What’s Cookin’, Good Lookin’?

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

mother ~ bike ~ photo ~ hamburger ~ salad ~ blood pressure

They were submitted by: http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/               

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.

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I am a terrible cook.

I don’t enjoy cooking. It actually gives me anxiety.

When I embarked on my weight loss journey, I knew one of the bad habits I was going to HAVE to change was the amount of times per month we were eating out. I needed to cook more if this was going to stick.

Ugh.

Nothing I make every looks like the picture. If I’m lucky, it’s edible. Feel free to question my daughter about the “Green Shrimp Soup” fiasco of 2004.  I think I may have blogged about it, but I’m too lazy to go search my archives. I suck at timing. By the time my main course is ready, everything else is cold and congealed. I often leave out important ingredients or steps, not on purpose, I’m just not good at following direction. I’m bad to buy the ingredients without reading the recipe and then find out when I set out to prepare dinner that the chicken was supposed to marinate overnight… So I wing it, often with disastrous results. Do you see what I did there? 😀 “Wing it…” “chicken…” Yeah, okay I’ll stop.

My husband is a much better cook. I don’t cook because I’m the mother, I cook because my husband works 2 jobs and goes to school full-time. No gender specific roles being assigned up in this house. I’m sure there is a small part of him (a very tiny, minuscule part) that sometimes wishes he was the stay-at-home dad, homeschooling our son and cooking dinners, doing laundry, meal planning, cleaning…oh wait, he does a lot of the cleaning actually.  In truth, I’m the worst housewife ever. But I try. I get an E for effort.

I’ve been wanting to try these new food delivery companies that seem to be flooding the marketplace. Places like Blue Apron, Plated, Hello Fresh, Sun Basket, Green Chef, Home Chef, etc… There seem to be a billion of them. A friend of mine was giving out 2 free meals through the Blue Apron company, and my favorite thing in the world is free anything, so I jumped all over that opportunity.

Despite the fact that my husband spends HOURS at the gym, on the exercise bike, lifting weights, sweating it up in the sauna, staring at himself in the myriad of mirrors and reflective surfaces…genetically speaking, he is still at risk for High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol. His strict exercise and diet regime don’t so much lower his risk for those factors as they lower the risk for the side effects…like death.  As I kind of like having him around, I’ve recently switched us over to a more pescatarianesque diet, more salad and fish less hamburger and chicken. Basically, trying to lower his exposure to animal fats.

For someone who doesn’t cook well and doesn’t enjoy it, getting creative with fish dishes is extremely difficult. It can also be expensive.  We can’t eat salmon every night, and not just because I have a tendency to dry it out so it resembles something more along the lines of salmon jerky. I refuse to buy tilapia. If it can’t be found in nature and it’s breathing, I’m wary. We have to avoid the high mercury fishes like Ahi Tuna, Orange Roughy, King Mackerel, etc. Not because I’m pregnant! Don’t want to start any rumors…

Anyway, back to my Blue Apron experience.

I ordered the “fried” Catfish with spinach and sweet potato fries and the black bean and quinoa burritos. I thought both options were pretty safe, both for me in the kitchen and to satisfy my son’s picky palate. The kid LOVES beans. I haven’t been able to sell either my son or my husband on the benefits of quinoa. They just don’t like it, so I was a little nervous about the burritos, but I thought if you smother enough cheese and beans on it and cover it with a tortilla, maybe they won’t notice. I will admit that I don’t find quinoa all that aesthetically pleasing either. It looks like bugs.

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Having never used one of these meal services before, I didn’t really have expectations, but I thought it would be more prepared I guess.

For example, I had to grate my own cheese… Luckily, we had a cheese grater. I wasn’t sure if that particular kitchen utensil made our recent move. I was throwing out everything. Yes, I know the benefits of grating your own cheese versus buying the packaged grated cheese. I like to live dangerously. And lazily.

On the upside, I finally know what a shallot is and what it looks like! Whenever a recipe asked for a shallot, I could never find it in the grocery store, so I always just bought green onions instead.  Same thing right? I think you’re maybe starting to understand why I’m so terrible in the kitchen.

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THIS is a shallot, if you didn’t know!

By the looks and smell of it, I’m thinking a red onion might be a better substitute. Yes? No? Anyway…

There was a ton more prep than I expected.

I laugh at the instructions they sent allotting a 10 minute prep time for each dish.  It took me that long to find the cheese grater. I grated like half the cheese block, got tired and cut the rest in chunks…I mean it’s gonna melt, who will know?

I apologize for the stock photo‘s. I completely forgot to document my Blue Apron cooking journey in pictures, which is too bad, because the burritos actually turned out kinda pretty. You’ll just have to take my word for it this time.  Next time, I’ll remember to take those important Instagram moments!

Despite the amount of prep and cook time, both meals turned out pretty good. There were clean plates all around, and even the KEENWAAAAH went down the hatches! It was nice to not have to grocery shop or meal plan for those 2 days. The convenience alone would be worth the price. I think both meals were around $60 and are supposed to feed a family of four. My husband eats for two or three, so there wasn’t much in the way of leftovers which sucked because I use leftovers for lunches.  I could probably duplicate both recipes on my own for cheaper but it was fun to try it out.

I’ll definitely order again, just to spice things up.  If you’ve used any of these types of services and have recommendations, send them my way.  Especially if they have a “free to try” option 😀

Grab that mug, pull up a chair and read how my friends used their particular words this week ❤

Baking In A Tornado                        http://www.bakinginatornado.com

Spatulas on Parade                   http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/

The Blogging 911                       http://theblogging911.com

On the Border                           http://dlt-lifeontheranch.blogspot.com/

Bookworm in the Kitchen      http://www.bookwormkitchen.com/

The Bergham Chronicles                  http://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com

Southern Belle Charm                    http://www.southernbellecharm.com

Confessions of a part-time working mom         http://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch/

Climaxed                                       http://climaxedtheblog.blogspot.com

You Are Loved <3

“UNIVERSAL LESSON:  YOU SEE THE WORLD THAT YOU HAVE MADE, BUT YOU DO NOT SEE YOURSELF AS THE IMAGE-MAKER.” 

Gabrielle Bernstein, “The Universe Has Your Back”

Personal development has never been something I pursued intentionally.  One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to acknowledge during my health and fitness journey is that in addition to weighing almost 300 lbs, I was toting around at least that much weight in emotional baggage.  It was literally weighing me down, drowning me in depression and despair.  Unwilling and unable to even leave my house most days, because I was so ashamed and embarrassed at how much I’d let myself go. I kept trying to claw and dig my way to the surface, only to be dragged back down again by the hands of my perception and self-loathing.  It was a cycle I didn’t know how to break.  I didn’t weigh 300 pounds just because I loved food, and I knew that part of my health journey was going to include delving deep into my heart and rooting out the negative and self-destructive emotions that brought me to the edge of the precipice I found myself on the eve before I decided to have Gastric-Sleeve surgery.  I didn’t want to ever end up back in that place, literally hanging over a dark abyss of self-hatred and fear.  I knew losing the weight was only half the battle, delving into my personal “why” was the key.  Why had I allowed this to happen to my body?  Why did I do this to myself?  I was hiding behind the extra weight.  Hiding behind the poor choices.  I needed to figure out why.  I couldn’t let this happen to me again.

Gabrielle Bernstein says something over and over in her book (The Universe Has Your Back) that really stuck with me, “Energy flows where your attention goes.”  Our perceptions create our reality or projection.  Gabrielle compares it to a movie reel.  What we perceive is what we project on the movie screens of our life.  If you find yourself struggling, whether it’s with your weight, your marriage, your relationships, your life…ask yourself, what movie have I been projecting?  I began to really think about what fear motivated me in a negative way to make the poor decisions that led me to this crossroads in my life.  I knew I had choices.  I could keep doing what I’d been doing and continue to live in the shadows, afraid to step out.  Or, I could take a different path.  I could step out of my 300 pound shadow.  I could stop being a spectator in my very own existence and make the decision to actually live!  I could make the decision to be fully present, living my best life, not just watching from the sidelines.

Somewhere along the line between childhood and adulthood, I decided that love was conditional.  I developed along the way this idea that I had to walk the tightrope of perfection in certain relationships in order to be loved and feel love.  If I missed a step, if I failed to say the right thing or do the right thing, that love was withheld from me.  It was taken away.  Whether in my mind or in reality, it was my perception and it colored my attitudes and emotions.  Food became a comfort, a coping mechanism.  Metaphorically, I could hide my shame and low sense of self-worth behind my weight.  If no one could see me, they couldn’t hurt me.  Obviously, I see the fallacy in my thinking, but when you are trapped in a particular mindset, it’s extremely difficult to see your way around it.  The self-destructive behaviors make a weird sort of sense.  You begin to find comfort in the things that ultimately will bring you down.

It’s difficult to explain in words, and I’m probably botching it up, but it’s really painful to open yourself up in this way and bare your soul.  I carry these feelings in the deepest parts of myself.  I’m always waiting for friends and family to realize how screwed up I really am and turn away from me, realize I’m not worth loving and walk away.  This is the movie, I play in my head.  This is my projection colored by my perceptions.  I don’t want to live this way.  I don’t want to gain the weight back.  I still have weight to lose, work to do and part of that work is being 100% honest and transparent.  I don’t want to always feel as if I have to hide behind humor and self-deprecation.  I want to shine a spotlight on the deepest and darkest parts of me, so I can change my “movie”, my perceptions and project a different outcome.

Sharing my thoughts and feelings in such a public forum allows me to feel empowered.  I want to reshape these negative thoughts and structure my life in a more positive and productive way.  As it turns out, losing 100 pounds was the easy part.  Changing my perceptions is where the hard work really begins.  If I want something I’ve never had, I have to do things I’ve never done.  I find inspiration in the support of others.  A big part of me expects failure.  It would be easy to listen to that voice.  That voice tends to get louder when I shut myself off from loving and being loved by others.  The stories I sometimes allow myself to believe about myself block me from feeling supported and happy.

It is difficult sometimes for me to reconcile the fact that I’ve come so far in my health and fitness journey.  I’ve lost over 100 pounds!  I don’t celebrate this amazing achievement often enough.  I usually say something along the lines of “yeah, I’ve lost 100 pounds, but I still have another 50 or so to go.”  My emotional health is an integral part of my overall health and fitness.  I can’t ignore it.  To ignore it leads me right back to where I started and I don’t want to ever visit or live there again.  I need to acknowledge and congratulate myself on the hard work that has gotten me this far.  That sense of accomplishment needs to be the light I shine on the projection I want to play in my daily life.  I don’t want to stay stuck in the negative rut of that old reality.  I want to break down those walls, squash those feelings and crush that mindset.  I have to be purposeful about connecting to the positive images of my success and accomplishments rather than focusing on the negative and destructive.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will I be.  I am perfectly imperfect, a child of God, and learning to love myself, forgive myself is essential to my growth and progress to being the person I was meant to be.

Writing the positive story of my life makes for a happier, more joyful me which radiates a power and light that forbids me from hiding in the shadows of my old self, hiding behind those old fears and spiraling down the staircase of destruction.  Being present in my life, being an active participant is my power and from that power I derive my motivation and my inspiration to continue down this new, unchartered path.  Seeking the approval of others is an integral part of who I am, connecting to those feelings, recognizing and acknowledging those feelings without letting the outcomes control me is key.

I’m worthy of being loved

The above statement, a mantra I repeat to myself daily, sometimes multiple times per day.  I am flawed.  I am imperfect.  I make mistakes.  None of those things discounts me as a person worthy of loving herself and accepting love from others.  In losing 100 pounds, this is what I’ve discovered.  I choose to look back and see my 300 pound self cheering me on, wanting me to succeed instead of trying to trip me up or praying I fail.  I understand that my intentions, my perceptions color my reality.  By being the change I want to see in myself and the world around me, I turn outward judgment into self-reflection and action against the only thing I can ever truly control, myself.

If you are feeling stuck, unloved or in a place where you harshly judge not only yourself but those around you, I hope you find comfort and solace in what I’ve shared here today.  I hope you take the time to stop and think about the movie you’ve created of your life and the part you want to play in it, realizing the power to change the direction and the outcome does truly lie within you.  Empowering yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself and others.  Forgive yourself.  Love yourself.  So that you may more freely forgive and love others.  Choosing to be intentional, empowering yourself and those around you, projecting the life you want and desire is a daily practice.  I find myself having to redirect my negative thoughts and actions over and over again throughout the course of a day.  Some days are better than others.  Don’t let fear be the guiding principle of your internal dialogue.  The point is to be intentional and purposeful in the changes you want to see and that will direct your thoughts and actions in a positive direction.  Taking responsibility for the lives we’ve created can be scary.  It’s much easier to blame those around us, or our circumstances.  Believe me, I know.  By acknowledging that my perceptions of self-worth, my negative thoughts and feelings and my destructive habits and choices were shaping the reality of my existence, my world, I was able to choose a different path, including the experiences in healing my heart, body and soul that resulted in the loss of 100 pounds and the journey to find the me God intended when he created me in His image.

The bottom line.

You are not alone.  You are loved. ❤

Wickedly Fit – A Halloween Challenge

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“Take care of your body.  It’s the only place you have to live.” Jim Rohn

On Halloween, I completed day 21 of a fitness challenge I joined called “Wickedly Fit.”  I’m all about the packaging, and the title of this fitness challenge group was just too cute to pass up!

My health and fitness goals have been stagnate for awhile now.  I hadn’t gained any weight, but I hadn’t lost any either.  I could see the old patterns of behavior, poor eating choices and a sedentary lifestyle sneaking back into my daily life.

It scared me.

But not enough to take action.  Yet.

I’d been creeping on this one girl’s Instagram account.   I didn’t know her.  I’m not even sure how I ended up following her to be honest.  I loved reading her posts and seeing her photos.  She’s adorable, motivational and inspirational.  I wanted to be a part of whatever she was doing.  It took me 4 months to get up the courage to message her.  Our stories are vastly different, but one thing I’ve learned is that unhealthy means different things to different people and it isn’t always just a reflection of the number on the scale.  In fact, I don’t even have a goal weight anymore and I’m seriously considering throwing out my scale altogether, especially after seeing the results of this latest fitness challenge.

I finally found the courage to message her.  She immediately responded.  Her excitement and enthusiasm were contagious.  Before I even knew what happened, I was signing up for her fitness challenge. For the first time in months, I was thrilled about the prospect of working out and overhauling our pantry and fridge.  I know.  It was crazy.  I didn’t even recognize myself.

I’m not one to get excited about healthy eating or exercise.  Ever.  The only thing working out has ever made me want to do is nap.  I get endorphins for chocolate or Chick Fil A but not from exercise.  It had been just over a year since my Gastric Sleeve surgery.  The surgery had taken me as far as it could, the rest was going to be up to me.

I knew this.

I just didn’t want to know I knew this.

My highest weight recorded was 297 pounds.  I’ve never told anyone that number.  It took me 6 months to lose 10 pounds and that’s when I decided to look into Gastric Sleeve surgery.  When I decided to go in for surgery, I was down to 287.5 pounds.  The date was July 21, 2015.  My surgery date was August 19, 2015.  By January 2016, I was down to 216 pounds.  I lost 71.5 pounds in 6 months.  Unfortunately, there were side effects.  My hair thinned out, at an alarming rate.  I lost muscle and I found myself feeling low on energy and motivation.  My periods, while much improved, were still bad and irregular.  I lost another 10 pounds over the next few months, but by May of 2016, I had stalled out.  I didn’t exercise over the summer and I was starting to panic that I was going to eventually put all the weight back on.  Gastric sleeve surgery gave me an internal control over portion size, but I was filling up on all the wrong things and wasn’t getting the vitamins and nutrients my body needed.  I felt run down and worn out.  Not to mention, disgusted with myself.  Did I really put myself through all this only to quit, to fail?

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Was I going to be THAT girl again?

I hope not.

No, I definitely did not want to fail (nor did I want to see my chins having chins)!

So I gathered my courage and messaged this girl to find out what this Wickedly Fit program was all about.

I received access to a Facebook accountability group (my favorite part).  This group of women kept me going day after day.  They were positive and encouraging.  They were open and honest about their struggles and challenges.  We celebrated non-scale victories, participated in daily challenge questions/activities and posted all sorts of wonderful food porn (the clean and healthy kind).  I wasn’t intimidated by this group at all.  Quite the opposite in fact. I found myself sharing and opening up about my own struggles and daily challenges and even victories.  I found myself bolstered and encouraged and being a part of this special group of ladies gave me the motivation I needed to complete this 21 day challenge.

I also received a 30 day supply of Shakeology and the 21 Day Fix workout program and eating plan, complete with portion control containers.  This whole program is facilitated by Beachbody.  I was familiar with their programs, and had used them to bounce back in shape after my youngest daughter was born.  I knew they worked.  I knew it wasn’t a quick fix.  I knew it would take hard work and dedication on my part.

I was ready.

Sort of.

I mean, I paid for it.  So I’d better be ready.  I was nervous though…

Failure.  My biggest fear.  Always hovering over me like the Grim Reaper.  Whispering negative words of discouragement in my ear, making me doubt myself.  This particular demon has always plagued me, but I was learning to fight back.  I was learning to stifle and smother those negative thoughts and feelings.  I have good days and bad days.  Days when I see all that I have accomplished and days when I only see the ways in which I have failed. Before my surgery, I would binge eat those feelings.  Now, I binge watch Netflix.  Not quite the trade I should be making.  I know.  But still…a slight improvement.

The “before” picture was taken on Day 1 of the challenge and the “after” picture taken on the last day of the challenge.  21 days total.  I lost 3 1/2 inches overall.  I can definitely see subtle changes and I hope you see them too.  Naturally, I lost the most inches in my chest. Just proving that my boobs are the first thing to go when I lose weight.  Actually, despite losing 3 1/2 inches, I gained 3 pounds.  I weighed before I measured and I was devastated.  I almost didn’t even take my measurements, but I’m so glad I did.  I’ve never been one to record my measurements, but this 21 day challenge made a believer out of me.  I could see noticeable differences in how my clothes fit and how I felt that just wasn’t reflected on the scale.

It was a dark moment, and one that in the past I would have responded to by raiding the pantry.  Instead, I chose to reach out to my challenge group through Facebook.  Post my results and reveal what I considered to be a failure, the gaining of 3 pounds.  I’ve since adjusted my perceptions and I’m super proud of the 3 1/2 inches I lost.  I can’t wait for my next challenge group to start!  Despite what my scale would have me believe, I am transforming my body, making positive changes, gaining strength and confidence.

I’ve got this!

Today.

Tomorrow might be a different story.  But I’ll deal with tomorrow…tomorrow.

The last year of my life was about losing the weight and finding myself.  This next year, I want to focus on living a healthy lifestyle, strengthening my body, mind and soul in new and different ways.  Yes, I still have weight I want to lose, but I want to focus less on the scale and more on building strength and flexibility, pushing my body in ways I never imagined I’d be able to do again.  I want to transform myself physically, mentally and spiritually.  I want to develop attainable goals and then smash through them.  I want to redefine what beauty and success mean to me, not measured by what others think or believe, but about what works for me.

One day at a time.

I want to share my journey and experiences with others.  I draw strength from putting myself out there, as terrifying as it can be.  I hope that maybe someone reading this will be inspired or encouraged, reach out either to me or someone else.  I hope that maybe they won’t feel alone or afraid.  Our goals might be different.  Our struggles, challenges and motivations might be different.  At the end of the day, we all want to be the best versions of ourselves.  We all have desires, wants and needs.  Things we want to accomplish.  Let’s do it together ❤

Wishful Shrinking

“The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.” Audrey Hepburn

The other morning, leaning over to reach into my dresser, I felt something brush against my upper thigh, which quite startled me.  I looked down expecting to see some terrifying rabid rodent with ginormous teeth, but no…  It was just my boob.  A dose of humility is always a great way to start the day.

Another month has come and gone since I last updated my weight loss progress.  Here is the first set of pictures I took in January:

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and current pictures:

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I thought the towel turban was a nice touch this time.  I have a thigh gap!  You might need a magnifying glass and a little imagination but it’s there!  I have a mental picture now of everyone leaning into the screen scrutinizing the area around my crotch trying to find my minuscule thigh gap.  I’m feeling super awkward.  Ok, you can stop staring now.  Trust me, it’s there.

My current weight is:

208 lbs

I’m down another 5.7 lbs bringing my total weight loss to:

79.5 lbs

I’m so close to “ONEderland” that I can taste it, and it tastes good!

I definitely see the results in my face.  At my heaviest (287 lbs), I remember catching my reflection in a mirror and being shocked at the person staring back at me.  Feeling trapped inside yourself is the worst feeling ever.  Viewing yourself under the distorted lens of disgust, shame and embarrassment is a burden far heavier than the actual weight you carry.  I felt like me, but when I would see myself in a reflective surface, I experienced a moment of confusion trying to work out who the person was looking back at me.

That can’t be me.

I don’t look like that.

Do I?

I do.  I did.

Recently, the cover choice of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition made news featuring the 1st ever “plus-size” model, Ashley Graham.  According to Google, Ms. Graham is 5 ft and 9 in tall and weighs 201 lbs.  Her BMI is 29.7. Her measurements are 42-30-46.  I don’t know how often she works out or what she eats.  I don’t know her cholesterol or blood pressure.  I can’t really draw any conclusions about her overall health or physical condition, nor do I want to.

Is she beautiful?  Absolutely.

Is she healthy?  I don’t know.

Did my husband think I was beautiful at 287 lbs?  Absolutely.

Was I healthy?  Absolutely not.

Beauty comes in all sizes, shapes and colors.  Beauty can’t be measured by a number on the scale.  Beauty is subjective. Inner beauty eclipses physical beauty.  We were all made in God’s image.  We are all beautifully unique.  Differences should be celebrated. Beauty should be discovered in the things we do, the actions we take for one another or on behalf of one another. We allow social industry to define what is beautiful and then judge ourselves and others harshly when we don’t live up to these ideals.  We create buzz words like “fat shaming” or “skinny shaming” to condemn others and ourselves for accepting an image we all helped create and perpetuate. Beauty can be found in unexpected places and people.  A smile.  A laugh.  A sunset.  A kind word.  A kind deed.

Every person is distinctly beautiful with qualities, elements and attributes that make them uniquely diverse.  Diversity is beautiful.

Can you be overweight/underweight and healthy?  That is a different question entirely.  One that perhaps cannot be judged from the outside looking in, but still an important distinction.

Health can be measured.

Being overweight or obese creates a greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, reproductive issues, and more.

Being underweight creates a greater risk of a weakened immune system, fragile bones, anemia, fertility issues and more.

Health is important.  We treat the question of beauty and health as if they are mutually exclusive.  My husband told me daily I was beautiful, but he worried for my health, because of my weight.  He believed me to be beautiful but he also knew my weight was unhealthy. Weight isn’t the only factor in determining health either.  There is emotional health, physical health and spiritual health.  Many factors influence how healthy we are in all aspects and areas of our life.  These are things that can’t always be judged or measured by just looking at someone.

I feel guilty that even though I treated my body like a toxic waste dump, I stayed surprisingly healthy.  I think of those that eat right, exercise, do all the things they are supposed to do and then walk away from a doctor’s appointment with a dreaded life altering diagnosis.  In my mind, I imagine them sitting next to me at a restaurant.  How they must look at me.  How I would have looked at me.  Why does she get to walk around healthy, treating her body so poorly and shamefully?

My health is a gift.  A gift I took for granted.  A gift I abused.  I’m blessed to have been given the chance to change my outcome.  I don’t want to screw this up, which is why I blog about it.  To hold myself accountable.

God gave us this incredible vessel and it’s our responsibility to care for it, to the best of our ability.  I failed to do this and I’ve suffered for it.  Those around me have suffered for it.  My children have suffered for it.  I’ve passed down a legacy of poor self-image, self-doubt and shame. What do they see when they look in the mirror?  How much have I contributed to the lens they each use to view themselves, both positive and negative thoughts and does one outweigh the other and which one?  These thoughts keep me up at night.  They are my biggest cheerleaders and support system outside of my husband.  I’m not fighting to be thin or a certain size or shape.  I am fighting to be healthy.  I want to be an integral part and active participant of their whole lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren and God willing, great-grandchildren.

I haven’t always gotten it right. I don’t pretend any differently with my children.  When I screw up, I say I screwed up.  I apologize.  I make it right.  I hope that while they will never see perfection, they will see someone who never gave up.  Someone who learned from her mistakes and wasn’t too proud or ashamed to ask for forgiveness, admit to being wrong, seek to repair and rebuild.  I want them to know how much I love them, not just in word but in deed.  I want them to know that I learned to love myself.  Not just the good parts either.  I want them to know that I became someone who looked in the mirror, and liked what she saw.  Loved, even.  I want them to be proud of me and to know that I’m proud of myself.  I haven’t always handled my struggles and failures with grace.  In some ways, I hope to serve as a cautionary tale to my children.  Time is short.  Time is precious.  Don’t be afraid to take on life’s challenges.  Learn from your mistakes and move on.  Be unique.  Be special.  Just be you.  Above all, I hope they always know how much they are loved. Forever and always.

I use self-deprecation and humor to address issues I find painful or difficult.  I’ve turned making fun of myself into an art form.  I don’t love my loose skin, cellulite or stretch marks.  I probably never will.  I cope by using humor.  I’ll make fun of myself, beat everyone else to the punch.  Internal dialogue is much harder to change than physical appearance.  My body is less a wonderland and more like a carnival, complete with fun house mirrors, sideshow acts and sketchy rides.  My boobs might droop to the ground but at least they don’t rest on my stomach any longer.  Progress!  I can see my feet again without having to suck in while bending forward.  See what I mean!  Poking fun of myself has become as natural as breathing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.  I can’t believe I’ve lost the equivalent of a 6th grader when it comes to weight.  While I do want to change how I see myself, I love that I don’t take myself too seriously.  I enjoy my sense of humor and make myself laugh all the time.  Sometimes at myself, but that’s ok.  The weight signified some serious emotional baggage, and I’m working thru it.  Perfection is not the goal.  Humor isn’t a mask I wear anymore, it comes from a genuine place of joy.  Joy in the space I now find myself.  Joy in how far I’ve come.  Joy in the little things I took for granted.  Joy in the big things I failed to see but now find opened before me.  Joy in the faith I thought I’d lost forever.  Joy in the fact that God never gave up on me. Joy in the fact that my husband and kids didn’t give up on me. Joy in the fact that I didn’t give up on myself.

I can’t change my mistakes or the errors in judgment I’ve made over the years.  I haven’t always been the mother my children deserved.  Or the wife my husband deserved. Or the faithful servant God wanted me to be.  I’ve found unspeakable beauty in the power of forgiveness.  In forgiving myself. In being forgiven.  In forgiving others. I took the path of most resistance.  It was mostly uphill.  In the snow. And darkness.  I might have also been naked…

However, I feel like I’m standing in the sun now, and the view is beautiful.

ONEDERLAND HERE I COME!  

“There is a kind of beauty in imperfection.” Conrad Hall