Thursday, March 24, 2011

If You Were A Tree...

My poor husband.

For the past three weeks or so, I have been painfully counting calories, complaining about my weight, whining about the gym, and lamenting water weight gain.  Although this isn't anything new, per se, it's gotten more intense since I made the choice to seriously commit to walking a healthier path in life.
Which, with the onset of a strange viral infection, went horribly off course.

I was prescribed week's worth of steroids, much like the ones I took as a child.  The ones that contributed to my childhood obesity and helped to convince me that 2 Big Macs and fries were a reasonable meal.  The ones that tasted (and, apparently, still taste) like wallpaper glue.  The ones that cause mindless, incessant munching and the feeling that, even after a huge, healthy, delicious home-made meal, I need chips, ice cream, salsa, and a Hot Pocket.

The ones that made me avoid counting calories for a whole week because I couldn't bring myself to actually record the tragedy that was what I put in my mouth.

So, ugh...we're back at square one.  Nothing gained, so that is great, but...big loss of momentum there.  Lots of feeling like a failure.  Feeling like I will never achieve this goal.  Feeling like I shouldn't even bother.  Oh, feelings, feelings, feelings.

Why do we trust our feelings?  So fickle, they change as often as Lady Gaga's wardrobe.  As reliable as shifting sand, as deceptive as the sea reflecting the sky.  Why, then, do I put so much faith in how I feel, rather than what I know?

Simple: it's easier to accept our feelings as facts, rather than the fleeting emotions they really are.

It's tough to really analyze and dissect feelings.  They lead to deeply-embedded ideals, thoughts, and values about ourselves and others.  When your start to really examine the patterns of your feelings, you often find a root problem that is difficult to solve.  Solving that root problem requires work.  A plan.  Often it requires sacrifice.  It even involves acknowledgment of the problem - a scary idea for many.  So instead of chopping down the sickly, diseased roots, we adorn the tree with pretty garlands and beads.  We put a star on top and call it martyrdom, when in reality it is a blend of fear and self-righteousness.
It's ugly.
God wants our roots to be strong and nourished by him.  If they are, we grow up strong.  He can trust us to bear big, beautiful fruit.  He can lovingly place nests and birds in our branches.  These are the ones he calls us to raise up for him, whether they are friends, children, or peers.  He will know we can withstand downpours and nasty weather, because our roots are down deep, unbreakable, mighty (see Jeremiah 17:7-9).

I have lately been giving in to many, many negative and flighty feelings.  I have felt unattractive, unworthy, a bad Christian, a bad friend.  I know in my heart that these feelings are meant to spur me to action.  To lose weight, to take care of myself, to spend more time with God, to love on people who need it.  But instead, I have been breaking out the decorations and lacing up that tree with tinsel and shiny stars.

Now I see that it doesn't make the tree any prettier.  What I need is some fertilizer to strengthen my insides first.
Then, I will be so healthy and beautiful I won't need decorations at all.  I won't need a disguise.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


...can sometimes only be glimpsed once failure has been plastered on the walls in front of you.

In that vein, here's hoping for some more success with this "counting calories" thing.  My gracious and encouraging husband remarked the other night, unsolicited, that I appeared to be losing weight.  I laughed haughtily at him and crawled into bed.  "Yeah, okay, honey," I sniffed.
I love him.  I haven't been to the gym this week, despite my sudden burst of energy and four visits there last week.

Haven't lost any weight yet.  Lost my temper?  Yeah.  Lost my resolve?  Almost.  Lost my mind?  Getting there.  At least this whole process is making me more keenly aware of what I actually eat, rather than allowing me to mindlessly gobble calories I'm not even really enjoying.  That's a step in the right direction, eh?
The Chick-Fil-A sandwich today was totally worth it.  I'll eat oatmeal all day tomorrow to make up for it if I have to.  Heck, Chick-Fil-A is always worth it.

I love you, Chick-Fil-A.

Friday, March 11, 2011


As much of the Christian community is entering into the season of Lent, I am reminded of traditions from my childhood. My mother was raised Catholic, and although she left Catholicism around age 13, a lot of customs and ideas from it stuck with her through her adulthood. We never ate meat on Good Friday. God was a creature to be feared, always watching.

The idea of Lent always frightened and bothered me. An urgent celebration of senseless indulgence, followed by forty days of complaint and lack, followed by another celebration and an Easter egg hunt. I didn't really get it. In fact, seeing people who didn't even really believe in their religion give up things like chocolate or coffee didn't exactly ignite in me a fire for the Lord. These people weren't giving anything up out of a love for God or a desire to serve him better. Many of them were sacrificing out of a feeling of guilt, obligation, self-righteousness or even a secret hope to drop a few pounds in forty days.

Now, Lenten sacrifice is not something that my non-denominational faith expressly requires. However, there have been times when I feel that God is specifically calling me to lay something down for a period...whether it is Lent or another time of the year. Often, I feel that I need to stop listening to a certain type of music, or perhaps step away from a television program, or maybe cut a specific snack or favorite food out of my diet.

However, this year, when I woke up on Wednesday (having forgotten that Fat Tuesday was the day before), I checked my friends' status updates, and one was a beautiful message, a quote from a song, about God's love. Immediately, I was inspired to spend the next forty days trying to express gratitude for God's presence in my life. I decided that my first status update every morning would be a "thank you" to God. Nothing would be too obvious to take for granted or too insignificant to escape appreciation. If I had something in my life that made my life better in some way, I would tell about it. If I had been through trials that improved my character, I would tell about it. If I was struggling with something, I would thank God that he is giving me the strength to overcome it.

Maybe you are confused about Lent, too. Or maybe you have blindly observed it all your life, unsure of the meaning behind it. Maybe you do understand, and you love the Lord enough to willingly give up something that brings you pleasure. At any rate, I invite you to join me in Forty Days of Praise (40DoP) and thank God for something every single morning. Try to think on that one thing all day. Sometimes, gratitude is all that gets us through a difficult time.

On this snowy Pittsburgh morning, I am grateful for my freedom in Christ, my friends and family, a good cup of coffee (from my favorite Starbucks!), a warm blanket and a warm-hearted husband!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pop Meltdown

The last time I mentioned music, I was lamenting the fact that so much of it encouraged immoral and thoughtless behavior.  Now, granted, not much has changed, but I am addressing a far more fundamental problem with pop music today, an issue that has nothing to do with ethics, religion or cultural values.  A concern that has made me question the sanity and clear-headedness of both the music industry and its voracious public.

The lyrics are bad.  And stupid.
I am wondering what happened to us as a society that lyrics like Rihanna's snarly-sweet "hold me like a pillow" gets rave reviews.  Really?  Honey, do you want me to smother you with drool and share my morning breath with you?  Do you want me to lazily flop you back on the bed when I am done with you?  And "I wanna make your bed for ya, then make you swallow your pride?"  What?  Will your next album be about Bad-Girl Domesticity?  Please, sing to me about how your want to dirty up the sheets then wash them for me.

I am not asking for poetry.  In fact, forget the poetry.  Just because it rhymes doesn't mean it makes sense.  Corny rhymes usually only work in musical theatre.  And even then...not always. 

I said that I didn't want to use my writing to discourage or judge.  I am just concerned because the music industry has become far too much like the food industry.  No matter what kind of junk you put in a can (or on a track), it is getting gobbled up, because it is what we have trained ourselves to accept.  The same way that many people choke down what's canned and stuck on grocery store shelves simply because they are convenient, we're devouring each new release from Ke$ha, Kanye West and, yes, even sweet-faced Justin Bieber, simply because they're available.

When I began to eat more unprocessed foods than I was used to, my taste buds resisted.  I had been taught, over the years, to crave salt and resist exotic flavors.  Canned ravioli was perfectly acceptable.  As I discovered new flavors and ingredients, I began to desire things like sweet basil, whole wheat pasta, and freshly grated black pepper.  The canned stuff was fine once in a while, but it wasn't my main source of nutrition.

I guess that is what I am trying to say about pop music.  Sometimes, it is fun.  I mean, I hate to admit it, but I do have a special place in my heart for some of Katy Perry's perky pop-rock tunes (and her super-cute style).  Personally, though, I am finding that I'm not "well-fed" when my ears are snacking on fakey-forced rhymes, electro-tweaked vocals, a million different metaphors for sex, and throbbing dance beats.  Maybe I'm alone, but I like the good old stuff.

Of course, the irony is, most of the good old stuff was mocked by the older generation, too.  Scandalous, they gasped when Elvis, fully dressed, wiggled his hips.  Then, their children were floored when Madonna showed up in her underwear.  Now, their grandchildren are shaking their heads as Lady Gaga is splashed across the magazines, andryognous, the free-love proclaiming "savior" of a tainted generation.

Maybe that means I am officially among the "old folks". 

Well, dagnabbit, that's fine with me.  You can keep your lollipop brassieres and clock-necked rappers.  I'll sit down with my chamomile tea and a little nibble of Motown.  Maybe a bite of some old-school jazz.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Pound of Flesh, an Ounce of Hope

I dislike math.

I dislike math for the same reasons I dislike following recipes.  Too much structure.  Too many  opportunities to err.  To me, math is devoid of creativity.  It is the opposite of art.  There is only one way to reach a solution.  Despite being a Christian who does indeed believe in only one way to get to Heaven, I find that applying the concept of "my way or the highway" rarely works in most social exchanges.  In fact, people who behave in such a way are often labeled unkindly.

So, you see, to me, math is sort of a bully.  It says: one way.  Period.

I dislike math.

But I am now finding myself relying on it as I - sigh - count calories.
Although I hear "oh, my gosh, you are SO not fat!" from a lot of my friends, and I do appreciate the compliments, the fact remains that I have been heavy all my life.  Yes, I have learned to dress in a way that flatters my figure, and yes, I am wise enough to know that the jeggings fad is not for me.  But it has always bothered me that I never liked exercise, and that I liked food too much.  Couldn't it be the other way around?

My recent scare with abnormally high blood pressure has got me more concerned than ever about my health.  The good news is that I successfully avoided "newlywed weight gain" and have maintained my weight now for about 2 years.  This is good...because in college, my weight only ever went up.  Between working at Starbucks and Curves for several years, I lost about 25 pounds.  I gained some of that back after leaving Starbucks, but I have been holding steady.  That in itself is an accomplishment for me.  So I feel like I am ready for the next step.
Of course, in order to like - or even tolerate - exercise, I have had to associate it with something else I do like.  Visions of myself in a super-cute bikini near the ocean don't work for me, since I don't know how to swim.  My wedding has passed, so picturing myself in a wedding gown, slim and trim, doesn't help either.    What may help is imagining myself at my current weight, packing on an additional 30 pounds during pregnancy,  Eep!  That is way too scary!  So forget the visualizing.  It's bunk for me.  What is working is, of course, music.

If you think I downloaded the theme from Rocky, you would be correct.  I put a deliciously cheesy soundtrack together for myself, and I don't care who knows it.  If you aren't moved, even the slightest bit, by the opening fanfare of "Gotta Fly Now", then you are dead.  And therefore, you don't need to worry about your weight.  But for the rest of us...

Ross's employer offers a discount on health insurance if he fits into certain categories.  One requirement is that he lose ten pounds before the end of April.  Now, I certainly don't think my hubby needs to lose any weight, but he is willing to do it.  For the discount, of course.  So we've committed to losing 10 pounds in about 8 weeks.  That is a reasonable goal.  I think I can do it.

Sometimes deadlines are helpful, you know?

Several years ago I attempted to lose wight and joined an awesome website called  It is a great resource, but I got tired of tracking everything I ate.  That counting thing again.  But now they have an app for my phone, so I figure I will give it another go.

The best part?

Cooking burns 140 calories an hour.

I can so do this.