Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The BIG Event

Last week, I was on a cruise with 40 clergy women--the Big Event, as it's known. (More on what I learned later...still doing some pondering.)

Because I've worked so hard at making this a lifestyle, I went with a plan.  I think my exact words to He-who-trains were "I want to have fun, but I won't be stupid." He had the courtesy to stay quiet,  though there might have been an "cough, cough... yeah, i bet...cough, cough". Oh well, at least I believed my words.  We agreed that a goal of 1800 calories a day was reasonable.  I mean, hey. That's considerably more than I usually eat.

My first night in New Orleans, I hung out with my friend who is lucky enough to live in that fabulous city.  He forced me to eat fried pickles.   The next morning, the clergy gals were meeting at NoLa landmark Cafe Du Monde for beignets and Cafe Au Lait.  I didn't want to be rude, you know, so I had to eat those too.  (And it would've been an insult to tradition to leave the piles of powdered sugar.)  It went downhill from there, as I remembered the five words that make cruising so, so wonderful: All-you-can-eat buffet.  Great food, and lots of it.  Then dinner at night (every night) was a three course study in gluttony.  Seriously, my ankles actually disappeared for most of the week. I blame the salt and long periods of sitting. To make matters worse, I didn't exercise all week.  This was a planned thing-- an ordered rest week, but it didn't help the feeling that my clothes shrunk three sizes.

I've always hated the expression "like a fat kid in a candy store" but that's exactly what I was.  I've taken owernship of the fact that unhealthy attitudes were a big part of the reason I gained so much weight: eating because it was there or because of social niceties, eating without regard to calories or nutritional content or time of day, equating food with fun.  Check, check annd check!  It surprised me how quickly those habits came back, even after fourteen months of not living that way.

I'm not beating myself up.  I had fun and it was nice to have the break.  I knew going that even if I gained a pound or two, I wouldn't care... and truth be told, I neither weighed before I left nor when I returned.  Now that the water weight is coming off, I don't feel like I really gained much.  And when I looked in the mirror this morning, I noticed that my shoulders and traps looked more defined than they did before I left. Maybe my body needed some rest and extra calories for a few days. But I came home sick and sluggish, and I remember that that's how I used to feel all the time.

So what I learned:

  • the thought patterns are still there, so I need to remain dilligent in practicing better behaviors
  • a week of rest and excess isn't the end of the world, but that it must be the exception rather than the rule.
  • I would've had plenty of fun without the food, but I'm glad to have enjoyed site specific treats (like crazy good guacamole.)
  • Maybe being so strict with myself all the time isn't entirely a win either.  Maybe I need to do what He-who-trains says and eat a cheat meal every now and then.
  • It's pretty crappy to be sick, and maybe how I treat my body actually has something to do with being well. 
It was the Big Event.  Big on fun, and friendship and fellowship (Well, technically galship). Big on food and drink and sloth.  Big enough that it's a good thing it's only once a year. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Thin vs. Strong

I had a nightmare the other night.  I was at an upcoming wedding for a friend (a trip I'm looking forward to in the fall... road trip, so so in!) Of course, I'm hoping I'll be at my goal weight by then.  I mean, who doesn't want to look spectacular when seeing a friend for the first time in several years.  Besides, it's all sorts of fun to play dress up for a few hours, and maybe dance the night away.

Only, it wasn't any kind of fun in my dream. I had on a lovely dress, and my mind's eye sort of started at my hemline and slowly panned up.  Gah-- sticking out of the neck hole was a very gaunt and thin neck and head which was almost painful to look at.  The arms were no better... they sort of looked like brittle match sticks.  I was smiling, but my smile looked way too big for my face.
Don't worry.  Unless I become really ill, I won't ever look like that.  I'm just not built that way.  I carry a lot of muscle underneath all this extra "insulation". But the dream got me thinking about what it is that I want, especially as He-who-trains has become fond of saying "Oh, to be thin" when I whine about how hard all of this is, or how much my body hurts, or how I'm starving.  He's a pain in my squatting muscles.

I've always thought I wanted to be thin-- to know what that was like to have a petite body and buy really cute clothes that made me look even tinier. But the more I think about it, that's not what I want at all.  I want to not carry around all this extra weight.  I want to have clearly defined muscles.  But most of all, I want to be strong. I want to be able to lift... a lot.  I want my body to be able to do anything that my brain can dream up. I always wanted to be a runner, but I'm starting to think of myself as one who might one day classify herself as a body builder. (But I think that's sorta like being a cyclist in spandex.  You have to have the body before you can wear the title...or the ill fitting clothes.)
A goal should be lofty, right? 

I'm happy for people who are thin.  And only a teeny bit envious.  But seeing as I'm not built that way, then I'm gonna rock what my body was built to do: make the kindly and caring older men at the gym continue to say "Honey, that's an awful lot for a girl.  Are you sure you can lift that much?"  And I'm gonna smile and say (to myself, ideally) "that's only my warmup."  Oh and you know.  Look like her?

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Luxury? of self care

     It's five o'clock on a Friday night, and I'm in my pjs, icing body parts. (Hmmm... "Body parts on Ice" just doesn't work quite as well as "Disney on Ice.") There is Pearl Harbor on AMC.  (Ben Affleck AND Matt Damon AND Cuba Gooding, Jr... twist my arm, I guess I can take one for the team and watch those hunky sorts for a couple of hours.)  There might be a glass of wine in my future.
    This is what I consider pretty good self care-- and it does feel a little luxurious, all this sitting around while there is plenty I could be doing around the house.  Sadly, mom did not have time to organize my entire life when she was here...I'm still kinda in in need of that.
     But after I whined about my neck and back and weird-o radiating pain in my shoulder for three days, He-who-trains just said it: "You need to see a masseuse."  He gave me very specific and medical-y sounding body parts that need attention (including the piriformus that I've heard all my runner friends doing battle with... hey! oooh! oooh! I'm in the club too! Oh wait...)
     What person isn't delighted to hear that they need to relax for a while and let someone put you right in heaven on earth? That tops other fitness advice like "Eat fish", "Get more fiber" and "Stretch" any day.  I'm sure not opposed, but I struggled to make the appointment.  I've gotten the occasional massage when Groupon knew my needs and offered me a great deal. But living in a tiny town guarantees that we are not on Groupon's radar.  I've gotten massages when someone has gotten me a gift certificate.  (Which, for the record, is a spectacular gift... if anyone is dying to shower me with love.  Kidding! Er...mostly.) But to just schedule a massage for myself for no other reason than my body feels like I've been in a car accident? That feels like a little bit of frivolity in some ways.
   The truth is that my body has been off kilter for several weeks--which probably helps explain some of the nagging annoyances that feel like injuries but probably really aren't.  If I were really sick, I wouldn't hesitate to go to a doctor.  And while I know that is a luxury to many, it doesn't feel so silly.  I did make the appointment for tomorrow, because maybe it will help restore my body to rights so I can just. move. on.  But if I can take advice about icing and fiber and how to walk (and stand!) correctly, then maybe I should learn to make space for this kind of advice too.  After all, being strong and healthy and able isn't a luxury--though certainly a gift!  Being those things is something to which I've made a commitment.
    Ok, ok... I guess I can be one of those blissful, smiling, relaxed people for a few minutes.  Or you know, turn my head from side to side and not walk like I'm 95.  All in the name of self care! :-)

Thursday, January 9, 2014


I'll be honest.  I moped yesterday.  I woke up with a really sore neck, and it got progressively worse all day long, despite the ice, heat and advil.  (At least this time, I don't think I hurt it in the gym. Feels like I've been sidelining myself with injuries lately.  This one was just a casuality of being alive and walking around in the world... I think.)

When I woke up at 2:45 this morning with the neck thing, my very first thought was "Oh, $#%&  no.  Today is heavy leg day, and you are NOT going to get in my way of leg day!" I wasn't even awake enough make that a conscious thought.

More than my body is changing.  Somewhere inside me, there is a fighter trying to come out. My 2014 starword was triumph.  Somewhere, I am ready, really ready, to rock and roll.  To not be knocked down, or at least to get up quickly when I am.  To not stop until I'm living my wildest dreams. To challenge and push and break through barriers.

It's more ice, heat and advil today.  Because assuming I won't hurt myself by going (and I'll talk to He-who-trains first), I have a date with the squat bar and leg press machine.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bye... the numbers

In my first pastorate, we talked about numbers a lot.  We were a small church with big budget worries.  So, we talked about numbers as if they were a matter of life and death.  In retrospect, I should've helped them imagine something better... and sooner.  But one day, I realized numbers were all we were talking about.  I preached a sermon about how the life of a church couldn't be measured by bottom line numbers that couldn't tell the whole story of what a church was doing or about. Long before I ever started this journey of health with any seriousness, here's what I said.

"Here is why I’m asking you to stop looking at the numbers for a while. I wish I could have found a better illustration, but I couldn’t...so here goes.   When I stand on the scale, I find out that I am obese.  I weigh too much for how tall I am-- or at least that’s what the numbers say.  But the numbers do not tell you that I have successfully completed a triathlon.  They do not tell you that I am quite strong and that I can lift more than can many women. The numbers on the scale do not tell you that my cholesterol and triglycerides are “beautifully low” as the doctor said, or that my blood pressure is on the low end of normal.  In other words, the doctors tell me that I’m healthy, even though the number on the scale would tell you that I’m a health problem waiting to happen."

Of course, I said that when I was probably near my heaviest-- and before I was even starting to understand what it means to feel "good."  I couldn't disagree more with the statement that I was healthy, but I guess I was in a "there's-nothing-exactly-wrong-with-you" clinical definition.  Yet, my point was valid I think-- not just for the church, but for living.  Numbers can't always tell the whole story, and are not always the best measure of success. 

When I first started working with He-who-trains, he made a rule.  (It was the first of many.) I was only to weigh once a month.  It was hard not to peek, but the weight was coming off quickly, and I knew I was losing.  But when I hit the nasty plateau, He-who-trains began having me weigh every day so he could change some things in my diet and exercise routines.  He needed more feedback than once a month. Somewhere in there, my attitude began to change, and once a day turned into a weigh-in and weigh-out.  Then it was 4 or 5 times a day: after eating, after working out, after my body did what it was supposed to do. I did it, I think, in the name of "research."  I wanted to know what affected my body and how.  I wasn't ever obsessed to the point of being concerned with ounces, but when trends started showing that I was indeed gaining weight, I got grouchy.  When the graph didn't take a downward slope for a while, I became a negative Nelly.

In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have sent He-who-trains a text asking what the heck was up with my body that I had gained seven pounds in less than two weeks for none of the obvious or usual reasons. (In my defense, I did first check to see if a cat was standing on the scale with me.  Hey... it's happened before. No cat.)  I got an ear full.  After thinking about it, I deserved it.  I know better than to get so focused on a number, especially one that is affected by so. many. things. (Ask me.  I can give you a long list.) I am smart enough to know that I'm in this for the long haul, not just to see quick results.

As I thought I began to wonder if the number really matters at all.  What if I didn't know how much I weigh at any given time? Would my nerdy, likes-to-track-things self explode if I couldn't watch the patterns? Or would I just be free to focus on eating well and exercising hard without worrying about what the scale said?

I think I'm going back to the once a month weigh-in.  I'm going to do what I should've been doing all along: looking in the mirror, and paying attention.  I'm going to listen to fellow gym-goers who notice my progress, and church members who compliment me.  I'm going to believe my clothes when they offer feedback.  I'm going to trust my hard work.

I'm going to let my success be determined by more than a number.

Monday, January 6, 2014

"Joyful and Triumphant"

Today is Epiphany-- the 12th day of Christmas. The Christian tradition remembers it as the day the wisemen visited Jesus, following a star, bearing unusual gifts.  But more exactly, the church celebrates the Epiphany as the revelation of God in the flesh.  It's a celebration of light-- and it last for a lengthy season for those churches that observe the liturgical year.  Many churches have started celebrating Epiphany by handing out star-words-- which are stars with words written on them.  The idea is that you take one, and receive the gift it offers you, and reflect upon it the coming year.  My colleague, Marci, is generally awesome sort and she's been doing this with her congregation for several years.  She was generous enough to pick words for those of us that wanted them.  (I wasn't expecting to preach, but had the opportunity to do so as my pulpit supply was sick.  I wound up doing this with my congregation, and also got a starword there.  I'll post about that one later. I'm delighted to have two words: one for my life as a pastor in that context, one for my life that's bigger than one place or identity.)  My word for 2014:

I love it.  It's perfect for where I am in life these days-- as I'm becoming and overcoming and learning to fly. I'm going to be holding on to this word for a year, especially through the lens of the Pudgy Parson.  I don't know what shape it will take, but I'm going to be intentional about sitting with the word.  

Just for kicks and giggles, I searched for quotes-- there weren't as many as I would've guessed. But I liked these:

But maybe the thing I like the most as I think about the coming year is the phrase from the carol, "O Come All Ye Faithful".  Yeah, you know... "joyful and triumphant".  Maybe those words are my highest hopes for becoming in 2014.