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 ❤

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 ❤