The Power of Acknowledgement

Forewarning: this is an oddly philosophical, floaty post. And, it has little to do with my currently plateau-ed weight loss journey. You have been warned :)

You know that feeling you get when someone simply acknowledges your presence? Maybe it’s a stranger in a coffee shop who gives you a smile and a nod, or maybe it’s a friend who greets you after a long time apart. Maybe the act doesn’t even come from a human: I’ve seen dementia temporarily cured and muteness lifted for a little while by the simple act of acknowledgement from a little dog in a nursing home ward. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself: when I am acknowledged, it feels like a nod to my existence. I feel like I am worthy, right then, to be in the right place at the right time for whatever is right for that moment. The act of acknowledging and being acknowledged is a profound and important one; at least, it’s that way for me.

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There was a time when I didn’t really feel I was worthy of being seen or acknowledged. I desperately wanted to be seen; but, I also wanted to be invisible. Self hatred and reliance on external sources to provide meaning to your life and definition to your sense of “self” will do that to you. This time in my life is in the past, and it is not where I am anymore; nevertheless, it’s something I’ve been reminded of lately — the power of acknowledgement.

This week, I have found myself genuinely touched by moments when someone else acknowledges me…when they see me and take a moment to say hello, smile, share a laugh, like a Facebook post, really any little thing. And, I have felt compelled to acknowledge others more — not just people I know, but also the people I encounter wherever I am in the moment. It’s important to know and make known when someone is seen because there are many people out there who feel invisible. Choosing to see someone in any given moment could, for all you know, give them a breath to get through the next moment. Even a simple act of connection can remind someone “you exist; I see you,” and I believe that is an important message to send to those around you.

There’s little point to this post except to encourage you to make eye contact with someone today. Acknowledge someone. See someone you might not typically notice. Let’s all remind one another that we exist and are worthy to do so.

Learning to Be Me

This blog post isn’t really just about weight loss; it’s about me — all of me — and I sure as heck am a lot more than just my weight.

It has come to my attention that I have absolutely no idea how to “just be.” I am always doing something. I am always going somewhere. The concept of being … well, that’s a lot harder for me to grasp.

When I first began my weight loss, self love, get-out-of-depression journey a few years ago, I realized that I had no idea who I was. My identity comprised other peoples’ opinions (real or self-perceived) of me, numbers on a scale, societal definitions, expectations from external sources, a whole heck of a lot of self hatred — I could go on. My point is — I didn’t really know who I was. The essential Me. I didn’t know what made me tick, what I loved, what got me out of bed in the morning, what would make my heart race, what could make me split into a grin, what might make me cry… I didn’t know myself at all.

So, I decided to try and get to know myself; and, I started with 2 things that I did know:

knew that I wanted to lose weight — I joined weight watchers.

knew that horseback riding was something I loved in my childhood — I started taking horseback riding lessons.

As I have gotten to know myself, I have started to do more and more:

I know I love cats and have a passion for rescue — I started fostering cats and volunteering at events/doing adoption interviews.

I know I love baking — I started baking cakes for all occasions.

I know I love God — I joined a church.

I know I love to sing — I joined my church’s worship team.

I met a man, I met the man, I got married, I bought a house, I joined a zillion meetup groups, I made friends, I began running a meetup group out of my own home, I started blogging, I joined a bible study, I started a bible study, I joined a meditation group, I began taking spiritual healing workshops, I started leasing a horse on top of taking lessons… the list goes on.

I am really really good at doing.

All this time, I thought that all of this stuff I was doing was because I finally knew who I was.

I was wrong. What I do is not all of who I am. I still don’t really know all of who I am.

Sure, I know what I love to do. I’ve figured part of this equation out: I know what makes me tick, I know where my passions lie, and I know what I believe in.

And yet, if you were to take away all of my doings… what would be left? That would be me — a part of me that I’m afraid I don’t know.

I’m at a point in my life where I am bouncing all around trying to find fulfillment and wholeness in all of my doings. But, the truth is, none of my doings are ever going to truly fulfill me until I really, truly, from the bottom of my heart love myself. And, I can’t really truly love myself until I know myself.

So, here’s to the next step in my journey — learning to be. Learning the part of being that lies outside of doing.

And not just learning to be… but learning to be me.

 

What if I Gain it All Back?

1075733_10100397218966953_471783710_nI haven’t forgotten this blog, and I haven’t really been too busy to write an entry (though, I have been busy). I haven’t written in months because I have felt less than inspirational; actually, I’ve been downright discouraged.

My wedding is in less than 2 months, and I have gained 5 pounds. Some of you will say “5 pounds is nothing!” and others might feel that 5 pounds is significant. I feel both ways, really. On one hand, 5 pounds when you’ve lost 70 seems small. There was a time when I could lose 5 pounds in a week if I just followed Weight Watchers 100%.

On the other hand, 5 pounds takes forever for me to lose these days…even when I do follow Weight Watchers completely.

5 pounds.

That’s how this all began in the first place.

That’s how gaining weight always begins: 1 pound at a time. It creeps up on you; you can ignore it and lie to yourself for only so long before 5 pounds becomes 20…and those 20 start inviting friends.

Last night, I tossed and turned in bed, disappointed in myself for once again failing to stay on track and worrying about the one fear that, I believe, plagues pretty much everyone who has ever lost weight:

What if I gain it all back?

What will people think of me? What will I think of me?

What hope will there be fore me then?

I’ve been on Weight Watchers for 3 years, and I weigh as much today as I did in August 2012. I’ve basically maintained for an entire year now (that in and of itself is an accomplishment, but it’s not satisfying to me right now).

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3 years of commitment is a lot for me.

I lasted 1 month on a no-sugar diet…

1 week on SlimFast…

24 hours on Atkins…

That I’ve managed to at least mostly follow Weight Watchers for 3 whole years is an astounding thing to me. And yet all I can think about right now is…

What if I gain it all back?

Oh sure, I’ve said it here before:

If you’ve ever lost weight and gained it all back PLUS some, you have not failed!

And gosh that’s a whole lot easier to say to YOU than it is to say to myself right now. Especially with an upcoming big event where I must wear a dress that fit me in October 2012.

What if I gain it all back?

Will I be an ugly bride?

Will I gain even more?

Will I ever be able to lose it again?

Will I have to start all over? CAN I start all over?

Will it mean that I failed? That this blog – all the things I’ve written here – that all of the thoughts that I’ve shared with friends and family about this journey – are meaningless?

Who wants to read or hear inspirational weight loss thoughts from someone who has gained it all back??

But, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past 3 years it’s that fear of gaining it all back is the worst motivation.

I didn’t start down this path out of fear, and I know that fear is not going to get me through to the end. Fear inspires quick and temporary results that do more damage than good; losing weight out of fear is not an act of motivation…it is an avoidance tactic.

Fear keeps me from looking inside to find whatever it is that is holding me back. Fear keeps my motivation external when the only thing that could possibly get me through this journey is inside of me.

What if I gain it all back?

If I gain it all back, I will still not be exactly where I was before. There is no returning to before. Something far more permanent than my weight has changed in me: I have changed.

If I gain it all back, I will start all over again …this time with the knowledge that I am fully capable of losing the weight because I have been there.

If I gain it all back, I will be human and fallible and imperfect. And anyone who thinks that that makes my thoughts and feelings unimportant is not worth keeping in my life.

If I gain it all back, I will still be loved. I will still be beautiful. I will still marry the man of my dreams surrounded by my amazing family and friends.

But, I have not gained it all back, and I hope that I never will. So, 5 pounds… it all began and begins with you. I am not afraid of you; I will not be afraid of you. You can take nothing from me; you are a part of me. For now.

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There Will ALWAYS Be An Excuse

Things in my life have been pretty hectic over the last couple of weeks. My fiancé and I closed on our first home and moved in the next day.

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This meant lots of packing, tons of fixing things in our apartment before inspection, and then having to move and handle things in the house. Things did not go as smoothly as I would have liked. We wound up without heat (in near-freezing temperatures) for a couple of days, and half of our appliances broke down within 24 hours!

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In all of this chaos, I found myself eating out quite a bit and downing donuts and pizza without a thought even after the move was over.

“I’m stressed!” I said to myself. “I deserve to be able to eat whatever is convenient and delicious right now.”

“I don’t have time to cook!” or “I can’t cook because we have no gas!” and, my personal favorite, “I don’t want to cook because our dishwasher is broken, and I don’t want to hand-wash the dishes!”

Excuse upon excuse led me to at least 2 weeks of eating whatever was handy without a thought about Weight Watchers PointsPlus or tracking my food.

I have been feeling exceedingly guilty about this eating issue after posting just a couple of weeks ago about how I indulged over the holidays and then “got right back on plan.”

Yeah. I did.

For 3 days.

So, here I am again to apologize to all of you for not confessing sooner. The truth is, after only a few days back on track, I found excuse upon excuse to indulge and remain off track for weeks. And, honestly, none of my excuses are good ones because there is no good excuse for hurting myself this way or for putting my health on the back burner.

After 2 and a half years on Weight Watchers, I know very well that there will always be “excuses” for overeating available to me should I look for them. Whether it’s a holiday, my birthday, a stressful time in my life, or just being grumpy, I can always find a reason to explain away my behavior. But, sticking my head in the sand isn’t going to get me anywhere.

I’m not going to make an excuse for these last few weeks on track. However, I’m also not going to beat myself up over it… because, honestly, I could use “punishing” myself as an excuse to over- or under-eat too! Not going to happen; not this time.

No more excuses. It’s time to get back on track. And, honestly, there’s no trick to it. No words of wisdom I can give here to explain how one stops and gets back on the Weight Watchers or healthy eating bandwagon. I just have to do it.

Making Peace with Hunger

Over the holidays, I indulged. I’m going to put that out there right now.

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I had cake, cookies, truffles, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, candy… I had it all. A little of everything. I didn’t track these things. For about 5 days, I did not track at all. And then, on December 26th, I picked up where I left off and began tracking again.

 

I admit, I am proud of this; I am proud that I was able to let loose and then pick right back up where I left off. But, I am also telling you all of this because I am mentally struggling with myself about getting back on track.

Why?

Because I’m hungry.

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(This is me when I’m hungry. Truth.)

Right now, while I write this, I am hungry. My stomach is twinge-ing and twisting; I feel a rumble coming on. I’m thinking of lunch, which is still over an hour away. I’m thinking of dinner…of dessert…of food. I’m hungry, and hungry isn’t something I do very well.

The first days back on track are always the hardest and hungriest for me. When I first begin any “new diet venture,” I am able to endure this hunger out of the excitement and possibility of losing weight. The motivation for drastic change overrules the hunger. But now, over 2 years into Weight Watchers, that motivation and honeymoon-type excitement is essentially gone. So, I find myself having to look at hunger differently. I’m realizing that not only is my weight loss journey about my relationship with food and myself…it’s also about my relationship with hunger.

When I was a teenager, someone once told me that my stomach growling was the sound of fat being burned. That mindset led me to embrace hunger; it was comforting to me.

I don’t consider that to be a healthy way of looking at hunger.

When I was in college, I ate so much and so frequently that I went about 4 years without ever feeling hunger pains. Then, when I did finally feel hunger again, it was unbearably painful.

I don’t consider that to be a healthy relationship with hunger either.

Now, I see hunger pains as a line of communication between my mind and body.

Hunger pain is a sign that my body is still working. It’s a sign that I haven’t overeaten; it’s also a sign that I need to eat something. Hunger is my body saying “I’m ready for some fuel!”

Hunger can also be an emotion. I can get angry or resentful hunger when I think that I deserve an indulgence that I am not allowing myself right now. I can get sad hunger when I think that I deserve an indulgence to help me feel better about a loss in my life. Because, let’s face it, cake always makes things a little better.

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Hunger can be a mental awareness that “yesterday, I would be eating something at this time.” It can be an awareness of change in quantity, quality, or type of food.

“This orange is not chocolate. I’m hungry for chocolate!”

“This salad may be huge, but I’m still hungry for a burger.”

“This soup may fill me up, but I’m still not too full for candy.”

Hunger can be overwhelming. Sometimes I let it control me; I’ll reach for the easiest food to access the moment I get home from work.

Hunger is uncomfortable. Hunger is a sign of life. Hunger is a call for action. Hunger is a shared experience.

Hunger is so many things to me. In times like this, when I’m getting myself back on plan, I debate with myself about my hunger. All of those thoughts I discussed above…they all bounce around in my head. I think, in the end, it is important to feel hunger and it is important to deal with hunger appropriately. This means not letting myself get overwhelmed by hunger to the point where the hunger is making the decisions.

Whenever I feel hunger now, I ask myself where it is coming from. On days like today, the hunger is genuine. I’m hungry because my stomach is adjusting to less food. This type of hunger is hard to deal with, but basically what I’ve chosen to do is keep my body on a healthy schedule. As long as I am giving my body what it needs each day, it’s ok for me to be hungry sometimes.

My Weight Watchers leader also gave me a great way of analyzing my hunger. She suggested that, when I feel hunger, I ask myself “would I like an apple right now?” If the answer to that question is “yes,” then I am probably feeling genuine hunger. If an apple (or whatever fruit/vegetable you choose) is not appealing, then that hunger is probably emotional.

So, I’m going to give that trick a try as I get myself back on plan.

Yep.

An apple sounds pretty darn appealing right now ;)

Guess it’s time for lunch!

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When Feelings Aren’t Enough

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Sometimes I find myself very frustrated in my weight loss journey because I feel like I’ve invested so much into this journey, but I’m not getting the results I want. For example, I’ve been a paying member of Weight Watchers for over 2 years. I have paid over $1,000 to Weight Watchers, which is, by far, the most money I’ve ever paid to any weight loss program EVER.

 

Uhm, excuse me, Weight Watchers… but isn’t it about time that I met my goal weight? You claim to work. I mean, your tagline is “because it works.” So, why aren’t you working?! I’m certainly paying you enough to work!

 

Before you answer that question, let me tell you another story.


When I was around 8 years old, my Sunday school studied the verse in Matthew 17 of the bible that says “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Don’t run away, I’m not about to get all preachy on you.)

 

That night around bedtime, I sneaked into my bathroom with a pen, closed and locked the door, and sat down full of determination. I placed the pen on the bathroom counter, closed my eyes, and concentrated very hard. “God,” I said, “I believe in you, and I have faith. I have so much faith!” (trust me, I could feel the faith. It was enormous. At LEAST walnut-sized). I opened my eyes and said with such authority “Pen… MOVE!”

 

The pen did not move.

 

Shocker, right?

 

I tried again. I concentrated harder, and I told God how much faith I had, and I felt this watermelon-sized faith in God, and I commanded the pen to move again! And, of course, it didn’t move.

 

This was a frustrating night for me, and I ended the night believing that I didn’t have enough faith to move the pen. Not even a mustard seed portion of faith. Eventually, I gave up, picked up the pen, and went to bed.

 

Sometimes I think that I view my weight loss journey the same way that I viewed moving that pen back when I was 8 years old: thinking faith alone will move the scale just because I feel so motivated. Here I am, investing money, time, and faith in a program, and then not understanding when that investment doesn’t lead to the scale moving DOWNward.

 

This is a pattern I’ve followed time and time again: I get super emotionally pumped and motivated, I commit excitedly to a new weight loss program, and then I run out of faith in the program, get frustrated, and quit. Sound familiar?

 

The truth of the matter is that faith is not all that is required to move mountains, including the mountain of weight I’m trying to lose. No amount of money, motivation, or emotion is going to move the scale down. Only action, following the plan’s rules, and applying it to my life 100% will make this weight move.

 

Likewise, lack of motivation does not mean that I have to stop losing weight. I can feel super awesome about my weight loss journey or I can feel completely crummy, irritated, and like giving up… it’s whether or not I choose to follow the rules of the plan that determine whether or not the journey continues downward.

 

So, I guess it’s time to remind myself that I’m a grownup now and can’t expect things to move when I tell them to move. Here’s to committing to follow the plan even when I don’t want to… even when I have no motivation. If I can do that, I know that I will eventually reach my goal.

The Tradition of Food

It’s that time of year: time for candy and pies…time for cookies, cakes, turkey, and stuffing. It’s time for love, warmth, family, and memories. It’s time for sweet smells, crisp air, warm drinks, and pumpkin everything. It’s time for tradition. And, for me, that tradition includes a lot of food.

(Who DOESN’T put a whole stick of butter in their corn??)

This time of year is always bitter-sweet for me now that I’ve left childhood behind. Many of the traditions from my childhood have passed for good, and new traditions just don’t have those beautiful memories attached to them yet. But one thing never really changes about this time of year, and that is the food.

(My Christmas cookies from 2011)

No matter how old I get, there will still be turkey on Thanksgiving and cookies on Christmas (God-willing… because I know that, for many, food is a luxury). It’s very easy for me to start trying to fill up the bit of emptiness I feel because of ended traditions with food that will always be around.

This year, I want to start a new tradition. I want to start a tradition where I focus on people and non-food experiences for the holidays. I want to fill up the bitter-sweet spaces with love, and not with food. I want food to just be food and not something that I cling to because it will never change or leave me.

This year, I’ll focus on random acts of kindness, sharing memories, and visiting family. I’ll sing carols (which also never change), give gifts, and make sure to tell people that I love them. I’ll dance in the first snow, play like a kid again, and try to find magic that still exists even as an adult.

I want these things to be my new traditions. I want to remember that genuine love also never leaves; in fact, it lasts a lot longer than any food.