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July Fourth, Food, and Failure

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Some think that July 4th is about independence or freedom or revolution or patriotism. The current president seems to think it’s about militarism. But I know the deeper truth.

The Fourth of July, like every other holiday, is about food. Often of the unhealthy variety, and always too much of it. Holidays are not helpful for someone newly committed to a healthy eating plan. First, there’s the smell of fatty dead flesh sizzling on grills throughout the land. Luckily, this is not a temptation for me, a long-time vegetarian. No dead cow or pig passes my lips. (Except for that time I bit into cleverly disguised bacon at a wedding reception and had to decide whether to swallow or spit in front of the cute guy I was talking to. I spat. He left.)

But as soon as I hear the crumpling of a potato chip bag, my hunger hormones start hoppin’. I’ve been learning about these hormones through Noom, my new weight-loss program. Noomers are into biology and psychology and like to throw around terms like “ghrelin” (“feed me” messengers) and “CCK” (“no more, thanks” messengers). Such knowledge helps me realize that it’s not just an inner evil monster that forces me to overeat, but a complex web of internal and external interactions. Knowledge is power, and I’m empowered to make a daily eating plan and stick to it because I know I am in charge, not the evil monster.

Holidays are another story though. Oh, I had a plan. I understood the challenge. I arrived at my neighbor’s with healthy tabbouleh salad, a giant bowl of raw veggies, and veggie dogs for the grill.

I also took a six-pack of beer, because hallelujah, I found out that Noom considers beer to be a “yellow” food (moderation) as opposed to my preferred Cabernet, a “red” food (limited consumption). My plan allows more yellow calories than red. I made this happy discovery just hours before going to my neighbor’s cookout. I was so excited about it that my first beer was gone in ten minutes. Well, I could nurse the second . . . you see where this is going. Alcohol is not known for boosting self-control, and the whole deal went south.

I dutifully logged my intake on the Noom phone app when I got home: every teaspoon of full-fat mayo, handful of chips, enriched white-flour hot dog bun, plate of pasta salad. I ate way more of that pasta salad than the healthy tabbouleh salad I’d brought. Epic fail. 900 calories over my daily goal.

Funny thing is, even what feels like an epic failure was still considerably less than I would have eaten before Noom. And you know what? That was yesterday. It’s over. I’m free from it. No shame, as I wrote earlier this week. Turns out that my Independence Day — new-found freedom from regret, shame, and self-flagellation — is July 5th this year.

Onward!

Weight Loss: The Weight of Shame

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Let’s talk about weight loss, shall we? I don’t particularly want to, but I think that’s one reason I should.

At long last, I have embarked on the weight loss journey, and the associated baggage could sink a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Being overweight is a heavy burden in so many ways. Your body hurts, you’re short of breath, you have zero energy, you turn down invitations to do fun things because you don’t want to embarrass yourself or slow others down, you wear baggy clothes because you’re ashamed. Ah – there it is: shame. For me, that’s the heaviest load. And it’s why I don’t like talking about my weight.

As I’ve worked on my memoir with my insightful writing group, I’ve realized how shame has shaped my emotional and psychological makeup. I know I’m not the only one, partly because of my pastoral work, and also because my blog posts dealing with shame are perennially popular.

I’ve decided to be done with it. Done with shame.

Shame leads to secrecy, and as they say in the twelve-step world, “You are only as sick as your secrets.”

A man once told me, “if you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me.” At the time I was horrified. I’ve since learned that many, many people feel this way, or used to before they got themselves on a healing path. I felt that way, too, though I kept it a secret even from myself.

The thing about being overweight is that you can’t keep it a secret. You walk around wearing this big ol’ SHAME sign all the time. Sometimes when you see a photo or catch sight of yourself in a shop window, it’s like a kick in the gut. Shame can very easily turn into self-hatred. And once you’re in that head-space, it’s almost impossible to lose weight because you end up believing that 1) you are too much of a loser to control your eating, and 2) you aren’t worthy of looking and feeling well anyway.

I applaud the “I’m fat and I’m proud” websites & blogs. Ditching the shame is long overdue. Work on your self-esteem, don’t let others define you, own your inner and outer beauty, etcetera. All great messages. But being overweight is not just a psychological challenge to be overcome and it’s not just about how you’re viewed by yourself or others: it’s a direct threat to health and well-being.

Some “body positivists” and “fat activists” now promote the idea that obesity can be healthy. I don’t find that one bit helpful. Being overweight is not a desirable state of being, and it doesn’t help me to pretend that it is. I want to be healthy, I want to live a long life. Heart, joints, arthritis, diabetes, blood pressure, sleep apnea, cancer risks — we know all this stuff.

I’m sure some people won’t appreciate my view. That’s OK. We all have our own journeys. The journey I’ve chosen is the Noom Weight Loss journey. You’ve probably seen it advertised on social media — Lord knows it seems to be everywhere. I haven’t tried a lot of other programs, so I can’t speak to them, but I know Noom is working for me.

I’m eleven pounds down in about a month. I’ll likely be writing more about this; it’s certainly occupying a lot of my mental space these days. For now I just wanted to say, “Hey, I’m done with shame. I’m losing weight and I’m damn proud of myself!”

This is me. Working on myself.

Beware of Killer Kale!

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I thought I’d start your week off with a chuckle. Here is an ad put out by a corporate-funded anti-environmental group, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. They mostly spend their time and money denying climate change and explaining to the public how dioxin might actually be good for you. That’s not at all funny.

But this ad, sad as it is, made me laugh out loud. Check it out — they must have decided that the threat posed by organic kale to the chemical industry’s bottom line was so dire that they had to launch an all-out attack on the crinkly green menace. Here’s what they came up with:

kale photo

 

It’s a clever send-up of a recent public health campaign that details what happens to your body within one hour of drinking a Coke. (Hint: nothing good.) Except that it’s not clever. It’s mostly just insulting people who like kale.

I invite you to check out their website, particularly if you are concerned about the spread of kale. There you can donate to a fund named “Advancing Capitalism,” presumably because capitalism is having such a hard time of it these days. Learn about CEI’s “full-service approach to advancing public policy,” including “scholarly articles that make the case for an issue,” probably written by the same college interns who crafted this ridiculous assault on organic kale. (I just have to keep saying that, it cracks me up.) Anyway, check out the many policy areas in which they would like to limit government regulation, including energy & the environment, health & safety, and banking & finance. Because America.

Happy Monday.

The latest threat to society

The latest threat to society

 

 

 

 

Lessons From the Fall: The Illusion of Control

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Here I sit reading a book, sipping green tea, without a thing on my absolutely-must-do list for days to come. And man, am I pissed about it. Why? Because I did not choose this lazy afternoon; it chose me.

For reasons that I hope will one day become clear, the Universal Narrative decided it might be a fun plot twist for me to fracture the shoulder of my right, dominant arm.

I am typing this with the index finger of my left hand, so it will be short.

This was to have been a week of house cleaning. I have friends coming from Florida next week to help celebrate my sixtieth birthday, and I wanted to at least clear a path through the clutter in my house so they could visit. In fact, it was a well-placed vacuum cleaner cord that led to my fall in the hallway last week. (I’m not used to the thing being out of the closet.)

There is to be a party, which involves chairs and food platters and coolers, none of which I can move.

There is my planned pilgrimage to New Mexico, less than two weeks away, which will involve yoga and pottery wheels and body prayer, none of which I can do.

There is taking a shower, brushing my teeth, putting on my socks, opening a can of soup, fastening my seatbelt — everything is a challenge now.

All of these things, I thought I controlled. I do not. I never did. All our ideas of control are an illusion. This is why there are so many angry people in the world — they have not yet surrendered to this truth.

When it’s time for a plot twist, all you can do is trust that there’s a larger story going on and that your present circumstance will contribute to your personal growth.You turn the page and keep reading from a new perspective.

Lesson number one: I am not in control. Stay tuned.

flowers and Dayspring 039

Seriously? This is Your Thanksgiving Post? Again?

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OK – I guess this is going to be my annual Thanksgiving post. Lazy? Maybe. But I want to go hang out with my friends and eat lots of carbs and drink good wine. So enjoy your day, whatever you eat. Here is some food for thought:

Writing with Spirit

Thanksgiving Turkey Thanksgiving Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Are you still a vegetarian?” people ask me from time to time, which I find odd. As if I might respond: “No, actually, I used to think it was unethical to murder animals and eat their flesh, but now I think it’s OK.” So yes, I am still a vegetarian, and since this post was so popular last Thanksgiving (surprisingly), and I have several thousand more readers this year (will wonders never cease), I will re-share my thoughts for Thanksgiving Day 2013. I wish you gratitude, whatever you eat.

Enjoy:

The last time I ate meat was Thanksgiving of 1978. Once each year, I would forsake vegetarianism to make my mother happy. But after I told her I could no longer partake, she always made a huge bowl of special stuffing with no meat juices, and I would obligingly eat the whole thing…

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Seriously? This is Your Thanksgiving Post? Again?

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Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Are you still a vegetarian?” people ask me from time to time, which I find odd. As if I might respond: “No, actually, I used to think it was unethical to murder animals and eat their flesh, but now I think it’s OK.” So yes, I am still a vegetarian, and since this post was so popular last Thanksgiving (surprisingly), and I have several thousand more readers this year (will wonders never cease), I will re-share my thoughts for Thanksgiving Day 2013. I wish you gratitude, whatever you eat.

Enjoy:

The last time I ate meat was Thanksgiving of 1978. Once each year, I would forsake vegetarianism to make my mother happy. But after I told her I could no longer partake, she always made a huge bowl of special stuffing with no meat juices, and I would obligingly eat the whole thing. (For her sake, of course.)

I don’t think much about being a vegetarian, except around Thanksgiving. Although the day is supposed to be about gratitude, it’s really about eating a huge dead bird and a bunch of carbs. (Also, football and clipping coupons in anticipation of Friday, which is National Greed Day.)

I don’t miss meat, really, although I suppose if I knew I had only one day to live, I might make a big, fat turkey sandwich with stuffing and cranberry sauce and lettuce and mayo.

Because Thanksgiving is all about food, it seems a good day to point out a few of the perks of being a vegetarian:

  • You will lose weight, unless you eat a lot of pasta, potatoes, or cheese.
  • People will serve you extra pasta and potatoes because you didn’t get “the main course.”
  • People will also serve you extra cheese because “you need your protein.”
  • You won’t have to eat Aunt Mildred’s gizzard gravy at Thanksgiving.
  • If you find yourself in a Native Alaskan village above the Arctic Circle, you will not have to eat the Caribou Head soup. They might give you an extra slice of chocolate cake instead. (Trust me on this one.)
  • Your friends will become very solicitous, especially in restaurants, where they will tell the waiter, “My friend’s a vegetarian – do you have anything she can eat?” This will be said either in a loud voice, as if they are taking command of a difficult situation, or in a lowered voice, as if they don’t want to embarrass you by sharing your condition in public.
  • You will have plenty of opportunity to practice your creativity, particularly in responding to the absurd question, “But what do you EAT?” The obvious answer is “everything you eat except the meat,” but I usually say something about foraging in the backyard for dandelions and onion grass.
  • You will quickly realize how mature you are compared to certain friends, the ones who, even after decades of knowing you, will impale a piece of dead cow on a fork and wave it in your face, saying, “Doesn’t that look good? Don’t you want some?” Usually, these flesh-wavers are men, and they are married to your best friends.
  • You will feel holier than thou most of the time, and will nod in benevolent compassion without a trace of condescension when a complete stranger on a plane feels compelled to explain why they still eat meat, or how they used to be a vegetarian but got diarrhea, or how “I want to, but with the kids and all…”

I Don’t Care What You Eat . . . Really

I think these plane strangers go into defensive mode because they fear I’m going to preach to them. But I’m not a proselytizing vegetarian. It’s not my business. People make their own choices for their own reasons.

The first time I met a vegetarian – even though she was rail thin and had a slightly greenish hue — I knew that I was one at heart. I stopped eating meat the day I moved out of my parent’s house at nineteen. I read a book called Animal Liberation, and that was it. It was an ethical thing. Fish followed meat, and by age 25, I was clean.

I’m an ovo-lacto, meaning I still eat eggs and cheese. I try to eat only organic eggs from free ranging chickens. For full health benefits, it’s best not to eat animal fats at all, but since my motivation is mostly ethical, I’m safe in my cheese addiction.

In Case you Care

If you’re one of those people who considers vegetarianism from time to time, I’ll just include a little info below for you. You can file these facts away in the crinkly recesses of your brain, and one day, who knows? You might just make the switch to other protein sources. It’s been good for my soul and my body, is all I’ll say.

If you are an avowed meat-eater, just ignore me.

If you are one of those people who waves dead flesh under your veggie friends’ noses – please stop.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

. VEGETARIAN DIETS:

  • Reduce the risk of major killers such as heart disease, stroke and cancer while cutting exposure to foodborne pathogens
  • Provide a viable answer to feeding the world’s hungry through more efficient use of grains and other crops
  • Save animals from suffering in factory-farm conditions and from the pain and terror of slaughter
  • Conserve vital but limited freshwater, fertile topsoil and other precious resources
  • Preserve irreplaceable ecosystems such as rainforests and other wildlife habitats
  • Decrease greenhouse gases that are accelerating global 
    warming
  • Mitigate the ever-expanding environmental pollution of 
    animal agriculture

(From the North American Vegetarian Society’s website)

And: Cutting out meat can significantly cut your risk of cancer. Cutting out other animal fats helps as well   http://www.cancerproject.org/diet_cancer/facts/meat.php

What Would You Do with Your One Moment?

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My brother writhes on the floor, yells in pain, and then is still as he gasps for breath.

“It hurts, it hurts,” he moans. “Why does it hurt so much?”

His legs and stomach are too swollen for him to get up off the floor where he has fallen.

“Please let me call the rescue squad – they will help you get back up on the couch.” He is too much for me to lift. His legs have no strength to push.

“No, no, they’ll take me away. They won’t let me live here alone like this.”

This is not the time for me to beg for the thousandth time, “Please get the operation; it doesn’t have to be like this.”

And for him to say for the two thousandth time, “The doctors don’t know what they’re doing. It’s not my heart. There’s something wrong with my stomach.”

This is not the time for another fight, not the time for more tears. This is a time to try to get back up on the couch.

What is the right thing to do? I cannot think, cannot decide, cannot help.

He tells me he hasn’t eaten all day. I bring him some mac & cheese and a little water. I wait for him to catch his breath.

We are about to try again, to hoist, to push, to groan, to fail.

Then time stops.

As per the WordPress Daily Challenge: For a moment today, time stands still — but you can tweak one thing while it’s stopped. What do you do?

Miranda the cat has stopped in mid-stride, her head cocked in puzzlement as it has been for the entire seven hours her human has been on the floor struggling and groaning. The clock is stopped at 5 a.m.

Everything is still.

I gently put my hand over my brother’s heart, pray, and heal his mitral valve.

That’s what I would do with my one moment.

A Better Day

A Better Day

What would you do with your one moment of stillness?

Related story: http://outsideinmagazine.com/issue-six/wordstories/late-summer-dream-melanie-lynn-griffin/

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