Make. It. Work.

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I’m not an athlete by nature.  I never excelled in any sports and I wouldn’t know my way around a gym to save my life.  I admire people who have skills on the court and stamina on the treadmill, but neither of those things have ever truly been a desire of mine.  However, being healthy yet balanced is a goal of mine.  In certain areas of my life, I tend to be all, “Go big or go home,” but in the arena of food and fitness, I’m working on being more mindful and balanced while also increasing my strength and enriching my health.  With all of that being said, here’s what has been working for me.  I think when we make a goal to be stronger or healthier, it’s tempting to look all around at others to see how they are getting those results.  We will often so desperately want to try to mimic them, but I think it’s important to remember that we are not them.  We can get results too, but the steps to get there have to be steps that make sense to us in our lives.  Below are some ways I make it work for me.

  1. I work out at home.  I knew that in order to gain strength and have a healthier lifestyle, I would need to exercise.  The problem is that I don’t always love to exercise.  When I look at others on social media, I see people going to Orange Theory, joining a gym, hiking outside, running 5k’s and marathons, doing Cross Fit, etc.  All of those things are great, but none of them are practical for me in the season of life I’m in currently.  I’m learning that what is ideal for someone else might not be ideal for me in my situation, and that’s totally ok.  It doesn’t have to keep me from reaching my goals.  My “gym” is my living room.  It’s ideal for me because I can throw in a load of laundry right before I work out and I don’t have to include travel time in to my daily workout time.  I researched a lot of different work outs to do at home and there are waaaaay more out now than ever, with great results to back them up.  I chose to do P90X3 in my home.  I don’t have to find childcare to get to a gym, I can work out in my ugliest, nastiest state and not a soul sees me, I don’t have to pay big money for a membership anywhere (I purchased P90X3 on eBay for around $25), and I like that the workout has variety.  The last time I did this, I followed the “Classic Schedule.”  I lost 20 pounds in 6 months with this combined with macro dieting.  Right now, I want to maintain (or even increase some of) my weight through building muscle.  I’m doing the “Mass Schedule” and I’m loving it.  I’m currently in week 3.
  2. I wake up early.  This one is going to be dependent on personality.  I have friends who love to run on their elliptical or treadmill while watching a show after their kids are in bed at night.  I have other friends who do group classes at a gym right after work.  For me, I don’t have the time to go to a gym consistently and my evenings are usually crazy.  Each week in the evenings, Ike has speech, Isla has gymnastics, Adia has dance, I teach both girls piano, I lead professional developments, I have faculty meetings, etc.  Add on top of that a full time job and you’ve got yourself a busy mom.  I can’t imagine being able to consistently fit in a workout each evening while still allowing time to make dinners, spend time with my kids and my husband, clean, and get ready for the next school day.  I also have no energy at night because I’m so tired from a full day’s work.  I find it difficult at times to wake up at 5:30 AM, but once I’m up and I’m doing it, I enjoy the peace and quiet.  I also get that workout knocked out early so that I don’t have to worry about when and where to squeeze it in to the rest of my day.  If waking up early is unimaginable for you, then when is your prime time?  I don’t suggest that we all wake up at 5:30 AM to exercise, but I do suggest finding your best time within your schedule and devoting that time to your own fitness and well-being.  I don’t think you will regret it and it does not have to be all or nothing.  Personally, I value progress over perfection.  A few years ago, I rarely worked out at all.  My body will never be perfect but I’ve had progress and that motivates me.  Just working out 3 times per week for 30 minutes a session is 78 HOURS of time you are committing in a whole year to take care of you.  78 hours is way better than 0.  (Look at that math!  I amaze myself!)
  3. I count macros.  I’ve talked about this before, but it’s the easiest and most efficient healthy eating I’ve ever been able to stick with long term.  I’ve done Paleo and though there were parts about it that I loved, I found it hard to navigate with so many foods having to be off the table.  I love counting macros because I can eat what my kids eat and I can eat whatever I want as long as it fits my macros.  A lot of people call this “Flexible Dieting,” and that’s exactly why I like it.  Most of the food I eat is really healthy, but I can enjoy a late night donut with my friends or a scoop of ice cream with my kids and maintain my weight and results.  I’ve just learned how to balance what I eat so that I CAN indulge at times.  The MyFitnessPal app makes it incredibly easy to adjust your macro percentages and then plug in the foods you eat each day to track how much protein, fat, and carbs you are consuming.  I have goals for each (protein, fat, and carbs) and I try to reach those goals by the end of the day.  I’ll link more about that here, but I highly suggest contacting Kim Waits to help get you started if it is something you are interested in doing.  I owe the bulk of my health and success to her wisdom and assistance.

So, there you have it.  3 tips for how I make it work for me.  Please understand that I’m not suggesting that everyone out there ditches their gym membership or wakes up at 5:30.  What I am suggesting is this: have a goal, decide on what behaviors you’re going to change/continue/or begin in order to meet that goal, and make some commitments so that you can actually do the behaviors you need to do in order to meet your goal.  Maybe you’re going to take a kickboxing class and you’re going to commit to plan out your schedule each week so you can attend.  Maybe you’re going to run a 5K and you’re going to commit to laying out your running clothes the night before and waking early to run.  Whatever it is, have a system and hold yourself accountable to your system.  Reflect on your system and do what you need to do to make it work.

Quick and Easy Macro Foods and Drinks

I wrote about my love for macro dieting here, but I’d love to jump in a little further and tell you some of my favorite really quick snacks, foods, and protein drink options that make counting macros a little easier and a lot more enjoyable for me.  None of the options below require anything more than a microwave or toaster and there’s no cooking or huge prep involved.  I’ve included the grams for the macros after each description (c = carbs, f = fat, p = protein).

  1. UMP Chocolate Protein Powder.  I seriously drink this stuff almost daily.  I have always hated protein powders.  If I don’t like the way something tastes or the way it makes me feel, then it’s extremely hard for me to continue or drinking it.  However, this stuff actually tastes awesome.  I usually just mix 1 scoop of the chocolate powder with 8 oz of cold water and some crunched up ice in my blender bottle.  4c, 3.5f, 20p (120 calories).
  2. Kodiak Cakes products.  My favorites are the waffle mix (we use this to make mini waffles at home or to make banana muffins) and the frozen vanilla buttermilk waffles.  I top it with Walden Farms syrup and I’m happy. Macros for 2 of the frozen waffles: 29c, 11f, 12p (260 calories)
  3. Danon Light&Fit Yogurt.  My absolute favorite flavor is banana cream, but it’s not a flavor my store typically carries so I buy the strawberry banana and it’s pretty good too. 9c, 0f, 12p (80 calories)
  4. Ole Xtreme Wellness Tortillas.  I love these for breakfast burritos and tacos.  My husband and kids eat these too and can’t tell the difference between these and the higher calorie options we’ve had in the past. 16c, 1.5f, 4p (50 calories)
  5. Protein Crisps.  You can eat SO many of these in a serving.  When you have that hankering for chips or something crispy, these are not a bad choice!  I love the barbecue flavor and the buffalo.  10c, 2.5f, 10p (90 calories)
  6. String Cheese.  I love buying these because they are affordable and everyone in my family can eat them.  When it’s about time for bed but I need a few more grams of protein, it isn’t uncommon for me to reach for one of these. 0.5c, 6f, 1p (80 calories)
  7. Bolthouse Farms Dressings – If you’re wanting to make a quick salad, use a marinade, or have a tasty dip for some veggies, try out these dressings.  It’s really easy to squirt some in a little container and take to work with a bag of veggies.  One of my favorites is the Sweet Heat Sriracha Yogurt flavor.  3c, 3f, 1p (45 calories)
  8. Rice Cakes.  I love the caramel ones and Aldi has their “Fit & Active” mini ones for really cheap.  Sometimes, I get a little sweet tooth and these are just enough to satisfy.  I will also eat a small handful sometimes right before a workout. 7 of the mini Fit & Actives = 1 serving.  13c, 0f, 1p (60 calories)
  9. Cottage Cheese.  I love cottage cheese just by itself, but a lot of people love it mixed with fruit.  It’s pretty high in protein and I actually love to dip veggies in it in place of ranch.  1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese is 4c, 2.5f, 14p (90 calories).
  10. Deli Meat. I’m talking about the good kind…  the kind you actually get from behind the deli.  Find your favorite and get it sliced however you like.  My favorite is the maple turkey sliced super thin.  If it’s this kind or another kind I truly like, I don’t miss the bread.  2 ounces of honey maple turkey is 2c, 0.5f, 14p (70 calories).

I’m sure I’m missing several things, but these are all things that help to add to quick meals or snacks without killing your macro counts for the day.  I hope you find this helpful!  I’ll put up some of my favorite macro recipes soon.

Macro Dieting

It’s January 1st, which is probably the most popular time of the year for people to begin setting goals.  I was at a training a few weeks ago for work where I heard a very obvious quote, but it stuck with me and I couldn’t get it out of my head.  Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling wrote a pretty powerful book called “The 4 Disciplines of Execution,” all about setting and achieving your goals.  In it, they write, “To achieve a goal you have never achieved before, you must start doing things you have never done before.”  Sounds pretty obvious, right?  However, I think so many of us have these big desires and we want to get to them, but our strategies to get there are often based on hope, chance, or uncertainty.  It’s also kind of the punch in the gut we need in order to stop making excuses and to change our behaviors.  Behaviors influence our success.  Period.  If our behaviors aren’t leading to success, (no matter what our goals are), we won’t reach our goals, meaning we have to change our behaviors.

Flash back to January of 2018.  The niece I had given birth to (yep, you read that right….  read about my surrogacy journey here) was 4 months old.  I had just quit pumping breast milk and the baby weight did not come off so easily this time.  That pregnancy was a huge blessing and growing period for me (both literally and figuratively), but I entered the new year ready to shift my focus from the health and nourishment of this sweet baby I birthed, to taking care of the body that carried her.  My word for the year was “stronger,” and I can tell you with 100% certainty that I became exactly that.

I set a goal.  My goal was to go from __________ pounds to __________ pounds by June 26, 2018 (which was my pre-baby weight.). I had to lose 20 pounds to meet my goal.  Here were my behaviors I knew I had to begin in order to reach my goal:

  1. Do P90X3 5-6 times per week.  I chose this because it’s only 30 minutes.  I bought it off of eBay, which was very budget friendly and the workouts had enough variety and the research to back up it effectiveness.  I chose to wake every weekday around 5:30 AM in order to get my workout done.  This was a huuuuge behavior change for me, but I knew that getting it done first thing in the day would set me up for success and I wouldn’t have to worry about it the rest of the day.
  2. Macro Dieting: I signed up through Kim Waits and gave her all of my info including my height and weight, my goal, etc.  She set my macros for me in order to set me up for success.

What is macro dieting?

Macros are carbs, fats, and protein.  Kim set my macros so that 40% of my diet was carbs, 30% was protein, and 30% was fats.  As for my calories, she set those for me too, but I don’t want to list that here simply because that is a number that needs to be very intentionally customized based on your height, weight, and goals.  This is why I think it’s so important to work with Kim.  She is the expert, and I am not.

How did I track all of that?

Easily and efficiently.  I work full time and I have 3 kids.  I don’t have time to count things constantly or do a ton of work to keep track of it all.  Fortunately, the myFitnessPal app does all of this for you.  For many foods, I could just scan the label on the package and it would go straight into my daily diary.  If I can figure it out and have time for it, then it must be easy and efficient!

How do I figure out my macros and calories?

Contact Kim Waits!  Click on this link. Her pricing is super affordable, and your health is worth the price.  You can also look up a lot of research on the benefits of macro dieting and how to set goals by doing a simple Pinterest search, but I would definitely recommend working with someone like Kim who can tailor a plan for you.  I initially tried doing the research myself and found that I had set my calorie intake too high.  I wasn’t gaining weight, but I wasn’t losing either, meaning I wasn’t going to meet my goal.

What are the benefits of macro dieting?

  1. Learning about food.  To me, this was the most impactful.  Prior to macro dieting, I didn’t realize how little protein I was actually consuming.  I thought I ate a lot of protein because I like meat and I thought I was being super healthy by eating a ton of fruits and vegetables.  What I learned was that I was too heavy on carbs, which I would burn and then get hungry again.  Even eating healthy foods in excess is still excess.  I was overeating and not getting enough protein to sustain me.  Once I learned about ways to get more protein, I was content and I wasn’t hungry all the time.  I also just felt better.  I didn’t eliminate carbs, but I learned how to use them to fuel me instead of comforting me.  I didn’t have to eliminate all sugar, I just had to learn how to balance out my foods so that I wasn’t overdoing it.  It taught me a ton about moderation.
  2. Nothing is off limits.  I still had Moonrise Donuts, I just preplanned and balanced the rest of my day so that I could have that treat in the evening with my family.  There’s not 1 thing I ever had to give up in order to do this.  I just had to be mindful and intentional about what I ate and when.  I never made separate meals for me and m family.  I just learned about proportions and balance.
  3. I can do it forever.  It’s a way of life and I don’t have to cut out bread for the rest of my life.  I can sustain.

So, how is it going now?

I met my goal weight in June and I have lost 2 pounds since then.  I’ve maintained that weight without tracking my macros in myFitnessPal, but I still apply what I’ve learned about macros daily.  Over the holidays, I ate what I wanted, just like I ate whatever I wanted on my cruise back in June.  I just get right back into the swing of things as soon as those holidays or vacations are over and I get right back to the weight I was before all of the excess fun.

I’m starting a new challenge to maintain my weight and have more muscle tone beginning this new year.  Over the past couple of months, I haven’t been diligent in my workouts and I can tell.  I’m excited to get back to it and to focus on my new word this year: BALANCE.

Here are some of my before and afters:

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Obedience

I think the word “obedience” often has a negative connotation.  We might hear that word and think of times when we were punished for breaking the rules in school, or we may hear it and associate the word with a lack of fun.  We might think of the straight and narrow, or the stern tone of the deliverer of our consequences when we weren’t obedient in the past.  I want to challenge you to think of obedience differently.  Obedience changed my life and set me on a completely unanticipated path to a very visual and life giving blessing that I would have missed out on entirely had it not been for obedience.

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If you are a parent, think of it this way…  Have you ever given your child a direction because you knew that if they followed that direction, it would set them up for something good?  I often think of teaching my kids to not fear the water.  There have been many times when I’ve stood there in the water with my arms out and told my kids, “Jump!”  I knew they’d be safe.  I knew I’d catch them.  I knew they’d love the feeling of the water all around them and the celebration of all of us waiting for them to trust me and leap.  If I switch the perspective to my child, they’re often scared.  Even though mom or dad has never missed and has never encouraged them to do something that would harm them, they still fear the unknown.  The water looks deep.  What if it’s cold?  What if Mom doesn’t catch me?  What if it makes me uncomfortable?  All the while, I know they’ll not only be ok, they’ll be glad they did it.  I just need them to trust me and know that I’ll be in the water with them.  Listen to my call and obey.  Jump!

When I first felt like God was calling me to offer my womb as a surrogate, there were a lot of unknowns.  But because I had a relationship with God, I knew He’d be in the water with me, arms wide open, ready to catch me.  I jumped.  Sometimes, the water felt cold.  My Father was always there in the water with me, holding me, and assuring me that I could trust Him to keep me afloat.  He called me to jump, and the experience wasn’t only a lesson for me that I could trust Him and that He is faithful, but that I’d be glad and excited that I got to jump.  I can handle the cold temps and I can handle the uncertainty because He’s in the water with me, holding me and assuring me it’s ok.  He’s excited that I jumped in and so many are standing around the water, celebrating with me.

I don’t think God is calling all of us to jump into the waters of surrogacy, but I do think He’s calling us all to jump into the water with Him and to obey whatever it is He’s calling you to do.  What’s He calling you to do?  Will you jump?

 

2 John 1:6 says, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.  As you have heard from he beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”

Rejection.

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It never feels good to be rejected.  I have often let the fear of rejection determine the road I take.  Some of the earliest memories I have of feeling rejected were in elementary school, and even at a very young age, I’d let that fear keep me from pursuing something I desired.  “What if I can’t?  What if it won’t work out?  What if people laugh at me when I try?”  We have a crazy amount of opportunities to either be accepted or rejected.

Ask yourself if you’ve ever experienced any of these scenarios below.  Did any of these scenarios ever lead to acceptance or rejection?

  • Asking a friend to play with you as a kid.
  • Trying out for an athletic team or musical ensemble.
  • Applying for a job.
  • Applying for college.
  • Applying for a scholarship.
  • Asking someone to be in a relationship with you.
  • Sharing something intimate about yourself to your family or friends.
  • Being in the “in crowd.”
  • Being a part of a community.
  • Sharing your ideas with your co-workers.
  • Asking for a raise.
  • Applying for a loan.
  • Asking someone to love you.
  • Trying to adopt a child you’ve longed for.

I could’ve continued that list, but if you have ever felt rejected in any of the above scenarios or any others, you aren’t alone.  What I find comforting is knowing that people I love and admire have often been rejected too, but it does not keep them from pursuing their passion.  If anything, it only motivates them to overcome.  If we let rejection define us, we may never reach our potential and we may never experience joy that could have been on the other side.  Sometimes, the answer is “No” and it needs to be no.  If that’s the case, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that we were pursuing something that would not have ultimately been fruitful and it’s time to start pursuing something that will be.  Other times, the answer might not be “No,” but it might be, “Not yet.”  It’s so hard to swallow the “not yet” when we feel like we know what would make us happy, but in reality, there’s maybe a better time or some other work in us that needs to happen before the “not yet” becomes a “yes.”

Recently, I was at a meeting for work when I heard someone say that we need to look at our obstacles as “opportunities.”  Maybe you were rejected from the job you wanted.  But, what if there is a reason…  What if there’s something better for you or a lesson you were supposed to learn in order to grow?  Does it mean you should stop searching for a job?  No.  Does it mean you should start searching for a different job?  Maybe.  Rejection shouldn’t put us to a stop.  Rejection should inspire reflection, which should motivate us to action instead of crippling us with fear. 

Don’t let the fear of rejection keep you from pursuing your dreams and goals.  Maybe  rejection isn’t your obstacle, but rather your opportunity for something greater.

Strong Women Stories

I’m lucky.  I have been surrounded by some pretty strong women my whole life.  I want to start a movement where we showcase the strong women in our lives.  I’ll show you what I mean…

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My memom, grandfather, and my dad when he was a baby.  1950’s.

This is my “Memom.”  I know it’s not a typical name for a grandmother, but she wasn’t a typical grandmother either.  She was a mother of 5 kids, my dad being the oldest of the 5.  When my grandfather was 40, he passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack, leaving my memom alone to raise 5 children, ranging from ages 5 to 17.  Not long after he passed, my memom invited anyone she knew who had experienced a loss in their family over for Thanksgiving.  She was a widow herself, yet she served each of the families who came to her home and every family left with a pie.  I didn’t know that story about her until after she had passed.  My other grandmother had lost her 18 year old daughter and was one of the women who left that Thanksgiving with a pie on her lap from my memom.  A piece of my memom lives on.  I bet that life wasn’t easy for my memom, but it didn’t keep her from rolling up her sleeves and serving others.  I’m thankful I come from people like her.  She was strong, even when she must have felt weak.

So, who is a strong woman in your life?  Let’s start sharing their stories.  Join my challenge!  Here’s how:

  1. Post a picture on Instagram of a strong woman in your life.  Tell us what makes her strong.
  2. Tag me on instagram using rachel.removetheveil
  3. Use the hashtag #strongwomenstories
  4. Follow me on Instagram.
  5. Search  the hashtag “strongwomenstories” and get ready to be inspired.

 

Body Image.

I’m all about transformations.  I’m awe struck when I see a home that was once a shack looking like a perfect farmhouse (all hail, Joanna Gaines), an incredible weight loss story that rivals The Biggest Loser, a drug addict who is now sober, or the battered and beaten who have overcome and claimed victory.  We read these stories, see these results, and we can’t help but feel happy and inspired for the ones who are living on the other side of the often times painful journey.

For some reason, it’s so easy to be happy for them, but to convince myself that it’s not for me.

Typing that makes me feel and sound ridiculous.

Until I was 9, I never struggled with body image.  What I wore and how I wore it was totally based on what I thought was fun and whatever others thought had absolutely no bearing on whether or not I chose what I chose.

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Matching with my bestie.
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Messy hair, play clothes, didn’t care.
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First perm,  “Do you want your bangs permed too?” Me: “Um, YES.”

In fourth grade, we started reading a book about a girl with an eating disorder.  The book talked about how thin she became and how sick and unhealthy she was due to her disorder.  A boy in my class raised his hand and asked the teacher, “Does Rachel throw up her food, too?”  I remember being a little girl and wondering why he thought I was like the girl in the book.  I remembered our conversations about the book – how sickly and thin.  It was at that time when I started examining myself in the mirror everyday and first began comparing my body to other girls in my class.  I was 9.

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4th grade.  My shirt said, “PANTS” and the 80’s was jealous of my hair.

It didn’t stop there.  As I grew taller in stature, struggled with acne, crooked teeth, and bushy eyebrows, I also had a general lack of knowledge on how to dress, fix my hair, or apply makeup.  I know this all seems like normal middle school struggles that so many of us can relate to, but I wish it wasn’t “normal” to feel ugly.  Words hurt, and I can vividly remember so many of those words.

“I would rather be overweight than to look like you.”

“Why do you even bother to wear a bra?  You don’t have anything to fill it out with anyway.”

“Have you ever heard of a thing called tweezers?”

“You have no curves.”

“You’re not as pretty as _______________.”

“You’re too pale.”

“You’re too skinny.”

“You look sick.”

“You have bird legs.”

“Are those pimples, or chicken pox on your forehead?”

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Middle School.  Fake smile, real hot-rolled hair.

I’m lucky that I had some really good friends, a great church, and very loving parents, but even all of that couldn’t protect me from the hurtful words I endured.  Girls who were my friends as a child all of a sudden would not speak to me in the hallways anymore.  They were popular, and I wasn’t.  I knew in my heart, even at a young age, that popularity wasn’t everything, so I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my morals for a chance at being recognized by a cute boy or a popular girl.  In some ways, I was really strong.  But sometimes, I would get off the bus after school, walk to the side lot beside my house, sit in the grass and cry.

Middle school was hard.  At the same time I was getting remarks on my poor looks, I can also remember being in a 7th grade social studies class when a boy first grabbed me inappropriately and laughed.  I remember being upset about it and embarrassed.  I didn’t tell on him.  I should have, but I didn’t.  Someone said, “That’s just what guys do.”  I was 12.

9th grade came and so did highschool.  I was embarrassed to ever wear shorts because I knew I’d get made fun of for my bird legs.  I had braces that year, and even though I was missing a canine tooth behind those braces, I was ready to go to high school since that meant getting out of middle school.  I didn’t get asked to any dances that year.  Almost all (if not all) of my friends did.  I stayed home and watched TV while my friends experienced that first dance without me.  I was 14.

Something happened over the summer of my 9th grade year.  I got my braces off, and I gained a little weight.  I got better at applying the makeup and I started to look a little more like a growing woman instead of an overgrown kid.  When I went back to school for the fall, a boy told me on the first day of school that he had to look twice to realize it was me.

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My 15 year old self going to a dance with one of my best friends growing up, Todd.

For a while, I felt like most of the comments I received were based on my looks.  How I’d gotten prettier, or how I’d “blossomed.”  I was introduced to a beautiful tool called a hair straightener and I’d learned that there were other lipstick colors other than “rust.”  As far as appearances go, life was better.  I remember after dating Micah for a few months, we were going through a box of my old things and we found my freshman badge from high school.  He saw it and said, “Who is this person, and why do you have her badge?”  I said, “Read the name.”  He couldn’t believe it was me.  I looked totally different.  I’d put a picture of that below, but I’m pretty sure I burned that thing years ago.

I had a serious high school boyfriend, but it didn’t keep boys from making comments about my body.  Some of those comments were meant to be flattering, but they were often inappropriate.  Some were still rude.

“You have the hairiest arms I have ever seen.”

“Your hair is in a pony tail.  You must be on your period because you obviously didn’t feel like trying today.”

I was 16.

In college, I was told by strangers frequently that I looked just like Jennifer Aniston.  Going from 8th grade Rachel to Rachel from Friends was quite the transition.  I spent a lot of time visiting the tanning bed and I never left my dorm room without applying eye liner.  I got comments on my looks frequently.

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I’m going to remove my veil now and tell you that this boost in encouragement from those around me also turned into a boost in my ego.  I began to focus too much on my looks and I liked the attention I received around my physical transformation.

Then, something weird happened.  I went back home over the holidays and saw a family member I didn’t see regularly.  This person put her arm around my waist and pinched my side saying, “I can’t believe you, out of all people, have put on some weight since going away to college.  You used to be so skinny.”

Used to be?  Do I look bad?

I watched a video of me teaching shortly after for my student teaching assignment and all I could focus on was my mid-section.

Guys, I was 5’8″ and weighed 112 pounds.  In other words, I was tiny.  So tiny.  I pretended to be confident.  I’d take selfies with friends, I’d spend so much time trying on outfits and putting on makeup and I’d still compare myself to the girls across the hall from me in the dorms – never feeling like I was measuring up.  I was super insecure and pretended not to be.  I was 19.

Time went on.  I got married.  During my first year of teaching, I gained 20 pounds.  I was  extremely stressed with my new job.  I was down on myself a lot and the extra 20 pounds of weight was on top of about an extra 20 pounds of stress.  It was my first year of marriage too.  That was hard.  Neither of us were perfect.  We were 21.

A few years later, I had my first child.  During pregnancy, everyone told me how cute I looked pregnant.  Confidence boost again.  I felt good about how I looked when I sported that baby bump.

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Then, she was born.  My cute bump turned into what looked like a deflated balloon and the comments shifted from, “You are so cute with that bump,” to, “‘She spits up a lot.  Do you think it’s because you are eating too much dairy?  You should probably cut back.”  I was often met with questions on my parenting and the choices I had made about my “birth plan,” choices I had made regarding schedules or routines for my new baby, and a huge dose of hormones that left me feeling inadequate and small.  I was 25.

In the meantime, I got better and went on to have 2 more children.  After my third child was born, I went back to work and was also pumping a ton of breastmilk.  He was sick with a rare viral disease and I was a stressed out, working mom with a lot of insecurities.  I was struggling in several areas of my life.  I lost so much weight from nursing and getting too busy to pay attention to the food I was not eating.  I went down to 109 pounds at 5’8″.

“Are you ok?  You are so thin it worries me.”

“Are you depressed?  You look so frail.”

After I quit nursing, I started putting some of the weight back on and I started eating healthier and working out.  I was doing much better and getting much healthier.  My little boy was on the mend and so was I.  I was 31.

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I began really feeling led to offer myself as a surrogate for my sister in law.  As we went through that process, I began a lot of hormones in order to prepare my body for IVF.  In a matter of 5 months, I gained 15 pounds.  The pregnancy took and I gained another 30.  But this time, I didn’t care.

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I looked at my body in a completely different way.  My body was carrying the life of another so that someone else could have a baby to call her own.  I watched my body change and I did it as an act of service for a child that wasn’t mine and for a sweet couple who would have otherwise not had an opportunity to hear the pitter-patter of tiny little feet in their home.  All of a sudden, my body wasn’t mine and what I was doing wasn’t for me.  As uncomfortable as it was to grow and swell, I was finally comfortable with this body I had.  I received a ton of encouragement about my body, but in a completely different way.

“What you are doing is amazing.”

“I’m so inspired by what you are doing for your sister in law and brother in law.”

I began to think that I’ve been viewing my body wrong all along.  Do I look at my daughters and make statements about how their bodies look?  Or do I make statements about how what they are doing with their bodies inspires and amazes me?

I want to be amazed at what my body can do – whether that is carrying my own child, carrying the child of another, doing a pull up, or hiking to the top of a mountain.  Our bodies are described as our “temple.”  What am I putting in that temple and how am I using it?

 

I’ve never been “athletic.”  I was told that I wasn’t by my middle school PE teacher and I believed it.  I was one of the last ones picked in the lineup in gym class and I wasn’t the “sports type.”  For this reason, I never tried out for a team, got anxious anytime I was given the opportunity to play physical games of any kind, and so forth.  I wasn’t made to be an athlete, but I was made to be healthy and to try my best.  I’m working on being stronger and I’m not letting an old definition of me get in the way this time.

I had never been a surrogate, either.  When I decided to do it, I came up against some opposition from a few people, but I knew God was calling me to do this and I trusted that he would not only get me through it, but that He’d bless me through it.  My body did something amazing.  I wasn’t made to be a surrogate, but I was made to serve others and to use my body for good.

Here’s the honest truth.  I’m inspired and empowered by my recent journey to believe that I can overcome the barriers.  I don’t have to label myself with the comments I received about my body and athletic abilities in the past.  I can do anything.  I’m going to stop comparing myself to the other women out there and I’m going to start comparing where I am today to where I was yesterday.  Am I doing what I can to be healthy?  Am I pushing myself physically to become stronger?

This whole physical transformation that so many of us long for will not fulfill us until the physical transformation brings about a spiritual transformation.

I’m making baby steps.  I’m writing this to tell you about my issues and letting you know how not perfect I am.  I’m going to the grocery store with no makeup on and my hair pulled up in a pony tail – not caring whether or not it looks like I “tried” today.  I’m letting my daughters see my imperfections and I’m paying more attention to the words I’m using to affirm them, trying to focus much more on the hard work and effort they put into a task rather than the way they look.

I’m still struggling too.  I tell my husband that I’m sorry I don’t look like I did when he married me 10 years ago, when he reminds me that my body has done some pretty amazing and admirable things these past 10 years.  I analyze my figure and change my clothes when I think a part of me is emphasized that shouldn’t be or when I’m afraid what other people will think.  I’ve got to stop sucking it in and start living it out – being comfortable in the body I’m in.

I’m a work in progress, and my body image is a hundred times better than what it was, but I’ve still got work to do.  I’ve seen 26 year olds who have had tummy tucks, implants, Botox, and lip injections and they look beautiful and happy.  I see these women and say things to myself like, “A lot of women do it these days…  I wonder how much this procedure would cost…”  I compare myself to these women.  Ultimately, I know that for me, going through a procedure to alter my appearance won’t fulfill me or ultimately bring me joy.  I know how much I admire those who aren’t afraid to age gracefully.  My Mamaw had the softest hands I had ever felt.  She used those hands to knead the dough for the rolls she made for anyone who wanted to join her at her table.  She used those hands to work on her farm to help provide for her family.  She used those hands to hold my sweaty little face and tell me she loved me.  She had the most beautiful hands I’d ever seen, sun spots, wrinkles, and all.  I loved those hands.

So, here’s my plea to all of you who might be reading this.  What do you value in a person?  We cannot stop the aging process.  With time, our bodies will age, but our character can continue to grow.  Let’s start looking at our bodies differently.  Let’s be inspired to challenge ourselves physically and be empowered to use our bodies for good.  Let’s worry less about the bathing suit and focus more on the fun we can have when we jump into the pool with our kids.  Let’s stop comparing ourselves to the bodies we see on social media and let’s love the skin we are in.  Let’s focus on health instead of skinny and strong instead of clothing sizes.  Let’s take care of our bodies so that we can be healthy and live life to the fullest, but let’s not allow our appearances to determine our contentment.  Let’s stop commenting so much on people’s looks and start commenting more on their hard work and character.  What’s more beautiful…  well applied makeup and perfectly curled hair?  Or, the friend who is picking up your groceries when everyone in your house is sick?  I love makeup, and I love doing fun things with my hair, but a heart for service will always trump the latest fashion trends.

As I become older, I’m becoming stronger.  So here’s my transformation.  It might look backwards to some of you, but this transformation feels so good, and I’m still transforming.    Here’s 32.

 

 

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