A Fitness Lament

I’m skinny, so I’m happy, right?

I’m skinny, so I’m healthy, right?

I’m skinny, so I’m good at sports, right?

I’m skinny, so I can run fast, right?

I’m skinny, so I should wear a bikini, right?

I’m skinny, so I should flaunt my assets, right?

I’m skinny, so I’m a bitch, right?

 

You don’t know the struggle, you don’t see the tipping of MY scales,

I’ve been bombarded with images of media since I was a girl,

telling me to be hotter, thinner, sexier. Telling me my body belongs to the highest bidder or the best con

-but not myself.

Telling me my worth is on the auction block based on the length of my thighs and the hollows in my cheeks.

I should be thankful for my genetics and flaunt what I’ve got.

 

It doesn’t matter that Docs told me I risked being infertile when I was 12 because I couldn’t gain weight

and now I’m thirty- hoping, praying, desperate for another child. Realizing what a miracle the conception of my babies were.

It doesn’t matter that I stand up in the middle of the night to answer their cries and pass out from blood pressure dropping to the floor.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve been on pills, supplements, diet changes (the works!) to fix the anemia that weighs me down like lead in my bones.

If I’m cold I’m just told I should put on some insulation, there is no way that it’s my thyroid since I’m too skinny for problems.

Problems dismissed, sorrow invalidated, frustration ignored-nothing’s wrong since I’m skinny and just complaining makes me bitchy, so shut up and be happy I’m so lucky.

 

Why do you work out? You don’t need to. Why don’t you eat pizza? You could use it.

Since when is cardiovascular exercise reserved for only the obese, like my heart will keep on pumping forever just fine since I’m skinny.

And my hormones will balance out just fine since I’m skinny.

And my muscles will just magically appear since I’m skinny.

And my bones won’t ever be brittle and fragile even though osteoporosis runs in my family-since I’m already skinny.

 

Stupid LIES health is important no matter the circumference of your waist,

whether there is fat on my muscles or not they need to be worked,

my bones need to be strengthened so I pick up my weights.

And as for food- am I the only one who sees that poor nutrition doesn’t just hurt your joints with extra weight but poisons your system and effects your entire life?

My body is a temple and a gift from the Lord, just look at the detail in scripture for the creation of the Tabernacle

-am I to treat the dwelling of the Holy Spirit with anything less than my best?

What is it to YOU that I care about the health of my gut or the strength of my back? Get off mine.

I KNOW, mom…

I’m waiting for it. I know it will happen when I’m reminding one of the boys something for the umpteenth time and I’ll get an eyeroll and an, “I KNOW already. Geez.” As independence is forged in the fiery crucible of adolescence, boundaries are pushed, limits are tested, and any questioning of abilities is met with shields raised. The problem, at least for me, is a lot of those shields never got lowered.

Several of the personal development books I’ve read (or listened to) lately have mentioned in passing the phenomena of people KNOWING quite a bit, but not ACTING on that knowledge. And it is easy, from a coaching or managerial position, to get frustrated with this lack of application. But the truth is WE ALL DO THIS DAILY. Seriously. I know a TON of things. I know folding the laundry straight out of the dryer will be less stress and hassle than dumping it in a heap and having to sort and fold later. I know meal planning saves time and money. I know whenever I’m reading scripture daily I am more centered and grounded in my faith. Shoot, a lot of times I THINK about what I should pray instead of praying….take a moment to let that sink in. Instead of praying, I think about what I should pray. Instead of just mentally going, “Dear God, please hear me now….” I sit and think about all the things that I should maybe pray about. How many times do we say, “I’ll be praying” and instead of taking TWO SECONDS to offer up a quick prayer, we put it off until later (and often forget)? Absolutely ridiculous. ALL of the eyerolls, please.

My point-before I got slightly carried away on the prayer tangent-is that all of us generally speaking KNOW things. Often we even know how situations occurred and what we need to do to get out of them. We know the solutions to our own problems. But we don’t do anything about it. We keep our shields up and layered in excuses. “We don’t have time, we don’t have money, we don’t have energy, we don’t know how, we have too many things going on…” For the most part, excuses are a refusal to acknowledge the actual problem. Frequently all excuses do is shift the blame to inanimate objects or even concepts! “I don’t have the money” -like it’s money’s fault. If you truly want it, you will work and save to make the money available. “I don’t have time” like time is somehow running around stealing parts of your life. If you truly want it, you will MAKE the time available. What we fail to acknowledge is that our lives ARE somewhat in our control. No, we cannot prevent disaster-but we can control our response to it. We cannot prevent our children growing older-but we can choose how to navigate through the transition. We cannot always change the hours our job demands-but we can change what we do in the off hours and/or look for work that meets our requirements. We cannot choose our upbringing or our brain chemistry or the day that we die-but we can learn how to grow, and change, and become who we want with the opportunities we have been given. We CAN choose to take risk, venture out, seek help, do new things. The real “problem” is we’re scared.

I know there is a lot of stuff out there warning about being a control freak-but the opposite is letting everything else control us. Letting the demands of society drive what we feel is important or necessary. Letting our insecurities loom so large we don’t take a risk from our current place of comfort no matter how much are heart yearns for it. Letting life steal our joy instead of leaning in to the times God says, “Go. I’ve got this.” Oh, we know what it’ll take most of the time, or we at least know enough to know it’ll be different-and that’s usually enough for us to pile on a few more excuses.

Thing is, we are never not going to be a bit scared. To be courageous means to act boldly despite fear. You can’t have courage without being afraid. I am not saying this from some lofty position, I am saying this dug down with my shields fully raised. I have allowed myself to be pushed outside my comfort zone more in the past few months than I have allowed in years. I have started taking a hard look at my words compared to my actions compared to my desires. OH how I feel Paul when he says in Romans, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” From all facets of my life, spiritual, emotional, mental, physical-I have room to grow and improve, and I know what needs to be done, but putting it into action is just HARD.

So, I encourage you today. Don’t just read this. DO something, even if it’s just making a list of the “somethings” that you want to do. Don’t just think about it, don’t just learn about it, don’t just read about it. What do you want to do that you aren’t putting into action? There are so many cliches out there, and we brush them off because they are weary and tired…but, many of them are also the truth. You do have to “be the change” success does come from “baby steps” and in the words of Yoda, “there is no TRY”

Out Like A…I Don’t Care, Just OUT.

This month has been a mess. I’m just gonna lay it out there. I still wholeheartedly believe in total wellness and the importance of eating well and exercising regularly…but this month I haven’t been living up to my ideals. It started out wonderfully-hyped up off of all the success from Hammer and Chisel, breaking running PRs left and right, a FABULOUS visit from my sister and my adorable nephew. Talk about “in like a lion” March started with a ROAR!

And then I sprained my ankle.

And then my youngest got either a stomach bug or developed an egg allergy (doctor’s appointment scheduled).

And then, and then…

The biggest thing, the far biggest mess of March, has been an accumulation of cyclical hope and frustration that started last January. Last January when Brian put giving the boys another sibling on the table. Last February when I agreed to start weaning Zane earlier then I had planned to hopefully have the third child close in age to the boys. Last March when I had my first cycle. Last April when I had another. Then last May…June…July…August…September…You get the gist.

Then THIS February being unpleasantly caught a day early by surprise while at the playground.

Then this month. March. The day arrived, and passed, and I tested negative. Then the next day. Negative. Then the next, and the next, and the next… I stopped testing, but I remained hopeful. I have never been late a day in my life, my ovaries are like clockwork, there was only one good reason for being late…Out talking to the neighbors while the boys played and OH MY GOODNESS time to beat a hasty retreat to the house.

8 days late. Over a week late. Over a year of trying.

I feel like the appropriate progression of this story is some dramatic meltdown on my part while sobbing in the bathroom, but honestly I just sighed, and shrugged. It’ll happen, or not, in God’s timing, not mine. Am I frustrated? Yes. And the week of hope definitely threw my emotional equilibrium. A week of wondering where we’d put the extra crib, if we’d move Brian’s desk into the bedroom, how the boys would respond to a sibling, whether or not I’d get morning sickness this time… So instead of focusing on exercise and eating balanced, I’ve been focusing on me and Christ. Introspection, prayer, study, seeking time to be alone and listen. And it has been good, y’all. Painful at times, peace-filled at times, always real, and really good.

I didn’t throw fitness all out the window, I still eat pretty darn clean because I’m just used to it now, and it was more like “an extra carb serving here, forgetting to get a protein in there, an extra dollop of peanut butter with my apple”…nothing crazy, just nothing really planned or focused either. And these last two weeks have been hit or miss with the workouts. I’ve managed two early morning workouts before the kids-and then Zane caught a hacking cough and he’s thwarted the “early uppers club” once again. Today I managed to get a PiYo in during their breakfast, and tomorrow if Zane ends up in our bed again I may resort to that again.

My point is-March was messy and imperfect, but that’s how life is. It isn’t always riding success highs or fighting to persevere with gritted teeth. Sometimes it’s just tripping and stumbling a bit and trying again with a shrug. I’m tackling the month of April with renewed vigor and focus-I’m restarting the Hammer and Chisel workouts because I LOVE them and I’m super excited for our Clean Eating Workshop coming up on the 4th. I’ll be meal planning once again with an eye on more budget friendly recipes, and I even signed up for a vendor fair to spread the fitness love.

I won’t miss you, March. Onwards!

Why?

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Blue skies and sunny weather. Perfect for a stroller jog. But instead I stand here with Zane strapped into the Ergo snuggled on my chest and smelling faintly of vomit while I keep an eye on Cade systematically hosing down the entire backyard. Black wrap encases my ankle and allows me to rock Zane back and forth without too much pain.

God is good.

Having Zane get the stomach bug the morning after I wrenched my ankle may not sound convenient, but basically I only have one energetic boy to worry about- the other stays somnolent. Earlier, as I pondered how to look on the bright side while mopping up the explosion in Zane’s crib, I mused over last night’s deep felt chagrin after spraining my ankle doing nothing more strenuous than walking. I was even wearing athletic shoes.

Every time I get injured (which has thankfully happened less frequently over the past few years) I view it as a personal affront and betrayal. How dare my body succumb to such a thing! Triple the embarrassment now as I tout the benefits of balanced eating and consistent exercise and here I am falling over in my backyard. Last time I sprained my ankle-the left one I think- it had been going down ONE STEP onto a sidewalk while I was pregnant with Cade. One step. I could, and did, blame that heavily on the pregnancy hormone relaxin that make everything stretchy and loose in preparation for childbirth-but the truth is I’m a clumsy person with weak ankles.

It is easy, for me at least, to fall into the trap that leading an intentionally healthy lifestyle makes you immune to injury and disease. That eating clean will prevent me from getting the flu, that lifting weights will keep all back injuries at bay, that cardio will ward off a heart attack, that enough fruits and veggies will prevent cancer. But the truth is-the world is fallen.

All good things come from God. The design of my body is perfect, the reality in this world is not. Adam and Eve brought death, disease, and sprained ankles into the world, and no amount of clean eating is going to change that.

But.

BUT that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. As I chafe at being housebound with a limp, as the dishes pile up while I wipe up more diarrhea, as I ungraciously cope with the physical reality of sin I am strengthened in my resolve to combat it.

In the midst of the mess, my “why” solidified. I do this-the exercise, the nutrition, the coaching-I do this because our bodies are gifts that we have been blessed with, and taking good care of them is a form of fighting the world. I love a fight with clearly defined lines of good and evil-but those battles just don’t exist much outside of fiction. THIS, however, is a fight I can throw myself into wholeheartedly, with no worry for my combatants. I am fighting disease and injury, the consequences of sin. I am maintaining and loving the body God gave me, and fighting the long lasting effects of Adam and Eve’s decision. One day He will make my body perfect in His presence, until then I’ll invest in the reflection I have.

Melodramatic, I know, haha, but it’s the truth. No matter what words I choose it still sounds fanciful or cheesy, but all the other “whys” I could give (like “to be an example for my children”) are just small motivators in a much larger perspective. So, I apologize for the grandiose “why”, I can’t help it, it’s how my mind works.

Now excuse me, I’ve got to go strip one more diaper of runny poo and take a hot epsom salt bath for my ankle. Fight the good fight!

End of an Era…

Ok, ok, that’s a little melodramatic, I mean, it wasn’t an entire era before Leo won an Oscar-but for him I bet it sure felt like one at times!

ANYway, moving on. That’s exactly what I did yesterday-moved on. Hammer and Chisel officially ended on Sunday for me. I completed the 8 weeks of exercise, I put my weights in my closet today, and pulled out my yoga mat. I really loved Hammer and Chisel, I’ll be revisiting it again I’m sure, but for now I need a break from weights. I get bored easily (hey, ADHD) and the battle becomes not necessarily to push play on a workout, but to push play on ANOTHER ONE OF THESE WORKOUTS I HAVE ALREADY DONE AT LEAST TWICE, AHHHHHHH!!! I was going a bit crazy at the end, I felt like I mentally drug myself kicking and screaming through this last week. It was such a relief to fold up the calander, and so satisfying to have completed it from start to finish!

I’ve lost quite a bit of fluff, added a nice amount of muscle (especially my legs. Man, I love them, they are totally “beast-y” as Sagi would say) and feel substantially stronger. My body shape has changed, not so much pant size as how the pants fit, lol. I’m quite a bit looser around the waist and hips, but my newly strengthened quads and calves make skinny jeans a bit problematic, haha. I love it! Maybe I should finally look into leggings. 😉 My favorite part about this strength training is the added strength to my joints. You guys, my joints suck. The number of times I’ve sprained an ankle is easily in the 20s. My hips are a mess (pregnancy and childbirth didn’t help). My wrists are weak, my one elbow is wonky from being fractured and dislocated (it still randomly “goes to sleep” on me when I’m laying down at night), my back is pretty much genetically disposed to fall apart vertebrae by vertebrae until a surgeon adds enough hardware to tack it upright again-the only joint I’ve never really struggled with are, oddly enough, my knees. I mean, sure, they’ve hurt a bunch from running, but I’ve never badly injured them.

Weightlifting requires good form to do safely. And for the past two months I have worked hard on perfecting that form. Maybe I could’ve upped the weights sooner for some exercises, but I knew how crappy my joints were and I didn’t want to screw up and get injured for the sake of my ego. Two weekends ago I took a false step while double carrying both boys in wedge shoes. I rolled my ankle. I caught my stumble with a beautiful side lunge and instantly righted myself with neither a boy dropped or barely even jostled. My thought was, “Crap. I just sprained an ankle.” Reality? It was a bit sore to walk on for a day. End story. I have sprained my ankle in combat boots tripping over my own feet, but rolling an ankle while awkwardly carrying an extra 60lbs of weight wearing 4inch high wedges and I barely get a strain? I was (am!) dumbfounded. My back no longer hurts picking up, putting back down, and carrying the boys. In fact, I haven’t had any back pain (lower or upper) for the past month!

The crowning achievement? I can sleep on my side without my hips screaming bloody murder. Even with a support pillow I’ve had to shift position frequently and often wake up sore since being pregnant with Cade (who will be three in a few months). I had resigned myself to this uncomfortableness as just a symptom of “getting older”. But now it’s gone! Now if only I could get the boys to sleep past 6am…

I am so proud of myself for sticking with this program. I struggle with finishing projects I start (just take a look at my “craft closet”….no, on second thought, don’t.) and two months seems like an eternity for me-but I did it! Not just the workouts (which get boring enough with repetition) but the meal plan!

What now? I’m doing a hybrid of some of my favorite workouts-mostly PiYo and p90x3, though after a week or two I’ll pull out some of my favorite Hammer workouts- while really focusing on adding some miles. I’m keeping one rest day on Thursday, but on Sunday I’m going to take it-not easier exactly, but calmer, and do some p90x3 yoga or isometric balance poses. Yesterday was PiYo, today was a 2 mile run pushing the stroller-maybe I’ll do some yoga tonight, too. We’ll see.

Onwards!

“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?

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You’ll NEVER believe the SUPER FABULOUS MINDBLOWING thing that happens NEXT!

Seriously, click bait? Seriously? I get annoyed at the hyperbole that runs rampant across social media. I’m in this team competition thing with some other coaches, and one of the challenges was to post about Shakeology but using the words “daily dose of superfoods”. I’m gonna be honest-it makes me cringe. Now, I LOVE me some Shakeology. It is made from all real, whole foods. The foods are nutrient dense and contain all the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, protein, I need for a balanced meal plus extra stuff like pre-and probiotics AND the founders continually look for sources that are eco friendly and benefit the farmers. I think that’s really cool (maybe not your cup of hippy tea, but it’s mine). I really don’t like the word “super food”. I don’t like unnecessary hyperbole. I don’t like labeling food in general, and “super food” just irritates me-even if it fits the criteria from the current nutrition standpoints that do label food super and otherwise. To me, it cheapens Shakeology.

There. I said it. I’m an elitist. I’m a protein drink snob. I don’t want viral clicks on Shakeology from fad following superlative driven yo-hos. You need to be serious. You need to be skeptical. You need to do your own research before you jump on this wagon. And if it is not for you-for whatever reason, then don’t get it.

Do I think Shakeology is beneficial for me? Yes. Do I think almost everybody could benefit from drinking it? Also, yes. It’s food. It’s really well balanced and nutritive but it is legitimately FOOD not chemical additives, supplements, synthesized vitamins, or what have you. It’s food, you guys. Almost everyone could benefit from having one completely balanced meal of real food a day. (I say almost, because I don’t like grandiose absolutes much more than I like excessive superlatives. Someone out there may already be eating exactly perfectly and Shakeo wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Or maybe they’re allergic to every single ingredient. Or something.)

I have been asked whether it’s something I see myself maintaining “for the long term” and when I first bought it I would’ve said, “No, maybe just for a year or two.” But now? I don’t see any reason why I won’t be drinking this into my dotage. People daily drink coffee their entire lives. People daily drink sweet tea their entire lives. People daily drink soda their entire (shorter) lives (ha! ha! Sorry, couldn’t resist the soda jab). Why is it so weird that I daily drink Shakeology? Can the only reason to daily consume something be pleasure? Can I not drink something that is pleasurable AND balanced? There are 220 calories in a McDonald’s large sweet tea. I used to drink that daily. There are 160-170 calories in Shakeo made with just water. I mix it with fruit and water, so I’m in the 200-240 calorie range (depending on which fruit and how much). But instead of refined sugar, I’m drinking protein, vitamins, minerals, complex carbs, prebiotics, probiotics… Seriously, what is the problem here?

And I like it. I don’t like all the flavors, I don’t like all the recipes, but I’ve found the way that I DO like it, and I, well, LIKE it. I ENJOY THIS STUFF. So. Yes, I think you should drink Shakeology. No, I will not try to trick/woo/browbeat you into buying it. You should be a little skeptical. You should do your own research. But I’ve done mine, and “super food” or not, it’s a staple part of my fitness.

A Post on Seasonal Affective Disorder in Which I Throw Kale Under the Proverbial Bus.

I stand huddled in my jacket on the carport, one eye on Zane happily slamming chalk into the concrete, the other at Cade digging rocks out with his plastic pliers. Both keep up a running commentary-Cade articulating how hard he is working and the difficulty of his task, Zane babbling nonsense and playing with his tongue. And I stand, both restless and lethargic. I could check my phone-no, I am not going to keep my phone in front of my face around the boys, I could draw with Zane-but then I’d have to sit down and then Cade would come over and they’d most likely fight and…no…maybe I could bring my book out to read while they played-but if I open the door they’ll come swarming over to see what’s going on and I’m not sure I really feel like reading. I’m not sure I really feel like doing anything. But I’m bored. How much time has passed? I check my phone for just the time-three minutes. I have been standing here for just three minutes.

Cade comes galloping up in his funny knees-together-wiggle run, dirt smeared across his face, hair sticking out all over. “Do you want to play with me, mommy? Come play with me? Dig rocks with me mommy?” With effort I put a smile on my face, feeling distant and detached, “I’ve got to keep an eye on Zane, bud.” Cade’s face falls, “Oh.” the disappointment in his voice is heart breaking, or at least some part of me thinks so. “You want to play, too, Zane bug?” Cade asks his chalk pounding sibling. Zane looks up, forever appearing bemused that the world exists around him, but agreeably gets to his feet and toddles off after his older brother. “Ok, bud, I’ll come play, too.” I muster up a smile and using what feels like all the effort I have pick up a plastic cup and go help my sons collect rocks.

At nap time I look around at the absolute disaster the house has become-toys and clothing scattered everywhere, floors heaped with crumbs and friffles, piles on every available surface, laundry in the dirty hamper, laundry in the dryer, laundry in the clean hamper still waiting to be folded, dishes in the sink, dirty pots left on the stove. The book I am currently reading sits on the  table waiting to be read-and it is only mildly more appealing then the ever increasing list of cleaning I should do. As I sigh and sit at the table-continuing to ignore the serious state of crumbling neglect around me-it hits me. Dang it. I thought I could avoid it this year.

Every year. Every gosh darn year I struggle with this seasonal depression. Some years are worse then others, sometimes the depression manifests in different ways, but it always happens. Every fall I am determined to avoid it, every winter it happens, every spring I gleefully shrug it off. I managed farther into the season than usual this year, but still it has wormed it’s way in. It used to be just annoying, but now it alarms me. I’m a mom. I can’t afford for my depression to effect my kids, they don’t understand like my husband can that it’s temporary and typical. This year it has been the sense of disinterested detachment that is tearing me apart. These are my boys. My beautiful, vibrant, fun loving boys. I used to love to engage and play-now I can’t figure out how. I told my husband last night that I realized how little I had picked them up recently and it bothered me. They need to be held and loved on frequently. I love them-why has this suddenly become such an onerous burden?!

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I can’t believe it took me a full week to pick up on the signs. The increased morbid anxiety over Brian coming home from work. The inability to get excited about things. My frustration with reading-which is usually such a pleasure. And the feeling like I have to try harder and harder every day to engage with my own children. Whoa. Red flags everywhere.

It is the end of January, so thankfully I only have a few more weeks of winter left, but it’s time, again, to confront my seasonal demons. Once I know why I am reacting a certain way, it is much easier for me to replace the negative with the positive. My game plan is simple.

  1. I will continue to workout-endorphins are such a blessing and would explain why I feel more “kid friendly” after I exercise-but I may also add in some running when I have the time. Running specifically relaxes my brain in sort of a numbing, mindless, rambling way that counting reps and following a routine just can’t do-plus it is outside, which is a MUST for me when fighting off depression.
  2. Conscious prioritizing-now that I know what’s going on, it’s time to prioritize. Lowest on the list is the house. I’ll clean when I can, but I’m letting the stress go. Just as predictable as this depression is the weird burst of frenetic cleaning energy I get come spring. The house will survive. Highest on the list is Brian and the boys. Me time is up there, too, but with depression, the best way to get myself out of it is to focus on others. Depression traps me in my own head, the last thing I need is more time to focus on it.
  3. Reading to the boys individually is back on my to do list-it is one of the best ways for me to connect and interact, although it takes some creativity to get each one by himself.
  4. Once I’m done with my current book-no more books. It seems counter intuitive, but when I’m depressed often reading makes me MORE depressed because I struggle to engage with the book and it makes me angry to struggle with something that usually brings me so much joy. So I abstain from reading until I’m in a better mood and can enjoy it.
  5. Double check my meal plans and make some swaps to make sure I’m getting quite a bit of Vitamin D, B6 and B12, and folate (hello mushrooms, red meat, and spinach/kale). Maybe it’s because of my current nutrition plan which has me eating truly balanced for the first time in my life-but I’m not experiencing the extreme fatigue that usually accompanies depression for me. Mindlessness, boredom, anxiety, detachment-got those in spades-but fatigue and headache (my typical depression wingmen) are strangely absent.
  6. Lastly, but actually first, is prayer. I am so glad I’m doing a prayer study group through PWOC, because I’ve always struggled in this area (I’m good with theory but lousy with application). Depression is always where I rely on prayer more and conversely desire more consistency in my prayer life when I’m NOT depressed. I want a deeper, richer connection with my Savior all the time-not just when I’m unhappy.

For me, acknowledging the depression is always half the battle. Once I realize what is going on, it’s like its hold on me is weakened. The negative thoughts creep in and I shake my head, banishing them because I know they stem from untruth. It’s easier to push through the apathy, it’s easier to be stern with the groundless irritation, by giving depression its name I take away the mystery and its power over me.

But it is still a struggle. I have good days, not so good days, and really, really bad days. That’s the way it goes. I’m posting this here because I know sometimes “healthy living” people can seem relentlessly cheerful. “OMG endorphins are the best! And I look fab, too! *all the heart emojis*” “Don’t you just LOVE kale?!” “Killer workout, totally worth it #healthiswealth” etc., etc., etc.. Couple that with the motivational memes, “You can do anything!” “Pick your hard” “Be your best self” blabbity blah, and us health advocates can come across pretty maniacally.

This is a lifestyle choice. It isn’t the only lifestyle out there. It does have a host of positive benefits that I believe are well worth it (and yes, better than other lifestyles) -but it is a lifeSTYLE, not a “life”. Life happens to all of us, regardless of our style, it’s how we choose to deal with life that shapes our experiences.

So yes, I’m a health nut, yes, I struggle with depression, yes I use exercise and nutrition to combat said struggles. No, I am not maniacally cheerful all the time (just don’t ask anyone who heard me make radio calls while I worked as a medic, they have a biased opinion. 😉 ). No, kale does not cure mental illness (it’s ok, kale, I still like you). I have used fitness to help beat the winter blues before and that’s my goal again this year. Just because you can’t prevent depression with salad doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still eat salad.

I guess what I kind of want to say with this post is, wherever you are in your life, whatever imbalances you are struggling to right-be they mental, emotional, physical-, whatever personal demons you continue to fight, however healthy or unhealthy your choices may be-you are not a failure because you have room for improvement, you’re simply a work in progress dealing with life.

This is my current struggle. It, too, shall pass. 🙂

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.

A Recipe! And an update…

I don’t like scrolling through posts to find the recipe, so, if you just want the recipe-here it is.

Quinoa Chicken Parmesan with Spiralized Zucchini Noodles

Rating: 5

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 4

Quinoa Chicken Parmesan with Spiralized Zucchini Noodles

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 Tbsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 large boneless, skinless Chicken breasts, cut in half, so they are thin (or use 4 small breasts, and pound them, thin & evenly sized)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup almond flour or whole wheat flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup all natural
  • shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup low-sugar organic marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees f.
  2. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat with nonstick spray. (I used avocado oil or olive oil spray)
  3. In a large saucepan, cook quinoa according to package instructions.
  4. Stir Italian seasoning into cooked quinoa, set aside.
  5. Season chicken with garlic powder, sea salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Working in small batches, dredge chicken first in flour, dip into eggs, then dredge in quinoa mixture, pressing slightly to coat each breast.
  7. Place chicken onto the prepared baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown, and cooked through.
  8. Top with cheeses and marinara.
  9. Place into oven and bake until cheeses have melted, about 3-4 additional minutes.
  10. Serve immediately over spiralized zucchini noodles (I tossed my zucchini in a hot skillet with a touch of olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, for 3 minutes before serving)
  11. ?CleanFoodCrush.com/Spiralizer
  12. Garnish with fresh basil.

All Credit goes to Clean Food Crush blog. I found it on Facebook and pinned it to my Pinterest account.

The only tips I have are -don’t be afraid to season, season, season. I’ve thrown out “measuring” my spices a long time ago, I know which ones I like more of and which ones I like less and I dump it all in accordingly. BUT in order to make this SOOOOO TASTY don’t be afraid to season your quinoa-quinoa needs a lot of help in the flavor department in my opinion, haha. Also, I used spelt flour instead of whole wheat (and she mentions almond flour as another option). Spelt is not only a sprouted grain, but it also has a light, sweeter flavor instead of the cardboard taste of whole wheat. Lastly, I flipped the breasts over before adding the marinara and cheese for the last four minutes, so that the crunchier quinoa got covered in cheese. OH so good.

Now, the update. I have been sore for a full week and a day. It’s been awesome. I did three chin ups today. YEAH BABY! Then I pretty much collapsed in a heap and whimpered and it currently hurts my biceps to type, somehow, but hey, that’s unimportant. We got some more weights to fill in our weight gaps (I needed an 8 and a 12lb) so I’m ready to really start upping the weight in the coming workouts. I admit, I don’t like the stop start nature to weight workouts, I prefer the constant flow of things like PiYo or even some p90x stuff (though he does stop start some, too), but I can’t argue with the results. I’m getting stronger even as I feel weaker, haha. And I’ve lost a few pounds of fluff that I’m hoping now to convert to muscle.

I’m really enjoying this meal planning stuff. The annoyance of meal planning is put in the balance of absolutely not stressing about food during the day. It is WORTH IT. I am adding a container or two tomorrow-a veggie and/or a fruit-because I’m still hungry throughout the day. My metabolism is already fairly fast (thanks, genetics!) so even though my target plan is on point no matter how I measure it out, I’m burning through it. The point of this is NOT to be hungry all day-Autumn talks about how detrimental it is for your body to go into starvation mode-so I’m upping the food. This is triply important since I want to GAIN muscle.

Also, the food is so good. Remember that series I did on picky eating? Remember how essentially the advice, “Don’t force your kids to eat anything, make sure there is always something they like on the table” was repeated throughout? That’s what I’m doing. The boys always get something I know they like on the table (and usually that is what they eat) whereas I get to cook MY food (and offer it to them if they want it, of course). This means I get to cook food I like without caring one wit on whether or not my finicky 2.5 year old will have a single bite… Pure. Bliss.

OH! And I’m helping out in a 21 Day Fix accountability group and am really enjoying it. 🙂 If anyone is interested shoot me an email at slowisapace@gmail.com it’s a pretty cool program.

The end!