working out what life and call and prayer and silence are all about

Archive for September, 2013

Feeling Better

I just lost weight without trying. As I type that, I’m flabbergasted myself. Who does that? Born-skinny models with over-the-top metabolisms? That’s never been me. I was born chubby, wore “husky” fit jeans as a child, and started dieting when I was 11. I found my mom’s old diet books in her closet and realized I was just following in her footsteps. It was my destiny.

I’ve always loved exercising. I loved swimming, I had a great time in gymnastics, and I fell right into the step aerobics craze of the 80’s when I hit my teen years. Burning calories was never my problem. It was consuming calories I’ve always had to work on. Eating has always been my comfort, my solace, my calming activity. Whatever the drama or crisis in my life, snacking was the answer. And so every time I went on a “diet” and controlled my snacking, I would lose weight. But when the next big crisis came along, the weight always returned.

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The last big crisis in my life was my mom’s death. Two years ago I got a phone call at 7:30 in the morning and my world shifted. In the days and months afterward I was a zombie. I showed up at work, I got my kid to school, but I wasn’t really there. I was mostly on the couch, snacking my sorrow away. And the weight piled on. As I began to emerge from my grief haze, I tried to make small changes in my eating habits and I made an effort to get back to the gym. But the weight wouldn’t budge. I wondered if I was just stuck with the extra pounds. And at some point, I decided I had better things to worry about. I wasn’t going to try to “lose weight.” I was going to appreciate being alive and being able to run and swim and bike and play with my son.

As my focus shifted to appreciating my body for what it was, I began to long for my body to feel better than it did. I got tired of feeling bloated after overindulging on sweets. I got tired of feeling sluggish after eating a breakfast with no nutrients. I wanted to have more energy for my long days of ministry and mothering. I wanted to have more strength for my bike rides up and down these hills (mountains!) in Flagstaff. I wanted more.

So I started paying attention to how my body felt after eating different foods. Days with salads and grilled meats were high energy days. Days with processed carbs and snacks eaten on the go were foggy, sluggish days. And so I began to choose what made my body feel better. It also helped that I was paying attention to my heart, as well. Spending more and more time in silence and in contemplation gave me a deeper awareness of what my heart needed. And I began to manage crises without turning to food.

And then one day I woke up and my pants didn’t fit. I hadn’t noticed it, but I was losing weight because of the choices I was making. My mind immediately went to that “diet” place and I started to lay out a plan for continuing my “weight loss.” But then I stopped myself. I wasn’t in this to “lose weight.” I was in this to feel better. So I didn’t need a plan. I needed to keep making choices that made my body feel better.

It’s been a few months since I first noticed the difference in my clothes. And I’ve had to go down a couple of sizes to find clothes that fit. That’s a good feeling. But you know what feels better? Feeling better every day, because I’m making choices for my body that feel better. Who knew the secret to “weight loss” was giving up, and feeling better?

 

Inspired

I’ve been following the news of Diana Nyad, the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. At age 64, she finally completed a task she had first attempted 35 years ago. When she came out of the water, she bravely advised, “You’re never too old to chase your dreams.” Apparently, there are some in the marathon swimming community who doubt that she completed the distance without “cheating,” ie, getting into a boat to rest at some point, drafting on the current created by the boat in front of her. No matter what the investigations reveal, I’m still amazed.

Swimming is an incredibly difficult activity. It works all of the muscles in your body. When you get tired, the hardest thing to do is what you need to do the most: breathe. You’re surrounded by a substance that can overtake you and end your life in a matter of minutes. And yet you depend on that substance to hold you up and perhaps, even propel you forward.

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I became a swimmer at an early age, growing up in a condominium community with a pool. I loved spending every day in the summer playing in the water with friends, seeing how many crazy dives we could invent, screaming “Marco!” and “Polo!” at the top of our lungs. The water made us silly and carefree and empowered us to do things we couldn’t do on land (2-minute-long handstand, anyone?)

But more than that, I saw that the water could transform you. My mom had MS and as a child, I saw her struggle each day to put one foot in front of the other. Eventually, she began using a motorized wheelchair to travel long distances, and that included getting her down to the pool. My mom loved to swim like I did. And as MS began ravaging her body, taking away her mobility, she fought back in the water. Her upper body was still strong, and when she slid into the water, she was powerful, a machine. She would crank out laps like it was her job. Pulling her useless legs through the water, I saw my mom become a force to be reckoned with. The water gave her life.

Life is full of barriers. Diana Nyad apparently never let those roadblocks distract her from her goal. She learned from her experience and kept moving forward. The endurance swimmer in my life never let roadblocks hold her back, either. My mom kept moving, using the water as her ally, never giving up. So on the days when the world is throwing up roadblock after roadblock, I remember my mom, slicing through the water, smooth and powerful. And I know that nothing can keep me down for long. The water (of baptism) gives me life.

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