The binge-purge cycle of our consumer-driven world (Guest Post by Lorretta Stembridge)

Every new January, I find myself mentally and emotionally traveling back to the top of that heap of months where the view is fresh and the air is clear and the days seem to endlessly trip over one another with their blank calendar whitenesses just waiting to be filled with the hopes and dreams for a coming year. There’s something so refreshing and hopeful found in taking down that raggety-edged, worn out old calendar and putting up another one, still shiny and slippery-slick with newness between my fingers.
I think the equation goes something like this:

new year + new resolve (x) new beginnings = new me. (tweet)

Right?

If only it was that easy. Yet, somehow, that’s the way we’ve been conditioned by the world to behave and believe.
I’m über-amused this time of year while waiting in the grocery store checkout line and I see the shelves that for two solid months held rich delicacies and delights, and those ridiculous magazines covered with this seasons “must-have” gifts, bodies, outfits and hair, and recipes for luxuriously decadent holiday meals and desserts….
THOSE SAME SHELVES are now weighed down with exercise equipment and weight loss programs, diet plans and workout clothes. Just two months ago, I could get the recipe and ingredients for the most luscious cheesecake on the planet and now I need to focus on the best bikini butt by summer!

Seriously?!! Do they think I’m that stupid?
Maybe I am.
Or maybe I have been before.

No, not about the crazy binge/purge cycle this consumer-driven world promotes…
… but I have, in the last year, learned a very important thing about myself probably just as sinister.

Fact is, if I’m not very, very careful I can be easily seduced.

There. I said it.

Fact is, I’m convinced, unless they are comatose or living in a hole,
every living person has a “price.” (tweet)

Call it “habit”, weakness or whatever… there’s a little something in us all where, if we are not intentionally anchored to the truth, we’ll find ourselves easily swayed by the “latest” movement or emotion or teaching or fad…whatever.

I know this because I’ve been what the bible calls a “weak woman”.
Ouch.
Yes… this one….here:

“…weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7 ESV)

No, not on purpose…who really decides to be this way on purpose? But it’s an area I have to guard because Satan would love to have his way with me again. People pleasing. Weak. Easily swayed.

The truth of this hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday as I was trying to write this first 2013 post announcing what “one word” God has been speaking to me for the coming year. I wanted to be pretty and profound…full of grace, deep meaning and beauty.

And I couldn’t do it.
I watched the minutes give way to hours. I changed positions and locations and started over more than ten times. And each time I was left chasing the wind.
Why?

Because I was writing for you.
Because I was writing for me.

And that’s not why I must write.
Not really.

It’s not why I hammered my stake into this piece of blogosphere almost one full year ago.
No, then and now, I was brought to this place from past pain, having looked dead in the face of my own depravity, led through the purging fire by the loving hand of God…. to testify….

to give an answer for the hope I have and you can have… because of Jesus Christ.

And it’s at the beginning of this new year that I wish to be absolutely honest and clear in all I do for our sake and for those who may join us in the coming year because we must be anchored deeply so that

“…we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching.
We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
Ephesians 4:14-16

It’s that important.

I said this to a dear friend today: “To whom much is given, much will be required.” which is drawn from Luke 12:48 and a difficult teaching from Jesus.
All too often we decide this means we’ll give from our happy blessings. And we should. But it also means we should give and give deeply from the wells of blessing we’ve dug and discovered through lessons learned the hard way: In pain.
Not to be morose or joyless but
true
because there’s HOPE.

This will be my “new year” resolution (slightly shaped by Jonathan Edwards) based on this word and this privilege God has given me to walk in for 2013:
Yield

With His help, I can and will learn what it means to yield.
Not simply yielding to just anything or anyone….
but to

The Call.
His voice, His word.

And, also, as the word in Psalm 1 reveals….
there will be a “yield” as a result. It’s His promise as I stay planted, abiding with Him and blooming wherever it is
He plants me.

More to come on that later. Join me?
There will be few changes around here for the coming year.

Perhaps we’ll eat some cheesecake…who cares about bikini butts anyway? Blessings!


(guest post by Loretta Stembridge at Dancing on the Dash)


*2nd edition of Chasing Silhouettes now available HERE

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mothers unite, and embrace yourselves!

me pregnant with my first child

i was eating key-lime pie and commenting on how good she looked, on her new shade of hair, and i mentioned that she’d lost weight, that she looked slimmer, and she glowed. the way mothers do when they’re told they’re beautiful, even as her teenage daughter walked by, her other three children milling the Christmas buffet at our family reunion.

and she told me she was losing weight the healthy way, and i said that was good. she said she was still eating carbs and proteins and everything in moderation, and it all sounded positive. but she looked longingly at my pie.

and then i said, “but you’re not losing any more, are you? i mean, you look perfect.”

and she glanced down at her blue striped shirt and her blue jeans and she glanced with disgust. “oh yes,” she said. “i’m losing more. i want to go back to the old me.”

the old me. the girl that had no stretch marks, that had thinner hips and bigger boobs. the girl that didn’t have crow’s feet and could pull off skinny jeans.

the girl who longed for stretch marks because they would mean she was fertile. the girl who longed for a man who loved her enough to make babies with her. the girl who dreamt of being pregnant, of feeling the life inside her, of nourishing that life at her chest even as it sucked away hers.

we forget about the beauty of the sacrifice. sometimes i think it’s like the stomach we have left over, after giving birth. the stomach that sticks around, and it’s empty and lose and floppy, and we feel that way too. we forget about the beautiful, miraculous role which this stomach played. about the way it stretched taut around human life for nine months. about the home it made for heaven to come down and touch earth in the form of lips and eyes and limbs and heart.

we forget about the miracle, in the face of the mess.

and sure, we’re messy. we’re mothers. but there is a beauty in that mess. and i set down my key-lime pie (just for a second) and i took this woman by her shoulders, and i looked into her eyes, and i said, honey, you don’t need to lose anymore. this is the NEW YOU. claim your NEW BODY. we have been REBORN through the fetus that slid red and screaming from our womb, and we need to take pride in the us of TODAY.

mothers, unite. let’s stop lamenting who we are, and mourning the loss of what we used to be. we used to be lonely. now we have a family. we used to be ignorant of love. now it tugs on us all hours of the day and night. we used to be untouched. now we crave some form of privacy. we used to dream of pregnancy. now our bodies are emblems of that sacred experience.

we are LIFE GIVERS. say goodbye to the old, and hello to the new. throw away those skinny jeans, and purchase a new wardrobe, because life is too short not to eat key-lime pie.


~Chasing Silhouettes now only $10 at Amazon.com; also available at Amazon.ca, ChristianBook.com and Barnes and Noble.

I’m speaking at MentorCONNECT’s teleconference for mothers in June: Eventbrite - A Recovering "Mom in the Mirror": A MentorCONNECT Teleconference with Dr. Dena Cabrera and Emily Wierenga

10 tips on how to feed your children, and yourself

i know what you’re thinking… who feeds their kid cheesies? on the bed? on white sheets? and cupcakes? at bedtime, really?

i do. i allow my kids to eat “junk” food sometimes, because i never want food to rule my life like it once did. i never want my eating disorder (anorexia) to interfere with how i love on my children.

i do struggle with portion size. i do hate cooking. i do find it hard to feed my boys vegetables but i’m all for nutrition and health and gardening. i’m all for having the kids pull ripe red raspberries off bushes and stuff their mouths full of strawberries from the patch and pick peas in abundance, and i’m also for cupcakes and cheesies once in awhile.

i want food to be put in its place, in my family. i want it to be a unifier, not a divider. i want it to be celebrated, not feared. and i never want it to become a scapegoat for something deeper.

so this means i have to watch myself. i have to watch how i treat food, because my kids are watching, too.

i’ve learned, especially since having children, that my body is an amazing organism that i need to care for in the kindest, most loving, most gentle of ways. this summer, at young life camp, i had the honor of leading two body image seminars for teenage girls, and during those seminars i confessed how i stand in front of the mirror and tell myself “you are beautiful”. and if i start to criticize a part of my body i turn right around and i counter it with “no, i love you, legs, for the way you carry me during the day,” or “i love you arms. thank you for holding my babies.”

so i want to share these tips with you. tips that have allowed me to have a relationship with my body, and with food, versus treating them like objects.

i’ve copied them with permission from the brilliant authors of Intuitive Eating… and i hope they change your life like they’ve changed mine.

10 Principles

1. Reject the Diet Mentality
Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.

2. Honor Your Hunger
Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.

3. Make Peace with Food
Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.

4. Challenge the Food Police
Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.

5. Respect Your Fullness
Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence–the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.

8. Respect Your Body
Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.

9. Exercise–Feel the Difference
Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.

10. Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition
Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.

When you’d rather die than spend time with yourself (Guest Post)

I heard them, the giggles through the keyhole.

To be sure, ancient wood floors did little to muffle massive thumping as my body lumbered along with squeals from my workout tape. The tape my grandmother sent after years of concerned commentary, because I’d be “so pretty” if I could just “lose a little weight.” But while a simple shriek of “Mom!” sent the giggles scattering, peeping siblings were the least of my concerns.

“You’re getting obese,” my father remarked, staring at my thighs.

I was twelve.

After a trip to the library, I slipped into the bathroom with Thin Thighs in Thirty Days and spread myself out on the linoleum, wincing and lifting and clenching my quads until they caught fire. Damn those legs. They made my father notice them, find something else wrong with me. I hated them. And my stomach. And anything on me that moved because it reminded me that I was different, unacceptable, ugly, visible for all the wrong reasons, and the only one in my family who was fat.

“I’m so fat and ugly!” I wailed to my diary. “I hate myself.” Depression, shame, and wanting to die marked my entire adolescence. One time I wrote, “My sister said I’m the prettiest fat person she knows,” and I tried to be thankful while consoling myself with her sincerity.

Not many of us respond well to those who hate us, or who speak with contempt as though we are disgusting, or who, frankly, would rather die than spend time with us.

And yet, we treat ourselves like this every day.

I tried to get thin. For years I walked frequently, forcing myself through excruciating shin splints while my feet felt stiff and heavy, inflexible like frozen hams thudding on the ground. I dieted and joined fitness clubs. At one point I had a personal trainer, but after all my efforts and aside from occasional, temporary success, I remained overweight. As a result, I’m sorry became my penance for living and it reached ridiculous extremes. “If you happen to bump into a wall,” my husband finally observed, “you apologize to it.”

I’m sorry for saying sorry. I’m sorry that you see me here. I’m sorry for taking up space. I’m sorry for being alive.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

Sixteen years after my father’s comment, I learned I had an endocrine disorder called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. But by then I was done. A lifetime of scathing, bitter hatred towards one’s flesh ultimately takes its toll, and when I collapsed at last, it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Recovering from a breakdown armed with truth about a hormonal disorder, but still concerned about my weight, put me in a unique position. I call a lifetime’s worth of diets and workouts the “old way”. It’s a dizzy cycle that left me, at the very least, psychologically nauseous. It wasn’t effective, obviously, and I refused to do the same things I’d always done. While I am by no means a professional, I know a little more now about women and shame and emotions and exhaustion, and I’ve grown to consider the western pursuit of weight-loss to be one of the most insidious deterrents to achieving true health for some of us.* And while there were many factors in my own journey, I uncovered a few crucial elements that altered my life forever.

Here is how I discovered the way that was right for me.

When we are emotionally and physically exhausted, when our bones and our hearts have no strength left, and when we want to die so we at last find relief, what is it that we need most?

More work?

When we are utterly weary, when our hearts weep tender from all the hurtful things we’ve heard or felt, and our spirits fail, and our bones ache from old, tiresome habits and fruitless ways of doing things, what is it that we want? Another workout? A new diet? A torrent of fresh hatred designed to shock muscles into response, to move again, to move more, to work harder and longer because everything we do is not good enough?

Because we are not good enough? We are sorry for being born?

No. It’s simpler than that.

What we need is the beginning of grace.

“This is the body I wear right now.”

My friend Sara said that. It revolutionized my entire perspective. I wear my flesh, but I am not my body. I am so much more! A lover. A dreamer. A writer. It’s up to me to nourish what I wear so that I can fully be all those things and more. So that I may be present in this world and live bravely-at-peace with all my senses. To live alive.

I can learn to do this with gentleness and grace. In fact, I am the only one who can.

Seeking a better way

When we are overcome by harshness, in this upside down world of the spirit, the healing way is gentle.

When we are locked in a terrifying spin and don’t know which way is up or down, the healing way is stop.

When we are brutally fatigued in our flesh and our heart, the healing way is rest.

Isn’t healing what we are ultimately after? Wholeness, and all that is right and serene in our body, mind, and soul? It’s only then that our eyes begin to focus and we can gain new perspective. This grates against everything we learn, because losing weight naturally relies on work, movement and non-rest to be effective, does it not?

I whisper gently that it’s not really about losing weight.

Come, all you who labor and are heavy laden

Let’s think about rest. What is it?

For the flesh, rest is stopping, a ceasing of labor. It is even, steady breath, a recovery of strength, and relief.
For the heart, it is stillness and quiet trust.
For the spirit, rest is nourishment, a calming of all anxiety, sanctuary.
For the soul, rest is serenity and peace.

And yet, we know that in this life we must fight, too. We are mortals in a mortal world. We must survive; we have loved ones and children; we have stories to tell and purpose. We were created for more. Perhaps, then, the rest we seek is a ceasing of all that exhausts the soul, of the futility which drains us, and all that separates us from a full and colorful life.

For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
Hebrews 4:10 (nkjv)

Come, rest is an invitation to life. Can our muscles and sinews respond to His voice, just as all creation responds to the breath of God? Can our bones? They have before.

Losing the world’s way, and gaining soul

“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
(Matthew 12:37)

How we speak reveals what we believe about ourselves. When we spend our lives in self-hatred and shame, what subtler punishment can we inflict than a sabotage of the very thing that sustains, protects, and carries us through life? Is it any wonder that our bodies bear the fruit of life-long hurt and disgust? That we lack vitality, energy, and the sparkle of life?

Is there a healing way?

If the old ways of pursuing weight-loss feel oppressive, burdensome, unsuccessful and laborious, let’s consider the truth about what we desire. At the core, why do we want to eat well, take care of ourselves, and exercise? Isn’t it ultimately for health? And is there a way to pursue this goal in a manner that brings rest? That nourishes our soul? In a way that gently respects the body’s need to find its home?

That is what I want. I want my body to come home.

This can mean a deep, tender, raw probing of all our secret places. We can ask, where am I when I am home? How do I feel when I am safe and serene? We must know ourselves in order to find our own healing way. Who are we? What makes us rage, weep, grieve, rejoice? What delights our spirits? What nurtures our souls? What moves us?

Simple words.

What moves us?

Perhaps the answer to bringing our bodies home is to ask, what moves us?

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a dancer. I watched, enthralled, as poetry wafted across stage in pink and white and black, ethereal ballerinas swaying to melody so alive I could almost touch it, like fingertips trailing through water. Even today I am moved by music and motion, by love and art and all things sacred and beautiful.

Perhaps the answer to homeostasis—when everything is whole and healed and right within—can be found at the very beginning of the word itself. Home. And the way to bring our bodies home is to ask the little girl what we want most in the whole wide world. Within the secret she whispers to our hearts, perchance we find the way.

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Rain is a writer-wife learning that grace always embraces. She loves mercy and all things bohemian and sacred. She blogs at The Sacred Life.
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*Fine print: I am not a doctor, nutritionist, weight-loss professional, or anything other than a regular woman sharing what worked for me. Please consult your physician before starting any new fitness or diet routine.