How I Got To A Healthier Me

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I am a child of the ’80s. Growing up my family ate: hamburger helper, chef boyardee, beenie weenies, tuna noodle casserole, vienna sausages, mac n cheese, ramen noodles, banquet tv dinners, spaghetti o’s, captain crunch, fruity pebbles, count chocula etc. cereals. Food came with some sort of sauce or from a box, basically. Turkey loaf…meat loaf, condensed cream of chicken/mushroom/golden mushroom/cheese/celery/tomato soup plus some rice of some sort to soak it up a bit. Fried chicken, chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes with CREAM gravy. In fact, my MOST favorite meal was mashed potatoes with cream gravy, chicken fried steak (also with cream gravy-lots o’ pepper) and some fried okra or green beans.

That my friends, was a dream come true for me. My paternal-Grandmother would make GIGANTIC Sunday post-church meals for the family and they usually looked like fried chicken, baked beans, mac n cheese, fried okra or fried green tomatoes and maybe some pudding or some cottage cheese with pineapple slices/apricot halves over the top. Oh! And don’t forget the maraschino cherry!

I remember LOVING food and being so hungry when I was a kid. I was always bugging my Mom about what I could eat next. As a kid getting a snack after school, one of my most favorite things to eat was a slice of white bread with butter and a slice of cheese warmed up in the microwave just a scooch, until it was nice and gooey.

I wrestled with my weight beginning around the time I turned 11. Before that, I had always been a very thin child. From then on and especially into junior high and high school, I was a fat chick. I was more ahem “developed” than the majority of the girls I was classmates with and I was reminded and teased about it regularly. Sometime in high school, things began to smooth out a little bit. I think I was a junior in high school. I am not sure if I got taller, busier or what. I think it was about the time that all the other girls in the lunch room were eating at the salad bar for lunch.

However, I still had a picture of what I looked like in my head. Now, I LOVED food (and still do!) but I just couldn’t seem to figure things out back then. The best I could do was force myself to eat less. It worked for a while but was still a challenge for me.

I was never on any sports leagues. I never exercised unless my friends asked me to do it with them on a video or a class of some sort. I was ungraceful, uncoordinated and just felt fat and clumsy. So any attempt at exercise just made me cringe. I mean, people, my body jiggled all over! EW! I would get out of breath easily and I was not strong.

Fast forward to my early twenties. I got a bit older,snagged a guy (who thought I was beautiful??) and got married.

Before the wedding I was the “lowest” I’d ever weighed as an adult. But still, it was just reasonable and by the charts I was still considered “overweight”. After the wedding, we both ballooned up pretty quick. We were happy, we had time, we ate out often and we both loved to eat! I loved to cook but I didn’t really know how nor did I have a recipe repertoire other than what my own Mom had made for us growing up. (Which I liked and frankly, EVERYONE I knew grew up that way and ate that way. It was not some sick thing. That was totally normal!)

I think it was some time after my first child that I became truly miserable. We got one of those church directory pictures taken and I just wanted to die over how fat I was! But still, I just didn’t get it. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I didn’t want to eat salad the rest of my life! I am not a rabbit!

Eventually we moved out to the west coast, to Washington State. I met my best friend, Crystal. We had children the same age and we were both frustrated with our weight (though she had just had 1/2 of her thyroid removed!). She began a dramatic weight loss journey (losing over 100 lbs!) and just through doing life together and hearing/seeing/experiencing what she was doing that was right, I decided I wanted to do that too and I tried to learn as much as I could from her experience.

I began slowly to change how I ate. I figured out that I needed to lay off the carbs, eat more veggies and fruits and I desperately needed to move my body. In that time I began to train for a number of races and started running. Things finally started to come together for me. I started getting it. And what a perfect place in the country to get it! Every where I looked fresh veggies and fruits were at my disposal.

I began using Spark People to try to track my calories and my exercise. I began experimenting with “healthy swaps” and trying to lower the calories in some of my favorite recipes. I practiced portion control. <gasp!>

My biggest struggle has always been that if you tell me I CAN’T have something, then that’s when I want it and I’ll obsess over it until I just give in. However, I figured out that I could still eat fun and exciting things if I worked for them. I learned the difference between quality calories vs empty calories. I learned to say no and to tell myself that this isn’t the last good meal I will eat on Earth. (I needed a reminder that I would eat again soon!)

Eventually I got pregnant again and I was determined to have a more healthy pregnancy than my first. I succeeded in that endeavor and even managed a successful VBAC as a result. I did better at shedding the lbs post baby too because I gained less in my pregnancy and I knew what to do afterwards to help shed the weight. I’m not saying it was easy! I’m just saying that for the first time, I knew what to do!

My progress continued on and after we moved back to the mid-west, I even had a third baby. It was my best pregnancy to date! I gained a healthy amount of weight and lost it in a decent amount of time. Again, it was NOT easy, but I knew what to do.

My weight is still something I am working on, however it’s more of an overall desire to be healthy and honor God with this body than it is an opportunity to be some thin and lovely woman (though that is a nice thing too). I want to be comfortable in my own skin and with what my body is capable of achieving. I want to be strong!

I now use My Fitness Pal to help me with my daily calorie intake. I also use Map My Run to help me track my fitness. The show The Biggest Loser has helped me so much actually to be inspired and encouraged to not just change how I eat, like some fad diet, but to change my whole life for the better. I’ve learned what a danger Type 2 Diabetes is and all the horrific things that come with the disease.

I’ve learned SO MUCH about food too. My cooking has radically changed. Don’t get me wrong, I love food and I love to eat. I love to prepare it and think creatively about it also – and that has revolutionized my life. Once I began to realize how much I was capable of doing with the food we eat in our family, it became a fun game and a competition against myself! I’m always trying to improve and educate myself and my family.

So today, my fitness goals look like this:

-move more. Go outside as much as possible! (this is big for me because I love to be outside)

-eat a plant-based diet as much as you possibly can. think creatively about how to get veggies and fruit at breakfast and at lunch!

-exchange unhealthy fats for healthy fats and go high protein

-look for ways to cut out processed and refined sugars

-drink more water than you drank yesterday, every day

I still eat chocolate, cupcakes, waffles and pancakes, cake and pie. I still go over my calorie allotment some days. I still eat out! But if my fitness goals are in the forefront of my mind, then I still see all the benefits.

I recently cleaned out my closet and got rid of so many clothes that don’t fit me. I actually tried stuff on so that I could SEE the difference. Wow. I was astonished. I am in single digit sized pants today. I NEVER thought I’d get there. It hasn’t been fast. It hasn’t been dramatic. But I’m happy with both the journey and where I know my goals are going to take me.

This is one of those journeys that only leads to good things! There are not very many journeys like that in this life. :-)

Conversations with my Kids

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I’ve gotten into the habit lately of unloading the dishwasher immediately after I wake up in the morning (and while I wait for my coffee to finish steeping). It’s a good and productive reason for me to stay in the kitchen while the kids are eating breakfast. No-I don’t eat breakfast with them because I need a little time to wake up before I eat. That’s a separate post someday…

This morning, while I was unloading the dishwasher, the kids witnessed me pulling out the whisk attachment for my Kitchen aid mixer. Cecelia said, “Mommy, what are you stirring?!” as I leaned over to put it away. I replied, “nothing sweetie, I’m just putting it away, I’m all done with it” to which Cooper responded, “um, yeah, it’s been a really long time since you’ve used that mom.” I smirked at his innuendo of some sweets to eat because Cooper has a sweet tooth like the Grand Canyon. “Sweet heart, I used the mixer yesterday. So no, it hasn’t been that long since I’ve used it.”

“Yeah,” said Cooper with a very down-turned mouth, “but it has been a long time since you made cookies”.

Have I mentioned I have a foodie blog?

The Funny Girl

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One of the best parts of being a parent of small children is being able to recount the hilarity that comes with said territory (and not really embarrass them). I haven’t told perhaps any Cecelia stories here on my blog. Perhaps we are just now getting to the truly funny stuff though?

Cecelia is now two and a half. She melts our hearts on a regular basis with her friendliness, her warmth, her sing-song way of talking and walking and her general joyfulness. She loves her brothers SO much and they feel the same way about her. She and her eldest brother, Cooper, have a loving relationship probably typical of a really older brother (7 years her senior). He picks her up, holds her, dances with her in his arms; he loves to push her in the swings or help her ride her bike. He reads stories to her, helps her and is 100% on her side, loyal to her every whim. Chase on the other hand? He and she have a bit of a different relationship.

Chase is only 3 years older than Cecelia. While it’s a good amount of space between them, it’s also close enough that they enjoy playing with one another a lot more than she and Cooper (who are interested in totally opposite things). Chase will sometimes be the helpful, loving brother who gets something out of reach for Cecelia or plays make believe with her (especially house/kitchen etc). However, he GREATLY delights in lording things over her. There is a little too much joy in his face when he sees her doing something wrong/out of place. He will happily snatch something away from her, play keep-away with her most beloved blanket or baby doll, and generally tease/torment her according to how he’s feeling that day. And while she screams and fusses at him, he just smiles at her impishly.

I’m still surprised that she even wants to play with him or is happy to see him after the way he treats her. But each day it’s Chase she asks me about. It’s Chase she say’s goodbye to over and over and over when we drop him off for school. It’s Chase she can’t wait to see when we go to pick the boys up from school and it’s Chase she begs to play with her once the boys are home.

Lately though, she’s putting together much more complicated, full sentences. She’s able to express herself not just in action but also in word; and Chase is getting an earful. When we were in Iowa visiting our friends recently, we had spent a full morning playing at a splash park and having a picnic. A storm started to move in and it was getting late in the afternoon, so we decided to head back to the lake house. We changed the kids clothes and loaded them up in the car to head back. As we were driving Chase (who sits in the way back all by himself for many reasons), began making really annoying sounds with his mouth. They got pretty loud and obnoxious and just as I was about to tell him to stop the shenanigans, Cecelia, who had up to this point been quietly sucking her fingers and cuddling her blanket, pushed her hand out flat as if to show a sign for stop and exclaimed, “Stop! Stop it Chasey! I am so tired, I’m sleeping!”.

Jeremy and I stifled hysteric laughter. We looked back at Cecelia and she had again resumed her previous position. And Chase? He was actually quiet!

Our funny Cecelia in her most favorite jammies

Our funny Cecelia in her most favorite jammies with her friend, Nora

Impulsive

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I was a psych minor in college. One of the first things I was told by my instructors is how important it is to “know thyself”. I can honestly say that this has guided me through a lot of areas in life; both in my strengths and my weaknesses. When my family and I began attending our current church home three years ago, I was delighted to hear that there’s some Meyers-Briggs jargon in getting plugged in there. (Side Note: which really, how much different is that than your disc-test or your spiritual gifts test? We all categorize our chaos in different ways.)

I am an ENFJ. Finding this out about myself has helped me to love who I am, accept how I was made and it has helped me to stretch in areas I see (and those I don’t) are in need of growth. From a spiritual perspective, it has helped me to pray that I would have good balance both in my heart and in my actions. A friend laughed and told me recently that there is a prayer chart for each personality on the Myers Briggs. That idea was both funny and intriguing to me so I looked it up. Sure enough (here it is if you want to find yours), my prayer for my personality is right on: God help me to do only what I can and trust you for the rest. Do you mind putting that in writing?

I laughed so loud (which if you know me is pretty loud) when I read this prayer. What a riot! Today, I’m wrestling with my impulsiveness. How what I want to do is not what I should do or even what I have so much time to do. I have many things on the schedule over the next few days which are others-focused (not surprising given my personality) and those things are fun for me and make me feel alive and happy. But I REALLY want to do some other things all by my sweet little self. I might even need to if I want to recharge.

Just as my prayer tagline above is “do you mind putting that in writing?” I am in need of putting THIS in writing because I am almost guaranteed to see something shiny and move on in my fast-paced way to whatever my next project is…or just ignore the tug and keep trucking.

Is it wrong to have a list for your lists?

Today may I cling to Psalm 28:7 and accept the help so generously offered to me:

The Lord is my strength and shield.
    I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
    I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

 

Lake Okoboji, Iowa Trip with the Tillman Crew

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In our family, we have a sort of funny saying: “We Do Fun Here”.  You could call it a motto or even just a slogan. Sometimes we say it cynically and sometimes we say it as a way to call ourselves out of boring or even sad times. We believe the idea that “the family who plays together stays together”. So we try to get out and do fun things both around town and not so much.

This past holiday weekend we ALL desperately needed to get away. We had a pile of responsibility wearing on us and pulling us down and the months to come offer much of the same promise. A person can only be so responsible for so long before you break a bit…

So to celebrate and escape, we arranged (ok, we pretty much invited ourselves) up to Iowa where some dear military friends of ours, the Tillmans, live. Their parents have a house on a lake and invited us to come stay there and play for the weekend. We have been to visit them in their home town of Le Mars once before, but weren’t really sure how much farther or even where we would be going for the lake house. 

We ended up in beautiful South Lake, Iowa at Lake Okoboji (about 17 miles from Minnesota). 

I think in my head I kept thinking it would be a small lake, with a rustic cabin and a few people around. Instead, we got a HUGE lake, Pottery Barn-styled lake house and a ton of people around. Plus lots of amazing and fun things to do. We swam, we kayaked, we jet skied, tubed, tried the stand-up paddle board (I did it!), ate ice cream, had t-shirts made and just had an absolute blast!

It was quite a drive for us (12 hours the first time and 10 the second-we stopped a lot less!), we hit 5 states total in fact-Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota-but it was totally worth it. I felt myself relax and unravel like a ball of yarn. And I have to apologize to the state of Iowa I think. I never thought it to be beautiful but after this trip, it is GORGEOUS! I appreciated the beauty of our drive and how relaxing it made our car time.

Sometimes you need to get away to reconnect as a family and I think this trip did just that for us. It was so good to see the boys playing and doing sporty things. They fell asleep very fast each night after full days at the lake and the pool. Cooper showed us his continual love and prowess for water and sports. He is such a great swimmer and it looks like he is a natural on the water. Chase was more timid, but he greatly enjoyed hours on the boat and at the pool swimming and making new friends with our friend’s baby, Patrick, and anyone else he met along the way. He even went for a ride with me in the kayak.

Cecelia and their daughter Nora played and were totally adorable together. My favorite memory is from dinner one night; Cecelia started to sing the ABC’s and would stop after a few letters and look at Nora with her eyes sparkling. Then Nora would pick up where Cecelia left off, say a few letters of the song and wait for Cecelia to pick it up where she left off. They went back and forth like that through the whole song and then clapped and cheered when they were done. It was SO CUTE!

And of course, as military friends know, you just pick up where you left off last time. You catch up with what you know about the other “guys” you served with and their families and you laugh and reminisce and dream of the future together.

We agreed while we were there that this needs to be a frequent happening, perhaps even an annual tradition. I am all in!

Managing the Chaos

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There was a moment this past weekend where I felt thrown into total chaos. There were about 15 people crammed into my kitchen, a 90-lb dog and a puppy, and 6 of those 15 people where children 10 and under. My kitchen is not big. The dogs were playing and barking, the children were shrieking and running and asking all the adults a barrage of questions all while the adults were trying to set food out for the meal we were about to partake together. One dog yelped suddenly and our dog started peeing all over the floor. We all tried to avoid the pee, avoid the dogs, usher the offending dog (mine) out of the house and clean up the mess in the midst of all that was already going on.

In short, it was chaos.

I laid in bed that night just wiped out completely.

My life has those moments of chaos a lot. I’m grateful that this time it was just the family who witnessed the chaos and thus, shared in it together.

Usually my first response emotionally to chaos is shame. I’m not sure why I feel guilty that I couldn’t keep everything together, I feel like I should have planned better, directed better, parented better or something along those lines. Sometimes that shame is this weight that forces my heart to sink into a place where I feel like an overwhelming failure.

It’s a deep hole to climb out of when I feel that way.

But what I long for as the answer is a way to speak life into moments of chaos. I long to redeem them. I long to breath in and out God’s spirit and be loaded up with grace and peace in those moments. It’s such a stark contrast from reality.

Somehow there has to be a way to forgive myself, to let it go, to remind myself that life has moments of utter chaos and to find a way to laugh about it. Why can’t I just laugh and admit that the moment is utter chaos?

Today at Costco I witnessed a mini-chaos moment another mom was having: She had a baby in a front carrier and two young children 3/4 year olds it looked like. She was in the cafe navigating her cart and her children. She handed the kids their lunch and began passing out napkins all while managing the squirmy baby on her chest and the people all crowded around. At one point her son LOST. IT. because there was a tiny hole in one of his napkins. I mean he lost it. And I just wanted to go and hug her. Because isn’t that the way it goes my sister?

I long for grace and compassion to be demonstrated to me in overwhelming moments. I long to have the grace to extend it to others in the midst of experiencing it myself.

Maybe one day I will be able to just let it all go. <cue music>To stand there and laugh at the insanity. To hug my fellow parent/friend as they experience their own chaos.

As you are out this summer and you see someone else in a moment of personal chaos, please don’t stare, roll your eyes, shake your head or say something nasty. Approach them and ask if you can help! Be a blessing and pass it on.

Talking to Your Cheering Section

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I read this book recently by Brene Brown, Daring Greatly. The book was so personally challenging to me. I wish I had some fabulous sentence I could form describing why specifically, but I’m just wading through it like a sponge already full of water; I can’t take more on ’til I let a little out.

Brene Brown is probably the most quotable woman to me these days. She drops these nuggets of truth all over the place! For example,

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.
Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

Chew on that for a bit…

The nugget of truth I’m currently wrestling with from her book (Daring Greatly) is about how important it is to tell the people you love what you need. Clearly. Bravely.

For some reason this was monumental to me. It hit me with the challenge of receiving the love those people offer me and growing the love I have for them. It just made so much sense to me to think that if I can’t tell the people who already love me what I need and be vulnerable with my needs, then I have so many other issues going on. Obviously the people who love you are FOR you and on your side. It’s like your own cheering section in life. We should all be able to tell our cheering section what will keep us going.

It got me thinking about something I’ve said to my husband for years (and how funny it is that I didn’t take my own advice); I used to tell him early on that I can’t read his mind and I need him to call an audible. If he’s the quarterback and I’m in the huddle and don’t hear the play he calls, I’ll mess it all up. So I need him to tell me.

There I was telling the love of my life I wanted him to tell me what he needed, but I didn’t realize how much I needed to take my own advice.  Sheesh!

While I know I’m a people-pleaser, and while I know I am also verbal and loudly opinionated, telling the people I love what I need is really hard for me. Harder than I realized. So I’m on a quest to be brave and courageous and to let my cheering section know what’s going to keep me going.

I want to be there for them so can I let them be there for me? Guess I better speak up!