Tag Archives: Montana

Christmas Treats That Won’t Make Me Fat?

Christmas Fudge

Note: I first published this post in 2012. Reading it now, the corners of my holly jolly cheeks lift in ironic jest. “Hah!” I say to my younger self. “You thought that was healthy?” For sure, my definition of healthful food has shifted. Just goes to show – diets or no – tastes evolve. I’m a nomadic foodie. What was once a rest area on my road to health is now a spot to zoom by and toss wildflower seeds for next year’s visitors. I wonder what new foodie facts I’ve yet to discover and how that will change my plate; which resembles a map more than a platter. When I come to table this Christmas, my assignment will be to honor the ever-changing landscape between fork and knife.

In that spirit of transformation, I’ve tweaked the original recipe below. Notes in red reflect new food discoveries, including:

  • Sugar, any sugar, can raise blood sugar and initiate the corrosive pathway of inflammation and disease, but there are ways to have my fudge and not let it eat me, too.
  • There’s some damn good fats out there that actually heal the body while releasing flavor pheromones as good as any afternoon delight.
  • We have more flour alternatives than ever; options which nourish as well as preserve the fluffy pillow talk I enjoy between me and my Morning Glory muffin.

Special thanks to Anna Rose-McComb of Tiny Farm Nutrition and Fitness for these discoveries. If they’re new to you, as they once were to me, I invite you to taste them in the most delicious way I can dream up: in the fudge recipe below which can satisfy holiday cravings and literally not make me fat. Enjoy!

From 2012…We’re smack-dab in the middle of the holiday season, and I’m starting to do a lot more smackin’ — of my lips, that is.  I love, love, love Christmas treats:  peanut butter fudge, yogurt-covered pretzels, divinity, candy canes, ribbon candy, brightly painted Christmas sugar cookies, and those morsels with the jelly in the middle.  What else is out there?  Too bad no one has discovered a way for me to eat my fudge and not gain weight, too (Guess what, girl…)  Nonetheless, I’ve accepted my love for Christmas treats.  This year, instead of fighting the temptation or judging myself for caving into desire, I’ve made peace with the bounty of sugar, butter, and chocolate that appears this time of year.  If I maintain my weight from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, I count that as a win.

To celebrate and embrace my holiday sweet tooth, I’d like to share a favorite recipe.  Hubby and I love to bake up these Cranberry Walnut Breads as gifts.  Whenever I watch him in the kitchen I’m convinced he’d make a great TV chef.  I’d put a twist on it and call it The Naked Baker Show (camera peeking just above the counter).  But, that’s for another blog…Here’s the recipe:

Cranberry Walnut Bread

  • 6 T. orange zest from 6 large oranges
  • 2 cups orange juice from those oranges (tons of hidden sugar in orange juice, so I recommend keeping the fiber by blending slices into a puree, since fiber can slow spikes in blood sugar)
  • 4 cups buttermilk (canned coconut milk and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar offers more nutrition without sacrificing the silky texture)
  • 1 pound, 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted (Let’s all cheer together:  Butter is our friend!  I like a quality grass-fed brand like Tillamook — I called their office, and they pasture their cows up until freezing in Oregon, so the boxes on the shelves now contain the last of this summer’s grass turned to gold.)
  • 6 large eggs (Comparing store-bought yolks to the blazing orbs gifted by our backyard chickens, there’s no contest.  Go backyard if you can.)
  •  12 cups flour (Nut flours, gluten free mixes, bean flours, keep going and keep experimenting until you find your fave.  My current go-to is Pamela’s Baking Mix.)
  • 6 cups sugar (Damn, that’s a lot of sugar.  Two routes for modifying:  eat these muffins with lots of roughage to slow sugar absorption or — my preference — replace most of the sugar with ground almonds mixed with coconut flour.  Both have a natural sweetness and offer more nutrition.)
  • 2 T. salt
  • 2 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 7 1/2 cups frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped, approx. 3 bags
  • 3 cups walnuts, toasted and coarsly chopped

Each batch makes 6 loaves.

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. In large bowl, whisk together flour (alternative), salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  3. In another large bowl, whisk eggs (thank the chickens).  Add buttermilk coconut milk/vinegar, melted butter, orange juice puree, and orange zest to eggs and stir thoroughly.
  4. Add just a bit of sugar and almond/coconut flour mix to liquid ingredients, stir.
  5. Add chopped cranberries and toasted walnuts to liquid mixture.
  6. Stir dry ingredients into liquid mixture; stir just until moistened.  Do not over-mix.

Grease (coconut oil!) and flour (alternative) 6, 9 x 5 loaf pans and divide batter into each.  Spread evenly into corners of pans and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.  Reduce oven heat to 350 and continue baking for about 50-60 minutes more, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Heads-up: these healthier substitutions may shift the temp and time a bit, so stay vigilant, check often and tweak if necessary.  Transfer to wire rack to cool.  Spread with as much butter or coconut oil as your heart desires!

The Fudge that Won’t Make You Fat

  • Coconut oil, 1 cup
  • Cocoa powder, 1/2 cup (less if you prefer milk chocolate over dark chocolate)
  • Honey, 3 Tbsp, or to taste
  • Vanilla Extract, 1 tsp, or to taste
  • Almond butter, 2 cups
  • Optional for a more creamy fudge:  canned coconut milk, 1/4 cup
  • Sea salt for sprinkling
  1. In microwave-safe bowl: mix coconut oil, cocoa, vanilla extract, and honey.
  2. Nuke 30 seconds, then stir.  Repeat until silky.
  3. In bigger bowl: mix almond butter and coconut milk (if desired).  Combine chocolate mix into this big bowl and stir ’til thick and sexy.  Sample and tweak if desired.
  4. Pour into a baking and sprinkle with sea salt.
  5. Freeze until firm.  Cut and serve.

Take Home Tip from 100poundsin1year.com

When I come to table this Christmas, my assignment will be to honor the ever-changing landscape between fork and knife.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

“Eat to Thrive,” a free eGuide from 100 Pounds in 1 Year absolutely brimming with more reasons food can be a friend.

Read Anna’s Tiny Blog at www.tinyfarmnutrition.com

Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.

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Filed under Food

Why I Already Have What I Desire, No, Really, I Do

 

Trigger: /ˈtrigər/ (verb) Cause (an event or     situation) to happen or exist; to touch off.

60 pounds lost so farDo you have a trigger?  No, the better question is, “What is your trigger?”  I can’t imagine anyone NOT having some sore spot that opens wide when the perfect storm of circumstance fires an arrow fast through all those layers of self-protection and hits a hard-core bulls-eye, as if the armor didn’t even exist.  Has that ever happened to you?  It has to me.  In fact, it’s happening right now.

I’m writing this post at Bernice’s coffee shop, seven hours after my trigger hit.  I still feel a residual burning in my stomach.  I’ve tried all my go-to work-arounds:  talking it out, deep breathing, asking for hugs, fresh-squeezed juice, looking at the big picture, exercising into exhaustion.  Yet, I have a cup of coffee and a cream cheese Danish next to my computer.  Hold on a sec… just took another gooey bite.

Damn, that tastes good.

This is my world of emotional eating.  This time, I’ve not quite descended into the gorging nightmare that used to be my stress response, as I have collected some back pocket understanding along this journey  For example, I know I’m a “sensual” comfort personality type; meaning, when I stress out, physical comforts like food or massage can chaperone me back to sanity.  Knowing this, my danish doesn’t have near as much guilt sprinkled on top.

Hours before, however, I got a big bite of stress.  I knew pulling out the get-er-done stick wouldn’t work because that’s what caused my panic in the first place.  There was too much to get done already.  Too many people wanting too much time.  I couldn’t keep all my commitments, let alone the promises I’ve made to myself.  No time to work out.  No time to write.  No time to do the things I know to do in order to shape my dreams into reality.  My brain went flat line, overheated by the pressurized push and pull between responsibility and desire.  My body kicked into fight or flight, and I couldn’t do either.  I spent the day stewing in a toxic brew of cortisol, which – I also know – is the ideal way to stay fat (learn more at my post, Chronic Stress and Weight Gain).

This I know for sure:  if I want to outgrow my emotional eating — learn, heal, or do anything worth doing — all I need to do is begin to desire.  I’m not talking about craving a danish.  I’m talkin’ Big D Desire.  I’m unpacking that secret box, the one we all keep buried in our heart’s closet of best intentions, collecting dust like unused sports equipment.  Desire laden with regret as hard and cold as a bowling ball.  For years, I moth-balled my desires.  Then I decided to lose 100 pounds in one year.  That was a big deal for me.  Surrendering to this desire was scary, vulnerable, and very, very brave.  Desiring is a courageous thing to do.  To understand why, all I need is to notice how much I distract myself from doing exactly that.  In my worst years, I chose denial over desire because I thought that would keep me from my pain.  On most days, though, it’s much easier to ignore Desire and stay too busy with everyday life.  That’s why Desire is enough to get the healing process started.  I don’t have to go diggin’ and scrubbin’ for something to fix inside.  Keeping myself in that desirous space will bring plenty of opportunity for profound work.

Most of my life, in order to keep me too busy, I’ve used my Story.  Just like everyone has a trigger, everyone has a Story.  It’s the play of thoughts and emotions we act out, sometimes knowing what we’re doing, sometimes not.  In our Story, we are — at once — the lead, the audience, and the critic.  The stage is our life.  The circumstances may change, like this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park players, but the script reads the same.  This morning, my Story had me as its captured audience.  It would have had you hustling to the popcorn machine during intermission.  Would you have ordered extra butter?

As I was getting ready for the day, familiar thoughts appeared like titles for each act.

Act 1: There’s too much to do.

Act 2:  I can’t do it all.

Act 3: I am not enough.

I can slather a balm of sooth-sayings atop those cutting thoughts.  There’s lots of understanding responses to every Story.  The problem is, a Story must stick to the Story.  Caring words are often rewritten to bring the play back ‘round to plot.  It’s like having an OCD automaton for a script writer.  For example, if I believe I’m not enough, then I’ll edit the kindest thought and boomerang it around in my head until it establishes that, once again, I am not enough.  I’ll prove my point, even to my own detriment.

How does this relate to pounds on the scale?  Consider, if I believe I am not enough, plus I’m a sensual comfort personality type, then I’ve got two options when it comes to my relationship with food

  1. Eat until I’m stuffed, creating a physical sensation of more than enough
  2. Keep weight on, building an actual barrier of body fat between me and the world, thereby making up for the weakness of my lack

There’s only one way I know to short-circuit my Story.  Compassion.  Self-understanding is a form of forgiveness which can disarm the toughest triggers.  Ironically, it’s also one of the last tools we think of when it comes to weight loss.  Jean Fain, a psychotherapist at Harvard Medical School instructor, talks about the importance of compassion in her book, “The Self-Compassion Diet.”  She explains, “Most plans revolve around self-discipline, deprivation and neglect.   Self-compassion is the missing ingredient in every diet and weight-loss plan,”  OK, Jean, I’m going to experiment with compassion right now, in this coffee shop, with this post.  Here goes…

First, compassion begins by asking me to resist the temptation to label my Story as a villain.  “Why not choose gratitude?” it suggests.  I can thank my Story for serving a needed purpose.  O.K.  I’ll try it out…

I want to be enough.  I can see how my Story of “I am not enough” holds the promise that someday – maybe even this time – I will be enough.  Thank you, Story, for keeping that desire alive.

O.K.  So far, so good.  Next, compassion dares me to believe that I already have my deepest desire.  This is hard to see.  No, actually, it blows chunks.  Here’s what I want to say to that lovely nugget of wisdom…

Don’t tell me I am enough when, obviously, I’m not.  You can’t tell me what to do.  Everyone is telling me what to do.

Compassion isn’t putting up a fight.  It’s just there, quiet, letting me rant.  I’m staying angry.  I’m imagining a backstory of tiny offenses to support my victim identity.  I’ll do this until I’m ready to not do it anymore.

Intermission

After all that, compassion still won’t condemn me for my tantrum.  This level of unconditional acceptance calms my defenses, and I feel safe enough to look deeper.  At these depths, stuff just seems to leak out unguarded, like it almost wants to be seen.  If I’m honest with myself…

I want to be not enough.

It’s what I’m used to.

It’s what I’ve always known.

If it wasn’t this stress today, I would find something else tomorrow.

I think I am addicted to my Story.

Compassion is nodding, not with condemnation but with caring.  I hear, in a soft, motherly voice, “That’s not all you are.”

I want to lean in.  If compassion had a shoulder, I would rest on it.  Finally, the acid in my veins is disintegrating.  I can take a deep breath.  This time, each expanding inhale reminds me that compassion is right; there is more to me than this.  I am looking around.  I remember my day.  I see a new reality…

I did get a workout in today.

I am writing, right here, right now.

I will encounter understanding when I explain why I had to ditch out.

While I’m being honest…you should know that I just deleted two paragraphs that I had spent 15 minutes writing.  At this point, I’m tempted to lift my struggle up into a hopeful, insightful bundle of lessons learned and bridges crossed.  If I could send this post to you via snail mail, I would wrap it in a pretty bow.  That’s what I was doing with those paragraphs.  Then, I thought…does it have to always end on an up note?  Sometimes, sure, yeah.  This time, though, I would be cheating you and me both out of a truer truth.

No matter how stressed I feel, how enlightened I might sound, or how messy the space between those two extremes becomes, one thing remains:  I am.  I am not enough, or I am enough.  But I always am.  I am stressed, or I am at peace.  Still, I am.  What if I am is the point of it all?  What if I don’t just set the standard in my life, but I am the standard?  If that could be true, then there is no such thing as falling short or not being enough.  Neither is there such a thing as wanting too much or being too this or too that.  I am is the benchmark.  I am is flexible, too.  It measures exactly enough while still holding limitless potential.  When I start arguing with that paradox, or devising a method to skip over it, then I get into trouble.

My methods usually depend on judging some part of me “good” or “bad,” then making adjustments from there.  In contrast, compassion refrains from judging.  It sees me as whole, even as I birth another sub-species of angst in the diverse ecosystem called “me.”

Where do I want to end this?  No bows in sight, so I’ll just say that I am.  There is no right me.  There is no wrong me.  Sure, I can gain more traction with some choices more than others, but always, I am.  What I really desire, what I truly want, if for this I am to taste sweeter than any cream cheese danish.

Take Home Tip

This I know for sure:  if I want to grow, learn, heal, or do anything worth doing, all I need go do is desire.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges

“The Self-Compassion Diet” by Jean Fain

You Already Have What You Desire, No, Really, You Do

Enjoy more Vision Boards at pinterest.com/100Pounds/lose-100-pounds-in-1-year/

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  She began on Thanksgiving 2011.    Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.  She also writes a blog about what it means to be true to ourselves at RadicallyAuthentic.wordpress.com.

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Filed under Food, Principles

How Can I Keep Going When I Want to Stop?

Here in Montana, the temps have topped seventy degrees, and we’re on the back end of spring runoff.  This is a time of joyful sacrifice for us Montanans.  Winter’s cache of precious snow funnels down mountain draws, babbling all her secrets into spring streams.  If we’re lucky, we’ll have enough moisture to keep summer fires at bay.  These hidden waterways zigzag through thickets, playing tag with the forest.  Their refreshing touch awakens berry bushes, which will turn snowmelt and sun into August fruit.   Rivulets pool in the plateaus.  Streams become creeks, creeks join rivers.  In town, our Clark Fork River swells in a muddy rise.  Spring fishing surrenders to the slurry for a while.  No use casting a fly, anyway, not until after the tube hatch (flotillas of sun-burnt floaters lazing the days away in their inner-tubes).  This is the between time, the waiting hour, unless – of course – you go rafting.

Spring runoff attracts adventure rafters like Salmon Flies pull trout to the surface.  Rafters need not be out to catch a fish, mind you.  The water is challenge enough.  As rivers rise, so does the force of all that water.  Underneath the speedy swell hides a myriad of dangers, both seen and unseen.  Where a slight hump appears on the surface, a sunken boulder the size of a Volkswagen could be pushing the water up and over (I know one spot where I can dunk my head under and hear boulders thudding down the riverbed, like muffled thunder.)  More visible – but no less dangerous — are giant cottonwoods felled by hungry beavers.  These trees act like a sieve, siphoning everything under water-logged trunks and into tangles of immersed branches.  They can suck anything under.  Beneath deceptively smooth spots in the river, underwater whirlpools can catch you unaware.  Like underwater tornadoes, whirlpools yank everything into their murky holes.  That’s why, this time of year, I stay close to the shore.  That’s why some people don’t.

Some brave souls gush at the idea of riding that wild water.  One summer, many years ago, my husband Frank ventured onto a local stretch of river known as Alberton Gorge.  In late summer, the gorge provides sport for dogs, kiddies, and all manner of summer sprites.  During spring runoff, however, one crucial juncture asks each boater to measure their courage for the day.  Where the mountainsides draw together and narrow the river’s breadth by half, a tall haystack rock squats between the flow.  There are three reasons this matters:

The narrow channel creates a super-swift underwater current, which any good guide can float you above in a class 3 adrenaline rush of whitewater hustle.  That’s fun for some, except for number two.

Squeezed by the gorge, all that water has to go somewhere.  Spring run off creates enough momentum to lift the river up and over the haystack rock.  On the other side of this batholith, the current plunges with all the wild gravity of a wilderness waterfall.  Force alone can bore out the riverbed below.  You’ve got a Montana black hole, also known as a “boat eater.”

Like it splits the river, the haystack rock splits your chances of getting through the gorge still in your boat.  As waves roll back onto themselves at the foot of the rock, in a vertical whirlpool, the edges of this wonky current can snag an edge or oar.  Even the best guide has felt their aft tugged into current.  Oars go flying as the boat yanks backwards, sideways, and upside down, all at the same time.  Hence, the required conference before Frank’s group headed into the gorge…

“Guys,” the guide grunts in his best this-is-serious-stuff tone.  “How are you feeling today?”

Frank thought his question weird, since the sky was blue and the water perfect, but no one answered.

“We’ve got a decision to make,” the guide says.

The group of six looks around at each other, anticipating a man-up moment.  The guide drops an oar into the last calm water they’ll see for a while.  He raises his free hand and points down river.

“Up there, we’ve got a moment of decision.  There’s a tight rise with a big rock waitin’ for us.  We can eddy out now and portage this puppy trailside, no harm done.”

He lifts his shoulders and raises his eyebrows, wiping his face clean of any judgment and giving his clients an out, like a good guide should.

“Or?” one rider with trendy sunglasses goads.  Eyes dart back to the guide.

“Or,” the guide pauses.  ”We can deep throat that sucker and find out why they call it the Alberton Gorge.”

A robust round of “hell yeah’s” circles among the men.  With only two minutes between them and the rock, discussion ensues.  Some grouse over having to haul the raft up steep trail.  Others express everyone’s desire to meet the challenge.  After all, wasn’t that what they came for?  Everyone offers the guide their approving nod.  In enthusiastic response, he grabs both oars with a ruddy grip and points the raft downstream.  A smile widens underneath the bent brim of his weathered cowboy hat.

“Here’s the thing,” he says.  “If we’re gonna do this, we got to do it full force.  There’s no halfway with this.”

Everyone’s lips purse in agreement.

“Last week, I steered a boat of football players through this hole, and we all went swimming.”

Silence, then the familiar rrrriipppp of tightening straps on lifejackets.  The guide continues, stiffening the oars to create a little drag and buy extra training time.

“Right now, fifteen feet of river is running over a ten foot tall rock underneath.  You can’t see it, but it’s there.  It’s a bearcat rise, but what goes up must come down, and there’s a steep drop on the other side.  It’s a mess, a wet, rough, and rowdy mess.  If we’re gonna get through it, we gotta dive.”

Eyes dash among the crew.

“That’s right,” the guide answers.  “I said dive.  We got to punch this raft deep into that water.  When I say ‘go,’ you’re gonna have to lean into this baby with everything you’ve got.  You gotta punch into that wave, ‘specially you guys up front.  Push her nose down, then push some more.  We had all better be under water, or that wave will flip us over.”

The guide pauses, putting a silent exclamation point on his instructions.  Everyone tests their lungs with a gulp of air.  As the guide lifts his oars to set the raft going again.

“When we pop up,” he continues between committed pushes into the current, “we’ll be on the other side.”

Frank grips the side rope at the front where he sits.   Across from him, the other point man stretches his legs taunt to wedge himself solid into the sides of the raft.  Granite walls rise up.  The air cools.  Shadows blanket the water, making it harder to read the river.  The sound of rapids bounces all around, like a natural echo chamber.  Frank smells green moss as they pass rocky banks dampened by a constant spray coming off the speedy edges.  The boat traces the river’s edge as they make the final turn.  Then, Frank sees it.  Not so much the wave as the fountain it spews five feet into the air, as if a geyser decided to burst from the middle of the Clark Fork.  The guide pushes one oar and pulls the other, steering straight for the geyser.

“Get ready!” he yells over the white water’s rumble.   More hands clench more rope.  Everyone leans forward, mustering guts and momentum.  The fountain of foam gets bigger, closer to eight feet high now.  Frank eyes the current, following surface rivulets as they stretch long and thin in submission to the flow.  He braces.  Wait for it, he says to himself.  “Wait for it,” the guide bellars.  The river feels anxious, too, yanking them from side to side, even as they float faster.  Frank balances his weight between push and pull, trying to move with the water.  Out the side of his eye, a wet shine on one oar flickers then disappears.  The raft lunges.  Frank leans in.  The nose of the raft lifts, as if arguing with everything the guide just said.  Frank squints.  The geyser spray sparkles in cold pelts.

“Go!” the guide blares.

The boat rolls forward, high-centers for a half second, then tilts into a downward fall.  Frank thrusts his body over the nose.  Whitewater is everywhere.  He closes his eyes.  He sucks air.  Behind him – he hopes – the crew has got his back tight.  Then, they hit wet thunder.  Under water, inside the whirlpool, liquid static fills his ears.  He forces his eyes open.  They sting from the shock of cold and sand.  They’re still sinking.  They go deeper.  A swampy green engulfs tiny shards of sunlight.  He’s in a black hole.

Seconds later, the light turns bright again.  He feels less weight but more wet as the air lifts the river’s weight.  He opens his mouth.  Droplets blink from his eyes.  As he gasps for more air – consciously this time — he looks around.  Heads, their bodies disappeared under water, float alongside him.  They rise in unison, even as they slow into calmer waters.  With the raft still half-sunk, one man curses his lost sunglasses.  The guide tamps down his cowboy hat.

What does rafting have to do with losing weight?  I’ve encountered daunting obstacles along my 100 pounds journey.  Just like in spring runoff, some hazards hide underneath the current of my conscience.  When I realize I’m about to be siphoned under by another craving, or caught in a whirlpool of frustration, I wish I had a guide to teach me how to punch through the moment.  Either that, or permission  to leave off my struggle and hope for calmer water on the other side.

I get conflicted inside, like I’m trapped in the vortex of a boat-eater.  I’ve lost pounds then gained them back over weeks of sinking depression.  I’m still here, though.  I’m beginning to believe my hurdles cannot be cleared by floating over the top (ignoring them), ditching out to the side (avoiding them), or hoping I’d remember how to swim if my plans got turned upside down (wishing them away).  Nope.  I must punch into them.  I must learn to lean.  When I sink into their source and become willing to get lost and disoriented in my swampy darkness, then I come face to face with my demons.  I peer into that black hole.  It’s scary to punch into the white water of life, but so far I’ve popped out on the other side, every time.

Take Home Tip

It’s scary to lean into the white water of my life, but so far I’ve popped out on the other side, every time.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

Learn About Alberton Gorge

Watch a trip through the Alberton Gorge

“River” Slang from Urban Dictionary

Where’s the Vision Board for this post?

Well, I knew this day would come.  My favorite picture editor is obsolete.  I’m spending some time learning a new editor.  So, hopefully more Vision Boards will be up coming, as soon as I learn the ropes on this new program.  Meanwhile, you can enjoy more Vision Boards at pinterest.com/100Pounds/lose-100-pounds-in-1-year/

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  She began on Thanksgiving 2011.    Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.  She also writes a blog about what it means to be true to ourselves at RadicallyAuthentic.wordpress.com.

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Filed under Principles

Power in the Pitfalls

sinking in the quicksand“Inside, I feel like a mountain biker gearing down to head up a hill.  I know I’ll make it, one peddle at a time.”

That’s how I ended my last blog, all positive and chock-full of how-to tips for switching gears into the next stage of my weight-loss journey.  There’s something I didn’t tell you, though, something that came before all my revelations about muscle, body image, and body fat.  I didn’t tell you about the mud.  I skipped over the mire of doubt, frustration, and hopelessness that had kept me stuck for weeks.  The truth is:  I may have felt like a mountain biker ready to ramp up, but I was stuck in the mud only days before.

Skipping over the mud, I’ve learned, is common in self-help literature.  After all, no one wants to read a book titled, “Damn, I’m Stuck Again and Don’t Know What To Do.”  When sharing stories of overcoming, it’s much more fun to focus on our strengths.  We’d much rather share the answers than the pitfalls that preceded them.  Every diet book contains “guidelines.”  Eat this; don’t eat that.  Every spiritual guide distills life into “principles.”  Believe this; don’t believe that.  These ideas, while valuable, are what come after struggling through the mud.  They won’t necessarily keep us out of it.  These answers are not so much the “right” path as the end results of messy struggles through private pitfalls.  Between those lines of advice, there’s probably a juicy story of how the author wallowed in doubt, thought ugly thoughts, and felt like a fake.

When I’m stuck in a pitfall, I have thoughts like, You hypocrite, why are you even doing this?  What makes you think you can do this?  What made you think you could think that way?  Everything you thought is blowing up in your face.  It’s all wrong.

I feel safe admitting these doubts because I believe the mud swallows each of us, somewhere along our journey, and I would be false if I didn’t admit how it happens to me.  Plus, I’ve discovered a secret power laying dormant in the pitfall.  In fact, inside all the miry clay, there awaits the answers I seek.  I need only be true to myself.  It’s time to be true to being stuck.

First, let’s ask why there’s rarely a “Damn, I’m Stuck Again” chapter in most self-help books.  Why shun the negative?  Why be so protective of the positive?  I wonder what’s behind this.  Is it a war-like mentality which translates vulnerability into threat, a chink in our armor that must not be?  Or is it a fierce reliance on positive thinking which must veneer all things negative?  Maybe it’s not so convoluted.  Maybe we just don’t like how doubt feels.  If you ever felt like patting someone on the shoulder to reassure their misgivings, then you know what I’m poking at.

I admit, no one likes their soft underbelly exposed.  I can’t remember ever volunteering for a pitfall.  When I get stuck in the mud, I mostly curse it.  I resent it.  I judge myself for being there – again.  I hustle for the quickest way out.  Whenever I have doubts, my first strategy is a mad scurry to gloss over my murky mind with a shiny coat of what I think I should feel.  It might go something like this:

The doubt:  I’m disappointed and sad; I won’t lose 100 pounds in one year.
The gloss:  It’s not all about numbers!  Focus on how much you’ve already lost!

The doubt:  I’m so tired; there’s no way I’m going to lose any weight this week.
The gloss:  Don’t go there!  Just pick up where you left off and think how good next week will be!

The doubt:  This sucks. I should be doing better.
The gloss:  No, no, give yourself a break!

These two personalities — one defeated, another defensive – battle in my brain.  Neither accepts what’s going on and allows me simply to be who I am at that moment.  The defeated talk tears me down.  The defensive push-back ignores how I really feel.  When I voice-over my real feelings like this, I stay stuck in a tug-o-war between defeat and defense.  My self-esteem begins to unravel.  No matter the words, my thoughts play the same message over and over:   I feel this way, but I shouldn’t, so I am wrong.  This undercurrent of invalidation only feeds doubt, and I drill deeper into the mud.  If I keep up this vicious cycle, my mud becomes quicksand.  The more I struggle, the more I sink.

I’ve never fallen in actual quicksand, but I know how to get out of it.  The experts say to relax your muscles, look up, and let your body float on top until you touch solid ground.  Of course, if I were ever drowning in quicksand, then relaxing is the last thing I’d think to do.  To escape, I’d have to go against my instincts and ignore my brain screaming Get Out!  As that thick grip rises around my neck, I’d have to resist my resistance.

Whether its real quicksand or mental mud, the way out is the same.  If resistance keeps me stuck, then acceptance will get me unstuck.  For me, acceptance means learning to acknowledge my feelings, relax into reality, and trust the answers to float me to the top.  At first, acceptance can feel wrong, like allowing the quicksand to bury me in a murky grave.  It’s tempting to default back to my defensive, positive gloss-overs.  At least then I’m not giving up.  However, having feelings doesn’t mean giving up.  When I pay attention to my feelings — acknowledge my frustration, express my anger, validate my doubts – I stop resisting what is and join with what’s real.  Frustration is where I’m really at!  Anger is what I really feel!  I’ve just returned to the most powerful place I could be:  the present reality.  Now that I’m dealing with reality, I can get out of that emotional tug-o-war.  I can begin seeing solutions.

For example, here’s how I accepted my disappointment at not being able to lose 100 pounds in one year (a kind of conversation in my head)…

I am sad.  (Heaviness drags on my body as I let out a disheartening sigh.)  I really wanted to reach my goal.  I really wanted that scale to go down more by now.  Why can’t I do this?  I’m sad.  I’m just plain sad.

 Yeah, I know.

 I don’t.  I mean, I really wanted this.  I wanted to feel more like myself.  I wanted to fit into my favorite clothes stashed in that box under the bed.  I wanted to do the things I used to do.  I wanted to feel like I could want something, and I could have it.  I wanted to have an effect on my world. 

 That makes total sense.  These are o.k. things to want.

 Yeah, but I didn’t get there.

 How do you mean?

 Duh!  The scale!

 It’s funny, in all those things you listed that you wanted, you didn’t mention a number on the scale.

 Hmmm.

 Maybe there’s more to you than a number.

 Yeah, I know, I know.

 I know you know.  You wouldn’t be feeling this way if you didn’t know there was more to you than this.

 Yeah.

 So what else is there?

 There’s a desire to live a full life, to be spunky and vivacious, to inspire others, to not live in vain.

 Wow, that sounds a lot like what you’ve been doing.

I take a deep breath and pause to search for possibility.  For a moment, I feel like I’m betraying my sadness.  Something in me wants to stay sad.  I return to my tears, wringing the last drops from my soul.  After a bit, a space opens up.  It occurs to me that I have a choice.  I can stay here, or I can look up.  There is no “right” choice.  There’s only what I am able to do, only what’s real.  I decide that I can look up, for a moment, just to see what’s there.

 You’re in a tough spot, but I can see you.

 What do you mean?

 I see your vivaciousness.  I see your spunk.  Deep down, there’s a part of you that’s still O.K., a part of you that’s never been broken.  I see you whole.

 I want to be.

 You have been.  You will be again.

 Yeah?

 Yeah.  It’s who you truly are, not just who you want to be.

 It is.  I just feel like I’ve been hijacked away from myself.

 That makes total sense.  You had a part of you, now you feel like you don’t.

 Yeah, but I want it back!

 Oh!  I can see that, too!  Well, how can you get it back?

 I know that the scale can’t tell the whole story of what’s going on in my body right now.  I know I’m gaining muscle, and muscle weighs more than fat.  I need a way to measure my progress that’s more than just weight.  I need a way to feel successful.  I guess I need a new kind of feedback…

The rest of the conversation, you can read in my last blog,  Switching Gears

I’m a firm believer that answers reside in our present reality.  Feelings give us a gate into this reality.  When I give my feelings all the attention they’ve been clamoring for, then the mud lets go.  I sense solid ground.  Then, a miracle happens:  I can move on.

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  She began on Thanksgiving 2011.    Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.

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