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Trapped.

Leading a rigid lifestyle based on severe routine puts you in a jail cell. When you learn to live in a jail cell for a significant amount of time, you begin to forget how great life was outside of the bars. Stepping out into the unknown is… suffocating, and borderline unimaginable.

It’s not that I didn’t want to be with my friends more, make lasting memories, try new things, etc… it’s that I literally couldn’t. I was trapped.

I remember feeling this way as early as high school. Again, what started as a harmless and healthy habit developed in to a full-blown jail cell. I began with walking to relieve stress. It was a 2-fold blessing because I had finally found a method of physical activity that I was actually “good enough” to complete. I mean, almost anyone can walk (without tripping? that’s another story. GUILTY!)… and with a little practice, most can walk REALLY fast or for a REALLY long time. That was me.

Another teacher and I were known for our “power walks.” People would joke about the MPH that we were clocked at. On the days when we weren’t zipping through the streets, I would walk the length of the town and then some.

I know at some point it was out of enjoyment. It always is. When I “get” to walk in a new place, it’s something that brings me such… peace. (My creativity ROCKS while I am working out. Someday I will own a computer attached directly to my brain to capture my thoughts in real time.) It never takes long until my competitive side comes out…

Suddenly I feel the urge to walk just one more block. or just five more minutes. And each night it compounds, until I’ve absolutely maxed out my time available. This includes the time I’m choosing to give up with family and friends in order to fill a daily quota.

I’m known for being a distance walker, and I’ve taken it very seriously. Unfortunately, that’s not the only extreme I’ve taken in the last 10 years of my weight loss journey.

I knew that at some point I was crossing that realistic line. But I just didn’t know how to stop. I would almost give thanks for the times that someone would visit me so I was unable to workout as long. It also gave me tremendous anxiety. Something in my head screamed “FATTY!” whenever I happened to miss a workout. I irrationally believed that one slip-up would result in an instant regain of nearly every ounce.

I’m working on being OK with taking a day or two (or even three) off in a week. When I do workout, I tend to push. And I want to enjoy exercise again. Things like Zumba certainly help in that… but I mean I want to do it because I like how it makes me feel, not because the clock says I still have to torture myself for another hour… OR ELSE.

A new year, season, or even week can be really challenging on many levels for people. On the one hand, you have those people who really and truly do need to start adding exercise and healthy eating into their lifestyle. Then you also have people like me, who are also bombarded with the messages of diet and exercise and feel obligated (aka TRAPPED) to step up our game as well.

I’m learning about balance. And sanity.  And the importance of treating myself right. Exercise is a beneficial activity on so many levels… within reason.

I’m learning.

I’m learning that a day off doesn’t result in 100 pounds. It means being a little more careful about what I consume in the day and enjoying the time off. After all, our bodies do, at some point need a break to work optimally.

Small breaks don’t make you weak.
They make you stronger.
No need to beat yourself up.

seriously?!

Can we have a real conversation for a second?
Does this picture honestly make you want to hit the floor and start crunching your midsection?!

It makes me want to spit tacks. I stumbled on it the other night while on a very popular social media website, and my face immediately turned red with anger. It makes my heart hurt to know that women and men in our society are exposed to things like this.

I’m not ranting…
I’m writing to say that I DON’T support this.
And you shouldn’t, either.
There’s a difference between being healthy and being obsessive.

If you follow my posts, you’ll know that I lost a LOT of weight as a teen (130 pounds, give or take the year). Stuff like this NEVER motivated me. It belittled me and made me feel like no matter what I did, it was never enough.

The truth is I have loose skin on my stomach that likely never go away without the help of a surgeon’s careful hand. That means that no matter HOW many times I “hit the floor” like this crazy sticker tells me too, it will NEVER BE ENOUGH. (I will also look very silly and cause a lot of that “coffee circle gossip” if I’m constantly seen on the ground doing crunches.)

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned on my journey: You MUST accept yourself. Right where you’re at. Right now. Let your healthy mindset be fueled with positivity- you’re eating healthier and moving more because you love yourself, you want to feel better, and you want to live longer… not because you hate the person you see in the mirror or you want to look like the blonde twig that walks the runways.

I used to think that the answer to all of my problems was losing weight. That when I was a “normal” or “acceptable” size, I would automatically be happy. All the time. I would never struggle with anything, any more. Life would be perfect.

Can I be honest with you? It hasn’t gotten any easier; I’ve been faced with a whole new set of challenges. I get to make a choice between being angry and bitter or face each one with a smile and determination. I will do my best (or close) each day and be ok with where that is at. I will work to improve my health because it helps me feel better physically, mentally and emotionally.

But the amount of exercise I do, the size I wear, and the foods that I eat don’t get to be the things that define who I am.

I’m a funny girl. I am smart- I made it through ALL THAT DREADED chemistry! I am a good and loyal friend. I sensibly live within my means. I share the God-given talents that I have been blessed with as I am able. I love my job, and like to think that I give it my best and do well. I try to share my smile with the majority of the people I meet.

When I live this way, I feel a sense of purpose. That gives me the energy and confidence I need to (continue to) make positive and thoughtful decisions.

Do me a favor:
Stop letting things like this picture have a place in your day, your heart, or your mind.

You’re better than that.

You’re smarter than that.

You’re worth more than that.

Be healthy… not obsessive.

makin’ a list

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? It’s always “cute,” in theory:
You reflect over all of the things that you need to improve, change, or “fix” about yourself and contemplate solutions. When January 1 rolls around (or maybe 2), you hit the ground RUNNING.

Suddenly the gym becomes a priority,
you add a few more fruits and vegetables to your plate,
you hit the sheets an extra hour earlier,
you trade your cup of coffee for a glass of water,
you start wearing your seatbelt,
you find time to try a new hobby or sharpen your skills of a previous one,
you start cooking more meals…

and about a week later it all stops. Game over.

It takes, on average, about 3 weeks to either break a habit or form a new one. But most of us don’t have 3 weeks, we have RIGHT NOW.
Am I right?

For however many decades you’ve tried this hit-your-head-against-the-wall method, it hasn’t worked so well. Why not take a new approach?

This year, we’re not going to look at the big pictures.
We’re starting today. And we’re working on today.
That’s it.
Not next month, not 10 pounds, not 3 dress sizes.
Today.

Here’s what I suggest you try:

  1. Take a piece of paper. (Preferably something that’s pretty or eye-catching… but that’s just me.) And save room for “incentives.”
  2. On the top of the page, write down ONE goal, one thing that you are going to do today that positively aligns with a healthy eating choice you’d like to work on. (i.e. I will eat 1/2 cup vegetables with every meal or measure my food into correct serving sizes.)
  3. In the middle of the page, write why you are doing these “things.” And I don’t mean something ridiculous like, “To finally be a size 2.” Think of something like “To be an example for my family/friends.” “Because I care about my health.” “I want to feel better.”
  4. On the bottom of the page, write down ONE thing that you are going to do today/this week that positively aligns with some form of physical activity. (i.e. I will spend 30 minutes at the gym 3 times this week or I will lift weights one extra time this week or I will try a new exercise class this week.)
  5. Work on each of those “things” TODAY. Don’t think about tomorrow (unless you need to mindfully plan when you are going to hit your 3 gym sessions in advance).
  6. WHEN (notice, I did not say “if”) you reach your goal, give yourself a cool sticker. (No laughing; it works!)

Now, for the next month you are ONLY held accountable for these two things. When the new month hits, put up 2 new “things” you’re going to add/switch in your lifestyle.

It’s a little less stressful and unapproachable when you think in baby steps instead of leaps.

It took me 2 years total to lose over 100 pounds, and over 10 years later, I’m still trying to figure things out. We are all a work in progress.
Just keep moving forward. 

And if you have an “off” day, forgive yourself immediately and be ready to get right back at it the next day. You’re worth every effort.
Just keep moving forward.
Two little things at a time.

What are YOU waiting for?

We’re in the season of Advent… a time when Christians prepare for the coming of Christ the King. Each week we light another candle on the Advent wreath to symbolize the light that He is bringing into the world with His birth. Many of the messages we hear in church revolve around preparing our hearts and minds for what is coming. Whether or not you believe the same, I think it’s important that we live life in a way that doesn’t start each day with “I’ll start tomorrow.”

How many times have you thought, “I’ll eat healthy starting Monday” or “starting next week I will get to the gym”? Speaking from experience, there are too many “Mondays” and “next weeks” that happen every day. I think mine set me back at least an extra 100 pounds. I figured that I could make it another day or week feeling terrible about myself. I wasn’t ready to start loving myself and respecting myself by eating right and exercising… just yet.

The truth is that I was scared of what a lifestyle change might mean.

But seriously, why do we have to wait? Let this simmer for a second:

In our own minds, we’re supposed to get tomorrow, but you just never know. You are promised nothing.

There are all these ridiculously cheesy songs on the radio about living like you as though it were the end of your days. What does that mean to you? I can’t say that I’d advise you to quit your job, blow your savings, and start jumping off mountains relying solely on a piece of fabric to keep you alive; but I would like to challenge you to start doing the healthy little things that you keep putting off.

Maybe you just need to change your approach:

You want to lose weight. In my case, I had no clue what the final number was (mainly because of the denial I felt about how truly overweight I was). But let’s just say you have it in your head that you want to lose 50 pounds.

Considering that it takes 3500 calories to equal a pound, 50 is a big number. 175,000 calories, to be exact. Impossibleright? And since it’s impossible, you may as well eat that half of that chocolate cake for breakfast and also skip the gym again this week, because it’s not going anywhere. After all, there’s no way that you can possibly give up that many foods or sweat that much… right?

WRONG.

How about we look at it with a different mindset? Maybe you want your pants to fit better. And in order to do that, you know that it’s important to eat healthier and start exercising (or maybe exercise more). So you start small: you pass up a cookie for an apple, you add one extra serving of vegetables with your meals, you eat mindfully and stop when you’re satisfied (but not bursting at the seams), and you add just 30 extra minutes of exercise in your week.

Wow, that seems so much… easier.

So much more… do-able.

So much more… realistic.

I know that this is a hard time of year to think about starting to live a healthier life. But with no guarantees, what do you have to lose?

Think about why you want to or are doing this. It’s not about a number; it’s about quality of life. And a higher quality of life often also leads to a healthier quantity of life.

You can do this. One step at a time.

Starting right… NOW.

What little change are you going to make today?

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