If you are a woman, chances are there has been a point in your life in which you struggled with food, diet, the way you looked or the way you felt. I remember the moment this battle began inside me so vividly and it’s something I”ll never forget. I have these 2 cousins who are gorgeous, they are like sisters to me and I adore them both. They are uniquely different blessings in my life. From my perspective, they have great bodies. They are those women who have a small waist and actually have hips. I however, am shaped more like a teenage boy. Straight up and down with no hips at all, which means if I gain any weight it shows on my belly big time! I always admired that about them. One day, we were at their house swimming and a family friend was over. I felt so cool as I put on one of my cousin’s swimmingsuits. It was a blue halter top with a white daisy on it and blue shorts to match. I walked out onto their deck and a boy said to me “Ewww, gross you look fat!” And that was it. I was fat.
An oldie but a goodie. Beautiful women!
I spent a lot of time during junior high and high school researching ways to not be fat and they worked. I became very thin very fast. I knew how many calories I ate in a day, I knew how long I could refrain from food until I passed out and I knew how much I needed to exercise and would not quit until I burnt at least 500-1000 calories. At one point a friend’s mother called my mom to let her know I wasn’t eating lunch and I became so livid. My softball coach also caught on. I liked reaching the little goals I set for myself and I liked feeling hungry. I felt powerful and in control when I could tell my stomach no if it was growling.
Fast forward to when I began dating my husband my junior year of high school. I had fun with him. We went out to eat and he made me feel good about myself and it had nothing to do with how I looked, we just genuinely enjoyed eachother’s company. He was the first person in my life at that time who really made me feel happy with myself. His influence was so important to me that when I turned 18 I got a tattoo with his initials on it because I never wanted to forget that feeling. I remember the man doing the tattoo saying “Are you sure you want this? This is a death sentence, these people always come back to get them redone.” I didn’t care. That was a big deal to me and I knew that if we weren’t together I still needed to have that memory to remind myself. During college I partied, ate carbs and gained weight. (Doesn’t everyone?!) I always loved working out though so I hadn’t gained enough for it to bother me that much. It wasn’t until I had my first daughter that I decided I needed to change the way I was taking care of my body, because I knew she would be watching. I’d love for you to read on and see how I’ve done that within the past 12 years!
- Goals: If you have read any other sections of this blog you know I’m a goal oriented person. I like numbers and I like seeing them go down. I’ve learned that taking care of yourself should not be a number. Skinny doesn’t necessarily mean pretty or healthy. My goal is to be a strong, fit mother and an example for my daughters. Please, please if you are beginning a health journey don’t make your only goal a number on the scale. I’ve found that taking measurements consistently is helpful and taking pictures of yourself. I know we dread them but since having my third baby I have taken a picture every month (be sure it’s in the same outfit!) and it’s motivating! I can see change and I’m encouraged.
- Why?: You can have an infinite number ofgoals but if you don’t know why you are striving for them they are useless. I view my body as a tool that God gave for me to do specific jobs. If I’m not taking care of it, I can’t do them. When I eat badly or don’t exercise I become lethargic and grouchy. I’m not the best mommy I can be, I don’t feel like attending the volunteer opportunities I’ve signed up for and I have guilt when I eat. If you don’t know why you are on this journey it’ll be tempting to give up when things get rough.
- Eat when you’re hungry: This seems simple I know but it’s important. I took this to an extreme in my younger years but your body doesn’t need food nearly as much as we feed it. It’s okay for your stomach to growl. That’s a sign you need to eat. If you just stop for a second each time you go to grab a snack and ask yourself “Am I hungry?” more often than not you will see you aren’t. Boredom is not hunger!
- Food is not equivalent to fun: This one is tricky because there are so many celebrations that are related to food. That’s okay, but just realize if what you look forward to most at Thanksgiving is the food, it will control your day. You’ll overeat and be miserable. Now, if your holiday is about spending time with your family, playing games, relaxing, those things will control your day. Try to plan date nights to do something active rather than just going out for dinner. Believe me I know enjoying a meal without kiddos is a rarity and it’s nice to do however, only eating on date nights can generate your emotions becoming tied to food. Your brain believes food is what makes that event fun, not the alone time with your spouse.
- Have a support system: I have a fantastic friend who is my running/workout buddy. We began running at the same time and trained for a half marathon together and I just love her. She motivates me when I’m in a rut and I do the same for her. An added bonus of this friendship is we have met more friends who run that I may not have hooked up with if I was doing this alone. It’s hard to say no to a long run or workout on a Saturday when you have 3 other people who got up early to meet you. If you can do this with your spouse it’s awesome but just be aware of how you handle constructive criticism. If you think you would become defensive when your husband says something like “You haven’t been to the gym this week” then it’s probably not worth the arguments it will cause in your marriage. Also, getting a sitter consistently for you to workout together can be tricky!
- You are your worst enemy: Stop telling yourself you can’t do it. Stop beating yourself up because of how you look and feel now. Stop going back to how your life was in the past. Right now is what matters, take charge!
- You don’t have their body: One of the most important things I’ve learned is to accept what I am. I don’t have the body my cousins have and I never will. This is not to be confused as “They lost weight and I never will”. (See number 6!) You will not make any progress until you start looking at yourself only. I can lose 30 pounds and eat well and I will never look like a supermodel, I’m 5 feet tall. There’s nothing wrong with that! This body has done some pretty amazing things in my life and I’m grateful I have it.
- Change: One of my biggest pet peeves is when people complain about something they aren’t even willing to make an effort to change. Albert Einstein said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” You have to be willing to commit to a healthy lifestyle if you want to see change.
- Routine: I understand that working out is hard. I understand that eating well is difficult but I promise if you try it for a few weeks soon you won’t even want to go back to the way you were living before. Research says it takes 21 days for something to become a habit. So if you aren’t sure about all of this, take on a piece of it for just 21 days and see what happens. Stop watching TV for 21 days, don’t eat out for 21 days, exercise for 21 days, once it’s a habit it’s hard to break!
- Find your niche: If you don’t like running, try bicycling, if you don’t like bicycling try Zumba. Now is a great time to exercise because there is so much out there. Don’t give up because something doesn’t work for you and don’t continue to do something you hate.
- Beauty: Because of my struggles with food I was fearful to have daughters, like to the point where I prayed for sons. When I had one girl then another I got the hint that maybe God could use my past for something good. For a big part of my life I believed skinny =beautiful. You seriously need to evaluate what beauty means to you. If you find yourself stuck on unrealistic expectations you might want to stay away from your TV and magazines for awhile. My girls have taught me a lot about this. My youngest daughter started running with me this summer. I told my husband that I love that she wants to run because mommy does it to take care of herself and she wants to spend time with me, weight had nothing to do with it. Just the other day my 6 year old looked at me and said “Mom, I love when you don’t wear makeup, your face is so beautiful.” I just love children , they are honest, brutally honest. I can tell you this because my 4 year old updates me when my big belly is getting a little smaller! But seriously what is beautiful to you? If for you it’s perfection or looking like someone that isn’t you, I’m sorry to burst your bubble but it’s not attainable.
The many faces of beauty in our household
- Make yourself a priority: This is the hardest thing for me to do. I feel an incredible amount of guilt leaving my 3 babies to go workout or take my time at the grocery store. I think Christians especially have a hard time with this but if you aren’t taking care of the body God gave you then you can’t fulfill your purpose to its full potential. However, there is a fine line between taking care of yourself and becoming vain and obsessive. Be sure that you aren’t neglecting other areas of your life that are of value.
- Reward yourself: When you set goals, be sure to reward yourself and don’t back out! For the past 5 months I have been working towards a goal to order a Steelers sweatshirt I’ve wanted but wouldn’t buy when I was preggo. The second I reached my goal I instantly thought….hmmm maybe 5 more pounds and then I’ll order it. Don’t do that to yourself! Try to make gradual goals. If you are trying to lose 50 pounds or eat raw foods for 6 months, reward yourself at smaller increments. It will keep you motivated and on task. Something that’s really important here is to not reward yourself with food, you’re not a dog learning to sit and roll over. If you are trying to take better care of your body it’s confusing when you reward it with a pizza. (Imagine trying to teach your children not to hit then rewarding them by letting them have a free day at school where they can hit as many times as they want.)
- You may need a new doctor: I cringe every time I hear that someone is being referred for surgery or put on high blood pressure medicine without their doctor even considering their diet or activity level. Our society is more accepting of being cut open on a surgical table or putting something foreign into our bodies rather than exercising 3 times a week. When I went to my family doctor years ago for migraines the first thing she suggested was that I start exercising consistently. She would not put me on medication until I tried that first. There have been so many studies that show links between exercise, foods and their effects on the body as compared to medication. My family has found chiropractors to be especially helpful with this. If you aren’t okay with switching your family practitioner, I would suggest adding a chiropractor to your network.
- Money: I hate to spend money on things that aren’t useful. Eating healthy can mean trips to the grocery store more often and a bit more money but remember your goal! I love the quote “The longer the shelf life the shorter your life.” If your health is a priority to you, start paying attention to what you are using to fuel your body. For me this also pertains to working out. If you find a pair of running shorts you like buy them. Take the time to get some good shoes that are supportive. This is only a waste if you don’t use them. If you make these investments they will pay off.
Then God said “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”
Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
1 Peter 3:3-4