Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lessons Learned from the Loser

For the past few months, I have been watching season after season of the Biggest Loser online.

Sure, I love seeing the transformations in people's lives. It's awesome!

I often cry tears of joy right along with them.

But I'm starting to understand the life lessons I, myself, have to learn from this TV show.

-"Until and unless you get to the root of the reasons for the extra weight you carry around, nothing will change."

I think there is a deep truth there. A person can learn all the tricks and tools, but unless they really dig down deep and confront whatever buried pain, or shame, or whatever lies behind it all, they will never discover the joy that lies beyond, and chances are high that they'll just gain all of the weight back.

It has happened to several people who lost big amounts of weight on the show. You can see it, even while they're still competing. The ones who dig down deep and face their issues then move into this place of joy that is beautiful to see. They are the ones who leave with truly changed lives. The others, usually the people overly focused on The Game, don't. They don't discover joy. Their lives do not change like the others' do.

**I'm seeing that, though there is no big traumatic life event behind my extra weight, and my almost total lack of fitness, there have to be emotional issues behind it. If there weren't, I wouldn't be overweight!

This seed of a thought has actually lightened my load already. Instead of continuing to flog myself for my failure to fix this, I suddenly have some grace for myself, and some patience. I see now that, while I need to make health and lifestyle changes, and I actually already have every scrap of pracitcal knowledge that I need in order to do it, I need to spend some time with myself first. I need to spend some time in the back closets of my inner Me, and sort out what I find there.

-"Your financial condition is a direct reflection of how successful you will be on this journey." 

They had Suze Ormond come on to talk to the contestants. She told them that she can almost predict who will be the big winner, based on a look at their personal finances and their credit score. That was really eye opening to me. The state of other areas of your life reflects the level of self-control you have, the degree of discipline you exercise in your life, and your ability to manage impulses and live for the long-term. This is really enlightening.

I think it goes beyond finances, though. I was just putting some luggage away in the storage room, from recent trips we've taken. As I climbed over stuff that hasn't been put away out there, and squeezed past the stack of boxes full of just stuff that needs to be gone through and gotten rid of....I suddenly saw it all in a new light. I think it all goes together. As I carefully moved through that room, trying to not fall and hurt myself in the process, I suddenly realized the feelings it brings up.

Embarrassment. Shame. Hopelessness. Paralyzed.

I realized that when I have to go out there, I actually try to just not see what's there, because I hate the way I feel when I really look around.

**I think they all go together. I think all of these things- unhealthy handling of finances, out of control home, and a sad state of health, must all stem from the same root causes.

I now think that, when I really get down and start to deal with whatever is behind my weight gain, the result will not only be better health. I think the changes in my thinking, in my internal world, will also positively affect my ability to get a handle on every area of my life.

-One of the best quotes ever- "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing, but expecting different results."

Oh. Yeah.

**It has just come home to me in the past day or two that the life I'm living will never get me to any kind of different place. The life I live is a &&& pound life. All it will ever get me is &&& pounds. Never, ever, will living this same half-hearted way get me anything but &&& pounds.

**The only thing that will take me from &&& pounds to ~~~ pounds is to change my life. If I want to get to ~~~ pounds, to become that fit and able person I long to be, then I have to figure out how to live a ~~~ life! I can't just focus on losing the weight. I know how to do that. I need to change my thinking. I need to learn how to live a ~~~ life.

Now I understand a lot more about my own journey. A few years ago, I changed my diet. I didn't go on a "diet." I just stopped eating the things that were making me sick, especially wheat and sugar. I lost fifty pounds in about seven months. I actually felt great. And I looked good. A lot of people here were scared for me, and thought I looked too skinny.

I realized that:
A-Lee is the only person who lives here who has ever seen me at my actual, normal weight. People are so used to the overweight me that they've known for eighteen years that the real size of me was startling to them.
B-I wasn't exercising at all, so I had no muscle tone. I didn't look healthy or fit, I did just look skinny.

(And I'm weary, bone weary, of having the same conversation over and over, with people who love me; people who are precious to me: "But you don't look overweight to me."  "But you're tall, so it's okay for you to weigh that."  No it's not. It is not okay. I know what is the good and healthy weight and size for me to be. I know. When I talk about my struggles with weight, it is not a ploy, digging for compliments. It doesn't matter how tall I am. Carrying over thirty pounds of extra weight around is not healthy! I almost never talk about weight with anyone, anymore, because I can't handle hearing this yet again. Just as anyone would tell a fat person, "Don't listen to what other people say to you. Their words are not the truth about who you are,"  the same is true for me. I appreciate every kind and loving thing anyone has ever said to me about how I look. I really do. But I know what is right and healthy and best for me. I, better than anyone else, know what is right for me.)

But back when I lost that fifty pounds, even though I was happy to be my real size again, I had done none of the emotional work that I needed to do. I didn't know then that there was anything emotional that I needed to address. Now I do.

I gained back thirty-five of those fifty pounds.

I'm not happy.

I am a cheerful person, and sometimes I'm really happy about things.






And yes, it matters.

I feel like this TV show has given me the first tools to really make a good and lasting change.

I know now that there is work to be done inside of me, to search out what is buried in there that is sabotaging my whole life. Once I find those roots and start grubbing them out, then real, true, lasting changes will start to take place. I will become the whole, healthy, happy person I long to be. :)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Rebel Hair!

The things I think tend to come together over time, composed of scattered bits and incidents. The process reminds me of those composite rocks I learned about in eighth grade science from Mr. Schmatt. :)  This whole train of thought is composed of many thoughts, conversations and observations, including watching seasons of Biggest Loser, and a conversation with Neva the hair lady at WalMart.

Here it is:

I think few people see me as a rebel.

I don't see myself that way all the time.

But if I pull back the shades and look inside, I see the rebel fighter inside of me.

I imagine that people see me as this nice lady who is really very conventional and goes with the flow of what is expected of me.

In a way, that's true. Part of me is that nice lady, and is very conventional and doesn't buck the system. That quiet and conventional part of me is a genuine part of who I am, but is also a choice I make- a way I choose to live and relate to the world.

There is a whole other side to me.

Also inside of me is a fierce, fiery, competitive rebel.

She's in there, and she's alive and well. :)

One way you see this is all over my head.

I don't color my hair, and I wear makeup very rarely.

Part of the reason I don't color my hair is that it saves money. Part of it is that I really just don't notice things and I would seriously be that lady with ten inches of gray roots hanging out before I would suddenly notice them one day. And really, I do like my shiny silver highlights...most of the time.

And all honesty, part of the reason I don't color my hair is the quiet evidence of my rebel spirit. In our society, looking as young as possible and as polished as possible, is what is generally expected. I like to be different. I hate to be predictable. I want to be ME. This hair- this hair that is darker than it once was, and gray and silver and shorter that it was and has crazy wild bits that just pop up whenever they want and refuse to be controlled? This is me. This is real. This is the real me.

Gray hair has become so rare in my generation, it's almost exotic. The Einstein crazy bits that stick up all over are not my favorite. But oh well. It's tempting to put some beautiful color on my hair, to play with it, and to look younger instantly. But as much fun as that would be, a greater part of me stubbornly digs in and says, "But this is ME!"  My gray hair, hanging out there for all the world to see, is the real me. It's who I really am. This. Is. Me.

The makeup thing? It's a very similar thing.
Partly, makeup is dang expensive.
It's also a lot of work.

I like my simple, zero-maintenance approach.
But there is more to it.

There are two important facets to this.

It is way way too easy for me to start to dump all over myself for being "less."  When I started being a beauty consultant about twenty-two years ago, I started wearing makeup on almost a daily basis. It was part of the image I was supposed to portray, and at first it was fun. But that ended quickly. A very short time into that process, I looked in the mirror one day, at my real face, and my first thought was, "Ooh, I'd better put some concealer on that!"  That pulled me up short in my tracks, right there.

I do like doing up my whole face once in a while. It's fun to look all polished. It's fun to get that shock reaction from people when I do get all made up. It's fun to look like all the other "girls." :)  But if I wear makeup more often than those rare times, I swiftly freefall into seeing only faults that need to be fixed when I see myself in the mirror; into a destructive waterfall of self-criticism. It is toxic to me.

I have no issue with other women wearing makeup all the time. Go for it- do your thing! I admire other people's beautiful, put-together looks. I enjoy seeing how other women play with color and style. That's cool. It's fun. :)

This feeling I have is not about other people. It's just about me; it's just so dangerous to my whole attitude toward myself to go down that road.

And here, too, the rebel rears her head.

Just like with wearing my real hair, that fiesty little rebel in me wears her real face right out there for all the world to see. She sticks out her chin and says to the world, "This is me. This is it. This is who I really am. This is as real as it gets." 

In a curious way, not all the time but mostly, wearing my real hair and my bare face make me feel strong and confident.

I am proud of myself, for having the courage to go against the flow and just. be. me.

One of my favorite movie lines, from August Rush- "So tell me about you."..."I'm"

I love that. "I'm"

When I watch that scene, or even just remember it, my little inner rebel woman smiles, and softly says, "yeah."  :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Finally, a reason good enough to make a difference!

I have been on and off the wagon, foodwise, a number of times. The list of things I shouldn't eat, for various reasons, is long and comprehensive. It is a true challenge to faithfully live according to the list. It makes my food world very very small and difficult.

Added to the challenge of the List is the fact that I have a very emotional response to food. I have long been an emotional eater. I've said many times, "I've yet to meet an emotion that didn't feel better with food."  On top of that, I have inherited an addictive tendency, which definitely comes into play with food.

This is the main reason I don't use any other potentially addictive substances (I don't drink, smoke or do drugs): Besides all of the other health and well-being reasons to not do these things, I know that if I had the relationship with anything else that I have with food, my life would be a complete mess!

A while back, I fell off the food wagon again, diving headlong into dairy, wheat, sugar, chocolate, etc. I still manage to stay away from the biggest "baddies"- eggs, soy, and almonds- even when I'm stuffing my face with everything else, but the rest of it is plenty. I often dabble in the forbidden foods, even when I'm being "good," because none of the consequences seemed that serious. I've done a lot of, "Yeah, that's a price I'm willing to pay, for the chance to eat that cupcake" kind of thinking.

Just recently, I finally came to a realization that has changed my tune. Dramatically.

I think I have figured out some of my random wheat symptoms, and this spooked me enough to yank my wheels back on track!

My wheat reactions have seemed sort of random and unconnected, so I didn't take them very seriously...If I eat wheat, the skin over my knuckles starts to crack and bleed, and I would get this cough at night. I couldn't figure it out. I used hand lotion and tried to drink more water. I spent a lot of nights sleeping on the couch, sitting up straight, since that was the only thing that seemed to help the cough. I had definitely made a connection between eating wheat and those two specific reactions, but it didn't make sense. I knew they were linked, but not why.

Here is what I've come to understand:

***The Bleeding hands: Refined wheat flour is an inflammatory food. I believe that when I eat wheat, it causes inflammation all through my digestive system. An inflamed system cannot absorb water well. I eat wheat, inflammation happens, my body can't properly process water, I dehydrate quickly, and it shows up in fragile skin that splits open and bleeds. This also means that my body isn't able to properly absorb nutrients from my food, so though I can't see it, I'm sure I go into nutritional decline as well.

***The Cough. This has been a problem for years, but I could never figure it out. I used to think it was caused by my dabbling in the dairy world. Nope. Then I wondered if there was some specific allergen in our bedroom that would cause me to start coughing within thirty minutes to an hour after going to bed. I finally made the connection that it happened reliably when I ate wheat- even a little bit. Just in the past two weeks, I think I've finally figured it out. A nagging, non-productive cough is one of the symptoms of acid reflux. I had never thought of that, since I wasn't having the pain I experienced with heartburn while pregnant. Then one recent day, all of the puzzle pieces suddenly fell into place.

Cough= acid reflux. Acid reflux leads to G.E.R.D. - GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease. Untreated G.E.R.D. dramatically increases the risk for esophageal cancer!!!!!! Oh. Okay.

Much as I love cupcakes, no cupcake in the world is worth cancer!!!!!!!!!

Suddenly cured of the desire to dabble.

Sad that it took the idea of cancer to make me finally take this seriously, but hopefully I've made the change in time to save myself from that fate!

I'm not sure why wheat causes such reliable acid reflux, but it does, and it doesn't take more than a tiny bit to start that chain reaction.

Oh! I just remembered- now there's a new suspicion I'm entertaining about the effects of wheat on my body. Sometime in the past year or two, my sister shared something on facebook about effects of wheat gluten on the body. It mentioned muscle weakness as one. That made a lot of sense to me. In the past, I've had times when, for as much as a week, one or both of my hands would be inexplicably weak. I would be holding things and just drop them for no reason. When I read that information, it made sense to me. As I've cut back on wheat in general, I have noticed an improvement in this.

Now I've started to make another connection along those lines.

***The Swallowing. For years, I have had some trouble with swallowing. Whenever I eat pretty much anything, but especially anything remotely starchy, I HAVE to have water to drink or the food quickly gets stuck in my throat. This is both scary and painful. It's an awful, choking sensation, and my diaphragm would start spasming, giving me very painful hiccups. I definitely make sure I have water on hand when I eat! I think half-melted ice cream is the only thing that doesn't cause this.

I've always just thought I had inefficient peristaltic action. Peristalsis is the muscle action that moves things through us, from swallowing all the way through the digestive process. For years, I've just though this didn't work well in me. I also know that my Grandma Jessie had a lot of trouble, for years and years, with food sticking in her throat and choking her, so I thought maybe it was a genetic thing.

I think I may be figuring this out, for myself at least. I wonder now if it is connected to that gluten=muscle weakness situation.  I wonder if the wheat I ate all these years was causing weakness in my swallowing muscles. I wonder if that's why I've had so much trouble. 

Ohhhhh. I wonder if the acid reflux could also be connected to muscle weakness. The sphincter muscle at the top of the stomach is what is supposed to contain stomach acids. If that muscle were weakened, acid would leak up into the esophagus. Ohhhh. I think I'm starting to see more of the pattern.

It is my hope, since I'm finally taking seriously the damage that wheat does to me, and the dire possibilities of continued dabbling, that as I truly cut wheat out of my diet altogether, I will see improvement in this whole choking issue.

It would be so awesome if, by just not eating wheat, I could solve this long-term and scary problem!

At long last, I have enough serious reasons to cut wheat completely out of my world.

Dehydration and bleeding hands? Yup.

Constant danger of choking? Oh yeah.

CANCER??!!! Most definitely!!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cornbread That Won't Kill Me! :D

I pondered several different cornbread recipes, before patch-working my own gluten-free version to try.

Here's what I did:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly grease a nine-inch glass pie dish. I used a bit of Spectrum for this.

   *  1  1/4 cups *milk* 
              [I used So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk]
    * 1 Tbsp. vinegar    
             [I used distilled white- it's what I had. I prefer apple cider vinegar.]
   Stir together and let sit. It will get all clumpy. This takes the place of buttermilk very nicely.

    * 1  1/2 cups cornmeal
    * 1/2 cup *flour*  
                [I used 1/4 cup millet flour, then on the second 1/4 cup I filled the cup halfway with potato starch and topped it off with more millet flour. So, the exact measurements would be 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons millet flour and 2 Tablespoons potato starch, or 3/8 cup millet flour & 1/8 cup potato starch. It would probably also work well with a basic gluten-free flour mix.]
     * (2 tsp.) baking powder- this was too much. Next time, I'll try 1 or 1  1/2 teaspoons.
     * 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
     * 1/2 tsp. baking soda
     * 1 tsp. salt
     * 1 or 2 Tbsp. sugar
 [I think I used one Tbsp.  of sugar. I knew we would put honey on it, so kept it less sweet.]
   Stir all the dry ingredients together well. I usually use a wire whisk for this- it works well.

Cut into dry ingredients:
     * 1/4 cup shortening [I used Spectrum non-hydrogenated shortening]
   Cut in well with a pastry blender, until there are no big clumps left.

    * 1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer powder
    * 2 Tbsp. *milk*  [I used So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk]
[Make sure this is really well combined, with no clumps. I had a few clumps, even after whisking it well, so I think I'll put it through a wire strainer next time.]

Add soured milk mixture and egg replacer mixture to dry ingredients. Mix until combined, but don't overmix.  Pour into prepared dish. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until baked through in the center.

I loved this, cut open and spread with more Spectrum shortening and topped with honey. Agave nectar would also be really good on it, in place of honey.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Taking a Lesson From Sam

I had a conversation on Facebook yesterday, that got me thinking in a fresh way about what marriage really should be.
It started, of course, with Lord of the Rings. :)

"It got me thinking about Sam and Frodo. That is a beautiful picture of what marriage really should be- that lasting friendship, and deep loyalty, and that sense of 'I will be there, by your side, supporting you and helping you, even if it means we die together on a rock in Mordor. You will never be alone, because I will be there, no matter what!'

I love that! ♥ 

"You know, if in the marriage ceremony, God stood there in person and said something to the effect of, "Don't you leave him, Samwise Gamgee!!!" ...maybe people would approach marriage differently, if they realized that is really how God feels about marriage- even into the face of the fires of Mount Doom! Then maybe people would say, to the depth and extent of their whole being, 'I don't mean to!!!' and throw themselves into the river, and follow each other through the black valley, and truly have each other's back, no matter what!"

That is really what it should be. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Is the Puppy Just Playing Me?


I know that the Small Dog (who was a year old in June) is perfectly capable of surviving for several hours at at a time in her kennel crate when nobody is home.

So, when I am home and she comes to me with pleading eyes and pitiful little whines every half hour or hour, why do I always believe that she is in the most dire distress?

I do not know how to tell when she honestly needs to go out, and when she's just bored and wants to know if Outside is somehow more magically interesting at that moment in time.

Does she really need to go out so very often, when I'm home?

Or is she just playing me like a banjo?

Indispensible, That's What You Are.....

Every time I come home from a trip, I wonder whether I want this to truly be my theme song.

I'm never sure of the answer.

At the end of a busy trip, with a long, exhausting drive home, I feel even more tired when I see the things that weren't done while I was away.

Then I feel ungrateful, for not just appreciating all that was done during my absence.

Then I wonder- would I really like coming home and seeing that my absence made no difference whatsoever; that everything sailed along just as smoothly without me?

Does my disgruntled grumbling have a smug edge? A satisfied core? A sense of, "Well, obviously they do need me after all!"?

I think it does.


I came home from a trip last night. I made the drive in record time (not speeding- I just didn't stop much), but I'd made such a late start that I got home a little after eleven thirty at night.

I did notice, and appreciate, that the dishwasher was running.

I did notice, and appreciate, the baskets of clean laundry in the living room, that were washed while I was gone.


And I also found myself prowling around, looking for proof that they just can't do without me!

[giant eyeroll at myself!!!]

I took the rotting chicken from the fridge, and tossed it in the trash. [See! Without me, things just fall apart!]

I grumblingly watered houseplants. [Does nobody water these but me?! Every time I leave, the same plants are nearly dead by the time I come home!]

[giant eyeroll at self, followed by "face palm"]

I am certain I am not the only one who does this.

I do, in fact, suspect that this is a fairly common human condition,
but that does not make me any less disgusted with myself.

I think most of us probably wrestle at times with this quandary; this flip-flopping between appreciating proof that the world does not fall completely apart the moment we step out the door, and dismay at all that is neglected in our absence.

I'm sure it's not just me.

But still.....

[face palm, shaking head at my own relentlessly consistent inconsistency!]