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:

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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 If you love your body and yourself and have never been on a diet or a juice cleanse, then this post probably isnt for you 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.

See more Be more Sticky Note Beauty Redefined 1024x1024 If you love your body and yourself and have never been on a diet or a juice cleanse, then this post probably isnt for you

On loss, fear of gaining weight, & mindful eating

I’ve been running two very slow miles on an AlterG anti-gravity treadmill during my weekly physical therapy sessions, but the hamstring is still nagging me. The medical experts stress that I need to be patient because of the stubbornness of this injury. I’m not a particularly patient person. And honestly, I have had my ups and downs. One day I’ll feel hopeful. The next I’ll feel the sharp twinge in my bum and will be tempted to start wailing.

My little man can relate.

 

photo221 copy 1024x1024 On loss, fear of gaining weight, & mindful eating

Feeling sad about a running injury when so many others (like most of the world’s population) have so many bigger problems makes me feel sheepish and guilty, but someone recently helped to make me feel better. She said what I’ve suspected but felt silly saying aloud. “You have suffered a profound sense of loss, and it has changed your life.”

It has, and it seems to be more challenging not having this part of me as I enter this lovely but busy season.

I gave a speech this past Sunday that partly dealt with not allowing the Advent season to leave you frazzled and burnt out. I reminded the audience that God doesn’t need perfection from you or the decorations in your home or a calendar brimming with potlucks, parties, and planned events to be adored. Baby Jesus – the Light of the World – was born in a dirty, smelly stable, which goes to show you beautiful things can come out of imperfect situations.

Well, not only did I wake up the morning of the speech with my left eye almost completely swollen-shut from some weird allergic reaction (thankfully, taking Benadryll before the speaking engagement reduced the swelling and redness), but I walked in to the hallway of the bank where the event was being held and then opened a glass door in front of me, which promptly set off the alarm. Fabulous.

Actually, this all made for a great intro to my speech, and I left feeling encouraged not frazzled. But just as I’d warned the audience, the feelings of peacefulness might not last.

This week has been a doozy, and I feel more stressed than ever. And, frankly, a lot of my heightened stress has to do with the fact that my primary outlet – running or at least more rigorous cardio – has been taken away from me. I just can’t get my heart rate up enough to get those endorphins flowing without feeling pain in the high hamstring area.

I have a friend who is a runner who just found out she has a stress fracture and is now in a boot. She said to me that this is the worst possible time to not be able to run. We joked about how we’ll be gorging on holiday goodies without burning off any of the excess. As someone who encourages people to not fret over occasional (even small, daily!) indulgences or to ever fear getting fat, I hate to admit that I am approaching this holiday season and the binge-fest that often comes right along with it with some trepidation.

If I were a better body image expert, I’d tell you that I never ran to give me an excuse to eat more, but how about if I be an imperfect but honest “expert.” I loved to run, but I also love to eat. If I know in advance I get to eat out at a restaurant, you’d better believe I’ll check out the menu and decide what sounds the most delicious.

When I was regularly running fairly high mileage, I routinely burned around 3,000 calories a week according to my Garmin watch, which is fairly accurate (and that was only counting running, not my other daily physical activities). I could basically eat whatever I wanted and not gain an ounce. Of course, me being constantly “rungry” could explain why I never lost much weight either (I never have shed the seven extra pounds from Thomas, or I don’t think I have. I don’t weigh myself anymore). I remember back in early October popping another handful of candy corn and peanuts in my mouth and then later wondering why my skinny jeans weren’t loose yet. (Note to self: Skinny jeans are supposed to fit to your body and not be baggy.) All the running in the world won’t make up for mass candy corn consumption.

The candy corn is gone. (I didn’t eat it all. I swear.) But there are cookies, candy canes, and rushed schedules that make wholesome eating a little more challenging, so I’m afraid of gaining weight. I still have not stepped on the scale since I decided to put an end to my recurring scale sickness. As I wrote in that post, I am more than a number. I believe this and know it intellectually, but I have to admit I’m afraid of all those Christmas cookies and all the opportunities to eat more than I normally would coupled with the fact that I’m not a calorie-burning inferno any longer.

There. I said it. Yes, I have some fears about gaining weight now that I am sidelined from running. No, I didn’t run or exercise to be thin but to be healthy and strong, but now that I can’t, I do admit to worrying about the repercussions. As a proponent of making peace with food and your body, it pains me to say that, but not admitting it wouldn’t be authentic. And if this blog has ever been anything at all more than a rambling mess, it’s been authentic.

I had a kind reader who is working to overcome an eating disorder write me recently and ask for advice about this season. She’s afraid she’s going to eat too much and start hating her body. If she had asked me this last year, I would have probably been more eloquent and wise. Maybe I would have told her she’s more than a clothing size, and that the reflection in the mirror only gives us a snapshot of whom we are – and it’s frequently a distorted one at that. I may have told her there is no shame in eating a few Christmas cookies or swigging some eggnog, and doing so does not make us “weak” or “bad.” I might have told her to pray the Serenity Prayer. I may have asked her what she’s really afraid of because chances are, she isn’t really afraid just about gaining weight. She’s afraid of something deeper. Eating disorders, fear of weight gain, body image angst – these are all symptoms of a greater illness. Take me, for example. I still struggle sometimes with not feeling good enough. I had a dear friend ask me not too long ago what it would take to get to that good enough place. I am working on it. There are some internal scripts that were pieced together in my past that I still need to edit – or just burn. When I was in the midst of my eating disorder, I was more afraid of losing control and than I was of gaining weight. It was very revealing to me when I finally realized that I was trying to make myself thinner because I felt like I could not make myself more lovable. The healing truly began when I realized I didn’t have to. I didn’t have to do anything to have worth or to earn anyone’s love.

More recently, what I’ve really been mourning more than not running is a sense of identity loss. It’s not just that I’m no longer a runner; that never defined me. I was a person who ran. Truth is, I feel very hidden lately. The invisible mama and all. So I’m not really afraid of gaining weight and taking up more space. I’m afraid of not being noticed at all, of my kids growing up too quickly and me being left in an empty house with nothing but a heap of regrets. And, yeah, I’m afraid I’m going to be one of those people I read about on a woe-is-me forum that never really rebounds from a high hamstring injury. Those are the real fears. My weight is the scapegoat.

Today I felt down, and I chose to not fuel my body with the best food. That made things worse, and I had to take a deep breath and not let it all go downhill from there. I tend to globalize my behaviors and emotions. I lose my patience with my kids. Ergo I am a bad mother. I screwed up and ate two chocolate chip banana muffins instead of just one. Ergo I might as well have a third because I am a pathetic, horrid creature with no will power.

I’m getting better at not allowing my thoughts to implode and leave me feeling crushed and defeated. Something that has helped me achieve this is to not just tell myself take it one day at a time, but to break it in to even smaller increments. One moment at a time. (Go on and pray the Serenity Prayer. It’s a beaut.) Yup. The Feast of Saint Nicholas started with fighting children and me hollering over the clatter that I hate Christmas! What I really hate, of course, is all the noise, noise, noise. I can relate to the Grinch more than the joyful Whos sometimes, I’m afraid. But things got better. I explained to the kids that I didn’t hate Christmas, but that I was having a hard time with all the fighting and hoopla and what I really hated is that the true meaning can get lost in the candy cane highs and gimme, gimme, gimmes. I’m also having a hard time with the Advent/Christmas decorations. I went to sit in our library (my favorite place to reclaim peace and to get cozy with kids and books), and our entire Fontanini Nativity set On loss, fear of gaining weight, & mindful eating had mysteriously migrated to the couch. It feels like there’s just more to clean up. I know I should be glad my 2 and 4-year-old are getting up close and personal with Mary and Joseph (Baby Jesus stays hidden until Christmas), but it’s no fun to sit on a Wise Man.

I had to remind myself of my puffy eye, me setting off a bank alarm, and reminding the audience that it’s up to us find peace in our lives even in the midst of the chaos. Take a deep breath. Eat a cookie. No, don’t. You’re not really hungry for a cookie. You’re hungry for peace!

Tonight I broke a sweat doing safe upper body weight training and core work, and I also reminded myself that I choose to exercise and eat healthfully not as a form of punishment but because I want to feel my best physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

I don’t want exercise to morph into a purgative measure. I want it to be for me and done out of a genuine love for myself and what I have to offer to others. The same is true with eating. It’s very difficult to lose weight – and keep it off – if you don’t love yourself. If you approach eating as a way to deny yourself of something, then at some level you’re saying you’re not worthy. You’re not lovable the way you are. That’s rubbish. How about choosing to exercise and eat healthy because you do care about yourself? How about saying “I choose to move my body and eat more wholesome food” rather than telling yourself you should do those things?

Besides, no one likes a “hangry” person. (Hunger = anger)

In some ways, I feel like I’m having to relearn some of the principles I had to embrace when I was recovering from my eating disorder, so perhaps that email from the woman struggling was timely. Besides what I wrote above, I’d encourage her to practice mindful eating. This is one of the most powerful ways to free yourself from fearing food or obsessively counting calories, something I admit I was tempted to start doing when running was taken away from me. This phrase is thrown around a lot, but it’s rarely practiced. I was reading the most recent issue of Cooking Light, and it had an article devoted to the practice. Kate Meyers, the article’s author, explained mindful eating well. “The concept of mindful eating,” she writes, “centers around the emotional and spiritual value of food – how it makes us feel, and how it helps us not just to live but to thrive. It says that the way to eat is less is to pay attention more. This happens when you teach your brain and palate to deeply enjoy the experience of eating in the present moment.”

See, eating is supposed to be pleasurable, not a source of angst. Pay attention more, and you’ll almost always eat less.

The article went on to interview Geneen Roth, a body image and mindful eating expert. She offers some rules to follow if you’re trying to eat more mindfully. These are worth noting during this busy time of year when it’s easy to mindlessly nosh on tasty treats at myriad social gatherings. She encourages you to eat when you are hungry and to eat sitting down in a calm environment without distractions (eating in the car doesn’t count). Here’s what’s really crazy: She urges you to eat what you want. That’s right. If you don’t really feel like the kale quinoa salad today, that’s okay. Give yourself permission to eat something else, and then eat it until you are satisfied, but do it in full view of others. No secret stashes or binges. You should not feel guilty about eating. And above all, eat with gusto! Eating is an act that must be savored. If you eat with intention, if you listen to your body’s cues and share meals with others, if you eat what you want when you want it, then eventually you will teach your body to tell you what you need. You will have your fill, and you won’t be afraid of the pending famine that used to always come after you felt like you had eaten too much or decided to start another diet.

I’ve had to learn to trust my body and what it tells me. Too many times I don’t pay attention to its cues – whether it’s been pushing myself too hard through an injury or eating too much or too little. I’m going to love myself and trust myself more this holiday season and in to 2014. My body will tell me what it needs, and sometimes that’s a glass of wine and scone studded with chocolate chips. Sometimes it’s a green smoothie jam-packed with spinach and chia seeds.

I have suffered a loss, but I’m not going to fill it unnecessarily with food. However, I am going to enjoy what I eat. I am going to be grateful that while I can’t run for stress relief, I can hold a plank for two minutes and sit now without too much pain. I’m going to eat when I’m hungry and eat what I want in the company of good friends and loved ones.

I’m going to remember that this season is a season of hope and set my eyes on what’s to come.

How’s that for a digressive tangent for you?

 

 

 

 

I get knocked down, but I get up again

I’ve written before about how seeing our bodies as instruments rather than objects goes a long way in boosting our body image. But what happens when despite our best efforts to take care of it, this instrument of ours doesn’t work properly? What then?

I was supposed to run a 15K today. In two weeks I am signed up to run a half. In 10 weeks I am signed up to run another half. This is my busy race season. I’d been feeling great during training. I’d suffered from an occasional twinge or pain here and there, but nothing I was worried about and nothing that kept me from lacing up my running shoes for more than a day or two. I had slacked off somewhat on my stretching and strength conditioning routine, but I’m a mother, not a professional athlete. There are only so many hours in the day.

Last Saturday I had an invigorating 11 mile run with my favorite running peeps. The air was brisk. I live in a college town, and it was the morning of a big game so even though it was early the campus we snaked our way through was a abuzz with energy. I felt great. Even close to the end when my legs were feeling a little heavy, I had enough left in me to sprint the final stretch. After the run, My family and I spent the day with good friends. I was active with the kids and didn’t feel a hint of soreness.

Sunday came, and it was a glorious fall day. I rounded up the entire family, dog included, for a family walk. The older girls and I sprinted up a few hills, and I remember thinking that my left bum felt a little sore. But, hey, I just did a long run yesterday. That’s all it is. My body’s a little tired.

That night I was sitting on the car on the way to the teen Mass when my left bum started aching. It hurt just to sit. I thought it was weird, but I figured it was a fluke. On Monday morning I woke up for a run with my pals, and it hurt to walk. I was foolish and decided to hit the pavement anyway. I figured I just needed to warm up even though I don’t usually feel stiff in the morning and am one of those obnoxiously spry people early in the morning who bounds out of bed. When I started running, I told my friend I’d have to go more slowly. I pushed through four miles while my bum screamed at me. One of my friends says that when her aches and pains talk to her, it’s okay to keep going but if they start screaming, it’s time to stop. I didn’t.

When I returned home, I started researching what could be causing the pain. At first, I thought I had piriformis syndrome, so I started using the pigeon stretch and massaging the area with a tennis ball. I decided to cross-train for the week until the race. I told myself I’d be fine. I tried to jog on a flat stretch of grass on Wednesday, which was another dumb move on my part. I’d said I wasn’t going to run, but it was so pretty out and I had a stretch of time while my oldest practiced soccer and my running shoes were on (I may have worn them on purpose as an excuse to run just a little). The run wasn’t terribly painful, but it wasn’t enjoyable either. Still, I was hopeful. I took a barre class on Thursday. I hit the Family Y for a Pilates class on Friday. I was determined to work my core, stretch, rehabilitate.

After the Pilates class, which has always made me feel better with any ache or injury I’ve endured, I came home and cried because I was feeling worse, not better at all. I’d tried to be careful and had been icing and stretching, but it was making no difference – or it was possibly making everything worse. I was suspicious that I wasn’t dealing with piriformis. My husband asked me what the differentials are for it. (I love it when he speaks doctor to me.) Upon further research, it seemed like my pain was more of the high hamstring tendinopathy variety. This made me cry more because this is not a common injury or an easy one to overcome, although my friend’s husband, who is an orthopedic surgeon, is far more optimistic than most of the literature I’ve read. There’s a little yay!

I’m stubborn, so I still picked up my race number. Then called my good friend and running partner and asked her for advice. She’s the one whose husband happens to be an orthopedic surgeon. I tried to get in to see one of his colleagues that Friday, but he wasn’t in clinic. So her kind husband came over, asked about my symptoms, did a brief examination and confirmed that I am likely suffering from high hamstring tendinopathy as well as hip bursitis.

I started to cry (again). I cried harder thinking how stupid I was being because it’s just running after all. I asked if I should run the race. “I know it’s important to you,” he said, “but I wouldn’t. It could pop.”

photo221 1024x1024 I get knocked down, but I get up again

My feet are suffering from serious separation anxiety not being able to slip into my running shoes.

I briefly envisioned myself running my best race and going out there for all the glory and crawling across the finish line with a popped hamstring, but then I remembered I have two half marathons coming up so maybe I should be kind to my body and skip this race.

I cheered my friend on this morning along with the two older girls, her husband, and her two children. I was so happy to see her running and high-fiving us.

Then I returned home and cried some more. I’ve cried a ridiculous amount today. To be fair, I had been in a slump before the injury came down and in fact, after my therapeutic run last Saturday, I told my husband at least I had running as my Prozac. (I know, maybe my faith should be more of my Prozac.)

All the non-runners out there might think I’m crazy, and I have admittedly grown to love and yes, need my weekly runs. (Runners do tend to get addicted to their runs.) They give me energy. Since I run with good friends, my longer runs double as therapy. I feel like I am a better mom since starting my running routine again. Running also gives me a sense of accomplishment, and it’s been a hobby that has been easy to squeeze in around family life since I get up early to run before anyone else is even awake. It’s Mom’s thing. The kids know I run in the morning. I’m going to miss all of this tremendously. I’m going to try to see a regular physical therapist this week but from what I can gather, this kind of injury is stubborn and persistent and not something you should just run through, thinking it will get better. I’ve seen the recovery time listed at 8 to 12 weeks (ARGHHHH!!!!) and what’s worse, is I’m supposed to avoid any activity that bothers it. Sitting hurts. Rowing hurts. Walking hurts. Even the elliptical trainer, my go-to cross-training exercise, didn’t feel great. So I am afraid I am going to be reduced to a motionless lump. That will drive me crazy.

But it’s more than all that. I am sad that I am so sad about something as trivial as a running injury. Get over yourself, Katie. But above all, I am angry with my body. If it’s this lovely instrument I’m supposed to take care of – which I’ve worked so hard to do in the past year by training prudently, fueling it with healthy food, and aiming to get more sleep – then why is it so screwed up? Why can’t it just not get hurt when mentally I am tough and ready and aerobically I feel like I could go on for miles and miles? Then the ultimate thief of joy sneaks in and I start to compare. Why can’t I handle as many miles as so-and-so? What is wrong with my body?

I remember feeling a very similar twinge of inferiority when I suffered from my first miscarriage (only I was, of course, far sadder). What went wrong? Why was my body not able to keep this baby?

I know of a friend who could not, despite trying to do everything “right” and consulting with multiple lactation consultants, nurse her first two babies. She said it was awful how the shame crept in and how she questioned her body, even her maternity. I know of another woman who longed for a natural childbirth but ended up having to have several medical interventions. Hers was a clear cut case of needing modern medicine to keep her and her baby healthy and safe; yet, she mourned her labor experience for months and wondered why her body had failed her.

My own mom gets frustrated because her chronic pain sometimes prevents her from living the full life she imagined. Mentally, she wants to do more. Physically, she just can’t.

Disease, aging, injuries, even our own natural design (high hamstring tendinopathy is far more common in female runners), and so many factors simply out of our control start to make us question ourselves and our bodies.

As I type all this, my bum aches, and I’m angry, but I also know that this instrument of mine isn’t designed just to run races. I have to accept my body and its innate strengths – and its limitations. This body of mine may never live up to what I want or think it should look like or perform like, but I can’t punish it or berate it. I can’t stay in bed all day crying either.

This instrument has many purposes. I’ve been blessed to give birth naturally four times and to nurse four babies. Somehow I forgot all that as I wallowed in my pity, sobbing because I may have to sit this race season out. I also forgot something else. My body is a vehicle to live out a life of purpose – a life God purposes for me. That might include running, but what it most definitely includes is taking care of this family of mine and loving others. And I can do that even with a pinching pain-in-the-bum.

Our weight and our ability to run, nurse, or get pregnant should never rule our life. God should. Love should. Our bodies aren’t instruments to do just what we want them to do; they are instruments to do God’s will and to minister to others.

I can’t run or even sit for too long right now, but I can write a “just because” note to a friend. I can hug my children and nurse them, too. I can make a delicious meal for my husband. I can pet my dog. I can smile at the grocery store clerk. I can read story books aloud to eager, little ears. There’s so much I can do.

It’s going to be very, very difficult for me to not run, to not be with my dear friends in the early morning, and to perhaps have to give up my racing aspirations for this season (and lose all that money spent on race registration fees. Sigh.), but it’s not the end of the world, as my 8-year-old reminded me when I was sniveling this morning. It’s not the end of me either and what I have to offer to my family and to others. I’ve been knocked down, but it’s time to get up again.

That running pal of mine who ran the race today and ran it very well sent me a link to a blog post earlier this week before she even knew how down I was or just how bad my bum felt. She wasn’t running when she clicked “send,” but she was most definitely an instrument in God’s hands because when I read the post, I cried (happy, grateful tears not pitiful ones this time) because it was just what I needed to read at that moment. Because I felt broken. Spent. Hopeless. Because I was trying to rely on my own strength and was angry that it had failed me. Because maybe like the author wrote, “God isn’t interested in my strength. He is interested in my obedience in weakness. Do you hear that? God said enough with my hobbies and my preferences. Let’s see about her obedience and her faith.”

I definitely recommend reading the post in its entirety, but I’ll conclude with this snippet:

This broken feeling is only broken if it stays there. If it stops in self-pity. If it wallows in grief about the lost emotions of our journaling days. But this is richer. When we seek His joy instead of our own, when we lay our best on His altar, and we have nothing left for ourselves, that is when we are truly accomplishing His purpose in our lives.

We are not broken. We are being healed. We are not alone. We are in His hands. We are not overwhelmed. We have a champion. We are not stupid. We are being made wise. We are not weak. For He is not weak. We are not hopeless. For we are His.

Now it’s time to get out of bed and jump – slowly and carefully so as to not injure this ridiculous body of mine – into life!

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