A wellness journey evolving

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Me, five minutes after waking on the morning after a four-day holiday feeding frenzy.  Yes, I felt as rough as I looked. At one point I would have been so shame-filled about my overindulging that I never could have posted a picture like this. Not anymore. I’ve evolved. I know that most of the time I choose well. My worth is not defined by a temporary lapse in judgment. And neither is yours.

It occurred to me last night as my body was going into its post-four-day-holiday-feeding-frenzy total meltdown, that I realized that I really missed (and need to be) blogging about all the things health and wellness that I used to when I began my fitness journey nearly six years ago. So, here I am, back at it, determined to keep writing.

Six years. For real. It’s been that long. It was a journey that began with me just wanting to lose weight. Instead, it has evolved into a journey that I never could have imagined. One that has had me rejoicing on mountaintops to painfully falling on my face (literally), more than once, mind you. From taking life for granted to learning to navigate the grief and challenges that accompany a devastating loss of life. From not being able to run a mile to running marathons. And a whole lot of other things along the way including people. Amazing people have come into my life. Each twist, turn, celebration, and fall from grace that this journey has brought me on has been an opportunity to grow in strength, patience, courage, grace, humility, joy, and so much more. I am grateful for all of it. 

As with every departure from writing regularly that I’ve taken, it always feels a little awkward hopping back in. I always feel the need to recap the gaps in painstaking detail and catch y’all up to speed but that usually turns into a novel that ends up completely emotionally draining me mainly because I haven’t written for so long and I have so much to get out. (Most of the time–for a million reasons or none– I end up not hitting the publish button anyways! Ugh!) Naturally then, because of the mental angst,  I don’t write again for a very long time because it was so hard to write the last time. Which ironically doesn’t make much sense because writing is one of the things that I need to practice as part of my core-level self-care routine so, in theory, I should be keeping up with it. But, I don’t. Then I get caught in my own vicious cycle of feeling bad about things I should be doing to keep myself well but fail to do. Soon, because of my failure to do what I need to do for myself, the shitstorm of shame begins. (For the record, it’s a ridiculously vicious cycle to get caught up in as shame can wreak havoc in a person’s life. And as a side note in this parenthetical note. . .  I know that I’m not alone in this as I am guessing a whole lot of you reading this have your own shitstorm of shame stories to share when it comes to health and wellness. Life is a treat sometimes, isn’t it?)

So, I’ll spare you all the gory details of my hiatus and just recap the highlights of the last couple of years for you, in bulleted form. (Things always seem easier to digest in bullet form, don’t they? Also, I have managed a couple of yearly updates during this time so some of this might be familiar to a few of you. )

  • Since my first DNF (Did Not Finish) on my first attempt at a 50k race in September of 2015, I’ve failed two subsequent times, once in 2016 and once in 2017. Although there is a part of me that cringes when I think about those failed attempts, I’ve grown immensely as a runner from each experience. Considering six years ago at this time I literally could not run a block, the fact that I’ve attempted 50k’s seems like a freaking miracle. I’m trying really, really hard to celebrate how far I have come on my running journey, despite the many setbacks.
  • In 2016, amidst a whole lot of life-changing experiences, the old fat girl tapes started replaying in my head during a particularly tough long run.  “What are you doing? Fat girls don’t run. What are you trying to prove? You aren’t a real runner. Real runners don’t take walk-breaks. Look at those thin fast runners whizzing by you. Why are YOU out here?” And on and on it went in my head for miles. It took me over a year to get to the root of that break-down. Again, like my race failures,  I learned greatly from that experience although if truth be told,  it still haunts me a bit. 
  • I’ve discovered over the past couple of years that writing, practicing yoga, and trail-running are my essentials for my optimal mind, body, and spirit wellness. I need them all to thrive, to breathe. Unfortunately, I don’t practice what I need to. Although I run several times a week, I don’t always get to the trails, which is what soothes my soul. Writing and yoga? Well, they are sparse, but I know that I need them as much as I need to run.  I haven’t figured out what is exactly stopping me from doing what I need to do for myself, although I have a pretty good idea. (Hint, likely relates to the old fat girl tapes mentioned above and there is definitely NOT space to unpack that baggage in this post.) I can, however, wholeheartedly say that I am working on it all. 
  • With the exception of falling off the wagon briefly over the last few days only to eat meatballs and a bit of bacon (my brother and uncle both make incredibly delicious meatballs that I will never pass up and then, of course, there’s bacon, because bacon) I’ve stopped eating red meat and I really don’t miss it. At all. In fact, I feel better NOT eating red meat. Now, if I could just stop eating sugar. . .
  • Although I doubt that I’ll ever follow a completely vegan or vegetarian diet, I will be incorporating more and more vegan recipes into my diet. It is crazy how good food tastes when it’s not laden with a bunch of animal products. During the holiday feeding frenzy we baked/cooked/made the following vegan recipes:
    • Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting. It was decadent and was seriously one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever eaten. (Okay. A chocolate frosted cake is not really a healthy option ever, vegan or not. Just wanted to acknowledge that.)
    • Green-Bean Casserole. You know the kind with the crispy fried onions. Instead of the crappy canned cream-of-something soups, we used a recipe that made a cream of almond milk, garlic, vegetable broth, and a bit of flour. In my opinion, it was much better than the original version.
    • Vegan Monkey Bread. I must admit, I was a bit skeptical when we decided on this recipe, but WOW, I was blown away by the taste. While this was still a sugar-laden treat, applesauce replaced the butter making it a better option. It was incredible!
    • Vegan Waffles. Just as fluffy and delish as regular waffles.
    • Vegan Wheat Bread. Five ingredients. Bam. So good.
  • When I began my weight-loss journey in 2012, my original goal was to lose 100 pounds, a goal that I didn’t come close to reaching. I have, however, lost 70 pounds and kept it off for over five years. Although I know now that my original goal was likely one that was a little too lofty, I do have a solid 20 pounds that I want to be gone, not because I don’t like the way I look, but because I know that I will feel better and be able to move faster and farther. I’ve already unpacked all of the reasons and excuses as to why I’ve remained plateaued, and details aside, it comes down to the fact that I’ll need to return to the hard work of being mindful about what I eat (like when I began) and to commit to not being lazy about my choices. Because I am very active, it has been relatively easy to keep the weight off. Easy is lazy. Lazy is comfortable and fun. It’s easy for me to eat chocolate cake and then run it off. It’s not easy for me to NOT eat the chocolate cake and still go for a run. Flawed? Of course. Am I working on it? Slowly but surely.
  • I’ve learned that health and wellness are SO MUCH MORE than just diet and exercise. True health and wellness come when we are taking care of our WHOLE selves–body, mind, and spirit. Please know that self-care is not selfish. In fact, self-care is essential for life. When you believe that you are worthy of taking care of yourself, you will begin to experience life in a beautifully different way. It was when I was finally able to accept and love all 250 pounds of myself, as is, and then embrace all of my lived experiences wholly for what they were–nothing more, nothing less–was I able to commit to loving and taking care of myself. I’m still a work in progress and always will be. I’m okay with that now. I wasn’t okay with that when I began this journey.
  • I have learned that wherever you are at in your quest for better health, you are never alone. There is a wonderful health and wellness community out there, loving and supportive folks that will have your back. Find people that will be there for you along the way, people that will be there for you to help you through the struggles as well as celebrate wildly with you when you reach your goals. Be accountable. Don’t fall for the plethora of weight loss and health gimmicks available. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Be patient with the journey. Remember that you are worth it. You will gain a much better perspective on life when you stop beating yourself up. I know this from experience.

So, that’s mostly it in a neatly bulleted nutshell! And, I decided as I was writing this that I am not setting resolutions for the upcoming new year, as I do every year, instead, I’m setting them now: write often, run a lot, do yoga, evolve. Sounds like a tee-shirt. Maybe I should get one made.

P.S. Although I will hold myself accountable for my goals, accountability partners are always appreciated! What intentions are you setting for yourself when it comes to health and fitness? Share if you like!

P.S.S. THANK YOU to every single person that has been a part of my journey over the last almost six years. There are so many of you! I have treasured all of the runs, walks, talks, hugs, tears, recipes, challenges, workouts and everything else along the way. And I am looking forward to so much more of all of it!

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Facing fears and finding me the fifth: Part two, how I lost 70 pounds

(This Part two of the blog-version of a presentation I recently gave. Part one can be found here https://melissafaithbodin.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/facing-fears-and-finding-me-the-fifth-owning-your-story-and-believing-your-worth/)

Do not let the number on the scale define your worth.
Do not let the number on the scale define your worth.

As I wrote in Part One, accepting myself as is and believing I was worthy of happiness and healthiness was essential to losing (and keeping off) 70 plus pounds. Obviously though, it takes more than believing in one’s self (even though it’s a necessity) to effect life-long, positive change. Throughout my healing journey, I have had to make some choices that have required me to change how I looked at my life and my health. For starters, I took the word “diet” out of my vocabulary. I encourage you to do the same.

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Instead of ever saying I was going on a diet, I chose to say that I was opting for healthy changes and then I slowly integrated those changes into my lifestyle. For example, I added more fruits and vegetables to my plate,  upped my hydration goals, and increased my exercise time. The ripple effect of making healthier choices led to more changes, and then to more again. And so it goes, each change leading to a better one.

One thing I have learned over the years is that there isn’t a SINGLE weight-loss gimmick, protein diet, low-carb diet, super-calorie restricted diet, diet pill,  shake, herbal concoction, or surgery that will do for you what adopting a healthier lifestyle will do. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. Trust me on this one.

Also, because I am NOT on a diet, there isn’t a single food that I have given up over the last two years (there are foods, however, that I don’t eat anymore mainly because after making healthier choices most of the time, the not so healthy ones don’t always taste the best.) MOST of the time, I eat relatively healthy. For instance, I rarely eat fast food, we cook most of our meals at home, and I try to stay away from highly processed foods. (I say MOST of the time because I doubt I will ever give up the Dairy Queen or Jack’s Frozen Pizza.)

I read recently about the 80/20 rule and it made sense to me. 80% of the time, strive to make the healthiest choices possible. The other 20%, well, those are the Jack’s nights and DQ trips. Choosing to live a healthier lifestyle isn’t about being perfect, it’s about making an honest effort to effect change–it’s about being real.  

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The next choice I made was accountability.

How many times have you ripped open a bag of chips vowing only to have a few and suddenly half a bag is gone? Or maybe you taste-tested your new brownie recipe to the tune of chowing down an entire row? Been there, done both. I’d like to tell you that I have quit doing that entirely, but that would be a lie. The difference now? If I eat a half of a bag of chips or a whole row of brownies, I account for it. No, I am not thrilled with myself if I make choices like this, but. . . I do not beat myself up over them either. I account for the poor choice and move on. (In the old days I would have gone hog-wild the rest of the day because I had already “blew-it” and vowed to “start again” the next day. Sound familiar?)

To help me with accountability, I started using myfitnesspal  in January of 2012 and haven’t stopped. It takes less than 10 minutes per day to keep track of what I eat and how much I workout. (YES, you do have 10 minutes to do this.) Keep a journal or find an app (there’s many out there) but just find some way that works for you to account for your intake. Make an effort to strive for accountability. By making the choice to be accountable, you will take control over your food choices instead of your food choices controlling you.

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Third on the list is movement. LOVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TO MOVE. Move, even if it is for only 10 minutes per day. Start with a minute, if you have to, but move. Exercise is imperative to good health, weight loss, maintaining weight, good mental health, stress relief, muscle tone, anxiety relief. . .the list goes on. Our bodies were made to move and you will be amazed at how good you feel when you do.

The key is to find something you like and then to do it. Walking is good. Running rocks. If you aren’t a fan of either one of those, there is swimming, biking, hiking, rebounding, elliptical, good old-fashioned calisthenics, Zumba, Crossfit, yoga, rowing, spinning, aerobics, stair-stepping–the choices are endless. Most of the time I run but I also do most of the other things on the list. Moving your body will change your life, I promise. I know this because it has saved mine.

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Next up, change the way you look at food. How many times have you said to yourself,”I have been so good today on my diet that I am going to reward myself with a brownie (or cookie, or piece of cake, or a bag of chips, etc)?” Unfortunately, I have said those exact words too many times to count over the years. If you are currently doing this, STOP IT NOW! Do not REWARD yourself with food but instead make food a choice that you are in control of (I know, it sounds a lot like accountability.) By all means have the brownie, not because you deserve it, but because you choose it. It is a subtle– but powerful– change to the way you approach food and it works. Food is fuel for your body, not a reward for “being good.”

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Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is patience. When embarking on any healing journey you need to accept and understand that lasting change takes time. You did not put on the weight overnight, so don’t expect to lose it overnight. Strive to be patient. Work on being kind to yourself. Give yourself space to create sustainable change. By doing this you will find that you will be able to stay the course of your new healthy journey, no matter what life throws at you–that I can attest to (see Part One.)

I stated in one of my first blogs that I someday I wanted to be a “marathon-running, mountain-climbing, vegan.” At the time I couldn’t jog a mile, climb a small hill without feeling like death was coming for me, or go a day without eating meat. If I would have tried to do any of those things, let alone all three at once, I would have failed miserably. It took nearly 18 months; but, last summer I completed a marathon, climbed a mountain or two, and made it a week without meat. (On a side note, I can’t really imagine ever going “vegan” because that would mean giving up Jack’s Pizza and DQ. Hello. The best I am hoping for is to be an 80/20 vegetarian. Makes sense, right?)

In the end though, no matter where you are on your journey through life, it all starts with you. YOU choose your path. YOU choose to move. YOU choose to be accountable. YOU choose to create space for change. YOU choose to be patient and kind with yourself. YOU, and only YOU, can make the choice for a healthy and healing journey. Love yourself enough to make the choice. YOU are SO worth it.

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P.S. Some more essentials (that I won’t elaborate on for the sake of not making this post a novel but are all just as important as the above):

  • Hydration is key. Staying hydrated staves off hunger and tiredness, both of which lead to overeating.
  • Eliminate excuses–there aren’t any good enough.
  • Set goals that are attainable, measurable, and realistic.
  • Learn to breathe. Stop and take a deep breath now and then. It does wonders for your mind, body, and soul.
  • Surround yourself with people that lift you up and ditch the ones that don’t.
  • Find workout buddies–they keep you accountable and push you to new limits. I am SO grateful for mine!
  • Learn all you can about weight loss, exercise, and getting healthy. It makes your choices easier.
  • Rest is essential. Allow yourself time for it.
  • Eat! Don’t deprive yourself or cut too many calories. It won’t do you any good in the long run.
  • Don’t forget to enjoy yourself on this journey.

The creating of a lefse snob

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I remember the day like it was yesterday (well, good enough to produce this anecdotal account anyways.)

It was the fall of 2010. .

It was that time of year when my annual lefse cravings began to set in.

I stated this fact to my co-worker and then I innocently mumbled that I needed to pick up some Mrs. Olson’s, you know, the kind of lefse that all good Scandi-Americans eat. Then suddenly, before I even knew what hit me, my lefse-lovin’ world was turned upside down.

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Who knew that this is not REAL lefse?  Apparently, NOT this German-Swedish-American girl.

Much to my surprise, shortly after uttering the words “Mrs. Olson’s” I received a scolding. YES, a lefse scolding. (This outburst came from my usually very kind co-worker, Char, so I was really taken aback.) My scolding, well, it went a little something like this. . .

“You eat what?” as she turned swiftly to look at me with a horrified look of disbelief on her face. “That’s NOT real lefse,” she said with a tone. And on and on it went. I was being “schooled” in what REAL lefse actually was.  (Okay, maybe that was slightly totally dramatic? Or maybe not? Wink, wink, right Char?) Who knew that REAL lefse didn’t come neatly packaged, labeled with a good Scandinavian name, and sold in the grocery store? Obviously, not me.

Not long after my education, I came to work to find fresh, REAL lefse (complete with butter and sugar to spread) waiting for me to taste test. Yep, the Lefse Fairy (aka my co-workers best friend) had come to work and my taste buds were R-O-C-K-E-D. There was no denying that the “REAL” stuff made Mrs. Olson’s taste like sandpaper. Again, who knew?

Over the years, the Lefse Fairy would occasionally make an appearance, enough to keep me satisfied and away from faux, pre-packaged, “non-lefse,” lefse. I did break down and buy an “upscale” version (Mike’s or something like that) of the commercially prepared stuff a couple of times, but never again did Mrs. Olson’s grace my lips.

This year though, the Lefse Fairy failed to make an appearance. After my initial shock wore off, I nearly caved in a weak moment and returned to my old ways. I swear, while perusing the grocery store,  I could almost hear Mrs. Olson calling out, “Missy, come back to me. Do not listen to the naysayers,”  but, alas, I simply could not do it. I had been turned into a lefse snob and there was no going back now. Not even in the most desperate of hours.

Luckily for me, the ones that created the lefse snob must have gotten tired of listening to me whine about not getting my fix yet this year. I kindly explained to them, on more than one occasion, that you CANNOT create a lefse monster and then NOT feed it. It just ain’t right.

Redemption finally came in the form of a Year-End Lefse Party– hosted by the Lefse Fairy herself. Yes, on the last day of the year, I not only got to eat my weight in lefse, I also learned to create it. What’s that old adage? “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach him to fish. . .”

Although I knew the day would be incredible because I would finally be getting some lefse, it was so much more than I expected! I got to spend the day with some great friends and family, AND I learned to create REAL lefse, a treat that should really have it’s own food group. I can’t think of better way to end the year. Thank you Char and the Lefse Fairy!

Lefse anyone?

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Mixing it up. Who knew potato flakes could be turned into such deliciousness?
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It was a hard-working, team effort, with a little fun mixed in.
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Rolling and frying, rolling and frying. We produced HEAPS of the good stuff in a matter of hours.
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My dear friends. On the left is Char, the one who initially “educated” me and on the right, Jan, the Lefse Fairy. They are the co-creators the lefse snob, me in the middle. 🙂

Hello deliciousness! Simple and tasty cookies that are healthy too. What?

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Occasionally I stumble upon something on Pinterest that is actually as simple and tasty as it appears to be.  (Simple means as few ingredients and prep time as possible. Tasty means it should be relatively healthy but makes me feel like I am eating something that is totally not.)

The other night while craving something sweet, I decided to look at some of my pins and choose something to actually try (as opposed to just hoarding pins on my “healthy food” board.) MUCH to my surprise I found the AWESOMEST cookies!

Are you ready for the recipe?

(2) Two ripe bananas                                                                                                                                                                                  (1) Cup oatmeal

Yep folks, that’s it! Mash em’ up and mix em’ together. You can add anything you want to jazz it up if you would like. The ones you see pictured have dried cranberries and slivered almonds (and were my afternoon snack along with a cup of french pressed coffee.)  You could also add chocolate chips, coconut, or about anything else that you would deem appropriate. Can you say DELISH?

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. (I flip mine about half way through for a nice little glow on both sides but that is totally not necessary.)

The original pin can be found here http://www.pinterest.com/pin/242068548694437612/.

P.S. These cookies are totally breakfast worthy. Enjoy!

P.S.S. I am aware that “awesomest” is not a word but because these cookies earn high marks in the simple and tasty categories, awesomest was the best word choice.