August 1, 2016

Planning for the Day

Happy Monday! It is August 1st. WOW! I cannot believe this year is already half-over. The time has sure flown by. Last year at this time, I was thinking about my final semester in college, planning for my qualification exams, and getting ready to begin teaching at ACU and GCU. This year, I am in dissertation mode. My life has changed drastically, but I am still not finished with my degree. I'm close, so very close, but I still have so much work left to complete. I am teaching at four schools now, maybe five (tomorrow will tell), and for the most part, I am well, so well. I have a lot on my plate, and while I am struggling to stay afloat right now, I am confident that the plans the Lord has for my life are good, very good indeed. He is always in control -- regardless -- of how I feel. He is always in control (PTL!) My prayer today is to get back on track. I mean, it is the beginning of "back to school" month, so that means I need to get myself in gear, and start making headway on my growing "to-do" list.



Diet Update

Well, yesterday was a bust. Actually, Saturday and Sunday were carb-feast days. I am not sure what happened to throw me off track, but I started to gorge myself a bit on Friday. I picked up steam on Saturday, and ended Sunday with the "big bang!" Yes, I drove off the Atkins cliff PDQ this weekend. I was feeling unwell, and whenever I don't feel well, I tend to go to food as a comfort. My stomach was upset both days, and I was constipated (I hate to admit it, but it was true). Atkins is known to do this, especially when you switch from high-carbs to low-carbs. Even with fiber supplements, I was not well. On top of that, I felt very fluish again, sort of like I was getting a virus of some sort. I feel better today, less bloated, less sick. My total weight loss since going on Atkins was 2 pounds.

In all, I am down 4 pounds since July 10. That means in 3 weeks, I have lost about 1.2 pounds per week. I hoped Atkins would work, like help me drop 5 pounds in that first week. Instead, I lost the same amount of weight as I did on Weight Watchers Points. The only difference is that I suffered horrible constipation, the ketosis flu, etc.

I am wondering if the reason I am losing weight is simply because I am eating smaller portions overall. I mean, with both programs, my calories were some where in the range of 1200 per day. I also was hungry on Atkins, like really hungry. I tried to keep myself full, but I cannot do all vegetables, all day long. I am not big on protein, but I do love the carbs. I am struggling now to decide what is the best way to go.

I look at all these organic, whole foods diets, and I think "Yes, this is the way to go!" Then I look at my life, realistically, and I see that I am such a creature of habit. I like my English Muffin in the morning with my cup of coffee. I like to eat my Greek Yogurt at night for desert. In between, I am good. I can moderate my intake of carbs, but in truth, I like to eat food. I like to eat.

Yesterday was really a turning point for me. I was so unwell. I slept through an important meeting I had scheduled for 5 p.m. I feel like such a loser. I feel like this entire summer, I have lost my desire, my control, and my ability to stay focused. I am struggling to overcome such pressure right now, and my weight is stuck, just stuck. I hate the way I feel, the way I look, and generally, my overall inability to make any change. Then I see that my whole life seems to be in a stand still right now. I am in this place where I cannot move forward, cannot go backwards, and there is no use trying to move sideways. It is as if the Lord has placed a barrier all about me. He has me in this box, and I cannot move where I want to move to until He lifts me out of it. Or until He gives me the resources to climb out of it, I should say. Sigh!

My goal is to lose 20 pounds. I have 16 more to go. I figure that if I moderate my food intake to 1200 calories per day, get some regular exercise, and drink a lot of water, I can lose anywhere between 0.5 and 1.0 pounds per week. This would be slow, like a slow process, but in 16 weeks, I would lose the weight. All without starving myself or giving up the foods I like to eat. Granted, I know I need to rid myself of processed foods. I know I need to eat more organic produce, reduce chemicals, etc. In all, I know what to do, it is just that I am struggling to actually do it. I guess with so much of my life up-in-the-air right now, it is better for me to simply moderate my life and take it slow. The weight will come off in time.

So what does this mean? Well, I am guessing that part of the problem with my ability to lose weight is not related to will power. I mean, I have the determination and the will. Yet, the weight is stubbornly refusing to come off me. I am not exercising as I should, I know it. I am far too sedentary. I know this; I accept this. My prayer today is to figure out the way to go, the way to go long-term, and then just slowly eliminate foods from my diet until I find a healthy and "do able" (realistic) balance. Plus, I've been thinking more about my desire to "keep up with the Joneses," and while I try very hard not to compare myself to other people, sometimes I do just that. I see a woman who is my age and I look at her skin. I ask, "Does she have as many wrinkles as I do?" I look at her hair and think, "Does she have to color it every 4 weeks?" I look at her size, her hips mostly, and wonder how often she works out at the gym to keep her shape. Then I look in the mirror, and I see this old, this tired, and this oh-so out of shape woman. I feel downcast simply because I am the way I am.

I woke up thinking about this today. I woke up thinking about how I don't like myself very much (appearance-wise). I am content in my skills and in my abilities. I am happy in my work life now. But, I have this issue with myself, with my body. The truth came to me this weekend. I realized just how ingrained my own distaste is for my figure and appearance when I took a trip down memory lane. Let me explain...

It All Started With a Photo

Yes, my SIL asked me last week to find my parents wedding photo. My niece is getting married in November, and my SIL is creating a photo montage of the parents and grandparents wedding photos. I like the idea. I think it is cute. However, my folks didn't really do the big wedding. My Mom was a widow with 2 small children when she married my Dad. They got married in a simple service at the Brethren Church in Akron, Ohio. I think I have one photo of them, perhaps one photo only. I just cannot find it.

I rallied my Dad's support over the weekend, and he dug up two boxes of photos from the garage. I sorted through them, mostly looking at old pictures from my childhood. It was nice, you know. I had fun. But, mixed in where some pictures of my teen years and my marriage. As I looked at the photos, I realized how my shape had changed. I was super skinny as a pre-teen. I developed in high school, and by senior year, I had this amazing hourglass shape. I mean like Marilyn Monroe shape. I saw a photo of me in a swimsuit, and I had this very tiny waist, like a 23 inch waist. My breasts were large (not as large as they are now), and my hips were very curvy. In all, I was very shapely. I noticed my thighs, though. I looked at them, and I saw (probably for the first time), that they looked just like they do today (well, thinner). I mean, I had saddlebags at 18! The funny part was that as I looked at myself as a teenager, I wasn't happy with what I saw. I thought, "Oh, Carol, look at you!"

The weird thing was that in those photos, I looked thin, very thin. I mean, I looked pretty good. Still, I wasn't happy with what I saw. Then I saw the horrible pictures of when my son was little. I ballooned up to 160 pounds (like I am now), and I thought I looked so big, so heavy. As I stared at the pictures, I saw myself through different eyes. I saw myself laughing, joking, smiling, and for the most part, happy. I started to see how my life was happy back then. Sure, there was a lot of pain too. But, generally, I loved being a Mom. I loved my life. I was happy. I ended up crying and then putting away the photos.

Later in the weekend, My Mom and I were talking about my brother, Dave. I said how the pictures of him as a child were always with this big smile. It is the thing I remember most about him. He was always so happy. When he was married, and when his son was little, he was always smiling. I remember how he loved having us come to his house for dinner. He always made such a big event of it. I loved being with him, his wife, back then. Now, when I think about him, I see sadness all over his face. I see hurt, pain, and deep sorrow. I hate it. I hate those feelings. I hate that this is what has become of my brother. More so, I realized that my life is sad too. But not in the same way.

I was telling my Mom that I wished my brother would post photos of his life on Facebook. I mean, he has a profile, but never posts anything at all. Not one picture. He is a solitary creature, living on his own now, up in the western part of Nevada. He works, but he keeps to himself. He comes to see us once in a blue moon only. His life seems lost, and that fact makes me very sad.

As I was talking with her, I recounted all the change that has happened in my life since the divorce. I mean, I am not socially active. I am not going out to parties or to bars or to events with friends. No, I am always at home -- 24/7 -- always at home. I live this very boring and controlled life now. My day out consists of trips to Walmart or Target. My life revolves around work, school, and home. BORING!

More so, it was when I was telling my Mom these facts that I started to think about what all I have accomplished since my marriage ended in 2010. In truth, I have accomplished so much, so very, very much.
  • Graduated with my Master's in English Literature
  • Completed PhD study, ABD and now a candidate in Communications
  • Transitioned from a career in business to a career in higher education
  • Moved out on my own
  • Bought my own car (two times)
  • Learned to play the cello
  • Started a long-distance relationship (still going strong after two years)
  • Published a journal article (in August)
  • Travelled on my own across country (three times)
  • Managed to rebuild my credit, make a financial plan
  • and much more
Here I am today, this completely changed woman. I've done all of these things, with the Lord's help of course. I am a changed woman. Yet, when it comes to my appearance, to how I see myself, I simply don't think I am good enough.

In the past, my desire to have enough was focused on money. Then it was on performance at work and in school (grades, etc.). Now I see that I still am dissatisfied with life, but not for these things. I am dissatisfied with my life because I see myself as a failure and as not being good enough as a person, on the inside. I realized it this weekend when I was looking through all those photos. I simply do not see anything of value when I look at those pictures. I don't see valuation stamped on me. My identity is tied to my appearance, to how I look, to how I perform, to even where I live my life (and how I live my life). It dawned on me today that all my achievement counts for nothing so long as I cannot experience the blessing of it. I realized that what I want is to be made acceptable, and to be told "You are good enough for me" from the people who matter most to me.

Accepting Who I Am Today

This weekend was an eye-opener for me. I finally came to the realization that at 53, almost 54 years of age, I do not like myself. I am not happy with who I am or with the person I have become. Yet, in many ways, I see that the person I have become is really someone special, someone great. So why the disconnect? Why am I so dissatisfied with my life? I can answer that in really two ways. One, I hold myself to an impossible standard of measurement; and two, I have sought to please others in order to gain their approval.

Perfectionism and Approval

Perfectionism and the need for approval are twin devils in my book. Perfectionism is the "refusal to accept any standard short of perfection" (Dictionary.com). In larger context, perfectionism is described as "a doctrine holding that religious, moral, social, or political perfection is attainable, especially the theory that human moral or spiritual perfection should be or has been attained" (Dictionary.com). Perfectionism wrecks havoc with an individuals' perception of their own worth and value, and with their perception of the reality existing in the world around them. In some ways, perfectionism is a psychological disorder that leads to unhappiness, depression, and even, eating disorders. According to Psychology Today, perfectionism is a slippery slope. Once an individual begins a track toward living a perfect life, everything twists and turns to revolve around achieving that end. Usually, with disastrous results.
For perfectionists, life is an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. It's a fast track to unhappiness, and perfectionism is often accompanied by depression and eating disorders. What makes perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure, so theirs is a negative orientation. And love isn't a refuge; in fact, it feels way too conditional on performance. The need for perfection is usually transmitted in small ways from parents to children, some as silent as a raised eyebrow over a B rather than an A.
Dr. Furnham asks the $64 Million dollar question when he says, "When everything must be perfect, can anything ever be good enough?"

I struggle with perfectionism. I am a perfectionist. I tell people that I am not one, but I am lying. Yes, I am a perfectionist, and I sometimes can dive deep into perfectionism whereby my entire life becomes reordered around performance and approval. I know it, I know I do this, and I know that it is a habit formed, deeply ingrained in me since childhood. Why do I still give in to perfectionism? Why do I still seek approval? I do it when I become afraid of living my life, experiencing life, and losing what little control I have over my life. Yes, perfectionism is a coping mechanism for me. If I can control everything in my life, live it perfectly, then I will no longer be afraid of the outcome. I seek perfectionism rather than seeking the truth, the reality, and then living responsibly with the facts around me. Yes, I am afraid of failure, and as a result, I strive to be perfect.

More so, the need to be approved runs deeply within me. Since childhood, I have sought the approval of others in everything from my outward appearance to my inward needs and desires. I long to know that I am "good." You know, the old fashioned saying, "You are a good girl?" Well, I long for someone to tell me that I am a good girl -- still -- at 53, almost 54 years of age. Why? Because for too many years, all I ever heard was that I was a failure, that I wasn't good enough, and that I was never as good as "X." I have tried very hard to overcome those comments, those criticisms, but they still linger on with me. I still remember them well.

My body is a perfect example of this point. For my entire life, my Mom has said that I wasn't pretty or shaped nicely. She has said that I wasn't as pretty as my cousin, for example. I was built shapely like another family member. In truth, she has consistently told me that I was shaped like my farm cousins who happen to be big-boned girls. More so, I have heard comments about my hair, my teeth, etc. for my entire life. I was never pretty enough in her view, and even after all this time, I still struggle with approval when it comes to my appearance. 

Then, add insult to injury, my husband left me for another woman. In all our marriage, I wasn't pretty enough, sexy enough, good enough. He would say so, tell me so, and make me feel less than acceptable. One day, he just said it. He didn't love me. He loved some one else. Some one tall, athletic, with dark hair. Prettier. Sexier. More like his ideal woman. 

I was crushed, of course. I had tried to be that woman all my married life, without really knowing I was doing it. Then in one fell swoop, I was cast aside. I wasn't good enough for him. 

Now, six years after, I still wonder if I am good enough for any man. I mean, what about my larger size? What about my saddlebags, my wrinkles, my gray hair? I am not super fit, athletic or even active. I am a fuddy-duddy of sorts. I try to look my best, but is it enough?

My Identity and Image is in Christ

I know that my identity and my image is in Christ Jesus. This means that my valuation is not about how I look or how well I perform. It is summed up in Christ's sacrifice, in His death on the cross. I know this, I believe this, and I accept this truth. Still, those old habits die hard. Those old patterns are difficult to erase, to stop their endless repetition.

Today, I made the decision to accept my life in Christ as it is. This means that for all the work I have accomplished in His Name, I am thankful. I accept my body as it is too. It is not the 18-year old body I once had. It is the 53, almost 54 year old body I have today. I can improve it, for sure. But only to a point. I can lose 20 pounds, of this I am sure. I weighed 148 back in December 2014. I can weigh that amount again, just with time and patience. I can gain muscle. I have added muscle to my legs through my squat routine, and frankly, my thighs are looking better, stronger, more shapely. Not Cheryl Tiegs or anything, mind you. But, not bad, in my opinion.

I have accomplished a lot in six short years. I have come a long way, baby! I have decided to stop the self-hate, and embrace the woman I am today. I have decided to love the body I have, to make the most of it, and to not let other people's opinion or lack of approval cause me to feel self-loathing. No, God has given me this shape, this body, and I intend to use it for His glory. Amen, so be it, thy will be done. Selah!

In Closing

As I consider my life, in it's total, I realize that while I may not be perfect, I am good. I may not look the way I dream I could look, but I am not so dissatisfied with my shape that I cannot go out of the house. I am okay with my body. I am okay with the woman I have become. I am strong, I am steady, and what is most important, I have my head on straight. I understand myself well, and I accept my flaws in good humor. God has a great plan for my life, and I intend to enjoy it. He is good to me, so very good to me! Selah!

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