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. ❤

Wickedly Fit – A Halloween Challenge

fullsizeoutput_608

“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?

IMG_3091

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 ❤

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:

IMG_0159

and current pictures:

IMG_0268

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   

Please, Don’t Pass The Chocolate…

“Today is Valentine’s Day, or as men like to call it, Extortion Day.” Jay Leno

I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that my husband and I don’t really “do” Valentine’s Day.  We usually get something for the kids, a small box of chocolates or an inexpensive gift.  As a rule, I love any excuse to holiday and buy gifts.  Valentine’s Day is just not a holiday I’ve ever been able to get behind or support.  Truth be told, it kinda makes me rage.

angry-312141__340

So why am I writing a blog post about it?  Good question.  Call me a masochist I suppose (I’ve been binge watching Criminal Minds, and as a result have found myself interjecting profiling terms in every day conversation…I caught myself using narcissistic the other day, and no, I wasn’t talking about my husband 😉 ).

Today’s post is a part of a series from “Blog With Friends”, which is a collaborative effort.  Each month, a group of bloggers publish a project based upon a specific theme or idea.  The projects are diverse, special and unique to each blogger, every month is different. The theme for February is Romance.  You can find the links to the other bloggers and their projects listed at end of this post.

12418023_1703185693298770_4596740836913429090_n

Initially, I wanted to write a book review.  Reading is a major hobby of mine, but I had a difficult time finding the “perfect” book and then worried that even if I found it, I wouldn’t have enough time to read it.

I was running out of time.

I’m not particularly crafty.  I can’t cook or bake.  I can’t even sew on a button.  But as I mentioned before, I do like to holiday and buy gifts.  An idea was born…  Gifts!  Gift ideas for Valentine’s Day, specifically non-food related.  I can do this!

If you’ve read previous blog posts, then you know that I have lost almost 80 pounds and looking to lose about 70 more pounds.  Holidays and times of celebration are difficult for me because they usually center around food.  Valentine’s Day is certainly no exception.

Here are some fun Valentine’s Day facts for you (courtesy of stvalentinesday.org):

  • More than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold for Valentine’s Day each year
  • Approximately 8 billion candy hearts will be produced
  • On average, men spend $130 each on candy, cards, flowers, dates and jewelry.  That is more than double what women spend.
  • About 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year, 2nd only to Christmas
  • Worldwide, over 50 million roses are given each year (most will be imported from South America)

Between Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s Day, I would venture to guess that most New Year Resolutions are broken or severed, nothing but a mere memory until next December 31st.

Speaking of broke, at this point, we are still recovering from Christmas. The thought of spending an average of $130 per person on gifts for Valentine’s Day just seems ridiculous to me.  Personally, I think there are a thousand FREE ways to show someone you love them throughout the year, and will probably mean much more to your significant other than a box of chocolates or a dozen red roses on a big business designed and fabricated holiday.

However, I promised non-food gift ideas, so non-food gift ideas you shall receive.  I did not say they would be good ideas though, so reader beware.

GIFT IDEAS box-159630__340

According to the History Channel, Valentine’s Day may attribute its beginning roots to the Pagan Festival “Lupercalia”.  During this fertility festival, goats would be sacrificed (along with dogs for purification) by the priests.  The hides of the goats were made into strips and dipped in blood.  These bloody goat hide strips would be taken to the streets and used to gently slap women.  The women of this time believed that the touch of the goat hides would make them more fertile in the coming year.

goat-in-austria-198455__340

I wouldn’t recommend slapping your significant other with bloody goat hide strips but there are several organizations, like heifer.org where you could gift a goat in the name of your beloved, these donations help feed children, empower women and families or provide goods and services, like medical supplies or education.  The gift would have historical significance and practical application, a gift that truly keeps on giving.  Not as romantic perhaps as having a star named after you, but the impact such a gift makes on the lives of others is worthy of consideration.

typewriter-1062697__340

Charles, the Duke of Orleans, wrote a poem to his wife in 1415 while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.  It’s credited with being the 1st hand written valentine.  I think love letters or poems make excellent gifts.  I wouldn’t model the poem Charles wrote for his wife, it was a bit dark and melancholy, might not quite set the romantic tone, I mean he was imprisoned at the time.  There is no cost to this gift idea.  It’s a great way to celebrate all the things you love, respect and admire about your beloved and a gift they will keep forever, passing down to future generations, a time capsule of your relationship. There are some very famous love letters if you need inspiration:

  • Napoleon to Josephine
  • Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor
  • Elizabeth Barrett to Robert Browning
  • Beethoven to his Immortal Beloved
  • Winston Churchill to Clementine
  • Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas
  • Johnny Cash to June Carter Cash
  • Abigail Adams to John Adams
  • Gerald Ford to Betty Ford

Just to name a few…

mybrainonkids.net

It is considered lucky to be woken on Valentine’s Day with a kiss.  You could surprise your beloved with a day of pampering.  His/her massages and/or pedicures.  Fill a bathtub with coconut oil and drops of lavender, light some candles, play some music.  Use this day to remind you both that relationships must be intentionally cultivated.  Set aside time for quiet togetherness, reading or watching a movie you’ve both wanted to see.  Play a game.  Sometimes the best gifts are the ones that are shared.  Shared experiences create memories which last a lifetime.

You could make a video valentine for your love, like this one:

Screams romance doesn’t it?  Or something…  Seriously though, I love those Snapchat filters, they provide hours of entertainment for me.  I’m not sure my husband would agree though…

You could explore how other countries celebrate Valentine’s Day.  Use their traditions or customs to make your own.  Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to mean romantic love, you could include kids, family and/or friends.

My motto this year is “The Family That Works Out Together, Stays Together.”  There are St. Valentines themed races in almost every major city, spend the day as a family walking/running a 5k or a 10k if you’re feeling ambitious.  Take a walk or hike, explore nature.  Ice skating is a fun family activity if nature is still hidden under snow in your neck of the woods. Check out local events in your area, most cities have plenty of weekend ideas and activities for the whole family, friends and couples.  Many museums have Valentine’s Day themed art exhibits.  Many of these events are offered free of charge to the general public.

My favorite products are the ones you can buy that benefit charities, for example:

help-1001190__340

  • MiiR BPA free water bottles – $1 from every bottle purchased provides one person in need with clean drinking water for one year.
  • UNICEF Market sells a variety of gifts, clothing, jewelry and more to benefit children in need.
  • Stone & Cloth sells totes, backpacks, iPad cases and journals supporting education for children living in impoverished conditions.
  • Shopping For A Change is a global marketplace that benefits the artisans themselves, mostly women from economically disadvantaged regions.
  • Peacekeeper Cause-Metics donates all distributable profits to women’s rights and health issues.
  • Kiehl’s gives back to local communities and charities that fund HIV/AIDS education and research, well-being of children and environmental stewardship.

There are so many philanthropic companies out there producing and selling a variety of products, home goods and services, I can’t possibly list them all here.  With a little research, I’m sure the perfect gift could be found with the added benefit of helping others.

Being thoughtful and romantic doesn’t have to cost money, and I don’t know about you, but it’s usually the gifts my kids and husband made for me that are the most memorable and treasured.

If Valentine’s Day is something you celebrate and gifts are expected, be creative, be thoughtful, be romantic.  Decide what those aspects mean to you and your significant other and plan accordingly.  Roses, candy and a card might be traditional and customary, but this year try and think outside the box (of chocolates), really think about what your significant other would enjoy.  Maybe it’s as simple as a clean house, a quiet day or an extra hour of sleep.  Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to show your beloved that you pay attention, that you listen and whatever you decide to do or give should reflect that knowledge and awareness.

DISCLAIMER FOR MEN:  Just because she says she wants to work out more, doesn’t mean you go out and buy her a fitbit or gym membership, unless she EXPRESSLY asks for it.  Don’t buy her a mop because you noticed the other one is ratty and torn.  Don’t buy her kitchenware unless she specifically requested such an item.  These examples are NOT the kind of knowledge and awareness I’m talking about.  If all else fails, call in reinforcements and ask for help.   Or it could be a very dark and melancholy Valentine’s Day indeed.

DISCLAIMER FOR WOMEN:  Just kidding, we don’t need disclaimers 😛

I tried to keep my ideas gender neutral, applicable to both men and women.  This is probably the worst gift guide ever but hopefully I inspired at least some of you, if not inspired then perhaps you learned something you didn’t know before.

“If you only have one smile in you give it to the people you love.” Maya Angelou

Hug someone you love today ❤

The theme is romance, enjoy my other blogger friends and their individual projects.

Baking In A Tornado

12513626_1695470990736907_8078488256515792139_o

Someone Else’s Genius

8239_10205622310418584_2624013104798147753_n

Spatulas On Parade

12647191_949563201763593_6777636498958035727_n

The Lieber Family

12628500_10207650866645059_5612588884333773385_o

Cluttered Genius

12642488_10156460645590576_4258099383466126004_n

Home on Deranged

12687794_10208475228263195_2509632897870755732_n

Highway to Health

IMG_0138.JPG

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

My biggest fear is fear of failure.

My weight was never about the number on the scale or what size clothes I wore or trying to conform to a cultural ideal.  My weight was an outward representation of how I felt on the inside.

My weight became my excuse.

My excuse to withdraw from life, to hide.

The worse I felt about myself, my circumstances, the more weight I put on, which made me feel even worse, creating this pattern of cyclical despair.  I felt sorry for myself and every pound represented that self-pity.  I wasn’t just physically unhealthy, I was emotionally unhealthy.  I felt abandoned in my self-imposed exile.

My weight was a way to keep everyone at a distance.  I felt shame.

Shame that I allowed myself to spin so far out of control.  The more shame I felt, the higher the walls I built around myself.  Every pound was a virtual brick, shame the mortar holding it all together, higher and higher the wall grew almost with a life of its own.  I felt trapped by my own inadequacy to make impactful change.  I felt paralyzed by fear.

Fear of failure.

Every diet or exercise program I attempted ended with me gaining more weight.  The weight gain or failure to lose pounds fueled my negative internal dialogue.  It was simply a matter of self-control, of which I clearly had none.  Why keep trying?  I can’t do it. I’ve tried.  I’m tired of failing. The biggest lie of all that I told myself, “I can learn to be happy at this weight”.  Why should I try to live up to some unrealistic societal expectation?  Look at so and so, she’s fat but rich, famous and seemingly happy.  I don’t care what I look like or how much I weigh.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s just a number on a scale.  Why am I putting so much emphasis and importance on it.  Let it go.

My walls appeared to be constructed out of indifference and self-deprecation but truly they were born out of depression, fear and loneliness.  I lost my faith, my way…myself.

I was a spectator of my own life, not an active participant.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I flipped the script.  I know the decision to have Gastric Sleeve surgery was the beginning.

Every pound lost is a huge victory for me, emotionally and physically.  I haven’t gained any weight since my surgery, but I certainly have had weeks when I didn’t lose any.  I feel disappointment, but instead of letting that spiral into feelings of failure and seeking comfort in the pantry or fridge, I’ve learned to accept, adapt and let go.

However, whoever said nothing tastes as good as being thin feels must never have tried the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit from Whataburger. I have a love/hate relationship with food.  I’ll never strictly view food as a source of nutrition or fuel, for me it’s also about comfort and solace.  I eat when bored, upset and/or angry.  Food and I are frenemies.  At times it’s my best friend, other times my mortal enemy.  Food and I will never have a normal relationship, my success is dependent on recognizing this fact and learning alternative methods to deal with my emotions, both positive and negative.  I have good days and bad days.  Days where I struggle and find myself standing in the pantry waging this internal war.  Some days I win.  Other days I lose.  Every day is a new day.  I don’t beat myself up anymore, instead I’ve learned to celebrate every victory, no matter how small.

I have learned to appreciate views like these on my hikes –

IMG_0143

IMG_0139

I’m an active participant in my life again, and it feels glorious.  I celebrate getting to experience days like these with my children –

We laughed so hard, I nearly peed myself.  Actually, I might have a little…

LIFE IS GOOD!

I started this journey at 287.5 pounds.  My BMI was 49.34.

Last month, I checked in at 220.2 pounds.

IMG_0159

Today, I weighed in at 213.4 pounds. My current BMI is 36.6.

Over the last month, I’ve lost 6.8 pounds.

IMG_0162

I can’t really see the 6.8 pounds lost in these photos, but I can feel it, in how my clothes fit and in how I feel.  Every pound I lose gives me more energy and more encouragement.  I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t take pics before my surgery.  Oh well.  I may not remember what I looked like, but I’ll never forget how I felt and I never want to feel that way again.  Plus, I’ve kept my size 26 pants.  I put them on occasionally, and I can still remember those days when they felt tight.  I smile at how far I’ve come.

Total pounds lost:  74.1

My BMI dropped 12.74.  I’ve added years to my life, both in quantity and quality.

I learn something new about myself every day.  I am constantly looking for new ways to challenge myself.  I’ve come such a long way and it feels great to say that I’m super proud of myself.  My journey is far from over and I’d be lying if I said I can’t wait to hit “ONEderland.”  I don’t remember the last time I weighed in the 100’s.  I’ll have another update for you in a month!

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” Ben Okri

Just Keep Cooking…

when-you-keep-ish5wy

My second objective in 2016:

FOOD 

Specifically, eating healthier, cooking more and eating out less, trying new things.  I know I sound like millions of other New Year hopefuls.  I’ve certainly made this pledge/resolution many times before, with little or no success.  My surgery last year was a game changer for me, but the second half of my weight loss journey is going to be harder than the first half, I know this and I’m prepared.  I’ve already made so many positive changes, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m an emotional eater.  Eating is hardly ever about hunger for me.  I wish I was the kind of person that could go out to eat and order from the “skinny” menu, but I’m not.  I wish I was the type of person that could bypass the chocolate and pick up the apple instead, but I’m not.  Now, I might dip the apple in chocolate…does that count?  What if it’s dark chocolate?  Mmm chocolate covered strawberries or those Dove dark chocolates with sea salt and caramel or ice cream topped with chocolate fudge magic shell…  The point is I love food.  I love eating.  However, I do not love cooking.

Digging back through my archives, I found these two little gems, which I think accurately depict my love/hate relationship with cooking.

http://mybrainonkids.net/2012/09/03/french-cooking-with-a-redneck-twist/

http://mybrainonkids.net/2010/03/11/the-skinny-on-the-french/

I want to love it, I truly do.  I want my avocados to look like this on my plate after I slice them:

tumblr_inline_nu5pp5Ahqb1qcgwrq_400

Instead, they look like this:

IMG_0038

I mean seriously.  I post my food pics to Instagram with the hashtag “foodporn”, but honestly it’s a horror show, and I should probably use the hashtag “myfoodpicsmakeyouwanttonevereatagain”.  Also, I suck at hashtags.

One of my objectives for this year is to try new foods.  I’m infamously picky.  For some people, trying new foods may sound exotic or exciting, but I’m over here like “hey, I’ve never eaten a Mango.”

IMG_0032

Alaskan Cod with Jasmine Rice and mango-ginger-mint salsa

Also, my foods are always from the same color family.  But hey!  Now I’ve had mango.  I wasn’t impressed.  Sorry mango.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I overcooked the fish too.  I didn’t have an exact recipe for this, and apparently not all fish cooks the same, and I can’t just wing it.  I need specific, detailed cooking instructions complete with pics.  Even then, it’s touch and go.  The odds are never in my favor.

I’m also an extremely lazy cook.  I look for recipes that have the least number of steps, which is why I love my crockpot or recipes where I can use cheats.  It’s been really cold here the last week or so, a good time for soup.  I wanted something a little heartier than Campbell’s chicken noodle soup.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!  Those who can’t…Pin.  I could waste spend a whole day Pinteresting.  This recipe was easy, very few steps and I could use my favorite cheats.

Cheat #1: Onions and Celery

IMG_0062 IMG_0063

They sell them already chopped and diced!  Granted much more expensive than buying a small onion and 2 celery stalks and chopping it myself, but I save like 5 minutes or more and a finger!  FIVE MINUTES!  Do you know how much Bill Gates earns in 5 minutes?  $34,200!!!  Give or take.  He makes about $114 per second.  I mean, I don’t make Bill Gates money obviously, but that’s not the point.  FIVE MINUTES SAVED!  And a finger.

Cheat #2: Garlic

IMG_0064

You can buy it already minced or chopped!  I assume that 1 clove minced is equal to 1 teaspoon, I’ve never actually measured it out and if I’m wrong, please don’t tell me.  Ignorance is indeed bliss.  The recipe called for 2 cloves, minced, so 2 teaspoons it is!

IMG_0065

This recipe was great because it said that I needed to sauté the onions and celery (and carrots, but I don’t like carrots so…) for 7 minutes.  I literally set my timer for 7 minutes.  Also, I recently learned that this pot (that I call the spaghetti sauce pot) is also known as a “dutch oven.”  I used to use a skillet when the recipe called for a dutch oven, because I didn’t know I had one.  I thought a dutch oven would look more like a toaster oven, except more…dutch?  I don’t know.  I wasn’t exaggerating my lack of kitchen prowess.  I received a cookbook as a wedding present.  It was titled “How To Boil An Egg.”  I was offended until I realized…wait, how do you boil an egg?  I still have to google it, I can never remember for how long (you can also buy eggs already hard-boiled in the grocery store fyi).  You are all probably feeling pretty sorry for my husband and kids about now.  They could tell you some cooking horror stories to be sure.

Anyway, then you add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Again, I set the timer.  Add 1/3 cup flour, cook for another minute (with timer).  It suggested I sprinkle the flour over the mixture gradually…who’s got time for that?  I just dumped it in.  Well, I did stir while I was dumping it in.  It’s now time to add the broth, 8 cups worth, bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes.  I hate the range.  Honestly, just pick one.  Is it 10 or is it 15 minutes?  Sigh.  I usually just split the difference.

IMG_0066

Cheat #3

The recipe calls for “3 cups cooked shredded chicken”.

IMG_0068

If I won’t even dice up an onion then I’m certainly not going to cook and shred a chicken.  Lucky for me, I didn’t need to do it!  I find this in the frozen section, and it’s great for soups, salads, crock pot recipes, etc…

At this point all remaining ingredients are added:

2 cups of uncooked egg noodles

12 oz of Evaporated Skim Milk

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried oregano and ground black pepper

1/4 tsp dried thyme

Cook for an additional 10 minutes or until noodles are al dente.

Voila!

IMG_0069

It was quite tasty.

So, this year the goal is to cook at least 4-5 nights per week.  We eat leftovers 1-2 nights per week, which still leaves us 1 day to splurge and go out.  Quite a big change from a year ago when we were eating out 4-5 nights per week.  I’ve been really good about cooking at home since my surgery.  My portion size is still very small, so eating out at most places is a waste of money unless I can split with someone or order an appetizer as my main dish.

In the spirit of trying new things, I will be attempting to cook different types of cuisine throughout the year.  Here is my list:

  1. Thai Cuisine
  2. Lebanese Cuisine
  3. Spanish Cuisine
  4. German Cuisine
  5. Korean Cuisine
  6. South African Cuisine
  7. Caribbean Cuisine
  8. Greek Cuisine
  9. Filipino Cuisine
  10. Indian Cuisine
  11. Indonesian Cuisine
  12. Brazilian Cuisine

Don’t worry husband, I have all our favorite delivery restaurants on speed dial.  Is speed dial even a thing anymore?  I’ll be posting my failures and successes (lol).  Trying new things and making healthy choices will continue to be challenging for me, but I think I’m up for it, plus I have all of you to keep me accountable!

Please feel free to share your favorite recipe from the above listed cuisines or cheats/lifehacks for cooking, or you can just come over and cook for me 😀  You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+.  The icons are on the side or bottom, depending on what device you are using.  You can also e-mail me @ mybrainonkids4@gmail.com or leave a comment!

Have a great week ❤

Coming In Hot 2016!

I don’t really believe in resolutions, per se.  I love the feelings invoked by a New Year.  It feels like a clean slate, fresh start or new beginning.  A time to celebrate and reflect.  We reminisce the events of the past year, and use the New Year to hopefully apply what we’ve learned about others and ourselves or the world around us, let go of things holding us back or down, remember loved ones lost and cherish friends and family still among us.  For me there is just something renewing and freeing about ringing in a New Year (or in my case, snoozing in a New Year).  I’m really excited about 2016! I’m 70 pounds lighter, halfway to my goal weight and feeling healthier and happier.

So, while I don’t do resolutions, I do have “intentions” and I intend for this to be my best year yet!

Oh!  One housekeeping note from last weeks blog:  the bra.  I did end up purchasing 2 bra’s from Victoria Secret.  And they fit.  Ish.  I didn’t try them on in the store, and yes I know I probably should have done so.  So I get home and put them on.  Or one of them, not both at the same time obviously.  At first glance, it was awesome!  Then I lifted my arms and WHAT. THE. HECK!?!!?  All I can say is that I’m totally upping my side-boob game.  I kept trying to push them back in, but they just flopped back out over the side of my bra, under my arm.  It was like having 4 boobs, just 2 without nipples.  I don’t know, maybe losing a couple more inches around my chest will help.  I thought I’d be more disappointed, but honestly playing with boob 3 and boob 4 just made me laugh.  Lesson learned.

Anyway, back to my intentions, some most of them are silly but I’m excited to share them with you.  They fall under 4 basic categories:

FASHION

FOOD

FUN

FITNESS

I could have added a fifth “F” but that’s another blog entirely.  😉  Oh what?  Like you all weren’t thinking it!  Wait, you weren’t?  Oh…awkward.  Moving on.

F is for FASHION

This week we will cover my fashion intentions for 2016. By fashion, I just mean little things like not wearing my pajamas to the grocery store, taking better care of my skin, picking lip and nail color outside of my “neutral” comfort zone.  In general, just taking more pride and care in my appearance.  I was pretty proud of my gel color choice this week, purplicious.

IMG_0040

My daughter’s response, “yeah mom, you’re really living life on the edge…”  Rome wasn’t built in a day, love.

I spend a small fortune on skin care products (I love Origin products) that half the time I forget to use.  Since I plan on stepping out more often wearing makeup, I’m going to have to be super vigilant about taking care of my skin.  After the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, I thought today would be a good day to give myself a facial.  I had one buried underneath my sink that I’d been wanting to try, it’s first words to me were “Hello Gorgeous”.  I  mean, obviously now I have to use it.  It goes on to say:

The secrets to gorgeous glowing skin and a happy positive mood have been long celebrated across the globe through the healing powers of Gold.  Romans looked to Gold to heal skin problems, Egyptians revered the healing powers of Gold in mind, body and soul, and the women of China have used Gold as their secret for glowing skin

What better way to start 2016!  Clearly this is what Anderson Cooper meant when he featured me on CNN.

IMG_0055

A magic pot of Gold!!!  The packaging continues to romance me by adding:

The Passport To Beauty Gold Radiance Luxury Facial Mask (not pretentious sounding at all) is uniquely formulated with powerful Colloidal Gold (colloidal?  that sounds…hmm) along with Collagen (I know what this is!) to restore, rejuvenate and promote your skin’s natural beauty.  The mask serum is formulated with Gold essence and an infusion of Rosa Damascena…

blah blah blah, patience is not my virtue, let’s get on with it…

It suggests leaving it on for 20 minutes so it “melts into your skin”.  This sounds alarming.  Then it says it’s left “thoughtful openings for the eyes, nose and mouth.”  THOUGHTFUL openings??!?!?!  Thank you for allowing me not to suffocate in my quest for beauty…  I take it out of the package, my excitement notably diminished, to find this:

IMG_0044

OMG.  It’s ironman.  I’ve got real concerns that I’m going to lay this over my face and it’s not going to come off.  I try googling it, but that just scares me more.  Deep breaths.  New year, new me.  I’ve got this.

IMG_0047

It’s Ironman meets Hannibal Lecter.  And how big a face did they make this for, none of my “thoughtful openings” are lining up.  Every time I try to breathe in thru my nose, the nose flap gets sucked up into my nostril, making me flail in panic while I try to blow it out without snotting myself. I’m supposed to lay here for 20 minutes, letting this melt into my skin, meditating on happy thoughts.  Are they freaking kidding me?!?

Just when I start relaxing, man-child finds me, and screams in horror.  That’s not very relaxing and I can’t talk very well because the flap part for underneath my nose is actually covering my mouth.  Man-child flees.

I begin to relax again, then husband starts slamming things around downstairs in a snit about something.  It must be difficult to be the World’s Prettiest Person according to Anderson Cooper.

IMG_0054

INSERT MY EYE ROLL HERE

Actually, in the interest of full disclosure, I know exactly why he’s in a snit.  I’ve left the kitchen for him to clean up.  I figured the World’s Prettiest Person needed to come down to earth a wee bit and I did cook after all.  (snicker)

Finally, the 20 hours minutes are over.  It’s completely slid down my face, I can barely open my eyes, and it’s a bit tingly.

IMG_0049

That’s not snot under my nose, it’s the mask juices.  At least I think it is.

Man-child enters the bathroom as I peel this stuff off.  The conversation goes something like this:

“Why is that thing on  your face?” – Man-child

“It’s a beauty mask, to make my skin glow” – Me

Man-child looks dubious.

“What?  You don’t think I need a beauty mask, because I’m already pretty?”

Silence.

I repeat the question, louder, thinking maybe he didn’t hear me even though he’s standing right there looking at me.

Silence.

“Really?” 

He giggles.

He’s going to live with us forever if he doesn’t up his compliment game with the ladies.

Anyway, my face does feel softer, but I’m not really seeing any evidence of a magnificent “glow”.  Maybe I’ll notice a difference tomorrow.  However, I feel it’s a terrific start to my new goals and intentions.

My phone reminder alarm goes off reminding me to take my vitamins.  That’s another area of my life I really need to work on in 2016.  Vitamin deficiency can be an issue with Bariatric patients, and luckily my insurance covered a monthly subscription for a vitamin pack, which includes a multi-vitamin, iron and calcium supplements and a B-12 nasal spray.  An unfortunate side-effect from the sleeve surgery is thinning hair due to lack of nutrient absorption.  I’ve definitely noticed it’s an issue, I’m hoping by being more diligent with my vitamin intake that I can reverse the thinning side-effect.  I hate to think of the alternatives.

I’ll leave you with this awesome little snippet of my bootcamp today.  Enjoy 😛

 

I can barely formulate a sentence as you can see, and I’ve got something in my teeth, even though I didn’t eat breakfast…awkward.  My daughter was mocking me the whole time “in the bag baby” – “mom who talks like that?” and “bye?”  “Who are you saying bye to mom, all three of your snapchat followers.”  Jealousy is not a good look for her…  Just saying’. ❤

COMING UP:

Friday – Secret Subject Swap! My topic is “Should old acquaintance be forgot..?”  I used to participate in this challenge years ago, and I’m excited to be back!

Next Week:  I’ll tackle FOOD!