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Be Gentle on Your Weight Loss Journey 3…

Hi dear Readers!

I just went back and reread Be Gentle on Your Weight Loss Journey and Be Gentle on Your Weight Loss Journey 2. Wow! Eyeopening! I had forgotten that I renewed this journey on September 1, 2016. That makes it just over two years that I’ve dedicated to improved health. And the good news is that I’m… right on schedule – with lowered blood pressure, weight, and blood sugar.

I started the journey at 225 pounds (I write about the first leg of the journey in my other two blog posts). This morning I weighed 159 pounds.  Down 66 pounds! I am stoked!

So how did I get here? I have worked hard and tried several different tactics along the way. I began with a popular weight loss program and lost the first several pounds, but could not sustain the cost of the foods required.  I was afraid I would gain the weight back if I didn’t find a substitute right away.

So, I tried the Mayo Clinic Diet App on my phone. It worked, teaching me portion sizes and serving control. To my amazement, the pounds began to melt away. I was learning how to eat healthy foods in healthy portions. After about three months, though, I hit a plateau. I had learned to use the food log to my advantage but needed something more detailed to break my logjam.

I eventually switched to My Fitness Pal so I could track individual foods and see their impact on my progress.  At about this time, I added walking and a home yoga practice to my previously nonexistent physical routine. I met another walker and we walked the perimeter of Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley, California three mornings a week. I developed my home yoga practice on two days a week.

I did very well with My Fitness Pal but switched to a ketogenic lifestyle six months ago. Wanting to track macros more intuitively, I switched to CarbManager. The app works very well for me as I can plan my meals for the day in the morning, then edit them as needed before logging at the end of the day. The bookend approach works well for me, keeping me accountable at both ends of the day.

I haven’t lost much (about five pounds) in the past six months on Keto, but I have lost three pants sizes and two blouse sizes. That means I’m building muscle. 🙂  The best thing about Keto is the way I feel – younger, healthier, stronger. I’ll take those any day of the week!

I hit my current plateau six months ago. I lost a large amount of muscle during the early months of my weight loss journey. As I increased my exercise level, the muscle began to rebuild. I think the plateau is not really a plateau but a reshaping of my body.

I caution anyone considering the Keto lifestyle – do your homework and find out everything you can before embarking on this style of eating. It’s not as easy as it first appears, but it is doable. We made the switch because Alzheimer’s Disease runs in my family. This lifestyle seems to lessen the effects of this memory-stealer. It has similarly been attributed with lessening or reversing the effects of seizure disorders, Type II Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, and some other diseases.

Hubby lost thirty pounds on Keto and feels better. The change was difficult at first because of the cultural norms we experience in relation to food. It is second nature now. I don’t eat bread, pasta, rice, potatoes or other starchy veggies, but I do eat salad and fruit every day. We often have steamed broccoli or asparagus with pure Irish butter. We frequently eat caveman chili or bacon and eggs for breakfast. Just plain yummy.

I don’t miss donuts or sugar as much as I am wistful about the memories involving eating such foods. I recognize that my obesity was the result of eating foods that packed a lot of calories and little nutrition. That situation is reversed, I am happy to report! I no longer eat sugar or sugary foods. I can feel the difference in my health.

Last fall hubby bought me a three-wheeled bicycle so I could begin riding with him on a daily basis. We rode five days a week all last fall, through the winter, and into spring this year. Of course, living in the southwestern Arizona desert, we took the summer off. We just resumed riding a week ago. It’s a good feeling to exercise daily, especially doing something as interesting as riding around looking at homes and yards and our local golf course.

I think my takeaway from this journey is that slow and steady wins the race. I have only lost an average of 1/2 pound a week for the last two and a half years. But over that time I have lost a total of 66 pounds. I have fallen off the wagon, climbed back on, and ultimately stuck the course. I will be happy if I never lose another pound. I’m so accustomed to logging meals though, I’ll bet I continue to do so and lose more weight. Yes, I believe this plateau will end when my body stops building muscle to replace the muscle I’ve lost. In the meantime, I’m 66 pounds lighter. Yay! No really – YAY! 🙂

-Mary-

 

 

 

Too connected to my phone?

On Wednesday night the unthinkable happened – I shattered my iPhone 8 Plus by leaving it on the roof of my car as I drove home. Needless to say, the first turn dislodged it from the rain track over the driver’s door and it hit the pavement, where it was promptly run over by another car.  Can you say smithereens? I retrieved the poor missile – but it was destroyed.

My insurance carrier needs five days to replace the phone. The accident happened on Wednesday – I won’t have the replacement until Monday. So what to do when I am attached by a virtual umbilicus to a dead phone? Wait. Impatiently, to be sure. And learn… what it means to converse, to give undivided attention, to listen. I guess I thought I was doing those things – but now I realize that I was merely going through the motions.

I’ve always loved technology. From the first transistor radio I received for my twelfth birthday to my now-defunct iPhone, I am in love with the communication aspect of electronic devices. I love texting, emailing, talking, Googling, reading, listening to music, podcasts, etc… in short, I enjoy my phone. But it has taken a toll on my relationships.

One friend asked if I was going to carry my phone down the aisle when hubby and I recently had our marriage blessed by the Church. Sheesh! I didn’t know I was so inextricably attached. Another friend commented that she knew I ALWAYS have my phone on my person.

Between reading emails, checking Facebook, looking at my bank account, and casual surfing, I probably spend a solid two to three hours a day on my phone. That’s crazy! We didn’t even have cell phones until I was in my thirties. Now I can’t live without one? I know – I need it for the calendar and texting with colleagues and friends. But do I really need to be tethered 24/7?

I’m thinking NOT. So how do I extricate myself from this addiction? Yes, it’s an addiction. I have withdrawals. I find myself looking for my phone – which is on the table in all it’s smashed glory. I keep thinking, “Oh, I should call this friend or that.” My fingers itch to be texting. My attention is looking for a media fix!

I guess I knew I was attached to my phone. Now that I know how serious the affliction is, it seems an action plan is in order. First order of action – set a schedule for making and returning calls. Second order – don’t install unnecessary software or apps on the new phone. Finally – put the phone down and forget about it when chatting in person.

I wish my connection to God were as robust as my connection to my phone. Don’t get me wrong – I love Jesus and pray often. But my attraction to God seems to be lesser than my attraction to things electronic. I know this because when given a choice of praying or playing a game on my phone, the phone usually wins.

I am ashamed to admit this but, I’ve become a sound-bite prayer. That means I pray in short bursts instead of having conversations with Jesus. It took having no phone to realize this fact. I’ve become more impatient, not less. More agitated, not calmer. My attention is scattered.

So while I’m waiting for the replacement device to be delivered, I am reviewing my relationship with electronics. Since it is interferring with my relationship with God, something has to change. Part of the problem is having everything on my phone.

My prayer books, reading materials, research resources, games, email, texts, social media – everything I use is located on my phone, which is always with me. I think it’s time to carve out a reasonable amount of time to be on the phone for personal pleasure and limit my use of the device to business for the rest of the time.

I suspect I will feel cranky and out of sorts for a while. I also suspect that the God I have been neglecting will meet me more than half way as I return my attention to Him and His communication with me. For this I am grateful.

I wrote this for those of you who are likewise tethered to your phones. I feel your pain at the thought of breaking the connection or even  moderating it. For me, the fellowship of Jesus is worth the pain. I’ll let you know how the battle goes in the future.

Mary

 

 

I went to Mass last night…

I went to Mass last night; it was good and full and clean.

The prayers have changed, but the words still meant the same.

I worshipped and praised and found myself lifted. And then I wondered, why have I dragged my feet for such a long time? Why have I stayed away?

The Holy Spirit whispered in my ear and now I know why – I was looking at people instead of at God. He never fails. He never disappoints – oh, in the short term, when we do not understand His Heart, we misunderstand His motives and His means. He is slow, we say. But He is ever on time.

The Mass is the fulfillment of the Seder supper of the Hebrew Passover Feast – for Christians. Every word, every prayer, every song is knit together to reassure our hearts of the Love of God. The Bread and the Wine feed our souls. The Body and the Blood – Jesus – sustains our spirits. We are fed and surrounded by pure Light.

Oh, Father, how I love You. I thank You for loving me first.

I thank You for sustenance and the Peace of Your Holy Spirit living in my heart. For Your Holy Catholic Church where I am loved and accepted as Your child.

I thank You for the Mass. Thank You for Holy Communion. Thank You for dwelling with us in the Bread and Wine. Thank You for reaching out to us in our nakedness and shame. Thank You for clothing us, for sheltering us, for Your presence.

Thank You for giving Your life for ours. Thank you for not holding back Your Son. Thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit. Thank You for the wisdom You are, and for the love You give us. Thank you for being with us now and at the hour of our greatest need. Amen.

Did you ever wonder what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain?

mill-sky-clouds-grass-339343I have often thought about the times I have used expletives to express my feelings or reactions to difficult situations. Yes, I usually feel awful after such an outburst. But for some reason, I never felt that my expletives were the whole of the matter. I always felt as though there were more to be considered, I just didn’t know what that “more” was.

This past Saturday I attended a Spiritual Retreat at my local Parish Hall. It was led by a young priest with a guitar. His voice was soft and his words were gentle. For a moment, I was lulled into thinking that this would be another “feel good” retreat, where I would divest myself of some half-imagined unconfessed sin and feel better for a short time afterward.

As it turned out, I was in for a surprise. The Priest, Father Jeff, was using the theme “Spirits Soaring”. He spoke on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues… and a host of other gifts which the Holy Spirit bestows according to the will of the Father. As part of his teaching, Fr. Jeff spoke of the Hebrew word for Spirit.

In Hebrew, the word for Spirit is rûah, which also means… wind.

Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind (rûah) sweeping over the waters.

Job 3:3-4 For the spirit (rûah) of God made me, the breath of the Almighty keeps me alive.

According to Fr. Jeff, the name for God in Hebrew is an attempt to replicate the sound of breathing. The four consonants that spell the name of God cannot be pronounced alone because they are expiration sounds (breathing out sounds). Further, the word has no vowels to inform the sound.

This information made me sit up and take notice. Fr. Jeff explained that the name of God is like a sigh… that as we breathe, drawing air in and letting air out, we are making the sound of rûah… sighing. That means that as we breathe in and out, we are uttering the name of God. But to speak God’s name at all is to pray, to call upon Him.

This means that every inhale, every exhale, every moment of the day or night, is prayer. Is this what it means in Scripture when we read that the Spirit prays for us with groanings too deep for words? This gives a whole new meaning to taking God’s name in vain. If I am breathing God’s name, night and day, 24/7, then anything I say is layered on top of that prayer.

Follow me here – if I am speaking words of encouragement and hope, I am keeping the message of God’s name melodious and harmonic. However, if I am speaking hatred or promoting some other shameful pursuit, I am belying the message of my breath, and heaping coals of shame on God’s name (and my own head). If I criticize, or judge, or lie, or falsely accuse, or gossip – it is as though I did it in God’s name.

How many times have I brought shame on my Heavenly Father’s name by what I have said!?! I am suddenly aware that I am a woman of unclean lips. I know that I have sullied the name of my God. I cry out, “Please forgive me, Father. I didn’t understand. Now I do. Help me restrain my lips and tongue so they never speak judgment against your name again. Give me a clean heart and pure lips to sing your praises.  Let my mouth exist to praise you.”

Amen. I feel as though I will never be the same again. And I do feel good after all… very good.

 

A Meditation Journey

So, you’re thinking about trying meditation? It’s a good choice for improved health – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Meditation seems to fill up our feel-good tank and cleanse our feeling-not-so-good tank. There are scientific reasons this is true. However, for me at least, it is better to experience the truth than to read facts about it.

I’ve been meditating for about a year, on and off. I require quiet and isolation to meditate at this point in my journey. I’m easily distracted by the movement of others or their conversations. This is okay. I’m just learning how to meditate. I guess I don’t have expectations for how this journey should unfold.

What I have discovered so far is that I slip into meditation easily if I use guided lessons. I find the speaker helpful in the context of my efforts to relax. Once I am relaxed, the gentle voice guiding my thoughts and attention helps me stay in a meditative state.  I find that I’m content to stay this way for up to half-an-hour after the guidance ends.

The benefits are a calmness that permeates my entire being. I am not upset by obstacles or problems that present themselves into my day. I almost feel as though I am walking on a cloud. Life is rosier – easier. My friends have commented on my calmness. While calm is my normal state, the calm induced by meditation is deeper and richer in every way.

I find myself inspired to play, paint, write, draw – all expressions of creativity bubbling up from within. Colors are more beautiful, nature is more intoxicating, life is lovely. The peace is refreshing, yet comfortable. Like wearing a scarf that’s just the right weight for the weather.  I feel as though I have put peace on – but it’s lighter than a veil.

Meditation is taught in Scripture. David meditated, as did Moses and Solomon, and many others in the Old Testament. Jesus meditated for 40 days and nights in the desert before He began His Earthly ministry. I can see why they turned to meditation – it clears the mind and heart for work. Meditation as prayer is unsurpassed, at least in my experience.

I cannot imagine discontinuing meditation any more than I would discontinue prayer. Both strengthen my soul. My resilience. My ability to love. That’s the best part of all – I feel love for others unlike my previous attempts to cultivate the emotion. I feel compassion and empathy for others. Even those whose beliefs and lives contradict mine.

Yeah, I think meditation rocks and I plan to continue practicing until I get good at it!

I’ll Never Stop Loving You…

What can I tell my mother when she’s gone? That I love her.

This morning I almost called my Mom. She’s been gone since July 7, 2016, but I nearly picked up my phone to dial her number. I just wanted to share how alike we are – how like her I’ve become. Even down to the way I take my coffee. Well, I use honey instead of Sweet and Low, but we both prefer half & half.

I stopped myself before I picked up the phone. But this is what I would have said if she had answered:

I’ve wanted to call you so many times, Mom. Wanted to pick up the phone and talk to you about… anything. I miss you. I’m so sorry you were right – you didn’t ever see me again. I couldn’t bear the thought of you not knowing me. I’m a coward, I know. I didn’t come. But I thought about you constantly.

And I do love you. I still think about you often – daily. I see the things I do that you taught me. Like folding a Kleenex down on one corner and using the doubled portion. Like licking all the way around an ice cream cone to catch the melting bits before they drip. Like shaving under my arms before shaving my legs so the razor doesn’t hurt.

You were an excellent Mother to me. I remember you being the room mother for my first-grade class. And baking cakes for the school cake walk. I remember you curling my hair to make it curly. How frustrated you would be when the curl fell right out. But you kept on curling it, night after night. Only rag curls held their shape as ringlets.

I remember you rocking me when I hurt myself. And spanking me for taking off my clothes during nap time. And teaching me my prayers. And reading aloud to me every day of my childhood. I remember you for cutting out paper dolls. For coloring with me when you had chores waiting.

I remember you sitting patiently in the emergency room while I received stitches yet again. I remember you washing the piano teacher’s bathroom to pay for my piano lessons. And I appreciate you for it. Thank you for loving me. For teaching me. For raising me to be a good citizen.

You always did the best you knew how to do. You worked hard at being a good wife and mother. I remember you kept a clean house, cooked nutritious meals, and washed all of our clothes and linens. You never complained about doing it, it just got done. Thank you for teaching me to do those things, as well. You modeled good mothering to me. You never failed me, Mom. And I’ll love you forever!