I Shall Not Want

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.

Those are two sentences I’ve repeated over and over again, so much so, that they are emblazoned on my heart and in my brain. But in reality, do I really think about what those words mean?

No. I don’t. Prior to this Fall Break, my prayer and quiet time life was in a solid rut. I still read my Bible every morning and shouted out a few “Amens!” on the way to school with Misha and Shogun. But the “thank yous” and “please watch overs” were becoming rote. Monotonous. So much so, that with glazed eyes, staring off out of the car window at 6:30am every morning, even Misha was imitating my lacksidasical “…and please watch over mommy and daddy and Shogun and Puna and Papa and Grandma and Grandpa and amen.”

Eek.

So when D’Lissa from Breath of Life Ministries suggested that I spend time throughout the day meditating on scripture to heal my fractured, stressed, and overworked spirit, I immediately felt a pull to start reading His word. Now. For the past week I’ve looked at Psalm 23, one of the most well known passages and one that my mother dearly loved. When dealing with the possibility of cancer taking over her life, my mom clung to this psalm and found extreme comfort in David’s words. I still remember her furrowed brow relaxing into a content smile as she read and reread the six lines over and over again.

And so on a quiet Monday morning last week, when the husband and kids were still nestled in their Kauai hotel room beds, I stared at the first verse. And read it. And stared. And read it again.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.

“What are you saying, Jesus? What exactly should I ‘get’ out of you being my shepherd?” The thoughts roamed in my head and the more I stared at those black printed lines, the revelation came to me.

I want many things in life. Achievements in work, achievements in the gym, achievements with my family. I want to come home and not feel the uncomfortableness that I have a zillion problems and issues to deal with, but rather, I want to be perfectly at peace and to let the worries fall off my shoulders like a waterfall cascading down worn and weathered rocks. I want to feel loved and accepted even when I’m awkward and fail. There are so many things that I “want” and if I were to dwell over each of these items (Did I achieve all of the goals I set out for myself? Am I being the best mother, teacher, wife, and friend I can be?), I’d be a BIG MESS.

Sadly, I was hemming and hawing over these details from the moment my eyes opened to when I laid my head down at night: What if I don’t plan my English lessons perfectly and the students end up not being able to analyze a piece of fiction effectively? What if I miss this set of deadlifts and end up injuring myself? What if I don’t spend enough time reading with Shogun or talking with Misha? Can my relationship with my husband be stronger? What am I doing wrong?

The “what ifs” were killing me, causing my already tired brain to work overtime. It was only when I sat with this first verse from Psalm 23, that I realized that David was feeling the same as me, yet he did the complete opposite of what I was doing. Rather than attempt to handle all the questions himself, he turned to God, the shepherd.

I live in Hawaii and rarely (if at all) do I see sheep, so I had to actually look up what a shepherd’s job entails. Basically, this man guides and directs the flock to where they need to go–sometimes he must ward off predators to ensure the sheeps’ safety and other times he must discipline the sheep so they don’t stray. Either way, the shepherd is there to do the “hard work”, all the steering and rearing. If God is my shepherd, and he will be guiding me to a place of safety with His mighty hand, why SHOULD I “want”? Do sheep worry about wolves coming and attacking them? No. Do sheep worry about where there next meal will come from? No. Why so? Because they have complete and total trust that the shepherd will be there. If sheep can have that kind of trust in their shepherd, why can’t I have that same type of trust in mine?

It’s a process I am still learning and growing in. I am used to wanting to do any and everything on my own terms. Giving control to my shepherd is challenging, especially when it comes to situations that I have no control over but want control in (more on that in another post). But hour by hour, day by day, the more I sit with these two sentences, the more I am leaning on God rather than my own actions and thoughts to bring peace.

One last quick example of Psalm 23 in action: After returning from Kauai, I took the two kiddos to a crazily crowded mall for lunch. By myself. I was at my wit’s end, what with a person stealing a parking spot from me, the toddler whining for juice, and the six-year old saying she wanted pizza RIGHT NOW. Besides being completely overwhelmed with all the noise and stress, I started questioning myself. “What are you doing? You should be more prepared. Why didn’t you bring the juice from home? Your child shouldn’t be crying this much.” But then as soon as that incessant negative voice started its’ tyrannical talk, I thought about the Lord being my shepherd. Yes, the little guy was crying and yes, it totally got my blood boiling when a Mustang swooped in and grabbed the parking spot I was waiting for. But why worry? God was watching over me. He was guiding me. He was protecting from way back when and will continue to help me. So I repeated that first verse over and over, over and over. And you know what? The tension in my head, the knots in my shoulders, the overwhelming urge I had to cry out in frustration dissipated. We found a parking, the boy got some OJ, and the girl got her cheese slice. Jesus provided peace (and food and drink), and although it was for something as small and incidental as a crazy shopping expedition, there is solace in knowing that I DON’T need to “want” because God is truly the only thing I “want” and need.

Advertisements

Fall Break Renewal

Fall Break.

Fall Break.

Fall Break.

Three weeks ago, when I was knee deep reading sophomore essays and writing comments on students’ report card, just the thought of those two words made my heart flutter in whitsful anticipation.  The ending of the quarter was a particularly stressful period, what with grading, planning, parenting, and adulting taking its’ toll.  My stress level got so high that I resorted to finding solace and peace by doing what came naturally to me:  distracting myself with unnecessary things so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the real issue, or issues, at hand.  Obviously, as evidenced by the fact that by the time October 5th rolled around, I still had knots of tension throughout my body, and I felt like I wanted to just sit in a room and do nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  It was at that moment that I knew I needed something, a miraculous God intervention.

Thankfully at just that moment our Fall Break began.  I was ready to kick my feet up and veg out watching reruns of “Entourage”, but of course, the kids kept me occupied.  Spending days running around the park or traversing the Honolulu Zoo with a six and two year old are not the most calming and restful activities to engage in.  So when my husband suggested we go to Kauai for the weekend to visit my cousin and his family, I was excited but also apprehensive.  Traveling with two kids under the age of 10?  Packing for all of us?  Making sure we brought the toy cars for the little guy and enough snacks for the little girl?  It was a stress just thinking about all the preparations.  But I agreed to the trip, knowing that I missed seeing my long-lost Kauai relatives and getting the opportunity to just slow down.  Eventually the big travel day rolled around, and just like that we were off on a forty minute plane ride to the Garden Isle.

And what a vacation it was.  We just returned from a three day stay, and I’ll detail more about the great activities we did at the exquisite Marriott Waiohai (Create your own cupcake!  Temporary tattoo fun!) and the adventures we had with my cousin, his wife, and their two kids (Visiting Kamalani Park!  Eating at all the hot local spots!) in another post.  One highlight of this three day jaunt that I must share about now, however, was attending Breath of Life Ministries for church service the day before our departure.

Normally when we are on vacation we don’t attend church (I know, I know) as it’s too much hustle to get everyone ready for a service before noon.  But on this trip, we wanted to check out Pastor Tom’s service, so we made the quick drive over to Rice Street and listened to an impassioned teaching on the book of Revelations on a very humid Sunday morning.  The worship got my feet tapping, as there was a mix of original songs and a Van Morrison classic being played, but what really spoke to me was a conversation I had with the D’Lissa, the pastor’s wife.  After service was over I approached her to talk about an upcoming small group she was going to run.  It is going to be centered around psychology, and how when the mind is fractured and unhealthy, this spiritual and emotional illness leaks into the body and spirit.

So.  Me.  Right.  Now.

Hearing D’Lissa speak about the different components of the study and how the basis of it will be focused around meditating on God’s word throughout the day, I felt the Holy Spirit opening my heart, saying, “THIS.  THIS is what I want you to hear.”

During moments of stress, I’m akin to resort to my own means of finding peace, whether it’s engaging in another activity to get my mind off what’s really bothering me or yelling and crying in frustration at the challenging situation.  Either way, I never really feel like those actions are things God wants me to do.  I know that I should stop and seek Him in prayer during those trying times, but it’s hard to do so when I’m instead tempted to clean the house or go on social media (distraction, anyone???). Or even worse, I just curl into the fetal position on my bed and bawl and swear and cry. Letting the pent up emotions out isn’t necessarily bad, but after my moaning and crying, I never actually resolve the feelings of frustration that I feel. So when D’Lissa started talking about prayer and meditation being like medicine–a person takes it when she is not feeling well–I felt a pull in my heart that yes, in fact, I need God’s medicine in my life. If I were depressed and the psychiatrist gave me Zoloft to combat my illness, I’d take it everyday at a certain prescribed time. Why not do the same with my prayer life?

And so from that morning, I resolved to focus on a certain passage of scripture every day for one week, and like my medicine or food, I would seek the Holy Spirit to show me what He wants me to find from His word. I started looking at Psalm 23 on Monday, and just from carving out instances throughout the day when I am stopping, reading, praying, and focusing on the Lord as my shepherd, I already am feeling my heart more calm and steady and my tense shoulders releasing.

As the week progresses, I will certainly keep you updated on what God is showing me through His word. Fall Break. It is certainly shaping up to be one of greatest and most renewing vacations to date.

I’M STILL HERE!!!

Despite the fact that I have not written on this site for awhile, yes, I am still around.

I am still tooling around with the keyboard, staring at a blinking computer screen most hours of the day, although my normal blog prose has taken on the form of detailed lesson plans for freshmen on a highly-edited version of The Iliad and emails to students in my AP English class on what book to bring in for their research project.

School is underway, and the time I normally get to spend at the computer, putting my thoughts down on all things family, work, friends, God, and body-related is now devoted to running copies for quizzes and double-checking grammar handouts for the sophomores.

There will be a day, a time, heck, a 30 minute window, when I am sure I will once again be able to put down my insights and thoughts about what it means to be a woman who loves God, loves her family, and has found true grace and peace that allows her to live life free from the mental and physical chains of an eating disorder.  That day will come.

In the meantime, please check out my IG (@freeingfaith) because taking a picture and writing a short caption on my phone has become the substitute for my lack of blog writing computer time.

And I promise…I’ll still be around…and one glorious day, I’ll be able to actually format a wonderfully thoughtful post on all things related to God, family, friends, and true recovery.  😉

Breathe in. Breathe out.

By faith, I did it.

I couldn’t believe it.  Was I dreaming?  What was I doing?  Was this for real?

Take a journey with me, back to a week ago.  Picture it:  It was a warm summer Saturday night, and the hubby and I were winding down a dinner date where we munched on burgers (venison for me, beet and veggie patty for him), breadfruit fries, and cheesy cauliflower at a local downtown burger and pub-style restaurant.  After the meal, we decided to take a walk around the local shopping area, where there were numerous dessert shops and boutiques.  Maybe it was the two glasses of adult beverage I had at dinner or the fact that I was feeling sublimely relaxed with no motherhood responsibilities (the kids were sleeping over at the in-laws), but either way, I saw it on the shelf in one of the shops we were walking through, picked it up, and bought it.

“It” was a nondescript yoga mat.  Nothing incredibly special, as in this day and age, yoga mats are a dime a dozen.  But purchasing that pale pink-purple rectangular piece of cushion was a signal of some sort.  I was ready to venture back into the yoga routine.

As described in my previous posts, I was an extremely addicted long-distance runner.  Well, “addicted” is one term to describe the hours I spent hitting the pavement, trying to whittle my thighs down through miles or jogging in the beating sun or hailing rain.  “Obsessive” may be a more accurate term to highlight how marathons took over all my thoughts and cognitions, as I owned close to 10 running shoes, scoured “Runner’s World” magazine daily, and spoke about Deena Kastor like she was my best friend.  Eventually I saw the err of my ways in regards to long-distance running, but similar to what many individuals battling eating disorders figure out, they trade the one addiction (restrictive eating, purging, obsessive exercising) for another addiction (alcoholism, cutting, excessive shopping).  Following suit, I decided to turn in my running shoes for a yoga mat.

Ironically, it was at the suggestion of my eating disorder dietitian almost 10+ years ago that I take up a new sport, one that did not require me to be outdoors in running shoes, one that had a definitive beginning and end, one that was in the company of others.  She suggested Bikram Yoga, as doing Hatha yoga postures in a heated room for 90 minutes would conjure up the same type of sweat and euphoria that running for 90 minutes would induce.

Little did she (or I) know that Bikram Yoga would become take the place of long-distance running, and in due time I’d end up doing two classes a day everyday, showing up to the studio at least 30 minutes early to do extra postures before, spend up to 30 minutes after class doing extra postures and crunches, and having a fit if I were unable to make it down to the hot room.  I distinctly remember one such incident, when my husband’s good friends from Japan were in town, and he made last minute dinner plans with them.  My initial reaction?  No, I can’t go because I have to go to yoga.  My second reaction?  Well, maybe I can meet everyone late for dinner after I go to yoga.  It took a lot of argumentative conversation between my husband and I (well, about 30 minutes of him talking and me crying a toddler-like tantrum) before I rescinded into saying that yes, missing one class would not be the end of the world.

My addiction to Bikram Yoga, however, eventually spilled into my eating habits, and I created rules around what I could and could not eat.

I couldn’t eat at least 3 hours before yoga.  And I couldn’t eat anything with fat in it.

I couldn’t drink any liquid of any kind during or after class.

I couldn’t eat anything right after yoga.  I had to wait until I could feel my stomach growling before consuming any type of food.

Needless to say, those rules plus all of the extreme amounts of yoga I was doing made it so that I was doing a heck of a lot of output and barely getting any input.  And so I started to lose weight.  And then I lost more weight.  And then more.  Granted, part of it was probably dehydration as I didn’t drink a lot of liquids before, during, or after class–on weekends, in fact, I would try to not eat the whole day if possible, take a steamy afternoon class, and then have 2 glasses of wine at dinner.  Why 2 glasses?  I’m not sure.  But the fact is, I was already sucked dry from no water plus a heated yoga class, and consuming alcoholic beverages soon thereafter did not help my hydration levels.  It got to a point where the owner of the studio I frequented actually put a hold on my membership, as she and many other individuals noticed my disintegrating weight and compulsivity.

Needless to say, much like the obsession with running, I eventually realized that I needed to stop.  Stop yoga, stop the compulsion, stop the insanity (ha ha, throwback to Susan Powter right there), and find balance.  I am a person of extremes, and although now I am much more balanced in my approach to, well, everything, the times when I do swing from one end to another results in my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual demise.  At a recent sermon, the preacher reflected on how what our minds are focused on, that is what our “god” or “God” is.  Thankfully now I do not wake up thinking about yoga postures, nor do I sit in traffic daydreaming about how to perfect my camel posture or headstands.  Yoga is no longer my “god”, but back when I was constantly in the hot room, the 26 Hatha postures WERE.

So how did I stop?  Basically, it was all God.  Philippians 3:15 states, “So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision – you’ll see it yet!”  It could only have been by God’s sovereign hand that I was able to resist packing my towel, mat, and clothes, driving down to the studio, and partaking in a 90 minute session.  Sure, my membership at a studio was put on hold, but I very easily went to another Bikram place, took class, and no one besides me knew that I was “breaking the rules.”  Eating disorders and addictions are very crafty, and they know how to get a person to be stealthily sly and conniving in order to continue growing the obsession.  My husband couldn’t police me during the day, and neither could my family or friends.  In the end, it was only a supernatural God that could have released me from the bondages of compulsivity.

Since that time when I prayed to God to help me overcome my yoga addiction, I had no real compulsion to take a class. Stretch after working out?  Sure.  Try doing some postures with the hubby for fun?  Yeah.  But no formal classes, since the drive to WANT to go to a class wasn’t there.  After a few years of focusing more on weightlifting and getting stronger, the numerous yoga mats I accumulated throughout the years became stained with oil as they were used when my hubby fixed the cars.  One mat was cut in half so that my daughter could use it as an exercise mat in our garage.  I relegated yoga to “that thing I used to do back in the day”–it was in my past, something that I didn’t give a second thought about.

It wasn’t until I started training with a new powerlifting coach, that he recommended that one day a week I focus on stretching.  Internally, I laughed at the idea because I’m naturally hyper-mobile and can touch my toes with straight legs even after not taking a yoga class for the past 5 years.  Stretching?  What for?  And then after working with this coach for the past three weeks (ironically, he pointed out my lack of ankle mobility after our first video conference, which I didn’t realize was an issue when I squatted), it dawned on me why stretching was so important.  Like anything in life, there needs to be balance.  Monday through Friday I work my major muscles HARD, tearing down the fibers in hopes that they grow back stronger, denser, and bigger.  Come Saturday and Sunday, my body wants to recover.  It’s cool to be able to heft gigantic weights overhead or squat way more than my bodyweight, but what good is it if I can barely move after because my knees are stiff and my back aches?  The body needs a chance to recuperate, and what better way to achieve a mind-body balance than yoga?

So I did it.  I bought a yoga mat, and with that purchase, it solidified the fact that I am going to give myself that weekly refreshing and give my body a break from the barbell.  More importantly, it broke a fear I had for numerous years, that if I happened to return to a yoga class, the same compulsivity that haunted me years ago would start to echo in my thoughts, and I’d soon end up living in the yoga studio doing inversions all day.  But therein lies the difference between the yogini I was versus the yogini I am:  I know that while yoga can become competitive because I’m a natural Gumby, yoga is actually a relaxing and calming practice that gets me more in touch with my breath and alignment.  My main purpose in practicing is to feel my muscles lengthening, to be astounded by the wonderful body God created–it’s not for pride to be able to say I can wrap my foot around my head in lotus or bite my toes in a seated forward bend.

Here’s another disclaimer too:  I appreciate all styles of yoga, yet I am a strong Christian, and I don’t believe in the religious aspects of the practice.  I am certified in sports yoga, and know all about the importance of meditation and the definitions of the different limbs and such–but I don’t chant.  I don’t pray to any other god other than Jesus.  And I don’t find my god in yoga.  As much as I know meditating and chanting in yoga are a part of bringing together the spirit, mind, and body, I don’t do it, merely because I don’t believe in it.  I believe in Jesus as Lord, and that His peace transcends all understanding.  Don’t get me wrong–I love savassana as much as the next person, but while laying there on my mat, I’m not thinking about Vishnu.  Instead, I am feeling the breath go in and out of my lungs, and I’m thanking Jesus for the body He gave me and His strength in my being.

So the mat I bought two Saturdays ago?  It was put to use yesterday at a friend’s new hot yoga studio.  And can I just say, I loved it.  My yoga teacher friend is a wonderfully down to earth gal and her classes are always remarkable (look it up–her new studio is R3d Hot Yoga on Kapahulu Ave.), but what I loved more was that I wasn’t competing with anyone in class.  I was breathing.  I was feeling my spine move in ways it hasn’t moved in awhile.  I felt my hamstrings lengthen with each forward fold, and I felt the oxygen rush in and out of my lungs as I moved in and out of camel pose.  It was lovely.  It was peaceful.  And in the final relaxation pose, I thanked God for the health and life He has blessed me with.

I felt no compulsions, no addictive voice trying to pervade my thoughts.  And by faith, I know that finding balance in my training (and in life) is making me a more sound and whole person.

 

Where Does My Weight Come From? Part 2

Despite the fact that I am a total right-brain-make-a-list-for-everything-type-A-kind of gal, I was never great at following plans.  No, correction.  I was never great at following plans other people made for me, mostly because my pride would get in the way.

For example, when I decided to do my first marathon in Walt Disney World many moons ago, I signed up with Team in Training, an organization that provides athletes with a group and coach to work out with.  Participants raise funds for cancer research throughout the course of the 3 month long training, and I quickly joined the team because my mom had recently passed away from the dreaded illness and I wanted to do SOMETHING grand in her memory.  After the introductory group meeting when the coach described the set up of the running program, I soon realized that I was one of the faster runners (even though I’d never run more than 8 miles), the youngest person there by far, and could probably fare pretty well in the 26.2 mile race.  But then I looked at the weekly training schedule, and internally scoffed at it.

Run only 3-4 times a week?

What is this “deload” thing for?  Why do I need to let my body “rest”?

Why don’t we ever run a full 26.2?  How will only going 20 miles prepare me for this monstrous race?

When the coach asked if I had any questions, I politely shook my head no, but inside I knew that an extra 20 minutes on the “easy” recovery run day or another extra 5 miler thrown in after the long run day probably wouldn’t hurt me.  OF COURSE I knew better than the professional in charge of the training.

I soon realized how little I knew about running, and that my pride would get the best of me.

True to form, throughout the course of the three month training, I logged in a few more miles on Mondays and Wednesdays, re-ran the previous week’s mileage when I was supposed to deload, and added another mile to the long runs as a cool down.  Flying to Florida for the race, I was a bit tired, but chalked it up to waking early to catch a long flight and the pre-race jitters that raged through my body.  The marathon began on a Sunday at 6am, so I showed up to the start line at 5am.  Just walking to the start, my legs felt like lead.  I tried pushing the gnawing voice of “OH MY GOD YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!” out of my brain, and when the race began, I started out at a conservative pace, shuffling along with the other 10-minute milers.  It was deathly cold (50 degrees for this Hawaii gal is freezing), and when mile three and four ticked by, my calves started to cramp a little.  Mile ten came and went, and my knees ached.  Mile fifteen signaled the point when I knew I had made a mistake adding in those extra miles:  my feet were flat, my thighs felt jello-y, and I saw Jeff Galloway cruise right past me with a smile on his face like he had just started the race.  Oof.  The one positive take away from the marathon was that I accomplished my goal and finished in under five hours–sadly, the last 10k felt like it lasted forever and I mentally counted every step from mile 20 until the end, telling myself I could lay in a tub of bubbles after the ordeal was over.  Thank goodness for the men and women dressed in Disney character costumes cheering us runners on towards the end, otherwise I probably would have dropped out.

I thought I knew better than the coach, who to his credit, was quite an accomplished long distance runner with numerous marathon and local race wins under his belt, and so did what I thought was best.  Adding additional miles onto an already strenuous training regimen along with skipping rest weeks did not equate to marathon success.  In my case, it resulted in marathon pain.

My pride got to me then, and as a result I’m always quite vigilant about my pride getting the best of me now.  For example, take this last period when I saw a dietitian to help me gain weight.  From the onset, this professional gave me a very regimented meal plan to follow which included daily Haagen Daas desserts, fries everyday if I wanted it, and full fat milk with every meal.  I tried to push aside my “I think I know better” thoughts and followed her plan, yet as I documented in my previous post, there came a point when the structure of the meal plan left me feeling down right miserable.  That feeling plus being away from my family to attend groups left me struggling with the prospect of stopping seeing her and finding guidance elsewhere.  My biggest concern, however, was that I didn’t want my decision to leave be one sourced in pride.

Did I really not agree with her meal plan structure?  Or was it that I thought I knew better than her and was projecting my own prideful views on her methods?  After much prayer, deliberation, and talking it over with my husband, I realized that my desire to gain weight did not have to leave me feeling physically, emotionally, and psychologically drained.  There are other options out there, and so I made the decision to find guidance with food and exercise elsewhere.  I knew I needed someone to hold me accountable to gaining weight, and that same person also needed to be educated in nutrition so as to help me tinker with my food intake if I wasn’t gaining or, Heaven forbid, lost weight.  On the flip side, what if I saw another professional for guidance and she gave me a lovely meal plan to follow, but I once again took the same “I know better” route and merely tinkered with the template until it was unrecognizable to the original?

That was where RP stepped in.

RP, or Renaissance Periodization, is a program I discovered while scouring Instagram about a year and a half ago.  At the time, I was wanting to make gains with my weightlifting, and it seemed like EVERY SINGLE WEIGHTLIFTER was adhering to this company’s protocols of pre/post training eating.  I hate to say that RP is a “program”  because the facets of their approach to health, eating, and performance are purposeful and thoughtful lifestyle changes that many individuals need to make regardless if they are athletes or not.  Some of the tenants most RP folks adhere to are as follows:

Eating every 3-4 hours so the body doesn’t go too long without fuel.

Eating whole foods whenever possible.

Including vegetables at (almost) every meal.

Making sure to include all three vital macronutrients throughout the day.

Eating/drinking carbohydrates and protein around training time so muscles are adequately fueled.

Making sure the body gets enough rest and deloads (ha ha, there’s that word again!) so it doesn’t stress itself out.

Eating/drinking casein before bed to help muscle repair.

These statements may seem like standard and common sense approaches to nutrition (well, maybe you may not have known the thing about casein), but with the onslaught of Atkins-Keto-Low Carb-Paleo-and-the-list-goes-on-diets, these aims of RP are (sadly) NOT the norm for some folks.

In my last foray with RP, I followed their massing template and put on around 10 pounds over the span of 3 weeks.  I also PRd many of my lifts and felt energetic and fulfilled.  After my 12 week massing season ended, however, I didn’t follow the RP maintenance protocol as I should have (once again, pride got in the way and I thought I knew how to handle weight maintenance, ha ha), and ended up losing the hard earned weight I had gained.  Thus, months later, I ended up ten pounds down, staring at an Easter picture of a skinny-me, wondering what went wrong.

Ahh, that pride got in the way.

And so my journey to weight gain (which you are probably familiar with now after reading my posts) took a detour from RP as I started seeing my old eating disorder-specialized dietitian.  After following her structure for a little less than a month, I regained all ten pounds.  Wonderful, right?  Well, in actuality I felt awfully lethargic and was on a constant diet of highly processed food and caffeine, which I knew was contributing to me feeling physically BLAH. I didn’t have energy or a spring in my step, even with the additional weight on my body–and sadly, these first ten pounds were only the starting point as I actually wanted to gain beyond that in order to help me increase my lifts in the gym.  I was quite lost at this point as I couldn’t forsee myself following this dietitian’s structure for the next month or two or three.  It wasn’t until talking to a gal from an RP online group about my situation that she suggested I go back to the templates, start off maintaining on those, and then attempt another weight gain cycle once my body was adjusted to eating more whole foods.  My online friend is quite knowledgeable on the subject of weight gain and RP had worked in my situation before, so I dusted off the old templates I purchased almost a year ago and started once again at square 1.  After a week or so of eating on the massing template, I found myself feeling a whole lot more energized–my lifts didn’t feel monstrously heavy like in the previous weeks, and I was able to go through a busy day on only 2 cups of coffee a day.  My weight was stable, and eating peanut butter daily, making my own chicken for dinner, and preparing vegetables for our family felt exciting and new.

But like anything “new”, I anticipated the honeymoon phase to end.  Because there was no person I could check in with like I did with my old dietitian, I COULD follow the template one day, I COULD NOT follow it another day.  There was no person to hold me accountable and slap my hand to say, “No, you need 1/2 cup more of rice with that meal.”  More importantly, I was afraid my pride would get to me, and that the massing diet would morph into a juggling of macronutrients so that my meals could fit what I thought was best for me at the time.  James 4:10 says to “Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”  Well, I needed that humility in me.  I needed to give the reigns over to someone else totally, a professional who could help me gain weight healthfully and with great intention.

And then the day came.  I was browsing through Facebook one afternoon, thinking about my lack of humility and how I really needed outside help to get me where I wanted to go, when an ad for someone called the Nutrition Tactician popped up on my feed.  I didn’t think much of his smiling face and was about to continue scrolling when I caught one of my friend’s comments under his photo.

“Paul is awesome.  Listen to this video he just made.”

Maybe it was divine intervention–maybe Jesus knew I needed an answer to pop up right in front of me.  Either way, I clicked on his video about dieting myths, and it was then that I knew.  Paul Salter, a RP dietitian and founder of The Nutrition Tactician, was the professional I wanted to guide me in gaining weight.  Needless to say, within minutes of messaging him, I was sent forms to fill out, and just like that, Paul became my accountability partner, the person who I trusted (and am still trusting) to get me where I want to be with my weight and lifting.  What was it about Paul that I was drawn to?  Well, despite the fact that he is a friendly and energetic person in general, I appreciated the way he was able to explain complex nutritional advice in an understandable way.  Plus, when I initially talked with him about my history with anorexia, he immediately said that I wouldn’t have to weigh-in if I didn’t want to as seeing numbers on a scale may be triggering–for me, seeing how much pounds I am isn’t a source of negativity so I do weigh myself with Paul, but I appreciated that he was cognizant of the fact that seeing a number on a scale may cause unnecessary mental anguish.  Furthermore, he laid out a plan that lasted beyond just a month–he took into consideration my goals and timed out appropriate massing and maintenance weight phases for the next year or so.

Awesome.

Paul prescribes a very detailed meal plan for me to follow–daily eating times are broken down according to what kind of training I’m doing when, and I email him my weights twice a week along with any other questions I may have.  Here’s the thing though:  it would be very easy for me to alter the templates he created for me or sub in this protein for this carb or not eat a fat serving now and save it for later.  I could let my pride or “I know better” thinking affect my daily eating.  But for what purpose?  I’m investing in a professional’s guidance in helping me gain weight, and so far I have been faring well in following his plan and seeing results in the gym and out.  The proof of his expertise (I am making personal bests in all my lifts, have increased energy so I’m only drinking 1/3 cup of coffee in the morning to wake up instead of multiple energy drinks throughout the day, and eating for a mass cycle that has me gaining steadily each week) makes it easy to know that the plan he has me on is GOLD.  I don’t need to change anything because the results speak for themselves.

My decision to work with Paul, however, is quite individualized according to my physical and emotional needs.  Would I have made the same choice if I were hovering at 90 pounds and running everyday?  Probably not.  Would I have made the same choice if I were at a similar weight to what I am now but mentally fearful of eating avocados and nuts and putting Vitargo in my intra-training shake?  Probably not.  The thing is, Paul gives me a plan and it is then up to me to follow through on it.  Everyday when I wake up, I know that there is a template to adhere to, and so I push aside my pride and make my breakfast, prepare my after training meal, and devour my nighttime casein because I know that these actions are healthy for me.

I have goals to attain, and I’m not only referring to powerlifting totals.  I want to be able to fuel myself throughout the day in a way that allows me the most flexibility to be a mom, teacher and wife.  I want to be able to fuel myself so that I am able to get my kids ready for the school day, lecture to all my classes on Walden, and prepare dinner for my family without feeling physically spent.  I want to live the life God intended me to live, and the only way to do that is if I’m physically, emotionally, and spiritually strong.

Some may say that following a regimented eating schedule like what I follow is no different than when I was restricting myself to one Subway sandwich a day or subsisting on vegetables and diet soda.  There may be some truth in that both styles of eating require a person to have a certain type of meal at a certain time, but here’s the catch:  the plan Paul has laid out for me was made with the intention to help me thrive in all of my daily activities.  Unlike the rigid veggie-Subway-diet soda diet I adhered to for many years while in the thick of anorexia, there is no condemnation or feelings of dread if I eat more than prescribed.  I know that I can go out with my family for dinner and the anxious pangs of “Oh no, what do I eat?!” are not ruminating in my thoughts like they would have many years ago.  Paul and RP have given me accountability to maintain my health, a mindset of moderation in what to eat and how to train, and most importantly, a lifestyle change that has awarded me more freedom to live an energetic and freeing life in and out of the gym.

As always, I will keep you all updated on my progress with Paul and RP.  For the first time in a long time, I feel comfortable with the weight I gained and HOW I gained said pounds.  Rather than feel lethargic and conflicted about getting bigger legs and beefier arms, I am actually looking forward to making additional gains in the upcoming weeks.  I am constantly reminded that like everything in life, there is a season for all things.  Right now is the time for me to make strides in my physical strength and use those external gains to encourage and propel me to continue to improve my emotional and spiritual well being–and I couldn’t be more excited to see what transpires in the following weeks.

Where Does My Weight Come From? Part 1

Disclaimer:  Everyone’s needs are different, and seeking help for eating disorders is unique to each individual.  What I did to be on the road to and find recovery from anorexia worked for me, but my actions may not work for another person in a similar situation.  Always consult with professionals when determining what course of action to take with eating disorder recovery.

 

In three months, I’ve gained ten pounds.

And I couldn’t be happier.

But I still want more.  A higher number on the scale.  Meatier thighs so I can squat more weight and run faster with my daughter.  Thicker arms so I can juggle the toddler, grocery bags, and my purse up the two flights of stairs to get from our garage to the kitchen.  I want to take up more room, more space.  It sounds cliched, but I want to be the healthiest version of myself possible–body, mind, spirit, and soul.

I was strategically aiming to reach the bodyweight number I am at now waaaay back in April when I saw a picture of myself at a wedding and internally cringed at how skinny my arms looked and how tired my face was.  Ten pounds seemed like a doable goal in three months, but I knew I needed a plan of attack and a person to hold me accountable to the weight I wanted to put on my body.  It was at that point when I sought out professional help to push me towards regaining those pounds.  I went back to seeing the dietitian I used when I was first diagnosed with an eating disorder, and immediately started attending twice weekly food groups and individual sessions.  Spending two nights aways from my family was very tough, as our dinnertime-bath-bed ritual was relegated to my husband, and I cried a little inside whenever I thought of my little toddler not getting his good night kiss from mommy.

But I stuck it out–being away from my family for three hours twice a week, getting substitutes to cover my classes when I had to go to appointments–because that was what I assumed needed to be done in order to gain weight and be at a healthy place physically and mentally.  I enjoyed eating whatever food whenever I wanted to (Pick the highest calorie option!!!  More cake!!!  More ice cream!!!), but then there were the side effects.

I would get immediately drowsy after eating, which was a problem considering I was eating three meals and three snacks daily.  The only time I ever felt alert was after a morning cup of coffee (Deathwish coffee, mind you), but then breakfast would happen, and I’d immediately want to curl up in bed for the remainder of the day.

I was still lifting weights, albeit not as intensely as before, yet every time I went to squat, bench, or deadlift, I felt physically weak.  The weight on the barbell wasn’t increasing, and in fact, I strategically lowered the weight so as not to drain myself that much more.  I assumed this action would help with my energy levels, yet I’d enter the gym feeling depleted, and leave even more drained.  Ironically, I assumed that the body weight I was gaining would help me feel stronger when I trained.  N-O.  The fatigue I felt after eating gargantuan meals every 2-3 hours was impacting the time I spent trying to increase my Big 3.

I was getting less sleep at night because the food groups lasted until after the time I normally went to bed.  Lack of sleep plus drowsiness after eating made me a walking zombie throughout the day.  After my morning cup of joe, I’d sip on soda on the way to school, chug more coffee at work, down an energy drink before training, and inhale more soda after that to be awake so I could attend a food group at night.  My blood flowed with caffeine.

I was missing instructing my students so I could meet with the dietitian during the week.  This made me my heart break, as my English classes were wrapping up learning about the different American eras.  I thoroughly enjoyed the unit we were on–Modernism and Contemporary literature–and I would normally pace around the room, reading Eliot and Hughes aloud to the class.  Sadly, since I had to miss some instructional time due to individual dietitian appointments, my normal lesson plans had to be altered so it was sub-ready, which meant the usual interactive lecture-discussions were nixed.

I was beginning to feel like a failure in all areas of my life.

After a few weeks of this group-appointment-group cycle and enduring these side effects, I realized that the help I was seeking from this dietitian (while it may be good for those individuals who need a lot of structure and planning because they are at an extremely low weight and need constant monitoring) was in fact debilitating my REAL LIFE.  I couldn’t be a mother because I was constantly tired from lack of sleep.  I couldn’t teach because, well, I physically wasn’t in the classroom.  I couldn’t be a wife because I wasn’t at home.

To give my former dietitian some credit, she is quite successful at helping adolescent gals and guys find a place of weight stability.  Since there are not many eating disorder specialists in the state, she is one whom many turn to for advice and help, and during monthly family support groups I routinely hear parents say she was THE REASON their child was able to find a place of recovery.  I know that what the dietitian does with her clients–twice weekly food groups, close monitoring of food logs, hour long individual appointments once (or maybe twice or three times) a week–produces results, namely weight gain.  Her approach to how to handle eating disorder recovery is aggressive but is one widely accepted method of healing.

Although I was in need of some weight gain, I was in a different space mentally and emotionally than many of her adolescent patients.  Yes, I still battled the eating disorder voice when the rules I had about food and exercise regurgitated itself through my consciousness, yet I was in a much more reasonable and sane place than in years past and could actually pinpoint that sinister voice and eradicate it from my thoughts through the power of prayer.  Similarly, my outward actions were much different than the warped behavior patterns I participated in while at an extremely low weight.  Case in point: prior to undergoing the barrage of food groups and individual appointments, I broke up with a weightlifting coach and his programming because the intensity of his training was wrecking havoc on my body.  On the food front, I would buy for myself my favorite cookie from the Cookie Corner because I wanted to.  Just because.  And then I ate it.  I knew that rest was just as important as work, and so I made myself a bedtime, and even if I had stairs to vacuum or papers to grade, I put everything aside to get in bed.  Since healthy relationships are also key in helping a person be connected to others, I scheduled date nights with my husband so that we could bond without the children.  Spiritually, I knew that Jesus was the one true healer and Lord of my life, and so I sought Him out daily in prayer.

I did all of these things prior to seeing the dietitian, and basically looked to her as another means of support in my weight gain journey.  Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually I was in a much better place than when I had majorly relapsed years and years ago.  Was I perfect?  No.  But I was definitely in need of a different type of support than what the dietitian I was seeing offered.  But then the bigger question remained:  Where would I find this support?  I still wanted to be bigger and gain more weight, but I needed someone to point me in the right direction so that when I did put more pounds on my body, I could do so without hampering my quality of life.

Low and behold, I eventually DID find that support.  In my next post, I’ll share more about the steps I took to find that support, and how my life has positively changed as a result.

 

Pray the Prayer

When I initially started writing this blog, I was suffering.

Physically, I had lost weight, and my gaunt face, lackluster hair, and thin legs showed that the few pounds that had disappeared from my body caused my normally sunny countenance to grey into one of fatigue and frailty.  Granted I was nowhere near a full-blown relapse from anorexia like those that I had experienced in years past, but the amount of training I was doing in the gym, the hectic life I was leading as a full time teacher and mother of two, and the lack of sleep and good nutrition I should have been receiving left me winded and in dire need of rest.

Mentally, I was fried.  The end of the school year was near, and while the students (especially the seniors) were already dreaming of spending their summer days sunning at the beach, I was making a galliant effort to drum up their enthusiasm to find comma splice and pronoun/antecedent agreement errors in preparation for the spring final exam.  It was a Herculian task, and I wracked my brain attempting to find SOMETHING that would curb the students from daydreaming about their summer freedom to instead focus in on grammar lessons.  All of this brain-wracking, however, was for naught as all it did was lead me to having a persistent dull ache in my temples and restless sleep where I’d wake up at 2am every morning, unable to go back to bed.

Spiritually, I felt empty.  I knew the Holy Spirit still lived in me, and that I loved Jesus with all of my heart.  I prayed in the mornings, mostly prayers to bless my children, students, family, and friends hurriedly repeated on the drive in to school, but the words I recited felt flat and rehearsed.  I read scripture because the verse of the day popped up on my Bible App with a “ding!” every morning at 6am, but my eyes just glazed over the words.  Sadly, as much as I loved Jesus and knew Him to be my Savior, I felt distanced from God.

It was during this empty time when I turned to God and asked Him for freedom:  freedom from disordered eating, freedom from negative thought patterns and behaviors, and freedom to be who He wanted me to be.  And low and behold, God answered my prayers immediately, and prompted me to write–write about the physical challenges I was facing, the emotional turmoil going on in my spirit, and how by God’s grace and the power of prayer, He was able to turn my whole being inside out.  Since starting this blog, I’ve found a way to communicate how my past demonstrates the awesomeness of Jesus, and how He truly has the power to heal a person externally and internally.

It would be quite easy to say that since the inception of this blog, I have not been tempted to over-indulge in exercise or skip out on eating a full meal.  Not so.  Yes, I have found amazing freedom when I put my faith in Jesus to heal me, yet the enemy is tricky–I mean, his main purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy.  And so there have been moments, specifically when I am extremely tired or overwhelmed by other events like preparing my daughter for her first day of summer school, when I hear that eating disorder voice trying to find a foothold back in to my thoughts.  It is times like those when I feel off balance, when my life is not nicely planned out and plotted, when the temptation to gain some semblance of control (and mostly through the means of exercise and eating) occur. But that is where the beauty of God comes in.  Rather than let that sinister voice berate my thoughts or lead me down a slippery slop of diet and obsessive exercise, I instead call upon the power of God to help me.

A few weeks ago at church, one of our friends who also happens to train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with my husband, spoke about his life-altering encounter with God, and how Jesus’s miraculous healing power is relevant and real even today.  As I listened to Pastor RK speak about how shriveled hands became full of working muscle and tendons, how men were set free from drug abuse and addiction, and how numerous individuals’ bodily pains and aches were erased after he prayed for them, I found myself nodding in agreement.  Yes, true healing can be found through Jesus.  But then Pastor RK spoke more about HOW to pray for these types of healings, and what he said was an eye opener:  Pray straight to the point and with intention.  In the Gospels, Jesus directly spoke to pain and commanded healing to occur.  He did not spend hours upon hours chanting or saying words just to say them.  He knew His authority, and spoke life to those in need.  It was at that point that I realized I needed to mimic those same types of prayers.  If I was confident in Jesus’s healing power, why not just command infirmities and addictions to leave?  Why did I feel the need to talk and talk and talk and use more words and more words and more words when I prayed for healing?  Essentially, I was worried that Jesus wouldn’t hear me, and that if I continued to speak to Him, even if they were only with filler words, then and only then would He hear my prayers and grant me complete freedom from whatever physical and mental ailments I suffered from.

Maybe my insecurities about being heard stemmed from the fact that growing up I was told by my mother to not speak until spoken to.  With that kind of mentality, I was quite a shy child, barely saying a whisper to aunts and uncles at gatherings.  I never fully believed that what I had to say, my views and opinions, were of value.  My demure and quiet nature also made it difficult for me to make new friends in intermediate and high school.  Rather than introduce myself to girls that I thought would make good pals, I instead hung around their area with bated breath, attempting to make eye contact with a girl or two, waiting for the one kind soul to say to me, “Hey, Lauren, want to join us at lunch?”  As a result, when I did talk to these individuals, I always felt that I had to say something GRAND and HILARIOUS and INSIGHTFUL, otherwise they would think me to be a boring person, not worthy to spend time around.

Needless to say, I had quite a depressing complex about who I was.

And so when it came time to pray, I constantly felt the need to talk to God and rationalize to Him why I needed His healing hand in my life.  I would gab on and on, but sadly, all of those words didn’t feel like anything special.  They just felt, well, like words.  Empty words.

But when Pastor RK spoke about the direct prayer, and that since we have the Holy Spirit in us, we too can pray the same way as Jesus did, his words made sense.  Yes.  Of course.  Why try to rationalize and plead and be overly verbose to a God who already knows my needs?  Why should I try to “please” the enemy to leave my thoughts, when he is already underfoot and I have the power of God on my side?  Trying to out talk the voice of the enemy (and in my case, it’s an eating disorder voice) will lead to nowhere because that enemy is the king of deception and lies.  Why not just be straight to the point and direct?

Similarly, I harken these short and powerful prayers to be much like how I interact with my toddler:  straight to the point.  Do I ever rationalize with a crying two-year-old why he can’t pick up mud and fling it in the air and then try to roll around in the mess?  Of course not!  Instead, I just say, “Dirty.  No.” and then lead him away from the mud puddle.  Toddlers aren’t able to mentally plot out the why behind their actions–they’re still in the “yes” and “no” phase of life, and as a parent, it’s my duty to teach my son right from wrong.  The “why” of it all will come later when necessary.  In the same way, the enemy doesn’t need to know my “why”.  When that eating disorder voice starts trying to tempt me to skip a meal or spend thirty more minutes in the gym, rather than try to talk myself down from engaging in said behavior by going over the reasons why I need to eat and how much additional training will only rob me of muscle gain, I instead merely say, “No.  Not good for me.  No.”  And then I continue on with my day.

Here’s a disclaimer for all of you reading this blog:  I was taught CBT to combat the eating disorder voice, and this form of psychological treatment can be wonderfully grand.  I know numerous individuals who have benefitted from this type of treatment, and that is wonderful for those people.  For me, however, attempting to “talk down” the negative thoughts just left me brain dead.  Rationalizing a voice that is screaming at you to run another mile or only eat carrots can take up one’s entire day, which is what ended up happening to me for many years of my life.  Thankfully, God showed me that because of His power in me, I am able to combat even the most demanding and negative of eating disorder voices with a simply powerful, straight to the point prayer:

“Eating disorder voice, leave my thoughts now.”

“Spirit of peace, fill me now.”

“Guide my thoughts, Jesus.”

Simple prayers, no more than a sentence long–it has been these types of utterances I’ve said out loud when the addictive and obsessive thoughts come into mind.  And it has been these types of prayers that have given me the most freedom to live a life fully devoted to God.

As I look back on that defining moment when Jesus filled my spirit with true freedom, I realize that I didn’t drone on and on in my prayer for His freedom.  I asked for faith.  I asked that whatever He wanted for my life, to make it clear to me.  I asked that He remove whatever was not in His plan.  And that was it.  Short, sweet, and to the point.  Amazingly, that is the type of God I serve and love–a God who is so powerful, so awe-inspiring, so aware of what His plans are for me, that all I need to do is utter a few words, and He will be faithful and just to hear those words.

What a freeing and faithful God.