Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I feel pretty

I just came across Susan's fabulous site and had to share this.

"We are not defined simply by our bodies alone."

Wisdom from a lovely lady, inside and out.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Real Beauty

Lately I've been busy posting at a new blog I've started for my employer, The PIME Missionaries. As their communications director and editor of their bi-monthly magazine, PIME World, I spend lots of time researching and writing about the work of these Catholic missionaries in seventeen countries. (Learn more about them here.)

Today a topic came up that made me think of THIS blog and what I have tried to accomplish here (i.e., sharing thoughts about how difficult it is to remember we are all made in God's image.)

I hope you'll mosey on over here and check it out. And remember, our children will reflect our attitudes about beauty!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Banishing the Postpartum Body Blues

I'm over at Faith & Family LIVE! today writing about a topic I'm passionate about: How real moms can come to terms with their postpartum bodies stretch marks and all.

Please stop by and weigh in (no pun intended).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Will Eat for Baby

It’s still dark outside. I’ve just nursed the baby and I should be in bed, trying to squeeze in a few more minutes of sleep before my older children wake me up. Instead I sneak into my bathroom and step on the scale with trepidation.

Will it be my friend or foe this morning?

It takes a few seconds for the digital number to appear. I stare at it and then step off the scale. I tell myself I have to let it go, that the number on the scale is irrelevant to my happiness.

I return to bed and watch my sleeping baby’s form. Her eyelids briefly flicker open and I see a sliver of blue. She sighs. Her tiny fist unfurls to reveal her perfect hand and her arm jerks. She folds into me and I feel her heat against my body. I love her so deeply, and I am thankful for this love. Sometimes I think it's my love for my children that keeps me from falling off the edge again, to succumbing to disordered eating as I've done in the past.

I recently stumbled across Deuteronomy 25:18-19 and recognized that vigilance is imperative during this exhausting point in my life. The passage reads: “He harassed you along the way, weak and weary as you were, and cut off at the rear all those who lagged behind."

When I’m exhausted, I’m more likely to cave in to past temptations. When I am weary, I let my guard down and allow the relics of my eating disorder to creep back into my life. It's all too easily to fall into old habits, to let demons of the past haunt me and lure me in.

Every day is a struggle for me. Whenever I feel hunger pangs deep inside of me, I have to tell myself I must eat if not for my own nourishment than for my baby who needs my body to have enough energy to feed her.

I always worry when I bring up my struggles with body angst. People don’t understand, especially since I don't look like I have a weight problem (though I certainly do have a type of weight problem). Even my own husband can't understand it. "You're beautiful," he says. But it's not about beauty. My weight is not about how I look or even how my jeans fit. For me, it’s about being in control. It's about having a quantifiable means of measuring my worth.

My nights are unpredictable and so, too, are most of my days. When I slip between the sheets each night, I never know when the baby will wake up to nurse or how long I will have to hold her upright after each feeding so that the gurgling and the wet hiccups will no longer cause her pain (and keep me awake). I don’t know when my older children will need me – when my day will begin or how it will unfold. I can have a plan in mind, but it can slowly begin to unravel with an unexpected crying jag (from the baby or me), a sibling sprawl over a once-forgotten stuffed animal that has swiftly taken the center stage as the number one toy to have in your possession, or a spilled smoothie seeping into our carpet.

In short, in my fatigue and my dicey days and even dicier nights, I feel powerless. I cannot control the number of hours (minutes!) I spend in REM. I cannot always control my children’s behavior, try as I might. I do not know when (or if) my husband will be home from work to offer support.

But how much I eat, the delightful downward trend of the scale – these are areas of my life in which I can wield complete control. I can whip my body into submission and deprive myself of calories. If I eat too much or the number on the scale gets stuck at an “unreasonable” number, I can always take certain purgative measures (skip breakfast, exercise for longer and harder) to compensate. When I feel lacking as a mother, there's one area I know I can master; I used to be very good at controlling my weight.

Not that I subscribe to the unhealthy habits of my past. I try not to weigh myself very often at all; I resist losing weight unless it's done the healthy way. But I am faced with the temptation to start obsessing over calories and the number on the scale nearly every day.

But then I hear my baby cry. Or my toddler reaches up to me with her deliciously chubby arms and says, “Pick me up, Mommy.” Or my preschooler challenges me to a game of tag. And I know I must eat if not for myself then for the children who need me – all of me – to feed them, hold them, chase them and most importantly, to teach them that their own bodies are temples deserving of respect and honor.

When I begin to notice every inch of flesh, the way it moves when I move. Or when I am tempted obsess over every bite that passes my lips, I tell myself that I need to be strong. I need to fuel my body and not punish it. I need to remember that pursuing thinness has no eternal value at all, but raising children does. And I remind myself that God is in me. He dwells in this body of mine.

I cannot wish away this cross I bear. For a long time, that's what I've tried to do - to forget that I ever had an eating disorder. In fact, not so long ago I wrote to a friend who was struggling with her body image that I used to see myself as weak for not being able to completely rid myself of this inner turmoil. However, what has helped me is knowing that this is a cross I'll likely have for the rest of my life. It's one I must accept and embrace. Much like a recovered or dry alcoholic, I've come to see that I can be physically recovered but that I face an ongoing process of restoration. I'm always working to detach myself from my unhealthy thoughts and to attach myself completely to God. Only then will his love and power for healing have the ability to take hold of my life.

So I will eat for my baby, but I’ll also eat for myself and for the God who created me and loves every postpartum, soft inch of me.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fat Pants

Most of us have a pair of "fat pants" in our closets.

They're the kind that fit no matter what. They're soft and baggy, with an elastic waist, of course.

I came across an item recently which gives "fat pants" a new meaning.

Now ALL my pants can be my fat pants! With a simple stretch of the waist, I can be comfy in any pair, no matter if I've gained a few pounds.

I know I'm not the only one who has put on a little weight over the winter. So now I'm left with a dilemma: do I begin a new diet and exercise program? Do I wear my "fat pants" every day? Do I purchase this item?

Or do I do something totally outrageous and buy new pants.

We are so trained that that problem is not in our pants, but in our selves. What if the opposite is true? What if it doesn't really matter how big our waists are? Could it be possible that we're OK just the way we are?

Next time you stand in front of a mirror, at home or in a dressing room, cursing your image and saying "I'm too fat for these pants!" try this. Get a new pair of pants. The pants are wrong. You're right. You're right and fine and beautiful just as you are.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Personal Waste

This evening I was reading an essay called "To Be Fat and Recovered" by Marcia Germaine Hutchinson. It was written from the perspective of a woman who after recovering from a lifelong history of disordered eating accepted that she would never be thin. In fact, she describes herself as fat despite eating healthy and exercising regularly. Her metabolism, she suspects, is a train wreck because she spent over three decades of her life either on a diet, failing a diet, rebounding from a diet, or planning another diet.

The entire essay was worth the read, but there was one particular passage that really jumped out at me:

"Reflect on how many minutes and hours you spend obsessing about your body in the course of a day. How much time do you spend worrying about food? How much over what to wear? How much about how others are judging you? How much in judging yourself? Multiply this amount by 365 and you have some sense of the magnitude of your personal waste."

Just last week I spent way too much time obsessing over one, now that I've had more time to think about it, fairly innocuous comment in response to a pregnancy photo I posted and how people were judging me. I invested all of this precious energy - and all my energy is precious right now, given how tired I've felt in my eighth month of pregnancy - on worrying about not only how I look to myself (do I look too pregnant or pregnant enough?) but also worrying about what judgments others make based upon one isolated photo my preschooler happened to take.

How narcissistic is that?

Thankfully, Lent is right around the corner and fasting on food isn't going to be half as cleansing for me as fasting on my own personal waste. Any time I'm tempted to think about my weight or what I'm supposed to look like or what others think I'm supposed to look like, I'm going to instead turn my thoughts heavenward.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?"

-Matthew 6: 25-27

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tummy Tuck and Tell

I'm working on a writing project about how our view of our bodies changes as we age, and I'm looking for input.

Are you a Christian woman who has found challenges in the aging process? Have you taken measures - like botox or cosmetic surgery - to slow the hands of time?

I'd really be interested in comments from women who have had abdominal surgery after having children.

If you'd be willing to share your thoughts - knowing the info will be used to help other women grow in self-acceptance - leave a comment here or email me at brokenandblessed at gmail dot com.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Full Scale Battle

I've been noticeably absent, haven't I?

I've been wanting to share about the battle I've been waging these past few months, but I find that the more difficulty I'm having the harder it is to write about it.

Some time ago I ditched my scale. Then it came creeping back into my life. (Is that thing alive? Is it stalking me?) It's currently hanging out in the bathroom, but I've somehow managed to ignore it most days. That is quite a triumph.

I predicted that eliminating daily weighing would lead to weight gain for me, and I was correct. A self-fulfilling prophecy? I don't think so. I think the truth is that my body is just content at a higher weight than I'd like.

I gained back the 10 or so pounds that I lost last spring. At first my blood ran cold as I realized this was happening. I was just horrified. I had worked so hard to slim down, and I mean worked. I counted every calorie and fiber gram. I wrote down every morsel I ate. I worked out for at least an hour a day, plus walked for several miles.

It "worked." But when I went back to a somewhat normal life, the weight returned.

Popular thinking would say I failed. I fell off the wagon. Like Oprah, I just wasn't following directions any more. I should be so ashamed of myself.

Is that really how I should feel, ashamed?

At first I did. I felt ashamed that I wasn't able to maintain the results of all my hard work.

But was is that I was spending my days stuffing donuts in my face instead of exercising? Hardly. I just returned to a "normal" way of eating, moving, and being.

As the weeks went by my weight leveled off. I've reached a point where I'm almost comfortable with myself. I'd still like to be thinner, but I have achieved some self-acceptance.

So that's what I choose, not shame, but self-acceptance. I am eating nutritious foods in moderate quantities. I am using my body in healthy ways.

Why should I be ashamed of that?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Book Review: The Baby Fat Diet

I recently received a review copy of The Baby Fat Diet, and I admit I was reluctant to start reading a book that might put unnecessary pressure on new moms to return to their pre-pregnancy weight.

I’m not a big fan of dieting books (or even the word diet) in general because too many of them seem to offer quick, short-term solutions for shedding weight rather than giving readers practical tips on how to make more lasting lifestyle changes - changes that won’t only result in a smaller clothing size but in a healthier body overall. I’m especially weary of books that have the potential to make new moms feel lumpy and gelatinous instead of allowing them to bask in the privilege of motherhood.

Well, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with the book. Its title as well as its cover image of a chic mom sporting big hoop earrings a la J-Lo happily pushing a smiling toddler in a cool jogging stroller while at the same time toting her baby in a sling are catchy (and most likely the brainchild of some book marketing gurus rather than the authors), but they also might suggest that moms have to live up to some contrived ideal. But the advice “never judge a book by its cover” is worth heeding in this case because I was happy to find that within its pages you won’t find yet another dieting book. Nor is the book’s goal to turn you into a slim “yummy mummy.”

In fact, one of the chapters is actually entitled “Say ‘No’ to Dieting” and reveals the tell-tale signs of fad diets such as the carbs-are-always-evil-diets that have taken a hold of so many of my friends. (I remember watching in horror as a work colleague peeled off slice after slice of cheese from her pizza and popped the oozing mozzarella into her ketone-riddled-foul-smelling mouth. That was her dinner: Several slices of melted cheese.)

What this book is really about is slowly making small but permanent lifestyle changes that have the potential to make a noticeable difference in a mom’s waistline and more importantly, in her perception of herself.
The book's authors, who are both registered dietitians, offer 30 simple tips to help moms discover (or rediscover) how to:

  • Eat for one again
  • Recognize healthy portion sizes
  • Nosh on a healthy breakfast
  • Eat nutritious food on-the-go
  • Rev up their metabolism
  • Get your entire family on board to make healthy lifestyle changes
  • Fit exercise into your daily grind
  • Pair pleasure with healthy foods

One of my favorite pointers is to start eating like your kids. Think about it. Most of us are far more concerned with our kids’ nutrition than our own. I, for one, routinely buy organic milk for my girls, but I slurp up the cheaper brands. I limit the amount of processed foods my kids nibble on throughout the day (most of the time). (Goldfish should not be the sixth food group, although I am sometimes guilty of doling out schools of the cheesy fish on any given day – always of the whole grain variety, of course. Cut me a little slack here.) I also really try to encourage my kids to eat intuitively, to listen to their bodies and to eat everything in moderation (no foods are labeled as "bad" around my house).

The other day my preschooler wanted a cookie. (She’s allowed one treat a day and can have it at any time she wants, but once she’s eaten her daily allotment, that’s it. I’m a cruel, cruel mom.) She ate a good chunk of it and then asked me to save the small bite that was left at her plate.

Do I really have to waste a Tupperware on saving that crumb of a cookie?

“Mommy, I stop when I’m full,” she proudly announced.

Yes, I do and I did. I stashed her cookie leftovers in a container and tossed it in the trash a few days later when I was certain the morsel had been forgotten.

The thing is, she really does stop when she’s full. Kids, especially babies and toddlers, eat instinctively if we only let them. They also eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day – a way of eating that virtually every health expert encourages people to adopt since it keeps your metabolism up and blood sugar levels more steady.

I think we could all benefit from eating like our kids – to nibble on nutritious bites like nuts, raisins, sliced apples, and carrot sticks dipped in hummus or a yogurt-peanut-butter dip (some of my girls’ favorite snacks), to eat less processed food and to opt for more wholesome and if possible organic choices, to listen to our bodies and to stop when we’re full, to indulge in that cookie or hunk of dark chocolate (my personal favorite indulgence) and to really enjoy it.

So many of us see treats as stolen pleasures instead of just occasional and allowable pleasures. Not my kids. I recently observed my preschooler and toddler both enjoy a very modest dollop of ice cream. They took small licks and watched the ice cream dribble down their cones before catching it with their tongues. They savored every taste of the creamy stuff. Their eyes were gleeful. They really relished that ice cream, and they didn’t serve up a side of guilt to go with it.

It’s time we all start eating like our kids, don’t you think?
Other highlights of the book I like include:

  • Tips for grocery shopping with children and getting them excited about healthy eating (If buying the Dora-endorsed edamame gets them to eat this nutritionally-dense food, then go for it).
  • How to make healthy choices at restaurants.
  • Sample menus for 1,600 to 2,400-calorie levels. The 2,400-calorie eating plan for day 3 includes a 4-ounce glass of red wine and two dark chocolate Hershey kisses. I can live with that.

    And my favorite:

  • A comprehensive shopping list that includes all the healthy staples you should stock your kitchen with as well as a smaller grocery lists that correspond to the food recommended in each chapter. Anything that simplifies my life is a definite perk. Plus, I am a big nerd and I love lists and spreadsheets that help keep me organized.

Although much of the book’s advice wasn’t new to me (I’ve covered health beats for a long time as a journalist and have been described as a health nut on more than one occasion), I felt the way the information was presented and organized (lots of lists and bullet points, spaces to jot down your own notes, etc.) could be very helpful to moms in all seasons of motherhood, not just new moms, hoping to drop their “baby weight."

Moreover, this book isn’t just for moms who need to lose weight for health reasons. Nor is it written for women who have embraced a “size 2 or bust” kind of mantra. It’s for any mom – even those who are at a healthy weight but may just need to tweak their eating habits so they feel better - who wants to make health a priority for herself and her family.

Now some final words from a mom who’s had two babies and has another one on the way: When you’ve got the hard and all-consuming work of taking care of (or growing) a baby and the rest of your family on your hands, the last thing you need is to whip your body into submission and/or to punish yourself for not fitting into your pre-baby jeans. Do not waste precious energy worrying about the way you look.

Instead of yearning for your pre-pregnancy bod, try to just focus on taking care of yourself. I’m no nutritionist or personal trainer (although I was a certified aerobics instructor back in my college days, and I can still do a mean Grapevine), but here are a few of my thoughts on how to feel good about your body:

  • Sleep when you can. Honestly, I hate my own advice. There’s no time to sleep! But I’ve learned that I must make getting sleep (as much as I can) a priority. Otherwise my physical, emotional, and spiritual health suffer. And often so does my family’s. Who wants to live with a short-tempered mombie?

  • Nurse that beautiful bundle of joy and enjoy the bonding and the calorie burning: Breastfeeding burns an estimated 300 to 500 calories per day. (But bear in mind extended breastfeeders like myself sometimes “hold on” to 3 to 5 pounds of fat before they wean. You and your nursing child need this extra "baggage." Stop obsessing about it. Your body is nourishing another human being, so let it hang onto its small fat store, will you?)

  • Squeeze in exercise when you can. Aim to go outside for a short walk as often as your life permits – it will do your body and mind wonders. Cradle your baby close like an oversized dumbbell and do squats or lunges. Dance around your living room. Your kids will think you're funny (or crazy).

  • Be patient. It took you nine months to grow a baby and to put on the necessary “baby weight.” Expect for it to take about that long to get rid of it.

To order a copy of The Baby Fat Diet, click here.

For more nutrition and fitness tips as well as recipes, visit The Baby Fat Diet blog.

Check out other participants in The Baby Fat Diet Blog Tour.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Were You Listening on Sunday?

I happened to be at Mass alone on Sunday sans my preschooler and an antsy and very vocal toddler, so I was really able to listen to the readings. I immediately thought of what we talk about here at In God's Image during the second reading when I heard:

"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him.
Avoid immorality.
Every other sin a person commits is outside the body,
but the immoral person sins against his own body.
Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been purchased at a price.
Therefore glorify God in your body."

1 Corinthians 6: 17-20

What are you doing to glorify God with your body? I've, at times in my life, dishonored God with my body. In my past attempts to live up to a certain physical ideal, I abused my body. I certainly didn't treat it with the respect it deserves.

Think if God came down right now and handed you a beautiful, tangible gift. Let's say a lovely crystal vase. Would you not do everything you could to keep it clean, untarnished, and sparkling? Would you not add sprigs of greenery and budding blossoms to make it even more magnificent? You'd surely place it in a prominent place and every time you saw it, you would be reminded of its beauty and that it was a gift from your Heavenly Father.

Our bodies should be treated with the same care and admiration. They are God-given temples where the Holy Spirit dwells. They are vessels for our immortal souls. They do not deserve to be punished or poisoned.

Love God? Then love your body. Give it the attention it deserves. Fuel it with healthy food. Move it because you can. Don't let anyone else or any thing take it for granted or abuse it. Because it's not really yours at all. It's on loan from your Father.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Weighing in Over at Faith & Family Live

There's an interesting discussion taking place over at Faith & Family Live! Danielle Bean wrote an excellent post (in my opinion) about things she hates about diets. I put my two cents in since this is obviously a topic I'm passionate about (and I'm a blabber mouth).

What surprised me is that not everyone responded favorably to the post (or to comments like my own that address the danger of becoming preoccupied with food, weight, and/or appearance). I think that people were coming from different backgrounds - those who had to "diet," or I prefer to say make lifestyle changes for the sake of their health and feel proud of their accomplishments (as they very well should!) and those who, like me, have struggled with a poor body image even when they were at a healthy weight.

As Rachel Balducci points out in a follow-up post, when some of us struggle with our weight and/or body image, we're really grappling with feelings, unmet needs, or issues that run more deeply than our body measurements. She writes,

"Within the last few months, I have absolutely said (to more than one friend) that I will feel better once I lose those last three (or five) pounds.

What I discovered in the midst of this, is that I was indeed getting wrapped up in a poor self-image, but in a way it was my body telling me I needed something more. Once I started getting back into exercise I felt so much better about myself. It didn’t have anything to do with the numbers on the scale; it had everything to do with all the emotional havoc that I experience when I’m not treating my body right—when I’m not getting out there and revving up the endorphins by lifting weights and taking brisk walks and runs."

By all means, do your body good! I don't think Danielle was suggesting otherwise. But be careful not to let your appearance or the scale become a barometer of your happiness and self-worth.

At any rate, I found it interesting that the word "diet" stirred up so many diverse emotions - from frustration to triumph. All the posts and ensuing comments are definitely worth the read. I've included the links below.

Three Things I Hate About Diets
Weighty Matters

Weighing In

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Cheers! Here's to a Healthy Soul!

Chances are, St. Nick isn’t the only one carrying around a few extra pounds this time of year. With the feeding frenzy that begins by way of Thanksgiving and doesn’t taper off until the bubbles in our New Year’s champagne stop fizzing, some of us get more than we wish for over the Yuletide season.

Is it any wonder so many folks make losing weight a priority come the New Year?

God certainly wants us to take care of our body. Getting enough sleep, exercising, fueling ourselves with healthy food are ways to honor our bodies, which God has given us as “temple[s] of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Yet, while focusing on healthy lifestyle changes is important and certainly never hurt anyone, the way we look, the number on the scale and our physical health aren’t the only things we should be resolving to improve.

This New Year, as I did last year, I find myself asking, “How is the health of my soul?” (Besides as a woman who is in her sixth month of pregnancy, I certainly don't want to add "lose five pounds" to my list of resolutions when my goal is to grow a healthy baby and subsequently grow my waistline!)

Anyone who’s jumped on the weight loss bandwagon knows that shedding pounds requires discipline. Having a strong spiritual life really is no different. Our faith is a gift of God, but it’s not something we can ignore or get lazy about and then just expect to flourish. Christ is always with us, but we have to put forth some effort to develop a more intimate relationship with him.

An athlete’s muscles get bigger and more sculpted when he or she spends more time in the gym. So, too, must we “pump up” our souls and give them what they need to be healthy and strong.

How? By regularly participating in the sacraments, engaging in daily prayer, reflecting on scripture, spending time with the Lord in the Adoration Chapel, and showing love to our family and our neighbors are a few ideas for specific faith resolutions that first popped into my mind. (We'd love to hear your own spiritual goals for 2009!)

So this New Year, won't you join me and instead of emphasizing only exercise and healthy noshing (you can go ahead and stop obsessing over having scarfed down way too many Christmas cookies now), why not make the commitment to train yourself in godliness and to be extra aware of not only the health of your body, but also of your soul?

Happy New Year! May 2009 bring all of you many blessings!

“Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8)