112lbs and going…

When I share with people that I used to weight 112lbs more than I do now, they usually don’t believe me. So in order to prove it, I am willing to post my “before” photos for all the blogging world to see:

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So why am I bothering to share these photos with you? Because I understand the struggle many American’s have with weight loss and living a healthy lifestyle. Boy, do I understand.

After I tell people how much weight I have lost, the very next question is always the same. How? Did I have gastric surgery? The honest answer, before God, is that I used good old fashioned diet and exercise.

On this journey of  losing the weight I learned a few important things and I am happy to share them:

1) Being obese means I was addicted to food. Some people may not like hearing that but it’s the truth for me. I needed food to be an escape, coping skill, and friend. I had no real lasting control over what I ate or how much. It controlled me.

2) I had to deal with my feelings and not pretend they didn’t exist. I shoved down a lot of emotional pain and looked for a nurturing outlet in my life and food fit the bill. I ate for comfort and wow did it work. At least for the moment. I felt full and not empty. Problem was that my soul needed to be filled and no comfort food was going to do that.

3) There are people in our lives who want us overweight and they work hard to keep us that way for their own selfish needs. Not everyone will be excited about you losing weight and some will go so far as to sabotage your efforts. Shocking I know. Find someone who is truly hopeful with you for significant weight loss and let them cheer you on.

4) Keep a journal of your eating and what you were feeling just prior to going to the pantry. You would be amazed at how often you, like me, were looking for an emotional thrill or pick-me-up. Once you start to see the pattern, going for the Oreo’s doesn’t actually taste so great since you know it’s out of dysfunction that they sounded like a good idea. Nothing kills overeating like facing the reality of why we are doing it.

5) Don’t be black-or-white in your thinking about exercise. This is a BIG problem! I hope you really catch this point: most overweight people I have known get stuck in the belief that they are  “really” exercising only if they are at the gym 5 times a week for an hour or longer. That is a LIE! Exercise is something that we can do in small chunks and have a big impact on our health and mental well-being.

6) The final point I will share is that I was a terrible judge of an adequate amount of food intake. My idea of what was normal to eat, for a woman my height and age, was horribly skewed. One of the most significant steps I took in my weight loss journey was to establish a set eating schedule and stick with it. I still do it to this day. My schedule looks like this:  breakfast, 10am snack, 12pm lunch, 2pm snack, dinner and very light snack a hour or so before bed. I have to stick to this schedule or chaos reigns for me. Even after all these years I have to keep my mind in check about food. Because I wasn’t a good judge, I needed help gaining insight into what is a normal caloric intake for women. Do some research online and educate yourself. You might be as shocked as I was to realize that I really was overeating when I didn’t even realize it. I thought my eating habits were normal. Denial is a powerful tool of keeping us in bondage.

My friend, I wish you well in your own weight loss journey. You can make lasting change in your life. I won’t be easy but I really believe you will like yourself a whole lot more if you persevere through the healing process.

New Trend: Lonely College Students

During the summer, I get to see clients who are home from college. Over the last couple of years, I have started noticing a new trend. More college students are reporting feelings of isolation and loneliness while at school. At first I thought it was just a few students who maybe didn’t have a lot of strengths in making and keeping friendships. However, this summer has changed my assumptions. The trend of college students returning home and not having made great friendships while in school is increasing within my practice.

This honestly is a shock to me. Back in the days of when I was in college, if you lived in the dorms or on campus, you were guaranteed an active social life. Sure, there were always a few students who kept to themselves and never really integrated into the college lifestyle. But those were the exceptions. Now it seems that happy, friendly, bright and socially normal college students are lonely and not making the lifelong friendships they thought they would while in school.

So what’s happening? How can a student be among so many other people in the exact same life circumstance and feel alone? There are a few common factors to the lonely college student. Listed are the common problems, as well as some suggestions:

PROBLEM: Too many students are floating between different groups of friends and not rooting into any one group. Having a lot of  acquaintances does not make for deep connections. It keeps things at a surface level and doesn’t allow for true friendships to develop.

SOLUTION: Pick one group to connect with the most. Stay with that group even if you feel like an outsider for awhile. It takes time to graft into a group. In time you will know the inside jokes, have been included during fun memories and will have a feeling of belonging within the group of friends.

PROBLEM: Many college students are pre-occupied with a boyfriend or girlfriend from home who is not at their school. Some students will go through the motions of doing school but when it’s time for socializing, they retreat to their dorm rooms or apartments to get on the phone or skype with their beloved from home.

SOLUTION: Set up a schedule to talk to or skype your boyfriend/girlfriend from home and make sure the schedule allows for enough time and energy for making friends at school. Isolating while at school is always a recipe for poor school performance and can lead to feeling depressed. It’s important that a couple not be so dependent on one another that they fail to really nurture other friendships. If this is the case, the relationship is headed to becoming toxic quickly.

Encourage your college student to balance school & friendships. If you are a student, make sure you don’t neglect your social life because it does have a direct impact on how well you do in school and your level of enjoyment overall.

 

is it depression?

Often clients will tell me how they have been feeling and then ask whether I think they are depressed. That can be tricky to answer honestly. I hate labels. Yes, there are mental health diagnosing guidelines to follow but so what? So maybe I do “diagnose” depression but the diagnosis isn’t important to me. What’s really important is for the client to understand the root of the feelings and for them to get free from the dark cloud hanging overhead.

I have to say right out of the gate that if you feel depressed to the point of thinking about hurting yourself, get help right now. Don’t wait. Go to your nearest emergency room, call 911 or get an appointment with a counselor. The enemy is lying to you about the worth of your life and his only power is if we believe his lies.

A lot of people don’t think about hurting themselves but they do live with a consistent sense of unhappiness. What I call a case of the ongoing blahs. Nothing is really enjoyable, not miserable, but not joy-filled. They go through the motions of life but can’t remember feeling really passionate about something. There may be a mix of anxiety added to the blahs and you have a sad recipe for daily life. Does that sound familiar?

There are a few steps that I walk with clients through as they begin to step out of the blahs and I am happy to share them:

1) Get a physical. Go to your family doctor and get a complete blood count. Check your thyroid. Check your blood sugars. A low level of depression can be caused by a variety of treatable medical conditions. Don’t fear that you are going to open a can of worms by getting a physical. There could be a simple solution to how you are feeling and avoidance isn’t going to help you out.

2) Exercise! I am not talking about hiring a trainer to torture you 6 days a week for 2 hours at a time. Experiment with what type of exercise and for how long works for you. Most people benefit from less exercise than they think. Start small and work your way up until you feel that you’ve gone too far and then back down to your sweet spot.

3) Talk to someone. You have to seek wisdom to get to the  root of the feelings. When, where and how did this pattern of thinking and feeling start? What are the spiritual causes also? What we think dictates how we feel. If we are not aware of our inner thought life, feelings will pop up that we never expected and we are surprised by.

My caution is that you need to find someone who will speak truth into your life but doesn’t feel the need to throw in a little shame or guilt on the side. Be careful! Sharing your heart makes you vulnerable and we all need to be wise about who we invite into our innermost feelings.

While on this topic, I have to say that I am not a huge fan of pastoral counseling. Sorry Pastors. But from my experience 9 out of 10 pastors are not trained or anointed to do counseling. Sure if you’ve got a theological question, they are the ones to go to for answers. However, unless your church is highly trained in counseling or inner-healing ministry, be careful when seeking counseling at a church. I have heard time and time again clients that went for pastoral counseling with one problem but came out with two. Went in with a worry about depression and came out with the depression and condemnation. Sad I know. It honestly breaks my heart and makes me furious but that’s a topic for another blog post.

Ok, so now you are cleared medically, exercising, talking about your feelings and you still feel the blahs? It might be time for a medication evaluation with a psychiatrist. Not your family doc but a highly regarded psychiatrist , with a good track record, who can point you in the right direction. Mediation is the option of last resort for me but there are times that it is necessary to help move people forward and out of the blahs for good.

Is it depression? I don’t know but lets get going in life and leave the dark cloud behind…

“the tooth fairy forgot me!”

My kiddo lost his eighth tooth yesterday while at school. He put the tooth on his night stand for the tooth fairy and fell asleep expectantly. When he woke up, the tooth was still there and he exclaimed,  “the tooth fairy forgot me!” Oh yes, this is what happened at my house this morning. As he was in the bathroom, the “tooth fairy” was running through the house to get her rewards and shove them under his pillow. He had not yet looked there for the goodies! The tooth fairy totally forgot last night about the tooth on the night stand. YIKES! Between pick up from school, going to the library,  homework, making dinner, sitting at soccer practice from 5:30-7:00pm, snacks after practice, shower, prayers and sleep; the tooth fairy’s brain was a little fried by the end of the night.

As Dr. Dobson says, parenting isn’t for cowards. I would also add that parenting isn’t going to be easy for those who struggle with perfectionism. Being a parent is a messy,  messy job. Ask any mom or dad who has been hit with urine or poo while changing a diaper. Raising up an emotionally, physically and most importantly spiritually healthy human being is a huge task. We will make mistakes. Like the tooth fairy sleeping on the job.

We have to laugh at our adventures and misadventures as parents. If we can’t, it’s not going to be a fun journey for anyone involved, including our  kiddos. We also must surround ourselves with supportive people who understand the ups and downs of parenthood. There is no time nor space in life for allowing a crowd of bystanders who have critical or mocking spirits. I am not alone in coming into contact with these types. The parents who must compare their little Susie or Johnny to your child. The types that secretly think they could do a better job than you are doing. The types that undermine your confidence in your parenting. Those types are not operating in a spirit from the Lord and unless they are willing to change, you will have to hit the eject button on them and quickly.

No, we don’t need critical family and or friends circling; just waiting for us to make mistakes so they can feel superior. Yes, we need loving caring people in our lives who will come and put their arm around our shoulder and give us a pep talk. We need people who can laugh with us at our missteps in parenting and laugh with us when our kids take missteps because believe me, both will happen.

Be encouraged today in your parenting. We may not be perfect, but we are perfect for the kids God has entrusted to us.

Disappointment in Marriage

I just finished reading an article in Bloomberg Businessweek. The topic is an Internet site that caters to adultery and acts as a dating service for those looking to be unfaithful. As a Christian and as a wife, everything about the website offends me. It would have been really easy to overlook that one article in the magazine and moved on to read about something else. However, I believe it is important to stay informed regarding the deterioration of our culture. We know better how to pray when we are informed.

After reading the article about the adultery website, a sad pattern was very clear. There is a trend in the spikes of new registrations on the website. The spikes follow the day after several significant holidays.

The day after New Year’s Day – an increase of 78% for men and 22% for women
The day after Valentine’s Day – an increase of 52% men and 48% women
The day after Mother’s Day – an increase of 23% men and 77% women
The day after Father’s day – an increase of 87% men and 13% women

With these statistics in hand, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the trend. Something went wrong in these people’s lives on those holidays that led to disappointment and disillusionment about the state of their marriage. Disappointment in marriage opens the door to wrong thoughts, which can then lead to wrong actions. If you feel dissapointed in your marriage, find someone to talk to about the situation before those feelings lead you to choices that you may regret.