sweeter when done with people who truly want the best results for you.  I love my challenge group because it’s not just about physical change.  There is a heart change, a mind change, a willingness to believe in yourself because other people believe in you and are walking alongside you, cheering you on.  Where I saw failure, I now see opportunity.  I’m excited to embark on my new journey, this new stage in my life.  I’m scared to share it.  I’m terrified of not living up to my own expectations.  I’m even more terrified of letting my team down. I feel I’ve found a beautiful way to share my journey, help others while doing what I love most, writing about it.  I will still write about other things, participate in my writing challenge groups, share my thoughts and insights, but I’m focusing my energies primarily on my health and fitness journey.  Even giving my blog and social media accounts a bit of a face lift, revitalizing my writing and sharing space with a new look and a new name.

I struggle with this concept that I could possibly know or understand what God wants for my life.  I know that in those quiet moments of prayer and reflection, this direction, this path feels right.  I feel God is telling me that I am the right person.  This is the right time.  And I’m in the right place.  ❤

If you are interested in hearing more about my next challenge group, please don’t hesitate to message me!  We have another one starting on November 14th (prep week starting on November 7th) and it’s going to be fantastic.  I’m beyond excited and I don’t get excited about exercise or eating healthy!  So you know it must be good.

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I hope I’m the mouse, not the frog 😛

HAPPY FRIYAY!  ENJOY THE WEEKEND ❤ 

Wickedly Fit – A Halloween Challenge

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“Take care of your body.  It’s the only place you have to live.” Jim Rohn

On Halloween, I completed day 21 of a fitness challenge I joined called “Wickedly Fit.”  I’m all about the packaging, and the title of this fitness challenge group was just too cute to pass up!

My health and fitness goals have been stagnate for awhile now.  I hadn’t gained any weight, but I hadn’t lost any either.  I could see the old patterns of behavior, poor eating choices and a sedentary lifestyle sneaking back into my daily life.

It scared me.

But not enough to take action.  Yet.

I’d been creeping on this one girl’s Instagram account.   I didn’t know her.  I’m not even sure how I ended up following her to be honest.  I loved reading her posts and seeing her photos.  She’s adorable, motivational and inspirational.  I wanted to be a part of whatever she was doing.  It took me 4 months to get up the courage to message her.  Our stories are vastly different, but one thing I’ve learned is that unhealthy means different things to different people and it isn’t always just a reflection of the number on the scale.  In fact, I don’t even have a goal weight anymore and I’m seriously considering throwing out my scale altogether, especially after seeing the results of this latest fitness challenge.

I finally found the courage to message her.  She immediately responded.  Her excitement and enthusiasm were contagious.  Before I even knew what happened, I was signing up for her fitness challenge. For the first time in months, I was thrilled about the prospect of working out and overhauling our pantry and fridge.  I know.  It was crazy.  I didn’t even recognize myself.

I’m not one to get excited about healthy eating or exercise.  Ever.  The only thing working out has ever made me want to do is nap.  I get endorphins for chocolate or Chick Fil A but not from exercise.  It had been just over a year since my Gastric Sleeve surgery.  The surgery had taken me as far as it could, the rest was going to be up to me.

I knew this.

I just didn’t want to know I knew this.

My highest weight recorded was 297 pounds.  I’ve never told anyone that number.  It took me 6 months to lose 10 pounds and that’s when I decided to look into Gastric Sleeve surgery.  When I decided to go in for surgery, I was down to 287.5 pounds.  The date was July 21, 2015.  My surgery date was August 19, 2015.  By January 2016, I was down to 216 pounds.  I lost 71.5 pounds in 6 months.  Unfortunately, there were side effects.  My hair thinned out, at an alarming rate.  I lost muscle and I found myself feeling low on energy and motivation.  My periods, while much improved, were still bad and irregular.  I lost another 10 pounds over the next few months, but by May of 2016, I had stalled out.  I didn’t exercise over the summer and I was starting to panic that I was going to eventually put all the weight back on.  Gastric sleeve surgery gave me an internal control over portion size, but I was filling up on all the wrong things and wasn’t getting the vitamins and nutrients my body needed.  I felt run down and worn out.  Not to mention, disgusted with myself.  Did I really put myself through all this only to quit, to fail?

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Was I going to be THAT girl again?

I hope not.

No, I definitely did not want to fail (nor did I want to see my chins having chins)!

So I gathered my courage and messaged this girl to find out what this Wickedly Fit program was all about.

I received access to a Facebook accountability group (my favorite part).  This group of women kept me going day after day.  They were positive and encouraging.  They were open and honest about their struggles and challenges.  We celebrated non-scale victories, participated in daily challenge questions/activities and posted all sorts of wonderful food porn (the clean and healthy kind).  I wasn’t intimidated by this group at all.  Quite the opposite in fact. I found myself sharing and opening up about my own struggles and daily challenges and even victories.  I found myself bolstered and encouraged and being a part of this special group of ladies gave me the motivation I needed to complete this 21 day challenge.

I also received a 30 day supply of Shakeology and the 21 Day Fix workout program and eating plan, complete with portion control containers.  This whole program is facilitated by Beachbody.  I was familiar with their programs, and had used them to bounce back in shape after my youngest daughter was born.  I knew they worked.  I knew it wasn’t a quick fix.  I knew it would take hard work and dedication on my part.

I was ready.

Sort of.

I mean, I paid for it.  So I’d better be ready.  I was nervous though…

Failure.  My biggest fear.  Always hovering over me like the Grim Reaper.  Whispering negative words of discouragement in my ear, making me doubt myself.  This particular demon has always plagued me, but I was learning to fight back.  I was learning to stifle and smother those negative thoughts and feelings.  I have good days and bad days.  Days when I see all that I have accomplished and days when I only see the ways in which I have failed. Before my surgery, I would binge eat those feelings.  Now, I binge watch Netflix.  Not quite the trade I should be making.  I know.  But still…a slight improvement.

The “before” picture was taken on Day 1 of the challenge and the “after” picture taken on the last day of the challenge.  21 days total.  I lost 3 1/2 inches overall.  I can definitely see subtle changes and I hope you see them too.  Naturally, I lost the most inches in my chest. Just proving that my boobs are the first thing to go when I lose weight.  Actually, despite losing 3 1/2 inches, I gained 3 pounds.  I weighed before I measured and I was devastated.  I almost didn’t even take my measurements, but I’m so glad I did.  I’ve never been one to record my measurements, but this 21 day challenge made a believer out of me.  I could see noticeable differences in how my clothes fit and how I felt that just wasn’t reflected on the scale.

It was a dark moment, and one that in the past I would have responded to by raiding the pantry.  Instead, I chose to reach out to my challenge group through Facebook.  Post my results and reveal what I considered to be a failure, the gaining of 3 pounds.  I’ve since adjusted my perceptions and I’m super proud of the 3 1/2 inches I lost.  I can’t wait for my next challenge group to start!  Despite what my scale would have me believe, I am transforming my body, making positive changes, gaining strength and confidence.

I’ve got this!

Today.

Tomorrow might be a different story.  But I’ll deal with tomorrow…tomorrow.

The last year of my life was about losing the weight and finding myself.  This next year, I want to focus on living a healthy lifestyle, strengthening my body, mind and soul in new and different ways.  Yes, I still have weight I want to lose, but I want to focus less on the scale and more on building strength and flexibility, pushing my body in ways I never imagined I’d be able to do again.  I want to transform myself physically, mentally and spiritually.  I want to develop attainable goals and then smash through them.  I want to redefine what beauty and success mean to me, not measured by what others think or believe, but about what works for me.

One day at a time.

I want to share my journey and experiences with others.  I draw strength from putting myself out there, as terrifying as it can be.  I hope that maybe someone reading this will be inspired or encouraged, reach out either to me or someone else.  I hope that maybe they won’t feel alone or afraid.  Our goals might be different.  Our struggles, challenges and motivations might be different.  At the end of the day, we all want to be the best versions of ourselves.  We all have desires, wants and needs.  Things we want to accomplish.  Let’s do it together ❤

The Scale: A Love/Hate Relationship

Use Your Words

“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” Thomas Carlyle

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

flowers ~ showers ~ puddles ~ kittens ~ apples and bananas

They were submitted by: http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.

My weight loss update is a week late this month.  I debated talking about it at all.  When I last checked in, I weighed 208lbs.  I purposefully only weigh once per month.  I don’t want to be a slave to my scale like I’ve been in the past, allowing the number seen there to determine my course on that particular day.  If I was a pound down, I’d celebrate by being lax on my diet or exercise.  If I was up a pound, I’d be filled with self-loathing and soothe myself with poor food choices.  Things I knew I shouldn’t eat, telling myself it didn’t matter anyway.  Allowing myself to spiral out of control which fed the negative internal dialogue running day and night through my mind, on a loop.  It was a vicious cycle that destroyed my self-confidence, gave credence to all the bad things I felt about myself and sabotaged any progress I might have made up to that point.  I knew it was one of the many behaviors/habits that I would have to change after my surgery.

Before I stepped on the scale on April 5th, I was so excited!  I just knew I was finally going to be entering the promise land.  I was going, for the first time in over 10 years, to be under 200lbs.  I was giddy.  My stomach filled with nerves and the butterflies of excitement.  I stripped down naked that morning and practically jumped on the scale, squeezing my eyes shut, counting to 10 before prying one eye open and glancing down.

WHAT!?!?!??!?!  NOOOOOOOOOO!  THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT!  Oh, I forgot to take my ponytail holder out of my hair, that is clearly the explanation.  Stepping off the scale, I rip that black rubber monstrosity out of my hair, and move towards the scale again.  Wait!  Maybe I need to pee.  I mean I already went, but there could be some more hanging out there in my bladder.  Right?  Seems legit.  I took my wedding rings off too, just to be safe.

I gently step on the scale again, closing my eyes tight.  I send up a quick prayer.  I wasn’t being greedy, I would have been ecstatic for a 199 lbs. I just wanted to be in ONEDERLAND! I’d also like to weigh less than my husband, but when he tops out at a buck fifty soaking wet, well… If he had been there, I probably would have punched him in the face.  Misdirected rage to be sure, but I might have felt better.  A little.  For a bit.  Maybe.  I’m already feeling a tad better just thinking about it…in slow motion, over and over.  Amazing what imagining a little physical violence can do for a girl. I can handle that number, whatever it is.  Come what may, I open my eyes and look down.

Spittin’ kittens.  That’s how mad I was when I looked down for the second time.  I never really understood that phrase, but it works here, so I’m going with it.

201 lbs

When I started this journey, I knew it wouldn’t be all flowers, rainbows and unicorn showers.  I knew the surgery wasn’t a miracle cure or a quick fix.  I knew I’d have to work hard, and it would take time and perseverance.  I knew that my attitude about my success and failures would determine the ultimate outcome and that I’d have to change the behaviors that brought me to 287 pounds in the first place.  I’ve lost a total of

86 pounds!

I’ve accomplished so much already.  I know logically I have so much to be proud of and I am proud of myself and how far I’ve come.  I don’t think I’m alone in judging my success or failure based on that stupid number on the scale.  I hate that I can’t seem to find a way to celebrate my successes without beating myself up with the things I didn’t do or accomplish.  Sometimes all I can see are the things I failed to do. I find it at times paralyzing and blinding, eclipsing the positive, dimming my joy.  I can’t see the 7 pound loss.  I just see those 2 pounds keeping me from 199.

It was a rough week.  I just want all this excess weight to fall off into puddles around my feet, so I can kick it all away, never to be seen again. In the past, I would have let this disappointment control me.  I would have chosen the cookies and pizza over the apples and bananas.  I would have sunk into despair, beating myself up.

I was angry.

I was disappointed.

I allowed myself to feel everything I was feeling.  I didn’t bottle it up.  I didn’t use food to self-medicate.  I didn’t throw myself on the couch, binge watching Netflix, hooked up to a chocolate IV with a jug of wine at my side.  I was pissed.  I felt cheated.

I got over it.  It took a few days, I won’t lie.  Things got a bit dark.  It was actually anger over something else and a lesson at church that delivered me out of my funk.  I was at church.  I hadn’t had breakfast, and I was starving, so I grabbed a blueberry donut, then I went to make myself a cup of coffee.  I’m standing in the little kitchenette juggling my donut, trying to pour myself a cup, when these two women came in.  I don’t know them.  They are having a conversation about shoes or something.  Then the one lady looks over at me, and says,

“At least I managed to avoid the donuts today…”

The tiny bite I had taken turned to ash in my mouth.  I just stood there, as they continued to talk around me about eating healthy.  I blinked my eyes quickly to stop the tears building up.  I don’t think she meant to food shame me, but everything I’d been feeling throughout the week, just bubbled up and hit me all at once.  I felt once again like that 287 pound girl, guilty and ashamed.  I hate that feeling.  I never want to feel that way again.  Ever.  I threw that donut away and walked to my Sunday School class.  Angry.  Frustrated.

Our lesson that day was about how God is always with you, and an analogy from the movie “The Bear” was used.  It’s a movie about an orphan bear cub that gets adopted by an adult male bear and follows their adventures, it came out in 1988.  There was a scene where the baby bear runs into this mountain cat that wants to eat him and he raises himself up and lets out this tiny baby bear growl.  The mountain cat hunches down and slinks away.  Baby bear is feeling all proud of himself.  What he can’t see is his friend, the ginormous adult male bear, standing behind him, raised up and roaring, scaring the cat away.  We are the baby cubs and God is always behind us, helping us fight our demons, our battles, chasing them away with his strength and power, awe and might.  We don’t always see Him, and we think we are alone, and we forget to lean on Him, trust in Him.  We try to take control and handle things ourselves, forgetting that He’s always behind us, ready to push us or catch us.  Always meeting us where we are with what we need.

I’d forgotten.  I’d allowed myself to wallow in self-pity.  I’ve lost 86 pounds!  86 pounds! I’ve already done more than I ever imagined I could do.  I didn’t do it alone.  Not only has God been beside me, behind me and in front of me, but He sent friends.  All of you people that cheer me on, encourage me, love on me and pray for me.  I couldn’t do any of this without you.  Thank you.  Thank you for believing in me when I couldn’t believe in myself. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

It was the encouragement I needed at the exact time I needed it.  My mood lifted.  The sun came out.  7 more pounds down.  I patted myself on the back.  I’ll get to ONEDERLAND.  It will be glorious, all the more so not in spite of the hard work, ups and downs, successes and failures, but because of them.

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” John Quincy Adams

Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

 

http://bakinginatornado.com

http://www.southernbellecharm.com

http://notthatsarahmichelle.blogspot.com

http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com

http://www.angrivatedmom.wordpress.com

http://www.thediaryofanalzheimerscaregiver.com/

http://dinoheromommy.com/

http://www.someoneelsesgenius.com

http://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch

http://batteredhope.blogspot.com

http://climaxedtheblog.blogspot.com

http://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com

 

Wishful Shrinking

“The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.” Audrey Hepburn

The other morning, leaning over to reach into my dresser, I felt something brush against my upper thigh, which quite startled me.  I looked down expecting to see some terrifying rabid rodent with ginormous teeth, but no…  It was just my boob.  A dose of humility is always a great way to start the day.

Another month has come and gone since I last updated my weight loss progress.  Here is the first set of pictures I took in January:

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and current pictures:

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I thought the towel turban was a nice touch this time.  I have a thigh gap!  You might need a magnifying glass and a little imagination but it’s there!  I have a mental picture now of everyone leaning into the screen scrutinizing the area around my crotch trying to find my minuscule thigh gap.  I’m feeling super awkward.  Ok, you can stop staring now.  Trust me, it’s there.

My current weight is:

208 lbs

I’m down another 5.7 lbs bringing my total weight loss to:

79.5 lbs

I’m so close to “ONEderland” that I can taste it, and it tastes good!

I definitely see the results in my face.  At my heaviest (287 lbs), I remember catching my reflection in a mirror and being shocked at the person staring back at me.  Feeling trapped inside yourself is the worst feeling ever.  Viewing yourself under the distorted lens of disgust, shame and embarrassment is a burden far heavier than the actual weight you carry.  I felt like me, but when I would see myself in a reflective surface, I experienced a moment of confusion trying to work out who the person was looking back at me.

That can’t be me.

I don’t look like that.

Do I?

I do.  I did.

Recently, the cover choice of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition made news featuring the 1st ever “plus-size” model, Ashley Graham.  According to Google, Ms. Graham is 5 ft and 9 in tall and weighs 201 lbs.  Her BMI is 29.7. Her measurements are 42-30-46.  I don’t know how often she works out or what she eats.  I don’t know her cholesterol or blood pressure.  I can’t really draw any conclusions about her overall health or physical condition, nor do I want to.

Is she beautiful?  Absolutely.

Is she healthy?  I don’t know.

Did my husband think I was beautiful at 287 lbs?  Absolutely.

Was I healthy?  Absolutely not.

Beauty comes in all sizes, shapes and colors.  Beauty can’t be measured by a number on the scale.  Beauty is subjective. Inner beauty eclipses physical beauty.  We were all made in God’s image.  We are all beautifully unique.  Differences should be celebrated. Beauty should be discovered in the things we do, the actions we take for one another or on behalf of one another. We allow social industry to define what is beautiful and then judge ourselves and others harshly when we don’t live up to these ideals.  We create buzz words like “fat shaming” or “skinny shaming” to condemn others and ourselves for accepting an image we all helped create and perpetuate. Beauty can be found in unexpected places and people.  A smile.  A laugh.  A sunset.  A kind word.  A kind deed.

Every person is distinctly beautiful with qualities, elements and attributes that make them uniquely diverse.  Diversity is beautiful.

Can you be overweight/underweight and healthy?  That is a different question entirely.  One that perhaps cannot be judged from the outside looking in, but still an important distinction.

Health can be measured.

Being overweight or obese creates a greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, reproductive issues, and more.

Being underweight creates a greater risk of a weakened immune system, fragile bones, anemia, fertility issues and more.

Health is important.  We treat the question of beauty and health as if they are mutually exclusive.  My husband told me daily I was beautiful, but he worried for my health, because of my weight.  He believed me to be beautiful but he also knew my weight was unhealthy. Weight isn’t the only factor in determining health either.  There is emotional health, physical health and spiritual health.  Many factors influence how healthy we are in all aspects and areas of our life.  These are things that can’t always be judged or measured by just looking at someone.

I feel guilty that even though I treated my body like a toxic waste dump, I stayed surprisingly healthy.  I think of those that eat right, exercise, do all the things they are supposed to do and then walk away from a doctor’s appointment with a dreaded life altering diagnosis.  In my mind, I imagine them sitting next to me at a restaurant.  How they must look at me.  How I would have looked at me.  Why does she get to walk around healthy, treating her body so poorly and shamefully?

My health is a gift.  A gift I took for granted.  A gift I abused.  I’m blessed to have been given the chance to change my outcome.  I don’t want to screw this up, which is why I blog about it.  To hold myself accountable.

God gave us this incredible vessel and it’s our responsibility to care for it, to the best of our ability.  I failed to do this and I’ve suffered for it.  Those around me have suffered for it.  My children have suffered for it.  I’ve passed down a legacy of poor self-image, self-doubt and shame. What do they see when they look in the mirror?  How much have I contributed to the lens they each use to view themselves, both positive and negative thoughts and does one outweigh the other and which one?  These thoughts keep me up at night.  They are my biggest cheerleaders and support system outside of my husband.  I’m not fighting to be thin or a certain size or shape.  I am fighting to be healthy.  I want to be an integral part and active participant of their whole lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren and God willing, great-grandchildren.

I haven’t always gotten it right. I don’t pretend any differently with my children.  When I screw up, I say I screwed up.  I apologize.  I make it right.  I hope that while they will never see perfection, they will see someone who never gave up.  Someone who learned from her mistakes and wasn’t too proud or ashamed to ask for forgiveness, admit to being wrong, seek to repair and rebuild.  I want them to know how much I love them, not just in word but in deed.  I want them to know that I learned to love myself.  Not just the good parts either.  I want them to know that I became someone who looked in the mirror, and liked what she saw.  Loved, even.  I want them to be proud of me and to know that I’m proud of myself.  I haven’t always handled my struggles and failures with grace.  In some ways, I hope to serve as a cautionary tale to my children.  Time is short.  Time is precious.  Don’t be afraid to take on life’s challenges.  Learn from your mistakes and move on.  Be unique.  Be special.  Just be you.  Above all, I hope they always know how much they are loved. Forever and always.

I use self-deprecation and humor to address issues I find painful or difficult.  I’ve turned making fun of myself into an art form.  I don’t love my loose skin, cellulite or stretch marks.  I probably never will.  I cope by using humor.  I’ll make fun of myself, beat everyone else to the punch.  Internal dialogue is much harder to change than physical appearance.  My body is less a wonderland and more like a carnival, complete with fun house mirrors, sideshow acts and sketchy rides.  My boobs might droop to the ground but at least they don’t rest on my stomach any longer.  Progress!  I can see my feet again without having to suck in while bending forward.  See what I mean!  Poking fun of myself has become as natural as breathing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.  I can’t believe I’ve lost the equivalent of a 6th grader when it comes to weight.  While I do want to change how I see myself, I love that I don’t take myself too seriously.  I enjoy my sense of humor and make myself laugh all the time.  Sometimes at myself, but that’s ok.  The weight signified some serious emotional baggage, and I’m working thru it.  Perfection is not the goal.  Humor isn’t a mask I wear anymore, it comes from a genuine place of joy.  Joy in the space I now find myself.  Joy in how far I’ve come.  Joy in the little things I took for granted.  Joy in the big things I failed to see but now find opened before me.  Joy in the faith I thought I’d lost forever.  Joy in the fact that God never gave up on me. Joy in the fact that my husband and kids didn’t give up on me. Joy in the fact that I didn’t give up on myself.

I can’t change my mistakes or the errors in judgment I’ve made over the years.  I haven’t always been the mother my children deserved.  Or the wife my husband deserved. Or the faithful servant God wanted me to be.  I’ve found unspeakable beauty in the power of forgiveness.  In forgiving myself. In being forgiven.  In forgiving others. I took the path of most resistance.  It was mostly uphill.  In the snow. And darkness.  I might have also been naked…

However, I feel like I’m standing in the sun now, and the view is beautiful.

ONEDERLAND HERE I COME!  

“There is a kind of beauty in imperfection.” Conrad Hall