Friday, March 4, 2016
It’s no secret that I am a fan of thrift store shopping. I purchased a new pair of pants a few months ago but just got around to wearing them yesterday. To my surprise, the slacks had a message written on the inside waist band that reads, “You are gorgeous.” Every time I used the bathroom (which is at least a dozen times a day because I drink about a gallon-and-a-half of water daily) I was greeted with that message. What a wonderful thing! Those three little words set the tone for the entire day and every time I saw them, I felt empowered and encouraged.
So many times when we begin a journey, try something new, or even face a struggle of some kind, we ‘think” we can do it; handle it; and/or get through it, but deep down, we don’t really ‘believe’ we can. Perhaps we have tried and failed before. Perhaps we have just set too lofty a goal or are attempting something that is nearly impossible. Perhaps we just physically, mentally, or emotionally are not capable of doing what we want……right now. More often than not, however, we simply don’t believe it, and don’t succeed simply because we received the message (or told ourselves) that, “we can’t….we won’t…we don’t deserve, and so forth”. We’ve been told, either by others or our own thoughts, that, “You’re not good enough; you’re so stupid, you’ll never be able to do college work; you’re ugly…..fat…..unworthy….too old”…..the list is endless. Regardless of whether we received those messages from abusive or thoughtless people, mean kids or bullies, past teachers, or whether we’ve told ourselves these things because of our thoughts or past experiences, WORDS, spoken out loud or internalized, can empower us or hold us in bondage.
As a child/teenager, I had my share of ‘mean kids’ insulting me due to my size. I’ve been called names, excluded from things at school, and made fun of, but I didn’t grow up in a situation where I was verbally told that was worthless, stupid, or undeserving. And yet, somewhere along the way, I convinced myself that those things were true; that bad things that happened in my life (namely, losing my dad as a child) was because I was ‘bad”. In those difficult years after I lost my job and a couple of loved ones, I told myself those things and somehow convinced myself that I didn’t deserve to be happy or healthy. The words my mother often said “You’ve got to play the hand you were dealt, babe”, meant to empower me to be strong and handle whatever trials come my way, got twisted around in my subconscious and for a time became, “You’re fat; poor; alone; and can’t walk…that’s just the way it is, accept it and deal with it.” And so I thought that my reality at that time (400+ pounds, unable to walk, living in fear, depression, and despair) was my destiny, and there was no hope of a different way of life. I was so wrong! By the incredible grace of God, I learned that I didn’t have to play THAT hand. I had the power to “throw those cards back in’ and get new ones! God replaced the negative words in my mind to, “YES, you can….and YES, you will….and YES, you deserve to healthy and happy and free….and YES….I WILL HELP YOU!” What a miracle!
Changing the “tape” that you play over and over in your head is not an easy task, but it can be done. In the beginning of my journey, I had to reprogram my thinking so that I could actually envision myself thinner, healthier, and able to walk. I did this by telling myself (both out loud and in my mind) that I COULD do this; that I WOULD show them; that God IS bigger than all that worries me; that I AM worthy. I did this in a variety of ways. I put sticky notes on my mirror that said, “I can and I will.” I changed my passwords to words that empowered me so that every time I logged into something I was reminded that God is great. I listened to music that was uplifting and motivating; Alicia Keyes, “This girl is on fire” is one of my favorites. I played that song over and over (still do). I embraced the words of encouragement that other people surrounded me with. I made up little chants/poems that I recited over and over as I walked. I think I shared one of my favorites: Thank you, Lord; Thank you Lord, You have set me free. Thank you, Lord; Thank you, Lord, for this Victory! Another is: God, you are so wonderful. God, you are so great. God, you are so marvelous… I am losing weight! Over and over throughout the day I say these in my thoughts and out loud. Little-by-little, I began to believe that not only COULD I do whatever it is I set out to do, but with God’s help, I WOULD.
In recent months, the ‘tape” in my head wasn’t nearly as empowering, and part of that was my own fault. I have caught myself more than once saying/thinking phrases like “I am just SO INCREDIBLY EXHAUSTED”; “I just can’t take on anymore”; “Theresa, you look OLD, and TIRED, and FAT”, and so forth. Definitely not words/thoughts of a winner. Fatigue, physical ailments, stress, worries, and emotional ‘stuff” sometimes causes us to fall into the trap of negative self-talk. Fortunately, I recognized it and have been very careful in recent weeks about the messages I have giving myself.
While recognizing that I am still very weary, I started thanking God for giving me all the energy, stamina, and strength to get through each day. I thank God throughout the day for the food that I have to eat, instead of proclaiming, “I am SO hungry.” I thank God for the all the weight that I ALREADY lost, instead of saying, “Theresa, your pants are tight and you are still so fat.” Changing what we tell ourselves plays in big role in changing what we believe about ourselves, and changing what we believe is a big part of changing what we do.
Every time I saw those words, “you are gorgeous” on my waistband yesterday, I smiled and I walked out of the bathroom a little taller and with a bit more confidence. Saying/reading/seeing those words didn’t change my looks any, but it did change my THOUGHTS and put a smile on my face, and we all know that we look a lot better with a smile! So, my friends…. I encourage you to start right now…..telling yourself THESE words, “YOU…..wherever you are…..whatever your situation…..whatever your size…..whatever your need…. YOU…..are wonderful; YOU….are worthy; YOU…..are made in God’s image; and YOU….CAN….and you WILL…..change your LIFE!
Have a great day!
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
I have three cats, and although they provide me with a lot of comfort and companionship, I readily admit that I am not fond of litter-box duty. While shopping recently, I noticed that Meijer had a sale on cat litter, but it was a 40 pound bag of Tidy Cat. I typically purchase several smaller bags, but always one to save money, I bought the large bag that was on sale, thinking it was a ‘great idea.’ Yesterday, however, I thought differently and questioned my judgement when I struggled to bring the bag out of my vehicle in the wee hours of the morning to change the litter before work.
It must have been a ‘better day” physically when I purchased the bag a few weeks ago because I don’t remember it being that difficult to get the bag into the truck, but yesterday morning, it took a lot of effort to carry the bag in the house, open it and go about my task. The bag was awkward, heavy, and very difficult to hold on to as I moved it to the ‘litter-box’ room and then attempted to hold/pour and fill the box. I ended up spilling litter all over, and ultimately decided, that the extra effort needed to handle that size bag with arthritic hands was certainly not worth the dollar or two I saved. Needless to say, I’ll be buying the smaller bags from now on.
Although recently my mind has been saturated with thoughts of accounting principles, business administration definitions (my college classes), and student success, I know that God always uses these ordinary experiences to motivate and encourage me on my journey, so I began to ponder about that silly cat-litter. I kept thinking about how physically difficult it was to carry those 40 pounds up 3 steps, through the patio, down the hallway. It may have just been a ‘rough morning” but I had to put the bag down twice before reaching my destination. I could feel my heart pumping and kept thinking how much strain/stress just 40 little pounds made, and how tired I was after that simple chore. No wonder I was so physically exhausted, in extreme pain, always out-of-breath, and barely able to stand up just 5 years ago: I was carrying the equivalent of 6 of those litter bags around on a daily basis. YIKES! If you are questioning if losing even 15-20 pounds makes a difference, try carrying around a couple of bags of flour or a couple of gallons of water for a little while and see how it affects your body and energy level.
I also thought about how the media has influenced us to believe that ‘bigger is better’ and having ‘more’ is better than less. Certainly, purchasing a larger quantity of an item is cheaper (hence Sam’s and Costco’s success), but is it always better? For those of us addicted to food, I don’t think so. Although I haven’t eaten a cookie or potato chip in 5 years, I still struggle with portion control, only now, it’s healthier food. I can eat a quart-and-a-half of strawberries in one day, just as easily as I can eat a quart. I purchased a bulk size container of Greek yogurt a few months ago (equivalent to about 5 individual cartons), in order to save money and finished it in two days! I don’t recall ever eating 5 individual yogurts in two days, but because the yogurt was there; I ate it….a spoonful or two at-a-time throughout the day. I did the same thing with that big bag of Skinny Pop popcorn I purchased at the warehouse last month. In those case, bigger is cheaper…but for my journey, certainly not better!
In terms of weight-loss/diet/exercise, we often fall victim to the same kind of thinking when we begin a weight-loss or exercise plan that is very restrictive, sometimes extreme, and promises ‘fast results.” In the beginning, we are ‘gung-ho” and are motivated so we go to the gym and walk 5 miles on the treadmill, lift weights, do “whatever it is people do at the gym (I really don’t know about gyms)’ and work-out so hard that we can hardly move. More often than not, we don’t stick with such a regime, simply because it is ‘too physically demanding, too fast.” I am more likely to continue to walk a mile or two every day for life if I start out slowly, than I am to start out with five miles a day, only to quit after a couple of week because it is too lofty a goal. Bigger/faster/tougher isn’t always better. Rather, slower, consistent movement, done more often is more likely to become a habit that one can maintain for life. Changing the cat litter with a 10 or 20 pound bag of litter is a manageable chore and I am more apt to do it more often with a smaller bag than with another 40 pound bag. I am more likely to lift my 10-pound weights several times a day, every day, for longer period of time, than I am to start out with 15 pound weights, giving up the habit after only a few days because it is too taxing on my body and my arms/shoulders hurt. Too big, too fast, too far, etc., isn’t always better. For me, slow and steady, wins the race.
The same holds true for the promise of ‘quick weight loss” programs or pills that guarantee results. Sure, one might lose weight very quickly, if all he/she eats is protein shakes or juices for several weeks, but I wonder….how long can a person do that? How long can one live on diet-pills or other extreme measures? Is it sustainable? Will one really go the rest of one’s life without eating real food? What happens when one eats real food again or goes off the diet pills? I’m not EVER going to question one’s journey or method to change because I personally believe that a person’s journey is PERSONAL….and one that each person must choose for him/herself, but for me….I made the decision on day one that I would not do anything in the beginning that I was not willing to do for the rest of my life. For me, that meant switching from French vanilla coffee creamer to a sugar free version because I simply did not want to drink black coffee for the rest of my life. Will I ever do it? Perhaps, but I haven’t yet. I’ve said it before….if you aren’t willing to give it up “for life”, then figure out how to incorporate it into your eating plan. If you can’t see a future without chocolate, try switching to 3 Hershey’s kisses or a fun-size candy bar, making adjustments as needed to compensate for the calories.
When I began my journey five years ago, I went ‘cold-turkey” on some things, and to this day, have not EVER eaten it since. Candy, chips, sugar, regular bread, cookies are among those things, but I attribute that to nothing more than God’s miraculous grace. Phasing out other things, like soda, was a slower, more manageable process of switching first to diet soda, then to alternating a bottle of diet soda with a bottle of carbonated water, to eventually just flavored water. I went from a ‘more-than-2-liter a day” soda habit to only an occasional (maybe a small bottle of diet coke every 2-3 months) habit. I was seriously addicted to soda and I’m not sure that I would have stuck with it beyond a few days had I just stopped, although I was able to do that with the sugar/sweets, etc. Slowly changing your portion size or what you eat might be a better solution for some.
I have never smoked, or been addicted to drugs or alcohol, so I don’t even presume to advise on beating that habit, but I can surmise that going ‘cold turkey” is probably the only way to do that (with the use of nicotine gum/patches/withdrawal drugs/support programs), because ‘substance abuse’ is a different battle, and giving advice is better left to professionals in that field. I’d be interested in hearing from those in our groups on whether ‘cutting back’ on those substances worked for you.
I guess if I were to give a suggestion it would be this: Be careful about setting too big a goal: instead, set a bunch of ‘little ones.” Be mindful about going too restrictive in your food choices; instead, find a way to reduce your caloric intake in a way that you can be satisfied with for life. And, make moving more a priority, but do so in ways that are enjoyable and sustainable.
Sure, a bigger bag cat litter will save me money, but it doesn’t make the job easier, so I doubt I’ll buy that size again. Certainly, a fad or restrictive diet will yield quick results, but it that always better? Absolutely, losing 50 pounds is a very big, but achievable goal, but losing 5…and then another 5….and then 5 more is easier. Cheaper….faster… bigger…may not always be better, but that is for you to decide! You are in charge of your journey, and the choices you make along the way….it doesn’t matter how or when you get there, just take a step today in the right direction!
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
I am not a fan of the darkness; the kind that results from the lack of daylight or the evil in the world that threatens my peace and joy. And yet, here I sit, at 3:38 a.m. in the darkness and quiet of the early morning, gathering my thoughts and preparing for yet another busy day. It’s my favorite time of day (or night. J)
During these winter days, it is dark more often than not. It’s dark when I go to work and dark when I get home; it’s dark when I get up (of course it is, Theresa, it’s 3 am! J) and dark when I go to bed. I spend most of the daylight hours in a windowless office, and only see daylight on my way to the bathroom. Darkness is a way of life for us in the north during the wintertime. It’s no wonder that there are so many that suffer from seasonal depression….. but…..things are a changing for the better!
Yesterday when I went to work, the sun was shining by the time I pulled into the parking lot. How did that happen after several months of driving in the dark, I wondered? Why, just LAST Monday, it was still dark at 7 am….and yesterday, in what appeared to be ‘all of a sudden’ the day has gotten longer. Although I appeared to be a sudden transition from dark to light, the reality is that it didn’t just happen that way. The amount of light has been steadily increasing by a few minutes each day as the seasons slowly transition to spring. I just didn’t notice the slow, little-by-little transition happening on a daily basis.
My journey these past five years (5 years ago today I began this life-changing journey, Thank you, Lord), has been similar. Little-by-little, step-by-step, day-by-day, God slowly transforming my thoughts; changing my heart; changing my habits; changing the way I see things, and although I often don’t notice it, He is continually working to help me change my life.
Like the increasing amount of daylight, those little changes don’t seem to make much difference…..but then, one day…..it’s daylight when we get to work…..or our pants zip……or we can engage in a conversation with someone and NOT end up in an argument……or we can smell a cigarette and not want one…..or we can hear someone’s name and we realize that the pain associated with their loss has been replaced with peace. We sometimes just don’t realize how much progress we are making on a daily basis.
Sometimes on our journey, we get so focused on seeing results quickly that we become discouraged and want to give up. We expected to lose weight quicker. We hit plateaus and don’t seem to see any progress. We keep trying and nothing happens and we fail, over and over again because it appears that God isn’t present, that we will NEVER reach our goals, that we are destined to be heavy, addicted, sad, depressed, sick, lonely…..whatever our struggle, forever. We really don’t believe that life can or will, ever be any different. We believe that “darkness” is our destiny, and we lose hope.
We simply fail to realize that day-by-day, little-by-little, pound-by-pound, step-by-step, that God IS transforming us….if we cooperate and do our part. Don’t be discouraged….don’t give up…..because…..even if we don’t see it yet, even if no one notices our progress, even if our life still seems filled with darkness and despair today…..one day, very soon, all of a sudden….boom….you’ll see results and hit that first goal (it will be daylight when YOU get to work), and you’ll ask yourself, “when/how did that happen?” The answer, of course, is little changes, day-by-day add up to big changes.
Likewise, change occurs in the opposite direction, too, without our paying attention. We didn’t just get heavy ‘all of a sudden’. We didn’t just become addicted to our vices ‘with just one drink, smoke, or cookie. We just didn’t become a bitter, angry person with just one negative thought. Our daily habits, thoughts, and actions, although often done without thought, make us that way. One day, we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror or see a photo, and wonder, how did THAT happen? We shop for new clothes and we realize we are in a size 3X, or go to the doctor and realize we are closer to 300 pounds than 200. Perhaps we realize that having a beer with friends no longer relaxes us; it takes a six-pack or going to the casino is no longer just a special night out; we feel compelled to go several times a week. (I’m not opposed to any of that; just making a point how easily we can lose control). Little-by-little, choice-by-choice, thought-by-thought, we change....but are our days becoming “darker”…or ‘lighter”?
Today, on my ‘new life” anniversary, I give thanks to God that He has helped me to make little changes that led to big changes over time, and I ask Him for the grace to continue on this path. It’s been a difficult year as my body struggles with the pain and fatigue of RA and neuropathy and the side effects of the medication, limiting my ability to walk, making it harder to keep the weight off. My mind is challenged mentally with a new job and college classes, leaving me completely exhausted most of the time, but I remain grateful for the blessings in my life. I ask God to continue to make Himself present to me, strengthening me and helping me to make the right choices each day as I recommit myself to my journey……and I ask the same for you!
Wherever you are on your journey; whatever struggles threaten your peace, whatever ‘darkness” envelopes your life, I encourage you today to make a small change to improve your health and well-being. Little changes….done consistently….lead to progress. Life is hard….struggles are real…..change is difficult….but God is bigger than all that, and little-by-little, thought-by-thought, step-by-step….we CAN…and we WILL….change our lives!