If you love your body and yourself and have never been on a diet or a juice cleanse, then this post probably isn’t for you
February is winding down, so that means that a whole bunch of people are either pumping their fists in triumph for making progress on their New Year’s Resolutions or slumping in despair. Now I’m well aware plenty of people make resolutions that don’t have anything to do with their weight or how healthy they’re eating, but I’m going to focus on all those people who set goals related to the scale or their diet.
Unfortunately, this chart is a fairly accurate representation of many individual’s gym habits:
I went on a walk recently with a very fit friend who is in on the wellness committee at her place of work. The committee scheduled an Insanity sweat session during work hours, and she decided to pop in to squeeze in a workout as well as to show her support. Several women commented on how they were on day 20 or whatever of being insane (i.e., doing the Insanity workout) and were getting closer to completing the program. While this was admirable, my friend and I both wondered if “being insane” for a defined amount of time translated into making of real, lasting lifestyle changes. So many people decide to do a 30 Day Shred or a three-day juice cleanse as a means to an end – the end being weight loss, improved fitness, and/or better nutrition. But what happens when the 30 days are over or when you’ve cleared your inner plumbing for three days and it’s time to return to eating solid food again? Have you really changed your relationship with food and/or your body? Or are you going to revert to your old ways because no one can sustain on juice day after day or do the same workout without growing bored or hitting a plateau.
I had a friend recently ask me if I’ve ever done a juice cleanse. She was feeling icky after the holiday binge fest and was just curious about my thoughts. I told her juice cleanses or any kind of detox program just wasn’t for me. I know people who benefit from them, but to me there’s an easier, healthier and not to mention less expensive way. Many cleanses cost close to 200 bucks for a three-day supply. If you’ve noshed on too many candy conversation hearts leading up to Valentine’s Day, then just eat more spinach or other fresh, healthy food for a week or so. If you want to get fit, find an exercise you love and stick with it, but don’t be afraid to mix things up either. Don’t do anything that will make you hangry (hunger-induced anger). Know that dieting or even extreme exercising has the potential to lower your metabolic rate and can lead to weight gain and an increased set point weight in the long run.
Eat healthy, but no need to become an obsessive organic or strict Paleo. Make exercise a part of your daily life – not just a month-long duty.
There’s no instant gratification when it comes to real, lasting weight loss or health changes. Quick fixes don’t last. If you feel like you’ve been “good” all week on your diet, it might be tempting to reward yourself with cookie. As long as you’re perpetually on a diet, you can always reward yourself, right? But how about rewarding yourself now by choosing to make healthy choices? Don’t think you should put the fork down because you’re getting full; just choose to do it because you know that this is not the last supper for you. You will eat again. If you’re reading this on a glowing rectangle, then the risk of famine is pretty slim.
Don’t fall in to the trap of bartering with yourself either. If I eat only salad today or if I successfully complete a juice cleanse, then I can bake cookies and eat spoonfuls of the gooey dough tomorrow. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with eating some junk now and then, especially if you eat healthy the majority of the time.
Your “reward” for eating a salad is a more balanced diet, hopefully better health, more energy, and even deliciousness, too. A salad can be tasty. I am in love with this dressing right now. I toss a salad of baby kale or spinach (or a blend of both), add some chickpeas for protein, and a little extra feta and then add the dressing. Yum!
So many of us fall into the trap of extreme deprivation because we want to meet goals that have more to do with being skinny than being healthy. I knew a lovely, young woman who worked very hard to be a fit bride. Well, the morning after her wedding, she filled her plate with cake for breakfast. “It feels so good to eat again!” she announced gleefully. Her father, a man who exercised and ate well all of the time, sighed and whispered to me that he wished that she would just take care of herself because that’s what she deserved. She was so beautiful at any size; it wasn’t about the cake. In fact, you can have your cake and eat it too, even if you’re a bride-to-be. It’s better to eat cake occasionally than swear it off completely for several months only to binge again when you meet some self-imposed goal (be thinner on your wedding day; look good at your reunion; drop the baby weight quickly; slim down before your beach vacation).
Why not start a weight training program or eat a few less sweets because you want to live a long, happy life with your beloved not because you just want to look good on your wedding day and then revert to unhealthy eating habits as soon as you say, “I do!”?
I hate to see so many people suffering right now, berating themselves for failing to meet their Holy Grail of weight loss goals yet another year. It’s only February, people. There’s plenty of time to make changes, but it will take time. It will take patience with yourself. It will take do-overs. Decide this very moment to take baby steps in the right direction toward health and wholeness – not because this will make you a better person or more lovable but because you love yourself enough to care for your body. There’s no need to go all hangry on me, to deny yourself of the pleasures of eating real, delicious food. I used to restrict my calories or make myself throw-up as a penance to make up for my unworthiness. My anorexia, bulimia, and obsession with food ultimately hinged upon a lack of self-love.
We need to make changes and goals of out of love, not out of fear. We can’t decide to diet because we think that if we stay at our miserable weight, no one will love us or we won’t be successful or a good person. Your weight does not make you good or bad. We can’t decide to exercise as way of atonement to make up for what we ate or who we are. Who we are is not what we do or how much we weigh or how we look.
Learn to eat as a non-dieter. Five carrot sticks for a snack is for a dieter. Ten carrot sticks dipped in a healthy serving of hummus is the snack of a non-dieter. Exercise as someone who loves her body rather than someone who is just trying to change her shape. Your shape will change if you continue to exercise, but if you treat fitness like boot camp and just want to push through a few hard weeks of sweating and grunting, you won’t learn to love the way being active makes you feel.
I’ll stop my sermonizing now. I don’t have all the answers. I do have plenty of days where I still struggle to love my body and to eat the right foods and to not turn running into yet another way to see how I measure up against the world. But I’m working on it. Every day I am working on it and trying to remember that my past missteps do not rob me of the hope of future success, happiness, and peace.
We are all cracked temples. We’re desperately afraid of showing our brokenness. We turn to food, our appearance, and our weight and other things too like success or drugs and alcohol as scapegoats for all that we fear and despise about ourselves. Or we use them excuses to be miserable. I drink alcohol because my life sucks. I fill myself with food because I feel so empty. The worse we feel about ourselves or our lives, the more reason (we think) we have to despair and continue down a path of self-destruction.
We feel like failures when we don’t do very well with our resolutions. Alternatively, we feel like sovereign rulers when we do meet our goals. Our body image, our weight, and food become a black hole and suck the life out of us. But once we accept that we aren’t perfect and never will be and that our worth doesn’t hinge upon perfection, we can move forward. A juice cleanse isn’t a form of detox. You may sit on the toilet more than usual. You may drop a few pounds. But it’s not going to get rid of what’s really bothering you at your core. A 30-day workout plan isn’t going to transform you. It may give your more muscles and give you a temporary high, but it’s not going to reshape that aching heart of yours. Start on the inside first. Accept yourself and your brokenness because it’s only in those fractures that the light within us can be revealed.
All the New Year’s resolution headlines seem to revolve around making a better you. Maybe you could benefit from eating more produce and less fried food. Maybe life would be better if you had more energy because you started exercising and sleeping more. But you don’t need to be better. You’re fine just the way you are and until you start believing it, it’s going to be very tough to make long-lasting, real changes.
I’ve felt rather sheepish having a post that complains about an unplanned vacation on my front page for so long. I have had days when I’ve stumbled upon a blog where a mom shares her sadness over her children’s absence. These are often days when I have abandoned my increasingly philistine ways and entered into the social media banter as means of escaping ennui or frustrating. Or just escaping period because I am on the verge of running away, and I figure running away to a virtual world is better than hopping in the minivan and driving to who-knows-where-anywhere-but-here.
So I find this blogging mama, and she says she misses the finger smudges, the noise, the messes, the pandemonium when her kids are at school or are older and just out of the house more. I know how she’s feeling because I’ve certainly been that mom before. I really do miss those things when I am miraculously able to escape from it all. But sometimes the blogging mama’s saccharine sweet sentiments irk me because at the moment I am reading them I would give anything for Five Minutes’ Peace. I’m not greedy. I don’t need a trip to paradise. I just want a solo trip to the bathroom. Interestingly, one of my besties texted me while I was hanging at the Raleigh airport and wrote something about trying to just enjoy using the potty all alone. That was nice.
When I do have a break, I am always amazed by how little time alone I need to refill. And I am fortunate to get more breaks than many since the grandparents aren’t too far and when I was on bed rest, I hired a reliable babysitter. ( Unfortunately, she is graduating in May.)
It is odd, but I’ll be gone for not even an hour or Thomas will be napping and the older kids will be having a special sleepover at the grandparents, and I really do miss the noise, the hugs, the peals of laughter, and even sometimes the tsunamis of emotion crashing through our home. I tell myself I will be a calmer mom when the loud kids return. I will embrace the laughter, the screeching, even the fighting, but I usually don’t. Just as it takes very little time for me to start missing my kids when they’re away and to grow all sentimental, it takes me equally as quick sometimes to feel a little overwhelmed by it all.
And I’ve got to get something off my chest: I don’t really ever miss the messes or the cleaning up of those messes. I know in theory I am one day supposed to miss the crushed Kix on the kitchen floor, the apple cores flushed down the toilet that leave it hopelessly clogged, and the stickers that end up clinging to the kitchen floor for their dear life. But, sorry, I just don’t see myself missing all that much. While I will miss the people behind those messes, the messes themselves can go their sweet, merry way, and I doubt they’ll be mourned over one iota.
The ice has returned to the South, so we’re all cozy in the home. I am not apart from the family this time. Nope, we’re all packed into Sardinesville. We’ve had sweet moments, making homemade Valentines, eating freshly baked banana bread from the oven, but right now one child is trying to knit beside me while another is thrusting an odoriferous foot in her face. Baths are overrated.
I remember feeling like the hotel room was too quiet and just wanting to be home. I hated not knowing when I’d return and worrying how everyone was holding up. I came home to discover everyone had survived (thrived!) in my absence, but they missed me, too. Yes, my homecoming after the snowpocalypse was very sweet. The girls were still up and very happy to see me. My 6-year-old had made me a “welcome home” sign with big, colorful crayon letters on a bright blue piece of construction paper. Thomas (2) was already asleep when I arrived home, but he woke up in the middle of the night and found me in
my husband and my his bed and was delighted to see me. It was good to be home.
But I woke up my first night back with a snotty nose that turned into a nasty cold. Congestion kept me up at night all week, and kids woke me up early. Sibling squabbles disrupted my thoughts. I tried to read or write or pray, but children quickly found me. I’ve noticed they don’t interrupt my husband as much when he’s playing the guitar, reading, or working on the computer, but they’re far less tolerant of Mom taking a break. They expect me to be available to them, and I haven’t been the greatest at setting boundaries.
Back when I was in the hotel, I texted dear Rachel and told her how I kept trying to pray (take advantage of these long stretches of silence, my wise inner voice advised), but it was useless. It was almost as if I needed a child tugging on my jeans or tattling on a dreadful offense a sibling committed to pray. “My life is a prayer, you know?” I texted.
“Yes, I do know!” she texted back.
When we’re in the thick of it, mothering is tough. When we are away from our families or we outgrow the hands-on, physically exhausting demands of motherhood, we feel wistful. I’ve written about this before, but motherhood is an extricable double helix of heartache and happiness, gain and loss, frustration and satisfaction.
But as my two daughters throw books at one another pining for my attention (look at me not that blasted laptop! look at me, Mommy! Negative attention at its finest), and my 4-year-old tugs on my hair and asks if she can take a picture of the hairdo she’s giving me, I feel more frustration than satisfaction.
So I take a deep breath and say a prayer for patience – a prayer I did not need when I was alone with my thoughts and a good book.
There was no school today even though this morning there was only the percussing of cold rain against the windowpane. Sleet came later. I had plans to get a lot accomplished before the winter storm advisory, so my to-dos are falling by the wayside. My agenda has changed. I am not a doer right now; I am at a beauty salon. I am available to a throng of antsy kids.
My 4-year-old just cocks her head to the side and examines my locks, “I did something else that looks a little more beautiful. Can I take a picture?” she asks.
“Look, Mommy,” she shows me the picture of the back of my hair, which is nothing short of a ragamuffin mess, but she looks at it approvingly.
My 9-year-old takes the banana bread out of the oven. “Looks good,” she comments.
The sweet smell fills the kitchen. My 4-year-old runs her fingers through strands of my hair, which feels good. I say a quick prayer of thanks.
Truthfully, there’s been a lot more praying since I’ve been home.
Motherhood, I thought, when I first held my baby was going to be about me raising children, guiding them, helping them, and maybe molding them just a bit. But motherhood isn’t about making babies or forming children; it’s about making mothers, forming women who are strong and wise enough to know they cannot possibly rely on their own strength to get through the day. It’s about taking a life and transforming it into a prayer. Sometimes it’s psalm of thanks. Sometimes it’s a plaintive cry for patience, help, grace, or just plain hope that we won’t screw these precious beings entrusted to us.
I’d never learn lessons like these in quiet hotel rooms or even in those blissful moments of motherhood when I’ve held a sleeping, cooing baby or when Todzilla has ceased his destruction and is still on my lap listening to a story while I breathe in the sweet smell of him. I learn it in the banality of motherhood, the noisiness, the hands-on, non-stop work of it all.
My life is a prayer. My life is an offering. I need my children as much as they need me.
I’ll never again shoot off an insipid tweet like “Leaving on a jet plane” because we all know the next line of the song goes something like this: “Don’t know when I’ll be back again.” And, see, I thought I knew when I’d be back again and when I thought I’d only be gone for two days and traveling on both of those days, it all felt a little short like maybe I should stay away a little longer and fill the tank up with more sleep and uninterrupted reading, talking, and daydreaming.
But here I am in North Carolina when I was supposed to have arrived in Atlanta Tuesday night and driven just under two hours to home sweet home that just a week ago was home barf home and not a place I felt particularly distraught about leaving. Now the path to home is no Yellow Brook Road. It’s more like a scene from The Walking Dead. Or so I’ve seen on various social media feeds.
Fortunately, all is well at my house as evidenced by the photos my husband has texted me.
I know it should feel like a luxury being alone in a hotel (for the third night in a row!) eating meals I didn’t cook and sleeping in a bed alone without any pinkie toes inching up my nostril. (My husband’s pinkie toes would never fit in my nostril, but Thomas and Mary Elizabeth’s come close. Trust me on this one.)
I know, too, I should not be wah-wahing about being away from my children and my life of domestic bliss (oh, the piles of laundry that await me!) because chances are, there’s a mom reading this who would give anything to make the “leave-it-all-behind” fantasy a reality. I know because I have been that very mom.
I ‘ve been there. I’ve been mired in the mundanity of it all: the endless counter-wiping, sibling squabble refereeing, and meal prepping. All these everyday duties drifting aimlessly along an underlying current of anxiety that none of it mattered at all. All that work I did day in and day out – did it even count as work at all? I don’t do anything; yet, I did everything. At the end of a day I’d be exhausted and wonder for what? What did I really do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Ah, but would it really feel like nothing if I went away? Ha! Imagine the chaos. Forget the abandoned Atlanta interstates and snowpocalypse. My home would be a disaster, a health hazard. How would anyone find anything without Mom the GPS Unit?
I’m sure most moms have had fleeting fantasies of making their escape and our Ralphie moments when we return and our family fawns over us and asks how we reached that lowly state and we answer with something pithy like, “It ‘twas too-much-laundry-and-not-enough-thanks poisoning.”
I was ready for a break. I was eager to be in the presence of some amazing moms, moms who were honest about how much they loved motherhood but also were aware of how it stretched you so thin sometimes you thought you might unravel.
I flew to Philadelphia on Monday to be a part of Danielle Bean’s amazing Momnipotent study for mothers. It’s obviously still in production, but the book and accompanying DVD and journal are expected to come out some time in the late spring (you can sign up now, though, for email updates; see link above). It was a gift to be a part of it and to meet authentic, real moms, including a mother who had daughters who weren’t always the quiet, calm type. “One of daughters clocked her sister on the head this morning over food,” she told me.
Alleluia! I mean, sorry to the victim of the clocking, but I’ve met so many moms of girls who seem to have the girls who are sugar and spice minus any real spice whereas I live in a house where spiciness and sauciness and just plain loudness dominate, and the only sweetness that seems to be present sometimes is the dark chocolate I am surreptitiously cramming in my mouth in a moment of stress. I’ve found myself wondering too many times if I am doing something wrong instead of just recognizing that I’ve got spunky kids full of life and all its glorious drama, and that their every whim and behavior isn’t all about me. Get over yourself, Katie. You are no puppet master. You’re often just along for the ride, so put the safety harness on and try to enjoy it. Weeeeeeee!!!!!
I miss it all so much. Worried friends have been texting me and telling me to try to just enjoy the time sans kids and at first, I did. But now I’m just ready to be home. I miss my husband. I miss my kids. I even miss the spiciness. It’s too quiet in this hotel room. There have been far too many solo trips to the bathroom. Well, actually that may be one luxury I’ve kind of appreciated. No entourage – not even a big, black dog breathing on me as I empty my bladder is kind of a big deal.
Yes, I have a book to read. It’s good enough. I have my laptop and that novel I’m should be writing, but the words aren’t flowing too easily out of me. Maybe I need more of a soundtrack to be inspired. Where’s my toddler’s pteranodon-like shrieking when I need it?
There’s only so much time you can spend on social media. Uninterrupted Twitter perusing gets old very quickly. Gym hotels are lonely. Eating alone at a restaurant isn’t as idyllic as it sounds at least not when you eat meal after meal in silence. I’ve always enjoyed the role of the solo tortured artist. Even as a young girl, I liked to retreat to a creek nearby my home and write alone in nature. The life of a hermit cloistered in silence has a certain appeal to me. I like being on my own. But I like to be the mom and wife, too, perhaps more than I even realized until I’ve gotten a taste of what it would be like to be away and alone for several days in a row. Maybe my kids sometimes take what I do for granted, but maybe I take my beautiful, messy life for granted just as much at times.
When I finally walk into my door, I’ll be relieved and happy to have all those kids and that dog and husband so happy to see me (the new cat will be nice to see, too, but he generally doesn’t greet me with the kind of enthusiasm the rest of the family does). Yet, I know just like everyday motherhood, it won’t be all warm and rosy. The noise decibel is likely to make me cringe and kick myself for not basking in my solitude more. The immediate meltdowns (Mom’s home now, so we can fall apart and blame her for the fact that we can’t find this or that) will frustrate me. I may very well wonder why I was in such a hurry to return to the pandemonium.
But there’s one thing I won’t wonder about, at least not for awhile. I won’t wonder if what I do matters. Maybe it’s not the doing that really matters – lo and behold, they survived without me! – but it’s the just being there that does. Sometimes the tasks I perform might feel invisible or taken for granted, but I should never feel extraneous.
A mother is not an Oxford comma; she needs to be there. She is not the checker-offer of items on a to-do list. She is the heart of her home. Maybe the cooking and laundry folding don’t matter as much as we think. My kids and husband don’t seem to be all too worried about all that, although my husband mentioned that Thomas hasn’t been pooping as much. “Have you been giving him any smoothies?”
“You know, I haven’t. I’ll make him a big fruit smoothie tomorrow.”
“Throw in some greens, too,” I advised.
They had hash browns and some other odds and ends for dinner because the cupboards are getting bare, thanks to the snowpocalypse.
So Mom keeps things regular in more ways than one.
But it’s not my Miralax-like power or my laundry folding technique my kids are pining for (if I’m honest I am a lazy folder, and my husband is far more precise and actually folded my filming outfit for Momnipotent into a neat origami swan or close to it anyway). It’s just me they’re missing.
When my husband told me my 4-year-old said, “I miss Mommy because I love my mommy,” I nearly cried. They do notice. Maybe not the behind-the-scenes work, but they do notice me and when I’m not there, there’s a void only I can fill. That’s powerful stuff. That’s “momnipotence.”
I know I’ll end up getting fed up again and feeling inconsequential in my mothering journey, but my longer-than-anticipated absence from home has made me aware of just how wrong I was to think that my life and what I do don’t matter. Even if I do it imperfectly, they want me with them. There’s a house full of people who miss me and want me home. I’m on my way.