Sunday, March 15, 2009

This Changes Everything

[Caution: Long Blog Alert]

As you may or may not know, I've been struggling with weight/self-esteem/overeating/gluttony/addiction issues for most of my adult life. In 2007 I set out on a quest to become Super-Fit-Aerobics-Mom. I thought I had it figured out. I lost 20 lbs, gained a considerable amount of muscle, got certified as an aerobics instructor and looked fabulous for my wedding pictures last June.

So, of course, I was quite taken aback when my scale began to skyrocket back up shortly after my honeymoon. And now, less than a year later, I have packed on 30 extra pounds.

I wasn't expecting this. I thought I had this. But, looking back, I must admit that this is not a new phenomenon:
  • My senior year of high school I moved from my little town in Virginia to [what I saw as] the Big City of Charlotte, NC. By the time I graduated, I had gained 15 lbs.
  • I gained 35 lbs while I was pregnant and only lost 15 during childbirth. During the early months of Sadie's life I suffered from an intense case of postpartum depression. At 168 lbs, I was heavier than I ever had been.
  • A year and half later, I became a vegetarian [mostly to fit in at the head shop I was working at] and lost 30 lbs. It wasn't healthy, tho. I was living off of diet coke and cigarettes [and the occasional Midnight MilkyWay]
  • A year after that I found Jesus [or he found me] and began to work on some of my unhealthy habits. That same year, one of my worst nightmares became a reality. As a result, I added 25 lbs back on to my petite frame.
  • In 2006 I moved to Maryland. It was an exciting, tumultuous time. I lost 1o lbs in the months leading up to the move. Toward the end of August, Jermaine and I broke up for a time and I went on the "break-up" diet [not eating because I was so depressed] and lost another 10 lbs. By November we were an item again. I was happy and as a result I gained 15 lbs over winter break. That was an embarrassing spring semester. Around that time I began to formulate the Ready. Set. Skinny. program and that pretty much leads us up to today.
Of course, although I knew this was sort of a pattern, this is probably the first time I've ever fleshed it out[with bullet points and stuff]. It all started this past weekend. I got to attend a leadership retreat at my church. It was quite fantastic, and would seemingly have nothing to do with the subject of weight loss. But you must understand, I think about this ALL the time. I'd even begun to wonder if I had a disorder of some kind because my behavior seemed to border on obsession.

It was near the end of the second day. We had just finished a section on leadership and vision and were asked to spend some time on our own reflecting about what we'd learned and discovered. I was itching to get out. I felt an acute desire to be alone with God but I wasn't really thinking about leadership. I was thinking about this weight thing. I had a sense that God was about to reveal something to me.

Our church is set on 63 acres of beautiful land and there is an amazing prayer walk meandering through the forest on the property. I set out and as I walked I poured out my heart to God.

'There seems to be some kind of disconnect,' I exclaimed to the Lord. I want to eat right and exercise but, my desire to eat yummy fattening foods and sit on my butt seems win out quite frequently. I knew I needed to reevaluate my priorities, my past and present failures and accomplishments and my motives for wanting to lose the weight.

For the past several days I have been more and more aware that my reasons for losing weight suck. My high school reunion is in 3 months and I have been saying that I want to get back in shape to look good for it. In the same breath I would acknowledge that there is something wrong with that line of thinking but that I didn't care, I needed to prove to myself and my former classmates that I could do it.

I thought, 'If only I didn't have the pressure of the reunion.' I know that I could kick myself into high gear and lose 20 or 30 lbs. But it seems so futile because I know I'll just balloon right back up again afterward.

We had just talked about vision and I love the Cedar Ridge Vision. So I thought, maybe I need a vision like that for myself and my weight and all the underlying baggage that comes with it. With tears in my eyes I began to spout out my own raw, unedited vision:

Imagine myself daring to dream that I could be really, truly healthy in mind, body and soul. Imagine myself filling up on yummy, healthful foods. Imagine exercising practically day and absolutely loving it. Imagine food and exercise becoming opportunities to love and spend time with God and people. Imagine really feeling good and warm and energetic and getting those feelings from Jesus and people and exercise and not from caffeine or sugar. Imagine not obsessing over my bathroom scale. Imagine feeling comfortable in my own skin. Imagine becoming an aerobics instructor and being qualified and excited to teach others these wonderful things that God is teaching me. Imagine helping other people dare to dream this dream for themselves.

It's not completely, er, complete. But the magic of the Backspace Button has allowed me to make it sound much more polished than it did yesterday in the woods.

This all sounds well and good, but the next thing I thought was, 'how do I get there?' I'm pretty good at dreaming the dreams. I'm slightly lacking in the figuring out the logistics part. And, honestly, those words amount to hogwash if I don't figure that part out.

So I asked God to help me to connect the disconnect. I sat down on a log and prayed for the wisdom to work this stuff out. And then it hit me. Or, well, maybe he hit me. I was being incredibly superficial. Why is it so important for me to look a certain way for a group of people I haven't seen in 10 years? Sure, it may make feel good about myself for a day. But, it may make some people feel bad about themselves that same day. And it may even make some people feel bad about me that day. So, what is the point, really? Am I really not that far removed from high school?

More tears filled my eyes as I realized [rather melodramatically] that I was going to have to let this go. I was going to have to accept where I stood on this journey and be okay with wherever I stand come June. This means maybe I'll weigh the same. Maybe I'll lose 20 lbs. I need to work on being okay either way.

It was exhilarating. The best thing I know to compare it to is the way I felt when I gave my life to Jesus. But I don't want to sound sacrilegious. I love to see being a follower of Jesus as being on a quest. And that's what this feels like. There are differences, of course [the endings vary quite a bit]. And my Christian quest encompasses every part my life whereas this essentially could be considered a smaller adventure on the big picture map.

I haven't mentioned the guilt/shame element yet. And I think, in some ways that is the most beautiful part. And the one that has left me feeling so wonderful.

Guilt is something I am very familiar with. In fact, God is teaching me in other areas of my life that I have this strange tendency to make all these rules and regulations for myself, and to set a strict schedule in my day to day life. The comedic irony is that I'm not a very disciplined person [well, I think it's funny]. I'm constructing all these laws and at the same time proclaiming that I hate legalism. This breeds within me a ridiculous amount of guilt. I never feel that I can measure up to the high expectations that I make for myself.

My friend Priscilla suggested the other day that perhaps I was getting some sort of pay off from the guilt. Maybe it somehow fueled the vicious cycle. IE: I make rules. I fail. I feel guilty. I give up. I indulge some more.

I don't know if that's exactly what she meant and I don't want to misrepresent her, but I think she's on to something. The same kind of thing has been happening over and over in this weight loss quest.

Now, I usually start out every weight loss venture with some good old fashioned gluttony. Think cheesecake and ice cream and candy, oh my! I don't want to do that anymore. This journey [that in many ways I have been preparing for for years] began yesterday on that log. And I am free to eat whatever I want. I am free to exercise whenever I want.

And I have surrendered this entire thing to God. It's all his. I pray that he uses me help others as an aerobics instructor [and thus, we come full circle and see that, by golly, this does have something to do with leadership]. I am so excited. I freaking love adventures.

Road trip!

Thank you for reading my blog. ;)

PS. I just wanted to add this: I'm thinking this is probably a bit old hat for some people. I've been hearing and reading things of this sort since I first subscribed to Womens' Health magazine two years ago. But it never really sunk in. So for me - it's brand spanking new [and pretty darn spectacular].


Ms. Brogi said...

hey brandy, it's sarah brogi from your socy classes.

anyway i saw you posted your blog on gchat.

one thing i've learned about weight loss etc. is that just like our Christian walk, it's a constant battle. i don't think we ever really get to the point where we've overcome all foods and we are just perfect, you get what im saying?

i believe that everyday we need to struggle and overcome. good news is that everyday it gets a little easier.
but this is coming from a girl who used to suffer with weight issues more on the side of anorexia and binge eating. it started at the beginning of high school. if i comapre today with back then i've made a big accomplishment.

if you fall down, don't beat yourself up. what matters is that you get up and try again.

with the Lord's wisdom and your perserverance i believe you can do it:)

brandyglows said...

Thanks Sarah!

I appreciate your thoughts and your honesty.

I think that you're right. It's an everyday thing. One of the most important things I'm learning is to cut myself some slack and not be so hard on myself when I give in to temptation.

Thank you for reading my blog!!