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Category: God and Faith

The Journey

I completed the Go! St. Louis Marathon on Sunday, April 10, marking the 4th time I’ve completed this journey and run 26.2 miles.

IMG_0129Statistics say that less than 1 percent of the U.S. population has ever run a marathon. So according to the numbers, I’m in a pretty elite group. But I didn’t feel accomplished on Sunday. I was disappointed with the number on the clock as I crossed the finish line.

Instead of going below my best time , I added 37 minutes, taking 5 hours and 7 minutes to cross the finish line. In my mind, it was a failure.

I trained for the last four months with Fleet Feet to prepare for the event, and my dedicated, loyal coach ran 19 of the 26.2 miles with me, including the grueling back half of the race. I began complaining somewhere around mile 15.

“It’s  hard to keep going knowing that this is going to be my slowest marathon time ever. Why bother?” I pouted.

It's all smiles BEFORE the race and the rain, with Coach Lindsey of Fleet Feet.
It’s all smiles BEFORE the race and the rain, with Coach Lindsey of Fleet Feet.

She went all “coach-y” saying,  “I want you to see this as an accomplishment, a win. You’re running with an injured knee. And it’s your first marathon in a long time. Absolutely everything has to come together perfectly to get a PR (best time). That doesn’t happen often,  so it’s better if you focus on the journey.”

Then she told me that the main reason she coaches for Fleet Feet (a volunteer position that requires a LOT of time) is because she gets to spend time with people who have learned to enjoy the journey. The journey that leads up to the race is the fun part. The race is a piece of that journey, but it’s not about the time it takes to finish it.

“I hope you’ll be able to see it that way, even if you can’t right now” she said.

She was sharing these golden nuggets of wisdom during the worst possible miles of the marathon. Even when I’m having a good race (which I wasn’t) and when I’m feeling great (my knee was howling) and when the weather is good (we were getting drenched in rain and whipped by wind), I am not in a happy place between miles 19 and 23 of a marathon.

So, I promptly ignored her Polly Anna pronouncements. Thankfully, I kept all “shrew-like” thoughts to myself, so I don’t have any amends to make, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think them. Sorry Lindsey.

The next day, however, it all started to come together for me in light of another statistic and another journey that is tied to my running. And those things helped change my perspective.

About 16.6 million people suffered from an alcohol use disorder in 2013 according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. But only about 1.3 million of those adults received treatment in a specialized facility in the same year —  about 7 percent of those those who have a problem with alcohol.

Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t release much information about its membership — thus the anonymous part — but estimates are that there are about 2 million members worldwide.

I am a sufferer of this diseases, but was blessed with sobriety more than 11 years ago through a 12-step program.  That’s also when I began distance running.

Relapse rates for alcoholism are high — some estimate between 50 and 90 percent. By God’s grace, and the fellowship of others in a 12-step program,  I am NOT part of that statistic.

So again, I’m in a couple of elite groups: the group that got sober and the group that has, thus far, stayed sober without a relapse. Truth in advertising: It’s  not my doing. God and the fellowship get the credit.

Recently, however, instead of being grateful for my blessings, I was feeling sorry for myself.

Jan and I in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
Jan and I in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

I was with a dear friend in Italy on an incredible vacation where the wine flowed with most of the meals.  It was social drinking, meal-oriented drinking, perfectly normal drinking that was intertwined with food and culture and festivity. But I couldn’t participate in the drinking part of the festivities.

The trip was so fabulous and I was having so much fun that I really didn’t care one iota about that. In fact, I didn’t even think about it while I was in Italy. I was with one of my closest friends. I was seeing the Amalfi Coast, and Capri, and Positano and Rome! I was laughing and shopping, eating and touring. I jogged on trails cut into stone overlooking the Mediterranean below and Pompei in the distance.

I didn’t have the time or the inclination to feel sorry for myself until I got back home. Then, in the days following my trip and leading up to my oldest daughter’s 21st birthday, I began brood about how I won’t be able to enjoy a glass of wine when I return to Italy in a month with my daughter to celebrate her graduation and birthday. Yes, I will be back in Italy in a month!

Instead of focusing on that — on the fact that my 21-year-old daughter chose a trip with ME to Europe as her college graduation present — I was brooding on how flawed I am, how “less than,” how “left out.” And I was letting the time it took me to complete 26.2 miles diminish the fun I had preparing for the race.

But over the past few days, as friends and family have texted and called to congratulate me on the marathon finish, and posted words of praise on social media, I began to reflect differently on both the race and the gift of sobriety.

I am back to seeing the value in the journey — both the journey leading to my slowest marathon ever and the journey that means I am blessed, or so very blessed, to be among the small percentage of alcoholics who GETS to live a sober life. It doesn’t make me flawed or “less than.” Instead, it means He made me for more.

My daughter and husband asked if this is my last marathon. I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. Miles 19 to 23 are still too fresh in my memory, so it’s not a good time to decide.

But it wasn’t my last race or the end of my journey.

 

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Gratitude — Hearing the Right Messages

Rejection. Dismissal.

Those are lonely words – words of not belonging, of being on the outside, of being alone.

Yesterday, I was rejected and dismissed by someone I love, someone to whom I used to be very close. I experienced a range of emotions and the symptoms of those emotions – sadness and tears, anger and spitefulness, thoughts of revenge, sarcasm, detachment. I finally settled into sadness and disappointment.

I sat in my family room that looked dreary and neglected and felt sorry for myself. I looked at the layer of dust on the furniture and the cat and dog hair woven into the area rug and gathered like tumbleweeds against the baseboards. I stared through the blinds and dirty windows at the common ground behind our house and the landscape matched my mood – cold, gray, a little dingy from the melting snow. The trees were bare, no evidence of life.

Except there was evidence of life. I was briefly distracted by two squirrels racing impossibly fast across branches that appear too feeble to hold them, then leap from the large oak in my backyard to one of the unknown (to me) species of trees in the neighbor’s yard.

I spent my evening brooding, occasionally tearing up, but basically moving from task to appointment to task. I got some good advice — “Write down your blessings. And thank God for them” — but I didn’t follow it. I’d wasted enough of my day crying over the situation.

No time for gratitude.

Today, I attended the memorial service of a 22-year-old young man. Many people loved him. He was a loyal friend and a devoted son and brother. He was greatly admired because he showed courage in the face of tremendous health challenges, and then he used his compassionately, selflessly help others.His life ended much too soon.

I knew this man because he was a swimmer with my daughter on the Rockwood Swim Team. Not surprisingly, there were dozens of people from our Rockwood swim family in attendance at the funeral.

Just like there were dozens from our swim family in attendance a few months ago when the mother of one of the swimmers died.

Just like a group of them gathered a few weeks ago to help one of the swim dad’s celebrate the arrival of his 60s.

Just like they dropped off meals and gifts when I had a baby at age 40, and helped me get my daughter to swim practice in the weeks following.

Just like they surrounded a widower nearly 10 years ago when her husband died of cancer, leaving her to raise three young children.

Just like they’ve surrounded many others in times of great joy and great hardship.

And it hit me. These people. The people helping to fill the pews at this memorial service. They are the ones who matter. The ones to include on that gratitude list.

Somewhere along the way, probably as children, most likely in a school lunchroom or on a playground or in gym class when teams are chosen for kickball, we feel that first sting of rejection. We internalize that first message that “you’re not wanted” or “you’re not good enough.” The lucky ones get the message from people outside their families; the unlucky ones get the message from those closest to them. But all of us, at one time or another, have gotten the rejection message.

And for some reason, those messages often ring louder, sound truer and echo longer than the messages that say “I love you” or “I’m here for you” or “You’re good enough.”

Why is that?

Maybe because we don’t write that gratitude list.

Maybe because we don’t always see the squirrels racing on the branches and remember that they are reminders of the life that is still present even though the trees are bare.

I think the memorial service for Christopher Parsons was beautiful on so many levels – it was an amazing tribute to his life. For me, it was also a reminder to be grateful for those around me, to notice the signs of life and hope amid landscapes that seem lifeless, and to let messages of love, friendship and affirmation ring louder than messages of rejection.

And those thoughts reminded me of one of my favorite Bible verses:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

NOTE: Christopher Parsons father read this poem at his son’s memorial service. I thought it was beautiful so I looked up the words. Here’s a link.

 

Heaven Meets Earth – Miracle of Christmas

The bar was a little smoky and there were some booths made of dark wood with high backs, offering privacy from the other people who had come to play pool, flirt, drink or talk.

It was August in South Carolina. The air conditioning was in a hopeless battle with the Clemson students who were flowing in and out, unworried about how much their slow, social ingresses and egresses were affecting the temperature in the joint. The constant invasion of the warm air from the outside upon the cold air inside made for a kind of unnatural humidity that often defined a public establishment’s atmosphere during the summer. It was one of the things I had grown to dislike in the two months I’d been living in South Carolina because my hair remained in a constant state of curl/frizz even when I was indoors.

I think I’d picked up a pool cue twice in my entire 24 years. “I’ve never played pool for real,” I said when he suggested this location for what would be our fifth date. “I have no idea how to even hold the stick. All I know is it’s bad when the white ball goes into the holes.”

“They’re called pockets,” he said, a smile in his voice. “I’ll teach you. You have to learn if you’re going to live down here. It’s one of the few things to do on a Saturday night.”

So we went to the bar and we waited in a booth for our turn at a billiard table. When one became available, he showed me how to hold the cue. Then he leaned over beside me to help adjust my stance, telling me to gaze down stick. One arm over my shoulders, his other arm adjusting the pool cue, his face was next to mine. When I looked at him, the man who would become my husband kissed me for the first time.

An unforeseen kiss. The most memorable one of my life.

I heard this song by the David Crowder Band in church last week and immediately thought of that first, unforeseen kiss from my husband. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard the song, but this time, in the context of preparing for Christmas, it stayed with me, reaching my heart.

It’s a description of the miracle of Christmas that I can wrap my brain around because I’ve personally experienced an unforeseen kiss. By sending Jesus into our world as a man, God gave us a commonality of experience. He’s not just the divine. He lived as a man, and we can relate.

The song has been in my head all week, conjuring up other moments in my life when heaven and earth have collided for me – sometimes in big ways, sometimes small ones. The birth of my children, a moment of peace while walking on the beach, a beautiful sunrise, a family dinner filled with conversation and laughter, my Baptism, the Baptism of my husband, coffee with my best friend . . . so many of life’s moments are filled with a collision of the holy and the ordinary.

So that’s how I’m approaching Christmas this year and how I plan to ring in 2016 – in search of the daily collisions of the holy and the ordinary, because that’s where the blessings are and where He is.

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The Shadow of Fear versus the Light of Courage

My late Grandmother once told me that fear is a sin. I can’t remember the exact circumstances that prompted the conversation, but it had something to do with my children – my fears and worries related to them.

The message sounds harsh, but that wasn’t her intention. Her words were delivered lovingly, without judgment, and her point was that I should trust Jesus more and fear less. I listened, and then continued to be fearful, especially when it came to my kids. But the words stuck with me and through the years, in a quiet moment or sometimes in a moment fraught with fear and worry, I remember them.

Thankfully, I haven’t lived with the kinds of horrific fears others have endured – fear of physical abuse or violence, fear of starvation or homelessness or life-threatening illness. I have been abundantly blessed in the areas of family, health, home, education and opportunity.

But when I am being honest with myself, I realize that fear has been a fairly constant companion in my life.

Sometimes, fear has been like a rude roommate, dampening my joy as I entertain guests or meet new people or embark on new adventures. He whispers words of doubt or criticisms in my ear or shouts insults from the well-worn Lazyboy he occupies inside my brain. I know he’s there and I’m aware of his tactics. Therefore, I’m able to ignore him for the most part, but he still makes an impact.

Sometimes fear disguises himself, arriving in designer cloaks of justifiable worry or good parenting. Like many mothers, my greatest fears involve my children, and most of the time those fears take the form of concern for their health, safety, future and happiness. I worry when my teens drive away from the house. I grow fearful if they are driving in bad weather. I fret over their academics, their success in and out of the classroom, their social lives.

Fear is most effective, however, when he takes the form of my shadow — unnoticed, unacknowledged, seemingly inconsequential. Just like a shadow at high noon, fear is smaller and less effective when there is a great deal of light on the subject at hand. But when I keep things hidden, intentionally or unintentionally, the light grows dimmer like a setting sun and the shadow of fear grows longer and more powerful.

That is when fear can change the course of my life. That is when he can keep me from discovering God’s purpose for me, from enjoying the blessings and gifts God has bestowed upon me. That is when I unknowingly, unwittingly take action based on my fears. And more often than not, because I’m unaware that fear is occupying the driver’s seat, my action is simply NOT TAKING ACTION.

But recently, I’ve started to let more light shine into areas of my life that I’ve historically kept to myself, and that light has decreased the size of my fear shadow. I’ve set out on a new path prompted by a maturing faith in God, age, life experiences and an increasing awareness that my willingness to keep company with fear speaks volumes to my children.

I am pursuing my dream of writing fiction. Although I have always made a living with the written word, I strayed from my profession some in the past few years for various reasons, some of which had to do with fear.

I have returned my focus to making a living as a writer and communicator, but I’m making room for writing that fills me in addition to the writing that pads our checking account.

Interestingly, fear followed me on this new path because I left him a trail of breadcrumbs. Bad habits die hard, and he catches up every once in awhile. When he does, he tells me:

  • “You don’t have time for this” or,
  • “You aren’t creative enough to write fiction” or,
  • “You’re too old to write a novel” or,
  • “You have no idea what you’re doing” or,
  • “The rejection letters will just keep coming” or,
  • “You need to focus on making money and bringing in new clients/projects, not writing stories” or,
  • “You’re being selfish to spend time on this hobby” or,
  • “You are a Mom, not a writer, and your mom work is more important and the two are mutually exclusive,” or
  • the list is exhaustive . . .

A friend recently recommend the book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert. The book is speaking to me – the book is singing to me. In the first few pages, she writes, “The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels – that’s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place—that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.”

I would say that it is God, not the universe, that buries those jewels within us, and God that gives us the courage, if we let Him, to go on that hunt.

I’m choosing to let Him. I’m writing, and I’m putting myself out there: on this blog; in the short stories that I keep submitting and that have, thus far, only resulted in rejection letters; and now, in a book manuscript that is starting to take shape.

Gilbert suggests that we are more than the sum of our daily obligations and duties and that we can choose to make something of ourselves with ourselves. And she says that “fear is a desolate bone yard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun.” That is not the life or death I want to choose for my dreams.
Dream Hope JoyI’m trying to choose courage, trying to let the light shine on my dreams a bit more – to shorten the length of the shadows that are cast over them and instead let them cast shadows of hope and joy.

Now it’s time for me to get back to work on my manuscript.

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Be Patient — Lessons Learned from a Cat Adoption

Last week at church, I felt very convicted during the message. Ephesians 4:2- Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient .Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love.

Ironically, as he was talking about patience, I sat there thinking: “I wish he’d get to the part about how to achieve patience.” No joke. The irony of that thought process wasn’t lost on me. I already said I felt convicted.

Latte, a 21-pound Maine Coon
Latte, a 21-pound Maine Coon

The very same weekend I heard that message, this beast came to live with me. (The cat, not the boy — he’s lived with me since I gave birth to him.)

I’m not a cat person. I always tell people, “I love cats that live with other people.” And that’s true. I like to give my neighbor’s cat a can of tuna now and then. Because of this, he loves me. He visits my porch and rubs up against my leg and sometimes purrs. Sometimes, though, he visits my porch and runs when I reach down to pet him. Sometimes, he bites me. For no apparent reason. I don’t get that.

My beautiful, sweet, loving Golden Retriever would rather die than bite my hand. She’d rather die twice, slowly and painfully, than bite my children. When I call her, she comes running to my side. When I don’t call her, she comes running to my side, covering me in her silky abundant hair.

She is a constant, loyal companion who is as overjoyed to see us when we have been absent only 10 minutes as she is when we’ve been absent 10 days. I don’t get that, either, but I like it. Dogs give instant gratification and are predictable. Cats do things in their own time and in their own way.

Our beautiful golden, Ellie, really wants to be friends with Latte.
Our beautiful golden, Ellie, really wants to be friends with Latte.

And that’s the crux of the matter. I don’t like cats because: they aren’t on my timeline; they are unpredictable; and, they do not bend to my will.

So why would I become a player in a cat adoption?

Enter Latte, a 4-year-old, 20-pound Maine Coon cat in need of a home. His owner, an elderly woman, is moving out of state with her sister who is allergic to cats.

That is not a dramatic, heart-wrenching story. It’s certainly not a story that would have moved me to adopt a cat. In fact, in hindsight, I can’t think of a story that would have moved me to adopt a cat.

I’m one of those people who is glad that no-kill shelters exist because I know they are super important to some people, but the euthanasia of unwanted animals is not at the top, or even at the bottom, of my list of causes warranting my personal attention or sacrifice.

So why did I bring this cat home?

The story I told myself is long and convoluted. And as I sat in church less than 48 hours after bringing this cat home for a “trial” adoption, it occurred to me that God had a hand in sending me Latte. Because the cat is teaching me about patience. Or, at least he’s reminding me of the value of patience. His presence is also requiring me to work with my 7-year-old on the character trait of patience. That, alone – working with an impatient 7-year-old on patience – requires a GREAT DEAL OF PATIENCE.

The poor cat was so afraid when we first brought him to our home. It had lived its four years in the small, quiet home of an elderly woman with limited exposure to other people or other animals.

Our home is bigger, much, much louder, with five regular inhabitants, including the energetic 7-year-old, plus her friends, plus the friends of my 17-year-old son. Plus a 60-pound Golden Retriever who wants nothing more than to be friends.

In the first 24 hours, Latte hid behind a toilet. He hid under beds and behind and under couches. He yowled. He hissed when the dog came within 20 feet. He slapped at the dog, missed the dog and cut my leg with his razor sharp claws. He did nothing to endear himself to us.

In hindsight, we weren’t doing anything to endear ourselves to him, either. (Trying to pet him, talk to him, coax him out of hiding places, reaching for him, giving him run of the whole house . . )

I called my friend who arranged for the home visit/trial adoption and asked for advice. She said:

“Put all his stuff in one room – litter, food, toys. Then put a box in that room. Then put him in that room and close the door so he feels safe. Keep the door closed until he cries to have it opened. Go in to visit with him, but don’t try to touch him. Let him come to you. Don’t try to pet him or reach for him when he’s in the box.”

Some pet.

We did it. And we told my daughter to do it.

As soon as we put the box in the room, he ran into it. And went right to sleep. He was obviously exhausted from the transition. I don’t think he had slept in 24 hours.

Ginger reads to Latte.
Ginger reads to Latte.

Then my daughter sat down next to the box and read to the cat. For 30 minutes. He opened his eyes and stared at her. He seemed calmer.

The next morning, he sought a little interaction with us, meowing, purring and rubbing against our legs. We were excited. “Yea. He likes us.”

That lasted for about 90 seconds, and then he was back to the box and turning his head away when we spoke to him.

Still, we’d seen proof, however brief, of the sweet affectionate cat that his previous owner described him to be.

Latte has been with us now for more than a week. He is very loving and affectionate (for a cat) first thing in the morning. He’s cordial at night, seeking to be near us but not desiring any physical touch. During the hours between early morning and night, he seeks solitude, usually under my college-aged daughter’s bed – the room where no one lives most of the time.

He’s our pet on his terms, on his timeline. Maybe he’s not our pet — maybe we’re his family. For some reason, we all really like him. I believe the trial visit has turned into an official adoption.

Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love. That approach worked with a freaked-out cat whose entire world was turned upside down. I am trying to remember that as I interact with my kids, my husband, the clerk at the bank, the unfriendly neighbor . . . . .

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Done Waiting on My Weight – My Whole30 Success Story

I threw away my scales. I’m finally free to the life God intended me to live, unencumbered by a number.

whole30 success
I am no longer a slave to these devices.

That is the priceless, immeasurable result of my Whole30.

For the first time in 34 years, my relationship with gravity and the device used to scientifically measure that relationship no longer determine my mood, dictate my happiness or demean my sense of self worth.

I put two of my scales in the trashcan, on trash day, and let the trash man haul them away. I meant it literally when I said I threw away my scales. And I asked my husband to take the third that we use to weigh luggage before we travel to his office and store it there.

Background

The chains binding me to those scales stretch over three decades. I’ve had self-esteem and body image issues since age 14. When I hit puberty, my previously thin body and raging metabolism turned against me. I gained weight and was subjected to sometimes-weekly weigh-ins in front of my family because my mother thought that would motivate me and help me adhere to a diet and stay trim for pageants, dating and cheerleading tryouts. It didn’t – it had the opposite effect.

As a teen, I did Weight Watchers (which was horribly humiliating), Elaine Powers, jogged, fasted, started smoking, took diet pills and did any number of other things to attempt to lose weight.

I went away to college weighing 180 pounds on a 5’5” frame and was wearing a tight size 14/16. Then I got sick with an ulcer and experienced what seemed like and overnight return to my size 8 pants — because it hurt like hell to eat. Very. Effective. Diet.

I vowed to never get “fat” again, and I pretty much kept that promise to myself, but only through a lot of self denial, severe diets, tons of exercise and a scale obsession.

I stepped on my scale everyday. Sometimes several times a day. Sometimes on different scales to try to get a different, lower, better number.

I almost starved myself in the nine months preceding my wedding, wreaking havoc on my metabolism and blood sugar but getting thinner than I had been in high school.

I ate salads for the first two years of my marriage, except when I couldn’t stand it anymore and then I’d eat everything chocolate and “non-salady” in sight. Then I’d feel lousy and return to salads with no cheese and barely any dressing. I started running regularly and eventually ran half marathons and three full marathons.

I went on severe restricted calorie diets after my first two pregnancies to lose the baby weight and went back to Weight Watchers after my third baby, who I had at age 40. This time, I wasn’t humiliated because I wasn’t 16 years old. This time, I achieved my goal weight and lifetime member status.

But as my 40s progressed, I was having a harder and harder time keeping weight off and was feeling worse and worse about myself. I ran more. And I weighed more. And I hated the scale and my body more.

I decided to become a Beachbody coach, because surely leading other people through fitness and nutrition challenges would hold me accountable and help me lose weight and keep it off.

Then I became a certified personal trainer and certified group exercise instructor and began teaching classes.

During 2013 and 2014, I did the 21-Day Fix. I did the Ultimate Reset. I did the 3-Day Refresh I did P90X3. I did PiYo and got certified to teach it. I did Insanity and got certified to teach it.

Everything worked and nothing worked.

Because I didn’t fix my head and I didn’t fix my heart. I didn’t like me. The goal was weight loss. When I achieved it, I was happy. For a time.

But I was unhappy when I gained weight. Or when I didn’t lose it fast enough. Or when I returned to my candy and chocolate habit or my Diet Coke or sugar-free French Vanilla creamer in my coffee or flavored Stevia in my carbonated water or spoonfuls of peanut butter just before bed to satisfy my sugar dragon and because I deserved it — I needed it — after a day of skipping meals or skimping on calories.

The Beginning of the End

My Whole30 calendar countdown.
My Whole30 calendar countdown.

I saw a powerful video several months ago (link below). It sparked something in my soul and I knew I needed a paradigm shift, but that shift didn’t happen until I found the Whole30.

I completed my first Whole30 on September 4, 2015. I complied with the program 100 percent, including the part about not stepping on the scale. But from the beginning, I planned to step on it the instant my 30 days were up. In fact, I was discouraged when I read some of the information that kept repeating how this was not a weight loss program. I was just certain it was a weight loss program and I focused on the testimonials of all the people who had lost weight.

I wanted to be thinner. I wanted to wear a smaller size. I wanted to lose these 10 pounds that I have always wanted to lose and then I was certain I would be satisfied and happy with my body. Finally.

But something happened. Within a week, my husband commented that I was eating more food than he’d ever seen me eat in 22 years of marriage. I was sitting down to meals with my family with a full plate of real food – not a shake, not a plate full of lettuce, not portions measured out in containers or weighed on scales, no calculator to count calories or points or grams of fat, protein or carbs. My little girl noticed too.

I wasn’t hungry or feeling deprived. I missed sugar at first, but eliminating artificial sweetener for my coffee, diet soda and all the other sugar-free fixes I’ve used during previous “diets” set me up for success. The sugar cravings disappeared in a few days.

Within two weeks, I noticed that my stomach was flatter and my clothes felt better. I was feeling GREAT – mentally and physically — and was tempted to step on my scale. I wanted a tangible measurement of my success. My best friend who is doing the program with me encouraged me to stay off of it. We both talked about how we were feeling better and how our clothes were fitting better. She said, “Do you want to let the scale steal your joy?” And she was right. So I resisted the temptation.

I started to think that my mood might be a factor in how I was feeling when I looked in the mirror. And maybe it wasn’t weight loss afterall. Again, I was briefly — VERY BRIEFLY — tempted to step on the scale. But I stopped. Because if I like what I’m seeing, and I like what I’m feeling, then I don’t want a number to change my mind.

And so I rid my house of the scales. These habits and beliefs connected to the scale took decades to form. I don’t want a bad day or a moment of temporary Whole30 (and now Whole9) weakness to tempt me into believing the lies the scale tells me anymore.

Success & Whole30 Reintroduction

This photo gallery shows me enjoying life — what you can’t know but what I will tell you is that the number on the scale used to determine the level of enjoyment I had, regardless of the event. Not anymore.

And I am now in the “reintroduction” stage and I’m taking it super slow. I don’t plan to reintroduce everything. Sugar is a dragon and one that I will have to be very careful and cautious about keeping on a short, fireproof leash. I added it back in first because of a special event. I had a treat and then left it at that — no binging on chocolate and all other things sugar afterward. Then I had a treat a days later with the same self control and intentional enjoyment. I LOVE this.

I plan to live mostly compliant to a Whole30 lifetsyle – I’m still meal-planning, cooking recipes from the book and all the other resources  suggested throughout the program – I subscribed to the daily emails and I highly recommend them. They were a big part of my success, as was TheClothesMakeTheGirl website, which gave a lot of variety to my program. I am reading everything I can about the Whole9 Life. I’m shopping differently and cooking differently and eating more and sharing more meals with my family. My friend (who has had great success, as well) and I plan to do some joint cooking sessions to share food. It. Feels. Good.

I am no longer “waiting to be fully alive” because of “weight.” Watch this amazing video by Emily Timmer (excerpt below) if you want to see what gave me the motivation to make this shift:

We speak of weight in pounds, in kilograms… measurements of guilt and shame… The ideal of “thinness” our singular aim, and hit or miss we’re so bound up in blame… Blame for that five pound gain, that indulgent meal, that failure on the scale. Again and again. And again. There’s pain… And it sits in our bellies – too deep to be carved away by calorie cutting, calisthenics, or cardio … We almost feel insane – cycling ceaselessly through the same closed loop of self-abuse. Why can’t I be thinner? Why can’t I look like her? … Then there’s the mirror… We use it like a whip… staring into it and abusing ourselves for our thighs, our arms, our hips. We look, we see our reflection, and curses fall from our lips. One thing controls us. And this is it…

 Our body size, our Weight… Wait. We wait to be fully alive, feeling disallowed from joy, unable to REALLY live… until our size can be something other than “big.”

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