Defining Healthy

“Health is more than just the absence of illness.”

I read this line in a blog post written on one of my favorite blogs by Dennis Finney, a writer for The Des Moines Register.  Finney, who 1 year ago had weighed in at almost 600 lbs, has lost 100 of those lbs through exercise and eating better.  I have loved his blog as he gets real with you – the good and the bad.

What initially drew me to his blog was that he had so much to lose, he was about my age and he had managed to surround himself with a team of people willing to help: a therapist, a doctor, physical therapist, nutritionist and now a trainer.   I am in awe of his willingness to ask for help…although, I am not sure he sees it that way.

His post yesterday, May 19, was about how he always thought that being healthy just meant not being sick.  And that really hit home with me.  I always thought of myself as relatively healthy.   I knew the weight was an issue but I had never had really serious illnesses.  I got sick for sure: colds, bronchitis, strep, but overall I was ok.

And then as I got older, the weight became more and more of an issue.  And I saw it happening but because I had never really considered myself unhealthy overall, I ignored it.  And now, I have trouble walking, I don’t want to get out of bed some days, and I hurt on a regular basis.

I have committed to some short term goals to be better.  Daily meal replacement shakes.  Healthy choices when eating.  Exercises – while small steps are being taken, they are steps in the right direction.

 

 

Goal Setting

I made 2 commitments recently that I am trying to keep to.  Both have to do with my health.  Both are goals that in the past I have not been able to maintain longer than a week or two.

Why am I so bad at keeping health commitments?  The only one I ever managed to keep was giving up soda for lent.  But even that has been waning lately as I have been partaking in soda more than I have in the last 4 years since I “gave them up”.

Part of it is laziness.  Part of it is at times making commitments that were missing a sense of reality.  I would often decide to make a change that was so big or so different or so challenging that I was setting myself up for a failure.  And for someone who struggles with being “enough,” setting myself up that way is pretty much guaranteeing I will not be able to finish it.  And I don’t usually.

So what made these commitments different?  Well, each fits into a routine that already exists.  Each was a small thing I was confident I could accomplish.  And best of all, there is accountability built in to make sure I do it.

My hope is that once i complete these commitments, I will be able to take on another one and then another.  Small changes that add up.  And in the meantime, I am adding back my successful commitment – no more sodas.  No excuses.

Here we go.

 

My sister

I was asked to sing for a funeral today.  I had met the deceased but didn’t really “know” her.  She went to my church and when someone asks me to sing at a funeral (even if the family has no idea who I am), I try not to say no.  It’s such a hard time.

The family member who I met was the sister and her grief was palpable.  She managed to laugh and smile, but she was having an understandably difficult time holding it together.

Throughout the service, I kept seeing my own sister.  Imagining her having to do this for me.  Knowing her and my mom, she would have to be the one talking to people, greeting them, holding it together.   I can’t imagine.

Mortality is not something I think a lot about.   But it is hard not to when you are at a funeral.  She was only 4 years older than me.   It makes you think.

By the time I left the funeral home, I was in tears.  Not to be morbid, but as my health has been unstable over the last couple of years – brought on by too much weight, bad habits and an inability to change – I see myself in the obituaries when people my age pass.

My first instinct -was to eat.

Right?  Like I am worried about dying young, about the effect it would have on my sister and my mother, about what could be if I don’t make some serious changes.  And my first instinct was the stop at McDonalds and get a BigMac.

Food is comfort.  It is familiar.  It gives me a sugar high (for a short time) and it makes me feel better – at least for a little while.  I always said I ate when I was bored, but really, I eat whenever something happens – happy, sad, frustrating, angry, disappointing – I eat.  I crave certain sugar-full foods to give me an uplift, to push me forward.  I look for what is available and what is easy and what is going to make me feel better.

I don’t want this.  But it is the only constant in my life.  It is the only thing that has always been there.  And it is an instant high.  And I can do it anytime, anywhere.

I have said this many times – THINGS HAVE TO CHANGE.  I don’t want my sister to have to be the one standing there telling people how much she misses me.  I want to be here for a long while.  And I am pretty sure she does as well.

 

Hope

I used to see a therapist.  I went to see her to work out some things, to talk about and process something specific.  I ended up staying with her just over a year.  By the end, the problem I started with had been resolved (mostly) and I found myself searching for things to talk about each week.  It was not worth the money until I could figure out or was more comfortable talking about what else may have been plaguing me.

One of the issues I struggled with discussing with her was my weight.  It was clear that she had never struggled with weight.  She stated she had never tried fast food, she couldn’t understand why the desire to be healthy didn’t translate to an immediate change in my ways, and she seemed – for lack of a better way to say it – to struggle with my struggle.  It seemed so simple to her.  Just make a change and the weight will come off.  Decide to be healthy and you will be.

That misunderstanding of weight is one of the main reasons I continue to write about it.  It is not just that I struggle with it and think you need to hear me whine about it every so often.  But because I don’t know if there is any medical condition more misunderstood than this one.  It seems so easy for someone who has never struggled and it seems so complicated for those that do struggle with it.

And honestly, fat people don’t make it easy.  We want to believe that it should be painless – quick fixes, fast diets, pills, shakes, meal replacements…we buy into the hype.  We (generally speaking) also allow ourselves to be judged at times, we wear under baggy clothes, we make excuses for our behavior while rarely acknowledging the bad things we do, and most of all – we hide.

I hide.

I hide the fact that nothing scares me more than not being able to lose the weight.  I hide the fact that every year I inch closer and closer to the age my dad was when he died of a heart attack and I am petrified of dying that young.  I hide the fact that I eat more and eat worse than I want to admit.  I hide that the pain I feel is not just physical…the emotional pain is much, much worse.  Mostly I hide the fact that I feel helpless.  I feel like it is too late for me.  I feel like I will never be able to make enough changes to change the course I am on.

A lot of this plays into my “never enough” attitude.  I am not enough.  I can’t do enough.  I can’t be enough.  I don’t deserve better nor am I capable of change to make it better.

I know this is not true.  I know I have people who love me, a God who adores me and I am more than capable.  I am enough.  I know it intellectually.  But getting to a point where I live it has been near impossible.

I have made changes over the years.  They have been slow and small.  I have struggles still.  Daily fights with myself about how what and how much.  I post inspiration, meal plan, keep bad foods out of the house and then…something happens.  And I am back where I started.

So what now?

I have to learn to be content with small changes.  I pray that people don’t give up on me and that I don’t give up on me.   I keep looking for additional ways to make this work.  I need discipline and grace.  I need fortitude and forgiveness.  And mostly I need progress.  Just a little.  Just enough to give me hope.

On Becoming a Hermit

When I was in high school, my #1 dream for my life was to live in NYC and be on Broadway.  I dreamed about living in the city and being surrounded by people and things to do…a 24 hour circus that made you want to get up each morning and get out there.

My first year of college (when I was 21), I went to VCU and I discovered that I hated living in a city. Richmond is a small city and fairly easy to navigate compared to NYC and I hated living there.  I hated trying to cross the street in traffic, I hated living across the street from a park that at the time was scary at night (it has been greatly cleaned up since then), I hated the noise and I hated the way I felt about it all.  I transferred to George Mason and came home to continue school.

In the early 2000’s I had a string of jobs that took me further and further into the commuting nightmare of DC.  Alexandria, Crystal City, back to Alexandria – commuting was taking longer and longer.  And while I took a bus to Crystal City, my days were shorter and shorter as commuting took more and more time.  And then I got a job in Chantilly.  I loved the job.  I hated the commute.  And this is when I first started thinking about moving out of the suburbs.

When that job ended, my next job was in Tysons Corner.  My worst commute to be sure.  I would spend almost 3 hours a day just getting to and from work.  Since my job had told me that working at home was a possibility once I had reached a year, that became my goal…to get out of the busyness and move elsewhere.  It wasn’t so much about getting out of the suburbs, as it was about getting out of the DC area.  It’s not like this everywhere.  Its not normal.   I really wanted normal.

I wanted a place where life wasn’t so rushed.  Where people got out of work at a decent time and got home at a decent time.  Now, I know that there are a lot of people here who commute closes to NOVA.  I consider that crazy, but I get it.  Its where the jobs are.  But my little enclave here in Orange, feels normal.  A sleepy little community in the mountains.

Transitioning here was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  But it came with a side effect I had not necessarily wanted – but I had expected.  I am alone a lot.  I work from home and so I can be a fully functioning member of society and never leave my house Monday – Friday.   I go to church on the weekends and I have friends there, but my week is very insular.  And sometimes I wish I wasn’t.  Its hard to explain.  Its not that I am lonely exactly, but I am too comfortable at home.

I used to tease my mother that when she retired I was worried she would become a hermit.  But truthfully, she is busier now than when she was working.  I am the hermit.  And I am not quite comfortable with it.

I love my apartment.  I like my own space.  I like my little town.  I like no traffic and nicer people and easier getting around.  But I do miss having people around me some days.  I find I use the phone more at work than I used to, I call my boss more often to run things past him (which I am sure drives him nuts) and I sometimes have to just get out and drive down 15 just to get out of my house for a few minutes.  I go stir crazy occasionally.  In fact as I write this, I have to read it out loud – so I can hear a voice and use mine.

This is a lot closer to the life I want than what I had in NOVA.  But it is not quite complete.  There is still something missing.  I think I know what it is, and I know the time will come when that happens.  In the meantime, here I am.  If you would like to visit- I welcome the company.  Its beautiful here.  And only about an hour and a half from Woodbridge.  Come visit.

Seasons

I was telling my mom about a difficulty I was having and assuring her I was ok, and she said “it’s just a season.”  Seasons came up again this past weekend in Sunday School class.  So here I am reflecting on the season I am in.

Financial – I am in debt repayment mode and so money is tighter than I would like it to be. Am I broke?  Nope.  I have enough to pay the bills but there is not a lot left over once that is done.  It will ease up eventually, but I am focused on the debt and getting it paid down – on time and in full – so that I don’t have to deal with it for years to come.  It is not a bad place to be – just not the where I want to be.

Spiritually – I am finding a hunger again and while I am not sure it is manifesting as much as it should on the outside, is something I can feel happening on the inside and it is slowly changing me.  And that is a good thing.

My Health – speaking of hunger, I am straining to make changes to my diet and I fail more than I like.  I fail a lot more than I like.  Embarrassingly so.  But as my friend Liz says – progress not perfection.  I am making better choices more often.  And I think eventually, it will come to a place where the bad choices are the ones hard to make.   For now, I am struggling a bit through the “how” and the “when” and the “what”.  I know the why.

Exercise is a whole other issue.  I know that eventually I will come to feel better from the exercise, but it sucks right now.  I am in pain every day and my body is not taking it well at all.  Partially I worry that I am not doing something correctly (but really it is just riding the bike and some weight training) but mostly, it is just that I am so out of shape that I find it hard to function when I push my body to do this.

Work – has been a challenge…but in the best possible way.   Even though I feel a bit out of my depth sometimes, it is pushing me and I am learning again.  I love learning new things.

Relationships – are good…steady…consistent.  I love that right now.  I am not necessarily making new friends but the ones I have are great and I am building with what I already have.

Creative – this is stalling.  I am not creating because my craft room is in shambles.  I need a professional organizer but really, I just need to make some decisions and so much has been happening that I keep putting it off.  I have no one to blame but me.  But seriously, if you love to organize and would help me for free – let me know.  It is killing me right now.

All in all things are good.  I love living here.  I have a good life.  The season is being good to me.

 

Spiraling

Every so often I feel like things are spiraling out of control.  I don’t mean in the kind of way that will result in a car crash, but I mean times when you know you need to get a handle on something and you can’t quite grasp it fully.  When despite your efforts, the goal gets further and further away from you.

The most frustrating part is when you can see the mistakes you are making but have been able to predict them before you make them.

I have pulled back as many of the behaviors that led me here.  I am almost out of things to “stop”.  But the issue persists.

The only thing left is, and by the way it should have been the first thing, is to pray.  That is the thing about troubles like this – it is so much easier to pray for the big things.  The little things…the not life changing things…the ones that you know you should be able to change without divine intervention…those things are much harder to pray for.  At least for me.

I find myself fighting with my own instincts when this happens.  So here I sit, taking the time to do what I should have done all along.  Praying.