Tag Archives: body image

6 Months Postpartum

10 Oct

I feel like 6 months postpartum deserves an update. So here’s how things are going:

Physical Recovery

Taking into account the fact that I am a lot less active now than I was pre-pregnancy, I feel like I can say that I am more or less back to normal. Update on a few weird side effects of pregnancy that I haven’t talked about before (because I forgot to!):

  • My arms used to go numb really easily, but that has gone away.
  • My knees used to really hurt whenever I squatted/sat down, but I realized this was from squatting/lunging weird while holding a baby upright. I’m trying to lunge/squat properly now.
  • I couldn’t lay on my left side without my stomach hurting. This has gotten better, though it hasn’t completely disappeared.
  • I still have the linea negra, but it’s fading slowly.

My face acne has gotten a lot better, and I’m guessing that the difference now from pre-pregnancy is that I’m no longer on a birth control pill that contains estrogen. Boo on acne at age 30!

I’ve been sleeping enough hours at night for long enough now that I feel like a normal human being almost always, so that has been nice. I still LOVE when it’s time for bed though! If it weren’t for my current obsession with How I Met Your Mother on Netflix, I would go to bed at the same time Emma does.

Body Weight / Image

3and6monthspostpartum

I got on the scale yesterday morning and surprisingly, it read only about 1.5 lbs above my pre-pregnancy weight. But when I got pregnant, I was in marathon shape. I was muscular. So it’s not really comparing apples and apples to say I’m back to that weight. But it’s something! And I can fit into more and more of my pre-pregnancy clothes as the months go by. I have realized, though, that a lot of my shirts from then were short-ish and tight, so I’m not sure if I’ll ever wear them again. Some shirts and dresses still don’t fit over the milk-makers. I now buy shirts in size Large. It doesn’t bother me, but it just wasn’t something I expected. I did expect my feet to grow, but they didn’t. I’m still the same size there (which I appreciate because I hate shoe shopping!).

In my 12 Weeks Postpartum post, I talked about wanting to eat better. Hmm… that has gotten slightly better, though it still definitely needs improvement. Before I got pregnant, I was good about balance. If I wanted a glass of wine, I’d skip the chocolate. If we were eating out for dinner, I’d have a healthy lunch. But ever since pregnancy gave me (almost) free rein, I let myself have wine, chocolate AND a big dinner. It’s so hard to say no! (And yes, breastfeeding does give me a LITTLE more leeway than normal but not that much!)

I haven’t gotten back into exercise as much as I had been hoping to, but now that Emma can go to the gym childcare, I’m excited to start going to classes and stuff again! I miss feeling active and fit. The whole moving to Minnesota thing has kind of thrown my plans for a half marathon up into the air, but I’m going to start training in November anyway. I need a goal. I think I’ll try to do a 10K in December too.

But overall, in regards to body weight and image, I really feel very comfortable with where I’m at right now. I mean, as long as I don’t have to wear a bikini ever again anytime soon.

Emotional

I’ll admit that it took me a LONG time to adjust to being a mom. I had a hard time giving up my freedom and rest – not being able to run errands when I wanted, train for races, veg on the couch at night, go on trips we’ve always talked about, cook dinner, read a book, spend time with hubby alone or sleep a full 8 hours. Slowly, I have found ways to still include these things in my life. I can plan meals during her nap. I do laundry while she bounces in her jumperoo. We run errands together when Emma is awake. (Again I say, things have gotten so much easier as Emma has gotten older! I couldn’t put her down for the first 2 months of her life due to her feeding issues.)

But still, some days, Emma demands it all. I don’t have either the time or energy to get everything done. So I’ve learned PRIORITIES. I choose 2-3 things that need to get done and stick to those. This past Monday, it was 1) Take Emma to her 6-month appointment 2) Take Emma’s 6-month pictures and 3) Bring dinner to our friends who just had a baby. I was able to get all of that done on Monday, but some days, even that doesn’t happen. My post about learning to let things go has been a great reminder to me about trusting God with my to-do list. He’s got it under control, so I don’t have to.

I loved Emma since the moment she was born, but having a new baby was so challenging that I didn’t feel love for her a lot of the time. In the past month or so, though, God has graciously made my heart overflow with love for Emma. It’s now a treat when I can rock her to sleep, and just stare at her little face. I love hugging her, kissing her face, and listening to her coo and shriek in her own little way. I look forward to picking her up after being at work all day. (Though nights without Travis home still intimidate me.)

Our trip to Minnesota a couple weeks ago reminded me of how hard those first 2 months were. No wonder I felt so overwhelmed and discouraged! Having a baby who cries a lot and refuses to be put down is HARD. It’s hard to enjoy your baby and new role as a mom in the midst of that. And that’s where I was until Emma was about 5 months.

I’m finally at a place where I enjoy being a mom (most days). I’m still looking forward to being able to do more things with Emma, like go to the playground, museum, library, movies, etc. but she’s learning and engaging with new things everyday, which is fun. I have also really enjoyed being back at work part-time. It does make life a little bit crazier, but it helps me really enjoy the days I am at home with Emma.

6 Weeks Postpartum

22 May

This past Monday, I had my 6-week postpartum checkup. Everything looks good and I’ve been officially cleared for exercise. Yay!

At 6 weeks postpartum, here’s how things are going…

Physical Recovery

The weird tightness in my upper abdominal muscles is now officially gone. My abs are still fairly weak, though all the bouncing on the exercise ball that I’ve been doing to calm Emma down has helped to regain some of my core strength. I could notice a difference during the 2 runs I went on this week.

Yep, I went on 2 runs this week! Emma has been sleeping better at night (more on that in Emma’s 7 week update) so that has allowed me to go running in the morning instead of catching up on sleep. I thought about doing the Couch to 5K program but it seemed to be a little bit more conservative than I’d like. So I’m just doing my own thing. I covered 1.5 miles in 20 minutes on Monday and 2 miles in 30 minutes today, doing run/walk intervals. I mostly ran because I’ve missed it so much, but I know I need to listen to my body and walk when my legs feel tired or tight. Don’t want any injuries!

This week is the first that I’ve really been back at it with exercise. After that initial run at 12 days postpartum, Emma started getting really fussy and workouts fell very low on the priority list. I tried to get out on walks as much as Emma and my energy levels would allow, but that wasn’t very often. I’m glad that things are turning around now!

Body Weight / Image

I have about 7-8 pounds to go before hitting my pre-pregnancy weight. I’m trying to transition out of wearing maternity clothes but it has been hard. My boobs have grown so much from breastfeeding and my stomach is still ’round’ enough that I’d say about 75% of my pre-pregnancy shirts don’t fit – they’re either too short or too tight. About 90% of my pre-pregnancy pants, shorts and skirts don’t fit, also due to the stomach. I have been able to fit into a few things again (though not without causing major muffin top action) and I bought a few new things from the thrift store that fit me better. But overall, this is still an extremely frustrating part of being postpartum.

postpartum_comparison_2Maternity jeans on the left, pre-pregnancy jeans on the right

As a person who loves fitness and feeling in shape, it’s hard to be comfortable in my own skin when I feel so flabby and blah. I know that my body will never be exactly the same again but I’m looking forward to the day when I get to a place where I like how I feel and look again. I know that having clothes that fit will help me feel better, so I’m hoping to go shopping again in the next couple of weeks.

I also know that I need to be better about my eating habits. When we had family out here visiting after Emma was born, we ate pretty well-balanced, healthy meals. But when it’s just me and Travis, convenience is king – which means a lot more processed foods like frozen waffles, deli meat, cereal, etc. Being dairy and soy free really limits what I can eat (and drives up our grocery bill!) and I’ve found myself eating a lot of carb-heavy snacks/meals, like Rudi’s whole wheat toast with Earth Balance spread and raspberry preserves. Not horrible, but that kind of thing shouldn’t be the mainstay of my diet. Instead of relying on processed, expensive convenience foods, I need to be more intentional about eating whole foods – fruits, vegetables, legumes, meat and nuts. They’re cheaper and healthier.

Emotional

My emotions are still a rollercoaster, but a bit more intense than when I posted my postpartum update at 2.5 weeks. They vary from day to day, morning to night, hour to hour. Not surprisingly, they are heavily influenced by how much Emma is crying and sleeping. When Emma is minimally fussy, easily comforted, and sleeping for 3-5 hours at a stretch, it’s a lot easier for me to feel hopeful and enjoy this season than when she is crying inconsolably, refuses to sleep and wakes up after 20 minutes. Then I feel a ball of despair wedge itself in my throat and my minds fills with lots of untrue, very unhelpful thoughts, and I wonder how anyone has ever enjoyed being a parent.

It is because of God’s sustaining grace that I haven’t given up. He provides grace in little ways each day: Emma finally going to sleep when I thought I couldn’t possibly shush or bounce anymore. Emma staying asleep when I thought for sure she had woken up as I put her down and left the room in a huff (which happened last night). Travis and I working as a team to figure out how to do the things we enjoy doing while taking care of a colicky baby. Emma sleeping so well in the baby carrier that we can still do stuff – like clean, grocery shop, go on walks – even when she demands to be held.

I’ve called to mind these evidences of grace whenever I’ve been tempted to dive back into self-pity and discouragement. God does see, and He is actively providing for us. He may not be taking the situation away completely, but He is being faithful in the midst of it. And that has to be enough for me – because joy comes from accepting what He allows, not from demanding what I want. (So easy to say, but so very hard to do!)

Anyway, things are slowly getting better – if anything, Travis and I are learning to deal with the situation better, even if Emma is still quite fussy. That’s something!

2.5 Weeks Postpartum

25 Apr

It’s been 2.5 weeks since I gave birth to our little Biscuit. Here’s how things have been going…

Physical Recovery

The physical recovery process has been a lot easier than I expected. The thing I was most scared about was tearing during birth and having stitches and lots of blood to deal with for weeks afterward. Well, it really wasn’t that bad.   Even though I had stitches for a second degree tear and they were pretty uncomfortable for several days that first week (causing me to sit down very daintily and lean to one side), that was the worst of it. I used all of the supplies from the hospital for the first week and a half or so – a water bottle to rinse with, witch hazel pads, hydro-cortisone cream, benzicane spray. Now, the bleeding has stopped, my stitches have dissolved and I feel *almost* completely normal in that regard.

Another uncomfortable aspect of recovery was the after-pains of my uterus shrinking. It wasn’t that painful – it just felt like mild period cramps, which I found more annoying and uncomfortable. But then, after going through labor, my pain scale might be a little bit skewed.

What has surprised me most, though, has been how having absolutely no ab muscles has affected me. When I was still in the hospital, Travis and I tried to take a walk so I could get out of the room but I had this horrible pain/tightness in my chest right under my rib cage. It wasn’t hard to breathe – it just felt tight. I also had a hard time standing up for an extended period of time. That continued for the next couple of weeks – when we went to Target with my parents, I had to sit down in the garbage can aisle while we debated which one to get.  At first, I thought it was a lung issue but my mom suggested that it was muscular. Now that it’s gotten a lot better (and is pretty much gone), I have to agree with her. I’ll do a separate post about exercise and what a joke my abs are. 😉

Body Image / Weight

By the time I got home from the hospital, I was down 10 pounds. By the end of the first week, I was down 15. At 2 weeks postpartum, I was down 20. Now at 2.5 weeks postpartum, I’m down 22 pounds, putting me 13 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. (I weighed myself so often out of curiosity, not obsession.)

postpartum_comparison_1

As my belly has shrunk, I’ve discovered a few more stretch marks on the lower right side. They’re barely noticeable so I’m not too disheartened. I’m in no hurry to bare my belly anyway, since I still have the linea negra – which also extended to the inside of my belly button. It looks pretty strange.

Since most of the weight I gained during pregnancy was in my belly and boobs, I can actually get my pre-pregnancy pants on. But I wouldn’t say they fit – I’m pretty sure the button would fly off if I tried to sit in them, so I’m still wearing all maternity pants. I’m wearing some pre-pregnancy tops, but some still look a little strange/small/short so I’m also still wearing a lot of the tanks and sweaters I wore during pregnancy. And with the limitations of needing to wear something easy to nurse in, it feels like my wardrobe has actually shrunk postpartum, instead of expanding like I thought it would. So getting dressed in real clothes is still rife with frustration this side of pregnancy. So is finding a nursing bra that fits me and is lined so that I don’t have to show everyone the shape of my nursing pads. Seriously, some of the nursing bra designs I’ve seen are completely asinine – like a horizontal seam right across the middle of the cup. In what universe is that a good idea?

On a related note, I was also looking forward to sleeping on my stomach, but my boobs are so full and tender that it’s not even a temptation now. But I have been sleeping on my back, and that has been nice.

In happier news, I can finally wear my wedding ring again and my cankles are finally gone, so my boots also fit (which has been nice considering all the snow we’ve been getting!).

Emotional

The emotional adjustment to motherhood has been like a tame roller coaster – not a wild ride, but with some ups and downs. Breastfeeding has been the hardest part. While I do consider myself very blessed with how breastfeeding has gone so far, it’s still hard to be the only one who can feed Emma. On the days that I’m having a hard time, I feel like all my freedom is gone – I can’t hang out with friends, go to the store, exercise, or even take a nap because just about the time I decide to do one of those things, Emma wakes up because she’s hungry or wants to be held.

I’ve also felt overwhelmed by worries about making the wrong choices now – like, if we let her sleep in her swing every night, is it going to be a battle for months to get her to sleep in her crib? If we give her a pacifier because she wants to suck on something but isn’t hungry, will she still demand it when she’s 3? Then there’s the whole daunting list of things yet to do for developing their cognitive functions and motor skills, etc. I definitely feel under-equipped often.

I think part of the reason things have been hard emotionally is that it’s been snowing so much here that I haven’t been able to (or wanted to, really) get out of the house a ton. But probably the bigger reason is that like usual, I’ve been gritting my teeth to get through this, instead of going to God or Travis for help. Yesterday, I had a great time in the Word and was reminded that God’s grace is sufficient for each day, no matter what the day holds, and that I can let these hard times drive me to God and deepen my communion with Him – because He has said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And with Travis, I just need to let go of my complex to do everything myself, and ask for his help.

I would like to do a separate post about how baby has affected our marriage so far, but I’ll just mention that even though there have been moments of tension when Emma is fussy and crying and we’re both at a loss and frustrated, having a baby has brought us closer together. We work as a team, and I love seeing how Travis loves Emma, and how he seeks to serve me in any way he can. Something I prayed about a lot before Emma came was that I wouldn’t constantly make Travis do things my way, but that I would respect him as a father and decision-maker. I’m happy to say that that hasn’t even been an issue! Perhaps it’s because I’m less confident in my own tactics than I thought I would be, or maybe it’s just because Travis is a wonderful father, but even when Travis does things differently than I would, I don’t feel the need to “correct” him. That’s evidence of God’s grace.

I’ve also noticed that my ability to hope in God’s goodness and faithfulness is directly correlated to how much sleep I get, or what time of day it is. When I’m up at 3 am to feed Emma, it’s a lot harder to trust things will get better than it is at 11 am, when I’ve had my coffee and it’s sunny outside. Because of that, this verse is especially relevant to me right now:

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23)

And I think that about covers it for now!

Keeping the wheels from falling off

28 Mar

Can you believe it’s almost the end of March? And that Easter is only a little more than a week away? Crazy, I tell ya.

Because of that, I thought I’d give another update on how my eating plan for Lent is going. When I first started tracking my food, I realized that my eating was haphazard. I already knew that I did well until about 4 pm and then ate everything in sight. A couple of weeks ago, I said that I was being more mindful of what I eat, but I was still struggling with emotional eating.

Well, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that the wheels still fall off my eating habits around 4 pm, or more specifically, the minute I walk in the door after work. It probably doesn’t help that I plan what I’m going to eat on my drive home…

The problem is two-fold. The main issue is that I come home from work hungry. That is caused by either not bringing substantial enough snacks/lunch to work, or by eating my afternoon snack too soon after lunch, leaving me hungry by the time I go home. This whole ‘figuring out exactly what I will eat for the day at 8 am in the morning’ thing is tricky. Most days, I get it right. Other days, I totally underestimate (I guess I’m optimistic about my willpower early in the morning).

The other issue that causes the wheels to fall off is that I eat while trying to avoid doing what I know I should do. A couple of days this week, I came home from work and just didn’t want to run. While I was hemming and hawing and talking myself into putting my running clothes on already, I had a snack, almost always in the form of refined carbs. The things I crave the most often usually come in the form of cereal and white grains – bread, buns, tortillas. Usually topped with butter. Mmm…

My remedy to these issues is also two-fold. Stop coming home from work hungry and stop stalling by eating. (duh) To actually make these happen, I need to get creative. I’ve tried the whole “I’ll bring a snack for that afternoon slump” and eaten it at 10 am instead, because let’s face it, it’s the best snack I bring. I would totally be up for a salad then (because I’m still in love with salads right now) but my lungs vehemently disagree that a salad is good pre-run fuel. I’ve also thought about bringing a box of granola bars to stash in my office but that could be dangerous…

Anyway, the good news is that beyond my hunger-induced and distraction-providing eating snafus, I’ve been doing pretty well. Some victories: I went to a baby shower last Saturday, a situation which usually causes me to eat more than I should (I don’t know why, but for some reason, I eat more when I’m around people than I would by myself), and left feeling like I had eaten the perfect amount.

Travis wanted ice cream tonight and even though we went to Dairy Queen to get him something, I didn’t have anything because I honestly didn’t feel like ice cream. Funny how some people just naturally would choose that, but other people (like me) have to make that conscious choice – and it feels good.

And this isn’t a victory, per se, but more of an interesting observation. I’ve been keeping track of my calories since starting this journal (but not changing what I eat based on the number – it’s just for recording purposes) and have seen the amazing power of the body to regulate itself. Consider this: the average calorie intake for my “rough” week that involved quite a bit of emotional eating and made me feel gross was 2,398 calories a day. But that week was followed by a week that averaged 2,008 calories a day. The average for a month (2/27 – 3/25) was 2,203 calories a day. So even though I had a “bad” week, by listening to my hunger cues, my body corrected itself. That’s why I think it’s so easy for me to maintain the weight I’m at – it’s my “happy weight”, as they say.

Finally, to lighten up this copy-heavy post, here are some adorable pictures of my pooches:

Charlies likes to chew on blankets (naughty!), and she gets the blanket strands stuck in her floppy lips. It’s hilarious.

And Katy hates getting her picture taken. She refuses to look at the camera.

But she’s still cute.

That’s the blanket that Charlie gets stuck in her lips. It’s actually really cute because she likes to adjust her bed with her mouth. When I see her doing it, I’ll just sit there and watch her. If she sees me watching her, she’ll stop right away, like Crap, she saw me.

Do your pets have any quirky behaviors?

So tired. Need chocolate.

8 Mar

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I was starting a food log as part of the Love to Eat, Hate to Eat book study I’m doing with my church, and as a way to be more mindful of what I eat. I have been faithful in logging my food everyday, even on Tuesday when I was stuck in a meeting in the same freezing room for 12. hours. straight. Well, we did get a few breaks. But it was a looong day. Everyone at work was still exhausted yesterday. I feel mostly recovered. Wowza.

At first, I thought that my eating log wouldn’t be a true representation of my eating habits – wouldn’t knowing I was going to write it all down motivate me to choose wiser than normal? Perhaps it did for the first few days. But just like I can slouch on an exercise ball, I can eat for emotional reasons even if I’m tracking it.

I have been encouraged to see that 85% of my eating is not emotional. Some days I don’t even make one emotional choice. But then I have days like yesterday, when I’m exhausted and grumpy, and I just want sugar, sugar and more sugar, and throw all discipline and control out the window.

The biggest surprise shock has been to actually see how many calories I eat. In the past when I’ve counted calories or tracked my eating, I’ve conveniently ignored the times when I eat a little bit too much, or regret my dinner choice. “The damage is done – I’m moving on” was my mentality.

But if I am really trying to please God with my eating habits, I can’t just ignore the ugly parts. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). So to bring everything into the light, I’ve kept track of everything – the little bites here and there, the candy, the condiments, everything (even Tums!).

During the first week, I counted calories as I wrote my food down. But I could feel the temptation to become obsessed with the numbers and this is supposed to be about gaining insight and not about making changes. So last week, I decided that I’d leave that part off.

This morning, though, I went through my log from last week and tallied it up (mostly out of curiosity). I don’t believe that our bodies operate on a 24-hour schedule like we do, so I am using a 7-day average as the measuring stick. While some days are scary high (pushing 3,000 calories), the weekly averages for both last week and the first week are around 2,190 calories a day. According to this calculator of Daily Calorie Needs for a moderate activity level (I sit around at work but am fairly active otherwise), I’m eating the right amount for my body size and activity level. My scale agrees. I’m still at the same weight I was 2 weeks ago, 2 months ago, and 2 years ago. My body just likes this weight. So while the sticker shock has yet to wear off, I think that I’m feeding my body an appropriate amount.

That leaves me to tackle the whole emotional aspect of my eating habits. I wish it were as easy to solve that issue as it is to tally a bunch of numbers on a piece of paper. But it isn’t. On days like yesterday, when I am so moody and emotional in general, the idea of not eating the delicious-though-they-cost-$1.25 Reese’s peanut butter cups awaiting me in the vending machine makes me want to yell or hit the first person who dares to annoy me. Glorify God? Respect the temple? I. Don’t. Care. 

Even though I don’t have the solution figured out when I’m already in a bad mood, I do have one insight into prevention: SLEEP. It is no coincidence that yesterday was my roughest day eating-wise, and also the day I felt like a walking zombie. I’ve known for a while that Tiredness + Kathy = Bad Life Food Decisions. I think I also channeled my frustration over having to be at work into eating – Maybe this donut will send me into a wonderfully numb sugar coma so that I don’t realize I’m still here.

“Need to get more sleep” has been written on my log more days than not over the past 2 weeks. I haven’t been doing my morning routine of Bible + writing because I wake up sooooo tired (which is not normal for me). Several days, I’ve woken up to see that I had been hitting my snooze for 45 minutes without even realizing it. Yesterday after work, I walked in the door and promptly laid down on the couch. I didn’t even take my jacket off. I seriously would’ve gone to bed right after dinner if I hadn’t had my ladies group, and I would’ve skipped that, if I hadn’t been the one leading the discussion. I left right after we were done, went straight to bed when I got home, and then… I couldn’t fall asleep. {My mind was running a mile a minute. Even about work stuff. Seriously? So I finished reading Robinson Crusoe. The book was okay. It was pretty slow moving, which isn’t that surprising since it was first published in 1719 (100 years before Dickens was even born!).}

Anyway, to sum it all up, my eating log has helped me be more mindful of what I’m eating, but I have yet to eradicate emotional eating. Stay tuned for more on that…

Do you like reading old classics like Dickens, Tolstoy, or Twain? Which book is your favorite?

Call a spade a spade.

31 Jan

All female health bloggers: Stop right now.

I see so many gorgeous female bloggers who have amazing figures, entertaining blogs, and impressive race times constantly demean, lament and berate their so-called flaws. Even if they have ripped abs that most women would have to eat only spinach and do 600 sit-ups a day to get, they joke about their love-handles or flabby stomach. Uh, right. If they run 30 miles one week, they were such a slacker. Their 4:00 marathon time was horrible because they could only manage a 9:00 pace for 26.2 miles.

I’m mentioning this because I think this is something that we as women, and humans, are tempted to do: We’re so afraid of being called proud that we take pride in nothing.

This is something I learned from my Grandma Dee. The last few years of her life, she lived with my grandpa in an assisted living home. Like a nursing home, they had all kinds of activities going on, and lots of other people living in the same building. Every once in a while, my grandma would say something like, “Dorothy came over and sat with me at lunch again today. She just really likes talking to me.” At first, I was taken aback by her frankness. Nobody I knew talked like that – because {hush} it was prideful. But my grandma said it so matter-of-factly and moved off the subject so quickly that I kept thinking about it. She got away with saying it. Why? Because she was just stating the facts.

{source*}

The Urban Dictionary describes False Modesty as:

To tell everyone that what you did is bad, knowing all the way that what you did is good, just so everybody says the opposite.
Usually used by women.

EmoGothgirl666: OMG , My blog is crap.
EmoboyLestatDarkness: Don’t say that, it’s great!

The Wiktionary describes it as:

Behavior that is intended to seem humble but comes across as fake and unflattering.

Usage: “Although having a large ego is considered undesirable, at times it is proper to take credit where it is due rather than display false modesty.”

And I think that last sentence sums up my point perfectly.

Sure, no one wants to be boastful and self-absorbed. But c’mon. Call a spade a spade.

Not only do I not believe that you truly hate your abs of steel or think a 4-hour marathon is an absolutely pitiful time, your false modesty makes it seem like any stomach that can’t bounce a quarter or any turtle coming across the finish at 6 hours, 30 minutes is something to be even more ashamed of. If you’re complaining over what is almost unanimously the goal, standard or aim of others, what becomes of anything that falls short of that?

What about the women who hardly dare take their shirts off in front of their husbands?

What about the runners who have put their hearts and souls into training for athletic event of their life, only for the aid stations to be packing up by the time they get there?

The unfortunate side effect of false modesty is that all of those women who will never have a rock-hard stomach and never run a 4-hour, 5-hour, or even 6-hour marathon even up thinking, “Well, if she’s flabby and if she’s slow, then what am I?”

I’ll tell you what would be refreshing. A female runner who runs a 8:00 pace on an “easy recovery run” and is happy about it. A woman who has worked hard to tone her biceps to get excited over them without adding the caveat, “But I still have a loooooong way to go” or “There’s still toooooons of room for improvement.” A recovering chocoholic who makes it through the day with only one Oreo to rejoice over improvement, instead of gut out an extra 15 minutes on the elliptical because she has absolutely.no.willpower.

If you don’t want to gush and aw over your rockin’ bod or your killer time, I get it. But at the very least, don’t knock it. State the facts and make no judgments. Let the cards fall where they may.

If we as women want to create an environment of acceptance and body-love, then we have to STOP CRITICIZING ourselves instead of poking, pinching and lamenting our imperfections.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. (Marianne Williamson)

Delighting in who we are, what we’re capable of, and our accomplishments gives other people the permission to do the same. Be a source of inspiration to others.

What are your thoughts about pride and false modesty?

……………………..

*The sunrise is not actually ugly; I’m using it to illustrate how ludicrous false modesty is.

Blowing the whistle on Satan

17 May

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).

I thought a lot yesterday about my triathlon woes and concluded at the end of the day that my problem was, once again, pride – pure and simple ego. After reading some race recaps by triathletes who are faster than I am but call themselves slow (If they’re slow, what am I?), I felt like a joke. Why am I doing triathlons when I’m absolutely no good at them?

Then I thought about all the other ways I am tempted to feel insufficient and not good enough: body / weight, career, fashion, friends, vacations — the list goes on and on. Satan is always tempting me to seek validation through external things — which also happen to be things I don’t have a ton of control over or things that won’t last. The only reaction to seeking validation from those things is discouragement and despair (and eating lots of ice cream).

Once again, this morning God called me back to the truth — because of Christ, I am good enough. I am exactly the way God created me. The only thing wrong with me is sin.

God made me slow. God made me curvy. God made me quiet and introverted. God gave me the desire to pursue a joy-filled life instead of a high-powered career. God has worked in my heart to create a desire for simplicity, which stands in stark opposite to accumulating material possessions. This is the reality of my life.

Satan takes all of these good things and distorts them. Instead of thanking God that He has given me a joy in exercise and eating right, Satan condemns me for running 3 miles in 34 miles and eating a piece of cake. Instead of being grateful for the clothes and job I do have, Satan conveniently shines a spotlight on women who are more successful and better dressed, quietly suggesting that they’re happier than I am.

Well, I’m blowing the whistle on Satan. Everything he says to me (and you!) is a lie. I find happiness in being God’s chosen one, in knowing that Jesus has gone to prepare a place in heaven for me — not for the lithe, trendy girl down the hall. Jesus is waiting for me. He wants a loving, intimate relationship with me. I am loved by the Most High.

With that knowledge and hope as my foundation, I have decided that I can embrace being velocity-challenged (I decided that is the PC term for slow). I can serve as a role model for all of those other athletes – runners, bikers, swimmers, etc. – who participate in sports not because they’re good at them, but because they enjoy them. I personally have been encouraged by others who don’t have it all together, aren’t living the picture perfect life, or flaunting a taut body with the latest fashions, yet completely embrace and accept who they are. They remind me that being who God created me to be is what glorifies Him. Trying to be someone else is not only an attempt to glorify myself, it’s an insult to God – I’m saying that He messed up; His creation is defective.

I think that this is one of the hardest challenges that humans face – the temptation to define ourselves by things other than Christ. The temptations come in different forms for different people but they’re all from the same source (Satan) and they all have the same solution (Christ). In Christ, we find a lasting, eternal identity: sons and daughters of the Most High God. Isn’t that better than being fast anyway?

Imperfect is good enough.

9 Dec

Like many women, I struggle with an all-or-nothing mentality. Especially around this time of year when I feel like there is so much to do and so little time! Add to that a job I hate and a beach vacation the first week of January (who’s in bikini shape right after Christmas!?!?) and you’ve got a recipe for stress and many woe-is-me days.

I’ve been slightly on an emotional edge the past few days… ok, the past week… ok, the past month… ok, really since I knew I wanted to quit my job but couldn’t (which has been since the end of October). And I disliked my job long before that. Maybe I’m being a big baby, maybe I’m concentrating too much on the negatives, maybe I just need to buck up and stop complaining. I’m pretty sure all of those things are true. But the reality of the situation has not gone away – I have a really hard time being happy when I have a job I hate. And when I say hate, I mean that the very thought of doing any kind of work even remotely related to my job makes me cringe inside. I mean that I clock 3-4 hours a day by sheer grit and willpower, not because there’s even an inkling of enjoyment in it for me. I mean that I can be happy about something, smiling and skipping down the street, then I remember my job and dark rain clouds roll over my joy.

Anyway, take that whole situation and add in trying to care about my job just even a little, trusting God with getting a new job, making dinner for friends, wrapping presents, writing Christmas cards, mailing presents, decorating the house, being a hostess for a Christmas tea at church, getting in biking shape and all the other things I think I “should” be doing (like reading more, baking Christmas cookies, chitchatting with our neighbors, posting stuff to sell on ebay, and the other 25 things on my to-do list). Just a tad bit overwhelming.

I’m not writing all this to show how much more I do than anyone else. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most women out there are busier than I am. But I think we all have this tendency to think that we have to do it all perfectly, or we might as well do none of it. At least that’s my temptation. If I allow myself to get so overwhelmed that I can see there’s even the possibility of failure, I want to collapse in a heap on the floor and weep. “Why is life so hard?” I ask myself.

Well, because I’m making it that way. Instead of making these unrealistic standards, like I have to have Christmas decorations that look like they’re straight from Martha Stewart, or I need to healthy all day long and I’m never going to eat chocolate again, or I need to read a book a week, or I can never watch TV because that is wasting time that could be spent doing some productive, I need to remind myself that imperfection is good enough.

Instead of looking at the entire mountain of things to do and feeling completely paralyzed or depressed, I need to just take one thing, one manageable thing that I can do right then and do it. It may be as small as putting away a book. It could be doing the dishes, or accomplishing one step of Christmas cards, or reading just a couple verses from the Bible. And I’ve found that once I’ve gotten over the initial panic of “I can’t do all this!”, I get into the groove and accomplish more than I expected.

I also need to let go of this idea that everything has to be perfect. My Christmas decorations can have a quirky doesn’t-quite-go-together kind of feel. I can do the exercises at the gym that I know how to do instead of following the newest “Bikini Body in 28 Days!” routine that involves twisting, pulling, jumping, and screaming (that might just be my version). I can read a few pages of a book before falling asleep at night. I can let the dishes pile up in the sink and do them tomorrow.

At the core of all of this is a belief that God is the one who has everything under control. He is the one who makes it all happen, not me. It is also believing that these things I have decided that I “have to do” don’t add or subtract anything to His love for me. He loves me the most He ever will right now, because He loves me with the same love with which He loves His Son, Jesus. Did you know that it actually says that in the Bible? John 17:23 says …”that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” That’s amazing.

It is Christ’s perfection that frees us to be imperfect, to be human, to not have it all together. That doesn’t mean we don’t try to do our best. It means we don’t get discouraged by failure or depressed by overwhelming odds. We should walk through this victorious, knowing that “steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.” How I need so desperately to believe that truth in this season of my life! It is so easy to let these slight and momentary afflictions take my eyes off God and His sovereign goodness. But I mustn’t. I must keep looking to Him, trusting in Him, resting in Him. “I lift my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, of the things you feel weighing you down with their urgency and importance, look to Christ and his perfection. Be content with your own unique human imperfection, remembering that “our sufficiency is from God.”

Contentment in ALL circumstances

30 Sep

Sometimes it’s easy for me to read a Bible verse and think of it in only one context. For example, Paul’s famous declaration in Philippians 4 that he has learned in whatever situation he is to be content – because “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul is talking about financial provision and material possession here, so I usually think about it in that context. But Paul says whatever situation – all circumstances. That applies to more than financial and material wealth.

As I’ve been seeing my idols and selfishness over the past couple of weeks, I’ve realized that being content in my circumstances would really eradicate a lot of those sins. Take, for example, my sinful need to do what I want to do with my time. If I were content with whatever the Lord allowed in my day, I wouldn’t get frustrated when things didn’t go my way (like I did on Tuesday when I didn’t have access to the internet).

Or take my preoccupation with body image. If I were content with the body I have, I would be able to appreciate my unique beauty and let go of my jealousy of other women. Jealousy is just thinking that other women have something I don’t but something I want to have – in a word, discontentment. If I were content with how I look, I wouldn’t feel the need to count calories, exercise for the purpose of losing weight, constantly critique myself, or compare myself with other women.

And thinking about my life in general – in this season of life, Travis and I are one of the very few young, married couples without kids that we know – anywhere. It can be tempting to be discontent, to think that I’m missing out on experiencing motherhood with all my friends, that being a mother would be more fulfilling than my “career” (if you can call it that).

All of these struggles go back to one thing: thinking that God is holding out on me, that He isn’t giving me what I need to be happy. If I could only have some relaxation time, then I’d be happy. If I could only watch my favorite show, I’d have a good day. If I could only have a flat stomach. If I could only have cute clothes in the latest styles. If I could only feel completely fulfilled with my life. If I could only stop struggling, analyzing, and worrying and just accept things.

My thinking that God is holding out on me is a result of not understanding that these aren’t haphazard details. My life isn’t this way just because it is this way. My life is this way because God planned it this way. He has a reason for everything. He created me to look specifically the way I do. I can try to fight my biology all I want but I will never be truly happy until I accept reality.

Same for when my day doesn’t go the way I want it to. I can either accept the unplanned circumstances, or I can let them make me angry, frustrated and just downright unpleasant to be around. It’s my choice. Am I going to, by faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, choose God’s way or, by flesh and human irrationality, choose my own way? Am I going to choose to be content whatever the situation because I can do all things through Him who strengthens me? Or I am going to wear myself out trying to change the circumstances of my life, which I have no control over?

It took me a while to realize, and accept, that I don’t have control over my circumstances – it’s a very anti-American way of thinking. Manifest Destiny. The American Dream. They all come from the belief that we can do whatever we want with our lives, make ourselves who we want to be. That’s a lie. As the economic crisis is proving, we don’t have control. As the millions of people dying from cancer, disease, and starvation are proving, we don’t have control. We are at the mercy of forces outside of our control. Having control over your life is a mirage.

But we have a God who is in control. And for those who believe in Jesus Christ, we have a God who is on our side. Who fights for us. Who works all things together for our good. Who blesses us abundantly. That is why we can be content whatever our circumstance, why we can find peace in having no control, why we can stop trying to do life on our own.

I can be content in being thin or fat, in being successful or failing, in being childless or a mother, in working or resting, in contributing or withholding, in being stylish or frumpy, in struggling or understanding, in being fulfilled or disappointed. Because I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Contentment is not just a reluctant resignation to life as we know it. It’s faith in a sovereign, omniscient, loving God – that this current situation is from Him, controlled by Him, and that He’ll use it for our good. So I am praying for the grace to recognize when my unbelief in the gospel is making me discontent, to repent from it, and to turn to God, finding contentment in His love for me, His sovereign hand working for me, and His presence in my life. Truly He is the only place to be truly content.

Hungry

1 Feb

This past weekend, I tore through the book Hungry by Crystal Renn. It literally took me just Saturday and Sunday afternoon to finish the 226-page book. But she has a very conversational tone and it’s a book about modeling and the rejection of starvation so it was a pretty easy read.

But an effective read.

Just a little background on Crystal, she is the leading plus-size model in America. And by plus, I mean she’s a 12 (not that big at all). She’s 22 right now and has already appeared in 4 international editions of Vogue (something unheard of when she started plus-size modeling back in 2004ish) and a slew of other high-profile, high-glamour publications and runway shows. She’s changing the face (er, body) of high fashion modeling as I type.

The book interested me from the start because it’s about a girl practically my same age who fell prey to the same body image demon that a lot of women (myself included) fall prey to: the idol of thinness. She was anorexic for about 2 years before deciding to step out boldly and attempt to be both a high-fashion and a plus-size model.

For me, similar to Crystal, the battle to love my body began in 7th grade. Not surprisingly, the despicable area (to me) was my stomach. Come to think of it, that was the only thing I didn’t like about my body throughout high school and into college. It’s the first place my body gains weight and the last place it loses it. No matter how strong and toned my stomach muscles are, it all hides under a layer of flab (Travis loves my belly, a fact that continues to mystify me). I know that if I just buckled down and didn’t eat so much ice cream chocolate or drank so much wine and instead counted calories and exercised like a nazi, I could lose the weight.

But let’s be honest – that sounds like hell.

That’s what Hungry is all about. Life is too short, relationships are too precious, that we shouldn’t spend all of our time worrying about being a certain size in pants or a certain number on the scale. For me, it’s reminding myself that I can be happy without washboard abs. And indeed, getting those washboard abs would guarantee misery for me because I would have to count calories, give up my favorite foods, and hand over my life to an illusion that is constantly just out of reach. I would rather enjoy life, eat great food, and do what I love than be a slave to image.

Of course, this is all so easy to say in the confines of my home office, where I am wearing a sweatshirt and slouching. But it’s a lot harder to accept myself when I go to Mexico and am surrounded by my bikini-clad, impossibly thin sisters-in-law. [They are great women and I love being around them. They are not judgmental at all and I have never had rude/snotty comments made about me. And I have to be honest and say that I’m not the giant cow I make myself out to be (though if you asked me on a different day, I might say otherwise).] Nonetheless, I have body issues. I’m sure every woman does and I have tried to remind myself of that.

But here’s what I’m learning. It isn’t worth the pain and anguish and worry to look a certain way. It’s better for me to wear a tankini and just cover up the area that gives me so much grief so that I can relax and enjoy myself already. I’m not trying to seduce anyone anyway – in fact, I have spent hours scouring racks in search of a bikini that doesn’t give this 34D girl major cleave (my search has, so far, been unsuccessful).

Not only does my obsession with looking a certain way (but never quite getting there) make me miserable, it makes me judgmental of other women. [This is hard to admit and I only do so because I think it’s the elephant in the corner. I think more women do this than like to admit it because it casts ourselves in a bad light. But hey, I know I’m a sinner in need of a Savior so I can fight against these tendencies with the freedom of knowing that even when I fail, I am still loved by God.] I am constantly comparing myself with them: “Skinnier than her – I’m better. She’s skinnier than me – I suck!”

In her book, Crystal tells women that they cannot look to the external world and society for validation and acceptance. That has to come from inside. As a Christian, I totally agree with her but would also add that validation and acceptance comes from being reminded of how precious we are in God’s eyes because of what Christ has done for us. We wear the robe of righteousness, of perfection.

More than that, God has created each of us to be different – to be exactly the way we are. I can stomp my feet all I want at how God created me but the fact that He created me to have long legs, a short torso, and a skinny little neck is a fact of life. I can spend my entire life wanting to change it (and being unsuccessful) or I can, like Crystal encourages, accept my uniqueness and embrace who I am, as a unique woman with a unique body shape.

Crystal talks about women having a “set point” – a weight that their body naturally prefers and gravitates to. I can back that up with experience from my own life. As an adult, I have always been about the same weight. The low exception was when I studied abroad in Venezuela (all the food went straight through me and I lost about 8 pounds in 6 weeks) and the high exception was when I was a pothead my freshman year of college and got the fierce munchies every night (I gained 20 pounds in about 2.5 months). But other than that, I’ve been pretty much the same weight as an adult, give or take 5 pounds.

I have also found that I am happier when I am focused on feeling and being healthy, instead of looking a certain way. I don’t feel healthy when I eat too much food for dinner or lay around on the couch all day. I don’t feel healthy when all I just eat sugar or I eat a big, greasy meal (my acid reflux hates me then too). I DO feel healthy when I take time to prepare and enjoy real meals (instead of grab-n-go stuff like I did in college), when I exercise regularly (pilates and swimming especially), and when I take time to relax and enjoy reading, writing, blogging, and hanging out with my husband and girlfriends.

I am all for women respecting themselves and their bodies by healthy living. Whether that that means their set point is a 2 or 12, that is how God made them. This book has completely changed the way I look at overweight people. Who am I to judge? I don’t know near the whole story and if they are overweight because of emotional issues, then they need a friend, not a judge. Healthy women are beautiful. (I pray that I will believe this more and more each day).

This pledge was in Crystal’s book (and she got it from Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon). It is my new credo:

The Live Well Pledge

Today, I will try to feed myself when I am hungry.

Today, I will try to be attentive to how foods taste and make me feel.

Today, I will try to choose foods that I like and that make me feel good.

Today, I will try to honor my body’s signals of fullness.

Today, I will try to find an enjoyable way to move my body.

Today, I will try to look kindly at my body and to treat it with love and respect.

I think that embracing and cherishing the body that God has given us is glorifying Him. It’s saying that His blessing in our lives is enough. His standard of beauty, and not the world’s, is what matters. “There is great gain in godliness with contentment.”