How I lost the first 40 lb Part 1 – GUT HEALTH

Yes, seriously. I went for vitamins, specifically probiotics, first.

I had just moved into the house my ex and I had renovated to be our forever home and I had also just asked him to leave for what would begin the downward spiral through his recovery and our marriage’s end. It was a lot to deal with. For the first time in my adult life I was responsible for every aspect of the household, from finances to maintenance, and every aspect of parenting – from sending our oldest to college as well as managing the two teenagers at home (not to mention the anxiety over my ex’s health and recovery).

I was so overwhelmed that I could not fathom making big lifestyle changes and I was so overwhelmed I HAD to make big lifestyle changes. In the stress of living in what felt like a silent battleground full of eggshells and unhappiness, I had turned to food to hide from my feelings. Food insulated me from dealing with the chaos around me and eating gave me an action I could take to feel like I was doing something about it. I could have what I wanted for a few minutes when I made a choice of something yummy to eat. UGH. When my life spun out of control I realized I needed to get my health under control for me, for my kids, and for our future.

Around this time a long time friend had started a supplement business. These products, she told me, were originally formulated to help diabetics regulate sugar and sugar cravings but it was found that these products also helped people who were not diabetic to reduce sugar cravings and feel better. Sign me up. Sugar is my love and my poison. This sounded too good to be true but also sounded like minimal effort on my part to possibly get me started toward a healthier life.

So, I spent the money. And, honestly, I will be taking these supplements forever more. They make me feel better, they reduce sugar cravings, and they also make my moods more – oh I don’t know – predictable I suppose.

I do not tell you this to sell this product, though I do believe in it, I tell you this to share that really paying attention to my gut health ended up being the critical first step in my weight loss and emotional well being journey. It helped because the probiotics really did make me feel better but it also helped because psychologically I saw it as a step toward optimal health and believing I was making a choice to be healthy pushed me to make the next best decision for my health. It fixed my mindset on health as an attainable goal.

You can choose to take a step toward better health no matter how small. A step is a step is a step.

As it turns out, gut health and its connection to the brain is a real thing. Here is a brief article on it from Harvard Medical if you are interested. And, here is another one from Psychology Today that explains how your gut health affects cravings.

*This is my personal health journey. I hope you find inspiration to discover your own health journey. I am not a medical professional, just an everyday person! My story is meant to inspire you to begin your own journey, and to encourage you make the decisions you find are best for your body and for your life, which may not necessarily be the same as mine.

Feeling emotionally NAKED

These past few posts have made me feel NAKED. Vulnerable in a way I have fought tooth and nail to avoid. It has made me question my “why” for doing this, for writing and sharing about my life with all of you out there in the universe. And, thanks to a sorority sister (thank you, Ingrid!!) who was kind enough to leave this comment, I have found my answer.

“Omg! Bonnie you are bad ass!!! I am so moved by your post. I’m so sorry that you have endured much pain but look at you now girl! You are killing it and moving forward stronger than ever! That to me is simply bad ass! 😘😘😘😘. Time to write a book!”

SHE SAID I WAS BAD ASS. Did you read that??? I have never been referred to as a Bad Ass. Being referred to in this way makes me think my words have some power beyond me. Maybe they are finding their way to women who need to hear them.

In addition to this OG Bad Ass woman leaving me this message, I also had a couple of private messages thanking me for sharing because they could relate and found inspiration in my words, and asked me to continue to share.

This is why I am sharing with such vulnerability.

I want to write for the women who are where I was and for those who can find inspiration in my journey. What good will come if I keep my peace and do not share my hard learned lessons?

I want everyone to see that there is light, there is hope, and we can live from a place of love and not anger. I just want some good to come from my growing pains, ya know?

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“Hello! Bonnie, party of one.”

Today I am in the beautiful city of Charleston, exploring. This is not something I necessarily would have done in the past – wander around on my own in a city I’ve never visited before. I am introverted and self-conscious.

It would probably behoove me to do more research, but I am actually really enjoying a blind approach to exploration. I drove downtown, I found a parking deck, and I just started walking. (The shopping scene is off the charts, by the way.)

I am tackling a couple of fears or anxieties during this trip.

1) I am wearing an off the shoulder shirt. No big deal unless you aren’t in love with your body and you feel exposed; I am forcing myself to continue to embrace the progress I’ve made in repairing my physical body.

And, 2) I am sitting in a quaint little downtown cafe eating alone. “Hello, Bonnie, party of one.”

I was secretly a shy girl most of my life. I worked hard to be invisible and to stand behind my more outgoing friends. I would not go through the drive through and speak to the speaker until I was at least 20. I did not call Domino’s because it stressed me out to speak to a stranger. College me would rather go hungry than sit alone to eat anywhere in public. And, for the most part, I haven’t even had to think about this type of social anxiety for a good stretch because for the past 23 years I’ve had a kid available to join me wherever I go. Although, thanks in large part to my ex-husband, who can be a social butterfly, and becoming a teacher to the most judgmental age of children, teenagers, I have tackled a good bit of this type of anxiety. However, it can still rise quickly in me.

I have always daydreamed about visiting fun cities with the courage to find a cafe where I could sit, write, and reflect what I’ve taken in.

Check. I am living that little daydream right now!!

The fear of being alone also held me in my marriage, even when it was clear that alone might be the better option.

Cue the line the children chanted at Hook in Peter Pan before he was swallowed by the crocodile, “Old! Alone! Done for!” This is the way I thought of being alone inside the chaotic desperation to find a way to make my marriage work.

Long before I was willing to admit it, mostly because it felt like giving up, failing, and breaking a commitment made before God, I could see that living in the toxic environment we had unwittingly created inside our marriage was destroying every piece of ME-ness and was also hindering my ex’s recovery efforts.

When I finally did file for divorce I couldn’t even admit it was what I wanted, I just wanted the legal separation that is accompanied with filing, I didn’t have to actually go through with it, right?? My heart was broken through the initial recovery process and allowing my dream of repairing my family with the man I had chosen and who had chosen me, to die, with me as murderer, it was more than I wanted to bear (where is the ostrich emoji???).

Oh how I wish I could go back and talk to past me. I would tell her that she is more than capable of supporting herself and loving herself. That she will be more than ok.

She. Will. Thrive.

I would tell myself that I would get to live in my dream house – an old house built in 1909. I would tell myself that living with my daughter like roommates may very well be one of the most fun times of my life. I would tell myself that I really do love, LOVE living on my own.

And, I would also tell myself that as it turns out,

I CAN budget.

I CAN buy a house on my own.

I CAN paint in a studio with other artists.

I CAN sell my art.

I CAN write and have the courage to send my words into the universe.

I CAN date and survive the lessons I learn about myself through that process.

I CAN believe in love again.

I CAN fix a lawn mower on my own.

I CAN depend on friends for help.

I CAN travel . . .

I CAN I CAN I CAN.

I do.

How is that for living out loud?

EVERYTHING is an excuse for cake!

My ex-husband and I separated in 2016 about 8 months after that photo on the left was taken. The recent photo is 2 1/2 years post divorce and lots and lots and lots of love, support, and self discovery. Oh, and a low carb lifestyle.

If you have read one or two of my posts then you can probably infer that I am divorced from an alcoholic, have 3 mostly grown kids, and am generally enjoying this time in my life rediscovering who I am and redefining who I want to be. A humongous part of my journey for the past 20 years has been a cycle of destroying and repairing my battered self image. I think this is quite a common struggle among women. Most women I know are losing weight, wanting to lose weight, striving to include exercise in their routines, reading and engaging in productivity workshops, and going to counseling, etc.

My self image was destroyed by ME. I did it. I gained 100 lbs in avoidance of my circumstance. I used food to escape, to feel good, to feel loved, to NOT feel, and mostly, to insulate myself. When I am overweight I feel invisible and invisibility limits engagement with life. I spent so many years at such a heightened emotional level, feeling lost as a stay at home mom and in the feeble attempt to guard my family against the invisible enemy of alcoholism (ok, I know thinking I had the ability to guard us from this disease sounds ridiculous, but this coping mechanism is a subject for another day) that I could not or would not allow myself to experience anything that might create an emotional spill over. I mean this in the most ridiculously strict way possible – I could not, really still do not, watch movies or read novels that I know up front might prick a sorrowful feeling in me. That would be risking tears. Crying was to be avoided at all cost, according to my old paradigm. I needed to be numb at most because I feared the emotional release – I feared what I would have to acknowledge in my life – and I feared that I would never stop crying! So, when I began to feel almost anything, good or bad, I ate. I ATE IT ALL.

I realize this may all sound super dramatic. “Really, Bonnie? You thought you could regulate your entire emotional well being with food?” And, well, I did, sort of. I also have a beautiful group of friends and an insanely supportive family who loved and nurtured me as well. But food took a place in my life it should never have held.

I have worked hard to repair both the emotional damage I have collected as well as the damage I caused by weight gain to my physical body. These toxic habits of mind and body are excruciatingly difficult to break, bend, and mold into ones that serve me instead of battle me.

I have lost 40 lbs since the divorce. I still have 50 or so to go.

I am at a plateau of sorts. I AM HAPPY. It is a terrifying and strange place to be. It turns out that when I allow myself to feel the good feelings I am also bound to feel the bad ones. “Bound” in that I have no choice but to feel the entire range of emotions. Going from mostly numb to enduring the colossal spectrum of emotion from elation to grief has been, honestly, VERY unsettling. When I feel some of the same emotions that were triggered during the bad times, even though these emotions do not carry the same weight or impending doom, the habit is to allow the old fear to take over. And, this of course requires cake. (Not really, but you can see where my habits may be screaming this.)

I am in an emotional plateau and I recognize this and am working on acknowledging it and creating habits and a mindset that will better serve me. I want to feel beautiful again. I want to be able to go on adventures and not feel hindered by my physical body. I am also done with being invisible. I am ready to fully participate in this world and to do that, I need to be SEEN and to be HEARD. How terrifyingly thrilling!

Sometimes it is ok to pivot . . .

A dragonfly symbolizes change, transformation, adaptability, and self-realization. I created this painting the first time I separated from my now ex-husband. it was a declaration for myself of all of those things. It hangs in my house still as a constant reminder of my resilience.

For years, I have planned to write extensively about life with an alcoholic, specifically, the lessons I learned about life, love, and grace because of it. Recently, I have been narrowing the topics and making a plan, forming questions that I know my answers to will help other women who find themselves in a similar place. And, you know what?? It is a good plan.  

But, I can’t do it.  

I am not ready to be so vulnerable or to share my brokenness. Ok, that is not true. I am ready in that I am confident in the woman I am and have become in large part to that season of my life.  I am choosing not to do it for fear that the vulnerability I would feel from writing about these years would somehow pull me away from the life I am loving right now. It could possibly regrow the walls around my heart that have finally been obliterated due to a salvo of good fortune rained down on me for the past few months. I am choosing to just love where I am for the moment. 

I suspect I will occasionally be moved to write about some of the topics I have planned, but I will not make it my main focus as I originally planned. Instead, I am focusing on writing to encourage women to be confident, to be healthy, to embrace creativity.  

If you love an alcoholic or suspect your loved one is an alcoholic, let me offer this resource:  https://loveoveraddiction.com/blog/ 

The program, Love Over Addiction, gave me a community of women I could turn to when I needed to know I was not alone. This program fit what I needed in a way that Al-Anon could not. The courage of the founder, Michelle Anderson, to share her story and to share in understanding of the beauty of living a life through a lens of love was a tremendous gift to me and truly shaped the way I was able to approach my day to day life.  

You need to know that you are not alone and that you can find your way to happiness, wherever you find yourself in your journey.  My inbox is always open.

Easter Sunday

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I made this stick cross door decoration for my door a couple of years ago. I changed our the ribbon and added pink to it this year. I like having the visual of the Easter season on the threshold where I am reminded everyday!

The kids and I attended church today for Easter Sunday Service. I haven’t been to church for a very long time – in fact the last time I was in church could have been Easter of 2019. I have had a strained relationship with God and our reparation is fairly new. But, aside from the one year off for Covid, I have never missed an Easter Sunday in an actual church with my family.  

Today, the pastor was relating the Easter story, as one does this time of year, and I was struck by one part in particular. Although, as a good teacher I was at the ready with pen to bulletin, I missed her direct quote, so here is my paraphrase –  

Jesus was dead. He WAS dead. There was no doubt. It had happened. People had seen it, his lifeless body was placed in the tomb by people who know what dead looks like. He. Was. Dead.  

But he wasn’t.  

Because God is like that.  

He can and DOES take situations and parts of us that we think are dead and gone and he resurrects them as something new. This right here, this is an amazing and wondrous thought, isn’t it? God can raise the dead. If he can raise the dead he most certainly can breathe new life into someone who feels broken and lost. I have spent my Easter Sunday reflecting on how He has done this for me. He raised my spirit from the dead through my divorce. He built me up as I began to build a life as a single person with three almost grown kids. And, He did this when I was not happy with Him.  

He is continuing to build me up, through my dearest friends, through my job, through my kids, and through my art. All of a sudden I see that anything is possible, I may just need to rely on this relationship I have been obstinately ignoring like a pouty teenager because I did not want to have an alcoholic husband (or ex-husband for that matter) or have to endure all of the ugliness and anguish that entailed. I did not want to make decisions that needed to be made. I absolutely did not want to do it all on my own. Yeah. See the irony there????? I see it now, God. I really do.  

Forgiveness

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This is a photo of my daughter, creating a heart out of the sand in the dunes on the coast of Oman – one of the most beautiful, natural places I have ever been. 

              “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ,                           God forgave you.” Eph. 4:32

Have you ever been so angry that you just can’t see straight? You cannot hear your friends and loved ones when they even suggest something contrary to your justification of your anger? This is where I have been. I have been angry. Angry for a myriad of reasons both valid and completely irrational. I have run the gamut of “if only. . .” and “what if I had just . . .” and many other ridiculous thought patterns that have no constructive purpose in moving me forward through this (apparently very angry) tiny little section of time in my life.

I may have been hard hearted and resistent, but if anyone can get my attention, it is God. The theme of forgiveness is running through all that seems to touch me right now. My God is screaming at me to forgive through literature in my classroom, through the novel I am reading for fun, through my personal Bible study, in the book my school has been assigned as professional development, commercials, memes, even a cleverly placed STOP sign when my head is swimming in angry prose- I mean you name it, FORGIVENESS is a running theme God is placing before my every turn. I know He is doing this so my heart is free to heal and free to love my children in the way they deserve and need and – well, just free to be myself through the power of forgiveness so that I can be His servant in ALL of the roles He has assigned me.

In her book, Add more -ing to Your Life, Gabrielle Bernstein shares some advice she gave to one of her Life Coaching clients, “I made it clear that if her desire was to change her life and be set free from her resentful patterns, forgiveness was in order.”  I am my own obstacle. Wow. Ok, then I am the ONLY one who can get over myself!

I forgive. I forgive it all.

I forgive the real transgressions against me.

I forgive the ones in my head, made up to avoid facing my real anger or to avoid taking responsibility for my own life.

I give the anger over to God to transform into positive energy.

I will find my inner Pollyanna again and she and I will tackle this world of ours with fun, laughter and love once again!

And, since I ABSOLUTELY hate the saying “One day at a time” I will simply say that I look forward to planning my tomorrow as I live today in peace and in positivity!

My inner child is a brat.

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Me. Circa 1977ish

My sweet, precocious, persistent inner child. She love sweets. She loves to use the vending machine. She hates being told “no” and throws temper tantrums when she can’t have what she wants. (And don’t judge her uber-chic, in style for the times “Dorothy Hamill” haircut of the 1970’s. She is very cute and in style 🙂  She is still inside me and, although I love it when she is creative and spontaneous, I am not so thrilled when her extreme sweet tooth is screaming to be fed!

Recently, I found that I am going to have to have a very, very  minor surgery to remove a small benign cyst. No big deal really, except that I really don’t WANT to have surgery. (duh) So, what is my reaction? I go to my favorite bakery (the one mom got my cakes from when I was that little girl in the picture) and make it all better with FOUR large petit fours. UGH. You know what? Eating those did make it better – for like 10 minutes. The regret I felt was a wee bit longer than that and you know what else? I. still. have. to. have. surgery. So, it didn’t work. It didn’t really help.

I have also discovered that my sweet inner child takes over around 3 or 4 every afternoon. I used to think this was because it coincided with the end of the school day – the end of the part of my workday involving  students and therefore the point where stress of the day eases up- but it is summer and I am still experiencing major sweet cravings at this time. This tells me I must need a heavy protein snack somewhere around 2 each day to head this off.  I will be working on this, including this snack in my meal planning, and see how it goes.

I need my inner child throwing her temper tantrums to get me to try new things, go on adventures, and be creative. NOT eat a cake. I want her working for me, not against me.

Planning, preparing, organizing and journaling will get us working together.

When you travel and you are on a diet, you should plan. Just sayin. . .

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Photo is from the parent orientation luncheon and presentation. 

The unadventures of getting happy and healthy – lesson #1 PLAN YOUR FOOD AHEAD OF TIME. Obvious right? But the thing is I was READY. Remember? Ready to start to change THAT VERY MINUTE. So, no real planning, just a do it sort of thing. The day after I have this wonderful epiphany, I take off to drive 6 hours with my oldest son to go to his college orientation. . .

Here I am, at the “parents of incoming freshman” college orientation, trying to adhere to my re-instituted EAT SMART (low carb, esp no man made carbs), drink tons of water, and eliminate artificial sweetener way of life. Geez. It is like I subconsciously chose this particular moment to challenge myself and prove my conviction or sabotage myself.

Day 1 – the 6 hour drive

There are no choices of a caffeinated drink that is not diet and does not contain sugar in convenience stores/gas stations. I can have water. But – I MUST HAVE CAFFEINE. I drank Diet Pepsi (now aspartame free, but still a cola) sparingly to head off caffeine headaches. AND TONS OF WATER. So, I give myself a B+ for effort here.

Days 2 & 3 – the stay

Continental breakfast at the sweet little hotel I am staying in consists of a lovely array of tempting muffins, bagels, and toast . . . and fruit. I had fruit. A+ (I resisted the carb loaded deliciousness for natural deliciousness)

College campus lunches are heavy on the carbs – not veggies. I did enjoy some baked chicken and some potato salad (yes I know this is a carb but just chicken was just sad). On the up side – my kid is going to love the food. C

I did drink water every day, all day. Which means that I now know where every women’s bathroom on campus is. A+ (but an irritating A+)

Exercise – well, I walked all over campus for two days. I was staying alone in the hotel while eldest son was on campus and I used this excuse to NOT walk any more than this. Even though I could have gotten up early – I am a night owl, not a morning glory – and walked the lovely downtown area, I did not. I did not feel safe at night and couldn’t bring myself to get up early. B

I made it home mostly proud of the choices I made. See, really, it’s not about a diet or counting calories I eat or minutes I exercise, it is about making the choice in the moment.

It is about choosing ME each time and not the temptation, etc. So, here’s to success not sabotage 🙂