Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Life passes quickly: Cherish the journey

Good Morning!  Is it REALLY the last day of September already?  Goodness, where is the time going? I suppose it’s true that time seems to pass quicker as one gets older; well, at least for some. I guess if you ask a lonely senior citizen, he/she will say that the days just seem to drag on. For me, however, it seems that days turn into weeks; weeks turn into months; and here I am, on the brink of yet another winter.  This is such a different reality than it used to be when it took every bit of energy just to get through each day and each day was filled with the same: sadness, pain, despair. For that, I’m incredibly grateful.

Because my days are very full now, I have had to change some of my thinking about time and priorities.  I’ve come to realize that each day is a gift and therefore, I don’t want to waste time doing things that are not meaningful or life-giving.  I’m also beginning to realize that the window of opportunity passes quickly, and I may not get another chance to do or say those things that I’d like to. 

The weather in northern Michigan this weekend was truly spectacular. The temps were in the mid-high 70’s with sunny skies; really just perfect for doing anything outdoors. I headed into the weekend with the typical “to-do” list that was about three times longer than the hours in the day. One of my main priorities was getting the pool drained and winterized. Less significant things included laundry, dishes, errands, and a whole lot of other chores that never seem to get done.  I woke up on Saturday, full of energy and determination to get busy. Such good intentions….Sigh…..

As I enjoyed my coffee and wrote my Saturday morning post, I watched as the sun began to rise and marveled at how its rays seemed to set the trees on fire in the back woods. The leaves here seem to be turning very quickly this year; likely due to the cold summer. The REDS are more vibrant this year than I’ve seen in many years. As I sat there watching the dawn turn into daylight, I began to think about all the things I “had” to do that day.  I also thought about how beautiful those trees were and how quickly the moment of opportunity to enjoy the display of God’s glory would pass; after all, many of the red leaves are falling already.  (The vibrant reds of the sugar maples are the first to turn; and often fall, well before the other species even turn color). And so the struggle in mind began: so much to do; so little time…..and such a gorgeous day and an opportunity to enjoy the beauty around me. I pondered my list…and looked outdoors. It took very little time for me to abandon my “to-do” list and make the impromptu decision that I was going to go for a mini-color tour ride!   The dishes will still be there when I get home; the laundry wasn’t going anywhere and I still have a dozen pair of clean underwear; the lawn furniture is perfectly fine for one more day in the garden; and besides, I’ll combine my mini road trip with the errands I need  to get done, so it’s a win-win, right?   I’m the Queen of Rationalization!

My spur-of-the-moment decision wasn’t met with the same enthusiasm though when I informed my friend that I was taking off for a few hours, with no specific destination in mind (although the brand new Salvation Army store in Houghton Lake was calling my name J). “But you’ve been telling me you have so much to do;  I thought we were closing the pool; the leaves aren’t even at peak yet, why would you want to go now; but….you said…..you’re always changing your mind”…and so forth, he began to lament. I explained that the red trees were magnificent and if I didn’t go for a ride this weekend, I would miss the window of opportunity because they would be gone before the official color “peak” in about 10 days or so.  He shook his head, but ultimately realized that my time is my own to manage, and I was going to do whatever I wanted anyway. And so, off I went!

As I drove the desolate highway north, I was overcome with the beauty. Autumn in the north truly is spectacular. About half of the trees are still green, but most of the reds are already at peak; exactly the reason I wanted to go then. By this coming weekend when I travel to a wedding on Lake Michigan and then north to Petoskey for a speaking engagement, the maples will be bare. I kept reflecting on my friend’s statement, “But it’s not peak yet; you should wait.”  Hmmm….. This whole situation reminds me so much about my journey.  How often we focus so much on the END…that we forget/fail to “ENJOY THE PROCESS.”  Sound familiar? 

So many times when we begin a life-changing journey, we develop the mindset that …. “When I reach goal….THEN….. I will be happy; THEN….. I will buy that little black dress; THEN……I will feel good about myself.”  We put all of our energy into “getting there” that we forget to enjoy the process; to celebrate the little victories; to rejoice in our progress……and THEN…….if we never reach our goal, we feel depressed, defeated, and like a failure.

  In our personal life, we put off  taking that trip UNTIL we retire or the kids are grown up, but sometimes unexpected illness or other life issues happen before we get to see that special “bucket-list” place. We may have always wanted to learn to paint or dance and ‘one of these days’ we will take that class….but something always gets in the way and before we know it, we’re suffering with arthritis or otherwise “too old” in our minds to learn something new.  Sometimes, we save the good dishes, that special dress, bottle of wine, or other treat UNTIL we have something to celebrate.  When my Grandma Maszatics died many years ago, we found several brand new nightgowns in her dresser that she never even worn because she was saving them, and yet she often had tattered ones that were mended multiple times.  In my “Old Theresa” days, I often received fancy, expensive chocolates as a gift from the school children; I can’t even count how many times those candies turned white or spoiled….just because… I was saving them for…..for WHAT?   Kids grow up very quickly; loved ones age….and die, before we are ready to let them go; days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months and we can’t do a thing about it; ……..and LEAVES change color and fall to the ground whether we have our “to-do list” completed or now.  I’m SO GLAD that I took that drive Saturday and another one on Sunday, because it’s raining now and the ground is covered with red leaves that have fallen in yesterday’s wind. 

And so, my friends…. I encourage you to think about your journey….and ask yourself, “Are you enjoying the process of “Getting there” or are you so focused on reaching your goal that you forget to celebrate the journey and miss out on an opportunity to rejoice in each little victory?”  Once you reach your goal, trust me, it becomes even more difficult, because you don’t have those little moments of joy like putting on a pair of pants and discovering that they zip!  You don’t get that thrill of someone saying, “Wow…you look AMAZING.”  You don’t get the excitement of taking a bag of clothes to charity that are now ‘too big’ to wear.  You don’t get the same “Happy Dance feeling” when the scale reflects yet another loss; rather you rejoice when the scale DOESN’T MOVE in the other direction.   THIS is the time to rejoice; NOW is the time to celebrate:  TODAY is the time to be happy in your progress, no matter how small it appears.  Enjoy those moments; Celebrate that you are a Work in Progress; Be energized that you are changing your life…..and mostly, BE GRATEFUL for the opportunities you are given each day to be a better, kinder, more peaceful, and loving soul.  Certainly you will rejoice when you reach your goal, but you are given opportunities each day to rejoice NOW, regardless of where you are on your journey.
Life is so short. Kids grow up. People grow old. Summer days pass quickly….but dishes will still be there later today; laundry won’t go away on its own; the junk drawer will still be “junky” next weekend….but you may not get the chance to visit that grandparent; jump in the pile of leaves with the kids; take a walk in the woods; or laugh with an old friend. 

I did end up getting the pool put away; and managed to do the dishes and start on the laundry, but  there are still many things on the list to do, but SO WHAT?  There will ALWAYS be things to do.  I’m so grateful that I took that drive, enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my face, barbequed for likely the last time for the summer, and made a phone call to one of our group members.  Ironically, even my friend, decided to take me on yet another color-tour drive on Sunday afternoon to the lake!  The leaves are certainly more spectacular on the trees than they are right now, blowing across the backyard! 

Cherish the day….be kind to yourself and others….and make decisions today that will improve the quality of your life and those around you! 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Keep on track this weekend

I love the weekends, but I must admit, it takes a lot more effort to keep on track when I'm not in the routine of getting up and going to work. On a typical work-day, I would have already taken my 2-mile walk by now. At the moment, I'm drinking coffee in my pajamas with no desire at all to move. I'm sure I’ll walk later because it's supposed to be a beautiful day, but still, weekends are a challenge because of social situations and other temptations.

 During the summer months, my extended family is up north here many weekends, and I'm surrounded by big breakfasts' and BBQ dinners.  I often have social events on the weekends that require me to eat away from home. Next weekend I'll be traveling to a wedding and will be away from home for several meals; another challenge that I need to plan ahead for. Yes, it takes more effort...but it can be done. I'm three years into my journey and have yet to succumb to a way-overboard...."I wish I hadn't eaten that"....an "Oh my goodness, I totally blew it" type of meal.  YES....it's hard....but it CAN BE DONE!  It all comes down to choice.  Ask yourself……..What do you want more:  that burger and fries....or freedom and victory?

Although I've not yet given in to that cheeseburger and fries, I certainly have had weekends when all I wanted to do is munch. Certainly, the protein bars can be an issue, because out of boredom, I often reached for a protein or fiber bar, telling myself that it was an "okay...on plan type of food," but not being mindful that they still have calories...and often a couple hundred of them!  One of my biggest struggles then...and now....is with portion size and I have to remind myself that just because the food is "on plan or good for me" doesn't mean I can eat all I want of it. I am a food addict.  Although some foods metabolize differently and are better for you, calories are still calories....and if/when I eat for any other reason than to fuel my body, there are going to be consequences.

One of the ways I survived Saturdays in the early days of my journey involved clothes. As you know, I am a thrift-store and garage-sale shopper. I have to be because I love clothes and shoes and am not in a financial position to buy new things.  I also am well aware that I have way more shoes and dresses than I need, but I can justify it because I get them for a couple of bucks a piece. (Same principle I need to address with food….just because it’s lower in calories…(lower price or from a garage sale) doesn’t mean I can…or should…have or buy more than I need. Take comfort, my friends….that just because I have lost 270+ pounds doesn’t mean I have it all together…Sigh….. I am a work in progress.)  With that being said, however, thrift store shopping became a way of life primarily because I was losing weight so fast that I often out-grew clothing every 4-5 weeks. I dropped 14 jean sizes (from a 40W …not waist size but actually woman’s size 40 to a size 12) so it was really kind of silly to pay full-price.  But I digress….

What I did to keep motivated on the weekends was to try on clothes.  About once every 6 weeks, I would go to a thrift store (my favorite was 55 miles away one way) and I would purchase an entire cart of clothing. It would take me about 1-1/2 hours to shop and I often got things on the 5 for $5.00 days.  I had to eventually replace my entire wardrobe during this journey; actually more than once. Even shoes, boots, necklaces and bracelets were too big. Belts, bathrobes, pajamas…EVERYTHING…eventually became too big and needed to be replaced.

 I was/am very particular about what I purchased; looking for items in my current size…but also one size smaller.  I never had to worry about trying things on…THEN….because I knew that I was going to eventually fit into them, even if they were too small when I brought the items home. It was an all-day thing on Saturday to travel to the store…shop…then come home and try everything on and finally, launder the items that fit and put them away. The ‘too-small” things went into a bin in the spare room.

It was motivating for me to wear the new outfits to work the following week. It felt good to be wearing styles and brands that were ‘foreign” to me and that I never dreamed I’d be able to wear. Skinny jeans….and/or red tights……REALLY????    There was a time when I was 400+ pounds when all I dreamed about was losing enough weight to wear a size 32W or 5X….the largest size sold in the plus size mall stores like THE AVENUE or LANE BRYANT….instead of having to purchase tent-like clothing from a catalog. Putting things together and trying new styles made me feel good about myself…which in turn made me want to work even harder…although it was kind of bittersweet when I outgrew some pretty rocking outfits. 

The clothing that was too small was also motivating.  Every few Saturdays when I was bored (rainy or winter weather especially)…and wanted to eat, I would move that bin to the living room and would try on those clothes. It was empowering to discover that something that didn’t fit 3 weeks ago now zips! You go, girl!  Are you really wearing a 3X….or size 24…..and so it went. Month-by-month the sizes were getting smaller; the clothes were getting cuter; and I was gaining more and more motivation and confidence. If an item was still too small, I worked even harder and tried again a few weeks later.  It really helped fill up those long, Saturday afternoons…but I eventually leveled off….and am currently wearing the same size that I was in 18 months ago….but that’s a good thing, both physically and financially. Sure, I’d like to lose 20 more pounds eventually….but I’m not concerned about that right now. I’m focused now on maintaining the weight loss and gaining strength and muscle.  But…with that being said…my weekend motivation tool no longer involves trying on clothes….but it does include garage saling, gardening, blogging, speaking, little day-trips, errands, etc…  BUT…..after writing this post…..I’m really thinking I need to leave my “to-do-list” today aside and visit the new Salvation Army store in Houghton Lake though…..SIGH…..

What works for you? What keeps you focused on the weekend?  How do you stay on track?  

Friday, September 26, 2014

It's Not easy...but still possible

Hi everyone!  It’s FRIDAY! I’m certainly happy about that. It’s been a good, but very long, 10 days or so. I think I did 5 speaking engagements in the past 10 days. I love sharing my story, but am very glad to have a weekend to get some things done around here. My pool is still up and full of VERY COLD water so closing the pool is on the top of the ‘to-do” list for the weekend, as well as beginning the process of preparing the yard and gardens for winter, which in northern Michigan could happen any time. I remember the year I moved up here: it snowed on October 1st! It’s supposed to be in the 70’s and sunny this weekend, though, so I’m cherishing every moment.  The trees are changing very quickly as well and the woods is beginning to glow with glorious color. I’m anticipating that I will be outside a good portion of the weekend. I hope you get a chance to get out and enjoy the world around you.

This might not be relevant to those of you that live in the more temperate climates, but for me, living in the north can present a challenge in my weight loss journey. I have to work extra hard to combat the physical cold and darkness. The amount of daylight is rapidly diminishing and I’m now beginning my morning walk in nearly total darkness, using only a flashlight and the occasional light from a nearby porch light to guide my steps. It’s also commonplace now to see my breath as I walk.  Before long it will be dark when I drive to work and dark when I return home. This seriously impacts my opportunities for physical activity outside but there is absolutely nothing I can do about the changing of the seasons.  I do have, however, a choice in how I deal with it. Right?

I could simply say to myself, “Well, it’s dark. I guess that means that I have to quit walking and riding my bike for about 5-6 months.  Everyone gains a few pounds over the winter; it’s to be expected because I can’t get out and do things.  Don’t worry, Theresa, you’ll get back on track after the holidays...people don’t really stay on track during November and December……and a whole list of other “lies”…..   OR…….I can make a plan NOW so that when the snow falls, I’ll have no excuses. 

What are my options?  Well, I need to look for other ways to incorporate activity into my day.  I’m fortunate in many ways: I work at a college with long hallways.  I can bring my sneakers to work and walk the hallways, either in the early hours before work or after.  I could visit the fitness center on campus and spend some time on the treadmill.  I could go to the hotel in town and pay $5.00 a visit to use the indoor pool and do some swimming or water aerobics. I could shovel snow or build a snowman. I could dance in the living room or walk the malls. I could spend more time lifting light weights.  I could make sure to keep healthy snack options on hand so that when it’s cold and dark and I’m stuck in the house and tempted to eat to fill the boredom while watching a TV show or reading, I’ll have no excuse to make a poor choice.  I honestly don’t like ANY of those options….but…. I like being mobile, feeling better, looking better, and sharing my story….so I’ll do what I need to do to stay focused.

None of these options come easy to me and I can make excuses about why I don’t want to, or can’t do, any of them.  Without a doubt, it’s a lot more challenging to stay on track in the fall/winter months. It takes more effort to travel the 20+ miles each way to go to the pool or mall, not to mention the expense. It’s a pain to bring tennis shoes or work-out clothes to work and dodge students in the hallway. It’s hard to find decent fruit and vegetables during the “off-season” and be forced to pay a higher cost. It’s harder to prepare meals indoors in a healthy way when the grill is put away for the season.  It will be tempting to see Halloween candy on all my co-workers desks for the next month and to walk away from the smell of apple crisp, cider, or caramel apples. It will take effort to plan for holiday gatherings, to avoid fast-food temptation when busy with holiday shopping, and avoid the cookies and treats that I will still need to make for those in my life who do not struggle with weight.  YES…..the ending of summer is the beginning of season of challenges.  HARD???? You bet!  Impossible….NO WAY! 

Each day, I will remind myself of what I truly want….to continue to WALK without the use of a mobility device.  Each day… I will pray for strength to continue on the journey.  Each day, I will be grateful that I have choices and opportunities….even if I don’t like my options or they are harder. Each day, I will plan to succeed, rather than make excuses.  If I falter or give in to temptation; if I become lazy and fail to get the activity I need, I will forgive myself and start again, not let it ruin my whole day or sabotage my journey.  If I plateau or even gain a couple of pounds, I will recognize that the number of the scale merely reflects my weight, not my worth, and will use that to work harder.  Yes, it’s hard….but it’s not impossible to stay on track and continue the journey….It’s a choice…and any extra effort needed is SO WORTH IT. 

Today… I encourage you to get out and enjoy as much of the remaining season as you can, and start making plans now to succeed in the coming days.  You can do it… I can do it…. It’s just a bit more challenging.   Enjoy your weekend….and do what you can today to make it a GOOD DAY….not only for yourself…but for someone around you!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What are you waiting for?

Good Morning! I just glanced down at the camera on my computer and noticed that it is already September 25th. Goodness, time just seems to pass so quickly these days. That wasn’t always the case. In my former state of existence, the days just seemed to drag on and on, primarily because life was the same thing day-in-day out.  I’d wake up as exhausted as I went to bed; take potent pain medicine in the hopes that it would take the edge off and help my body to stop hurting enough to get dressed for work; eat a 1500 calorie or more breakfast; go to work; come home; eat and go to bed. One day turned into the next and each one was basically filled with the same: pain, sadness, food, more pain, sadness, food.  Life was really the pits….and yet…. I hid it well; even my colleagues and loved ones never really knew the reality.

My life is very different these days. I’m still an early riser, but now I get up a couple of hours earlier that before, and my mornings are not spent sitting in the darkness trying to muster the strength to move, but rather, I rise now to think, reflect, write, answer e-mail, blog, do some household things, walk, ride my bike, pull weeds, (have I mentioned that I hate that it’s DARK until nearly time to leave for work?) and a whole lot of other stuff. Evenings and weekends are much different as well. Today after work, I’ll be sharing my story with a community group at the local hospital. A few years ago I would have been lying in my bed with a bag of potato chips and a 2-liter bottle of soda, praying that I wouldn’t die during the night because no one would find me for a few days. My life is very busy now…but I am so incredibly blessed and grateful beyond words.

None of these changes in my life would have happened had I not made that decision that I no longer wanted to live in my previous existence. Part of me never really imagined that life COULD be different, and therefore, I kept denying any responsibility I had in my situation. It was easier that way. As difficult as it was to function, it was still easier to just accept that it was “just the way it is” than to take the steps necessary to change.  And so….I kept putting it off. I could come up with every excuse in the book, especially regarding TIME. Conversations in my head went something like this:  “Well, yeah, I guess I should maybe try to lose weight. Maybe I will give it a try, even though it will be IMPOSSIBLE without some miracle pill or surgery, but I guess I could try….but not now…Halloween is coming up and I’ll just blow it anyway with all the candy everywhere. I’ll wait until after then…but oh, then it will be Thanksgiving and Christmas… I’ll wait until the first of the year.”  The New Year would come and go and I’d have to wait to finish all the Christmas cookies and goodies that had accumulated. After all, it would be a sin to waste them.  Oh wait, is the Valentine’s candy out already? And so forth.  Day after day would come and go; excuse after excuse; month after month; and I was getting heavier and heavier. 

Perhaps you are in this situation right now. You’re reading this and thinking, “Yes, I really do want to change my life. I want to feel better. I want to quit smoking or drinking. I want to lose weight or quit being so angry, bitter, negative, or just plain old miserable. Yeah, one of these days, I’ll start….but….not now, it’s almost Halloween; not now, I’m so busy at work or just started a college class; not now, I’m not feeling so well (or I’m caring for someone else); not now….I’m…….”   I’ve been there, my friends. I’ve used the same excuses and rationalizations, and look where it got me? 

Today… is the PERFECT DAY….to begin your journey.  Today….is the perfect day to renew your commitment to your current journey.  Many of us will be celebrating Christmas three months from today.  Do you realize that if you began your journey today that you could very likely lose 10 pounds by then?  You could be 3 months sober or smoke-free. You could be feeling stronger, breathing easier, more peaceful, joyful, and feeling better about yourself. But only….if you start today….or continue today with the plan you’re following.  Don’t put it off. Don’t wait until tomorrow or next week or Halloween or the New Year. Today is your day.

Remember, the state of your life is only partly the result of your circumstances and the things that happen “to you.”  Change what you can; cope with what you can’t the best way you can.  I know you can do it!!! 

Have a wonderful day!!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Don't drown in defeat....it's a brand new day!!!

Good Morning..... How are you doing this week?  Staying on track?  Making progress?  Today is a new day....a new opportunity to do a bit better....speak a little sweeter......act a little kinder......walk a little further.....and certainly, eat a little wiser.

Don't fret about yesterday. It's already gone.  I love the quote on this clip. You don't drown from falling into water; you drown from staying in over your head.  So what...you had an 'off ' day; you didn't do quite as well as you wanted to; you gave in to temptation....It's over; it's done; the candy bar is gone (if it's not, GET RID OF IT RIGHT NOW!!!).  Don't drown in would have; could have; should have's....Today is another day.  Stay strong...Get out of that place of 'defeat' in your mind.....lift yourself out of the deep waters of despair, failure, depression, and doubt.  You can do it!!!!

Make choices today that will make you feel like a winner.....not ones that will make you feel like you are drowning!   I'll be thinking of you!

Monday, September 22, 2014

YES...I am a miracle!

Good Morning Friends!  I often refer to myself as a walking-talking miracle. I believe this whole-heartedly, but am often asked about my thoughts on this. Do I really think that it’s a miracle that I lost weight?  Do I really think that God made me lose weight?  Did I pray to lose weight?  Questions like this are commonplace. The answers, however, are a bit more complicated….and basically are YES…and NO.

Yes, I believe that I am a walking-talking miracle, because I can’t really explain how I lost 270+ pounds in 2 years without surgery, diet pills, or some crazy fad diet. It’s only by the Grace of God…but at the same time, I didn’t just wake up ‘thinner.”  People often think of a miracle as something that ‘just happens” without explanation….like the parting of the Red Sea in the Old Testament, or the healing of the blind man or various other accounts in the Gospels.  God didn’t just go “poof” and all of a sudden I was a size 12.  My miracle….or my perception of the miracle….happened in my MIND and HEART….but that in turn, manifested itself in my body. 

When I share my story, I often speak of my Grandma Borawski, and I tell the story of her death and funeral. In my heart, I sincerely believe that my miracle began at her funeral…first during a conversation at the funeral home and then later during  the liturgy itself, when out of nowhere…on a cloudy winter day….a big, bright beam of sunlight appeared and shone directly through the new St. Theresa stained glass window in the church (ironically the very church in which I served as Faith Formation Director for over 15 years…and taught Religious Ed for many years prior to that....before losing my job ……the beginning of a downward spiral for me) That beam of light…came out of a winter sky and shined directly on me, sitting there in the pew, while others around me were standing up. I was unable to stand for more than a minute or two.  About a half hour prior to that moment I proclaimed emphatically that “ I’ll tell you what I’m going to do…I’m going to WALK Again” when asked, “so what are you going to do now, Miss Borawski…now that Grandma’s gone……who’s going to pray for you now?” 

Every time I reflect on this journey, I am overcome with complete gratitude…to my cousin for asking me such a question….for igniting a fire within….both anger and determination…..and for setting a miracle in motion.  I remember that moment….when I emphatically proclaimed that “You just watch…just imagine what’s going to happen in my life now that Grandma is in heaven. If she prayed or me every day on earth, what do you think is going to happen now that she is in heaven?”  Of course, I had NO IDEA what would happen…after all, there I sat…in a bariatric walker, weighing over 400 pounds, and unable to walk more than a few steps on my own.  What’s going to happen???? How can God possibly turn this around, I wondered, and yet, out of nowhere, I proclaim, “I’m going to walk again!” 

God must have sensed my doubt because it was only a short time later…at the church….when I was bathed in that sunbeam….that manifestation of God’s presence and power.  Ironically, it was so noticeable that my cousins and other family members began to tease me about being “the highly favored granddaughter.”  I just smiled, and knew that it was a message from God.  And so began the MIRACLE. 

Over the course of the next several weeks, there were many incidents that led up to the beginning of this journey. You can read about them on multiple sites and in various interviews. Just google my name of visit my website www.theresaborawski.net  if you want to hear about the specifics.  That moment….and the conversations and experiences that happened in the 40 days following Grandma’s funeral were the beginning of the miracle. The very fact that something happened in my MIND…that I even BEGAN this journey….is a miracle.  I had not tried to lose weight in a decade or longer. I had no DESIRE to lose weight. I had no INTENTION of trying. I simply DID NOT CARE….about my life….about my health…about anything…honestly, even whether I lived or died.  I was simply existing and wallowing in my misery. 

The moment when “something just clicked”….when God replaced despair with hope; doubt with conviction; hopelessness with determination; and pain, both emotional and physical with joy is the miracle.  The rest just simply fell into place.  Great things happen when you BELIEVE that they are going to…when you BELIEVE that GOD is with you….when you BELIEVE that you will succeed.  You begin to think differently….you begin to act differently…..you begin to eat differently…..because you BELIEVE that you are going to be successful.  I knew….that God was with me….every step of the way….every meal….every temptation….every time I wanted to give up or quit…..every time doubt crept in…. I KNEW and BELIEVED that I was given a miracle….even when it didn’t appear that way to others…..and therefore, I better act like it!  When I prayed, I didn’t pray to lose weight; I gave THANKS that it was happening. I didn’t pray to stick to my diet; I prayed that God would remove the DESIRE from me to eat those things which were not healthy or nourishing to my body. I didn’t pray that my pants would zip; I prayed and thanked God for the strength to continue on the journey and that I would recognize the ways He was there with me.  I still pray that way…because I still believe that I am a miracle….and I still recognize that I can only do this by the grace of God.

So, my friends…..when you ask me to pray for you…. I will….but I’m not going to pray that you lose weight or give up some addictive behavior or habit. I will pray that your thoughts will change and that you will recognize that YOU TOO are a miracle. There isn’t anything special about me….there isn’t anything unique… I’m just like you, and certainly….undoubtedly…..God can and will help you change your life as well.  Will He snap his fingers and make you wake up half your size?  Perhaps….for He is capable of all things….but unlikely. Will He cause you to drop your ice cream cone on the sidewalk or that bag of chips to be stale?  Maybe, but I wouldn’t push it. He will, however, help you change how you see the world. He will help you be grateful for the blessings in your life. He will, however, help you see things with new eyes….and he will…never, ever leave you!  Knowing those things….and believing those things that He will do/has done….will cause you to behave differently….to want to eat differently….to walk around confidently that YOU’VE GOT THIS!!!! 

I’ve said this so many times…and I sincerely believe this… God CAN and will help you move mountains…..but you have to pick up the shovel….and cooperate!  YES, I am a walking-talking miracle…..but SO ARE YOU!    Make today a wonderful day!  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A lesson from a little watermelon

 Good morning….I hope everyone is having a peaceful weekend so far. It’s pouring down rain here in northern Michigan, but it’s warm enough to have the window open so I can hear the thunder rolling through the trees and the sound of the rain coming down. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get  my walk in before church, but nonetheless….in spite of the weather, I’m going to make it a great day.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking at the TOPS Fall rally in Gladwin, Michigan. What a great group of people! Some of those present have heard me speak four or five times, so I was a bit at a loss in terms of what to share with them, but still, it was wonderful to be given yet another opportunity to share my miracle, and hopefully, just hopefully, I was able to give others there hope that they, too, can change their situation; or at least change how they LOOK at things.

I’ve said it multiple times, but honestly, even more than changing my eating habits or increasing my activity, I think the key to my weight loss was changing the way I think about things. That’s certainly not something I did on my own; but rather, I allowed God to change me from the inside out. Losing weight, giving up a habit, becoming a better person, growing stronger, overcoming grief, illness, temptation, depression, going to school…..even dealing with difficult people…..WHATEVER it is that you struggle with or want to improve is not something you can do on your own. For me…it’s my faith and belief that a power outside of me is in control, but I know that not everyone believes that way. For many, it’s the support of friends, family, or groups like TOPS, Weight Watchers, AA, or others. Hopefully, you find support and encouragement here…and through the sharing of my thoughts and the support of each other….you are beginning to look at things differently too.

Yesterday I shared the story about my watermelon.  By now, you all pretty much know that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE watermelon! It’s my new ‘drug of choice” if you will, replacing a bag of chips with M&M’s mixed in. I’m enjoying as much watermelon as I can now as the season quickly winds down. Soon, apples will be harvested...and I’ll be eating them instead. Last winter, after trying several times to get a decent watermelon….but without success…I decided that I was going to grow my own watermelon this year! Why not, I thought…if someone else can do it, certainly I could. Right? At least I could try.    Of course I doubted that I could at first, made up all kinds of excuses about how I knew nothing about growing them; that I didn’t have room for the big vines; that the animals would eat them; that it was too cold….etc. (you name it, I came up with all the reasons why I couldn’t possibly do this, and nearly talked myself out of it multiple times. 

After yet another bad watermelon (what did it expect, it WAS February and that watermelon probably came from South America or someplace far away), I finally made up my mind that I would try….and I would succeed. I researched and read all about watermelon. I watched YouTube videos. I told myself how wonderful it would be to go to my backyard next August and pick my very own home-grown watermelon. I thought about it; planned it; and couldn’t wait until the snow was gone so I could get at it! I was excited….about the possibility of a silly little watermelon plant. When spring came, I got ready. I found the container; I scouted the location; I had my friend take me to the community recycling place to haul compost; I picked out what I thought was the perfect plant and got it in the ground. I was determined…I was excited….I was hopeful. 

I knew it was going to take a very long time for that plant to produce a watermelon, but every day, multiple times a day, I would go out there to look for progress….any kind of progress. I chuckle now to think about it. Did I really think it would grow a couple of inches in 6 hours?  I watered it every day. I pulled any weeds that grew around it. I checked for bugs. I was invested in this silly little plant and I was so determined.  After the first couple of weeks, I realized that this was going to take a very long time and I grew weary of checking it 3 or 4 times a day, and I resorted to once a day or every other day. After weeks of no progress…and losing hope, I saw a flower…then another and another! Oh yeah… I’ve got this.  Such joy in a little, tiny flower.  A couple of days later, I saw it: one, tiny, little watermelon no bigger than the size of a pencil eraser. I was elated. YES, I’ve got this! I’m growing my very own watermelon!  As crazy as it sounds, I was just so excited. YES…YES…YES!!!

Weeks have now passed and I now have 8 watermelon on the vine. At first, I was so excited because the progress was quick and the vine seemed to grow 3 inches every couple of days but after all while, the vine quit growing. All the energy was going into producing that fruit, but then it seemed to come to standstill. How long is this going to take?  Geez…it seems lie for…..ev……er.   Patience, Theresa, patience. Days have turned into weeks and I quit going out there EVERY SINGLE DAY just to see that it was barely growing, and yet, I know it was. It just takes a long time. The excitement ebbed and flowed. Sometimes I had to force myself to water the plant in the early hours before work or late at night when I came home. It was so much easier to stay excited and motivated when I was seeing visible growth. It was becoming work now, and yet, I was committed and I was seeing progress….just VERY SLOW PROGRESS.

Well, yesterday, I took a look at my watermelon plant on the way to the Rally. The season is quickly coming to an end and we had frost in the forecast earlier this week. I’ve been buying watermelon grown here in Michigan for weeks at the farm market but I have yet to harvest one of my own. Yesterday, however, I actually picked one of my prize melons.  It is a whopping 3 inches in diameter!!! Not exactly what I was hoping for. In fact, a failure in the eyes of many, but not for me.  For me, it is one of the many ways that God speaks to me about my journey….a lesson and a confirmation that HOW I THINK about things is key to my success.   Let me explain….and see if it speaks to you as well.
Have you ever been here????
You want to lose weight more than anything. You look around and see you others who have done so and you are jealous. You dream about doing it yourself but you don’t think you could possibly do it. So you try to talk yourself out of it. You come up with every excuse in the book about why you can’t. It’s too hard; you don’t know how; you’ve failed before; you don’t’ have the tools or equipment; it will take too long….and a whole lot more where those came from.  For months you think about it…you go back and forth in your mind….and finally, you decide that YES, you are going to do it!  But how? You don’t know how. So you research it. You read about various diets. You talk to others. You read magazines and watch inspirational videos. You join a support group.  You made up your mind…and you know that you will succeed. You are excited; motivated; and determined and are just waiting to start (maybe the new year…maybe after vacation…maybe TODAY….just like me waiting for the snow to melt so I can plant my watermelon).

In the beginning, you do everything you’re supposed to. You follow the plan. You’re faithful in your exercise. You talk about it and are hopeful. You weigh yourself several times a day…just to SEE…..(you really aren’t going to lose 2 pounds in 6 hours any more than my watermelon plant was going to grow 3 inches in  that time). Every day you check and you can’t wait to see progress. You put so much energy and effort into your plan…..but soon you grow weary because it seems like it is taking SOOOOOO LONG. Are you ever going to get to that 10 pound mark?  You want to succeed so you keep at it whether you want to or not...and then….when you least expect it….you see progress. You lose 2 or 3 pounds that week. Your watermelon grows a flower…and then a tiny little melon. So now you are even more determined. You’re actually going to do this this time! Days turn into weeks, and you begin to grow weary and so now, instead of weighing yourself every day, a few days or even a week passes. Things have slowed down; perhaps you’ve hit a plateau and you are about to give up on it….but then….wait, you’ve lost another pound or two. I think my watermelon is growing…and look, there’s another and another on the vine!  YES! YES! YES!  And so you become even more determined.  And so it goes….ebbs and flows...the scale goes up and down…and days have now become months…and the summer is over.  You had hoped to lose 15 or 20 pounds by now….but you’ve only lost 10. You’re happy, but feel somewhat defeated because you expected more. You wanted more….and you feel somewhat life a failure.

Take a look at that picture of me holding my watermelon.  I was NOT successful in the eyes of most gardeners because my watermelon is only a couple of inches in size and certainly not edible. For all practical purposes, I failed, in spite of my efforts and determination. But did I, really….fail?   Hmmm….. it’s all about how I THINK about it.  Certainly I failed to grow an edible piece of fruit, but as I drove to the rally yesterday, I  kept thinking about how much I enjoyed the process; how much I learned; how excited I was to see progress….any progress.  Like all things… I have a choice in how I react.  I could look at that watermelon and see defeat….or I could look at it and see JOY…..and lessons….and an opportunity to do better next year. I could remember how excited and how much enjoyment I got from watching it grow. I could remember the hope and the possibility….or I could dwell on the fact that the outcome wasn’t what I was expecting.  Today…. I choose victory! I choose to be grateful….and still somewhat hopeful for the others on the vine, even though the growing season is now very short.  I choose JOY over sadness.

Next year I will try things a bit different. I will plant in a new location. I will try another variety; one that germinates more quickly for my short growing season. I will give it more space and nutrients…..and maybe, just maybe, I will get a watermelon I could actually eat.  But still…. I enjoyed the journey. I did not fail; I just got a different result than I hoped for….and besides, I still have 7 other watermelon on the vine and who knows…maybe they will double or triple in size in the next two weeks. Maybe not.  In the meantime, I will spray paint my little watermelon orange and put it on my desk and use it as a pumpkin….and a reminder that God turns even our PERCEIVED failures into success! It’s all about how I choose to look at things!

Today… I encourage you to think about your own journey.  If you have tried and tried and have not gotten the results you have hoped for….don’t feel discouraged. Don’t give up.  Progress is progress…even if it’s slow; even if you’ve not met the goal you set for yourself; even if you’ve hit a plateau.  Are you enjoying the journey?  Rejoice when you see progress….not matter how small. Celebrate each little victory….not matter how small. I did the happy dance when I saw a flower on that silly watermelon plant. Celebrate that you can zip your pants or that you made it through your vacation without gaining 5 pounds.  Whatever you do, don’t give up. Try something different. Mix up your exercise routine or add some weights. Don’t be discouraged if things didn’t go as you had hoped, but rather, be grateful for how far you’ve come and think about what you might have learned so far.  Next year, I’ll be trying again….and will be successful….even if I don’t actually get to eat my success.

Make it a great day today…it’s all about how you THINK. Think of yourself as a winner…..even if you only have a 3 inch watermelon to show as your trophy! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Don't give up on yourself!

God will NEVER give up on you.... I will NEVER give up on you.....Don't you dare give up on yourself. YES.....you can DO IT! You are stronger than you know. Just keep believing and taking little steps. You've got this! I hope you have a Wonderful day!   

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

let it roll off your back

Hi everyone….it’s a brand new day!  Most of you know that I teach a class at the college for first-time, at-risk students about how to navigate college and be a successful student. Yesterday, one of my students, a lovely lady in her mid 20’s (maybe older) , told the class that she was nervous about doing her speech because of the “giggling high-school girls” who sit in the back of the class laughing and making fun of the other students. I was surprised to hear this…and said, “Really….seriously?”  I expect this kind of childish behavior in elementary and high-school, but I guess I never expected to hear about it at the college. It made me so sad….and yet, I guess it’s very real. Others in my class agreed with her and shared similar stories.  I did my best to encourage my students and inspire confidence in them, but I don’t know how successful I was in convincing her that the opinions and immaturity of others did not define her worth. 

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a young lady… (I think perhaps junior high) who was overweight. We talked about how hard it is to be the biggest kid (or close to the biggest) in the class, or worse, the school. It’s hurtful and very painful.  I know her pain all too well, and I’m guessing that some of you do as well. Sometimes people can be so incredibly cruel to each other….and I just always want to ask, WHY?  Are they so insecure that they need to put someone else down in order to feel better about themselves?  Have they been taught those prejudices by those around them? Why do we think that it’s okay to tease, hurt, alienate, or otherwise mistreat those who look, think, or behave different than us?  I just don’t know…but it makes me sad because “I’ve been there; done that” and it just led to more problems.

Does this sound familiar?  Someone says something cruel to you about your weight (or other issue). You feel left out, ugly, or hurt….and so you eat ice-cream or a bag of chips….you feel better for a little while but gain more weight….you feel worse for gaining weight….so you eat something else.  In the meantime, someone says, “see, I knew you wouldn’t stick to your diet”…..you feel defeated and have a hot fudge sundae (or a drink or cigarette or whatever)….and then you feel horrible for giving in and being weak…..SIGH…..the horrible cycle of emotional reaction.  It is so hard to come to the realization that our self-worth and value as a person HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with our weight…..and yet…. If our weight is out of control, we feel bad about ourselves. 

I lived that life for many years but eventually got to the point where I didn’t really care anymore what people thought about me. Of course, I always didn’t care about myself either; otherwise, I would have never allowed myself to get to 400+ pounds.  It was only then, however, that I was able to begin this journey….and stick with it because I was doing this FOR ME….not for anyone else; not so that someone might like me better; not because someone was embarrassed or thought I was fat…but because I wanted to change my life for ME. It was (and is and will always be) a process for sure, and it took a long time to get there mentally, but once I began to tell myself that I was a good person regardless of the scale, I began to WANT to feel better; to look better; to treat my body better. I was making better choices for ME; not for anyone else.  After so many years of worrying about and trying to take care of everyone else……and just living in survival mode myself….it finally clicked in my head that “I’m worth the effort….it’s time to think about THERESA….to do something for THERESA….to treat THERESA better, otherwise Theresa wasn’t going to live very much longer.”  It wasn’t easy to get to that place in my head, because I felt ‘selfish” for taking time to focus on my own needs…for spending extra money on produce (gosh, fruit and vegetables cost a fortune compared to junk food)….for spending time doing things that I  needed….or just simply wanted….. to do; to pray and reflect; to take a drive; to rest or think or just be alone with my thoughts.

Those of you with families to care for may experience the guilt. “There’s so much to do….laundry, homework, lunches to pack……I feel really bad for wanting to go to the gym or take that Zumba class.” “You never make dessert or cookies for us anymore, mom.” “Why do you have to go that Weight Watchers meeting or TOPS tonight… you look fine to me.”  “But I like you chunky….(really means… I don’t want anyone else giving you attention).   Ever been THERE or heard those…or other similar words?

So.....how did I get beyond that? How did I convince myself that I could do this?  I talked to myself!  I told myself , “I’m gonna show them!” “Oh really? You think I can’t do this….Just watch me” and “God is bigger than this.” I repeated scriptures in my head, “Greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world” and “I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.”  I made up little prayer chants that I said/say over and over (I’ve shared these often, but they are so powerful to me)…. “Thank you, Lord; Thank you, Lord; You have set me free….TY Lord; TY Lord…for this victory”  and “God you are so wonderful; God you are so great; God you are so marvelous… I am losing weight!”  There are so many others.  I put little quotes and notes on the refrigerator or mirror. I played Alicia Key’s song, “This girl is on fire” over and over again as I danced in my living room….all by myself.  I celebrated little victories…10 pounds or reaching small goals.  I wrote…and wrote…and wrote, and gave myself pep talks through my blogs and posts…..and you listened and responded and encouraged me. I drew strength from people that loved me at 400 pounds….and that would love me equally at 200 pounds. I prayed for strength; I thanked God for grace; I only weighed myself once a week; I didn’t worry about getting to the goal because I knew that there is NO END to this journey. I will NEVER be finished or be able to go back to eating the way I did before.

Today…I encourage you to let the words of the naysayers roll off your back. Forget about those who make you feel bad about your size, addiction, or physical appearance. Forgive those who have hurt you; teased you; made fun of you or otherwise hindered your journey.  This is about YOU… about YOU feeling empowered….and YOU believing that you can change your life…and about YOU doing it!!!  You’ve got this!!!!  You can do it!  Just don’t give up trying! 

Have a wonderful day today!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I CAN....but I choose NOT to!

Good morning everyone!  Other than the grammatical error in the text, I love the quote on that clip, “I can eat this….but I choose NOT to.” The principle behind those words is one that has really helped me on this journey….not just in losing weight, but in the real goal of becoming a better person. I sincerely believe that changing the way we THINK about things is one of the keys to being successful in changing our appearance.
I readily admit that I often find myself saying, “No thanks, I can’t eat that” when someone asks me if I want a cookie. Almost immediately after the words come out of my mouth, I correct myself and say, “No, that’s wrong. I COULD have a cookie, but I don’t want one….or I choose NOT to.” Saying and believing that we have a choice in what we eat is so important because it helps reinforce the idea that it is OUR CHOICES that will determine the outcome. I’m not talking about things that we cannot control like cancer, death, inclement weather; but, rather, those things which we CAN choose….like what we eat. 

 Many times a person will fail at a new eating plan because he/she feels deprived and left out when others around him/her are enjoying cake or treats. The poor me, “I have to eat an apple while my family is eating ice-cream”…. “Don’t you feel bad that I can’t go out for pizza” or “I’ll just sit here and watch everyone eat birthday cake” mentality is sure-fire way to sabotage your own journey. No one wants to feel deprived or left out. When I first started on my journey, I struggled with that myself, but I think it bothered others those around me even more that I wasn’t eating what they were. It was almost as if they felt guilty about eating in front me. Honestly, it didn’t bother me a bit to see others enjoying food, because I was enjoying my food too….it was just “different’ food.

 I always have food with me everywhere I go. When I’m invited to birthday party or holiday gathering, be assured that I will have something with me that I will CHOOSE to eat over cake. Oftentimes, it’s a Greek yogurt, a protein bar, or melon. All of those taste sweet to me and feel like desert. Certainly, I COULD eat a piece of cake, but I don’t want to…..not because I think it’s BAD….but rather, because I fear that if I ate a piece of cake, I would eat another and another, and I would very quickly go back to my old way of thinking and eating. I simply don’t trust myself, and even though I have not had even a bite of cake since March 1, 2011, I don’t want to even go there, so I choose to eat something else instead.  It’s all about choices….

This mentality has changed other areas in my life as well. There are many days when I would rather stay home from work than get dressed and go to the office. This morning is one of them. It’s cold and dreary, my body is aching, I’m weary, and enjoying sitting here in my pajama’s drinking coffee. Instead of saying, “I don’t WANT to go to work….I believe whole-heartedly….that I GET to work.” Aren’t I blessed….to GET to go to a job that I love and that helps provide for my needs?  I’m certainly not excited about lacing up my sneakers in a couple of hours and taking my walk in the cold, foggy air before I go to work….but I GET to; I CHOOSE to.  Aren’t I blessed…..that I CAN walk….after so many years when I struggled to take a few steps?  I have more things on my “to-do-list” today than hours in my day; a sink full of dishes to wash; a garden full of weeds to pull and plants to cut back before winter; a car that needs new tires; and list of people to call or e-mail.  Aren’t I blessed….to have people that care; food to eat; a yard to enjoy, a car to drive, and many things to occupy my time?   You, too…..are blessed beyond measure! It’s all a matter of perspective and how you choose to THINK about things.  Gratitude….and attitude…..change one’s life much more than eating plans!

I encourage you today to choose one area and try to be think about things a bit differently.  At mealtimes, try to remember that you are choosing to eat healthier food because you want to feel better or look better….not because YOU HAVE TO.  At work, when you feel annoyed or frustrated, try to remember that YOU have chosen to work at that particular place; you are not there because you HAVE to be. While jobs are hard to come by….you do have a choice…but being unemployed isn’t a very good place to be!  When someone irritates you; your kid sasses back or acts fussy; someone disappoints you…try to remember that while you cannot control the behavior of someone else, you can CHOOSE how you respond.  Above all things….choose to be grateful for all that happens this day….good and not-so-good…because each of us has been given a new day; a new opportunity; and are blessed beyond measure.

I hope you have a great day….and make great choices.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Isn't this the truth?

Isn't this the truth?  It's cold, dark, and dreary this morning so I am not going to be able to take my walk before work, but when I do get to walk, ride my bike, or engage in some other activity, it certainly makes me more conscious of what eat the rest of the day. On some days I have to really push myself to get me up and walking, and taking that walk makes me think twice before eating that 200 calorie protein bar and negating any calories I burned with a brisk walk.  However, I realize that walking does more for me/us than burn calories.  

Make it a good day today!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

What's for breakfast????

As a child, it was always a special treat to have a big breakfast on the weekends. Mom would often make pancakes or French toast on Saturday mornings and we always went out to breakfast on Sunday's after Mass. I miss those special family times, but now on many weekends,  my extended family comes up north to Pip's Place (our family vacation place) and we always have a big breakfast together, sometimes for 30 or more people.

 It takes strong will-power to eat oatmeal or yogurt when the people around me are eating Aunt Kathy's biscuits and gravy or my brother's French toast, but it comes down to choices....what do I want more......pancakes dripping with butter and syrup or the freedom that comes from being able to walk on my own two feet?  The choice for me is easy......let others enjoy their breakfast without worrying about me and whether or not I was feeling deprived. Breakfast lasts for an hour or less....

Over the past couple of years, I have found ways to enjoy breakfast with the family without going off track. That's a key to life-long success....being able to be around those you love, being able to be strong when surrounded by temptation....and yet, being a part of a group and still enjoying a meal together.  Sometimes I'll make French toast with the 35 calorie a slice bread and an egg white and top it with spray butter (0 calorie) and sugar free syrup.  Three slices of French toast that way is only about 200 calories. Other times I scramble up eggs with onion and some vegetables or make an omelet when others are eating bacon and eggs. I've gone out to breakfast a few times and I simply order oatmeal without the cream, sugar, or milk....and bring a small pill bottle container of sugar free French vanilla coffee creamer and use that with some sweetener or cinnamon.  I have come to realize that the world around me will continue to enjoy food ( and why shouldn't they.....I'm the one with the addiction), and unless I isolate myself completely from others (oh yeah...been there, done that....and look where THAT got me....LOL), I have to find ways to adapt and still stay on track.  

Today....I encourage you to be strong. Don't let the choices of others hinder your progress....and don't let the excuse "Well, I HAVE to cook breakfast for my family"  or "Gosh, it would be embarrassing to ask for a special order at a restaurant" or "My husband would be hurt if I didn't eat his pancakes"  be a stumbling block.  There are WAYS to do both....you just need to decide what you want most!

I hope you have a wonderful day today......

Friday, September 12, 2014

This and that

Good Morning!  I’ve been sitting here in the wee hours of the morning for well over an hour and I’m trying to process the thoughts whirling through my mind. What an exciting…and yet, humbling experience yesterday….to see myself on the cover of yet another magazine!  I knew that this one, FIRST for WOMEN (October 4, 14 issue) was going to be coming out soon, but was surprised when one of our group members posted the picture yesterday afternoon. Even more surprising was to see myself on the cover….with the likes of Dolly Parton.  I suppose I should be getting used to it by now; I think it’s the 4th magazine article out there, but I still just sit and shake my head as I utter, “Thank you, God!”   People all over the world lose weight. I’m not unique, and yet, God continues to open the door for me to share my miracle with others. What a joy; what a privilege; but what a great responsibility as well!  My sincere prayer is that always….and in all ways…God may be glorified….and others may come to believe that change is possible.

I am heading north this weekend to do a couple of speaking engagements on Sunday. First, I’ll be talking to the congregation of the First Church of the Nazarene in Boyne City, MI. This service begins at 11:00 a.m.  Later in the day, I’ll be visiting a T.O.P.S. Open House to share my story with them. The Open House will be at the same place, beginning at 3 p.m.  Both are open to the public.  Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I travel and speak. It is an honor.

I’ve been a bit scarce on group this week because it seems like I’ve been bombarded with personal challenges all week. I had a car issue to get repaired; a major migraine headache; my companion has been very ill; work has been quite hectic; my Rheumatoid Arthritis has been flaring; weather has been crazy; and a plethora of other worries and concerns have cropped up. You may or not share my faith perspective and that is okay with me, but I personally believe that all of these little annoyances are just the devil’s lame attempt to rattle my cage and trip me up because of the magazine coming out (and another one due out next week some time) and the speaking engagements this weekend, next weekend, and the week after that. The devil isn’t really happy that I’m sharing the great things God has done….and continues to do….in my life!  Too bad for him!!!! 
All of this “stuff” is part of everyday life, but nonetheless, they are annoying and USED to be things that would send me right for a bag of chips or a package of cookies. What a great excuse….STRESS….chaos, illness, issues…. As if I needed an excuse?  Using food/drugs/gambling/shopping (whatever your vice) to comfort or cope with life was a way of life for me….a way that led me to a very dark place. Ironically, even though comfort eating provided a distraction for a while, it only made things worse in the long run, and left me feeling worse. Even now, I still struggle with the emotional or comfort eating temptation….only now… I pick better options…..like WATERMELON….or fruit, or other healthy options.

No matter how hard we try, we are never going to eliminate the stressors in life. Cars ARE going to break down from time to time. Rain and Storms are going to continue to happen. People are always going to annoy or disappoint us…either intentionally or not. Our bodies are going to continue to let us know when we mistreat them or we don’t get enough rest. People in our life will experience troubles or sickness and we won’t be able to “fix it.” We cannot stop LIFE from whirling around us….but we CAN choose the ways in which we cope with those things. We CAN make better choices when we give in to emotional/comfort eating. We CAN keep healthy options on hand or replace our addictive/compulsive behavior by taking a walk, calling a friend, reading a book, writing in a journal or reaching out to others in this group or on Facebook.  There is a better way….a way that will change your life in ways you cannot even begin to comprehend. I hope you make good choices today!

Thank you for being here for me; for allowing me a venue to share my thoughts; for your kind words of support and encouragement; and for being a part of my journey.  You all are in my thoughts and in my heart….and each time I’m privileged to share my story…either in print, on camera, or in a group…. I carry you all with me.  I hope you have a wonderful weekend and that you continue to believe that MIRACLES happen every day!!!!  Keep on believing that you CAN ….and you WILL….change your life!!!!  

Theresa Borawski as featured in FIRST for Women magazine. 10.4.14 issue

God is good! What a privilege to share my story with the readers of FIRST for Women magazine!  October 4, 2014 issue

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Don't get discouraged by a wall....

Ever feel like you've run into a brick wall.....or worse yet....that you're TALKING to a brick wall?  I have run into walls....I've built walls up around me.... I've felt like I was talking to a wall.....I've wanted to bang my head against a wall.......AND......I've seen those walls come tumbling down around me, setting me free!   Don't let a WALL  keep you in bondage; start knocking those bricks out one by one!  You can do it....I know you can!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Do as I do; not as I say

As a child, I was always perplexed when my mother would say, “Do as I say; not as I do” when trying to get me to alter my behavior in some way. For the most part, she modeled good behavior, but sometimes, to a kid, adult privileges such as staying up late, enjoying a cocktail, or going out to special events seemed unfair when I wasn’t allowed to participate. Good habits, like going to church, saying prayers before bedtime, eating vegetables at dinner, and saving money in a jar for a special treat or a vacation, were modeled, not merely expected behavior. I liked that, and subsequently, learned that others will have a greater respect for my words when I backed them up with action.  When I was in an administrative position at work many years ago, I never expected my staff members to do things that I wasn’t willing to do myself.

I mentioned in previous posts that I’m teaching a couple of sections of a “Navigating College” class this semester. This course is designed to help first-time students learn the habits required to be successful in college. Last week I was telling my classes that I know first-hand how difficult it is to go to college and manage a job and personal life at the same time because I’ve been in there shoes not so long ago, and I keep “putting on those shoes.”  I take a couple of classes “just for fun” each winter to keep myself “in the loop” and remind myself of what it’s like to be a student, primarily so that I can back up my words and say, “I hear ya, sister,” when a student is lamenting the struggles and frustrations of school.  It makes my words of counsel and advice a bit more effective when I can say, “Been there; done that; still there….” 

There is something comforting about being in the midst of those who know what it’s like to “walk the walk” and not merely “talk the talk.”  I always found it difficult to put much stock or make a connection to those who were giving out weight loss or exercise advice that never struggled with weight issues or eating habits. Likewise, I doubted that a completely “fit”, life-time athlete that never had to struggle to walk a half a block could understand what it was like to be obese and struggle to pick up a set of keys that were dropped to the ground.  It just didn’t make sense that he/she would know what it’s like to be teased, out of shape, unable to buy a pair of pants from a store, or addicted to food, any more that I would know what it’s like to be addicted to nicotine or drugs, having never smoked a day in my life or did drugs. Although I greatly appreciate the wisdom of those that have been trained in the areas of medicine, physical education, and nutrition, I seem to connect much better with those who are like me....and know what it’s like to have been obese…..and know what it’s like to fight every day to keep from becoming that way again.  Perhaps that is why I get so much strength from this group:  We are ALL…..each of us….working day by day to become better….healthier….happier and holier people, and we are ALL in this together!!! Birds of a feather, if you will???????

I’ve shared many times that my strength for this journey has come, and continues to come, from my faith in a higher power. In times of temptation, I unite myself with Jesus, knowing that He, too, was tempted and wanted to give up.  In times of frustration, I remind myself that He, too, knew what it was like to be human to experience pain, sadness, and loneliness, and yet, He surrendered His life to His Father. He knew what it was like to fall, not just once, but several times, on His way to the cross, and yet, He got up again and again.  I try to remember that when I feel like I’ve failed and need to start anew.  Life is a journey, and each day, we get another opportunity to do better; make better choices; be kinder, more loving, gentle, and forgiving people. We get a “do-over” each day….and we can unite selves to one who knows what it’s like…not only our God….but each other! 
At Mass this weekend, my pastor made reference to a story about Ghandi and a boy that was struggling with sweets. His mother brought him to see Ghandi hoping that the wise man could persuade her son to give up eating sugar.  I had never heard the story before but I am pasting it below because it spoke to me and has provided me with “food for thought” this week.  Perhaps it will do the same for you! 

Be The Change You Want To See In This World – Mahatma Gandhi
During 1930′s, a young boy had become obsessed with eating sugar. His mother was very upset with this. But no matter how much she scolded him and tried to break his habit, he continued to satisfy his sweet tooth. Totally frustrated, she decided to take her son to see his idol – Mahatma Gandhi; perhaps her son would listen to him.
She walked miles, for hours under scorching sun to finally reach Gandhi’s ashram. There, she shared with Gandhi her predicament. -
“Bapu, my son eats too much sugar. It is not good for his health. Would you please advise him to stop eating it?”
Gandhi listened to the woman carefully, thought for a while and replied,
“Please come back after two weeks. I will talk to your son.”
The woman looked perplexed and wondered why had he not asked the boy to stop eating sugar right away. She took the boy by the hand and went home.
Two weeks later they revisited Gandhi. Gandhi looked directly at the boy and said,
“Boy, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health.”
The boy nodded and promised he would not continue this habit any longer. The boy’s mother was puzzled. She turned to Gandhi and asked,
“Bapu, Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?”
Gandhi smiled,
“Mother, two weeks ago I was eating a lot of sugar myself.”

Be assured, my friends, that I am here with you to share in your journey. Although I don’t fully understand all the crosses that you may be carrying, I do share in many of them. I know what it’s like to struggle with issues of weight, addiction (to food), unworthiness, fear, grief, unemployment, sadness, and a plethora of other concerns. I know what it’s like to doubt that life will ever be any better….and I know what it’s like to want to give up.  But I also know what it’s like to be “FREE” from those things; to dig deep and keep trying; to reach a little goal and set another. I know what it’s like to fight the fight; walk the walk; not merely just talk the talk. You won’t ever hear me say, “Do as I say; not as I do” when it comes to weight loss. You won’t ever hear me say, “Get off your butt and do something physical” while I sit in my lazy boy and have a donut. You won’t ever hear me say, “This is easy.”  What I do say to you is this: “Changing your life is HARD WORK.  You will want to give up again and again. You will be tempted and you’ll likely feel frustrated, and perhaps, angry at others who appear to have an easy time losing weight, being active, enjoying good health, working a great job with a great income, being in a wonderful relationship, etc... You will have days….perhaps many….when you have to drag your rear out of the chair or bed to put on your walking shoes to get moving. You’ll wonder if you will EVER reach your goals or feel better. You’ll probably have days when you binge, go off track, are frustrated because you gave in and ate something you wish you wouldn’t have. You may have to start over and over and over.  BUT…..You CAN DO IT….YOU CAN change your life….IT IS possible….and IT IS SO incredibly worth it!  I know… I’ve been there….. I am there….. I know what it’s like…..but I know a God who says “ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!”   Don’t give up my friends….keep fighting, keep believing, and keep on making the choices that will ultimately lead to change.  You can do it!!!  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Hope in the midst of struggle

 Happy Friday morning! I think I like these 4-day work weeks and am looking so forward to having the weekend off to get caught up with a few things.  I had a bit of a treacherous drive into work yesterday, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I had just finished my morning walk and was heading up the driveway when it began to pour. The rain continued for the entire ½ hour drive to work, but about half way into the drive, the sun came out and was literally blinding me because most of my drive is due-east. At one point in the drive, it was raining so hard and the sun was shining so brightly that I had to pull over and literally inch my way down the shoulder.  It was really strange but I was rewarded with a spectacular rainbow; my first of the summer.  I made it to work safely; the storm turned passed; and it turned out to be a gorgeous summer day, but WOW…what a way to start the day!

It was quite easy for me to see God’s hand in the moment and to recognize the connection to my personal journey; past and present. While it’s much easier for us to look back at a difficult time in our life and say, ‘Yes, God helped me through it” or maybe even connect to the famous/popular “Footprints in the sand” story (google it if you aren’t familiar with it), it’s often harder for us to get to the point where we are able to recognize God’ presence IN THE MIDST of the storms and difficulties in our life.  Yesterday was a potent reminder to me that, “YES….God is present in EACH and EVERY moment of my journey”….during EACH and EVERY struggle and temptation…..EACH and EVERY time it seems so hard to “keep on keeping on” and I want to give up. 

It’s not always easy to recognize God in our journey, though, especially when things seem unfair, unbearable, or hopeless. It’s hard to believe that life will ever be any better or we will ever reach our goals when it seems like things are not happening as fast as we want them to or we keep failing time and time again. Our human nature wants to focus on the storm at hand; on the emotional or physical pain of illness or loss; on the rain pounding on our window; or the despair threatening to overwhelm us. It’s hard to dig deep and realize that we are not alone when life gets really, really tough.

 While I never lost my faith in the midst of some pretty tough losses in my life, I admittedly didn’t handle them as well as I could have. I was angry at the “institutional church” when I lost my job. I was resentful at others who didn’t seem to struggle as I was. I was frustrated when I was given the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis and told that there was no cure, and the ways to treat it involved medication with unpleasant side effects. I was agitated and felt that I had drew the “short straw” yet again in life.  I was overwhelmed with grief, loss, and the struggles in life and for a while, I lost focus on the blessings and instead dwelled on the storms.  I coped the best way I knew how: withdrawing from others and comforting eating.  And yet…like the blinding sunshine in yesterday’s storm……through it all…. God was there….waiting for me to be ready…..truly ready…for change.

As I’ve said many times before, changing the way I THINK has been a key part of my journey.  I believed from the earliest days of my journey that God was going to be with me and that He was going to do something really big in my life….primarily because of my grandmother’s death. I honestly believed then….and now… that through her death, I was going to experience great blessings….and I did.  Because I “believed that” from the beginning… I began to LOOK FOR IT and EXPECT miracles. I started to look at things in a new way. My focus changed from pity and hopelessness to anticipation and gratitude.  Even at 400 pounds, I began to feel hopeful because I was losing weight, even though I had a couple hundred pounds to lose and couldn’t hardly stand or walk. I started to express gratitude and see the good in situations…even when life really “sucked” (pardon the slang). Instead of grumbling about how hard it was to get to work when I was in such pain and unable to walk, I began to think about how grateful I was to have a job that I liked after years of unemployment. Instead of feeling sorry for myself for my inability to walk, I began to feel thankful that I had good health insurance that paid for a bariatric walker with a seat so that I could go to places that didn’t have mobility carts. Instead of saying or thinking, “poor me, I can’t eat that pizza or have a piece of birthday cake,” I began to realize that “Yes, I could eat it….but I’m choosing NOT to because it will make me feel better.”  I began to look for God’s intervention and pray to recognize His presence in my life and my journey…..and you know what..... THINGS BEGAN TO CHANGE…..very quickly!  I was losing weight at a rapid speed….with not a lot of struggle or temptation in the beginning. I was focused; motivated; and strengthened….and I was seeing results.  Through it all…. I was grateful….and my mantra became, “Thank you God, Thank you God, You have set me free. Thank you, God, Thank you, God….for this Vic-tor-y!”  I say that over and over and over in my mind all day….everyday…..and I believe it. 

My life has changed so much in the last few years. Many things have become easier because of the weight loss, but other things have become more challenging. I now have to deal with things emotionally, spiritually, and mentally that I never had to before.  Weight loss doesn’t eliminate storms in life; it just makes them easier to handle….but the thing that makes EVERYTHING easier to handle is changing one’s focus from anger; fear; bitterness; and hopelessness….to gratitude….and trying hard to focus on the positive and be grateful.   Life is not easy for anyone….at any weight….at any age, marital status, state of health.  Storms happen to ALL people…..but yet…..through it all, God is always there amidst the rains.  Sometimes we just have to look REALLY HARD to recognize it…..but as we proceed through our journey, it becomes easier to be peaceful in the midst of grief; hopeful in the midst of illness; trusting in the midst of crisis. And……every once in a while…..when we least expect it, but need it most…..God will show us his presence….just like yesterday in the midst of my storm drive. His light and warmth will often times blind us as the storms rage around us and rock our world.

So many of you are in the midst of some really tough storms…..chemo, grief from the loss of a loved one, unemployment, marriage/relationship difficulties, addiction….and so many other burdens.  I encourage you today to look really hard for the signs around you that you are not alone; that your higher power is there; that things will get better and change is possible.   My prayer today is that you may find a sign today…..like I did in yesterday’s rainbow and continue to see day in and day out.  Be strong in your commitment to change; be hopeful in the possibility of new life; and be grateful for the blessings in the midst of the struggles.  I’m here with you….and for you…..  I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful day today!