Some quiet, food for thought on your Sunday

Why you might not look like Maria Kang.

Most of you probably heard about her when she first gained notoriety in the media. Maria Kang. The gorgeous, ripped mom of three small children. Her motivational poster blaring the words “What’s your excuse?” beside a picture of her, looking as ripped and gorgeous as all get out, and her three small children.

If she has time for the gym, why don’t you?

If she can look like that, then why don’t you?

If she has the energy to tackle children and the gym, then why don’t you?

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While I will be the first person to give Maria props because, come on, she looks absolutely insane and it takes hefty amounts of discipline, time and energy to get to where she is, there is a whole other way that I see it. Seeing her looking like that actually served to de-motivate me somewhat at first.

I would love to wake up at 6 a.m. in the morning, make it to the gym and back in time to greet the kiddos when they wake up and make myself a bowl of steel-cut, rolled oats for breakfast. I would love to have the energy to fight with two small children, make sure their shoes match and their teeth are brushed and then manage to get them into the car and to the child-watch center at the gym. I would love to be in a place in my life where THAT was one of my top goals every day.

But the truth is?

You and me? We might not look like Maria Kang if it’s just not our priority right now. 

No need to make lengthy excuses about bum knees or bad ankles or arthritis. No need to run down your daily schedule in your head to justify why you don’t make it to the gym. None of that is necessary.

I’m currently incubating baby number three. I stopped visiting the gym regularly about 8 weeks ago. I ran out of what energy I had left and it became ridiculous to think about shoving my children in the car to visit the rowing machine three times a week. I also started visiting the bathroom 543 times a night around then. My hips also started to ache and hurt around then. And if I visited an airport right now, they’d charge me fees for the extra bags underneath of my eyes.

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But even before being pregnant, hitting the gym hardcore, revamping my diet…it just wasn’t a priority. It wasn’t one of the things that I had enough energy to shift my focus toward. This doesn’t mean that I was always happy with how I looked. It doesn’t mean that things didn’t stop fitting. It doesn’t mean that there weren’t some consequences from choosing where I placed my energies.

It just means that sometimes, a ‘yes’ somewhere is a no somewhere else. Sometimes, we have to be extra careful and wise about where those “yes'” go. This season of life? I have quite a bit that I must do, that I must say “yes” to. Someday, hopefully soon, that will change. There will be an abundance of other things that I can say “yep” to. Just not right now. Because, something always has to give. And seasons come, and seasons go. This will change.

I have big plans once baby number three is out. I won’t call it a plan to diet, or a workout overhaul. It will be a time to refresh. And hopefully, if all goes according to plan, it will be a time to do some things for myself. To take some time for myself and to do something good for myself. Fitness isn’t about looking good, it should be about being healthy. And hopefully, when the time is right (or as close to it as it will ever get with children in tow) I’m going to have the time and means to focus on the things that I have been putting off for a time. Looking at it this way helps me look forward to when the season arrives.

But, you. If Maria’s message hits you. If you know deep down that it’s time that you did this for yourself, then just think about it. Think about getting back into the fitness saddle and making some changes for yourself. Things like that never hurt. Unless, you know, it does those first few times you visit the gym. I can’t say that won’t hurt.

 

Happy Sunday, everyone!

 

There is no such thing as a “post-baby body”

I know, I know – two posts within one week about pregnancy. I can’t help myself, it’s what’s on my heart. 

It’s time. It’s time for mothers to reconcile themselves to their bodies. 

How much more fulfilled would we be if we knew down to our bones that we were worth more than the sum of our outsides, more than these frail bodies? How many tears wouldn’t be wasted from being shed into pillows at night? How many sighs would not go up from discontent women when they looked in the mirror? What would happen if we felt at home in our own skin no matter what happened to us throughout our lives? Puberty. Babies. Menopause. PMS. Aging. All of it. Any of it – what if it didn’t really matter to us all that much?

Can you even begin to imagine a world where women aren’t bombarded with hundreds of anti-aging skin care products, workout DVD’s and diet pills? Imagine a world without exasperation from us just looking at ourselves in a dressing room mirror. Without the silent pleas to look differently, without the “if I only did this….” lines that hum in our minds when we buy a pair of jeans or flip through a magazine.

I know that I can’t really fathom what it would be like to live without the external pressures that women are faced with daily, let alone without the unneeded worry that we put on ourselves.

Facing the brunt of some of this all to real pressure are the mom’s. The mom’s who live in a world where magazine covers celebrate the shedding of the post-baby body as rapidly as possible. Where all traces of baby are gone in an instant and if not, then ridicule abounds. Where the pictures of baby bumps are one’s of zero stretch marks and perfect basketball sized bumps. Where our worth is inherently linked to what we look like.

Any woman reading this is probably waiting for me to reveal the definitive method to unlocking the secret of pure self contentment because, heck, don’t we all want to figure out the secret to that? How to love ourselves? Heck, even I’m waiting for me to give the perfect answer to what ails us. 

I’m not talking merely about “self-confidence” when I say “loving ourselves.” I am talking about the true acceptance of ourselves and being at peace with our bodies no matter what stage of life we’re in. I’m talking about letting go of the worry over our outside so that we can instead focus on the inside. Where we have freedom to love and praise our creator not just because we are comfortable with ourselves but because we have come to a place free of insecurities and can focus our energies on solely Him and His work in our hearts. His transforming, glorious work. A place where we believe that our image is rooted in divinity, not glossy magazine pages, boxes of hair dye or numbers sewn into the waistbands of our pants. A place where we have an absolute understanding of what we were made for, and where we fully know what weren’t made for. 

Everything now a days is a distortion. A deviation from the truth of who we were made by and what we were made for. It’s poison. We worship the wrong things, flat stomachs and toned bottoms, but make war with ourselves and within ourselves. We have severed ourselves from our purpose. And it reeks havoc upon women everyday. 

Every woman will be heartbroken at some point in her life over how she looks (or doesn’t look.) Every woman will feel insignificant because everything man-made silently screams out from its pages and screens that there is an ideal for beauty and that only a select few fit into it. That if you aren’t beautiful, then well, you’re out.

I have never felt this way more than since I became a mother. To be brutally honest, I hate my post-baby body sometimes. The marks, the sagging, the softness. No. Thank. You.

Tonight, I realized something about my post motherhood body – there is no such a thing. Not in how we think of it, at least. We probably think of a post-baby body as fleeting. It exists temporarily and after about 6-8 weeks things should begin to return to their “previous settings” as all remnants of carrying our babies slowly start to disappear. Then it’s business as usual. But that distortion could not be further from the truth.

I am STILL the owner of a post-pregnancy body. A body that I sometimes cry over or flinch away from when I look in the mirror. Except, for as much anxiety as this body gives me, it has surely caused and felt more joy than pain. This is the body that has given and nursed life. It’s mine. This is the body that belongs to a woman who may still struggle with the altering effects of those events but who couldn’t be more proud of or sold out for her children.

We, women, were not meant for bikinis. Like it or not, whether you believe in Almighty God or in the primordial soup, we were bound for something greater than having our self-worth rooted in our appearance. Our relationships with our body should be one of purpose, not appearance. 

We were meant to make this world beautiful. We were meant to embody grace, femininity and compassion.  We were meant to smile, to love, to give and to experience. We were engineered for motherhood. Accomplishing any of these things has nothing do with how we look, and none are ultimately by hindered by our appearance – unless we allow them to be.

So to you mom’s out there, wishing your baby body away, I would say this: reconcile yourself to your body. Realize what your body is and what it wasn’t made for. Break the relationship with your body that dictates from the outside-in, and instead live from the inside-out. Our perfect creator is not glorified in perfect bodies. It is the contents of our heart that He is most interested in and it’s the heart where He promises to do the most work. 

Try to take comfort in those stretch marks, in the cellulite or the soft tummy. This is YOUR body, doing what it’s supposed to do. A body that reflects your journey, a map of accomplishments and milestones.

There really is no such thing as a post-baby body, only a body that is made strong again post-baby.

Whole 30 – Holy Cow

There really isn’t any beating around the bush here, people:

This month, my husband and I have been participating in the Whole 30 diet/challenge.

I wasn’t sure if I would write about this experience during the challenge, if even at all. The reason for my apprehension is my own personal experience with people who are dieting. I don’t know about you all but do you ever get irritated with someone when they start a diet?

You get sick of conversation with them always being about the diet, or how the person on the diet seems to take it upon themselves to point out that what you’re eating isn’t as healthy as what they’re eating. Yawn. Eye twitch. Whatever. The point is that I understand if you’re weary of hearing about someone’s diet. And I also understand that a good portion of you may not know what the Whole 30 Challenge is. We will get to that in a second.

Let me start you off with my fitness background: I never thought I would be one of those drastic/program dieters. You all know what I mean when I say ‘drastic/program dieters’, right? South Beach. Atkins. Jenny Craig. Weight Watchers. OK, so perhaps using the word ‘drastic’ to describe those programs is a bit too….drastic. Please know I’m not knocking them, even in the slightest. To put it simply, before this program, I didn’t ascribe myself to the notion that you needed to cut out entire groups of food in order to lose weight and be healthy.

I always thought that you took that little food pyramid thingie and you followed that, along with abiding by a few other helpful hints: everything in moderation…an apple a day keeps the doc away…burn, baby burn. Yea, somewhere in there, that’s where I fell.

This year, I couldn’t deny the fact that I needed to change. Here is another simple (and, admittedly, somewhat selfish) fact: I wasn’t happy. I know that a person isn’t supposed to diet and exercise because they want to look better. And I do agree with the mantra that looks aren’t the only reason that you should value your health, because looks are fleeting. And a person can be gorgeous no matter their size  and someone can be unhealthy and still be considered absolutely ‘beautiful’ by anyone’s standards.

I used to be nearly half of my current size. And sometimes, I desperately want that girl back. That in-shape, fit, pre-baby weight girl. And I have shed (numerous) tears over the fact that she and I don’t look like the same person anymore. And this was hard for me to admit to myself – let alone on here. I am quite a ways away from where I want to be. But tis the truth, my pretties. But enough crying.

I also have two babies that need some chasing after. And they need a happy, healthy momma during their busy toddler years, and hopefully, during their middle and high school years, too. And, Lord willing, when they have children of their own that need some chasing after, I’ll be right there, ready. There is too much at stake for me or for any of us to let it all slip away. Sometimes, you have to take a look at the big picture so that you can take that tiny extra step so that you can finally admit to yourself that it’s time for a change. After a lot of introspection, this is where I wound up.

Enter Whole 30.

I am a person who likes creamer in her coffee, a soda with my pizza and fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies. And believe me, those things are all delicious little creations. But after a year of trudging through time at the gym and getting little or no results, I realized that it was time to address what went I put into my body and yes, finally come to terms with the fact that my love affair with sweets was the biggest culprit behind my unhealthy eating habits. For the first time, I was actually willing enough to look seriously at my diet.

I didn’t need a food journal to tell me that my eating habits were a large, if not the largest part of the problem. Friends who had recently participated for 60 days in the Living Lurong Living Paleo Challenge suggested the Whole 30 to me. I looked at the program’s website one day and after I closed it I wanted to unread everything that I had read and go back to being willfully ignorant. If I could have put that website in a box and shoved that box under my bed I would have. Because it made sense. Because it clicked in my brain that this was what I finally needed to do. Because, folks, it didn’t sound fun.

If you aren’t familiar with the Whole 30 Program, let me break down the logistics for you:

  • NO sugar (this was where my eyes narrowed)
  • NO dairy (huh??)
  • NO grains (…but, but, but…!)
  • NO legumes (beans, save for certain ones) (this was the one food group I could willfully give up without hesitation)
  • NO alcohol (this is where my husband gasped)

Sounds fun, huh? No? Yea, I know.

I promised myself that if I wasn’t going to be honest, then I wasn’t going to discuss this on my blog. So I’m going to be honest with all of you: it kind of sucked at first.

This challenge has literally turned my life upside down. I never realized how preoccupied with food I was or how much I needed food to feel emotionally complete until I started this challenge. It never occurred to me just how much I looked forward to the chance to eat out or giving into my cravings. My world revolved around food – and I didn’t realize it. NOW I really do understand why people who are dieting and cutting certain foods out want to talk about it. It’s a pretty big deal for a pretty insignificant person like me.

The great news for me is that I have been fortunate enough to have a husband willing to do something like this with me and I just couldn’t imagine doing it without him. And let me also say that he has had to stick it out with me. He has been great about sticking to the plan without much kicking and screaming. I on the other hand? Well, let’s just say that making my kids macaroni and cheese for lunch or cereal in the morning was enough to send me into an emotional tail spin more than a few times during the first week of the challenge. I mean that in all seriousness, people. It wasn’t pretty. I was a bit mean, slightly child like and completely ridiculous. I never thought that I would want to drink honey straight from the bottle or that I would even consider selling one of my kidneys for a cold can of coke.

Then comes reality.

The creators of the Whole 30 program say this perfectly: Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You won’t get any coddling, and you won’t get any sympathy for your “struggles”. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.

Isn’t that so true, though? You take away a gal’s sugar and bread and suddenly, she’s on an emotional downward slope into the deep dark abyss? You take away my cookies and sandwich bread and cheese (and yogurt, and cereal and crackers) and suddenly I’m hanging off of the side of the Empire State Building, beating on my chest a la King Kong???

Yes, it has kind of sucked, but don’t tell them at the Whole 30 that I told you all that. It’s getting better. The hardest part has been overcoming those pesky and spontaneous cravings. But I have realized something else that I didn’t realize before: I can say ‘no.’

I do not have to yield to cravings. I don’t have to reach for the chocolate because I’m having a bad day or have a soda because everyone else is having one. WE have control over what we put into our bodies and over what we do with them. Right now, I’m working on being healthy. We will work on being hard-bodied later.

I still don’t know what life is going to look like for me once the challenge wraps up at the end of the month. I don’t know yet if this will be longterm. For now, I can already tell you that my pants are fitting better and that the nutso moments and cravings are beginning to subside…even though I still really want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I can’t tell you that food commercials don’t leave me staring wide-eyed at the television screen, filled with a kind of lust that I’m not particularly comfortable with. And I’m definitely not proud of the fact that I have moments where I would sit down and eat an entire loaf of bread, just the bread, if I were able.

But on the plus side, I love that I can eat whatever I want that is challenge approved and not feel guilty. And I love that the next time I take a bite of a Dairy Queen Blizzard, or a sip from a can of Coke, that it will be a treat that I can feel free to indulge in. Because it will actually be a treat.

If you are struggling, whether you are dieting or not, you’re currently in the throes of overhauling your life or you’re considering it I just ask one thing: that you consider yourself and your life worth it. I know that I’m not an expert, I’m really not even experienced or seasoned. But I’m trying, and you should too.