I’m back

I’m back.

I mean that in an I’m-over-my-pity-party kind of way.

Last week, after my doc told me I should stop running (she didn’t say I had to stop, merely that I should stop), I had a meltdown.

My appointment was Tuesday afternoon – my lunch break. After leaving her office, instead of heading to Subway – my usual lunchtime haunt – I headed to Wendy’s. Not good.

Not good because I went for the wrong reason: I felt sorry for myself. I took on a so-what attitude after getting the news. I ate a cheeseburger and fries, and I didn’t even enjoy it that much, partly because the burger was dry and partly because I felt guilty. An occasional indulgence is fine, but only if you’ve planned it and decided it’s an okay fraction of an otherwise healthy diet. Not because you’re trying to drown your sorrows.

Thank God the doctor didn’t tell me I had cancer. I mean, let’s put this in perspective for a minute. She didn’t give me a death sentence, but that’s how I acted for three or four days. Like someone had stolen my best friend and demanded a ransom too high to pay.

What she said to me wasn’t unreasonable, but my response was surprisingly unreasonable. It probably didn’t help that I had started off my week tired (after a three-day holiday weekend). I am a completely different person when I’ve had a good night’s sleep. I can be unreasonable when I haven’t.

She told me not to run, and not to walk on hills. Wednesday morning I tried to walk a modified version of my typical route (the racecourse of the White River 4-Mile Classic). It has hills. (We love hills. Normally.)

Do you have any idea how stressful it is to carve a new course that’s flat out of a familiar one that has hills? I can’t even tell you what exact route I created; I just wandered around the flattish parts of the route, avoiding the steepest section of North Heights, the entire “Craig Mountain” (Craig Street) and the hilly part of Hill Street. I didn’t even look at the overpass (well, yes, I did, but I didn’t approach it). I retraveled some areas of the route because I still wanted to get my 4.5 miles in (that includes the trek from my house to the racecourse and back again).

By the time I was finished, I was exhausted – mentally, if not physically.

I had started the day physically tired, probably because of my mental state. I just felt as though I had no energy. I felt like I used to feel when I was depressed 15 years ago. Ick.

Because of my pity party, and the fact that our group was still training on the Lyon College route (the Army National Guard 5K was Saturday, and we won’t even go into how I felt for not participating), I didn’t work out with the group Tuesday or Thursday nights and I didn’t walk Thursday morning by myself. But because I knew my weigh-in was Friday morning and I had indulged in ice cream Wednesday night, I walked Friday morning. Those times I did walk last week, I just didn’t feel like doing it, but I did it anyway. I felt like someone had taken the wind out of my sails. Each workout was an effort, so unlike the other times when I actually enjoyed being out there.

But I knew I had to keep truckin’ because it is so easy to get out of the habit, and I don’t want to end up right back where I was – overweight and feeling heavy in body and spirit.

So Friday’s weigh-in was a bit of a relief because I found out that I hadn’t gained weight. I lost 0.4 pounds for a total of 21. (I deserve to have gained after the self-centered week I had.) The happy part of it is that it means I maintained my 20-pound loss for a week and could have a reward. But instead of the $18 chin-up bar or the Runner’s World subscription that I had planned to get, I went to Hastings and browsed the books. I found one by a favorite author and psychologist who was key to my overcoming that long-ago depression I mentioned. (And it cost less than $10.) It’s called God’s Love Letters To You: A 40-Day Devotional Experience by Larry Crabb.

I needed a good spiritual boost.

Saturday morning I decided to do my typical route, hills and all. It didn’t hurt anything. Much.

When I was finished, I felt better. Then Bruce and I went to the Army National Guard race, and I watched several of my friends take trophies or medals. I was bummed, but I didn’t dwell on it all day (only part of the day).

This morning I did my typical route again, and not only did I start off feeling great (physically and mentally), I was happy again as I walked. The hills didn’t even seem that bad.

When I was finished, I had that same feeling of accomplishment that I’ve experienced over and over for the past few months. I was back.

Feelings are so untrustworthy. I’m glad to know that God doesn’t abandon us when we take our focus off Him. He doesn’t let us hang in the wind; He’s always there. Sometimes we just don’t recognize it because we’re too busy focusing on ourselves.

I think He’s allowing me to experience these feelings, though, so I’ll understand that He is the only One I can truly count on. I can’t count on my feelings. I can’t count on my body. I can’t count on the weather. I can just count on Him.

I’m back, but He never left.

Thank God.

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Diagnosis: Crunchy Knee

I am not normal.

(You knew that already.)

This afternoon I went to my primary-care physician to have her take a look at my right knee, which has been bothering me for two to three years but has gotten worse since I began running again in November. It has had noticeable swelling for several months, and it “crunches” when I bend it, especially when I climb stairs (this has been true since before I started running). I had been waiting until after July 1 to see a doctor about it so that my insurer couldn’t accuse me of having a pre-existing condition before my one-year waiting period was up. (It happened to Bruce last year, and we’re still paying the denied claims.)

The doctor had me move my knee back and forth while she held onto it, and she said she felt it “crunch.” Her diagnosis: Crunchy Knee. I don’t know what she wrote in my chart, but Crunchy Knee is what she told her staff.

I like her.

Except for this: She told me I should stop running. I told her I’m registered for a 5K this Saturday. She said maybe I could walk it. Then, dad-gum it, as an afterthought she asked, “Is the course flat?” Uh … that would be NO. In fact, it’s quite hilly (we love hills, remember?).

She would forgo the race, she said, not even walk it. And, in fact, she would find a less jarring type of exercise. Permanently. At “our age,” we should find something that’s easier on our aged joints and bones. (This is hard for a 48-year-old woman to hear, especially when she finally has gotten serious about fitness and weight loss. And is in a Biggest Loser competition at work.)

The doc made me an appointment with a local orthopedist, who will probably order an MRI before possibly going in with a scope to “clean it out,” if that course of action is indicated. (We’ll wait for him to determine what’s necessary, but she was just sayin’.)

My emotions when I left her office were varied. Nothing too strong – I think I was in a state of shock, or denial. I’m still in a mild state of shock.

Here’s why I’m pretty sure I’m not normal:

Any normal person – after writing the $30 check for the office visit copay, having her vital signs recorded and telling her doctor that her knee “crunches” when she bends it – would have expected her physician to reply, in essence, “Stop doing bouncy exercises that make your knee worse.” Even temporarily.

Any physician worth her expensive medical-school degree would have said that, and she would have been correct in doing so. Any normal person would have thought this was sensible advice. After all, the expectation of sensible advice and treatment is why we make appointments with our physicians in the first place. (That, and unnecessary antibiotics.)

And when I called Bruce to break the disturbing news, he was not surprised. My mother was not surprised.

Why am I the only one who was surprised?

I am not normal. I live in my own little fantasy world. A world in which pounding on the pavement every day and causing an injured knee to get worse (not to mention the foot with plantar fasciitis) makes perfect sense, because the runner has come to love the sport in a way she never expected. At age 48.

I don’t want to stop running.

In the little scenario I had fantasized about in the weeks leading to today’s exam, the doctor was going to send me to a specialist, who would take some images of my knee, possibly slice it open and fix the problem. (I was even going to ask if I could watch. My brother watched his knee surgery.) Then (not before the specialist visit, but after; not before Saturday’s 5K, but after) I would forgo running for a few weeks (six at the most) and be better and faster than ever when the knee had healed. Super Suzy in stability shoes.

My doctor had a different scenario.

But, hey, maybe there’s hope. Maybe my aging doctor (she’s probably in her 50s), who had to give up tennis and has aches and pains she didn’t have in her 20s, is the one who’s not normal. Maybe she’s just bitter and doesn’t want me to have any fun. Or lose any more weight. Or win the Biggest Loser.

Maybe the orthopedist is more realistic. And not bitter because he had to give up his favorite sport. And understands how I have come to love running.

Yes. He’ll be more reasonable.

He’s going to take one look at my 20.6-pounds-smaller self, smile at me and say, “We’ll fix you right up, and by the weekend you can go back to your running schedule! Here, have some heavy narcotics!”

I’m not normal.

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20 pounds and then some

Before I get to today’s news about me (it’s always about me, right?), I want to give a special shout out to Chelsea Willis, a young Batesville woman who has won two gold medals this week in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece. (She won golds in the 400- and 800-meter relays.) Way to go, Chelsea! You are showing us what can be accomplished with hard work and determination, and you are making Arkansas proud.

Today at our weigh-in at work, the scale showed a 2-pound loss. Finally! The past two Fridays I had lost less than a pound and was a bit frustrated. When we began the first Biggest Loser contest in February, I didn’t care whether I won or lost – I just wanted to have the accountability. By the end, when I had been in the lead for a few weeks, I wanted to win it (and I did). Now, in this second go-round, I definitely have become competitive about it. But I’m really just competing with myself – I have no idea how anyone else is doing, except for one co-worker who recently started sharing her successes with me. She has lost about 22 or 23 pounds to my 20.6, but she had more to start with so my percentages are better. And Biggest Loser is about percentage, not actual pounds.

So, back to the exciting news of the day: I’ve met my 20-pound goal, and then some – a total of 20.6 pounds, to be precise (and we all know I like to be precise).

Of course I have to maintain the 20-pound loss for a week before I can reward myself (in case it was a fluke, or some kind of scale malfunction, or I pig out next week and gain 6 pounds). I’ve changed my reward from a pair of sandals (more expensive than my new idea, plus I’m not sure my injured foot is ready for wedge sandals yet). I can get a six-month subscription to Runner’s World magazine for $9.97, so that will be my reward. I’m told the Sara Low Memorial 5K (Sept. 10 in Batesville) will be featured in the August issue.

(In case you don’t know, Sara was a Batesville High School grad and a flight attendant for American Airlines. She was on the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center on 9/11. One of her high school running buddies, Mindy, co-founded the 5K in her honor five years ago. This year is the 10th anniversary of 9/11, so my guess is that the Runner’s World feature will focus on that. It would be nice to read of other memorial races relating to 9/11.)

Thursday evening Bruce and I went to a planning meeting for the Sara Low race. If you’re looking for a way to contribute to the local running community, let me tell you we need volunteers for this race. Post a comment letting me know you’d like to help, or e-mail Ken McSpadden at macandmichelle@sbcglobal.net).

I would love to run the Sara Low race, but we’ll have to see. Despite the fact that I still have a bum foot and my right knee is a mess, I’ve still been running (I’m registered for next Saturday’s Army National Guard 5K at Lyon College, the route we’ve been training on for the past three weeks), but I have an appointment Tuesday to get my knee examined. (No news on when I will get my head examined.) If my doc sends me to a specialist, and that specialist recommends knee surgery, I won’t be able to run the Sept. 10 race. Bruce and I will be traveling in early August, so any potential surgery would have to wait until after that. This would put me out of commission in September, I assume.

Despite how crazy the thought might have been eight months ago (just before I started exercising again), I really have come to appreciate running in a way I never did before.

I have to admit it’s a love-hate relationship, but mostly love:

  • I love the health benefits (my foot and knee problems notwithstanding), and I love the feeling I get when I’m finished, or when I’m about to be finished. I love that I’ve learned to push through pain and discomfort – although it could be argued that I haven’t had much to challenge me in that area; I’ve never run more than a 4-mile course, I’ve never had to run on ice, etc., etc. I love the sense of accomplishment, even when what I’ve accomplished is minuscule. I love seeing the progress I’ve made, even when it’s slow and barely noticeable. I love how it has helped me to shed more than 20 pounds in less than five months.
  • I love being outdoors, even when it’s hot, humid, cold, dry, wet or wild. I haven’t told you, but I got caught in the thunderstorm that popped up early Tuesday morning. I was up on Main Street when the wind started blowing hard, headed back home when the rain started coming down hard, and really hustling when the gravel and dust from the overpass started flying into my eyes. It was kinda scary and kind of exhilarating at the same time. (Yes, I know, I’m a lunatic.) The next morning a lady I see each day around 6:15 slowed her car, rolled down the window and said, “I was kinda worried about you yesterday morning in that storm.” I didn’t tell her, but I sure wouldn’t have turned down a ride home if she had offered it. I see and wave at some of the same nice folks driving (or walking or biking) by me every morning on my route, and I would have felt safe hitching a ride with her – at least safer than I felt in the storm!
  • I love, love, love the time I have to myself out on the streets of Batesville as the sun is coming up. Is there a more perfect time to talk to the Creator of the universe than when a new day is dawning?
  • I love that Bruce and I are working out together and growing closer because of it. I love that he has a team to coach and feels a sense of purpose that he lacked before we moved to Batesville. He really loves coaching the ladies, and they (we) really love him. Plus, I get the added benefit of having a live-in running coach! (So far the positives have far outweighed the negatives.) Check out Bruce’s blog for his running tips and encouragement.

I can’t think of much I hate about running right now, except maybe that I still don’t have much lung capacity despite the speed (albeit small) that I’ve gained (an indicator of increased fitness, so you’d think I could breathe better by now, darn it!). Several months ago Coach Bruce told me I might never have the lung capacity I long for. I’ve had respiratory issues, mostly mild but still nagging, for much of my life, so it’s just hard, hard, hard to breathe when I run. I guess time will tell whether I can ever run an entire race without walking. Argh!

But mostly my relationship with running is love.

And today I celebrate it because it has been a large contributor to my weight loss.

Did I mention that I reached my 20-pound goal today? I did? Good. Also remember that I started walking/running in mid-November, added the healthy-eating component in February but didn’t get serious about it until April 5. It has taken me nearly three months to achieve a 20-pound loss, but that’s okay. In fact, it’s appropriate – a healthy way to do it, mentally and physically.

Remember that when you tell yourself you can’t do it. When you don’t see any progress, or you see so little change on the scale – or in your breathing, or the tightness of your pants, or your blood pressure or cholesterol or triglycerides – remember that baby steps will get you where you want to go if you’re patient.

Remember, friends, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

 

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Running on empty (verbally, at least)

I have had complaints from my vast network of readers that I haven’t written in a while.

OK, my vast network consists of about three people. And there was just one complaint.

But she was very convincing. And it wasn’t my mother.

The lack of posts is not because I haven’t had anything to say – it’s just that I can’t seem to pull my thoughts together in any coherent and compelling (and, most importantly, amusing) way. I’m just not very interesting right now. I’ve had a lot of irons in the fire – with work, with church volunteer stuff and personally. (So, really, “running on empty” is a misleading headline, but I have a headache and it’s all I could think of.)

My blog topic for more than two months has been my journey to fitness, and I know this bores some people. Heck, it would bore me if I were reading someone else’s blog about the same topic for weeks on end. Especially a topic that involves exercise, humidity and profuse sweating.

And, I have to admit, it’s been a little harder to stay accountable lately, possibly because I haven’t been writing about it. At each of the past two Friday weigh-ins at work, I’ve seen less than a 1-pound loss. But at least that means I haven’t gained, and I couldn’t say that before the “Going public” post. (For the record, at the last weigh-in I was at 187.8 pounds; that’s an 18.6 pound loss.)

I’ve been doing more exercising lately (seven days a week instead of three or four), so that should mean 1-2 pounds a week, but the past couple of weeks I was really hungry and ate more than I had been. I have healthy snacks at work, but my dinners have been difficult on the nights we do our 5K workouts. Some nights I just have a bowl of cereal because making a salad takes too much time and effort.

I’ve been taking it easy on my foot since the May 7 emergency room visit, and I have made my right knee worse by favoring my left foot. So I’m kind of schizo about my workouts. One day I decide I’ll just walk; the next I decide I have to do some jogging. Thursday night I ran the Lyon College course as though I were running it on race day (July 9, the Army National Guard 5K, which I finally decided I was healthy enough to enter – after discussing with Coach Bruce the advantages and disadvantages; funny, I don’t remember the disadvantages).

Saturday we did a timed Magic Mile because we hadn’t done one since the last week of the women’s running clinic. Between May 3 and June 25, I shaved 4 seconds off my mile, despite my bum foot and knee. As Bruce noted when he posted our times on his blog, we were running in more heat and humidity this time, too. Rah!

So, really, running on a foot with a pretty significant case of plantar fasciitis hasn’t slowed me down as much as I thought it had. And taking the 17 days off after the ER visit doesn’t seem to have made much difference, either. I’ve just learned to run with pain. I think the humidity has had more to do with my pace than the injuries. As for my knee, I plan to have that seen about soon. Because I’ve had this knee problem for a couple of years (it has just gotten worse since I started running again a few months ago, and still worse since I injured my foot), I have this fear that my insurance company is going to call it a pre-existing condition and I’m waiting for the one-year waiting period to be up (I got on my new employer’s insurance plan July 1). We’re still paying for Bruce’s “pre-existing condition” claim denial for the colonoscopy last summer (don’t get me started). Fortunately the hospital is giving us a year to pay for that portion; we have managed to pay off the doctor’s part. The total bill was about $3,500, so we’re careful not to do anything stupid like go to my annual cardiologist appointment – or have a doctor look at my knee – until after July 1.

And now I’ve made that “pre-existing” condition public. I hope no one from my insurer is reading this. It’s fortunate I have only three readers. 🙂

My time lately has been spent working, running, editing (and sometimes writing) the church blog, trying not to go off the deep end with my food choices, and making feeble attempts to spend time with my mom, who lives half a mile away but doesn’t see us as often as she should (our fault, not hers). But in about six weeks our Biggest Loser competition at work will be over, and I won’t be wogging (walking/jogging) seven to nine times a week. (Yes, that may seem extreme, but I don’t work out that hard each time – just Tuesday and Thursday evenings with the group.)

And I got new running shoes yesterday. I needed more stability to help correct problems I didn’t realize I had until recently. Who knew I had high arches and I overpronated with my right foot? (Actually, Bruce noticed the overpronation recently, but it had taken us a few weeks to find the correct shoe.)

Aches, pains, grunts and crunchy knees. Getting old is not for sissies.

I’m going back to bed.

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Just checking in

I am still alive. I’ve just been busy – and tired.

My week has been a bit difficult, foodwise. I have strayed off the path a bit – not too much, just enough to make me a little annoyed at myself. Stress will do that.

Tonight I wanted to write a longer post here but had to write my Thursday post for the Connect+Scripture blog at my church, then edit the Friday morning post and get it ready to publish. This is time consuming, and, even though I love Connect+Scripture, it sometimes causes me to neglect other things I need to do (such as sleep).

Last week’s weigh-in at work had me close to my 20-pound goal. I’m rethinking my reward. Instead of sandals, I’m considering a chin-up bar that will hang in the doorway (I need to work on my flabby arms). Or getting a replacement for my favorite necklace, which I lost nearly three weeks ago (ironically, because of the Biggest Loser contest! It was in my purse instead of on my person in the minutes leading up to the weigh-in, and it fell out somewhere along the way). But I may save the necklace for my 40-pound reward; it costs nearly $40, and the chin-up bar is $18. On the other hand, I may have to make my rewards ones that don’t cost money; we’re still trying to sell our house in North Little Rock, so pennies are still being pinched around here.

I’m so tired tonight I’m bordering on incoherent, so I’m going to sign off and crawl into bed with the very good book that I’m reading.

Good night, sweet friends.

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These mountains that they call hills

“Well, we’re stuck here in these hills that they call mountains.”

– Lyrics from Meet Me in Montana

Let’s begin with a summary of a few facts, some established in previous posts and some new:

  • Runners are crazy.
  • I have become one of them.
  • Some people talk to God while they run. My friend Stacy uses her time to listen to praise music and pray. I told her the only praying I can manage when I run is, “God, please don’t let me collapse and die.” (He seems to be listening.)
  • Bruce and I participated in the 10-week women’s running clinic – as trainer and participant, respectively – that culminated in a 5k race in Conway on May 7.
  • Some of the ladies from the women’s clinic “caught the running bug” and wanted to continue after the clinic ended; Bruce agreed to be our coach. We’ve been running the routes of some of the upcoming races.
  • The group is composed of a handful of members of the women’s clinic, the Run for God Bible study and the White River Road Runners. Bruce and I are members of all three, and our hybrid group has become a tight-knit little family unit because of our common goals.
  • Wog means walk/jog. That’s a term used by our Run for God teacher, Phyllis. (For me, running and jogging are interchangeable terms, although they might not be to “serious runners.”)
  • We’ve taken on a mantra: “I love hills … I love hills.” This came out of watching a video at our May 5 prerace pasta party. The young woman in the video completed a marathon, all the while smiling and repeating, “I love hills.” For our group, it started as a joke but has become a mental tool to fool ourselves keep one another motivated.
  • Bruce refers to most hills as “bumps.” But it is a proven fact that Bruce is insane, so no further comment is necessary, except this: He changed his tune slightly after we ran the Army National Guard 5k route Tuesday night in 92-degree heat and 1,000 percent humidity. Now he admits some hills are closer to “humps.”
  • Since I injured my foot, I have been doing more walking than jogging. This leaves enough oxygen in my brain to write blog posts while I walk (although I was running while I wrote my New Year’s Day post – much of it while climbing the hill pictured above).

So … on to these mountains they call hills.

Bruce and I moved here from North Little Rock. From the Park Hill neighborhood. From a street called Cherry Hill. There are plenty of hills in North Little Rock. Now we live in Batesville, home of plenty of hills.

The point is, we know hills.

Until this week, our group had been training on the White River 4-Mile Classic route, which starts and ends downtown on Main Street. The race route is now clockwise, and this is a good thing. When Bruce and I ran the Classic in 2001 and 2002, it was counterclockwise, and the start and finish were both uphill (previously established fact: Ending a road race uphill should be a felony).

The race route isn’t merely a reverse of the old course. It’s now strictly downtown and around west Batesville. This keeps runners off the busy U.S. highway. And, in keeping with future federal statutes (I can dream, can’t I?), both the beginning and the end are downhill.

The hilliest parts are in the neighborhood where my brother and mother’s houses are, so I had wogged those streets many times before we started training for the 4-mile.

Here’s the part I find ironic: The hilliest hill (the one we hate [and by that of course I mean “love,” because we love hills!], the one where I wrote a chunk of my New Year’s Day post) isn’t Hill Street, and it isn’t North Heights. It’s the street that’s difficult going up and going down (it’s hard on your lungs and calves going up, hard on your knees and your sore toe going down). This hill is not a hill to take lightly. It’s not the steepest hill in the neighborhood, but it’s longer – a relentless incline. It’s one where you do some serious talking to Jesus before you reach the top, and then you thank Him when you get there.

But, no, the hill is not North Heights or Hill Street – it’s the hill that connects the hills. It’s Craig Street.

I have renamed it Craig Mountain.

Our pastor in North Little Rock is a mountain climber. He takes church groups to climb Colorado’s “fourteeners” (mountains of at least 14,000 feet), and I believe he has now climbed all 53 of them. Bruce and I went with him in 2001 and climbed the sixth-highest, Uncompahgre.

To say Craig Loibner likes to climb mountains is like saying that I “like” chocolate. It is a huge understatement. His entire family is into this mountain-climbing thing – wife, children, grandchildren, in-laws, outlaws. It seems to be in his blood. It’s one of the many gifts God has given him.

Craig not only is an outdoorsman, he is a gifted teacher, and he doesn’t waste a good gift by going to Colorado merely to climb mountains and sit by the campfire telling stories. He uses each trip, each mountaintop experience, as a teaching tool. He has dedicated his life to teaching others about God, and he is building a legacy.

There’s no telling how many people, young and old, have gone on to do the same because of Craig’s commitment to sharing the good news of Jesus. I could never list for you all the things he taught me in the 16 years I attended Fellowship North, but it would include the ability to take on mountains, both physical and spiritual. (After all, without the hills, we wouldn’t appreciate the flats.)

Bruce and I have loved Craig Loibner and his family for many years. I say a prayer for them every time I traverse that hill … or hump … or mountain.

Craig Loibner would look at Craig Mountain and laugh. For me, it’s a mountain. For him, it would be a mere bump in the journey. He wouldn’t break a sweat.

And thus I dedicate my wogs on this little mountain they call a hill … to Craig and his family.

I'll let you know when the city gets the sign changed.
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Glimpses of light

Some days I want to reach my weight-loss goal now.

Some days are easier than others in “sticking with the program.” One of my stated goals in this journey, however, was to encourage others to make positive changes in their lives, too.

God gives me glimpses of light in small slivers sometimes. Today He gave me this glimpse, one I have seen in other areas of my life but hadn’t associated with my physical-fitness journey until now: If I lost all the weight I needed to lose as fast as I wanted to lose it, I wouldn’t learn nearly as much as He wants to teach me along the way. (And how physically unhealthy would that be? We’re not even gonna go there.)

I’m trying to get a healthy-workplace team established at the bank where I work, partly because I need a community of fellow sojourners to help me stay motivated, and partly because I want to be an encourager to others. This, too, will take time, and I’m okay with that.

At the rate I’m losing weight – about a pound a week – I will reach the 160-pound mark (goal weight, not pounds lost) on Feb. 10, 2012. Lots could happen along the way. I could get injured (oh, yeah, I already did!), I could get sick, I could lose my focus and veer off the path (for the umpteenth time). Heck, I could even change my goals. All sorts of things could happen to sidetrack me. No one knows the future, so I’m trying not to take that February date too seriously. I’m trying to learn as I go, gaining insight as I lose inches.

A few years ago, when my previous church set a God-sized goal to pay off $1.2 million of facility debt in 15 months, one of the members of a small-group study I was leading expressed skepticism (or, dare I say, cynicism). Among other things, he thought the church was setting its sights too high and asking its members to sacrifice too much. I urged him to consider what God was going to teach us in those 15 months. It was an exciting, encouraging time for our congregation, and so many wonderful stories came out of it. The last Sunday morning of December (15 months after we started), a relatively small last-minute donation (just after the church service ended) helped push us past our goal. Needless to say, we had a huge celebration.

God did teach us a lot that year. He taught many of us ways we could sacrifice, big and small, that didn’t necessarily cost us a penny: Maybe we raised money by doing something good in the community. Maybe we taught our kids that the family’s weekly movie night could mean watching a DVD and popping our own corn instead of piling into the car and spending big bucks at the theater. Maybe it meant not spending 4 bucks on a cup of coffee at a retail store every morning (and perhaps realizing we needed to give up the habit, anyway), then keeping tabs on what we were saving and dropping it into the offering plate come Sunday morning. Or maybe it did mean shelling out money – but the emphasis was on giving, not spending. And maybe some of us hadn’t been giving anything to God but started doing so during this emphasis on living beyond ourselves. Many of us learned the true meaning of sacrifice and obedience that year.

And if we had not experienced that 15 months as a community – the body of Christ – we wouldn’t have learned nearly as much about God, about ourselves and about our capacity for giving, and trusting. And we wouldn’t have the stories we members and former members still tell about that time in the life of our church.

So this journey I’m on – the one revolving around getting a healthier body – it’s not just about me. If you’ve been reading my posts these past two months, you know it often seems as though it’s all about me, but it isn’t. God gave us each other and told us to help one another along in the journey of life. It’s not just about me.

The Father  gives me glimpses of light when I keep the eyes of my heart open. Sometimes He has to pry them open, and sometimes I open them just enough to see what He’s teaching me.

Today my eyes opened just a slit, and I think I got what He was trying to tell me.

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Sticks and stones

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

This children’s rhyme has been around a long time. How true it is depends largely on the individual. It depends on how strong you are, how resilient in the face of taunts, ridicule and discouragement, how grounded you are in the truth of this:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

It takes a strong person to let crass, crude or careless comments roll off her back. Even when the speaker is “merely” careless – and perhaps would take back that unintentionally hurtful comment as soon as it hit the airwaves, if she could – words can and do hurt. We must take care with our own words and the words spoken to us by others. We can’t control what others say or think about us; we can only control our own words and our reactions to others’. And we can control what we say and think about ourselves.

The only way I can do it is to be grounded daily in the truth of Jesus.

I’m not always good at it. It’s easy to get sidetracked in the busyness of life, forget His words – which give life (John 6:68) – and let the meanness of the world sneak up behind me, spin me around and smack my fragile ego in the face.

What’s worse than letting others talk smack about me is when I do it to myself.

In controlling our words, it is not just about what we say to others. I would submit that we speak much more devastating words to ourselves, in the privacy of our own minds, than we ever would dare utter to another person.

I won’t give you my personal hit list – I’ll let you use your imagination, because you probably have a  list of your own. But there are words and phrases we women have in common, particularly when we’re focusing on our bodies and losing weight (and, let’s be honest, when are we not focusing on our bodies?). Some of them we say in the presence of others, and some we say to ourselves (either silently or aloud).

We were bad because we fell off the wagon. We cheated and don’t deserve good things. This evil food must be avoided. We have fat thighs, stomachs, hips. We will never succeed. We always mess up! We’re stupid for even thinking we could do this. (OK, so some of these are on my personal list.)

We even have special phrases for (supposedly) getting ourselves to abstain from a particularly delicious yet fattening food.

“A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.”

“Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” (Whoever came up with that one must hate dark chocolate, and garlic bread, and key lime pie …)

“No pain, no gain.” (Usually used in reference to exercise – and it’s literally true, to a point. But it has been used in dieting, too, although the hoped-for “gain” is actually a loss.)

At some point in a person’s journey to wholeness, the words and phrases made up by desperate dieters start sounding hollow. I realize that a pithy phrase can capture the spirit of the moment and create a new way of looking at things. Some of them have even helped me, and will help me in the future. (I’m partial to Garfield the cat’s line, “Diet is Die with a T.”) But relying on man’s wisdom (and my own off-kilter way of looking at things) is what got me to where I am: a lumpy, out-of-shape mess who has three sizes of clothing in her closet. By the grace of God, I haven’t resorted to some of the crazy things others have tried: diet pills, laxatives, colonics (if you don’t know, don’t ask), starvation, intentional vomiting. But I have said lots of crazy, unkind, untrue things to myself.

Bottom line: Grounding ourselves in the truth of Jesus and letting Him be our strength is the only way to wholeness.

Over the years I have come to cherish these words of the apostle Paul:

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV).

Paul had more than his share of hardships, persecutions and insults. In these verses, he isn’t telling us to go looking for insults, but if we know Whose we are, we can take anything the world hurls at us.

Just don’t let yourself be the one doing the hurling.

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Yes, you can

My weight-loss spreadsheet is looking good now. I finally got all the formulas fixed and have updated all the projected pounds lost, so I have a pretty concrete date for reaching my approximate goal weight of 160 pounds (Feb. 10, 2012 – just in time for Valentine’s chocolate!). This is assuming I work hard and stick to the program.

I’ve had a few days of overindulging (my Indulge Friday wasn’t confined to Friday last week), although I didn’t go too overboard. But I decided that 0.6 pounds a week was a wimpy, cheater goal, and I’m going to go for it and make the weekly goal a full pound.

I’m also rethinking my Indulge Fridays. Still pondering that. I may change it to one indulgent meal a week rather than an entire day. I don’t want to get too stringent, but I had fattening meals three days in a row last week and am feeling yucky about it, mentally. (Wednesday I ate a burger and fries because I forgot that the Business & Professionals lunch at First Baptist on Thursday was going to have the awesome homemade chicken pot pie, then there was Friday night’s mac-and-cheese extravaganza).

I’m a bit frustrated that my foot hasn’t healed enough to get on the road again (did I really think it would heal in two weeks? No. Yes!) I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but I’m anxious to get out there and run again. I guess the running bug bit me hard, once my body got over the initial shock of exercising again after such a long period of lethargy.

I’m doing stretching exercises with both feet, and today I stuck a fluffy pink house-shoe on my left foot inside the boot so that I could have a bit of arch support and some cushioning. The bottom inside of the boot is totally flat (and hard), and I definitely need arch support. I’m thinking of taking my workout gear to the office and trying out the recumbent bike in the basement. I’ve been on it a couple of times recently and really prefer the treadmill, but my foot just can’t handle the pounding right now.

Part of the reason I’m so antsy is that it’s so difficult for me to build lung capacity (I have issues), and I don’t want to lose the progress I made in the 10 weeks of the Women Can Run clinic. My lungs are a bigger deal than my legs when it comes to building endurance. If I’m off too long, I’ll get lazy and get out of the habit of running. So I just want this foot to heal!

Tonight we had our first Run for God Bible study. It’s a 12-week program for all levels of runner, beginning to advanced. It is designed not only to train participants for a 5k race but to help them get better at sharing their faith.

Tonight our class began with a video, the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt. So now that you’ve listened to me whine about my food and my foot, click on either (or both) of the videos below and you’ll see what a big baby I am in comparison to this father-and-son team. Their message: Yes, you can.

The first one is the video we saw in class, followed by another version of their story (there are many) that I found on YouTube. The first one is visually moving because of the images, and the wonderful song adds to the drama; this video will make you grab for the box of tissues. I like the second one because there is more than just music; Dick Hoyt tells the story of his son’s life and why they “run” together.

If their story doesn’t move you, your gears are stuck.

I Can Only Imagine

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GphmdhLMGE&feature=related

(Note: Richard Holcomb, the guy at the beginning of the next video, has nothing to do with the Hoyts’ story. The two stories are apparently part of a TV news feature or maybe a documentary.)

Yes, You Can

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Patience: I want it NOW!

In Wednesday’s post, I wrote about how we’ve become afraid to celebrate with rich foods. (You’ll notice that more than once I included the phrase “in moderation.”)

Today I tip the scale in the other direction, to the topic of overindulgence.

I don’t have to tell you that overindulgence is what has got us into this obesity mess we’re in. Most of the time our problem isn’t that we’re afraid to eat but that we eat way too much, especially of the wrong things.

No one’s saying you need to eat celery sticks and rice cakes every day, perform death-defying feats of aerobic activity, weigh 98 pounds (unless you’re under 5 feet tall) or gag every time you look at your thighs in a mirror.

Some women try those things and end up anorexic, bulimic, institutionalized – or dead.

The key to healthy living – as with most things in life – is moderation. Balance. Patience.

(I write this as I finish scarfing down a huge bowl of macaroni and cheese, but please remember that today is Indulge Friday for me – the to heck with sensible eating day I allow myself every week.)

This morning at work I wrote a couple of things on a little scrap of paper:

•       “Don’t eat stuff you don’t fully enjoy just because it’s there. And certainly don’t eat a big serving of it!” I wrote this after eating a little heart-shaped cake with lemon icing that I found in the break room. (I think the two big boxes of mini-cakes were left over from last night’s wedding shower.) Not until I was finished eating did I realize that A) those “little” cakes were really about 1 1/2 to 2 serving sizes, and B) I was satisfied about halfway through but didn’t notice until I was finished because I was busy thumbing through a stack of magazines someone had left on the table. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about food, it’s that you should pay attention to it while you’re consuming it; otherwise you’ll eat way more than you intended and you won’t receive pleasure from it. (Studies bear this out.) It’s what my friend Sheila and I call “mindful eating.”

•       “Don’t fool yourself into thinking a little bit of exercise (or self-restraint with food) won’t help.” We tend to think it’s all or nothing. But, just as I believe that one person can make a difference in whatever world-changing pursuit you’re passionate about, one step at a time is what it takes to make meaningful, long-lasting changes to your body, your mind and your life. Baby steps. And patience. It will happen.

Patience is the P in Bruce’s acronym for being a good runner: BEEP (balance, efficiency, effort, patience).

Today I was tweaking my Biggest Loser spreadsheet and projecting my future weight loss (I update it after every weigh-in). For some reason I’ve been using 0.6 pounds as my projection standard, although some weeks I lose a whole pound, some weeks it’s 0.8 and some weeks more than a pound. (Someday I’ll post my actual numbers for you to see. And I will be happy to e-mail you the spreadsheet so you can customize it for yourself – I’ve set it up to do the math for you.)

So, if I stay on track with the arbitrarily chosen 0.6 pounds a week, it’s going to be mid-July before I reach the 20-pound mark (and buy my cute little reward shoes)!

That is annoying as heck, but it is sensible. And patient. (I could get on my soapbox and rant about the rapid-weight-loss products advertised on TV and in magazines, but I hope you know how dangerous, unrealistic and temporary they are without my having to tell you. I will spare you the rant. Unless you believe the advertising, in which case you need a good rant.)

Losing a pound a week wouldn’t be unrealistic, but I also know this about myself: If I set a weight-loss goal too high and miss the mark too often, I’ll get discouraged and be more likely to veer off course. I’d rather set it at 0.6, take it slowly and ease into the habits I’ve been practicing. Slow is better than fast when it comes to changing your body composition (Suzy’s Scientific Opinion No. 969, not necessarily endorsed by the medical community).

This journey is a marathon, not a sprint.

Be kind to yourself. Take it slowly. Realize that, if you’re overweight and out of shape, you didn’t get into this condition overnight and you won’t get out of it overnight. If you do, you’re doing it wrong. Call me, and I’ll rant at you.

In a future post: using positive words – about food and about ourselves.

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