Sunday, June 29, 2014

Start from scratch if you must, but don't give up!

Good Sunday morning everyone!  As usual, I’m finding it hard to sleep even though I’m officially on vacation and don’t have to be up for several more hours to get ready for Mass.  However, I am enjoying a cup of coffee and the peace and quiet on this very warm and muggy morning. Some of the family have already arrived at the camp for our family reunion vacation; several more will arrive later today.  The agenda today includes going to church, packing a picnic lunch, and heading up to the lake where we will be “kids” for a while, regardless of our ages. We will fly kites, blow bubbles, and perhaps engage in a family volleyball game this afternoon, but that remains to be seen because my body is still quite sore from the RA flare and there is rain in the forecast.  So far, that’s the plan for the afternoon, but like most things in life…..Things do not always go as planned and the sooner we learn to “go with the flow” and adapt to change, the easier our lives will become.

Yesterday was a gorgeous day; the kind that I dream about all winter with clear blue skies and lots of sunshine. I did a little garage saling in the morning and putzed around my garden for a while before cooling off in the pool.  I absolutely LOVE playing around in the yard and being outside. I’ve always been a sun and nature lover, but I’m not sure if I enjoy it so much now because I just REALLY LIKE IT….or whether the joy comes from the years of not being able to do much besides just sit and dream about all the thing I’d like to do again.  Perhaps, it’s because God always uses things in nature to teach me things and I’m able to draw strength for my journey in the ordinary, every-day kinds of tasks that occupy my weekends. 

Yesterday, the theme was trial and error and I was reminded over and over again that “Things do not always go as planned the first time.” I’ve shared before that I put in a vegetable garden this year, even though I’ve tried growing vegetables many times before with very little success. One year, about 15 years or so ago when I was teaching school and had the summers off, I managed to grow a few things, but I worked at it, had my own compost bin, and really put a lot of time and effort into it. Ironically, it was at a time in my life when I rarely ate vegetables at all!  Other years I’ve planted some squash and beans, only to have them wither in the hot, sandy soil or get eaten by the wildlife. The past couple of years I’ve grown tomatoes in pots and managed to get a bunch of green ones on the vines, and then, some sort of critter took a bite out of EVERY SINGLE GREEN TOMATO and I ended up visiting the vegetable stands that crop up alongside the roads in late summer. In spite of all of this….. I’m trying again this year….with about 9 or 10 different vegetables. I have tomatoes, zucchini, several different squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, green beans, and my favorite, never before attempted: Brussel sprouts!  I’ve planted most of them in large pots filled with good black soil and compost that I’ve hauled from the community recycling place, and placed them in a very sunny, secluded area with high hopes for success.  So after years and years of trying without much results….what makes me think that THIS TIME I will succeed?  Hmmmm…..good question…..and very likely, it is stubborn bull-headed determination…….the same characteristics that continue to help me on my journey to a new life and keeps my trying again and again. 

 You might ask, “So how is it going for you, Theresa?”  Well; so far, the animals have managed to eat most of the leaves off several of the squash, cantaloupe, and two of the Brussel sprout plants, but apparently they couldn’t reach the others.  SO…..some set-back….but an opportunity to “rethink things…..move things around…..try something new.” I even built a new type of barricade fence with the hopes of keeping the critters out.  Will it work? I’m not sure, but at least I’m trying something new because my first attempt didn’t.  Something is better than nothing, right? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!  Hmm… there a lesson here?

I spent some time yesterday moving some of the perennials around too, even though summer is NOT the ideal time to do so. Last year I dug a new bed and planted many of the very small starter plants (full-size perennials can be very expensive). Many of the varieties were ones I had never grown before and even though they have those little tags with expected height and width, I didn’t pay much attention to them and just planted them where I wanted. Last year it was great….because I had a bunch of smaller plants…many of which bloomed that first year. I also separated and transplanted several other plants I had in various places in the yard into the new bed. All of these were surrounding my St. Francis waterfall fountain that I purchased in memory of my dear priest friend, Fr. Sauter (you’ve heard me mention him multiple times in previous posts and videos), after his death. I was very pleased with that garden last year and high hopes that it would be gorgeous this year, but failed to take into account that the plants will grow and mature to full-size. (Have you ever fallen in love with a tiny kitten or puppy….at years later at full-size wonder what on earth possessed you?  J).  SO….now, some of the plants on the border have crowded out others; the lower growing flowers cannot be seen from my chaise lounge chairs; and the St. Francis fountain is covered up by the taller, but completely beautiful, black-eyed Susan’s that have multiplied and are ready to bloom.  Goodness….when did this all happen….they were just small little plants a few weeks ago, weren’t’ they?   So, needless to say…..I had some rearranging to do yesterday. I moved and transplanted even raised my fountain up on a wooden platform in an attempt to make it look better.  Will it work?  I’m not sure; that remains to be seen as the summer progresses, but at least I made an attempt. Gardening, like my journey, is trial and error and doing SOMETHING is better than nothing.

I also had to do some reworking of my new pond because for the past several of weeks, I have been unable to keep my fish alive in it. This was my first attempt at water gardening and even though I did what I thought was best, I was pulling dead minnows and goldfish off the top every morning. I checked the water temperature; I had flowing water to circulate the water; I even had plants there to provide oxygen, but my fish were dying.  I read things on the net and I watched dozens of YouTube videos. I even talked to people at the pet stores. I thought I was doing everything right, but obviously, something wasn’t working.  After several weeks of the frustration, I decided that, “ENOUGH WAS ENOUGH and if other could people could keep fish alive in a small pond, then I COULD DO IT TOO….even if I wasn’t successful at first!”  Again, stubborn bull-headed determination at work.  And so….last weekend I completely emptied the pond. I pulled out every single rock and river pebble. I took out each plant, drained the pond completely, got on my hands and knees and scrubbed the sides and bottom off, washed each rock and plant and started from scratch. By the way, I found two surviving fish in the process.  There was about 2 inches of mucky, muddy gunk in the bottom of that pond (likely because I didn’t know what I was doing and put the cattails and other water plants in there in pots of soil) and I think I was poisoning the fish with icky, muddy water. I put everything back in place and for over a week now, I have crystal clear water AND ten happy goldfish swimming around without a single casualty all week!  I’m a happy girl and it’s amazing how much joy I’ve been getting out of feeding those silly fish each morning and evening. I’m just like a little kid!!!!  Thank God that I’m a stubborn, bull-headed, and very determined girl that doesn’t give up without a fight.

And so… I’m working around the yard yesterday, I kept thinking about these three incidents…..and how over and over, God was teaching me that THINGS DO NOT ALWAYS GO AS PLANNED.  Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts and intentions, we fail, not necessarily because of own fault or lack of will, but sometimes just because we don’t know any better.  Sometimes we are CERTAIN that THIS TIME we will succeed at losing weight….or giving up a bad habit….or sticking to an exercise plan….or changing our attitudes….or whatever.  Sometimes we are DETERMINED to make it work and nothing or no one is going to stop us.   BUT…just like me and my gardening adventures….things do not always work the first time. Sometimes we have to make adjustments. Sometime we have to “mix up our exercise routine” or “adjust our caloric intake.” Sometimes we fail miserably and want to give up completely. Sometimes we are doing so great….and some sort of critter comes along (named TEMPTATION….OR BINGE….OR EMOTIONAL TURMOIL….OR VACATION/HOLIDAY/PARTY/BIRTHDAY……or STRESS) and completely sabotages any progress we’ve made so far.  Sometimes our plants, or in my case, fish, even die (We gain back what we’ve lost or head in the wrong direction.)  Sometimes….we just aren’t successful even though we want to be and we lose hope and just decide to give up, even though we are unhappy, unhealthy, and completely miserable.  

SO the question is this:  WHAT are you going to do about it?  I had two choices with my gardening: Either I just give up and let the plants take over each other, give up hope of growing my own vegetables and trying to get fish to live in my pond…..Or I do something about it.  It’s the same thing with my weight….either I become discouraged when I’m not making progress or my pants are tight…..or I do something about it.  I’ve decided (THANK YOU GOD, for stubborn, bull-headed determination) that I am going to keep trying until I get it right. If there is a will….there is a way….and I’m not going to give up on the garden….on my journey….or on you…..until I am 100% certain that I’ve tried everything to make it work.

 I KNOW that if other people can grow beautiful gardens….outsmart the deer, raccoons, groundhogs and all the other wild creatures that grace my yard…..AND manage to keep 25 cent goldfish alive; then so can I!  And….if OTHER PEOPLE, even if it’s only 5%, can manage to lose weight and keep it off….SO CAN I!  I also know that IF I CAN DO IT….with the grace of God….than so can you!  Will it be easy (either the gardening or maintaining my journey): NOPE!  Will it be easy for you to lose weight, change your life, and give up habits, become healthier, happier, holier people: NOPE!  But it will be so worth it!  Don’t give up….do a complete overhaul if you must….but don’t lose hope. Find that stubborn, bull-headed determination deep inside you and KEEP BELIEVING that YOU CAN and YOU WILL change your life!!!

Have a beautiful weekend my friends!

Friday, June 27, 2014

This too shall pass

Good Friday morning…. Gosh, it’s been a rough week.  It has been a very long time since I struggled with the RA like I did this week. It just about did me in but I think I am on my way to slowly starting to come out of it, although it will take several more days for any lingering pain, stiffness, and fatigue to fade. I had forgotten how debilitating it can be; how quickly a flare can come on…literally overnight; and how completely exhausting it can be. It literally zaps every bit of energy from me, but hopefully, I’ve turned the corner. 

Today is the first day of my annual 4th of July family reunion vacation. I have more than 30 relatives coming up north beginning today to spend the week at Pip’s Place, the family vacation spot that has been a part of my family since I was a very little girl. My grandparents purchased the property (literally 2/10ths of a mile from my current home so I don’t have to travel and get to sleep in my own bed) back in 1970 as a place for their children and grandchildren to gather during the summer to spend time together. Now, 45 years later, the tradition still lives, even though my grandparents have been gone for many years.  Some of my cousins weren’t even born when Pip bought the place, and now they are bringing their own babies to join the fun.

I am blessed to have an extended family that enjoys being together and gets along so well. Each day of this coming week has a specific theme, with food and activities to go with the day’s theme. One day we will be flying kites, another will be spent at the beach for an all-afternoon ‘fun in the sun” day. 

We’ll even have a big family/community 4th of July parade next Saturday, but it is yet to be determined if I am even going to make a float this year. It all depends on how I’m feeling in the coming days. Much of the week has to be planned so that food is prepared on certain days by certain families, costumes and games can be prepared, and activities coordinated, but there will still be plenty of time for impromptu fun, and good times around the campfire (that is for THOSE, unlike me, that can actually stay awake until dark!  LOL.  Here it is the first day of my vacation and I’m up at 3:00 a.m.!)  There will be much laughter and a lot of love shared in the coming week, but also a lot of food and temptation heading my way.  I will need to be focused and keep reminding myself how much more enjoyable this family week will be now that I can participate in the fun rather than just sit and watch. This past week of RA issues was a reminder of the life I used to live on a daily basis and it just reinforced my commitment to maintain the weight loss to help combat future flares. Feeling better and being able to join in the fun tastes MUCH BETTER than the any of the good food that will be surrounding me all week.  I’m sure I’ll be posting more about the week in the coming days.

The physical issues this past week was a reminder to me that losing weight and completely changing one’s life DOES NOT MEAN that every day is going to be “sunshine and roses.”  Nor can it ‘fix everything” and guarantee that there will never be struggles, pain, or difficulties again.  IF only that were true; every overweight, addicted, depressed, or otherwise sad, despondent, or struggling person WOULD have the motivation to change his/her life.  Life isn’t like that, however.  Losing weight is not going to FIX and/or take away EVERY struggle in life.  What it does do, however, is MAKE IT SO MUCH EASIER to deal with those annoyances in life that come our way.  Dealing with an RA flare at less than 200 pounds is certainly much easier than at 400+ pounds. Just the stress of the extra weight off the inflamed joints alone is significant.  

I’ve shared before about some of the day-to-day struggles that often come with life; those things that threaten to sabotage our will.  Things like the death of friends and loved ones; job complications; relationship issues; job stressors; family conflicts; illness; storms; disappointments…….you name it…..are a  part of life and going to happen. Sometimes they might even be brought on as a result of other’s reactions to your life-changing journey, but more often than not, they are things beyond our control.  Losing weight….giving up bad habits….changing one’s life doesn’t take these things away…..but the joy, peace, confidence, better health, new way of thinking/acting/feeling, etc. that comes as a result of your journey will make the struggles easier to bear and cope with….THAT IS…if we remain strong, hopeful, and know that the “storms in life” won’t last forever.  AND….we remain committed to “starting over” again and again if we falter in any way during the difficult days.

I don’t believe in any way that God wants us to suffer, be sick or sad, fail, or struggle in life, but I do believe that He can/will use those experiences to teach us perseverance, dependence upon Him and others for help, and to be people of faith….in better days….that “this too shall pass”…and that we are never alone in our struggles. And also….to remind us that when we are down and out, for whatever reason, or faltering on our way….that we are never alone: we have HIM….and we have each other to help us through. Being a person of gratitude….and trying to remain positive and hopeful in a direct result of this life-changing journey.

Here’s hoping that each of us has more days of joy than struggle….more victories than defeats…..more sunshine than storms….and more hope than doubt.   Keep on believing….keep on working….keep on fighting….regardless of how you feel at the moment!  You can and you will get through it….get to it….and succeed in changing our life!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

one little change at a time

Although I pretty much went “cold turkey” when I began my journey, it’s not necessary to do so. My initial “dump the sugar and regular soda” was all at once, but the first couple of weeks of my journey involved small changes like switching to diet soda, then alternating a bottle of soda with a bottle of water, then drinking carbonated flavored water, then eventually just water flavored with those sugar-free flavor packets.  It took a few weeks to pretty much (I’ll drink a diet coke on occasion) eliminate soda but I honestly don’t miss it at all (and I was ADDICTED….drinking an entire 2-liter bottle every night and 2 mountain dews (24 oz) each day!) YIKES!

The same principle guided the process to get back on my feet and walk without a mobility device. It took long, long time….well over a year….to regain strength in my legs and lose enough weight that my knees and joints could support my weight for more than a few minutes. First I practiced standing up and sitting down; then trying to stand up for a couple of minutes at a time; then walking behind the wheeled walker for a few steps without having to sit down; then a bit further….and so forth until I was able to use just the cane….and THEN…..Walk a short distance..(literally only yards) on my own. Once I was able to walk without the cane, I increased my distance by a few yards each day until I could walk a mile.  Now?  I can do a few miles at a time, although the latest challenge is constant pain and numbness in my feet due to neuropathy. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to walk before that little situation compromises my mobility,  but for now, I celebrate and enjoy the freedom of being able to go just about any place I choose. Hopefully, by the grace of God, I’ll be on my feet for the rest of my days!

So, my friends….. Don’t think that you have to DO IT ALL ON THE FIRST DAY…..just make a little change today and another little change next week……and another the week after that……and by the end of the summer, you will see progress and these little changes will become a way of life. 

You’ve got this… can do this………little…..easy to live with…..change……at a time!  Have a good day!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

There's nothing easy about changing one's life....but it is so worth it!

I’ve always been one that prides myself on finding the easiest and most effective way to accomplish a task. Sometimes I create an elaborate excel file with all sorts of complicated formulas that will quickly calculate a student’s grade point average and completion ratio. Sometimes I am able to multi-task and do several things at one time. Oftentimes, however, I discover that there are some things in which there is no easy way out and I just have to plow through the task, taking it a little bit at a time.  My weight loss journey is that way.  There is absolutely NOTHING that is easy about changing one’s life. It takes hard work, commitment, and a belief that the life and well-being I desire is WORTH EVERY BIT of effort that is required to achieve it. 

The thing about one’s journey is this:  Each person needs to determine for him/herself what route is the best & most sustainable for that individual, choosing a route/plan that is not so difficult and rigid that it will quickly become overwhelming and lead to giving up, but at the same time, not so “easy and good-to-be-true” that it doesn’t lead to a life-long change in behavior, thoughts, and actions, even if it produces quick results.

It’s true that the longer you work at something and the more your good choices become habit, the easier it becomes to live that way, but changing one’s life, doing the right thing, making good choices, and trying to be the best you can be is HARD WORK.  Is it worth it?  ABSOLUTELY, but it’s still hard work.  Fortunately for me, there are people like you….and others in my life that provide me strength and support to keep at it.  Surround yourself with those who will support and encourage you when the road becomes long and the journey becomes overwhelming……and whatever you do, don’t give up when it gets hard. You can do it!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

one small step

Today is the perfect day to take one small step in the right direction. Don't worry how far you have to go. Don't worry about how fast those around you are going or reaching goal. Don't worry if you are only able to make one....small....tiny.....change today. Just do it!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Let it go....Be free!

So true! I believe that carrying around guilt, sadness, resentment, bitterness, jealous, grief, fear…and a plethora of other negative emotions was at the root of my obesity and compulsive/emotional eating. The “heaviness” of the emotional pain that we insist on hanging on to is so easily manifested into the “heaviness” of our bodies.  As difficult as it is; we simply must “let it go.”  I know, it’s much easier said than done, but it is so necessary for our emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical well-being. Once we forgive, forget, and move on….we will know freedom that we never imagined, and it’s almost a guarantee that our bodies will reflect that freedom and it will be much easier to shed the “protective layer” of weight that we sometimes use to insulate our heart and feelings.  It’s a daily choice….wallow in negativity and emotional “stuff” or let it go…..and strive to not pick it back up again!

Let’s all decide today to “lighten up” our minds, spirits, and hearts… that we can “lighten” up our bodies too!  I hope everyone has a great day today!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fill your "Life-change toolbox" with secret weapons

If I knew the “secret”, or could perform a miracle to make everyone in the world healthy, happy, prosperous, kind, and fit, I would likely not be sitting here at 4:00 a.m. deciding what to wear to work today. Instead, I would be thinking about what kind of fun activity like boating, fishing, or gardening which I could do instead.  Maybe I’d be preparing to visit some group to share my story: that’s a true joy for me! 

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill; there is no perfect “diet”; there is no 100% guaranteed plan. There is, however, deep within each of you, the power and ability to change your own life for the better. It’s called WILL and DETERMINATION….and each of us have those characteristics inside but sometimes they get buried and covered up by the “stuff” that life throws at us.  Sometimes they get squashed by past failures, sickness or grief, negative experiences, or thoughts like fear, unworthiness, hopelessness, and despair.  Sometimes we just forget that we CAN do it and that we don’t have to do it alone: GOD will help us and He will put people in our life to support and encourage us along the way….like you all do for me! 

Although there is no so-called SECRET, I do have special tools and weapons, if you will, to fight the battles. For me personally, my journey is empowered by my faith. Scriptures like: “Greater is HE that is in me, than He that is in the world,” And……”Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord,” and… “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” give me the strength each day to carry on.  They are my “go-to’s” and I often repeat them, and others, when I encounter weakness or anxiety.

I also have a special piece of jewelry that serves as a reminder of my journey. When I lost my 200th pound (I weighed 228 pounds when I reached that particular goal) I made a promise to MYSELF….not anyone else….that I would NEVER allow myself to weigh more than I did at that time. I was still a long way from my goal and I eventually went on to lose another 70 or so pounds, but at that time, it was important for me to pledge to myself that I would NEVER allow myself to exceed the weight I was when I lost that 200th pound. I was well aware that even when I reached goal, there will be likely a 10-15 pound window where my weight will fluctuate in the coming years and I’m perfectly okay with that…but if I ever get anywhere near that 228 pound mark….someone better kick my butt!  When I was nearing that 200 pound loss milestone, I began to shop for that special piece of jewelry that I would wear every day as a reminder of my promise and my journey. I wanted it to mark the event and be very significant. I ended up purchasing a ring that has two rows of small black diamonds with a row of white ones in between. Each row of black diamonds represent 100 pounds of lost weight; the white row represents my new life. I wear that ring every day and when I feel weak or tempted, I simply look down at my hand and am reminded of my promise to MYSELF. (Your journey should be about YOU….not a promise to someone else, although others can be a motivating factor).   You may want to consider a special necklace, bracelet, medal, or item to remind you of your commitment as well.

There are likely many of you that don’t share in my belief system and that is certainly all right; this group isn’t about that, and my “TOOLS”  may not motivate or inspire you, but hopefully, you have your own SECRET weapons….your OWN personal strength and set of beliefs to encourage you and empower you.  Maybe it’s a picture of you from years ago when you were thinner; maybe it’s a piece of clothing you’d like to fit into; maybe it’s a special reward or 60-day chip that you will give yourself when you reach your goal; it might even be a special friend or sponsor that you can call day or night when you feel weak.  Whatever it is, I encourage you to draw strength from that person, phrase, or thing.  For me, personally, I need to have a whole bunch of things like that because sometimes one thing may work to keep me motivated; other times it takes something else to do the trick.  Fill your “Life-changing tool box” with a variety of things to keep you on track.

The secret is unique to you…..but deeply rooted inside of you.  It’s there…..just dig deep and find it.  And above all things…. BELIEVE in yourself and your ability to succeed. YOU CAN do this!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer isn't just for size Zero

I hope everyone is having a good day today. It’s lunchtime for me and although the weather today in northern Michigan isn’t conducive for swimming, I saw this picture on a friend’s wall yesterday and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. What a great sentiment!  I’ve been pondering how many times my weight and self-image affected the types of activities I chose to participate in. I’m somewhat embarrassed to say, “A lot.”

As strange as it sounds, I was actually LESS self-conscious to put on a bathing suit at 400+ pounds and swim in a public pool than I am today. Mostly because I simply didn’t care what I looked like. If I had, I would have embarked on this journey a long time before I did. In my previous career, I had the summers off and would spend the entire summer up north in the area where I currently live. Typically on any sunny day, I’d be up at the pool. This was the practice whether I was 250 or 300+ pounds, even beyond, although my limited mobility in later years made it more difficult and the swims less frequent. Ironically, even though I am a much smaller person now, I haven’t been in a public pool in several years. Now, however, it’s the excess skin that causes me to shy away from appearing in public in a swimsuit.  I need to take on the attitude of the woman in this clip and be free from the worry about “what others may think.”  We all could benefit from that mind-set, but it will be a hard sell for some.

In the same vein, I often hear people comment that they won’t go to a gym or fitness center because they are overweight and they would be embarrassed to be in work-out clothes or huffing and puffing next to someone who is buff and fit. I’m guilty of that one as well. I’m reluctant now to try Zumba because I don’t know how to dance and I figure I would look like a fool trying to learn the steps and keep up with the seasoned veterans: that, and the challenges of that type of activity with my Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Perhaps this needs to be a goal I strive for mentally and emotionally for the winter months when I cannot ride my bike, walk, or garden.  Sigh…..changing one’s life is a NEVER ENDING process and it doesn’t just involve changing our physical appearance; it’s changing our mind-set and the way we THINK about things.  Every day I discover more areas where I can improve my outlook and my attitude.

Today I encourage you to join me in working to develop this sense of freedom to enjoy the activities and opportunities that the summer brings, regardless of your current size or state of health. Summer is so short (at least here) and I don’t want to, nor do I want you to miss out on what could be a really fun and satisfying thing just because I/we are waiting until….. “I lose more weight….my skin tightens up…..I look better….. I reach goal…. I learn how to do something….I…..I….I…..(there are likely a dozen or more excuses/reasons.”   Am I going to go to the public pool this weekend?  Not a chance, but I am going to promise to myself today that before the season ends, I will go up there at least once.  Am I going to join a Zumba class this summer? Not likely, but I will make a promise to myself to get out on the dance floor at an upcoming wedding and another party to break the ice. I might even look for a Zumba tape/dvd at a garage sale to practice. 

So….What are YOU waiting to do or try until……………..?  Wear a red dress? Ride a bike? Go to the gym?  Wear a pair of shorts? Try a new food?  Think about it….and then ask yourself….. Are you willing to join Theresa in promising to enjoy something new (or again after many years) this summer?  I hope so!

Little changes become big ones

People often ask me how I just completely changed my life in a moment of epiphany; without any pre-planning or thought.  Honestly, I don’t have the answer for that question other than it truly was a miracle. It is only by the grace of God that every day I can continue to live that lifestyle.  I realize that you may not share my belief system, drive, or determination, but that does not mean that you cannot change your life.  Change can be drastic, or change can be subtle and occur over a period of time.

While it is completely true that I just starting dumping bottles of soda down the drain on March 1, 2011, never to have a regular soda again, it took a little while (I can’t remember exactly how long but I’m guessing it was a couple of weeks) to completely kick the soda habit. When I went to the store the next day, I purchased some diet soda, but at that time I couldn’t find Diet Faygo peach soda (peach was my favorite and I was consuming an entire 2-liter bottle of regular soda each night) so I purchased some other flavors. Fortunately, I didn’t really like them so I naturally didn’t drink as much. I also started to alternate bottles of flavored water with each glass or bottle of soda. I was buying the pre-packaged flavored waters at first. Eventually I was drinking just the purchased flavored waters because I didn’t like the carbonation in the soda anymore.  Drinking about 6-8 bottles of purchased flavored water can get very expensive so I used the same process to wean myself off of those. I started using the flavor packets like Hawaiian Punch or Crystal light and alternating a bottle of those with the pre-packaged flavored waters. Eventually I was just using the Crystal Light type products.  Next came the process of diluting the package.  Now, instead of using one packet with a 16.9 bottle of water as directed on the packet, I use one per quart bottle that I keep refilling with regular tap water.  Currently I drink between 1 ½ and 2 gallons (8 bottles) of flavored water per day. I have become addicted to it.  I will occasionally have a can of diet coke, but it is very rare and often just on a special occasion or when I’m at a party or event.

I applied the same principle…..small changes add up to big ones….when I began to try to regain my mobility.  I knew that I couldn’t go from a wheelchair/walker to walking on my own “just like that”, but I could make “little changes” that would eventually lead to big ones.  You’ve likely read or heard me say that I started by going from the chair to walking behind a wheeled walker to using a cane and then to taking a few steps on my own. My first ‘real walk” was only to my mailbox at the end of the driveway; maybe 50 yards and back. Once I became comfortable with that, I walked to my neighbor’s mailbox and back….then to the next house…and then to the stop sign. Eventually I was able to walk a couple of miles at a time. I was always, and still am, conscious of the fact that I had to walk BACK home so I walked AROUND the block at first so I was always walking AWAY from home but (in a sense) TOWARDS home at the same time, rather than walking down a long road and being unable to get back home. Once I became comfortable with my own ability, my route was not an issue.

Other little changes were made in the calorie department. I started buying the 35 calorie  a slice bread instead of regular white bread; I used sugar substitutes in my coffee instead of sugar; skim milk instead of whole; butter spray instead of real butter; low cal/fat free/sugar free products instead of full fat ones; and the biggest change: REAL food instead of processed.  It was an eye-opener to discover that a can of peaches (my favorite) in heavy syrup had over 300 calories in it compared to a real peach for less than 100. And I totally eliminated fast food from drive-through restaurants.

If making a COMPLETE lifestyle change is too drastic for you at this point, or if you are wanting to change but don’t know where to start because it all sounds so overwhelming, I encourage you today to make just ONE small change this week: ONE small, little change like parking your car in a spot in the parking lot just one row farther than usual or walking DOWN the stairs at work instead of taking the elevator. Maybe it will be waiting to turn the TV on for 10 minutes after you get up or home so that you can spend a few minutes of quiet reflection/prayer/meditation (whatever you want to call it) thinking about all the blessings you’ve been given this day.  Perhaps it will adding ONE vegetable to your evening meal; eating HALF as many potato chips; buying frozen yogurt instead of a carton of Ben and Jerry’s; or eating a fun-size candy bar instead of a king-size one.  Start as SLOW as you need to; just DO something because LITTLE CHANGES turn into habits and eventually turn into BIG CHANGES!  You can do it!!!

What other SMALL changes have you made…..and how have they turned into habits or big ones?

Believe me, my friends….. YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE……because LITTLE CHANGES really do make a difference. Life is not a race; take it a slow as you need to in order to make it a lifestyle change.  And I’ve always said….and continue to believe….that you should not make any change that you are not willing/able to live with for the rest of your life. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Theresa Borawski - Radio Interview on weight loss

Hi Everyone!  I was able to convert  my recent radio interview to a Youtube file. It is about 40 minutes or so long and was conducted as part of the Michigan Business Network. Show is called "Evolving Corporate Health" with host Jenn Dubey. Jenn and I discuss my weight loss journey and how obesity affects health.  The file is too large to upload straight to facebook but it can be accessed by clicking the  following YOUTUBE link:

Theresa Borawski Radio Interview from June 7, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014

Don't be controlled by the number on the tag or the scale

So many times we let "numbers" dictate our self-worth. Click the video below to hear my thoughts about numbers and weight loss.

Here is the YOUTUBE link in case you can't open it above:

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Interview on Internet Radio

Good Morning!  I recorded an interview for a radio show last Monday. It will air today at 10:00 a.m.. 3:00 p.m., 8 p.m., and then at 1:00 a.m. I was told that it will be available to download as a podcast in a few days but for now it will be played on the air and via  internet radio at the following link:  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Forget about it Friday!

I saw this picture on Facebook early this morning and I’m declaring today to be “Forget about it Friday!”  I’m guessing that you, like me, have felt wronged or hurt by someone at least once in your life; likely many times, sometimes over and over by the same person. Sometimes we feel like we’ve been let down; been treated unfairly; been left out. Sometimes we’ve been victim of abuse, verbal or otherwise. Sometimes, we’ve even felt like God has forsaken us or abandoned us.  I could sit here this morning and think about my life and likely come up with quite a list of situations where I felt mistreated or that I had drew the short straw.  And yet, holding a grudge is a serious detriment to one’s personal, mental, and spiritual well-being and can very quickly turn a person into a bitter, unhappy, and ungrateful soul.

There are many reasons that I could use to justify my obesity; some legitimate, some just a “cop out” and excuses to engage in unhealthy and irresponsible behavior. I used food to comfort me when I lost my job at the church after 15 years of service and I carried a grudge for a very long time, against those involved, and subconsciously against the “institutional Church” (not God).  I also carried a grudge against the world (who was responsible?) that I lost my dad as a child and my mother when I was in my 20’s. I carried a grudge against those who teased me for being overweight; those who were “pretty and skinny and didn’t have to struggle”; those who were healthy and financial secure; those who hurt me or left me out.  Eventually I blamed everyone else for my state of existence: obese, disabled, sick, depressed, sad……., and I failed to recognize my OWN ROLE in the life I was living.  Food was my escape and my comfort and I never even imagined that life could be any different.  Yes, carrying around anger, bitterness, and resentment (call it a grudge if you want, it’s the same negative feelings) just exacerbated an already dismal reality. 

Ironically, as I began to surrender the negative thoughts and let go of the pain and grief, the pounds began to disappear as well. I found it easier to make good choices with my eating habits because I was learning to deal with emotions in a healthier way and realizing that holding on to anger, pain, jealousy, and grief didn’t affect the other person or people involved: they could care less how I felt, but rather, it was compounding an already bad situation and leading me to physical and emotional death. I was killing myself and the quality of my life was going downhill, partly because I felt justified in being angry and frustrated.  It had to go!

Forgiving and forgetting is not easy at all. In fact, for me, it’s harder than resisting a cookie or bag of chips. It’s a choice I have to make all day, every day.  People are going to continue to hurt us; they are going to continue to let us down; they are going to continue to disappoint, but how we react and respond to them is completely up to us. Today, and in the days to come,  I am going to search my heart for any remaining remnants of bitterness and anger, and I am going to ask God to remove it from my memory; to help me “let it go”, because there is no room for it in my life.  I’m also going to work really hard to find a ‘lesson” in those unpleasant encounters that are likely going to continue to confront me each day, and to use them as opportunities to be a better person; to be kind and forgiving, and mostly to be a person of gratitude.  If I fill my heart with gratitude, it will overcome the sadness and resentment.

When/if you feel tempted and an overwhelming desire to eat, and you know that you really aren’t hungry, I encourage you to stop and ask yourself: Why am I eating this? What am I feeling?  Am I tired….or upset….or bored….or angry?  If you’re not truly hungry….perhaps the desire is connected to a grudge or negative emotion that needs to go.  Get rid of it!  It’s “Forget about it Friday!”

Enjoy your day today and keep on plugging along! You CAN and you WILL change your life; one thought; one step; one day at a time!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Little changes add up to big results

Maybe you think that TOTALLY changing the way you eat....and think.....and act ....for the rest of your life, is too big a step to take today so you keep putting it off. Well.....even little changes over time turn into big results. Start small by just changing a thing or two each week and you will be on your way to a healthier lifestyle. How about trying one piece of toast instead of two?  Or alternating every bottle of soda with a bottle of water?  Or walking DOWN the stairs at the mall or office even if you take the elevator up?   Start small, get used to that habit, and keep making little changes, and trust me, you will see results. In the process of changing ones life, it really is about "the little things."  You can do this....and remember, whatever you do, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Change is painful, no doubt, but so is remaining where you are.

This is so true! There is no doubt that changing one’s life is hard, but remaining in a state of hopelessness, disability, pain, and struggling with the effects of obesity, addiction, or depression can be so much harder.  When I’m faced with the temptation to go off track, I often remind myself that it was a whole lot harder to be live my life at 400+ pounds and unable to walk more than a few steps at a time than it is to say “No” to a cookie or a handful of potato chips.  The principle is the same regardless of the habits and old life you are working to leave behind.

The choice is yours, my friends, and when you finally realize that you no longer want to live your life trapped in a life of hopelessness, pain, or despair, you will know that you are READY for change. Many of you have already reached that point, but if you are like me, you have days when you “forget’ what it was like to live with the extra weight…..or drunk….or high…..or in constant conflict, chaos or anxiety…….(whatever your burden), especially when you are struggling to stay focus and motivated.  One of my strategies is to keep some “before” pictures in various places….like on my refrigerator or on the cabinet at work….as a reminder of the old life I am trying so hard to leave behind. When I “see” the pain and sadness in my face and remember what life was like in those days, it makes it much easier to walk away from temptation and eat a pear instead.

Have a good day today!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It's not over; look for signs of new hope

When my friends Gary and Linda relocated to Florida last summer, they gave me a lot of perennials and trees from their yard to transplant in my own. Among them were four ornamental trees with beautiful deep purple/dark red oval shape leaves. I don’t even know the name of the tree, but they were my favorite new addition to the yard. I spent a great deal of time and effort last summer caring for those trees; watering them daily to do what I can to help them take root.

 I just loved them, but it appears that they have succumbed to the incredibly harsh winter we had because thus far there has been absolutely no signs of any life remaining in them. In fact, I’ve already pulled out one of them; it just came right up roots and all with a slight tug, so I’m sure that one has died. I was about to give up hope on the other three…..that is, until yesterday when I discovered several very small new leaves growing at the base of the tallest of the three remaining trees. 

There is absolutely no buds/blooms or any sign of leaves on any of the branches, but when I was weeding, I noticed the new growth….way at the bottom…and I was overjoyed.  Does this mean that the tree is going to make it? I’m not sure….but at least I know there is hope, even if it is ever-so-slight.  It means that at least part of the roots have taken and there is a bit of life remaining, even though the top of the tree appears to be completely dead.  Whether or not it is enough to sustain the tree throughout the hot summer months is yet to be determined, but for now, I have hope. I may have to trim the entire top of the tree down to the base and start all over, but I’m willing to do what it takes to save the tree; at least I’m going to do what I can.

Gosh, that tree is so much like our journey, isn’t it?  We work so hard to change our lives. We try our best to do the right thing. We are committed to success and are sure that THIS TIME we are going to do it.  But then….in spite of our best efforts, life gets hard, (we face a hard cold winter, if you will), and it appears that we have failed…or are failing….because there is no evidence that any of our hard work has made a difference. Perhaps we’ve hit a plateau. Perhaps we’ve given in to temptation….for the umpteenth time.  Perhaps our situation has not improved or changed in any way, even though we’ve done ‘everything right’ and gave it our best shot.  It simply appears that we are in a battle that we cannot possibly win; it’s simply TOO HARD, and we are just about to give up.  Maybe we’ve already given up.  BUT then…..something happens to give us hope and we discover new growth on an otherwise ‘dead appearing tree!” 

 Maybe someone we haven’t seen in a while gives us a compliment and says, “Hey, have you lost weight?”  Perhaps we’ve pulled our summer clothes out of storage and last year’s shorts zip up easier or are too big.  Maybe all of a sudden you get on the scale after a couple of weeks and discover that FINALLY you record a loss.  Maybe you even read some post or see some quote on Facebook or in your e-mail and you know that God is speaking to you and telling you…. “Don’t give up….don’t pull that tree out of the ground just yet….give it a bit more time… ME that there is hope; there is life; there is a possibility; your miracle is about to happen!

If you look around and ask God to help you become aware of the ways in which He offers support and encouragement to you on your journey, you will begin to discover signs like this all around you.  My friends, you are not ALONE in your struggles. Even if you don’t share a faith in a higher power, God is still working in your life, but is likely using nature, people in your life….even strangers….to encourage and support you along the way.  Please don’t give up!  Look for a sign….any little sign….to encourage you to keep trying.  Because, very likely, when you discover that tiny little set of leaves, you will begin to do whatever you can to make those leaves grow. Your spirit will be revived and your willpower will increase.

 You can be assured that I will be doing extra watering and fertilizing and putting all my effort into trying to nurture that tree. I won’t give up until I know for sure it is completely dead…..but my guess is that with a lot of extra care….those little leaves will continue to grow, and perhaps, just perhaps, that tree will leaf out completely. But it may take A VERY LONG TIME to do so, especially if it has to start all over from the bottom, but I won’t give up on that tree. I won’t give up on my journey. And I won’t give up on you, either!

Look for those little leaves in your life……and make it a good day!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Work today for the future

Happy Sunday! What an absolutely gorgeous day we had yesterday in northern Michigan. It was warm and sunny with a gentle breeze….just a perfect summer day. I began my day very early, as usual, because I wanted to take advantage of every possible minute of such a beautiful day to continue working on the gardening projects and get the rest of the planting done. After working for a little while, I decided to take a coffee break, so I poured a fresh cup and sat in my chaise lounge overlooking the perennial beds, and just marveled at the presence of God all around me.  I closed my eyes for a few minutes and just listened.

As I mentioned in previous posts, part of my daily prayer includes asking God to open my eyes, ears, mind, heart, etc… each day to all the ways in which He is present in my life. I ask Him to help me recognize His voice/spirit/strength (whatever you want to call it) in each sound I hear throughout the day. So, as I closed my eyes and listened….I mean, really listened…. I was amazed at all the sounds around me. I heard a woodpecker in the distance tapping out his mating call on a tree in the back woods. I heard the sound of the water in my new pond splashing against the rock. I heard various kinds of birds announcing to the world that a new day had arrived; a new chance to start over if we faltered yesterday. I heard the leaves on the trees rustling in the wind; those very leaves that seemed to take FOREVER to appear this spring. I heard the cord on the flagpole snapping against the pole as the flag waved proudly in the wind.  WOW!  So much is going on around me….and I asked myself, “How often do you take the time to notice….how often do you take the time to stop and pay attention… often do you get so wrapped up in the busyness of life that you fail to really LISTEN to the world around you and the people whom God has placed in that world?”   Hmmm….very good question, and unfortunately, the answer these past several months has been, “Not enough.”  I need to do something about that.

 I said a quick prayer thanking God for the people in my life, the gift of new days and new beginnings, the refreshment of water and His grace and forgiveness that washes over me each day, the gift of the spirit that blows like a gentle breeze and refreshes my weary soul, and the freedom I enjoy because of those who risk their lives each day to protect our country and neighborhoods to keep me safe.  I am indeed blessed in many ways…..and yet….even though I try to recognize those blessings, I often fail to appreciate it. Thank you, God, for reminding me….just because I took five minutes to really LISTEN for your presence.

As tempting as it was to just sit there and relax, I had much work that needed to be done, so back to work I went. I still had some plants that needed to be put in, river rock to be spread, landscape stone to be moved, and mulch to load and spread. Because of my long nights at work this week and the pain and stiffness from the RA flare I’ve been fighting all week, it didn’t take me long to tire out. Typically I would have just quit when the pain got too uncomfortable, but I really wanted to get the front bed finished so I pressed on. I kept telling myself…just a little bit more and THEN you can take a break and float in the pool for little while.  

Earlier this week, I purchased some discounted lily bulbs and some very small starter perennials and I really needed to get them planted.  By the time I got to them, I was hot and really not feeling well, and each plant took increasingly more grit and energy to plant. At one point, I wanted to just quit and put them in the garage, honestly not even caring if they died or not. I just wanted to “be done.”  After all….why am I doing this?  I am sweating and my back in really hurting…and besides, these dumb things won’t even bloom for AT LEAST a year. I won’t even see results of my hard work this summer, so why don’t I just stop now, take some aspirin, and go in the pool. I had quit “having fun” about a half an hour ago.

 And then…..I moved further down the flowerbed and I noticed the buds that had developed this week on another plant…and suddenly, my spirit and will was revived. I had planted THAT plant last year, very likely feeling the same things as I did today, wondering why I was doing this when I could have just planted annuals for INSTANT results and color.  But now…. A year later, this plant was full of buds; and I was full of excitement and joy at the hope of a glorious display that will be evident in a week or so.  I said to myself, “So, Theresa…..that’s why you are pushing yourself today to get those silly bulbs and tiny little plants in…not for TODAY….but for the future!”  This moment would not have been possible without the hard work I put in LAST summer. What if I had quit planting when I got tired last year?

It didn’t take long for me to recognize the lesson God was teaching me today as I put those plants in the ground: PATIENCE….PERSERVERANCE….TRUST….HARD WORK….GRIT……all characteristics that are necessary for one on a life-long, life-changing journey.  I thought about Melinda…the group member that posted this week about her plateau.  I thought about all of you and those who have expressed the desire to quit and give up. I thought about how many times I wondered over the course of the past three years was “all the work, pain, frustration, sweat….etc.….” really going to be worth it….especially when it would take what seemed like forever to see any results. I thought about the fear that even though I put in the effort, pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, I could gain the weight back. I thought about so many things about our journey and realized that changing one’s life is just like planting bulbs or little tiny perennials.  All we can do is HOPE that if we put forth the effort….if we push ourselves when we want to quit….if we persevere when it gets hard and the temptation to give up is overwhelming…..if we continue on even when we know it will take weeks, months, perhaps even YEARS, to reach our goal or see the results we want…..then WE WILL be rewarded and we will BLOOM an BLOSSOM and GROW….and be a beautiful display of God’s grace and glory.

 And….if we really look hard enough….God will show us those ‘buds”….those signs of hope and promise and we will see that hard work and effort really does pay off.  Look for those things to encourage you to keep going. Rejoice in those moments when you get to move your belt over a notch or you can zip your jeans up without lying on the bed. Don’t give up my friends….keep believing in your miracle….keep looking for buds that are soon to blossom.  And….if you can…..take a few minutes to close your eyes and really LISTEN to those things around you.   Have a great Sunday!