“It’s Not Just WHAT You Say…

…It’s how you say it.” I don’t know how many times my mom said this to me as I tried to navigate my mood swings and emotional outbursts as a child. I’d be pulled aside for a scolding for hurtful words and I’d respond hotly, “but it’s the TRUTH!” And it was-sometimes anyway. The point wasn’t in the truth of my statement, however, it was in the delivery. You can say “true” things in sarcasm, bitterness, anger, and spite. Or you can say those same true things gently, in love, with kindness and tact. <—Do I need to point out which one is the correct response?

Well, as I started this nutrition journey, I sorta reverted back to my six year old self. “but it’s HEALTHY!” as I ate three chicken breasts, an enormous salad drenched in dressing, and later had an apple slathered in peanut butter (the natural “just peanut butter and salt” peanut butter, thank you very much). Yes, bravo, I was technically eating “clean”, my snack choices were “healthy”, I even bought more things organic when I could find them. So how come the ten pounds of baby weight wasn’t budging? How come my energy levels still fluctuated wildly throughout the day? How come I’d go from comatose full to starving in 30 minutes? I was exercising! And gosh darn it, I was eating HEALTHY.

Well. It’s not just WHAT you eat, it’s HOW you eat it. Namely, how much, and how frequently, and how consistently. I’ve got two days left of Hammer and Chisel, we are coming down the home stretch, and the biggest accomplishment for me is that I stuck to the meal plan. First time ever I have taken a hard look at my diet from a nutritional standpoint. You wanna know what it looked like? Carbs. Mostly carbs. And some fruit (which is full of simple sugars-also carbs). LOTS of “healthy fats” (aka cheese and nuts). And maybe two servings of protein a day-usually slathered in oil, ha. I’d eat carb heavy in the morning and be ravenous by lunch where I’d eat a huge meal while the boys napped, then nothing til dinner, and then usually a second dinner after the boys went down. Do you want to know what it looks like now? FOUR servings of protein (I had to DOUBLE my protein intake), three servings of vegetables, two servings of fruit, two servings of carbs, one serving of healthy fat, one serving of seeds/dressing, and two tiny teaspoons of oil/peanut butter. A serving of vegetables is almost double “size wise” a serving of protein. A serving of healthy fats is small, a serving of salad dressing is tiny. I eat around every two hours. I have followed this plant consistently for 8 weeks.

The result? I am eating the same or MORE calories than when I was existing off of mainly carbs and I have lost 8lbs, gained substantial definition and muscle, my energy levels have normalized, I’m sleeping like a rock at night (when the boys let me sleep), and I just overall physically feel fantastic. I’ve discovered that if I eat veggies and protein for breakfast I don’t hit a mid morning crash/snack attack, the best time for me to eat carbs is lunch and bedtime snack, a serving of dressing is actually plenty of dressing for a serving of vegetables-I’ve even stretched it to two servings of vegetables. I actually like kale.

Eating clean definitely helps with being healthy, but at some point you’ll probably have to sit down and examine your diet for not just WHAT you eat-but how you eat it. We sling around “eat a balanced diet” a lot, but truly being balanced doesn’t mean throwing in the occasionally vegetable and patting ourselves on the head. It means daily eating a variety of foods appropriately portioned and evenly spaced. You’re going to have to put some serious effort in at first, but it gets easier. I don’t even have to make meal cards any more, I just keep track on my white board.

When Hammer and Chisel ends on Sunday I’ll probably celebrate a little on Monday (= have as much peanut butter as I want) but I won’t go crazy off my routine because I love how eating to fuel my body (as opposed to just indulging my senses) feels and what it does for me. Following a meal plan, finally balancing my diet-this was a game changer for me. I don’t want to go back. In a few weeks I might even try upping my plan to see if I can’t gain some muscle. 😉 The power of good food!

Diet

Diet was a four letter word when I was growing up. Dieting was a self-destructive cycle that hinged on a disordered relationship with food and wellness. They were the quack schemes of the body image world, the motivation being a “get skinny quick” fix that had little to do with actual health. My understanding and opinion of dieting hasn’t changed, but the clarity of what a diet is has become increasingly confusing. Diet also basically means-what you eat. I’m not ON a diet, but I have changed my diet. …But does being intentional about my food automatically make me on a diet? Is the only way to avoid the black hole of food obsession to embrace all foods whenever, however, and however much I want? I just need to love my body, no matter how unhealthy it gets, and not think at all about what I’m eating past the pleasure it gives me while consuming it?

The past two weeks of Hammer and Chisel the honeymoon phase of good nutrition wore off completely and I’ve been struggling to stay on track. As I’ve struggled I’ve wondered quite simply SHOULD I be struggling? Am I becoming obsessed with food? Is the temptation to eat “just one more cracker” really a temptation? Or is it a warning flag telling me that I’m becoming neurotic about portion control and I need to ease off before I head into a self destructive spiral? Am I simply overthinking this?

So the second part of my nutrition reflections is an uncomfortable revelation for me. It is the Lenten season-something that I have participated in for awhile even though I am not Catholic-and in this past year especially I have been working hard on adjusting my priorities to make my family truly Christ centered. Becoming a parent changes your awareness on so many levels, and never have I thirsted more for a solid relationship with my Savior than in the midst of panicking over my responsibilities as a mom. My choices of sacrifices for this Lent reflects that, and boy has it opened my eyes.

In a nutshell, I worship the pleasure of food. Mind, body, and soul, I love food. The taste, the texture, the sensation-food is glorious. When I started this clean eating journey I went from indulging in a box of girl scout cookies in one sitting and hot dogs for breakfast to reading labels at the store, meal planning at night, food prepping during nap,and taking pride in my culinary progress and the healthy food provided for my family. There is nothing wrong with eating clean, meal planning/prepping, enjoying food, etc., etc., -until there is. The thing is, whether it’s cookies or grapes, I just can’t resist having “one more” because I want “one more”. I could be way past comfortably full and I still have a hard time cutting myself off. Add into that an actual portioned meal plan that has me thinking about food constantly and I have set food on an alter by giving it importance beyond what it deserves.

Wait, what? I know, I know, seems completely contradictory. Let me try and explain.

I believe eating healthy, balanced, and properly portioned is crucial for total wellness.

Eating in such a manner requires planning, preparation, and knowledge. It requires intention and yes, discipline.

BUT. When meal planning edges out Bible study, when food prep causes me to snarl at my children, when I feel pressured to be pushing my skills in the kitchen because of “clean” recipes I find online, when I spend more time during my day thinking on or handling food than time with my children, my husband, my God-there is a problem. And the problem, for me, is that I worship the pleasure food brings. I enjoy food so much it trumps more important aspects of my life. I couldn’t resist browsing Pinterest for recipes anymore than I could resist snacking while I read a favorite book.

We like to think of money as the major tripper upper of false idols-and it’s definitely a big one-but in this land of plenty I wonder how many of us consume our idols at the table. Like I said, this was an eye opener for me, but I am SO GLAD my eyes have been opened. Yes, I have a struggle ahead of me to place food where it belongs, but even as the balance is just beginning to right itself already our home is calmer and happier for it.

Food is good, God is better.

 

 

“Fit”ness

One of the things I really like about the accountability teams I am a member of is the emphasis on “Finding YOUR Fit.” I think some people read that and automatically shy away from it because to them that means getting into the best physical shape possible and they KNOW that that implies a lot of work. But that’s exactly what it doesn’t mean. Let me explain…

To find your fit, you need to take a good hard look at your life and figure out areas that need improvement because you WANT them to improve-not because the FDA says so, or your doctor scolds you, or because you feel pressured by current social standards of beauty. No. Guilt driven change doesn’t usually get you very far.

Are you able to do the things that you like to do? Are there things that you secretly would love to do but feel are out of your reach? Are there physical things that hinder your work or your play or your engagement with your family? Those are the things you need to take a look at and evaluate honestly. If you want to lose ten pounds because you think that’ll make you feel better-then the truth is it isn’t the number of pounds you’ve assigned to lose that you want, it’s the  “feeling better”. And what does that mean? Does that mean not getting out of breath climbing the stairs? Does that mean not feeling like the bottom of your energy drops out when you’re only halfway through the day and you miserably have to drag yourself through until bedtime? Does that mean feeling comfortable getting down on the floor with your kids? Or playing tag with them outside? Does that mean wanting the strength to try things like skiing, hiking, white water rafting, etc., without fear of being unable to keep up with your peers? Does it mean managing thyroid issues? Or chronic migraines? Insomnia? Gluten sensitivity? Anemia? Does it mean more energy? A stronger immune system? A happier disposition? What is it that YOU want out of your body? THAT is where you start finding your fit.

Your fit does not necessarily mean six pack abs and swimsuit flaunting. Your fit is not tied to the scale or to your pants size. It isn’t even tied to the weight you can bench. It is tied to the WHOLEY fittest version of you-whatever that looks like.

Being comfortable in your own skin is different from willfully ignoring health issues that interfere with your daily life. I am comfortable in my own skin for the most part. I know I am loved, inside and out, and I’m comfortable with my appearance. I’m not striving to be a fitness competitor, I don’t weigh myself daily, I like where I am physically. But I wasn’t always healthy, even when I was “working out”. I was still fighting fatigue, anemia, chronic sinus issues, frequent headaches… It wasn’t until I started getting my nutrition in line with my exercise that those things started disappearing and I really started feeling “fit”.

I still have goals that push where I am a little farther. I’d like to run an ultra marathon again-this is going to take some serious mileage buildup, I’m going to have to push myself physically. I love how much I’m learning about nutrition and I love what that is doing for my immune system and my energy levels and my feeling of healthiness-so I’m going to keep pushing myself to find new recipes and expand my cooking skills. I love seeing the improvements weight lifting has added to my physique-I’m especially thrilled to see definition in my abs-but it doesn’t define who I am. Abs come and go, but my relationships have a lasting impact.

So, essentially, if what I am doing in the kitchen and in the living room when I push play is interfering with the health of my marriage, my relationships with my children, my connection with my family and the people I love best in this world-then it isn’t MY fit. It’s true, I could insanely restrict my diet (and become a horrible, irritable, cranky mess) and be working out three or four times a day to be super lean, strong, and what a lot of the world views as “sexy”-but that is NOT worth it to me, not even close, not even a little bit tempting. I’ve got goals, room for improvement, ways to push myself-but for the most part, I fit my “fit”.

Do you?

11.10.13 Keefer Family FOR WEB (89)

Sunday Dinner

I had hotdogs for my “protein” dinner allotment. I had hotdogs and cheesy orzo (a pasta) for my carb and healthy fat containers as well. Dinner tonight took me back to when I was five and liked my hotdogs “naked” and I lived off of macaroni and cheese. I was SUPPOSED to have made a chicken, asparagus, sweet potato dish that I love-but it was not to be.

An hour before dinner I was holding my 1 year old on the glider in the living room while he squirmed and hollered and tears rolled down his cheeks. I had banished my husband and eldest son outside while there was still light, and I sat in that chair and sang, “How Great Thou Art” over the wailing. Sometimes I was able to massage his belly. He farted quite a bit. And I finally gave up on the idea that I’d be able to get the sweet potatoes in the oven in time for dinner. But I remembered we had hotdogs.

An hour before that I had to wake up my still sleeping sick boy (after thoroughly checking his crib for vomit) because if I let him sleep any later he wouldn’t go down for bedtime-I was already pushing that line. He was sprawled out with his butt in the air, face plastered into his stuffed brontosaurus, one leg sticking out beneath the blanket burrito rolled around his midsection.

Rewind to last night, putting the boys down, Zane having thrown up a total of 6 times since the afternoon. He was exhausted and limp and I was paranoid (as all mothers are paranoid) and slept with one eye open.

You guys, I still have one purple container to eat (grapes-which I’ll eat before bed) and a red and a green (protein and veggie) and it just isn’t going to happen. Tonight I’m not going to make my nutrition plan. It has been a stinky 24+ hours with poop explosions, projectile vomit, and a very fussy little guy. I got my workout in. I didn’t have any “extra” containers. But I’m not going to make that perfect meal plan tonight. You know what? That is perfectly fine.

Life happens. And I could spend time beating myself up about not magically producing dinner even though I was battling a sick munchkin, or I could’ve tried harder to make dinner despite the sick munchkin-and most likely made us all even more upset. But that is foolishness. There is no point to this fitness crap if it takes away from my life. Yes, it hurts to workout. Yes, some days I reeeeeeallly want that extra slice of cheese. Yes, living a healthy lifestyle requires some sacrifice and a lot of struggle-but it isn’t healthy if it is making me and my family miserable. My family is my motivation to be healthy, but that health goes deeper than food and exercise. There is a balance, and tonight that balance was struck on the other side of my meal plan-and that is where it should be.

But conversely, how many suffer from physical ailments that sap you from living your life? Being healthy is more than “weight loss”, it’s also about figuring out and eating the foods that work best for your body. It’s about building strength in your muscles, boosting your metabolism, righting hormone imbalances, maintaining bone density. It’s about setting a strong foundation for your immune system. I am not suggesting that diet and exercise can cure all the physical ills in the world but it is almost guaranteed to help at least a tiny bit-and usually so much more. We look to pills to solve a lot of our illnesses-and boy am I not adverse to modern medicine, I find it fascinating and incredible the advancements made in this field!-but the thing is, a lot of those pills are tasked to solve problems that a balanced diet and exercise WOULD help solve (like high blood pressure, type II diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoporosis). In fact, most doctors recommend diet and exercise to their patients-most patients just ignore them. Again, I am not saying you just need to walk enough miles and you can cure cancer, I am saying, however, that you are partially responsible for your health. You cannot change the genes you have been given, but it is silly to just stop holding up your end of the bargain and expect a miracle pill to do all the work. If you are not taking care of your body, do not be surprised when it starts to fail you. And if you are plagued with fatigue and headaches and chronically sick-your body is not in a healthy place.

You need to find your balance for you. If you are just fine with where you are health wise then great! Keep it up! But if you aren’t-you might need to consider your health a priority, because if you don’t invest in it now statistically speaking it will fail you sooner rather than later. Do you want to be able to push yourself up the corporate ladder to the very top? Do you want to be active with your kids as they grow? Do you want to be able to play with your grand kids? Do you want to travel the world? Build your own business? Start your own charity/campaign/service? Whatever your dreams are, you need to be ALIVE to do them, and to do them well you need to be in a place of physical strength.

I know this all sounds so cliche-but it is true regardless. So I challenge you to take a hard look at where you are health wise, and if you just want to talk to someone about your options (Beachbody related or not) and where to start feel free to send me an email or connect with me on Facebook.

Thoughts on Body Image from a Skinny Christian Woman

After my workout on Tuesday I went to take a shower-boy did I need it-and did the customary “look over” in the mirror before hopping in. You know the one I’m talking about. You kinda just take quick check on your appearance while the water heats up, maybe pluck a few stray chin hairs (don’t judge! You know it happens…) suck in your stomach and turn sideways, and then shrug and jump in to get clean. I’ve been feeling convicted a lot recently about body image. As I dive deeper into the Beachbody coach thing, I know I need to find places to draw my boundaries, and I know I want to promote a HEALTHY lifestyle-not necessarily a skinny one. But a lot of times I feel like a hypocrite, because I AM skinny. And that led me to dig even deeper and here are some things that surfaced.

I am ashamed of being thin. It’s not just the feeling like my boniness is ugly, or the wondering whether I’d be more attractive heavier (both things I thought a lot during high school and college). It’s this feeling that my size is a problem. My appearance is hurtful to others. Somehow, my being thin makes it harder on others who aren’t thin. My pant’s size is responsible for other people’s lust, envy, bitterness, and disgust. My tall, lean frame pretty much causes people to have eating disorders. Being skinny is my fault. And being skinny is wrong. If I were a super-villain, my power would be driving by and zapping people into anorexia.

Some of these points were driven home in college where appearance was everything and yet my body was apparently “up for grabs”. I often felt isolated from people I wanted to connect with because of how I looked. I managed to worm my way into a great group of friends-most of whom would be considered geeks or nerds to the rest of the world-but in the early stages one of them (bless him for his honesty) flat out asked me why I was hanging out with them, to not take it the wrong way, but I looked more like the sorority type. I despised my body during college. I was constantly slammed with the mentality that to be pretty was everything, and if I measured up to the mark I was a slut, but if I didn’t measure up I was worthless. This was all hateful, hurtful nonsense.

Through much prayer, and growth, and the confidence that comes from being in a supportive, loving marriage the hurt and disgust faded away. BUT, I’ve realized that there is still lingering shame I’ve been masking. I don’t like working out with people because I am very body conscious. I’m conscious that in many athletic settings I am usually one of the thinnest people in the room. I feel like that means I should be fitter than I am. I feel like this also means woman hate me for being thin and working out (both MY perceptions, coming from me, not grounded in reality). I make excuses for my size-good genetics, I love working out, don’t really have much of a sweet tooth to fight, etc, etc, etc. I focus on my weaknesses to try and put people at their ease-for example, I really am a SLOW runner. Like, sure, I finished two ultras, but I was second or third to LAST. I focus so much on the health benefits of eating well and exercising to try and write off my appearance as inconsequential. In fact, I may sabotage my own efforts at becoming fit because I am worried about the impact on others. None of that is emotionally or psychologically healthy-in fact, it is all rather self centered. Seriously, my body type is causing all these problems in others? Well aren’t I a celebrity. PUH-lease!

Downplaying my appearance gets frustrating, and eventually it boils over into almost furious diatribes of how I AM healthy and people SHOULD lose weight and they can just STICK MY PANT’S SIZE IN THEIR PIPE AND SMOKE IT. Which results in me then feeling guilty for being angry and bitter, and I’m back to being ashamed. Because secretly, guilty, oh so secretly- I like what I look like. I’m proud of my body and how it works. I like my appearance. There are parts I don’t like as much, sure, but overall, I feel like a good looking woman. But I shouldn’t, right? Because me LIKING being thin and fit means I’m giving other people body image issues.

Bottom line: body image isn’t easy, it’s a mess in my head, and I don’t have it all straight. But here is where I am in this journey-

First and foremost, we are made in the image of God. Our physical appearance matters, because it reflects our creator. He did not make our bodies for us to despise. Our physical bodies are the conduit for Christ on earth. The local church is made up of believers physically present together. I should not downplay my body, I should not despise it. I should NOT abuse it. I should love it, and care for it, and use it on this earth for the glory of God. Learning how-and implementing-a healthy lifestyle so that I can care for my body in all ways includes physically. This is not the same as worshiping my body. It does not mean I should put my physical needs over others. It does not mean I should be enamored with my own appearance or judgmental of others’. It means it’s ok to like how I look, it’s ok to appreciate how my body works, it’s ok to work at being healthy. It is ok to find joy-and pleasure- in this earthly form.

It’s true, my genetics mean my skeletal frame is taller and narrower than others-but that is how I’m made. It’s also true that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and if people look at my shape and become embittered or envious-that is their struggle, not mine. It is also true that I have my own issues-like anemia-so eating balanced and maintaining muscle are things I need to constantly do. Spiritual health takes continual, committed development. Emotional health takes continual, committed development. The health of your mind takes continual, committed development. The health of your body requires no more and no less.

So, I’m working on it. I am working on resolving the shame and being proud of the beautiful, strong body I have been given. I am learning to embrace my size as healthy for ME, and let go of the idea that my appearance is personally responsible for the issues of others. I do not advocate that everyone has to be thin to be healthy, but for my frame thin IS healthy and I am praying for help to remove the unwarranted guilt. I don’t have aspirations to be a competitor in any fitness arena-that just isn’t me-but I am going to keep building and strengthening and taking pleasure in the physical changes that occur as a result. I believe balance in all areas of life can be attained within a healthy lifestyle, and fear of something becoming an obsession is already an unhealthy way of filtering the world. I want to be fit. I want to have muscle definition. I want to look good-for myself and for my husband. But what I want most is to enjoy this earthly body; to take care of it and to take pride in it because it is a much appreciated gift.
The hard boundary, the line I will strive to never cross, is to turn the intentional habits of eating well and exercise into something I worship. It will be a vital part of my life, but it will not be the most important thing in it. Balance is key.

**I am aware that this topic goes much deeper than I have chosen to, and I have done just that-chosen-to not take it farther. Partially because I am not a theologian, partially because this is already a long post, and mostly because I’m still plunging the depths myself. This is a tiny segment of a continuous mental dialogue.**

I’ll leave you with these photos: the first taken my last year before graduating from Penn State. The second taken 6 months after the birth of my oldest. The first one makes me cringe- I am cynical, bitter, and sarcastic, wanting to some how take control of the body image mess by tossing it in people’s faces. I am silly, joyful, and free in the second. I would not go back to that point in college for all the money in the world. You are so much more than your appearance-but it’s fine to like what you look like. Balance.

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*credit for the second photo goes to Georgina who took some amazing photos of me, my husband, and Cade that day.