Sunday, April 22, 2012

Twice the Smiles

Okay, so maybe double chins are cute on babies, but I had a frustratingly painful reminder yesterday that 190lbs, while less than 196lbs, doesn't disguise the fact that I am still painfully and obviously obese.

(She whines as she bites into a sandwich creme cookie...)

Alright, so maybe I am doing a little stress eating, but at least it's a Whole Foods brand cookie!

Uh-hem.

Grrr! Maybe some of you can understand this, but in recent years--since I became overweight and then officially obese--I have shunned having my photo taken. In fact, I have probably caused myself more shame and embarrassment just from the lengths I'll go to avoid caving in to this cruel request from my friends and family than I do from seeing yet another picture of that fat version of me.

Naw!

Seeing a picture of myself nowadays, in my opinion, is the most hurtful and deflating setback to my efforts. It is such undeniable evidence of what others truly see when they take a gander at this plump goose. Really, there might be some truth to the old tale that "the camera adds 10 pounds." I hope. Or is that just video cameras?

Shucks, anyway, does that even matter? Take away 10 pounds and I can still imagine that people only see a chunky-dunker when they notice me. If they notice me at all.

Alright, alright...so I am breaking my own new rules and being a little mean and unforgiving to myself right now. But this is always what happens after someone forces me into another one of their photo "opportunities". Grumble, grumble.

I'll be chugging along, saying no to bad foods, saying yes to exercise, exchanging the tea and soda for water. Sure, the scale may only be dropping down a pound, maybe two, a week but hey! Down is the key word here. Down is good.

So I'll be feeling pretty good about myself, and since I am starting to notice even the tiniest degrees of change in my curves when I run my hands over them in the shower, I keep thinking any day now someone else will notice, too. They'll be nice enough to say something and I will feel even more sure that I am on the right track.

But seeing a photo of myself has the power to banish all such hopes. I start wondering if what I was noticing was just wishful thinking on my part. If anything I am doing is really working for me. Then, I'll spend a few days doing just what I'm doing now....

...feeling sorry for myself.

Darn my Mother!!!

She is a truly great, great lady and a sweet person. However, when I first started gaining weight, she noticed right away. Out of concern--I am sure there was no malice intended--she began to comment on every little change she noticed each time she saw me again. One time she flat out gasped with despair for my burgeoning body and demanded to know if something major was wrong.

Do you need to talk about anything?

You know how Moms are. Finally, I told her how much she hurt my feelings and tearfully admitted how I was starting to hate coming around her. It made me feel so bad. Could she please keep her comments to herself?

Because she is such a kind,loving soul she was true to her word and the weight gain comments dried up. Then, she switched to the other extreme. Now, it is like she constantly pretends to live in denial that my pants size has changed from 4 to 16 in less than a decade. As in, if any reference at all is made to my size by myself or others, she casually brushes it off.

I don't know what hurts worse. The straightforward, semi-constructive lard litany from my Mom...or her new stock of Mom-ishly pithy mantras such as "you're a beautiful girl, honey" or "you carry it so well." Or the worst and most aggravating of all because I know it is completely untrue and just some cajoling soothing thing people resort to as an attempt at politeness:

"You're just big-boned."

AAAAAAAHHHHHH! I HATE that!

So my Mom and stepdad come to town yesterday to celebrate him completing his PhD in Psychology. Since my little niece is with us, and she has never been, they decide to take us all to the Dallas Zoo (and it is much much better than it was 15 years ago, by the way...I was impressed).

In the midst of petting a happily grunting pig named Zoe, rubbing noses and kissing Allen the goat, and serving as a perch for I don't know how many parrots, I felt more like my old self than I had in a while. A deep kinship with animals and a joy in their presence has always been with me, so being around so many again always carries me back to my happy child hood days in the country.

But then that Mother of mine wants to take a picture of all this. Why? Isn't the one of me french-kissing a calf (accidental), riding an elephant, and carrying in a cat from the woods at camp as a kid not enough to satisfy her need to capture the memorably bizarre moments of her eldest child's life?

Apparently not.

Making her swear to God she would not post these photos anywhere on the internet (where boyfriends past might find them and cease regretting the day they chucked me for some silly reason), I allowed her to subject me to a dozen photos. This was almost okay until, in the car on the way back to their hotel, she insists on making me see them.

Begging her not to show me, and my stepdad the psychotherapist trying to beat her back with sound reasoning as well, she would not be denied and I caught a glimpse of one awful picture.

There was that pretty face--blue eyes with an almond shape, high apple cheekbones, french lips, ethnically charming and aristocratic nose--all set back in some seriously chipmunk like chubby cheeks in a perfectly round face. Below the smile, the dewlap of skin hanging from cheek to cheek we know as a double chin. This was the irrefutably signature feature of someone who is still fat.

I slid my hat down over my face then, feigning a nap...but I sobbed silently under the blessed cover of darkness there.

My sweet hubby was the only one to have an inkling of how I was feeling. I knew when he reached across our sleeping niece in the back seat between us to hold my hand. Thank God! I'd hate to make my Mom feel as horrible as she would if she knew how much I was hurting from this. My stepdad Scott later commented that it never occurs to my mother that other people might not like the pictures she takes of them because she looks good in them all.

She does. She is 48 years young, still a size 4 after 3 kids and 4 depressing marriages. There was a brief time in the middle where she bulked up to 170 pounds right after my little sister died, but that's it. After the very hard life she has endured, she still manages to take good care of herself and stay gorgeous as ever. Men of all ages always look twice at my mom.

So I look at myself now in these zoo pics (she texted them all to us later of course), standing next to my lovely mother. Same pretty face, but the teardrop shape of hers ends in a firmly pointed chin, and the arms are slender and strong beside my own salmon filet sized biceps.

Le sigh. I can see why she worries. Her own mother was paralyzed from strokes in her 30s, and we've lost most of the men in our lives to heart disease. She must be terrified for me.

Well, I ain't quitting just yet. And I know she hasn't really given up on me either. She often says, "when you're happy again, the weight will just come right off." When I stop looking for happiness at the bottom of a soda can, or a pie plate, she's right. The weight does come right off.

The sandwich cremes are put away now. The serving size was two for 120 calories. I stopped at two cookies. And I had them with water. Hey, for a "stress eating" event, I'd say this is major progress!

Thanks Mom, for making me face the facts. I love you.
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My Tax Day Dream


Hey, I promise I'm not planning to use this blog as a forum to push my political agenda, but once a year, in honor of Tax Day, and in support of a great dream to get our tax system back in line with the way our forefathers imagined it, I will post one blatantly obvious request for my readers to find out for themselves what the Fair Tax is and how America could say goodbye to Tax Day forevermore.

If you wanna hate me forever for wishing you could bring home your whole paycheck to your family and not be punished for winning with money, I can live with that. Read more!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Heart & Soul

Heart & soul are the final two secret ingredients I feel I'm smart enough now to give a place in my toolbox.

Heart takes the form of forgiveness, most especially of myself. How many times did I harpoon myself with self-loathing and anger whenever I failed to follow through on being perfect? Many times a day perhaps. No one was harder on me or more cruel to me than myself.

I was completely without compassion for my human failings and imperfections. And any change I wanted to thrust into my routine had to be all or nothing if I wanted it "to work." At least that is what I told myself.

This was all based on the assumption that so many others who had the body I wanted to have must be perfect every day, so why couldn't I? Isn't that silly?

Now that I have finally spent some time around truly healthy people, and read books by fitness icons like Chalene Johnson and Harley Pasternak, and studied magazine interviews of women who have created gorgeous bodies and endless vitality I KNOW that perfection is not a requirement to achieve perfect health. Well duh!

What the heart tells us (and many healthy peeps, too) is that we have to start with a lot of love for ourselves...right now. Just as we are. We need to study our ravaged bodies in the mirror not with disgust, bitterness, guilt and regret...but with compassion. And with hope that we will make things better. And we need to forgive ourselves for putting our bodies into their current condition, and be patient with ourselves as we go about making things right.

I didn't pack on 75 extra pounds over night. So I can't make it all go away overnight either. And I cannot change where I have been, only where I am going. Again, I know most of these thoughts are unoriginal or cliche, but maybe it is because we hear them so often that we tune out the truth in these oh so familiar words.

So I allow my heart to love me right now, because I believe I will only get better and better. Patience flows from here now, too. The heart says, "Hey, what's the rush?" Be good to yourself and forgive forgive forgive. And forget all about that fat person I thought I was. Perfect health is my natural state and my divine birthright. My body wants to get healthy even more than I do, and it will if I will just stop doing the fat habits.

But--ah!--the Soul. What has She to teach me?

Call on others, you are not alone...is one of the Soul's most urgent requests.

The old me, that raving mad perfectionist control freak, absolutely HATED asking for help of any kind for any reason. It felt like weakness, failure, and a mute recognition of inadequacy to seek help from others. I had so distanced myself from my own Creator, I had almost begun to believe I operated independently of Them. Or that I could change anything all by myself.

This is the most telling sign of ignorance.

My soul's rekindling started with a simple private plea for help. I directed it to the room around me in general, but God chose to answer anyway.

Shortly after, I found my dear spiritual teacher, Barbara Y. Martin (author of Change Your Aura, Change Your Life...among others), and like they say--when the student is ready, the teacher appears. I could write whole volumes concerning what I have learned from her in the last 2 years through her books, classes and lectures, but the key thing here is the importance of our connections to others.

What she taught me that I just plain didn't get before is that it is through the people around us that God performs his miracles in our lives to lift us up and lead us forward. Everyone is a potential channel of Her love, health, wisdom, peace & prosperity. And we ourselves are likewise channels for others, though many of us hold back.

So this also means when we choose to cut ourselves off from the help others may offer, what we are doing is cutting ourselves off from God and all the help He is trying to give us. If other people are the channels, and we aren't tuning in to others, how can any blessings come into our lives?

Just think of your job. Is your company or your boss the source of your income? No. God is the source of all our income, but He uses your job as the channel for His prosperity to come to you because that is one channel you gave him to work through when you went out there and applied for the job.

I get it now.

And I have opened myself up again to others. Teammates, classmates, friends, family, sometimes even perfect strangers. I seek their advice and ask for their help. And it is such a blessing to see how much people have to give and all that I have gained just for the asking.

There you have it. These were my lessons and these are my great new tools. Sappy perhaps, and definitely nothing most of us haven't at least heard before, and many more like myself probably thought they already knew it all anyway.

But as Bill quotes Socrates in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, "Wisdom is knowing that you know nothing."
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mind Over Matter

My greatest God-given tools that I so ignorantly undervalued and underestimated in my fighting of the flab are Mind, Heart & Soul.

I know, sounds corny perhaps but hear me out.

First, let's talk about the mystical magical "kingdom within" we refer to as our Mind.

I had to change my mental attitude toward health & fitness specifically, and achievement in general. Before, I always thought:


A) things had to be done perfectly or it didn't count,

B) that not losing 10 pounds in 1 week meant the whole fitness thing wouldn't work for me, and

C) that I had to take on 100 changes all at once and go from fat-lazy-couchpotato to vegan-power-fitness-freak all in one day.

What do you think happens when a person tries to completely 180 their routine overnight?


Um - FAILURE!!! Hello!


Screwy mental habits like contemplating the enormity and breadth of a task in terms of how long it would take and how much work the thing would take out of me also had to be uprooted.

We've all heard things like "law of attraction" and "attitude is everything" and "mind over matter" (my husband says, "I don't mind cuz you don't matter"...not to me of course...awful thing to say, but anyway).

However, I thought all such opinions were complete balderdash for naive children, gullible guppies, and lazy wishful thinkers. I am a real go-getter, a doer, I attack a goal with action so why should it matter what my inner monologue sounded like?

Turns out, I had been the naive child. I can't pinpoint exactly where the breakthrough happened for me now. Can't tell you how many self-help books I had read and scorned in the past for mentioning such hocusy-pocusy notions. But a few things did finally beat down the door of my rock-hard skull, opened the windows and let the Light in.

Maybe it was Chalene Johnson and her book PUSH! Maybe it was the "Good Advice" columnist, Gretchen Rubin, from Good Housekeeping Magazine. Perhaps it was a chance conversation with a perfect stranger. The thing was I began to actually hear the sort of things I said to myself and about myself. I began to actually catch the nasty thoughts that before had raced so speedily through my mind I couldn't consciously recognize how mean, dark, pessimistic, critical, and cynical they were. Or how they instantly made me feel...hopeless.

My gosh! It was true! My thoughts were killing me!

So mentally, I've now planted a few new ideas that have yielded a harvest of happy thoughts.

First, the "15 minute rule." Let's say I start thinking about a project like cleaning house or writing something or exercising. Ya know, something that might normally take an hour or more. THE HARDEST PART IS JUST GETTING STARTED!

Instead of getting from go to exhausted just thinking about all the time and effort involved, I give myself permission not to finish. Instead I say, "Okay,just 15 minutes and then I can stop."

15 minutes is no time at all. So I actually set a timer and jump in to the dreaded task. Guess what? So far, I have NEVER stopped when the timer rang. Be it cleaning, writing, working out or whatever...once I got started, momentum carried me forward to completion.

Next, the "be consistent rule." I read this fabulous article by a guy named Iann Legg about the importance of consistent action day-after-day, and boy - he had my number! In one example, he asks you to consider the results of- say-the sun shining every year for 7 months straight followed by 5 months of darkness. Or of brushing your teeth for 8 hours in a single day and then not again for another month.

Would we then still achieve the results we desire from the sun and brushing our teeth? Of course not! It is the same with everything else. A little bit of right action day after day beats a few days of intense right action followed by weeks of nothing. So I catch myself now when my mind starts to tell me I can skip that important but not urgent activity today, and I almost shout aloud "be consistent, Louise!"

Third, the "60 second rule." Got this from Gretchen and it is fabulous. For those little tasks that were so easy to rationalize putting off til later because they took less than a minute to do anyway, this rule is a lifesaver. Because a whole lotta littles add up to...well...a whole lot.

Changing the toilet paper roll, taking out the trash and actually putting it in the dumpster, putting a DVD back in its case and on the shelf, opening a letter and reading or discarding it, replying to a simple email, placing a dish in the dishwasher, snapping a bra together before putting it in the laundry, and so on....

If it takes less than a minute or even just a little over a minute...DO IT NOW! I LOVE this idea, and the mental stress it relieves me of is priceless.

Fourth--and this is a big one--the "envy to admiration rule." This is a disgusting mental disease. Comparing myself to others, seeing they have the body or the career or the house I want and begrudging them the having of it. As if there is anything stopping me--except myself--from having the same things.

A fave quote of mine says "It is easy to covet another's success without envying his labors." Ain't that the truth! Besides, do you ever really want exactly what another person has? Rarely.

But I began to hear the jealous or envious thoughts in my head that I had never even realized I was thinking before...though I would certainly feel their depressing and hope defeating effects. Now, here is another type of wrong thinking I catch, stop, and replace with a new thought of appreciation and admiration.

I give myself permission
to admire the successes of others, remind myself I can have the same, and thank God for the other person's wonderful example. It can be hard, especially when my hubby is having his hair cut by a doting and flirty teenager with the body of a supermodel. But it is amazing how different I start to feel when I switch gears mentally from envy to admiration.

Fifth rule? The "one at a time rule." No more going from slacker to superstar expectations. Instead, I am selecting one new habit at a time to drop or pick up, in order of greatest impact to lowest. For 2 or 3 weeks, I focus on adopting the new change until it feels effortless. If it takes a little longer so be it, but I really go at it every day.

Yes, this means it will take me maybe quite a bit longer to get the hot body I want. But I have so many bad habits getting in the way of that to start with that trying to change them all at once became just that...trying. New perfect routine might last 2 days and then it was total failure...followed by a few more weeks of doing nothing.

This rule is not for everybody. Some people have something forcing them to make drastic changes all at once and it works for them...and I am so very happy for them. For me, my mind refused to juggle 100 changes at once. I would feel confused or overwhelmed. Any little misstep had me telling myself things like "this is too hard." So I like this. It is very easy to focus all my will on one change at a time, and slowly bid farewell to one bad habit at a time.

This leads into my last new mental habit. The "why can't I? rule." Over and over, I began to notice my mind saying something like, "well, I can't do/have/be that because..." One day, I decided to thoroughly examine one such thought when it popped up. Each "I can't because" sprouted another "I can't because" until I chased each excuse down where it could go no further...and you know where it lead me? To a completely irrational belief that I had voluntarily adopted from my parents or misinformed peers or well-meaning friends or plain cultural conditioning!

This has been said a million times, but I had stopped believing it somewhere between elementary and high school graduation: There is NOTHING I can't do! I am blessed to have been born in America in the 1980s outside of the yoke of some harsh cultural standard. I can do just about any (ethical) flipping thing I want, by golly!

The mind truly has such awesome power to redirect our emotions and our lives.
So yeah. This was the major part of my big breakthrough, and the mightiest new tool in my arsenal. Surely most people have already figured this one out, but it was so new to me. And it has really been changing my life these past few months.

But Heart & Soul still cried for my attention...and I think at last I have begun to heed their call.

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Back in the Saddle(bags) Again

Here comes a comeback.

So where have I been for the last two years since my last post?

Wish I could say that some truly noble diversion--motherhood, caring for an aged relative, military service overseas, slow but courageous recovery from a debilitating illness--carried me away from my goal to bring sexy back and reclaim my health and happiness in the bargain.

Nope!

Looks like I suffered another classic case of "the quits." As in, things started going good, really had some momentum going, one really bad day came along where I used none of the tools and performed not one of the healthy new activities I had adopted to carry me to my goal...followed by another...and another. Finally, so disgusted, ashamed, and discouraged I jumped off that high horse I'd been riding so well til then. And I quit.

Don't you just hate that?

Let's be honest. There was no good reason to allow a few days or even a couple of weeks of poor choices to somehow grant me permission to decide I had screwed up the whole thing so bad that beginning again was just too hard a feat to manage. Who was keeping score? Who decided a little backsliding, a few weeks of failing deems the aim a lost cause? Who's voice was that in my head anyway? Well, now I know.

Having now decided that even a couple of YEARS of backsliding makes the goal no less impossible (and certainly no less desirable...in fact the passion to not stand ashamed before a mirror has never been stronger), I'm getting back in the saddle again. And while, yes, the saddle bags are back (darn it!), I've got a few new tools in those bags (metaphorically speaking, of course).

Unlike before, these tools aren't gadgets or apps or websites or fancy workouts or pills. These tools are more precious and more powerful than anything out there, but you won't find them for sale on the open market. These are the tools that previously eluded me, and not because I was unaware of them. No, I couldn't get them because I belittled and grossly underestimated their value.

Maybe Wisdom truly comes with age. I am 30 years young now, and suddenly I get it.

That voice in my head I was talking about, she was the dream killer. The procrastinating, perfectionistic, controlling, lonely, self-loathing little bully of my lower nature steered my thoughts away from the truth my Higher Self so desperately wanted me to catch on to.

Our lower nature speaks words like "impossible" "too late" "all or nothing" "you can't because" "what will so-and-so think" "just give it up and accept the way things are" "you don't need any help" and so on.

You see, this is the voice of a perfectionist. We perfectionists think very highly of ourselves, that we are somehow above the crowd...but we speak in loser language. We convince ourselves that if we can't be the BEST at something, we shouldn't be bothered to do it. Or if we fudge on even a tiny detail, then the whole thing needs to be scrapped and we must start over. But then starting over is just too damn hard. And Heaven forbid we do something so base as ASK FOR HELP!

So we quit...and move on to something else.

And even when we do finish something, let's face it:

A) We take --like--FOREVER!
B) We suck all the fun out of it.
C) We're not satisfied with the end result anyway!

Like John Acuff says, I needed to MURDER perfectionism.

So what are the tools I picked up to help me kill the dream killer? They are with me now everywhere I go because they are in fact a part of me. I have had them all along, heard of their true power, but like I said before I must have been just too dumb or immature to perceive and respect their power.

We'll talk tools in my next post. For now, the scale says 191.2 lbs, down from 196.4 two weeks ago. I'm feeling good, I'm feeling hopeful and I'm back!


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