When I have attended Passover Seders, I have enjoyed singing the song Dayenu.
The word means,”it would have been enough” and the song has 15 stanzas representing 15 gifts from God. The first five involve freeing the Jews from slavery, the next describe miracles, and the last five are about closeness to God. Each of the stanzas is followed by the word “Dayenu” (it would have been enough), sung repeatedly.
Last week I found out that I no longer have diabetes. It would have been enough. Dayenu.
This week I got the results of a recent sleep study and found that my sleep apnea has gone from moderate/severe to mild. I may be able to ditch my C-pap machine before much longer. It would have been enough. Dayenu
I don’t expect 15 miracles. But these are only the most recent two. Earlier ones were:
Not having lymphedema in my legs anymore Dayenu
Marked improvement in the lipodermatoschlerosis which was also in my legs and very painful. Dayenu
So I am up to at least 4. Dayenu
OK, maybe 5. I am able to exercise a lot more. Dayenu Maybe I am turning into a “jock” now that I have a Fitbit to vibrate and tell me to move.
Last week’s report:
I have exercise goals which I am writing down here to keep me accountable:
Exercise seven days a week.
Do at least 60 cardio minutes at least 6 out of every 7 days
Walk at least 250 steps every hour for 9 hours every day.
I am not doing a step goal as my knee is still quite wonky.
Class was great this week! We had a couple of new folks and we spent time going around the room with everyone participating. I learn so much every time we do this. One woman talked about how she is no longer afraid of working up a sweat when exercising, which brought home for me the fact that I can now exercise hard enough to sweat. Success. Sweat is good.
A few other people talked about how others in the group were their inspiration for both beginning and sticking with the program. It reminded me of the 12th step:
“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
This program has a spiritual component I think and helping each other is a part of the practice.
We also talked about our heart rates and exercise.
And I got 2 pairs of new pants this week. They fit – but maybe not for long as I am still shrinking!
(My stats for the last week – down 2 pounds, drank over 8 gallons of water and exercised for over 565 minutes. My cumulative weight loss so far is 77.6 pounds.)
The pics are me in my exercise clothes. I get real hot and sweaty on the bike and these help.
This journey has always been about improving my health, and not simply changing a number on a scale. That said, the weight loss, the drastic change in my diet and regular exercise has yielded some real health results for me. I was diagnosed with diabetes around 10 years ago and have been taking Metformin daily since that time. I have kept my diabetes under relatively good control since I was diagnosed, watching my carbohydrate intake and limiting it to roughly 45 grams per meal. I was not concerned about fats, protein, or calories though and continued to slowly gain weight. My diabetes was stable, but I still needed the medication.
My A1c’s had been fine, always under the 7 recommended for people that have diabetes. They were improving once I started this program, and began hovering between 5.9 and 6, very good numbers for a diabetic, in the “prediabetic range”.
Then, just yesterday, I got a call from my medical provider who told me my A1c (the test for blood sugar) was down to 5.4, which is in the normal range. I was told I could stop taking the Metformin and that I now have a “history of diabetes” but that I am no longer a diabetic! I did not even know this was possible, so I am both stunned and thrilled! And yes, I have been working very hard, but some of it is clearly just luck, as others who work just as hard don’t have the same result. I am very grateful that my body is able to respond to my efforts and that my health is improving in this dramatic way.
Last week, when I wrote in anticipation about our anniversary dinner out, I said that I would have a martini but skip dessert. Well, at the end of the meal, they brought our a piece of s’mores pie with two candles. How could I not eat half? It wasn’t that long ago that restaurant employees would assume we were just friends. I clearly owed it to the GLBT community to eat that dessert with the love of my life! I did skip the crust, but the marshmallow, soft meringue topping and chocolate chunks were simply awesome and I enjoyed every bite.
I am learning that planning is important, but so is living life, adjusting as needed before and/or after. I had exercised and saved up some calories earlier that day, and did the same the day afterward. That one over-the-top meal did not impact my ongoing progress.
Last Sunday, I had the privilege of preaching again (sermon – here). I love leading worship and it gives me energy. It is interesting that I had over 6100 steps that day, more than any other day to date. There are physical demands in preaching, part of why I had to give it up for awhile. My knee was throbbing at the end of that day, but it was so worth it!
We had a substitute facilitator last night and it was a pleasure again to be with the woman who had guided us through the intensive phase of the program. She was able to draw stories and examples from people in the group that she knew well. The checkins were a bit deeper than usual as a result. The issue came up of what to do when you are feeling bad about yourself, because guilt and shame are avenues that lead to failure and despair. So many of us are raised to be such perfectionists, which can create a vicious cycle. We try to be perfect and fail because perfection is impossible, then we simply stop trying and feel even worse. I offered the following poem which a friend had posted online earlier this week and which helped me.
by Rev. Dick Gilbert.
In the midst of the whirling day,
In the hectic rush to be doing,
In the frantic pace of life,
Pause here for a moment.
Catch your breath;
Relax your body;
Loosen your grip on life.
Consider that our lives are always unfinished business;
Imagine that the picture of our being is never complete;
Allow your life to be a work in progress.
Do not hurry to mold the masterpiece;
Do not rush to finish the picture;
Do not be impatient to complete the drawing.
From beckoning birth to dawning death we are in process,
And always there is more to be done.
Do not let the incompleteness weigh on your spirit;
Do not despair that imperfection marks your every day;
Do not fear that we are still in the making.
Let us instead be grateful that the world is still to be created;
Let us give thanks that we can be more than we are;
Let us celebrate the power of the incomplete;
For life is always unfinished business.
The rest of the class was a discussion of artificial sweeteners. It was a good discussion but not very relevant for me. I gave up my diet Coke addiction years ago, switching to water or unsweetened iced tea on hot summer days. I have always tried to avoid overly processed foods and still cook from scratch with simple ingredients and sometimes complex spices. I am now just passing on the orange juice and leaving out most of the butter, cheese, pasta and bread that I used to eat.
The Fitbit is still keeping me moving. I finished the “Valley loop” this week, one of the virtual adventures on the app for the device.
No longer having diabetes will take some time to sink in. What an amazing result and so unexpected!
(My stats for the last week – down 1.4 pounds, drank over 8 gallons of water and exercised for over 510 minutes. My cumulative weight loss so far is 75.6 pounds.)
I don’t want to sound like a commercial, but the Fitbit Anne gave me for Christmas is making a real difference. I also paid the $30 (per year) to upgrade from the free version of Lose It so it could send my meal info to Fitbit. I have always loved technology and this one is so fun. Like Santa , it knows when I’ve been sleeping and tells me how much REM and deep sleep time I got the night before. The exercise programs are a motivation and much easier than timing my exercise on my phone. It tells me to take 250 steps every hour and it is hard to ignore a vibration on my wrist. Best are the “adventure” challenges. This week I virtually hiked the Vernal Falls trail in Yosemite, something I have done in real life at least 30 times, starting when I was a child and taking my own children there. I know that trail in my bones although I haven’t been able to hike it in many years. So fun to do it virtually and see the photos of places I know so well. I start the “Valley Loop” today. At 35, 899 steps, that will take me almost a week.
At group this week we talked about resolutions, goals, and intentions, and what the different definitions are. I said that I like to use the language of covenant, which is a more of a sacred promise, something you come back to again and again, even if at times you falter. (I am preaching on this topic this Sunday.)
I am trying to learn the names of the new-to-me people in our group. It was easier this week as there were 3 men named John. I try to use people’s names when I speak to or about them, and will try and model this more often in the group. Knowing someone’s name is the first step in making a real connection. In a support group, knowing each other’s names is critical I think. It can be hard, because people drop in and out and the facilitator has lots of classes with lots of people. It is kind of like congregational life, I guess, and as a minister there were always people whose names I did not know. But I’d rather ask for a name multiple times, than skip over what is a need-to know.
One of the John’s made a comment that struck me. He said that now that he is no longer fat, he feels like he is who he was always meant to be. Body and spirit both was the implication. So much of our fat shaming culture eats away at our sense of dignity about who we are and/or who we have been. I hate that. There is virtue is setting a goal and accomplishing it, but there is no shame in failing. This stuff is hard. Life is hard.
A colleague posted a question today about experiences with food and shame. The following is what I wrote in response:
“Growing up working class, and having a large garden, there was always enough food although the quality declined as the month ended and the money grew tight. We celebrated with rich food when the money came in. Free food has always been particularly hard for me to resist, storing up for some intrinsic fear of scarce times I think. I was thin until my mid 30’s, but eating has always provided some emotional comfort for me. It started when I was a child eating potato chips or saltines with butter late at night when the house was chaotic and going out for pizza with my mom when my father was very drunk and we needed to get out of the house. It is funny, now that I am in a serious weight loss program (because of my personal health needs, NOT because being fat is inherently unhealthy!) for the first time in my life I am only hungry right before mealtimes. I have never felt a lot of shame about eating or my size, even when I was over 300 pounds, although I was frequently upset and pissed about others reactions to my size. It is OK to use. my name. I am who I am.”
We are going out to dinner tonight for our 44th anniversary. I will save up some calories so I can have a martini with the meal, but I won’t get dessert this year. I will order a reasonably sensible entree, but if I go over in calories today I now know one meal will not sabotage my progress. I am feeling good and it is time to get on the stationary bike and start walking the valley loop trail.
(My stats for the last week – down 1.9 pounds, drank over 8 gallons of water and exercised for over 510 minutes. My cumulative weight loss so far is 74.2 pounds.)
I have a truly amazing support system. On Christmas Eve, “Secret Santa” from my group left the note above on my porch song with a goodie bag full of fabulous stickers, trinkets and small gifts, including a cute chicken kitchen timer and a fluid measuring glass. Do I feel the love? Yes, I do.
And my beloved Anne gave me a Fitbit (one that I can wear in the pool to track swimming too), a mini-colander to wash my morning blueberries, measuring spoons with size markings I can read, jogging pants that won’t fall off for a few more months at least, and Michelle Obama’s book, which I can read on the exercise bike. I may be forgetting something, but do I feel the love? Yes, I do.
Weirdly enough, it seems to be getting easier in a lot of ways. I am drinking more than a gallon every day now, finishing the jug by dinner and wanting more. I did 420 minutes of exercise this week, and it was easier than the week before. I had veal marsala and a martini on Christmas eve, and ate a potluck dinner at a friend’s house on Christmas – and I still lost almost 2 pounds.
During class we talked about lessons learned this last year. There has been so much! For me personally, I think I now can relax just a little more, turn down the volume on my compulsiveness, and partake of an occasional treat. As long as I keep my focus most of the time, it will really be OK to plan to do something different once in awhile. Planning is the key. I knew I would have a martini this week so I ate a bit lighter earlier in that day. I also knew I would be unhappy if I just got sauceless fish so the veal was a decent option that tasted fabulous. The leftovers were good as well. Watching people eat the bread and olive oil, and sharing a dessert was a little harder, but the veal and martini did it for me, and once it came, I did not feel deprived.
2019 will be a good year. 2020 will be even better if we can pull off a landslide election that will end this political nightmare we have been living in for forever it seems.
(My stats for the last week – down 1.9 pounds, drank over 8 gallons of water and exercised for 420 minutes. My cumulative weight loss so far is 72.3 pounds.)
I made the exercise goal of 420 minutes. It almost killed me but I did it! I rode the bike in 20-40 minute segments twice a day. It is amazing how the idea of a prize can motivate me. We get “stamps” for attendance at meetings, logging our calories, and exercising for 420 minutes a week. When we have enough stamps, the card is entered into a drawing for a Whole Foods gift certificate. I don’t even like that store; it is so pretentious and overpriced, but I want to win so I am wearing out the stationary bike until spring when I can swim again. It’s a mind game I am playing with myself.
We had a interesting discussion in class last night. Does doing something hard, like this program, improve your life in other ways? Does it open up other possibilities for you, other challenges that you might tackle? Does it make you more empathetic to others, because you know how hard things can be, or does it make your more judgmental because after all you have had success, so why can’t everybody else? Of course I went to the theological in this. It reminds me of the old salvation by grace versus salvation by character argument. The Universalists and Unitarians, coming from either side of that issue, decided to just live in the tension of that theological debate. I do believe that hard work helps, but a little luck helps even more. Everything does NOT happen for a reason, much of life is simply random, and sometimes good hard-working, truly wonderful people, simply do not succeed or even manage to survive. We do what we can, and hope for the best. Try to love life and love each other; be generous and be kind. If nothing else, the world will be a little bit better because we lived. As a Unitarian Universalist I believe that all will end up in whatever heaven is, and also that we can, with our efforts, create a little heaven right here.
(My stats for the last week – down 1.4 pounds, drank over 7 gallons of water and exercised for 420 minutes. My cumulative weight loss so far is 70.4 pounds.)
I had a “non-scale victory” this week because I was able to attend a rally, and even speak before the County Board of Supervisors that same evening. See “Ice Out of Marin” for what I said. I could not have physically done this a few months ago. It was still physically difficult. The rally was held on uneven grass, with no real seating. The civic center halls are also very long. Between those two things my knees were cracking, throbbing and popping that night and throughout the next day. I made a joke on Facebook saying, “although I wanted ICE out of our county, I still need some ice for my knees.” A sense of humor helps get me through, not just with doing this hard program, but also with coping with all the truly evil things happening in the world. .
I was also able to wear my clerical shirt with its collar and could button ALL the buttons! Victory! In my tradition, clerical collars are not routinely worn in our churches. Instead, we wear stoles and some of us robe when leading services. In more recent years, however, many Unitarian Universalist ministers have begun wearing collars during public witness events. It is a very recognizable symbol that we are ordained clergy and it can add a tad of religious and moral authority to what we say. The clergy shirt I ordered online a few years ago never really fit me before, but this last week it did! Thinking back to my list of the reasons I began this program, being able to attend social justice events was on that list. (Click here for my full list) here. ) Yay! Just Yay!
Class was good this week. It was particularly fun because it was a smallish group and all but two of the attendees were people from my cohort. We are so well bonded that we can tease each other and laugh hysterically. One man was talking about eating crab and some of us heard “crap” – not much of a stretch because “crap food” is something most of us have known all too well. The rest of the class, he said “Cra -buh.” Maybe you had to be there, but it was hilarious. I also think I remember pretending to be a crab in boiling water, raising my claws and making drowning noises, but maybe I just thought about doing that. We were pretty rowdy and I hope we did not upset our facilitator who is still getting used to us. Laughter helps though. It really does.
One more wonderful thing happened this week. Because of this blog I connected with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in at least 25 years. She finished the active part of the program about a year ago, and is in a “lifestyles” group in a nearby city. We talked non-stop for almost 3 hours when she came by to see us and we have plans to get together again. We mainly just got caught up on our lives and our kids, but she also had some program tips for me as well. (COLD water is better, the body burns calories heating it up – who would have known?)
I will be working on exercising more in the weeks to come. The goal now is 420 minutes. I might have made close to that if it were not for getting a shingles shot on Monday. The shot reaction knocked me out for a bit. I was down 2.6 pounds anyway, making up for my very slight gain of .2 pounds last week,. Yay again, just yay.
(My stats for the last week – down 2.6 pounds, drank over 7 gallons of water and exercised for 315 minutes. My cumulative weight loss so far is 69 pounds.)
Yesterday afternoon I went to an ICE Out of Marin rally and then to a meeting with the Board of Supervisors. These are the remarks I shared during the public comment portion of the meeting. I spoke right after our parish minister, the Reverend Marcus Hartlief who spoke with passion and eloquence. I think we made a good tag team of UU ministers:
“When I accepted ordination into the ministry I pledged to speak, act and live as a voice of courage and of hope; to champion justice, freedom, and compassion and to serve all those who are in need.
Whether or not it was explicit, I believe all of you on the board of supervisors and our sheriff made a similar commitment when you accepted an elected office in the County of Marin.
You are here to serve the residents of this county, and most particularly those who are most vulnerable.
I know you try. I know that sometimes the decisions you need to make are complicated and not easy. This one is simple.
Our immigrant neighbors are living in fear. Their families are being torn apart. Their cries of anguish and despair should be stirring all of our hearts and calling us to compassionate action. We MUST stop cooperating with ICE. We MUST stop publishing the damn release dates of those who have been incarcerated. We MUST provide a sanctuary where all who are vulnerable are safe. I pray, along with Reverend Marcus, that wisdom, compassion and courage will guide your decision. Thank you.”
Sigh, I was up slightly this week, but only .2 pounds, which is pretty much staying the same. Still a bit depressing as I am monitoring daily and stayed within my calorie goals. Bodies are complicated, however, so although what we do matters, the results are not always predictable or measurable. It is the overall journey that is important. At least that is what I keep telling myself.
It is also like the work for justice. Progress is made, and then the forces of greed and hatred raise their ugly heads. We have to keep trying to bend the arc.
I am still adjusting to the new group. There were lots of new-to-me folks last night, and a lot of good tips from those that have been doing this longer. The free flowing conversation is a bit disconcerting, with some people talking a lot and others saying nothing. I’ll get used to it, but I found myself being quiet, not my usual mode of being.
Another new revelation for me was that we are actually supposed to continue reporting our activities (tracking calories and exercise) to our facilitator each week. There are prizes involved! I will catch up on it, but I was completely clueless about the reporting requirements. Our new exercise goal is 420 minutes per week, more than I have been doing lately. Winter is harder because I can’t swim. I could cheat and count my steps around the house, but no, there is no real point in faking it. Maybe I will try 2 spins on the bike some days. I can’t seem to manage more that 30 minutes at a sitting on the bike because, frankly, my rear end gets numb after 20 minutes or so.
This is a marathon, not a 50 yard dash. Staying steady, and on pace, one step and one day at a time, is how to do it I think. This is for the long haul. Damn, I wish it was all easier. I am going to a rally this afternoon for immigrant rights. It is something that would have been a huge physical challenge for me a few months ago. Change is possible, on all fronts. This I believe.
(My stats for the last week – up .2 pounds, drank over 7 gallons of water and exercised for 260 minutes. My cumulative weight loss so far is 66.4 pounds.)
Unitarian Universalism is an embodied faith; our theology proclaims that all our bodies are sacred and beautiful, and that our physical selves matter. Our faith is demanding; we are called to stretch ourselves and to be transformed.
For much of my life, I have lived in my head and my heart, and my body was mostly a vehicle for getting things done. It was also a source of pleasure. Among other physical pleasures, I have enjoyed bubble baths, soft kittens, and delicious food. I spent time caring for my mind by studying, reading, and learning. I also tended to my heart and soul, through prayer and by opening the pathways of empathy and compassion, even when it was difficult. Despite my theology about the importance of the body, however, I mostly simply used it, ignoring what it might need to stay healthy.
I gained weight slowly over the years, and in some ways relished being fat. In my large female body, I felt like I projected a safe presence, and the hugs I gave congregants seemed to be received as nurturing rather than sexual or threatening. I did always ask before hugging someone new, however; prior trauma can be so easily triggered by touch. I was largely happy with my “earth-mother” image of myself. I did not enjoy squeezing myself into airplane seats, or enduring the indignities and judgements that society places upon fat people, but I loved myself and my body, just as it was. My dear wife also loved me, no matter what size I was.
But I forgot that my body needed my care and attention, and that just as my heart, brain, and spirit needed exercise to stay healthy, so did my body. I forgot that this faith demands a wholeness of mind, spirit, and body. I forgot these words of the 16th century Unitarian, Michael Servetus:
“It is necessary to care for the body if we wish the spirit to function normally.”
Last year, I got a wake-up call, a revelation if you will. My health had begun to deteriorate, so much so that I had to leave a ministry earlier than planned. Most of my health issues were made worse by the amount of weight I was carrying. I knew this was true this time, despite the years of doctors implying that my weight was the cause of what were completely unrelated problems. I realized that if I was going to have a decent quality of life ever again, if I was going to be able to continue to work for justice, I needed to lose some serious weight. Exercise wasn’t going to be enough; my body and I needed both physical and spiritual rehabilitation if we were going to survive.
I had never seriously dieted before and was very suspicious of the diet industry. To me, it symbolized both capitalism and misogyny, the policing and sexualizing of women’s bodies for profit and control. One can be healthy at any size; I still believe that, but it wasn’t true for me, at least not any more.
I signed up for a medically supervised weight loss program through my health plan. It isn’t easy, and has required intense concentration and focus, but the weight is coming off. It is hard, but it is what I need. I am learning to tend my body in the same sorts of careful and attentive ways that I have always cared for my heart, my mind, and my soul and spirit. My body is so much more than a vehicle; it is my home. I have no regrets about my past habits, but it was time for me to go home. I needed a revelation to really understand that our minds, bodies, and souls are deeply interwoven, and that only when they work together can we live to our full potential. Sometimes we need revelations – sometimes we need two, or three, or twenty-three. I am so glad that revelation is not sealed!
Thanksgiving Day was also the 30th birthday of our twins (the 2 sitting in chairs.) And of course we had two cakes, neither of which I even tasted. I actually left the room while everyone ate cake – part of why I had a successful Thanksgiving. Weirdly enough for a holiday week, I lost 4.6 pounds, one of my highest weekly losses ever, which totally made up for the 2.2 pounds I gained the week before. Since the dinner was just us, our 3 children, their partners, and Anne’s nephew Tom (who took this picture) I did not have to be shy about compulsively staying within my calorie budget. I ate really lightly earlier in the day, weighed the turkey I ate and simply brought measuring cups and tablespoons to the table. I had enough left in my budget to have 4 ounces of turkey, 3 tablespoons of gravy, 2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce, 1/4 cup of stuffing, 3/4 cup of roasted brussels sprouts, 1/2 cup of green bean casserole, 1/4 cups of roasted sweet potatoes, and a 1/2 cup of salad. The servings were small, but it was a feast! It came in at 566 calories. (A Big Mac w/out fries is 563). It was more than I had eaten at one sitting in a long time and I felt more than satisfied. Losing a good amount of weight the same week was just more “icing on that cake”- the one I did not eat!
I also realized this week that I am really grieving the strong bonds we had in class with the facilitator we had. It was 30 weeks of intensive work together. Now we are thrown into a group with both a new facilitator and a bunch of strangers who have been in the program longer. I like the new facilitator and am enjoying the stories and wisdom of the veterans, but it is still a loss. Losing my “fat lady’ identity is also a loss. Every change in life involves a loss. Change, even “good’ change, is always hard, but it is what life always is, if you are going to keep living it anyway. It will take time to build up trust in the new group, but I am confident that it will happen. I am going to work on helping it happen if I can. It reminds me some of congregational work. Everyone wants to hang out with their friends, and visitors can be ignored. If we care about what we are doing, in church, or in a program that depends on mutual support, we all need to do what we can the build and strengthen community, inviting the stranger, the new-comer in. I truly believe that diversity of all types is a blessing. We can learn so much from those who have different life experiences. It helps to have at least something in common, however, whether it is a commitment to losing weight or to creating a more just and peaceful world.
I am grateful for so much on this week after Thanksgiving. Most especially the rain, which extinguished the fires and cleaned the air.
(My stats for the last week – down 4.8 pounds, drank over 7 gallons of water and exercised for 210 minutes. My total weight loss so far is 66.6 pounds.)