Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Faith and Family: From Fat to Fit

This article from Faith and Family Magazine's latest edition gave me some things to think about.

The author had success losing 80 pounds, and while I'm happy for her, I'm also a bit jealous and befuddled. I don't need to lose that much weight, but I'd love to apply some of the author's tips to my own situation. She suggested replacing soda with water, revealing that she consumed a GALLON a day of regular pop! I haven't had a regular, sugar-laden soda in at least 15 years! How can I cut out what I don't eat or drink?

She offers sensible advice about eating lots of veggies and dipping the tines of that fork in the dressing instead of coating the leaves with it. Done. Am I thin yet?

OK, I'm starting to sound a little snarky. The truth is that some of us can do everything "right" and have trouble losing weight. Today I'm at that place where I desperately want two things that seem to exclude one another: I want to be thinner than I am right now, and I want to love myself just as I am. How to get there? Not sure, but that's one of the reasons for this blog, right?

I think the author's best advice is to seek balance. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Breaking a Sweat

Today I had the rare opportunity to hit the pavement sans the kiddos. Without my sidekicks, I could focus on my running/walking rhythm, the beat of my heart, and the sweat beads forming all over my body. It was hot – an oppressive kind of hot that only comes when you live in a city that shares roughly the same latitude as Beirut and Casablanca. But I was happy to be alone in the elements, moving my body, even if I could no longer physically cover as much ground as I once did.

Just three years ago, I was what you'd call an avid runner. I’d easily log in 20-plus miles a week. Sometimes I’d run with friends, but mostly I liked to run alone. This was my time to think without any distractions. I’d fall into the rhythm of running and my thoughts somehow became looser and more free-flowing. It was during my runs when I problem-solved, made goals that had nothing to do with fitness, and often prayed.

I don’t run much these days. A chronic injury has sidelined me for a few years now. However, I do make an effort to exercise consistently. Of course, I no longer find much time for what I refer to as contemplative exercise. I take regular walks, but my little ones are usually with me. I’m not complaining; our walks together are fun. In fact, I realized that even today I was staring at a puffy cloud and seeing the profile of a triceratops since Madeline and I try to find objects floating in the sky. I also saw some bright pink blossoms and imagined Madeline saying, “Can we plant some flowers like ‘dat’ someday?” When I’m with my kids, I notice things my adult senses gloss over – the neighborhood dog barking (“Can we have a dog like ‘dat’ someday, Mommy?”), the sunny daffodils, the airplane in the sky, or even the dried, dead worm on the sidewalk. Kids’ perpetual wonderment is such a gift!

Still, it was nice to be alone today with no distractions. I picked up the pace and ran for a mile or so before my hip started screaming at me. My lungs were slightly burning. Sweat was starting to slide down my body. I felt the sun’s heat burn on my skin. I was thankful for my body’s response to the exercise. It reminded me of all that I’m capable of and of my strength. I realized that this is why I regularly break a sweat – whether with my kids or solo. It’s not really because I want to look a certain way or be swimsuit-ready. It’s because it reminds me that my body is a gift from God and that I am healthy and alive. I often find that exercise it as good for the soul as it is for the body.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stick Figure: A Book Review

I stuck my nose in a book last week, and soon my heart was drawn in as well.
Stick Figure by Lori Gottlieb is the intriguing story of an eleven year old girl -- the author -- told through her original diaries. It's hard to believe these pages were penned by a child, as they are so well-written, funny and thoughtful, but Gottlieb says they are indeed the words of her childhood self.

The diary reveals the journey of that precocious little girl as she "advanced" from interesting, creative child to a pre-adolescent consumed with a desire to be thin. Her account of anorexia is anecdotal, not scientific, but it is as profound as it is compelling.

Psychologists, medical doctors, nutritionists and even Charlie's Angel Jaclyn Smith are brought in to help Lori with her "situation" but it is simply a moment of self-discovery and choice that starts her on the path to recovery.

The book is completing engaging and I would have enjoyed it even if I weren't keenly interested in why we are often ready to die to be thin. The young Gottlieb had me hooked with her sense of humor and real understanding of the ridiculous nature of our culture.

It's a book worth your time, especially if you have young daughters. It's a good reminder that when we hold up the mirror to ourselves, disdaining the image we see there, our girls are right behind us, gazing at themselves in that same glass.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Welcome, Kate!

I'm so excited and honored to have my cyber-friend Kate Wicker join me here!

We met through our blogs and have so much in common. I've coined a phrase to describe it -- we're "kindernet" friends -- kindred spirits brought together through the wonders of the worldwide web!

Kate has much to offer with her personal experience, sense of humor, authentic faith, and wonderful writing. Be sure to visit her at Momopoly as well!

Do You Have a Weight Loss Success Story?

Faith & Family, the magazine for Catholic living, is adding a new fitness section that will spotlight a woman's health/weight loss success story, and I'm currently looking for moms to feature. Obviously, the emphasis here is on health, not the size of your jeans. In fact, we'd love to feature women with all different kinds of success stories - from women whose efforts produced dramatic weight loss to the reluctant runner who completed her first half marathon and lowered her cholesterol at the same time. In the new column, we'll include your diet and fitness tips as well as before and after pictures.

If you're interested in sharing your success story for this new Faith & Family column, please email me at kmwicker[at] gmail [dot] com. Include your name, hometown, and a brief description of your health success story. I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Some Body to Love

I am honored and thrilled to be a new contributor to this blog (thanks, Cathy!). I regret to admit that body image problems have been a stubborn companion of mine for as long as I can remember. Even as a child, I can recall thinking I was "gross" or "fat" despite growing up in a loving, faith-filled family. I was clinically diagnosed with an eating disorder in high school, was "recovered" only to suffer a severe relapse during my senior year of college. Almost daily I have to fight the funny mirror inside my head that distorts who I am and what I look like. I have all the risk factors: perfectionism, a desire for control, a few obsessive-compulsive tendencies (yes, I click the lock button on my car key chain at least three or four times just to make sure the doors are really locked).

But I also have my faith and I've found this is the best armor around at deflecting unhealthy thoughts and behaviors pertaining to weight. I plan on sharing more of my personal story down the road, but I want all of you to know that this blog isn't just for eating disorder patients - it's for anyone who has at one time or another struggled with their appearance, wondered if they'd be happier if they could just lose that last five pounds, or sworn off carbs for three months in an attempt to squeeze in to that old pair of "skinny" jeans.

It's also for people who are blessed to have a perfectly healthy body image but who may have a loved one - a spouse, a child, a friend - who is struggling. Something I discovered in my own journey is that having a loved one with an eating disorder is very difficult. People get frustrated and can't figure out why a person just won't eat or why he or she doesn't recognize their inner and outer beauty. But it's not about beauty or even thinness. It runs much, much deeper. I look forward to sharing my story in hopes that it might help someone out there. Finally, this blog is for anyone who is trying to be healthy and to respect the bodies that God has loaned to us.

Now the real reason I wanted to mosey on over here today is to do what Cathy did and to give my body some love. Without further ado:

Five things I like about my body:
1. My legs. They're muscular and toned. People have asked if I'm a gymnast, which always makes me laugh. I may be a bubbly blond, but folks, I can't even do a cartwheel. Will someone please come teach my poor daughter how to do one?
2. My eyes. They change colors. Sometimes they're blue; other times they're more of a green. My pupils have a golden ring around them. I never noticed that until my husband pointed it out. Awwwww....isn't that sweet?
3. Hmmmm...Okay, there's got to be other things about this body of mine that I love...Oh, my feet. They're very tiny. I can fit into kids' shoes.
4. Just thought of something else, but it may get me into trouble considering all the fuss I seem to cause when I mention the word "breast." I don't care about the way they look and I'm certainly not talking about cleavage or anything sexy at all, but I am in awe of my breasts and the fact that they can feed my children.
5. My smile. Little Orphan Annie was right: You're never fully dressed without one.

Five things I like about my body that have nothing to do with its appearance:
1. My womb. I know I'm being unoriginal and stealing Cathy's idea, but I am so thankful for my womb and the two children it's cocooned so far.
2. My voice. I'm no future American Idol, but I can carry a tune and I've always loved what St. Augustine said about singing: "To sing is to pray twice."
3. My brain. Again, I'm stealing from Cathy. Although mental gaffes have become a little more regular since becoming a mom of little ones who don't seem to grasp that whole "sleeping through the night" idea, my mind is very important to me and I'm thankful it sometimes allows me to string together coherent thoughts.
4. My hair. I guess this does have to do with my appearance, but I've always liked my hair and have never really understood the whole "bad hair day" phenomenon. Plus, it's natural blond and changes colors with the seasons (light blond in the summer and strawberry blond in the winter) and now its color seems to change with my babies. When I'm nursing, it's much darker. Must be a hormone thing.
5. My legs. Yes, I like their appearance, but I also love how strong they are and that I can run and walk with them. These legs have chased after toddlers, ran 26.2 miles in a row, and walked all over Europe during a backpacking trip.

Now, c'mon, what do you love about your body?

Monday, July 21, 2008

that's what I like about me!

Five things I like about my body:
1. My eyes. They are large and espressive and they are the color of milk chocolate.
2. My lips. They are full and shapely, and I didn't even need collagen injections!
3. My fingernails. They grow quickly and are nicely-shaped.
4. My ummm, well. Let me think for a minute.
OK.... I've got it! My ears! They are small and well-shaped!
5. My collarbone and shoulders. They look nice in pictures.

Five things I like about my body that have nothing to do with its appearance:
1. My womb. It seems difficult to talk about because it's personal, sacred. But how I blessed I have been! My womb has held seven children. How much I love it!
2. My senses. My senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell allow me to experience this beautiful world. What gifts they are, and how I take them for granted.
3. My brain. It does live in my body, after all. How cool is it that I can schlep around my thoughts all day in such a handy carrying case?
4. My muscles. They are not stream-lined or ripped, but they are strong enough to get the job done. Because of them I could lift my babies; because of them I can hug the ones I love.
5. My hands. They allow me to write and share all those thoughts I'm lugging around. And that's a very good thing.

Both of these lists were difficult to write, the first one much harder than the second.

What about you? What do you love about YOUR body?

Friday, July 18, 2008

the body image project

I came across this site and found it compelling, disturbing, fascinating and true.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

does this blog make me look fat?

How about these jeans?

Come on, be honest. You can tell I've put on a few pounds, can't you?

You, on the other hand, look fabulous. What's your secret? Weight Watchers, South Beach, Medical Weight Loss? Three-a-day sessions with a personal trainer? I hate you.

And Sue, I really hate her. She is looking so thin. Too thin, really. Do you think she's had surgery?

And speaking of surgery, do you think I should have a tummy tuck? Does the Catholic Church allow tummy tucks? If I have one I might die, so I should go to confession first.

Confession. I have a lot of confessions to make. I am not too keen with my body right now. I mean, who would be? What happened to the body I used to live in? Is it supposed to look like this? Is that supposed to hang like that? Are these supposed to droop that low?

But wait a minute. I should be "holier" than that. I know that my body is a gift from God, that I was created in His image. I should not let the current culture dictate what my appearance should be. My stretch marks are like battle scars won while giving the gift of life to seven beautiful children. My breasts are soft because they were used for their God-intended purpose -- the nurturing of my babies. The tiny wrinkles around my eyes and the not-so-tiny lines of my brow give testament to a life of joy and sadness, but a life well-lived. The extra pounds I carry make me the cuddly mommy that my children love. My husband, God bless him, loves me just as I am.

I should exercise and eat well because I am a good steward of this great gift our Loving God has given me. I have an obligation to care for myself and to set a good example for my children. Living a healthy lifestyle is my duty as a Christian. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. I should seek to be a worthy vessel.

But I shouldn't worry too much how I look in those jeans.

If you've ever had these thoughts, my friend, you are in the right place. How do we balance our need to be fit in figure with our desire to be pleasing to the Lord? Is it wrong to be concerned with our physical appearance, or is our laziness in caring for ourselves an indication of sloth and gluttony?

I'm not here because I have all the answers. I'm here because I have lots of questions, and I have the feeling I'm not alone.

My heart has been full with these issues lately. I've dealt with my body image for as long as I can remember. Just the other day, pondering whether or not I should start this blog, I came across this article from one of my favorites, Kate Wicker. Check it out here.

After reading it I knew there was lots to talk about. Want to weigh in? (Pun intended, of course.) I hope you will.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

made in His image

Male and female He created us....in His image!


Here I'll explore the intersection of faith and fitness, seeking to understand the best way I may live out my call to be a "temple of the Holy Spirit" and "glorify God though my body."

I look forward to sharing my struggles as I seek to achieve the balance I know God wants for me. I welcome input from folks of any faith or none at all. We have much to learn from one another as we strive to become the best we can be!