Tag Archives: health

Hard Things or: How I’m Learning to Stop Whining and Love the Process

I have a general tendency to make myself do hard things even when there are easier ways just because I like to see if I can do them.  I once (rather proudly) hand beat meringue instead of going out and buying or borrowing a mixer.  When my car broke down and I needed to go to the post office, I (somewhat stupidly) walked three miles there and three miles back when there were rides readily available. I participated in and completed NaNoWriMo during my senior year of high school which was by far the most academically demanding year of my life (it involved writing for 8+ hours a day during nearly every day of Thanksgiving break, but I did it).  I’ve (absolutely stupidly considering the number of people who got malaria on our team) slept tentless while in Mozambique, tried everything that was fed to me in India, and forced myself to eat foods that my eating disorder deemed frightening.  If a friend is in need in some form or fashion, I’m accustomed to doing whatever I can for them and still managing to get most everything I need to get done accomplished by staying up late or getting up early (this is not so much something done for the sake of doing hard things, but more because I love my friends dearly).

I’m used to focusing on something and willing myself to complete it.

I can’t do that any more.

So, about 18 months ago I was diagnosed with this autoimmune disorder that runs in my family.  It basically causes my body to attack my thyroid.  Theoretically, if I’m given the proper medications, I’ll be fine: my hair won’t fall out by the handful, I’ll actually want to eat food, and, best of all, I’ll have energy.  The dosage of medicine I was on worked really well until about March of this year and then things started to go awry.

It may have been stress, it may have been my body just deciding (as you do) to launch a massive attack on my thyroid, it may have been some other third thing that I don’t know anything about. Regardless, I have been just exhausted for months, excluding some short-lived energy spikes I had a few weeks ago.

I’m not sure how to explain it to people who have never experienced an autoimmune disorder.  Basically, imagine that you are getting adequate nutrition and sleep and you wake up every single day feeling as if you’re about to get the flu. And sometimes, you wake up and want to cry because you’re so tired and you can’t get out of bed but, unfortunately, laying in bed all day doesn’t pay the rent, so you have to.  And other times, you have to choose between being there for a friend and being even 80% present at work the next day. And still other times, you have to decide if you will be social or have a clean house this week because you really can’t do both.

Quite frankly, I’ve had a really sucky attitude about all of this the past few weeks.  I just want to be able to do everything I was able to do before, but I really can’t.  I like being independent, I like being able to feel like I can accomplish things and, most of all, I really like thinking that I can will myself to do anything and everything I like as long as I’m determined enough.  That this has taken such a high priority in my life is not okay.

I’m realizing more and more how much of my worth I place in how much I do.  I like the idea of always having a clean house, visiting with everyone I love, and helping out my friends who are having a rough time — and in the past, I’ve been able to do all of that.  But, now that I can’t (at least until I hit some sort of sweet spot with my medication)…I’ve felt entirely helpless and sort of worthless.

I’m reminded often by dear friends that Christ loves me no matter what and desires my sanctification.  I know that what I’m going through is neither out of His plan or His grasp.  And I know that this whole thing may very well be the answer to some pleading prayers asking to be further sanctified.  It’s really hard, and I really haven’t even been trying to keep focused on the Lord.  This is totally wrong of me and I want to change that.  I know that what I’m going through or what my friends or family are going through are all apart of God’s plan…and I know that both myself and my fellow believers are being sanctified through circumstances and His Word.

I just want to be able to keep that perspective when things are hard.

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Weight loss worries: I’m done with the status quo

I realized early this morning that I have spent more years in my life being worried about my weight than I have spent years not being worried about my weight. This troubles me. I like the way I look right now. I like the way I eat (though I probably have a few too many sweets…). There are a few small changes I need to make for my health’s sake, but not necessarily for my weight’s sake (they are, contrary to popular belief, not always the same thing). So, why am I still constantly concerned about what I eat and what pant size I wear?  When does the worry end?

I know that as a woman in a Western country, I am technically expected to obsess about weight gain for the rest of my life.  The above realization about spending over half my life worrying about weight is hardly a unique one.  Most women (and many men) in America and other countries as well seem to feel as if the desire to lose weight is something to default to.  A few years ago, I was in a basic college PE class. There was a questionaire at the beginning about personal habits and such. One of the questions that I was required to answer was, “Are you committed to losing weight during this class?” Not “Do you want to lose weight?” or “Are you at a healthy weight?” or “What does you doctor say about your current weight?” but “Are you committed to losing weight…?” because the assumption is that we will always want to lose more, that our lives will be a constant fight against physical expansion.

Photo courtesy of Adpearance

But that seems so horrifying.  We must be constantly vigilant lest the numbers on the scales and on our clothing labels creep upward in the night.  We can’t think about food or exercise without ascribing moral implications to it.  Eating vegetables is “being good”; eating sweets is “downright sinful”.  Exercise addiction is the only addiction I can think of that is actively applauded despite the fact that no addiction is healthy.  Eating fresh food items is considered “eating clean”, which means that anything not in that category is dirty, right?

Too many people go through life feeling as if they have to earn any food they ingest. Too many people think that it’s okay to exercise or starve in order to eat this or that and that’s just tragic. Let’s get this straight: you deserve to eat food when you are hungry. Even if you just ate an hour ago. Even if you skipped the gym for an entire week or month or decade. Even if you look in the mirror and you hate what you see. You deserve to ingest nutrients; you deserve to treat your body with respect and to feed it so that it can continue to pump blood, breathe air, move, and heal itself.

I know that these concerns about eating and weight gain are considered natural and even healthy at times.  And I do think we should be mindful of what we are putting into our bodies. But mindful is not obsessive; mindful is not feeling as if you’ve sinned if you eat something with such-and-such calories or sugar or whatever; and mindful is certainly not feeling as if you have to make up for eating a cupcake by depriving yourself of food or by running for an hour.

Cherry red summer apple isolated on white

I know that as an American woman, it would not be unusual for me to spend the rest of my life battling it out with calories and weight gain and fat and cellulite. I’m supposed to fight this battle paying no mind to the fact that I look healthy, eat well, am strong and, with training, am able to do nearly anything physical that I want to do.  I’m not even sure what I’m battling the calories and the fat for any more.  Is it in a quest to feel good about myself? Is it in a quest to make someone else happy? Because obsessing about what I’m doing or not doing in the areas of food and exercise will not accomplish either of those things, and it certainly won’t make me any healthier as a person.

I know I’m supposed to worry about this until I reach an old age.

But I don’t want to any more.

What are your thoughts on the issue of weight loss obsession?

As an aside, I highly recommend this spoken word piece that’s been making the rounds on the Internet. Lily Myers speaks about this issue with eloquence and raw honesty:


Dear Parents Who Refuse to Teach Their Boys How to Cook and Clean

Dear Parents Who Refuse to Teach Their Boys How to Cook and Clean,

I realize that you are working under the completely false security that your son will be mothered and nurtured at college somehow and then married off to the next Martha Stewart (minus the jail time).  But, in reality, you’re just setting your son, and possibly his future wife up for failure.

Let me first make clear the fact that I hold to a traditional view of family.  If I ever get married, I plan to stay at home with my children, nurture and teach them, and keep the house from being a pit of filthy despair by cleaning and such.  I don’t think that roles should be reversed in a family, and I do believe that both the husband and wife roles in a marriage are unique to them for a reason.

However, your sons still need to know how to operate at a basic human level of cleanliness and health.

Why? Well, because, first and foremost, there will likely be time between the day he leaves your house and the day he gets married; also, because his wife may not have been taught very well and may need some help; because his wife could get mono or be put on bed-rest or break all of her limbs in a freak accident involving a marmoset and a bulldozer and might be unable to vacuum or cook dinner for awhile.

But, also because we truly don’t know the future.  Many of us assume that marriage is a default setting, but not everyone gets married.  And not everyone gets married young.  Your son could get married for the first time when he’d sixty.  He could be single all his life.  He needs to be able to keep the filth in his house at bay and cook a week’s worth of meals for himself.

Do you really want your son eating off the McDonald’s dollar menu for forty years? Do you?!

In addition to being able to operate at a normal, functional, clean and healthy level, there is an added bonus to this.  You know those poor, misguided girls who like to mother their boyfriends/fiances/husbands?  They mainly do it because the boys in their lives haven’t been taught how to fend for themselves.  Seriously.  As females, we like to nurture, and when we see a boy at college who hasn’t eaten a proper meal in months and isn’t sure where the button to operate the Swiffer WetJet is, we think, “Oh, you poor thing.  Let me make you spaghetti and brownies and clean that for you.”

Yeah, I don’t know why we do this, but it happens.  And then the natural inclination is to treat the boy in question like a child in many ways.

So, those girls…the ones who have to mother their husbands…they are annoying, right?  They would make horrid daughters-in-law, yeah?  Well, you know how to make sure one of them doesn’t marry your son?

Make sure he can actually live on his own for a few weeks without resorting to eating chili fries for multiple meals in a day.  That way, she’ll have nothing to mother.

Sincerely,

Chelsea