My Spin on “It Takes a Village”

My Spin on “It Takes a Village”

It takes a village to raise a child.

It wasn’t until I became a parent that I fully understood, and came to love that saying. Just knowing “it takes a village” made me feel like there was somebody, and possibly even several somebodies, out there on my side, rooting for me. It made me feel not so alone and not quite so worried that I was screwing up my own little human.

As a parent you need to select your village wisely. Take one wrong piece of advice from the village idiot and you’ll be getting the parental stink-eye from a lot of other folks out there.

I don’t feel “it takes a village” is relative to just parent’s though. It’s important to have a village of support when you’re trying to live a healthier lifestyle and lose weight. I take my tribe selection seriously!

I carefully choose the people that I take advice from and who I let into my weight loss bubble. Funny my saying that since I blog about most of it publically, but that’s not what I really mean. When you talk openly about trying to lose weight or change your habits you get input, asked for or not, valued or not. People like to give advice and help. Mostly it’s with a pure heart and good intentions.

I will listen to a lot, from a variety of people, but I only actually take a few people’s advice to heart, adding them to my village. You know what I mean. We all have well intended friends and family who still think the cabbage soup diet is the way to go. Those people would be on the “smile and nod” list and only shown property on the outskirts of town. Whereas hearing what works from a friend who really understands the craziness that is my head, that advice gets filed in the “good stuff, remember that!” and lives nearby in the village of my mind.

Weeding out the village idiots from the village people () can be a tricky and sometimes uncomfortable job. It’s not like they walk around with “I give bad advice intentionally” on their foreheads and sometimes they’re people who you are close with, be it emotionally or in proximity.

I have had office mates who I’ve had to uncomfortably tell “I really appreciate your trying to help but I have a team of people I am working with and it really overwhelms me to receive so much advice. If you wouldn’t mind I’d like to just follow what I’m doing and not get any further input.”

Man, that conversation is a hard one to have. It’s not nice. It has potential to make them feel bad and then you feel bad and nobody wants to feel bad.

Putting yourself first is hard, but important. You and your village are truly vital to your success.

My mental neighborhood starts with the people at Novarum, a health center in the Netherlands. Although I graduated from their bi-weekly sessions over two years ago, I still consider them an integral part of my success thus far. I also know they are there, just a phone call away, should I feel myself sliding down a slippery slope into old habits.

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Me and Carolyn prepared to spar

 

Down the road from Novarum lives my pal Carolyn. She just simply gets me. I have interaction with her almost daily and she understands my kind of crazy. And believe me, it’s a special kind of crazy. We all need that one friends that just gets it. On top of being my mental collaborator she’s my sparring partner and workout buddy.

 

 

Me and Hilary, my village grocer

 

My village grocer is Hilary. She’s studied food, is passionate about food and is vocal about food. She’s the delicate balance of information, as I need it and can handle it, and advice. What I love best about her though is that she is always respectful of my boundaries.

 

Cindy, one of my trainers & me – at the gun show

 

Living in their own quiet cul-de-sac are the trainers from my gym. They shout encouragement to me as I tear through my workout. We laugh together when they say “burpees” and I reply with “I hate you”. They intimidated the hell out of me when they first moved into the ‘hood but after giving them a chance I know they want me to succeed just as much as I want to be successful.

 

 

And the best part about my village is my own home. I have the biggest cheerleader kissing me hello and goodbye every day. My husband, Marco, is one of the most understanding, supportive people I’ve encountered throughout my life. He’s seen me struggle with every aspect of the health game, so he knows it’s difficult. He encourages me in a non-pushy way, which can be a delicate dance. He eats what I want to eat because he knows I’m trying to be healthier. He’s gotten on the exercise bandwagon with me when I didn’t have anybody to work out with and we enjoyed it together. He believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself. There is no better villager than that. Get one of those in your town as soon as you can.

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Marco and me

 

What kind of neighbors make up your own mental village?

My Spin on “It Takes a Village”

Magical, Mental, Endorphins

I distinctly remember what I felt like prior to getting help for some food issues and previous to working out regularly. For a while, as I mentioned in this post, I avoided being with people, even people I liked. It was a dark, dreary, terrible way to feel every single day.

Now post-workout I also try to avoid people but for a whole other reason.

My name is Sarah and I am an endorphin-aholic.

Let me preface this by letting you know I work out at my office. I am fortunate enough to have a gorgeous, fully equipped gym, complete with enthusiastic trainers and classes, in the lower level of my building. This has its perks. My fortune continues in having a boss that lets me workout during actual “on the clock” hours so I can avoid the gym’s busy periods. Did I mention I love my job and my boss?

I knew exercise was supposed to make you feel better, “they” said. But we all know how “they” can be. “They” have a lot of fickle opinions that change with the wind and the wind seems to whip in a new direction every two weeks.

They were right about endorphins though and I am here to be a witness!

If you’ve never been on an endorphin high let me tell you what you’re missing out on. Imagine taking the tingle of a first kiss and gently mixing it with the excitement of that big drop on a roller coaster and then add a twist – a generous twist – of that adrenaline rush that comes along with your ultimate song being played in a club and you know you’re about to cut a rug. Mix all of that up, add a shot of espresso and voila, that’s how good my post workout endorphins make me feel.

Oh, and they make me chatty (okay, chattier).  How unfortunate for the poor souls who innocently step into the elevator with me post exercise- all ‘dorphined up.

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Sarah and Carolyn enjoying their well deserved endorphins

In the elevator heading back to our desks, my workout buddy, Carolyn, and I have been known to high five one another for pushing so hard stating, “man you killed it today, you ran!”… and then we just continuing to high five every other passenger in the elevator, celebrating our victories. They had no choice. They must high five.

This is endorphins.

Wide eyed and unsure of what just happened, the innocents would step out on their floors and continue with their day. We smiled widely and waved farewell to them (only to later resolve to stop doing that to people, lest we lose our jobs).

Even on days when I didn’t feel like working out but made myself go, I would be awarded with my endorphins. When I can’t be my own cheerleader, it’s like they’re telling me “way to go Sarah, you did it and we’re proud of you.” They rush over me and they simply just make me feel good. They make me feel proud. They make me feel happy. They make me feel alive and strong.

If you’re on the verge of starting an exercise routine or are just entertaining the thought for somewhere down the road please, please just do it. If you can’t because you just aren’t there, mentally, trust in the endorphins to take care of some of your mental health. Take that one little step and get your endorphins running.  You will be so glad you did.

Food Affection

Food Affection

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For as many people as there are on the planet, there are probably twice the amount of ways to show somebody that you love them.

Traditional people can love you with cards or with flowers.

Kids love one another with a tug of the hair or punch in the arm.

Friends send you funny memes that only you will really “get”.

Parents leave hidden messages in lunchboxes.

Some love via text.

Some love through a song.

Some promise everlasting love with a ring.

How do I love?

I love with food. Sure, I love other ways too but food has been a constant sign of fondness for the larger part of my life.

For a woman conquering a weight issue, this can be a challenge.

I love to love people via culinary gifts. I adore watching the full bodied reaction of somebody enjoying a cupcake I’ve created with my own two hands. The relaxation of their body. The smile on their face. The lick of a finger. The deep sigh. For that moment, you made their life smile.

I’m no one way street though. I don’t just love people with food, I let them love me right back in the very same way. Just this week a colleague went to London and brought me back Cadbury Crème Eggs because she knows I have an unnatural affection for them.  All lined up in a pretty little row at my keyboard, sat four magical foil-wrapped eggs, with that realistic, slightly creepy, egg white center and yellow yolk. A gift of friendship was well received with a yelp and a “squeeee!”

What do you do when gifts of friendship and love threaten to hamper your weight loss goals? What happens when your Mom makes your favorite dessert because she knows how you love it but it doesn’t fit in with your day? What do you do when love leaves you a five pound box of chocolate? You can’t just throw out perfectly good food! What about all those starving children… yes, we all know where that sentence leads us. The children are still hungry but your thighs aren’t exactly thanking you either.

I read the most brilliant analogy on a website once and it has stuck to me like glue. The key to battling food love is to accept it.

Graciously.

Some people will always love you with food.  They will always send you home with leftovers because they know it’s your favorite. It’s how they love. Accept the gift, graciously. You do deserve that gift of thoughtfulness.

But what about those goals of yours? Therein lies the secret key that you’ve been searching for.

Receive the gift, but realize what the real gift actually is. They’ve given you the gift of love, thoughtfulness, caring, kindness and consideration. They’ve wrapped those deep seeded emotions, specific to you, in gorgeous packaging – love wrapped in brownies. Fondness tied up with a noodle bake bow. Friendship disguised as crumbly cake… whatever food it is you love… they’ve wrapped their emotional bond to you in that food. Now you’ve graciously received that gift of love and accepted it.

It feels really nice, doesn’t it?

With a clear conscious, because you graciously accepted the gift, you can now throw that wrapper away, just like you do with other gifts. Throw that brownie/noodle/cupcake “wrapper” away. Throw it away knowing that the gift of love was received loud and clear.

The empty wrappers will join my foil covered Cadburys in that great waste disposal in the sky but man, I can still feel the love!

Feeling Fraudulent

Feeling Fraudulent

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Fraudulent – that’s how I feel sometimes when people ask me how I’ve lost any sort of weight. It’s not that I’m not telling them the truth or that I am being dishonest, it’s just that the story is so involved.

Generally when people ask me about it, it’s after I’ve been to the gym and I’m standing there all aubergine in the face, sweat beads glistening drenched in sweat, and so pumped up on endorphins that I have a perma-grin nailed to my face.

I usually say what I’m doing right now, right this very moment of my life. I tell about my weekly routine but I feel like I’m shortchanging them somehow. I feel like I make it seem simple and that it’s just something I up and did one day, no prep work, no negativity, no failures – just that a gym opened in my office and “poof” I was there.

That’s of course not how it happened at all. Or did it? I mean, yes, the gym opened in my office and the very first day I was down there introducing myself to the trainers and setting up a meeting for my team to see all the shiny new equipment but is that really my story?

Unless asked, I tend to leave out the part where I had cognitive behavior therapy to deal with some serious food issues – binging, hiding food, shaming myself. I had issues that no book, website or friend could help me with. I needed the pros!

I leave out the eight month time span where I was in such a dark, anti-social place that I stopped eating lunch with my colleagues, people who I really liked, and spent my lunch hours in the office sandwich shop, table at the window, back to the world, nose in a book – any book. I even read crappy books just to not have to make eye contact. I may as well have draped a “do not disturb” sign down my back, as if it weren’t obvious enough.

Thoughts screamed in my head but I looked peaceful.

I feel like a fraud because what in the hell do I really know? Yeah, I’ve lost some weight and kept it off for the past two years. Yes, I am in the best physical shape I’ve been in for a very long time. Yes, my head feels like it is on straight for the first time in my adult life. Sure, I’m really happy with what is happening right now. I feel like I have unlocked the door to a healthy future for myself and I feel like I will never turn back.

But what does all of that even mean to somebody else?

Do I have all of the answers? Not hardly! Do I still struggle? Hell yeah! Am I at my goal weight or perfect weight or even close? Nope. So who am I to say anything?

I’ll tell you who I am.

I’m somebody who likes to share just in case there is some part of me or my story people can connect with.

I’m somebody who likes to help, if I can, even if I am not perfect.

I’m somebody who likes everybody to partake and feel part of the team. I don’t like to see somebody to sit on the sidelines because of their insecurities when in their heart they want to be in the thick of it all.

I’m somebody who gets real joy out of seeing other people succeed.

That’s who I am.  And now you know. And now, I do too.

My Spin on “It Takes a Village”

Paralyzed by Perfectionism

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When Angie asked me to write for Project Blissful I have to admit, I was honored, stoked, excited and so very ready. I had wanted to be a writer for so long and here was my chance, being laid out before my very eyes – practically handed to me on a silver platter. The website is there, the readership is there, all I had to do was provide some content and Lord knows I have a lot of content just screaming to get out. Perfect.

Then two solid weeks went by and I wrote a grand total of four hundred really lousy words. They weren’t even close to being good. Unreadable. Un-entertaining. Unworthy. Seriously crap stuff.

The rest of my evenings I spent not writing but browsing Disneyworld websites looking for tips and trips for our upcoming vacation. And by upcoming, I mean in December. Hardly right around the corner.

Then I decided “Sarah, clearly you don’t have time for taking on this project”. I armored myself with my list of excuses pulling on each shield piece by piece.

Sarah – You work forty hours a week. You have a five year old who needs attention. You hardly get to see your husband so on the evenings he’s home you don’t want to be tapping away at a keyboard. You really do need to read, for the hundredth time, the quickest way to see Mickey Mouse once entering the Magic Kingdom. Oh, and don’t forget, you’re just too tired. Rightfully so, you work forty hours a week and have a five year old. Oh, wait. I already used that one…

I fitted myself with the biggest suit of excuse armor I could find and prepared a speech as to how I would tell Angie I just couldn’t do it. I eased into the conversation “man, it’s harder than I expected it to be Angie”. To which she replied “I don’t expect perfection”.

And this will sound so cheesy stupid that you may never ever want to read another word that I write ever again but that was a light bulb moment for me. I know exactly why I haven’t written jack in the past two weeks. I am a perfectionist and nothing I can produce is good enough for other eyeballs to witness.

I have to be entertaining. I have to write well. I have to have people want to read more of my “stuff’. It all has to be good, every single word, and I want to be liked and I don’t want to fail and I’m pretty sure it all has to be perfect the first time through. I could never post anything that isn’t awesome and since I can’t write anything awesome, then by default, I can’t post anything.

I’ve felt totally imperfect and just not good enough. It’s been total paralysis. I can’t think where to start. I can’t come up with a good idea. I have no clue what people want to read.  My mind and vision is blank. I can’t remember where to coffee pot is to give myself a caffeine boost and potentially jumpstart my butt into some sort of gear. I freeze.

But Angie kept saying things to me… nice things. I’m sure she had no clue what she was really doing for me but she was my anti-freeze. She even gave me the idea to share about my perfection paralysis. Within minutes I had opened up five blank word documents and written the titles to my next five posts with little taglines so I would remember the genius that was to follow that title.

Her perception of what great material I could produce and my own perception of what I could feebly manage to crank out were somewhat skewed, to say the least.

All I really needed was a little confidence boost, that tiny “of course you can” whispered to me and off I went like a cannon. I needed the permission to not be perfect, to just do what I do and really, so what if it isn’t perfect every time. It doesn’t have to be!

Angie said so.

Are you a perfectionist? Does it ever hold you back from trying something new?

My Spin on “It Takes a Village”

Making Sense of the Eternal Internal Struggle

It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else’s eyes. ~Sally Field

How many times have you not followed your heart because you were worried about what other people might think? How often have you avoided doing something you truly wanted to do because you couldn’t stand the idea that other people would judge you?

Have you based your major life choices on your own desires, or have you allowed other people to influence you? Do you have regrets because you have given someone else the power to make decisions in your life, whether directly or indirectly? Have you chosen your job, a partner or your home because someone else thought you should?

You’re Not Alone

Most everyone has, at one time or another, made a choice in their lives that was based on someone else’s opinion. And while there are certainly times when it’s appropriate to do so, there are plenty of times that we regret not following our own intuition.

The difference is this: when you accept the advice of someone else because you feel that it’s right for you, you’re following your own gut and can consider it inspired action–but when you bend to someone else’s will to please them (despite your own feelings), you’re shortchanging yourself in the happiness department.

Why Do We Care What Other People Think, Anyway?

It’s human nature to care what other people think. From infancy, we learn that when we do what someone else wants us to do, they’re happy with us–and that feels good. As we get older and learn to make the occasional unpopular decision, we are sometimes shocked to learn that some people actually seem to stop being nice to us when we don’t follow their “advice” for living.

But ultimately, we care what people think because we are taught to base our identities on the messages they give us. When our parents tell us we’re good for following their rules, for example, we begin to feel that we need to follow the rules to be good. When our kindergarten teachers scold us for coloring outside the lines, we begin to feel that unless we “stay inside the lines,” we’re wrong.

We take the messages that we hear from others about ourselves every day of our lives, and we internalize them–to such an extent that we find ourselves dependent on the approval of others for our own self worth.


Should We Just Stop Caring?

Of course, this is a two sided coin. While we certainly need to learn to follow our hearts and our own intuition toward inspired action and to make our own life choices, there are times we need to follow the rules. For example, to be productive members of society, we need to follow certain societal norms–at the very least, we have to follow the laws of the land.

And, the fact of the matter is, most of us aren’t able to just “turn off” caring about what others, especially those we care about, think about us and our choices. We don’t want to become cold and immune to the emotions of others, but we want to be happy. To be happy, we must make our own choices, follow our own divine inspiration for what we want our lives to be. At the end of the day, we’re the ones who must live with the decisions we make.

So where does this leave us? Are we doomed to an eternal internal struggle? How do we start taking charge of our own lives and stop letting the judgments and opinions of others dictate our choices? What do you think?

Next Up: How to Stop Caring What People Think (Without Looking Like a Huge Jerk)



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