Snap Out of It!

A few weeks ago, I watched an old film that I’ve always loved but hadn’t seen in years. I enjoyed the movie so much that I’ve officially added it to my favorites list. The movie is called Moonstruck which was released way back in the 20th century in 1987. This movie stars Cher as Loretta, who is an Italian-American widow who becomes engaged to Johnny, played by Danny Aiello. Shortly after proposing, Johnny leaves the country to visit his sick mother in Sicily. During his absence, Johnny’s younger brother, Ronny, played by a young Nicholas Cage seizes the opportunity to woo Loretta. Ronny hopes to steal Loretta away from his brother whom he has a major grudge against.

My favorite scene is when Ronny (Nicholas Cage) finally gathers his nerve to passionately confess his love for Loretta after the two share a night of passion. Despite not being in love with her fiancé, Johnny, Loretta wants to remain faithful to him. As Ronny declares his love for Loretta, she knows the relationship can’t possibly work because of her commitment to Johnny. In order to deter Ronny, she slaps him across the face, not once, but twice and yells at him to “Snap out of it!”

Things would certainly be much simpler if we could apply that “snap out of it!” logic to all of the problems we face in life.

Sure, maybe some people are capable of “snapping out of it!”… Whatever their “IT” is. But me … not so much.

I’ve had well-meaning “friends” and even family members that have given me their version of a “snap out of it” lecture, with regards to my depression or anxiety. They’ll suggest something like, “just think positively.”

When I’ve dared to talk about my food addiction I actually had someone tell me, “just stop eating junk food, if you aren’t happy with your weight.” Or “Why don’t you go on a diet?”  Or my personal favorite, that age-old classic of … “you just need more willpower.” 

Gee … like I never thought of that before!

People who make these “snap” suggestions or “easy fix” solutions, are obviously “perfect people” who’ve never battled their own demons.

If life has taught me anything it’s that applying “willpower” only works for so long. Fighting depression or an addiction can’t be fixed by just making your mind up to “feel better,” or stop doing that thing that makes you hate yourself.

We don’t need more willpower … we need more of God’s power. Where I personally fall short is that sometimes I don’t always turn to God FIRST. My natural inclination is to try to “fix” whatever is broken on my own before I turn to God. It’s like I think I can actually control things. Which is silly, because the Bible tells us:

 

Maybe rather than the idea of “snap out of it,” I need to “snap to it.” Which translated means, I need to make a choice to FIRST turn to God and ask Him what I need to do before I succumb to the darkness or do a face plant in a tub of ice cream.

I know I shouldn’t be so “me focused” but more “God focused.” I can “Snap to it” by searching the Scriptures when I need a word of encouragement. Or “snap to it” could mean I need to clear my head and get outside and get some fresh air; take a walk around the block and look at things with a different perspective. Of course, my go-to “snap to it” solution will likely always be exercise. Nothing clears the brain fog quicker than a good workout. But I’m not above calling someone to talk me through whatever I’m going through. Sometimes I just need a friend.

For me … the black holes are never going to completely disappear. The food temptations are always going to be knocking on my door. In order to be a survivor and not a victim who lets my depression or food addiction define me, I need to learn to manage these parts of my life. I will never be able to totally “snap out of it.” In order to manage it, I must fully surrender every part of my life, my body, my brain, my emotions, my addictions, my shortcomings, my choices (both good and bad) … literally every single part of me must be completely surrendered to God.

It’s easy to say I’ve fully surrendered my struggle with depression and my food addiction to God, but if I’m continuing to struggle … me thinks maybe not so much.

Lord, I want to “snap out of it!” I believe with YOUR HELP I really can … but please help me in my unbelief!

 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”  The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24 NLT)

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

 

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I’ve “BEAN” UP and I’ve “BEAN” DOWN

It’s crazy to think that just by exercising a little self-control with regards to what we eat or by monitoring our food portions, we can actually change the way our bodies look and feel. Boy, that’s a lot of power … AND a lot of responsibility! The key word here though, is a word most of us don’t like: “Control.”   

Controlling our appetites – or better yet, NOT controlling our appetites is the main cause of why so many of us are unhappy with the way we look. The poor choices we make when we choose not to control our appetites is what leads us to despise stepping on the scale with any amount of frequency.

Because I’ve been at my ideal body weight repeatedly, I always find myself “stymied” as to how I end up regaining lost weight. Okay, that’s just my denial talking. The truth of the matter is, it’s really no mystery at all. I’m a person who chooses to feed my emotions rather than dealing with them in a healthy, balanced way. Name a feeling, and I bet I’ve got the perfect combination of junk food to throw at it.

Sure, I had times when weight gain was expected. Three pregnancies to be exact. But even then, I CHOSE to make poor choices with regards to my diet. That whole, “I’m eating for two,” really got the better of me. After my third and final pregnancy, I rejoined Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time and eventually lost my baby weight. And then for good measure, I went to work for Weight Watchers to insure my weight loss success would be a lasting one.

But, as with most things in life … LIFE got in the way and had other plans.

I can remember the exact day in which I willingly stopped making good food choices and the moment I fell off the Weight Watchers wagon. And trust me when I say, I fell off that wagon pretty darn good and hard! I not only fell off the wagon, but I stretched out on the ground and let the wagon back up and run over me. Repeatedly. And it all started with a no-turning-back-the-only-way-to-go-is-down shove off the wagon by a Styrofoam container of refried beans.

These weren’t just any ordinary refried beans, mind you. These beans are indescribably delicious, and possess some sort of magic property that changes a person’s brain chemistry, elevating them to a near blissful endorphin euphoria. Hmm … perhaps, that’s a slight exaggeration .. but at any rate, these beans are still one of my favorite treats.

I turned to the beans shortly after my mother passed away very suddenly and very unexpectedly. She passed peacefully in her sleep the day before Mother’s Day 18-years-ago. I was overcome with as much guilt as I was grief since she and I had a very challenging, oftentimes, difficult relationship. Her unexpected death left me with so many unresolved issues with no way of resolving them at that point.  I’d had opportunities to work through our problems in the past, but always opted to wait until “the timing” was better. Now there would never be “a better time” to resolve anything.

My Mother, Antonina “Lena”

October 6, 1933 – May 10, 2003

 

 

After receiving the news that my mother had passed away, I was numb for days – a veritable advertisement for The Walking Dead. My father passed away three years prior to my mother’s death – so to suddenly find myself without both my parents was tough to process. Even though I had a husband, children and a grandchild and in my early 40s, I felt orphaned. For once in my life, rather than feeding my emotions, I completely stopped eating for an entire week. In my mind, my mother was dead and somehow it felt wrong to reward my body with any type of nourishment. It makes no sense, especially looking back at it now – but at the time it made perfect sense to me.

I lost about eight pounds from the day my mother died until we buried her six days later. The minute they lowered my mother in the ground though, something happened. My brain developed it’s own opinions on how I should grieve and flipped a self-destruct button to the “ON” position. I suddenly became ravenously hungry. My cravings ignited, my hunger and appetite were insatiable. My body wanted — no demanded — comfort food and lots of it.

My husband made a special trip into downtown Phoenix to a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican food restaurant (aren’t those always the best places to get authentic Mexican food), to buy a couple of pints of my favorite refried beans. These beans are so mouth-wateringly delectable and are likely made with pure lard and lots of secret Mexican ingredients, slow-cooked for days over an open fire by a hunchbacked Hispanic woman who is at least 104-years-old. (Okay, I made that last part up. I don’t know how they cook these beans, but they are worth the 45-minute drive into town and back again. Absolutely THE BEST refried beans you’ll ever eat this side of the Rio Grande.)

After I polished off the beans, it almost became a contest to see how much food I could “secretly” consume. I couldn’t let my family know the depth of my grief and depression, so when they were home, I ate “normally.” When they all left for school or work, it became a marathon of binge-eating anything and everything not nailed down. Almost like an out-of-body experience, I watched as I ate myself stupid, ending every day falling asleep in a full-blown food coma, having eaten to the point of feeling sick. Filling my body to excess to the point of extreme discomfort took the focus off of my grief, temporarily. At least, that’s what I fooled myself into thinking.

Because we all process grief differently my way of dealing with my mother’s death was to punish myself in a way that would hurt me the most. My self-esteem has always been tied to my weight and my physical appearance, so sabotaging my weight was the most self-destructive thing I could do to provide maximal pain to my splintered emotions.

The weight that had been so difficult to lose and maintain, returned almost instantly. As you would imagine, sudden weight gain is not the greatest endorsement for someone who works for a weight loss organization – especially one that requires monthly weigh-ins for their employees. I was forced to quit my job, siting “personal reasons” for my sudden departure.

In no time at all, the number on the scale that I vowed never to return to, was suddenly surpassed and at the highest it had ever been – including those months spent gestating a human baby inside of me. I was plunged into a pit of depression so deep, I thought I’d never escape. The years that followed were a blur of fad diets, yo-yo weight loss/weight gains and the darkest emotional times of my entire life leading up to the wedding of my two younger children nearly two years ago.

What makes me so sad is that my entire struggle could have been avoided if only I had sought the proper medical attention immediately following my mother’s death. Both my siblings and my aunt relied on treatment for their grief and depression with medication. I tried an anti-depressant for about a nano-second, but gave up almost instantly because I didn’t like the way the drug shut down my emotions completely. After that brief trial, I willingly chose to self-medicate with Double-Stuff Oreos, Cheesy Doodle Puffs and Bunny Tracks Ice Cream. These were my “go to” junk food staples I kept locked and loaded. And these were just a few of the caloric weapons in my total self-destruct arsenal.

In spite of the fact that I was a strong Christian at the time of my mother’s death, I fell into such a state of despair that no amount of praying, church attendance or Scripture reading could alleviate my self-induced suffering. It was as if I didn’t feel I deserved to be healed, healthy, happy or whole. I willingly chose to let the enemy, the master deceiver, the chief liar – Satan himself – destroy me … one lie at a time … one bite at a time.

If only I could turn the clock back and undo all of the damage the devil did to me way back then. If only I would have willingly chosen to chew on Scripture verses like Romans 15:13 rather than junk food … Think of the emotional pain I could have avoided.

Simply being a Christ-follower is no guarantee that we will have a perfect life free from challenges. And of course, merely reciting Scripture and praying may not ever fully alleviate our pain and suffering. But for me, it’s comforting to KNOW that I’ve got the Creator of the Universe in my corner. It’s encouraging to KNOW that He grieves with me, even collecting my tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8) and that my suffering has not gone unnoticed by Him. God’s Word also promises that He will never leave me (us) or forsake me (us.) (Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5)

Even after all of these years, my mother’s passing reminds me that I need to cherish my relationships and right any wrongs sooner rather than later.  Falling off the wagon reminds me, that eating my way through any difficulty only makes the trial that much harder to bear.  To avoid any future setbacks I MUST remember, FOOD IS NOT AND NEVER WILL BE the answer to dealing with life’s trials! MY answer is a healthy mixture of Jesus, prayer, Scripture reading and memorization, portion control, exercise and making good choices TODAY!

In this season of learning from my past mistakes, I vow to fight with everything that is in me to never willingly be defeated by my food choices again. Not every day is victorious, but there are victories in each and every day. Life is for living one day at a time … one challenge at a time … one bite at a time … one workout at a time.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them. ~ Charles C. West

Don’t “THREAT” The Small Stuff

The human body is a natural wonder in the fact that it is capable of growing, shrinking – even incubating and birthing another human being. What a marvelous piece of fleshy machinery God has created.  

Over the course of my life, my body has transformed itself a multitude of times. Due to three full-term pregnancies and decades of yo-yo dieting, I’ve gained and lost well over 500 pounds over the past five decades. Yes, you read that correctly!

After having lost weight AGAIN for what I hope will be the last time, I’m finding that at this more “mature” age, my body is transforming yet again. Decades of all that yo-yoing and I’ve created some pretty significant challenges for my aged body. Not to mention, I’ve been double-teamed by Mr. Gravity and Father Time, who’ve had their way with my skin and various body parts. Things sag and hang lower than they used to. Joints creak and ache; muscles hurt more and take longer to recover. Getting older is no joke!

In addition to being older and somewhat wiser, my body now has the uncanny ability to predict the weather. Whenever the barometric pressure changes, my arthritic joints (mostly knees) begin an old familiar ache. Thankfully we don’t get a lot of precipitation in my neck of the woods, so the achy joints only flare-up periodically. There doesn’t even have to be any real rain in the forecast, but just the mere threat is enough to cause my knees to ache. 

Because Phoenix averages about 300 sunny days per year, my brain and knees tend to forget that weather changes cause my joints to ache. Whenever my knees start to throb I head into panic mode thinking things are going back to the way they were before I had knee injections. But then it’s like, “Whew, never mind … it’s just the weather. Everything is fine!”

Last week I had a threat of a different kind. When I weighed myself at my regular weekly weigh-in, my weight was up three pounds. I know that three pounds is pretty insignificant, but for someone who’s just spent the last 18 months working to lose weight, those three little pounds were enough to push me over the edge of sanity and reason.

Familiar phrases ran through my mind: I’m so fat and disgusting! I hate myself! If I gain any more weight I’m going to kill myself! I’m such a loser! Blah, blah, blah, and a whole lot of other self-deprecating words, threats and lies conveniently supplied by the master of all self-destruction … our old lying enemy, the devil.

If you’ve ever suffered with any manner of self-hatred due to depression, anxiety, obesity, etc. you probably can relate – maybe even have your own self-debasing inner dialogues much like mine.

Because I truly believe I am wiser thanks to my relationship with Jesus and years spent poring over my Bible, this latest mini-meltdown over three little pounds crashed and burned out rather quickly.

As if on some pre-programmed auto-pilot, I had a “come to Jesus meeting” with myself. When my anxiety rises due to circumstances, I thankfully have a number of “Go-To” Scriptures that I say out loud designed to take the focus off of ME and my problems and put it back where it belongs … the Lord Jesus.

I refused to let this threat best me as it once would have. After chewing on the meat of these Scriptures for a bit, I did a quick inventory of my past week and what could have caused this slight weight gain. The likely culprit was that my husband was on vacation for the past nine days, and that man can eat! He’s very tall and thin and manages his Type 2 Diabetes by eating six small meals a day. Every time he would eat, I’d start thinking I needed to eat as well. I tried to limit my frequent snacking to zero-point Weight Watcher friendly foods. FACT: Those zero point foods are still dangerous if enjoyed in excess. Over the course of two days, I practically ate an entire 10-pound watermelon and about five pounds of grapes all by myself!

One of the drawbacks of maintaining a weight loss is that it still requires a lot of diligence to track what I eat daily. As with last week’s slight weight gain, portion control – weighing and measuring my foods – is crucial. Even fruit! Grapes might be a zero-point WW food, but three pounds of grapes contain a LOT of natural sugar and calories.

Most of us know regaining weight takes very little effort on our part. In fact, I could be the queen of that club! What took a year to painstakingly lose, could reappear in a matter of days or weeks. Portion control and pushing myself to exercise a little harder than usual will help to keep that three pounds from morphing into five or ten or more pounds.

Gone are the days of telling myself, “Well, I already blew it for today – I may as well eat a sleeve of Oreos or that bag of chips in the pantry! I’ll get back on track tomorrow.”  Many of us know, tomorrow can be put off indefinitely! The time to act is NOW!

I opted to immediately rectify the weight gain situation. I added five-pound ankle weights to my morning treadmill walk. I normally walk three miles with varying incline settings, but now I pushed it to four miles. I walked at a much steeper incline and a faster pace than normal. It was a great cardio workout that had me sweating like a sumo wrestler wearing a wet suit in a gym sauna room. (That’s code for a LOT of unladylike perspiration!)

By simply being diligent with portion control and increased activity, my weight was back to normal within two short days. What this little weight gain showed me though is that even the mere threat of regaining lost weight was enough to send me down the rabbit hole. If I wouldn’t have been immediately proactive, that three pounds could have doubled and likely sent me spiraling out of control, drawing me once again into the black hole of depression and the bottomless abyss of self-loathing.

The bottom line takeaway this week is: less food and more movement = less me and more God-given peace and joy. Don’t THREAT the small stuff. We can only do so much on our own, the rest is up to God.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

How strange to use “You only live once” as an excuse to throw it away. ~Bill Copeland

Taming the Hairy Beast

As a young child my mother used to let me watch both Twilight Zone and Night Gallery … those scary brain children from the demented mind of Rod Serling. Both programs were equally terrifying to a little girl, but one episode in particular, scared the “bejeebers” out of me. So much so, that the premise of this show haunts me decades later.

The story in question was about a man who finds a little spider in his kitchen sink and innocently washes it down the drain to dispose of it. Simple enough. But what made the episode so terrifying and so Twilight Zone-y was that the spider immediately crawled out of the drain, having grown in size. This guy did what anyone would do … he washed it down again – several times, in fact. Each time, however, the tenacious arachnid would emerge from the kitchen drain much larger and much scarier. (Obviously garbage disposals weren’t available way back then.) At some point, the spider became quite formidable. I honestly don’t remember how the episode ended because as previously mentioned, my bejeebers fled and took cover under the safety of my Cinderella twin-size comforter. I hate spiders and the very idea that something like this could happen is the stuff my nightmares are still made of.

From a purely objective viewpoint, you would think this guy would have figured out that repeating the same process with the spider was only aggravating the situation. You would think he’d stop doing the thing that was making his problem grow larger.

Realistically though, how many of us repeat stupid behaviors with the mindset that “hmm … maybe THIS time will be different?” It’s been said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior, hoping for a different outcome.

You would think that anyone who suffers with any type of addiction would figure out that at some point we need to stop doing the thing that controls us and is making us miserable.

I’ve lost count of the number of diets, diet pills, diet programs, fad diets, starvation diets, yo-yo weight losses/gains, exercise overloading and/or last-ditch effort things I have tried all in the hopes of losing weight and keeping it off. Permanently. Yet here I am decades later still doing daily battle with a serious food (mostly sugar) addiction that will continue to control me … if I let it.

Just because I am currently at my “goal weight” is no guarantee that I will never have to worry about what I eat again. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Now is the time to be more tenacious than ever! My food addiction and repeated weight gains and weight losses are at the core of my depression. Those food addictions are quite capable of climbing out and growing larger at any time if I don’t learn how to control them.

My sugar addiction was born and fostered from being raised in a single-parent home where treats were a rarity. Whenever we were lucky enough to have sugary snacks, I would hide mine and savor them, stretching out the pleasure of my indulgence when I could enjoy them by myself. In secret. 

(If hiding snacks and/or secret snack bingeing were Olympic sports … I’d be a multiple gold medalist from my years of training.)  My siblings, on the other hand, would invariably gobble their treats down and then beg for part of mine. (Now you know why I ate in secret.)

 

If God has taught me anything throughout my walk with Him, it’s that anything we hide and keep a secret will only continue to control us, cripple us or paralyze us as long as it’s hidden in the darkness of our minds. I think that’s why support groups or accountability partners are so important when battling an addiction. Any addiction.

Unlike most addictions though, FOOD is something that we all NEED to sustain our lives. We can live without drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sex, shopping … pretty much any addiction you can think of. BUT we CANNOT live without food! We don’t however, need sugary treats or the empty calories of chips, crackers and/or processed foods.

Now that I’m in the maintenance phase of weight loss, I still keep track of what I am eating and how much time I spend exercising. My Fitness Pal and Map My Ride are two phone Apps that I positively cannot live without these days. These two free Apps have changed the way I eat, exercise and shop for food.

Map My Ride allows me to track the number of calories I burn during my regular workouts.  Pretty much every activity you could ever participate in, is available for tracking on this App. It is extremely easy to switch from different activities, even during one workout session. I consider myself to be maximally inept with regards to all things technology centered, yet this App is so simple, even I can use it!

          My Fitness Pal allows me to track everything I put in my mouth. Once you’ve entered a bit of basic personal information, the App assigns a recommended daily calorie allotment. There is an extremely useful bar-code scanner that allows you to scan foods to be entered into the daily food diary. Exercise is a bonus and allows extra calories should you need them if you’re planning a special event. At the end of every day, if I’ve recorded all of my meals, snacks, exercise and water intake, I can hit the “Complete Diary” button and the App automatically figures out what I would weigh if I repeated the same food intake for five weeks straight. Now that … is very eye-opening!

Am I perfect yet? NO. Do I have days where I allow myself sweet or salty treats? Absolutely! But the beauty of using both of these Apps is that I have DAILY accountability. The fitness App will even remind me that I need to record my weight and keeps track of my progress. It’s amazing how having these simple technological aides can keep me on the straight and narrow and out of trouble. (For the most part, anyway!)

I’ve been very vocal about my weight loss journey, so there’s no “washing it down the drain” to hide it if I should start regaining my lost weight.

I am trusting God that this will be a lifestyle change that I maintain throughout the remainder of my life. If I don’t control my food addictions now, it’s only a matter of time until “the hairy beast” claws its way out of the darkness and destroys me for good …so my “bejeebers” better get on board!

God is going to judge everything we do, whether good or bad, even things done in secret. Ecclesiastes 12:14 (GNT)

QUOTE OF THE DAY
Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. ~ Newt Gingrich

The DAILY-Double-Down on Depression

Like many people, my day is filled with a number of “dailies.” Regular daily rituals that I perform as if on auto-pilot. My dailies are pretty iron-clad. I wake early, make my bed, brush my teeth,  

put on my exercise clothes and head to my home gym where I work-out for a minimum of 60 minutes – or upwards of two hours if my schedule allows. (And by “gym,” I mean a corner of my home office that houses a fold-up treadmill, a stationary bike and a couple of 8-pound weights that are currently doing double duty as a door-stops.)

I am a self-proclaimed exercise junkie. Seven days a week, (no, that’s not a misprint and yes, I know I’m one of those people whom everyone hates because I’m committed to daily exercise). Every day, whether I want to or not, I walk, pedal and pump my way to better health. Some workouts are endorphin loaded, sweating like a pig until I can’t feel my legs kind of sessions. Some days are meh – not so much. On the meh days, I tell myself even a slow, effortless workout is better than sitting on the couch binge-watching Netflix and stuffing my face with processed carbs. My daily goal is to move my body.

Exercise is always followed by breakfast and then a shower – where for some reason, I seem to have some of my best talks with God. Standing under the spray, the fully tiled walk-in shower provides the perfect acoustical environment for airing my praises, worries, concerns and even grievances, with the Lord. The shower is my prayer closet. The more prayer needs I have, the longer my showers tend to be.

God knew me before I was born, so standing naked before Him in my birthday suit never shocks or surprises Him. The fact that I’m completely exposed makes it easier for me to share my innermost thoughts with the Lord because I literally have nothing to hide.  Yesterday while showering, as I was finishing up my daily leg-shaving (I blame my 50% Sicilian DNA here … we are a hairy people), my prayer time was rudely interrupted by a loud explosion. A can of shaving cream that had been taking up space on the hanging shower caddy for longer than I care to admit, suddenly detonated like a 4th of July bottle rocket. As the can jettisoned skyward, bending the metal caddy in the process, it spewed white foamy cream all over me and the shower walls from floor to ceiling. The projectile landed at my feet in a goopy, sticky mess, but not before it smacked me on the back with enough force to scare the bejeebers out of me.

Dazed and confused, my wild imagination conjured up all sorts of possibilities. Did an irate neighbor launch a grenade through the window? Maybe a home invasion gone bad? Was my husband playing some sort of practical joke? Who knew? Most likely the explosion was the result of rust on the bottom of the can that weakened the seal. No matter. The blast was sudden and unexpected and succeeded in accelerating my heart rate as quickly as a fast walk at a steep incline on the treadmill. The whole “incident” lasted for a matter of seconds but took considerably longer to clean up – including laundering towels and floor mats.

 

God has taught me that nearly everything in life can be an opportunity to hear His voice or watch Him Work. In this instance, God showed me my lifelong battles with depression and anxiety, binge eating and yo-yo dieting are not unlike a pressurized exploding can of shaving cream.

I hold darkness inside of me for longer than I care to admit, hoping no one will know just how low I am. When an insurmountable problem plunges me further down the rabbit hole, I’ve been known to fall face first into a vat of ice cream or a jumbo bag of Cheese Puffs. Binge eating is always followed with more depression, then exercise overdose to counteract the empty calories, which inevitably leads to more guilt, more depression, more yo-yo dieting … blah, blah, blah … all of which leads to even more depression and more anxiety caused by the thought that I’m likely killing myself one bite at a time.

When I’m cycling through the stages, I’ve been known to reach a point where I finally blow up much like that exploding can of shaving cream. I can erupt without warning, spewing some pretty destructive, angry words. Those tirades relieve the emotional pressure roiling inside me. At least temporarily. Once the fog of darkness recedes, I’m left with a mess to clean up – which takes far longer to rectify, especially when the angry spew of my verbal assault is usually aimed at people I care deeply for.

Daily diligence with my depression medication helps to maintain a healthy balance of my serotonin levels. Daily exercise helps me to soothe the roiling pressure of my tortured emotions.  I don’t know that I can say that I truly enjoy exercise, because hey, I’m human. Working out is hard (hence the name “working” out), and requires a BIG time commitment. Like so many people, I can be as lazy as the next guy. Even after losing 55 pounds, I find that working out is just as hard to maintain a weight loss as it is when you’re starting your weight loss journey.

For me … the dynamic duo of daily medication and daily exercise is a lifestyle recipe that keeps me sane and balances my emotions so I don’t find myself in those explosive situations.

My way to treat both depression and weight issues may not be your way – but it’s worth considering if you are struggling. Always consult a health care professional if you are needing medication for any mental illness. If you choose to exercise, the advice is the same – especially if you are someone who hasn’t worked out in a while, or if you’ve never worked out. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

 

Life isn’t a sprint … it’s a marathon – so work your way up to a regular program that fits your needs, your likes and your schedule. Work with your doctor to find the right medication for YOU. Challenge yourself and hopefully you’ll reset your metabolism and get all those endorphins and serotonin levels doing their thing so eventually your brain chemistry can have a chance of normalizing.

Before your next pig-out, consider a work-out before you find out that a blow-out creates messes that are tough to rub out. Medication and exercise might just be the ticket for a way out to feel better inside and out, so eventually you’ll wipe out depression. Be a stand-out and enjoy your life before it’s time to check out!

Peace. Out!

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23(GNT)

QUOTE OF THE DAY

No matter where you go or what you do, you live your entire life
within the confines of your head. ~ Terry Josephson

I’ll Tell What I Want, What I Really REALLY Want

Unless you were born yesterday, you’ve probably heard the saying, “Be careful what you wish for!” Or if you’re a devout Christian, it’s more like, “Be careful what you pray for!”

The day I decided to begin taking my new anti-depressant medication was April 1st. I have said and done a lot of foolish things in my life, but I’d like to think I’m no fool. Like most people, I didn’t just wake up one morning to discover I was suddenly 60 pounds overweight. I don’t ever remember waking up thinking, “oh gee … I think I want to be depressed today.” Realistically, I’m smart enough to know that both weight loss and treating depression is going to require a certain amount of time. Pretty much every thing good worth having in life takes an investment of time.

I began seeing a pain management doctor for my knee pain a month prior to my son’s wedding. Because of the usual insurance company runaround, it took some time to get approved for any type of treatment. Once seen by the doctor, he prescribed a round of injections in both knees to help with the pain.

We started with Cortisone, which I’d previously tried, with little success and this time was no different. We moved onto hyaluronic acid which could provide relief for up to a year. It bears mentioning that I have an intense dislike and pretty significant fear of needles. I needed four rounds of shots times two knees. That equals eight needles. During the first round, the doctor accidentally hit my bone which only reinforced why I hate needles. He said it was a million to one shot for that to happen since he used a fluoroscope to guide the needle. Go figure. I certainly didn’t feel lucky!

I was scheduled for my second round of shots about four days after beginning my anti-depressant. My appointment was scheduled for late afternoon and I could feel myself getting all worked up in a fearful, frenzied state as soon as I got out of bed. I tried to do a simple workout on my stationary bike to take my mind off my appointment anxiety.

 

The worry that I’d have another bone-piercing, painful appointment was very real. About 15 minutes into the workout, I started feeling very winded and my heart began pounding at an unusually fast, hard pace. At first, I just assumed it was exercise exertion, but it quickly became apparent that I was feeling something I’d never felt before. I was feeling slightly dizzy and light-headed on top of everything else.

As I called my husband in a panic, I couldn’t catch my breath and thought … “Holy crap … this is it … I’m having a heart attack!” Now I know that just a week and a half ago, I’d been begging God to take me quietly in my sleep. It was never my idea though, to be fully awake when the death knell tolled. Like most people, I’d really rather have death come swiftly, painlessly and preferably while asleep or unconscious.

As much as I thought I wanted to die – when faced with the very real possibility that I was having an actual heart attack and potentially staring Doctor Death in the face, I freaked. “Lord, this is not what I had in mind at all!” My overactive imagination (or perhaps the accusatory voice of the enemy in my head), had all but convinced me the anti-depressant had caused this heart episode. This was my fault because I never read the warnings or side-effects of the medication.

In my desperation for this medication to work, I was afraid my overactive imagination would manufacture any warning symptoms. A classic ignorance is bliss mistake on my part. Perhaps I really am a bigger fool than I gave myself credit for.

My husband works quite a distance from our home, so he called my youngest daughter and she called her siblings. Within a very short amount of time, both my daughters arrived. My son called me, as well as my new daughter-in-law – who is a registered nurse. After describing my symptoms, everyone agreed that I should go the ER, just in case.

I checked in with the triage nurse, explaining “I’m 60 pounds overweight and almost 60 years old. I think I’m having a heart attack.” That was enough information to get me seen very quickly.  I explained my anxiety regarding my upcoming pain management appointment and told the nurse about the new medication I was on. After a few hours of heart tests and blood work, I was diagnosed as having had an acute anxiety attack. I’d never felt so stupid in my whole life.

The nurse who treated me said it was in fact, smart of me to get my heart checked out. She confessed to me that she also suffers from depression and anxiety. “I couldn’t do my job – probably wouldn’t get out of bed, without the help of my anti-depressant and anti-anxiety meds,” she admitted.

She reassured me that depression and anxiety are very real mental illnesses and there is no shame in taking medication for them. Both my daughters agreed with her and reinforced to me that it was smart for me to be on medication. Apparently they all could see that I was not okay with taking medication for depression.

This incident may have been triggered by my “needle anxiety,” but it revealed my underlying issues about the depression meds. While I had prayed for peace about taking the medication, my “episode” showed me that I’d secretly been feeling very ashamed and conflicted for needing medicinal help. The ER visit made me face the fact that I really hadn’t fully released my worry and “shame” to God.

Once the doctor gave me a clean bill of health and sent me on my way with a chill-out drug coursing through my veins (and one that he recommended I take before every knee injection), I made a decision that enough is enough.

Either I believe God’s Word and trust Him — or I don’t.  I have an illness that requires medical intervention, but this illness does not have to define me and it does not have to control every aspect of my life – especially if there are medications that can alleviate my symptoms.

Insert my standard: the devil is a liar, proclamation here!  One sure way of knowing that the voices in your head ARE NOT God, is simple. If everything you’re hearing in your brain is negative or self-destructive … THAT IS NOT THE VOICE OF GOD! That is the voice of the enemy!

God’s Word tells us in Jeremiah 29:11:

Did God give me depression? Emphatically … No! BUT, God can certainly use depression to help draw me closer to Him. (*SEE: Genesis 50:20 and Romans 8:28.) Because God never wastes pain, I like to think that anything that He teaches me through depression and anxiety, will be something I can use to help someone else someday.

If you are suffering with depression on any level, I urge you to talk to someone. It can be a friend, relative, trusted professional, crisis hotline, etc.  God does not want you to suffer in silence. Jesus died for me. Jesus died for YOU.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday. ~ Author Unknown

 

My daughter’s attempt to distract me from worry while I was in the ER was to steal my phone and change my wallpaper settings! I LOVE her sense of humor!

Tearing Down The Wall

Residents of the desert southwest like myself, have come to expect a myriad of wild weather conditions during our monsoon season. During summertime, the Phoenix metro area frequently experiences a remarkable weather phenomenon known as a Haboob. (YES, that’s a real thing!). A Haboob is a dust storm of ginormous proportions that moves across the city usually from horizon to horizon and can be as much as a mile high.

These dust storms move quickly and generally are followed by intense thunder, lightning, wind and rain. The weather trailing the Haboob is always a mystery. We never know what’s behind the wall until it hits our area. These storms are dangerous if you get caught in one while driving as visibility is reduced to nil. The wind currents or amount of precipitation can vary drastically depending on your area of town. The winds are pushed or pulled by the jet streams and it can be tricky to predict an exact Haboob trajectory.

haboob 2

If you’ve ever suffered from any type of mental illness – especially depression or anxiety, sometimes your brain and emotions can feel just like a giant Haboob. When an “episode” hits, it’s oftentimes hard to predict what emotions are behind the wall of depression. For me, an episode can mean I’ll be sad and weepy one minute, only to leap frog to intense despair the next or a dark anger that scares even me. Just like an unpredictable summer monsoon storm – I never know which way the wind will blow my emotions.

Following my son’s wedding in March of last year – I had fallen into a pit of depression and despair that was so deep, the only way out seemed to be to “check-out.” I love my family and was happy for my children’s marriages — but for me … life as I knew it, no longer felt like it was worth the effort. I went to bed for many nights praying that God would come and take me quietly in my sleep.

Unfortunately for me, depression runs deep in my family DNA. My siblings and both parents suffered with depression. Having battled depression since childhood, I knew the signs … but truthfully, I’d never been that bad before. This was depression and despair on a whole new “lower level.”

As “luck” would have it, the week following my son’s wedding, I’d had a pre-arranged doctor’s appointment for a blood pressure check-up, which was running pretty high most of the time. (Go figure, since I was 60 pounds overweight.)

stetho

 

Days of “death prayers” were enough to let me know that I’d slipped into the deep end of the depression, pity pool and I needed help. Badly. I was anxious to talk with my doctor. Although, “talking” was a relative term, since I let loose with a full-on crying jag and emotional meltdown the second she walked into the room.  She was so kind and somehow gleaned through my sobbing that I was struggling with abnormal depression.

We discussed medication options, but I’d tried medications before and hadn’t experienced great success. The medications shut my emotions down completely until I literally cared about nothing. I felt dead inside. Very Walking Dead zombie-ish.

I just assumed medication wasn’t for me. In part, I believed for many years that while medication was great for everyone else, as a strong prayer warrior, I felt terribly convicted – almost guilty, for resorting to medication. As a Christian, I felt ashamed that I couldn’t just pray away the darkness. I’ve since amended my opinion and now admit that God is capable of healing us (ME) in whatever manner He sees fit – be it medication, therapy or prayer.  After all, it is God who gives people the intelligence to create lifesaving treatments and medications.

My doctor finally prescribed a medication that she promised did not a have a “weight-gain” side-effect. Obesity was part of my depression so the last thing I needed was to pack on additional pounds.

pills

Once I filled the prescription, I waited a full week before I began taking it. I prayed for the entire  waiting period until I felt a peace from God. I sought the wise counsel of several trusted friends and eventually decided that if an anti-depressant is what it would take to help me, then God could certainly work through medication.

**SIDE BAR NOTE:  As mentioned previously, the devil is a liar who will work hard to interrupt God’s plan for us. If you are struggling with depression, my prayer for you is that you will seek medical help and/or counseling. I was foolish enough to let the enemy get in my head and convince me that my faith in God was subpar because I was putting my hope in pills rather than God.  After praying for confirmation and peace, I believed quite the opposite. As soon as I started the medication, I prayed every day that God would work through the pills. I was sure to tell Him daily that my hope and faith were in HIM and not the pills. I was fully trusting the Lord to work through the medication.

We have courage in God’s presence, because we are sure that he hears us if we ask him for anything that is according to his will.  1 John 5:14 (GNT)

Trusting God for healing is always difficult and takes an incredible amount of faith – especially if we are struggling with a long-lasting condition. After living with chronic pain in my knees and feet for the better part of a year AND lifelong depression … I WANTED to trust God completely. To “let go and let God” is a tall order for someone who positively hates to wait for anything and struggles with major trust issues.  That “impatient-waiting-on-God-to-move” thing … that my friends, is a club I could be president of!

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  Mark 9:23 (NIV)

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.  ~Thomas à Kempis, Imitations of Christ, c.1420

 

 

 

 

The Last Straw

Remember, if you’re headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-turns!
~Allison Gappa Bottke

People can be quite funny sometimes. When someone discovers you’ve lost a significant amount of weight, they suddenly want to rub up against you hoping weight loss is something you contract like a skin-to-skin infection or an airborne virus. Oh, if only. If it were in fact possible to infect yourself with a fat-eating superbug by mere touch, I’d likely have been arrested decades ago for inappropriate fondling and/or serial stalking.

People don’t like to hear that losing weight, is now — and always has been, about eating less and moving more. Oprah at one time commented, “If there were some sort of pill you could take to make weight loss easy, don’t you think I WOULD have bought it by now!” Or, something to that affect anyway — because let’s face it, Oprah has more money than she can spend in one lifetime. If such a pill existed, she would have bought an entire factory of fat-flushing pills by now. What she did do instead, was buy stock in the Weight Watchers® organization, so that should tell us something.

Weight loss usually comes down to what I call, “the last straw moment.”

Years ago, when I was at a “normal, healthy weight,” I worked for Weight Watchers. I worked mainly as a receptionist, but did a short stint as a leader, as well.

At one of my classes, I gave each member a plastic straw as a sort of reminder. I wanted them to think back to the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.”  You know what I mean … that one humiliating incident that resulted in their joining the program.

The last straw … everybody who’s ever started a diet or weight loss program seems to have their own last straw moment. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you could probably identify your own last straw. Seat belt extender required on an airplane? Lap bar won’t close over your belly on that thrill ride? Some unfiltered stranger laughs at you jiggling your way through the mall? Your pants split bending over to tee up your golf ball or throw a bowling ball? High blood pressure … diabetes? Pick your poison.

I’ve had MANY last straw moments. Over the course of my dieting career, I’ve gained and loss somewhere in the neighborhood of 400-plus pounds. (That’s a rough neighborhood by anybody’s standards!) Unbelievable as that may sound, I’ve gained and loss the same 20-40 pounds over and over during the course of the last 36 years. Like so many others, I’m a classic yo-yo dieter.  Sadly, those gains and losses all transpired AFTER I received my Lifetime Achievement at Weight Watchers. That didn’t happen because the program didn’t work. MY downfall has ALWAYS been in thinking I could maintain my weight on my own without the benefit of outside help. Clearly, that’s not worked out so much.

My most recent last straw moment (and Lord willing, my LAST last straw moment), started the day my youngest daughter married in November 2016 and ended four months later when my son, married in March of 2017.

My latest 60-pound weight overage began shortly after my mother passed away years ago, which was followed up by a lengthy courtship with Mr. Menopause. It’s no secret that weight loss becomes increasingly more difficult with age. Being in my 50s and battling a Thyroid disorder stacked the deck against me making weight loss a bazillion times more difficult.

Knowing that it was impossible for me to skip out on wedding pictures (times two weddings) motivated me to push myself to unrealistic expectations to “get serious” about losing weight. (As if that never occurred to me before!) Try as I might, I only managed to lose 5-7 pounds prior to the upcoming weddings. My lifelong battle with depression intensified as the first wedding drew nearer.

To make life more difficult, six weeks before my daughter’s wedding, I suffered a nasty fall while walking my dogs. I messed up my “good knee,” which aggravated an ongoing problem with my “bad knee.” Already suffering from hip and foot pain due to excess weight, the added injury destroyed any hope of walking normally. That fall resulted in months of chronic pain.

I somehow managed to survive my daughter’s wedding but enjoyed very little of it because I could barely walk from the knee pain. I had to wear ugly flat shoes under my gown because high heels and knee/foot pain are a horrible combination. There was no dancing, very little mingling – just a whole lot of sitting around feeling sorry for myself because I felt like the fattest mother of the bride ever. I watched the festivities from the sidelines, sulking for the most part, certain everyone was judging me and comparing me to a party-pooping, giant slothful toad who was unable to participate.

November 12, 2016

*SIDE BAR here: When will we ever learn that people don’t focus on us and talk about us as much as we seem to think they do! The enemy likes nothing more than to convince us that we are the object of much ridicule … when in fact … people are all the same. We tend to focus more on ourselves, rather than spend all of our efforts picking apart someone’s character or physical flaws. Learn this phrase … THE DEVIL IS A LIAR! Ephesians 6:11 confirms this: “Put on all the armor that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil’s evil tricks.” (GNT)

My “straw” blew up into a million pieces at my son’s wedding the precise moment I had to step onto the dance floor for the requisite mother and son dance. As my son led me to the middle of the room, I was secretly praying a giant sinkhole would open up and swallow me whole before I stepped out in front of 200 people. As the beautiful song we’d selected played, I buried my head in my son’s shoulder and sobbed. While most people thought my tears were for the ritual of passing off my parental duties to a man now fully grown who was embarking on his full-fledged foray into adulthood – I was crying alligator tears because I’d never hated myself and the way I looked more than I did at that moment. I’d never felt fatter or uglier in my entire life. And trust me when I say, my life has been peppered with much self-loathing. But this … this was self-hatred on a brand-new level, as 200 people – family and friends alike, were witness to my self-disgust. I was certain everyone was judging me, laughing at me and likely feeling sorry for me because I’d “let myself go” to such an extreme.

My undoing and LAST STRAW MOMENT, March 18, 2017

My depression was as bad as it had ever been and I wanted to die. Literally.

All I can say is, praise God that we serve a gracious, merciful Lord who doesn’t give us what we ask for or what we deserve. He gives us what we need, when we need it most … His love.

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. Psalm 40:1-2 (NLT)

Beginning Again … Again

For many months now, I’ve been living without my personal website – which as a writer, that’s pretty much career suicide. (Please disregard the above reference, http://www.kathleenkurlin.com. The person who designed my website is no longer available to me and I’m technologically challenged and don’t know how to remove it!)

Life without my web page is a long, boring story involving an ongoing battle with Go Daddy who basically decided to delete my website because it was designed through an old service program that is no longer available. Go Daddy happily agreed to restore the site for me but they wanted a lot of money to “fix” my site. Therein lies the problem … they wanted money and I have none.

With few other (inexpensive) blog site options, I’m hoping to continue my vision for writing a weekly blog featuring Diet Nuggets and Wisdom Appetizers through this new format. This is not a brand-new concept but one that was previously featured on an old web page that eventually led to the publication of my third book of the same name: Diet Nuggets and Wisdom Appetizers 365 Days of Encouragement for Dieters.

I hope you’ll come along with me as I offer up tidbits outlining my journey through my recent 55-pound weight loss. It’s been a tough, but eye-opening year in which God taught me many things about myself, my body, my addictions, my unrealistic expectations and much, much more.

So, let the journey begin …

I am your God and will take care of you
until you are old and your hair is gray.
I made you and will care for you;
I will give you help and rescue you.
Isaiah 46:4 (GNT)

Blessings in Christ and as always … happy reading!
Kathy K.

 

My BEFORE Picture – March 18, 2017

My AFTER Picture – January 22, 2018

(55 pounds lighter!)

 

Close Encounters of the “Furst” Kind

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 English Standard Version (ESV)

My husband and I have two pups, who I’m ashamed to admit, nightly share our king-size bed with us. There are times throughout the night that both dogs will snuggle up so closely to me, it’s impossible to even roll over. One dog is usually sleeping by my head (occasionally sharing my pillow) or curled into my stomach; while the other dog tucks himself into the curve of my legs.

In spite of the fact that these two fur babies hog my space,  I’d still rather have them with me throughout the night than not. There’s something very soothing and therapeutic about rolling over and having a sweet little fur ball nestled next to me.

Research has shown that people who sleep with dogs or frequently pet dogs are more likely to live longer than those who don’t. Okay, I probably read that on Facebook – which we all know is the source of all wisdom — but who knows? It could be true. I hope it’s true.

The great thing about being a dog person, is the satisfaction I get knowing that these two pups love me wholly, completely and totally without reservation. I’ve never doubted their love for me, not even for a moment.

I wish I could say the same thing about my relationship with Christ. I’ve walked with the Lord for a few decades now, yet there are days when I still doubt His love for me. I blame it on the fact that I’m a “feeling” person, even though the Bible speaks repeatedly about the dangers of following our emotions or “feelings.”

Other than the fact that God’s Word tells me repeatedly that nothing can separate me from God’s love and that He will never leave me and is with me always – I still struggle with “feeling” loved. In fact, there are days that I “feel” utterly and completely abandoned by God – even though I KNOW that is a lie straight from the enemy.

Because life can be challenging and stressful sometimes, there are days when I wish I could cuddle up to the Savior the same way my dogs cuddle up to me. When I have a particularly trying day, I want nothing more than to crawl up onto Jesus’s lap and let Him love on me and hold me the same way I love up on my fur babies.

Since there’s no chance that any of us can “cuddle” with Jesus this side of Heaven, are there ways that we can fulfill the longings of our souls and FEEL the love of Christ?

What I fail to realize is that God is speaking to me and telling me how much He loves me DAILY, if I bother to listen. It starts very simply each day with those morning cuddles with my dogs. God created these loving creatures and they’ve proven to be loyal, affectionate and trustworthy friends.

Watching the sun rise with my morning cup of tea, listening to the birds singing their wake-up call, the sweet smell of spring flowers, a hug from my husband, one of my kids or my grandkids, a kind word or a smile from a stranger … the Lord reminds me daily that He is in all of these things.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. Psalm 19:1-4 (NLT)

Because I’m an emotionally needy person, I sometimes still desire more. The longing of my soul is to know Jesus as intimately as is humanly possible. It’s been said that God created each of us with a God-size hole in us. And while many try to fill this unexplained void with material substances and earthly pleasures, I’ve always known that it’s only God that will fill my void.

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)

Because I believe the Bible to be true and the inspired Words of God, I need to immerse myself in those words — especially on the days when I’m feeling the most emotionally vulnerable. Admittedly, it’s not a hug for my flesh, but it can serve as an emotional salve for my emotions. As for the physical hugs, I think that is surely why God created dogs! Thanks be to God …

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O LORD. Psalm 36:6 (NLT)

Blessings in Christ and as always … happy reading!
Kathy K.