"Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other." Deuteronomy 4:39
Life is a little busy right now and I feel like I don't have enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do. Yesterday I completed a 7 minute free write, which freed freed me up to do a "blog check in", which keeps me on task, and not be late to work. Today, it's 6:25 am, and I will need to do the same!
Even as I sit here, I am trying to analyze everything in my head to figure out what I want to right about! That kind of defeats the purpose of the free write. So, instead I am going to dump my thoughts so that I can get focused on my goal of overcoming food addiction. Here they are...
Last night I attended a community event that was created as a response to the rash of teen suicides happening in our county. We had reps from various sectors, and it was very inspiring. The decision was to focus on spreading kindness and make a difference. That is why we were all there. Everyone in that room already has that mission. Now, how do we move forward. I suppose I am doing my part at school when I greet kids with a smile and give them a hug and tell them how happy I am to see them. I show kindness with my colleagues by making them coffee and listening to them. I show kindness to my family by making sure they have healthy food to eat and crock pot dinners made when I can't be home at night. I'm always looking for the "big change" but I suppose the big change is the accumulation of small positive changes we each make every day.
Shifted thought - I ate ice cream last night and this morning I feel congested and full. I'm guessing the combination of dairy and sugar has created this feeling. I don't like it, so I will be staying away from ice cream tonight.
Thought Shift - I'm going to see Dr. Caroline Leaf in Longwood tonight. I can't wait to see her again. I am so thankful that she has reached out to the world to spread her research and knowledge. If every person listened to her, that would certainly result in a positive mindset shift.
Thought Shift - I don't feel good. I think I'm coming down with a cold. I have a sore throat, ears hurt, eyes are watery...whine - whine - whine. There is no time to be sick!
It is now 6:32 am. It's been 7 minutes. My brain is still full, but it feels good to download some of the thoughts that are filling my mind. It reminds me of eating. It's great to take good food in, but there has to be time for digesting and excreting. Being fed is wonderful, just like taking in lots of new ideas is wonderful. But if there is not time to process (digest) and create (make something wonderful out of healthy thoughts and get rid of toxins ones), then our thoughts, just like our food, can weigh us down.
"Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind." Psalm 26:2
I only have a few minutes this morning to write. Dr. Leaf states that we need about 7 minutes per day to think deeply about whatever it is we want to learn and habitualize. It is now 5:05 am. I will give myself 7 minutes to "free write". I am not going to write about anything in particular, or analyze something that I have studied. Rather, I am just going to write about what comes to mind.
On Saturday morning, I attended a workshop at the library conducted by a local therapist. She was teaching teenagers how to write about their feelings. The thing that struck me the most about her teachings was the concept of vulnerability. She stated that if an author is not willing to be vulnerable, then the reader will not be able to connect. This topic of vulnerability also came up in a counseling session with one of my client's yesterday. She initially saw her vulnerability as a bad character trait, and that it put her at risk of being taken advantage. It was interesting to explore the positive aspects of vulnerability with her because, in the end, she decided that vulnerability is what made her human. Vulnerability opened her heart and mind to others, and allowed them inside.
It is now 5:10 am. Funny how fast time goes when we are writing freely, without constraints. Two things I realized this morning: Vulnerability opens us up to possibility, and time is the most important commodity a person has. It is Monday, and my primary goal is to stay focused on my goal of overcoming food addiction despite demands related to time, and the risk of being vulnerable. The clock just ticked to 5:13 am. I'm out!
"Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." Philippians 4:8
YES! I made it to Day 21 of focusing on overcoming my food addiction to MAD, the Modern American Diet, which is saturated with sugar! According to Dr. Leaf, renowned Cognitive Neuroscientist, it takes 21 days to build a permanent memory. The minute we go beyond 24 hours of focusing on something, whether it is good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, we activate a group of proteins that deposit information into dendrites and begin to build long-term thoughts, aka "memories". If we do not have a good understanding of new information, or we don't pay attention to the information, then the dendrites will not firmly attach to the neuron. After 24-48 hours, little vacuum-cleaners called glial cells remove the branches and place them into "inaccessible memory", which means we forget the information. However, when we set our minds (attitude based in love), and when we pay attention and think deeply about the information, we build healthy, everlasting thoughts. As thoughts become grounded, they also become automatic. Automatic thoughts create automatic behaviors. If I automatically think I will choose healthy food, then I will automatically choose healthy food thereby building healthy behaviors around food. Yes, it's incredible! Thoughts are not imaginary things. They are real substances in our physical brain! Healthy thoughts build healthy brains by sending healthy and balanced electrochemical messages, while toxic thoughts build unhealthy brains by sending unhealthy and unbalanced electrochemical messages. This concept is the scientific baseline in neuroplasticity. Scientists used to believe that brains could not change, and that people had to learn to adapt to their biological prison. However, as Dr. Leaf says, "science dies one funeral at a time" as we explore and learn more about ourselves, our earth, our universe and our creator. Today, we know that the brain is able to build new physiological connections. According to Brainline, a website about Brain Injury and PTSD, "from the time the brain begins to develop in utero until the day we die, the connections among the cells in our brains reorganize in response to our changing needs. This dynamic process allows us to learn from and adapt to different experiences."
According to Dr. Leaf, geneticists have found that there are genes that create what is known as free will. These genes are located in the corpus callosum which lies beneath the cerebral cortex and connects the right and left sides of the brain. The corpus callosum acts like a light switch allowing the two sides of the brain to work together. It intellectualizes and thinks about information from two perspectives (detail to big picture and big picture to detail). When we acquire information and think about it deeply, we have the ability to make good choices. When we use all aspects of our being (spirit, soul and body) to offer input and help us process information, we make even better choices.
Dr. Leaf also suggests it takes three cycles of 21 days, 63 days, to create automatic thoughts and habits. Today, I want to celebrate making it through my first cycle! I am already feeling better emotionally and physically. I refuse to focus on the few negative set-backs I've had, and I choose to focus on the more positive choices I've made along the way. A failure is a learning opportunity and success is the equivalent of learning from and overcoming past failures.
"Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect. But I press on, that I may obtain that for which Christ Jesus also obtained." Philippians 3:12
Yesterday, during my reflection of "PMS", positive mindset shift, I mentioned my current physiological state of peri-menopause and the effect this hormonal change has had on my body and soul. Today, I'd like to zone in and learn a little bit more about Estrogen. I will be using Dr. Sara Gottfried's book, The Hormone Reset Diet, to obtain my information. She states, "estrogen is the hormone primarily responsible for making us uniquely women, with breasts, hips, curves and glossy locks; that is, we're not simply small men." Estrogen is highest during puberty, the middle of one's menstrual cycle, and during pregnancy. Estrogen is lowest during menopause or when a woman has her ovaries removed.
Dr. Goffried states, "When I completed my medical training, no one talked about estrogen dominance. I was taught to prescribe birth control pills for women with ill-defined hormone problems up until age 50, and hormone replacement therapy after that. I knew the birth control pills balanced out women who had too much estrogen, so the term "estrogen dominance" had a context in my mind. But as I learned more about the particular issues women face - difficulty with weight gain, breast tenderness, ovarian cysts, premenstrual syndrome, endometrial polyps, fibroids, endometriosis - I realized that estrogen dominance was the elephant in the room that most modern medicine was not addressing, and meat consumption plays a key role. "
In her own plight to lose weight, Dr. Gottfried discovered that estrogen dominance related to eating grain-fed, hormone-injected, superbug-infected conventionally raised red meat raises your body's estrogen levels, slows down your digestion, makes you bloated or constipated, and messes with your gut microbiome. Oh my Lord, just thinking about this makes me sick to my stomach! Dr. Gottfried offers a visualization of the consumption of a typical burger ..."as you smell the aroma of the burgers cooking on the grill, you may be unaware that they were previously part of cows raised in a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) and fed grain, typically genetically modified corn rather than grass, and highly stressed...and you don't think about how the standard practice for cattle is to treat them prophylactically with antibiotics and dewormers, thereby breeding bacterial and parasite resistance which can trigger hard-to-treat infections and food-borne illnesses." Apparently, this practice has been going on with poultry since the 1940's. Dr. Gottried informs us that when we eat steroid-injected meat which is used to fatten them, it fattens us up as well. In addition, fake estrogens called xenoestrogens are embedded in the synthetic chemicals. Grass-fed meat, as opposed to what we traditionally eat, contains up to ten times more omega-3 (good, healthy fat). Grain-fed meat has too much omega-6 which leads inflammation and more fat storage. She then shares that since our liver is not designed to process the toxins, we store the toxins in our fat cells. When we have stored too many toxins in our fat cells, it leaks out into the bloodstream which is tied to insulin resistance, obesity and breast cancer.
Dr. Gottfried recommends substituting conventional grain-fed red meat with locally grown grass-fed beef. Other options include cold water fish such as salmon, cod and tilapia; pastured chicken and eggs, lentils, beans, nut butters and seeds. She also recommends eating eating one pound of vegetables a day such as kale, spinach, cabbage, arugula, broccoli, radish, carrots, squash, bell peppers and cauliflower. A typical menu could look like this: Breakfast: 3 egg omelet (pastured eggs), 1/2 cup aspargus and 1 cup cooked spinach; Lunch: Banana Almond Milk protein shake, 20 cashews, and 1 cup chopped bell peppers; Dinner: 6 ounce wild salmon, 1 cup broccoli, 2 cups salad."
Even though I have not started a "diet", I am way more conscious of my food choices, how I spend my time, what my goals are and how I feel. Yesterday, I had the will power to say no to Christmas cookies at work. I passed that tray of cookies about 1,000 times, and I watched as it went from a full tray to two cookies. I was not tempted one time to eat from it! I have ate a healthy breakfast every day this week, and I prepared and ate a healthy lunch and afternoon snack every day. I worked out 3 days, and plan to work out this morning. I started my thermogenic supplement, and I take my doTerra Lifelong Vitality pack every day. I've also added a daily probiotic (good bacteria) to my routine. I've been blogging for 20 days, which means I am actively changing my brain. By staying focused on my goal, I am developing healthy new dendrites which means healthy new thoughts. In addition, over the past week, I've lost 1.7 pounds and feel more energy than I have in a long time!
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" Hebrews 12:1
Yesterday, I had a win! I'm going to call it a positive mindset shift, PMS! Just thinking about this new acronym, PMS, makes me giggle inside! I'm 47 years old and the "great change" began about a year ago. Yes, I'm talking about peri-menopause. Initially, I was relieved to know that I would not have to have a period every single month. However, now I'm beginning to realize that no period also means low estrogen. Low estrogen symptoms include mood swings, less sleep, more forgetfulness, increased tiredness and increased weight gain that can be difficult to lose! UGH! It's a vicious cycle! It can be easy to allow your mind and body to get trapped into thinking there's no way out!
Thank you God for helping me to adopt a new mindset, PMS! I will walk forward knowing that I am never a victim! With a positive mindset shift, I can choose to step outside the vicious cycle and develop a plan of attack!
Yesterday, I experienced the PMS when I was eating lunch. Earlier that morning, I prepared a healthy meal to bring to work for lunch - tuna wrapped in lettuce, organic strawberries, hummus and organic blue chips. As I was eating my lunch, I remembered there was soda in the fridge. I took the soda out and had a sip. I noticed that the soda did not taste like "real food". I stopped myself, looked at my water, looked back at the soda and then threw the soda in the trash can. I felt amazing and empowered!
Okay, before I get too far off, I want to begin Chapter 1 in Dr. Leaf's book. Today, I will reflect on the first section of Chapter 1 called, "The Diversity of Diet."
Dr. Leaf shares that human beings have survived and thrived on a variety of diets. Food options are often dependent on where a person is from. For instance, Mediterraneans digest a lot of olive oil, Japanese eat a lot of vegetables, and the African Maasai tribe eats a lot of grass-fed beef and dairy. What food do Americans eat? What foods did I grow up on? Where did my mindset about food come from? This is what I will be reflecting on in the next paragraph.
I grew up in a poor home. My mother used food stamps to purchase our food. Our typical meal consisted of hot dogs and Kraft mac and cheese, hamburgers and french fries or grilled cheese sandwiches. Fruit and vegetables came in a can, and we mostly drank Kool-Aid. On special occasions, when we did have money, we would go out to eat at McDonald's or Burger King. Also, we seldom got desserts. I remember stealing Little Debbie fruit pies from the grocery stores just so that I could have a treat. I also remember that when my little brother and I did get a dessert, we would eat is so slowly just so we could hold it over each other. We would taunt each other with the tasty treat. Until I was 16 years old, this was the only way I knew how to eat.
When I turned 16, I started dating a boy who came from a financially wealthy family. They are the ones that introduced me to various foods. I learned that fresh vegetables tasted better than canned vegetables, and I was introduced to foods like crab, salmon, lobster, and artichokes. I also went to my first "fancy" restaurant where cloth napkins were used. In addition, my boyfriend took me to McDonald's on a regular basis. I used to think, "I want to rich someday so that I can go to McDonald's whenever I want." The meaning of food changed. Food became a form of financial status.
I was the first person in my family to go to college. Colleges have dining halls! A dining hall is like the Golden Corral! All you can eat! They used to have a saying called, "the freshmen 15", meaning that college freshmen often put on 15 pounds due to open access to food. Well, I gained the 15 pounds. When I went home at Christmas, I remember a friend making fun of me about my weight gain. He called me "Thunder Thighs", and that was all it took! During the Spring semester, I took it all off! I worked out almost every day and I ate less food. Unfortunately, looking back, I never changed what I was eating. I only changed how much I was eating. Either way, the weight came off!
Over the years, I was able to manage my weight through exercise. After gaining 65 pounds with each one of my 3 boys, I reached a weight of 215 lbs. I joined the gym and started taking group exercise classes. I was able to get myself down to 145 lbs. I loved group exercise so much that I became a certified fitness instructor, and a certified personal trainer. I taught a variety of classes including step aerobics, cardio kickboxing, body sculpt, yoga and pilates. When I turned 41, I moved across the country, and was not able to teach group exercise for a while. By the time I was 43, I had gained 20 pounds. My weight was 165 pounds. I decided to start teaching classes again, but they were sporadic. Currently, I teach one class a week. Thank God for this class because it keeps my foot in the door and helps me to remember how much I love group exercise. When I turned 46, I fell into a depression due to a major life event, and I stopped getting my periods. I don't know if it was the stress that stopped my cycle, or if it was my age. Either way, I did not have energy to work out, and I turned to food for comfort. I gained another 15 pounds bringing me to 180 pounds. By the grace of God, I was able to overcome the depression. However, my food addiction and lack of energy did not stop.
It have been emotionally and spiritually healthy for one year. I have so many things to be thankful for. My marriage is better. My children are safe and healthy. I have great friends and a wonderful church family. I have a full-time job as a School Counselor and am financially sound. My business is flourishing, and I am finishing my last two classes for mental health licensure. Unfortunately, by devoting time to all of these things, I have given up my time to exercise. By choosing to not change my diet and not exercise, I have gained another 10 pounds bringing my weight to 190 lbs! This is ridiculous and unacceptable!
I am realizing that if I am not physically healthy, then I won't have the energy or the mobility to "run the race that God has set before me" (Hebrews 12:1). It is time to change my thoughts and behavioral habits about food, and it is time to build in exercise. I am open and ready to receive guidance from the Holy Spirit and I welcome His presence. God, give me the strength and courage to move forth on this journey. In the name of Jesus, break this addiction that binds me. Help me to choose healthy foods. Enable me to carry out your will. Amen.
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh." 2 Corinthians 10:3
Yesterday, I digressed from my topic of weight loss. I wrote what was on my heart at the moment. A topic that often keeps me awake. A topic that I often need to pray about. The topic of mental health and treatment approaches.
This morning, I am going to stay on track with my mission of getting healthy. I continue to read and reflect on Dr. Caroline Leaf's book, Think and Eat Yourself Smart. I often find my mind wandering to different areas that interest me, or that I am passionate about. When my mind drifts from one passionate thought to the next, I lose focus on my original intention and then I never meet my goals. So this morning, even though there are so many areas that I would love to think and write about, I am choosing to stay focused on my mission of getting healthy! Speaking of that...I had an opening in my schedule so I went to the gym and took a Cardio Combat class. Even though I was not able to perform high impact exercise, I was able to endure the class. I felt so good when I was done! I have been making healthy food choices over the last few days and I can already feel my energy coming back! I have every intention of staying focused so that I can get rid of the extra 30-40 pounds.
Okay, back to the prologue of Think and Eat Yourself Smart. Dr. Leaf has divided this book into three parts: Admit It, Quit It, and Beat It. "Admit It" is about gathering information on the Modern American Diet (MAD) and admitting that our current food is not the food that God intended for us to eat. We are eating fake food instead of real food. "Quit It" focuses on the power of the mind and the impact of toxic thinking and toxic food choices on the brain and body. "Beat It" deals with lifestyle changes that can help us begin the task of thinking and eating ourselves smart.
In Dr. Leaf's words, "We can change nothing until we fully comprehend what needs to be changed. Just as every action first begins with a thought, we, as the children of the Creator of this beautiful universe, first have to understand the broken food system we face (Col. 1:15-20). We have to take these thoughts captive unto Christ Jesus, asking him to guide our minds and show us the way forward (2 Cor. 10:5). And, as we renew the way we think about what we eat and how we eat it, we take the first step to renewing our health and the health of God's wonderful planet (Rom 12:2). Only after we admit it can we quit it and beat it. The choice is ours."
"So it is with my word, it will not return to me void, but it will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:11
During my morning meditation, I asked God to answer a question that was sparked yesterday at work. I have an 11 year old boy who has been using stimulant and anti-depression medications since the age of 6. His mother is concerned that the medications are destroying his brain and liver, and, it appears, she is weaning him off the medications. The student has been struggling, horribly. His behavior and emotional state are declining and he has become a risk to himself and others. His physician has ordered a high dose of the medications and states they are needed to help him balance his emotions and behavior. As I am engaging in this outward conversation, I am having an internal conversation with myself. What is the right thing to do? I recently attended Dr. Leaf's conference where she and other prominent physicians discussed the mental health medication madness we have in America. I have personally witnessed children in the foster care system as young as 4 being medicated with major narcotics to balance their moods. In my soul, I am struggling with this issue. I woke up at 3:30 am with this issue on my mind. I decided to go to God with my question and this is what I heard the Holy Spirit tell me - "My word does not come back void." I truly have no idea what this means. My first inclination is to trust the direction of Dr. Caroline Leaf and her colleagues. They are highly educated and spirit-filled medical professionals who have much experience with this issue. While it does not make sense in the moment, I acknowledge that there have been numerous things I have been wrong about. There have been many times when I felt I was right and I went my own way, knowing that it did not line up with God's Word. Looking back, I realize how foolish I was!
I don't know what the right answer is. If I was that parent, I would probably medicate to re-stabilize and then consult with my physician as we discussed the weaning and withdrawal process. At the same time, I would be looking for an educational environment that best suits my child and his needs. My heart goes out to that child, the parent, the teachers, the physician and everyone else involved. It will take many humble hearts coming together to instill love and resilience in this situation. We know that brains change (neuroplasticity) and grow healthy when rooted in love!
If there is anyone reading this blog who is interested in learning more about Dr. Leaf, her panel of professional colleagues, or the issue of psychiatric medication, I have embedded the websites below.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5: 3-5
Today I am going to re-ignite my passion for learning about food. Since I love Dr. Caroline Leaf, I will be using her book, Think and Eat Yourself Smart, to gain knowledge. At the very basic level, I need to change my mindset about food, health, healing and nutrition. Dr. Leaf nails it when she says “this book is not a feel-good-quick-fix-magic-solution-pop-a-pill-latest-food-fad-I-have-the-only-solution diet.” Her goal is to create a lifestyle that blends food into an integrative spirit, soul and body framework. She states that this book will not give me the solution to weight loss, but will teach me how to be my own solution, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I love her way of thinking because it matches my philosophy as a parent, counselor and life coach. There are so many theories and techniques offered in the realm of parenting and self-help. I’ve actually been in conversations where people who have no children want to teach parents how to parent! While theories are helpful and can be used to strategize positive outcomes, it’s not until you are in the midst of the situation that you truly know what will work and not work. I’m finding this quite often when working with parents of children diagnosed with ADHD. Many are looking for the “quick fix”. My child is failing, can you fix them? My child won’t listen to me, can you fix them? Like Dr. Leaf states, there is no “feel-good-quick-fix-magic-solution-pop-a-pill-only-solution” to parenting or self-help. Unfortunately, this is what the Modern American Mental Health System is based on…get ‘em in and get ‘em out! When a person is suicidal, they get 3 days of treatment, at best. Usually the treatment entails antipsychotic medication, regardless of what age you are, and a referral for counseling. Most insurance plans cover a minimum amount of sessions. It amazes me how we have minimized and de-humanized mental health in America.
God has given us a choice: life or death, blessings or curses (Deut 30:19). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, He has given us LOVE, POWER and a SOUND MIND (2 Tim. 1:7). I believe that God wants the best for us. Because we live in a broken world, we will experience hardship, even when we have done nothing wrong. We will experience suffering, frustration, anger, betrayal, resentment. We will experience addiction, broken relationships, sickness and atypical personalities. I suppose when something is broken, our natural tendency is to fix it. When your car is not working properly, you take it to the mechanic and have them fix it. When the computer is not running properly, you take it to the computer tech to fix it. When we break a leg, we go to the orthopedic surgeon to fix it. Modern society would have us believe that when our brain is not operating correctly, we take it to the psychiatrist or neurologist to fix it. The unfortunate reality is that modern society does not teach us that we have a mind that can change our brain. When our brain changes, as a result of our mindset, we can actually heal our body. When we endure the hardship, by setting our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2), we persevere. As we hold onto hope, remain patient in the trial, and pray constantly, we build our character (Romans 12:12) and our hearts become more open to God’s Word and direction for our lives.
In conclusion, I am settling into the fact that it will take time for me lose this weight. While I need to learn about food and change my dietary habits, I also need to stay in tune with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I need to remain patient and not let feelings of frustration and doubt overpower. I need to maintain the MPA (that I talked about in yesterday’s blog) and continue to focus my mind on changing my brain and body.
"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5
I had the coolest thing happen today. I experienced what Dr. Leaf calls "the Multiple Perspective Advantage (MPA). Quite literally, I was listening to a colleague talk about an upcoming meeting. At the same time, I noticed the smell of her coffee and felt an immediate urge to have coffee. While I was listening to her, my mind battled the urge. My thoughts were "I can do all things through Christ Jesus" and "My body is trying to trick me into doing something that I already set my mind not to do." As I became aware of what was happening, I smiled, internally and externally. I was able to be attentive to the conversation, and allow my mind to handle unconscious and conscious thoughts related to cravings simultaneously! I felt the leading of the Holy Spirit and knew that HE was helping me bring all thoughts into captivity. It is empowering to know that I can self-regulate and think, feel and choose according to what I have already set my mind to do!
By the way, I did create a cooler to keep in the car and chose healthy snacks while driving. I am still waiting for my thermogenic, and I joined a 5-Day accountability group on facebook.
"This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your descendants may live." Deuteronomy 30:19
I had computer problems yesterday and most of today, so I'm posting yesterday's reflection "Mind vs. Brain" as Day 14, and today's reflection as Day 15.
This weekend I had the privilege to attend Dr. Caroline Leaf’s Perfectly You Switch On Your Brain Conference in Dallas. Dr. Leaf is not only an amazing woman of God, but she is the first person who has helped me understand the link between science and God. She believed that the mind could change the brain long before neuroplasticity was conceptualized, researched and validated as a scientific fact. If the mind were merely a construct of the physical brain, then the notion of free will and the ability to think would be negated. She is also the first person who has explained what the soul is in a way that makes perfect sense. The soul is the mind, emotions and will of man. The soul is separate from, but intertwined with our spirit and body. We are three part beings, made in the image of our creator. The spirit of man is the part of humanity that connects with the Spirit of God. Both the spirit and soul aspects of ourselves exist in the non-physical realm, therefore, many people don’t pay attention to or believe in them. Many people only believe in the physical domain, and because of this, miss the larger, more complex picture of who we really are. Dr. Leaf likens this approach to an iceberg. When we observe and address only the tip of the iceberg, that which is visibly seen, we miss the depth and width of the true dimensions of the iceberg.
When we connect our spirit to the Spirit of God, we are able to operate in the realm of love. We will naturally want to direct our mind, will and emotions to the Spirit of God and will then make choices that play out through our behaviors. Our physical will change as a result of the non-physical. Here’s the kicker – there is scientific evidence that backs this up! In her book, Switch on Your Brain, Dr. Caroline Leaf illustrates how our thoughts are real physical things that develop in our brains. You can see that a new thought transforms from what looks like a bump to a lollipop to a mushroom over a period of 21-days. If the new thought is given energy by the power of attention and intention, then the thought, which is actually a memory, will become rooted and automatic over three cycles of 21 days. Most people have fantastic intention, however, if the intention is not practiced on a regular basis, then the “bump” evaporates into heat and is burned off. It no longer exists.
Dr. Leaf reminded us that what we pay attention to grows. That means that if I am paying attention to negative thoughts, then negative thoughts will grow. As negative thoughts grow, negative feelings grow. As negative feelings grow, negative behaviors grow. The same is true for positive healthy thoughts. She also reminded us that we should only pay attention to one or two things at a time, and that we should practice the new way of thinking, feeling and choosing for approximately 7-10 minutes per day. She calls this process, “The 21 Day Brain Detox.” Dr. Leaf recommends three rounds of 21 days to create a new habit and new way of thinking.
There are so many other concepts that Dr. Leaf unpacked during the conference. Attending her conference reconfirmed my desire to see my clients as whole, complex beings who need love and support. It is not my job to fix my clients. It is my job to love and accept my clients, where they are, and join them on their journey to health. It is my job to teach them skills, when they ask, and to help them see the brilliant, beautiful beings that God created them to be. It is my job to see myself and treat myself in the same manner.
Attending Dr. Leaf’s conference reaffirmed the approach I am taking to losing weight and breaking free from food/sugar addiction. She stated that the Modern American Diet (MAD) is a harder addiction to break free from than cocaine and heroin. There is no magic pill, or any other quick fix that will change my addiction. Dr. Leaf offered the “Thanksgiving, Praise and Worship” exercise as a way of putting God first before working on whatever it is you want to change. When you thank God, your brain changes. Your brain releases neurotransmitters, becomes primed for learning, has increased beta activity and there is a heart release that mimics a feeling of peace. Once we have honored our God and tapped into His Spirit, we are ready to begin the 5 Step Brain Detox (Gather, Focused Thinking, Metacognition and Writing, Re-Visit, and Active Reach).
"I pray that out of the riches of His glory, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and ground in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of His love." Ephesians 16-18
Thirteen days ago, I decided that I was going to overcome my addiction to food/sugar. Like any prisoner trying to break-free from the walls that bind them, I have been studying my options and devising an escape plan.
My first step was to brainstorm what I want, where I’m at, and what options I have available. From there, I had to make a decision about how to move forward. I decided to create a GROW Plan. A GROW Plan would give me an overlook of my goals, reality, options and way forward.
My goals included keeping God first so that I could be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, losing weight and building consistency and routine into my life. Because I have a spontaneous, distractible nature, it's important for me to find ways to be grounded. I established the following steps to move forward: (1) spend 15-30 minutes per day with the Lord to prepare my heart and mind for this challenge; (2) write a daily blog to build routine and consistency into my life, (3) gather my resources (educational and fitness) into one area so that I can easily find them and reference them; and (4) build accountability partners by asking my book group if they want to start “The Tablet” or “Think and Eat Yourself Smart” as a new book study.
After creating my GROW Plan, I examined where I was at in the change process. I realized that I have been contemplating weight loss for a long time, and that I was about to enter the preparation/determination stage of change. Building a routine by writing a daily blog would certainly help with preparing my mind for the work that will soon be needed. As I think on this, I'm realizing that I'm actually doing the work and preparing at the same time. I have not set specific dietary goals, but I am becoming aware of my food choices and the feelings that are stirred because of it. This in turn is causing me to make healthy choices some of the time.
I spent a day updating my vision verse by adding a sensory experiences and a present tense to it. The vision allows me to feel and imagine the me I want to be. The me I can be. The me I am walking into.
I developed two SMART goals, and have achieved both! The first SMART goal was: “By Friday, December 1st (time-based and entered into my calendar), I will have written one daily blog per day (measurable, achievable and realistic) about overcoming food addiction (specific) which is grounded in God’s Word (more specific and personally-oriented).” Achieved!
The second SMART goal was, “By Sunday, December 3rd, I will read through my blog entries to examine whether or not I have achieved my SMART goal.” Achieved!
I found two small jars to use as my “I DID IT” jar and “NOT YET” jar. Since I currently attending Dr. Caroline Leaf's Perfectly You Conference, I will use the $20 motivational reward to purchase her "Think and Eat Yourself Smart" book. It's so important for me to recognize and reward the small tasks so that I can feel a sense of accomplishment and success rather than guilt and failure!
I attempted to use the BeeMinder App to track my behavior, but it appears to be having some problems. I'll give it a day or two and then see what happens with it.
On Day 10, I began to feel a bit overwhelmed and realized that I may need an accountability partner(s). But not every accountability partner is the right fit. I tried to use my husband as an accountability partner, but every time he commented on what I was putting into my mouth, I got angry. I know he means well, but I take his words critically and I feel like I’m letting him down. I need an accountability partner who is sensitive to my plight; preferably another middle-aged woman who has walked through, or is walking through, difficulties with weight loss.
Eleven days into my escape plan, even with the best laid plans, the temptation of “bad habit” took over. I was reminded that I am not invincible, that my flesh is weak, and that I sometimes fail. I fell into the Fear Zone and took my mind, will and emotions with me! I had to revise my plan, and added the following actions: (1) Mid-Day Thermogenic Supplement; (2) cooler of healthy snacks in car; and (3) Herbal Tea at night.
Yesterday, on Day 12, I reminded myself that I can still move forward even when feeling frustrated. Feelings are fickle, and often times, are not accurate depictions of truth. When operating in the Fear Zone, negative feelings accompany negative thoughts. Fear is false evidence appearing real. Fear is not truth. Only love is truth. Rather than walking forward afraid, I can step into the Love Zone and walk forward frustrated. I can pray that God will take my frustration and re-design it into something purposeful and beautiful. The important thing is that I continue to walk forward grounded in God's love.
Today, I give myself credit for achieving my first two SMART goals, and I can’t wait to choose a book at Dr. Leaf’s conference as my reward!
After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind?” Luke 7:24
How does one go about feeling motivated when they are in bad mood?
Yesterday, I advised a client that, if she wanted to meet her goal, she may have to move forward feeling afraid. We talked about cognitive distortions and walked through two visualizations. First, she pretended to put on her negative glasses and imagined what see saw and experienced. Then, she put on her positive glasses and imagined what she saw and experienced. In the end, she determined that the positive perception was a more realistic perception than the negative perspective. I watched her feelings change and she processed her beliefs and perceptions. She moved from state of fear and anxiety to a state of joy and self-confidence.
We agreed that she still may experience fear as her brain processes false evidence that appears real, but that she could challenge her stinking thinking and still move forward feeling afraid. Through the process, she would gain confidence. As she gains confidence, she will handle situations differently which will result in more positive outcomes. Walking forward afraid will begin to morph into walking forward in confidence.
This morning, I am going to take my own advice. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and I feel tired and grumpy. I feel like giving up. I feel like laying in front of the t.v. and not writing this blog. Thank God I do not have to be a victim to my feelings! My feelings are fickle. They change so much. I’m like the Florida weather…mostly sunny, but periods of rain and thunder! LOL!
Rather than walking forward afraid, I am walking forward frustrated. The important thing is that I continue to walk forward!
My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26
It’s 1:30 am. My fingers are so bloated that each one feels like a throbbing hot dog. I feel so gross and disgusted with myself. Last night, I ate over 1,500 calories of pure fat and sugar. Why??? Why do I sabotage myself like this? I am so swollen, overstuffed, distended, full and puffy that I can’t even sleep. I woke up in a state of panic. I could barely breath. I immediately felt the need for ice water. I could hardly bend over my rotund stomach to lift myself out of bed. As I became aware of how my actions caused this physical condition, I began thinking “You’re such an idiot”, “You have no will power”, and “You failed again.” Tears swelled, almost as venomously as the inflammation inside my body. “I’m a failure. I give up.”
STOP YOUR STINKING THINKING!
No! I am not a quitter! I’ve had almost 10 days of progress. Yesterday’s failure…is a learning opportunity. I can’t go back and change my action, but I can learn from this experience and not make the same mistake twice. Let me look back and see where my demise started. Did it really start the minute I chose to go to McDonald’s for a kid’s meal, or did it start sooner?
On Tuesday, two days ago, I got out of work and, on my way to a client’s house, which was 75 minutes away, around 4 pm, I decided to go to Chick-Fil-A. My thought process was that I was hungry, and I would skip dinner that night and would do yoga instead. Well, that is exactly what happened. I at Chick-Fil-A, and got home at 6:30 pm, and did yoga. I had a cup of tea, watched t.v. and went to bed. Yesterday, the situation was similar. I got out of work at 3:30 pm, and had to drive 75 minutes to see a different client. I had an apple, thinking that would be plenty to carry me over to dinner time at 7 pm. I was a little hungry and I knew there was a McDonald’s on the way. I thought, “I’ll just get a kid’s meal to tide me over.” I manipulated myself into believing that I would do the same thing I did yesterday, and I gave myself the opportunity to eat the fast food. I ordered an adult meal instead. When I got home, the smell of garlic butter and scallops overtook me, and I ended up eating a bowl of seafood and pasta. Then, before bed, I began craving chocolate. I didn’t have any chocolate, so I ate a giant bowl of fruit loops!
Just sitting here thinking about all the food I stuffed into my stomach is making me sick! It’s no wonder my body is reacting the way it is. This is gluttony! My body has developed a high tolerance for food. I eat a lot of food, on a regular basis. I am humiliated and ashamed of my actions. I am so humiliated that I almost did not write this post. Everything in me wants to hide my behaviors. Hide and pretend that I don’t have a problem with food. Two days ago, when I pulled into my driveway, I threw away the Chick-Fil-A bag, so my husband would not see it. Yesterday, I did the same thing with my McDonald’s bag. I hid the evidence. As a therapist, I know that hiding behaviors is a form of addiction. Another addictive trait that I have is the concept of triggers and manipulation. For instance, I sometimes plan my driving route around which fast food restaurants I will pass. I will then manipulate my mind and my circumstances to attain the food, as I did yesterday when I told myself that I would only get a kid’s meal.
So…there it is! My addictive behavior is now public! I will not hide anymore. Now, the question is, “where do I go from here?”. I can’t change what I did, but I can change my choices today. I can stand back up and say, “I lost the battle, but I will not lose the war.” The truth is that the war has already been won. I just need to choose to believe it, and live it.
Where do I go from here? Well, I’ve identified two major triggers: (1) fast food establishments between the hours of 4-7 pm; and (2) sugar craving at night, about an hour before bed.
Back in the day, when I was working out 5 days a week, I took a thermogenic supplement in the mid-afternoon that gave me energy and curbed my appetite. That supplement is no longer available. I just ordered a different one that claims to have 100% all-natural ingredients. I will give that a try to see if it helps with mid-afternoon sluggishness and cravings. I will also keep a cooler in my car that has healthy food items.
I will start drinking an herbal tea at night to help with sugar cravings.
There are so many more things I can do, but these are the main ones I need to implement now.
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:1
Referencing yesterday’s blog, the second element found in the definition of accountability is “pre-determined expectation.” By being responsible for an action, there’s an assumption that the action is tied to an expectation of what your behavior should be. As a counselor, my behaviors are guided by the professional code of ethics. When someone hires me, the assumption is that I will be an ethical counselor. For instance, I will respect the dignity and welfare of my clients. I will avoid harm and will maintain client confidentiality. As a person with a Christian faith, the expectation is that I will behave like Christ, loving others and not passing judgment (Ephesians 5).
Food and sugar addiction seems so tiny compared to other forms of addiction and sin. So what if I’m fat and don’t feel good?!? But the reality is that God created a need in each of us that only HE can fill. Food, wine, sex, money – none of these things, in and of themselves, are bad. It’s when we lose self-control and allow the appetite for more self-indulgence to move us from a state of contentment to a state of gluttony that we fall into sin. The lie is that self-indulged obesity is not a sin! The truth is that self-indulgence, in any form a gluttony and greed, is a sin! I’m not saying that everyone who is overweight is a sinner. What I am saying is that I have to stop making excuses for gluttony (overeating) and toxic choices (high sugar/low nutrition). It’s time to break free from this stronghold!
One of the best ways to build support, maintain accountability and defend yourself from falling prey to the enemy (and falling prey to yourself) is to be in fellowship with other believers. God calls us to be the church. We are to love and support one another through accountability and fellowship. This world can be tough. There are many trials and tribulations to endure. Temptations come at us from every direction. In a time when debt and obesity are the norm, society tells us to keep expanding the boundaries to allow for more of what our flesh desires. This is the opposite of what the Bible teaches. When we remain grafted to the vine and have accountability partners that are grounded in the same faith we can overcome the temptations.
Writing this section has made me see that I MUST form or join an accountability group that will walk with me through this stronghold.
“He will cove you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” Psalm 91:4
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, accountability is a willingness to accept responsibility for your actions. I believe there are at least two elements inherent in this definition: (1) trust and vulnerability, and (2) pre-determined expectations. I will be addressing the first element today, and the second element tomorrow.
The first part of the definition, “a willingness to”, imparts an element of vulnerability and trust. If I can’t be open, then I won’t be willing. If I am not willing, then I will resist and hold back. If I feel I am being judged or condemned, then I won’t feel safe to expose. I will want to hide. I won’t allow myself to be vulnerable. Unfortunately, without vulnerability, it is impossible to grow in truth. You will always be hiding behind a mask. In the process of protecting yourself, you will be losing yourself. This is what happened to me.
On the other hand, if you sense that you are loved unconditionally, then you are free to face truth. You are more open to share and explore the good and bad “hidden” aspects of yourself. You have an opportunity to be genuine and vulnerable.
Typically, there are three “people” we have to be accountable to: God, Others and Ourselves. For so long, I had my priorities backwards. I was accountable to others first, myself second, and God last. I figured, “God loves me unconditionally so he will always be there.” While God does love us unconditionally, the truth is that if we choose to walk in intentional sin by behaving in a way that we know we shouldn't, then we grieve the Holy Spirit and we lose the Lord’s protection (Isaiah 63:10, Ephesians 4:30). As a little girl living in poverty with a divorced, addicted mother, I took on the role of HERO and wore the mask well. I was seen by everyone as a resilient achiever who could overcome the odds. As the oldest, I took care of my brothers. I did well in school. I was the first in my family to go to college. I earned scholarships and climbed the social ladder. I got married, bought a house and had kids. I excelled in my profession and earned recognition and awards. In the process of "achieving", I was that I was dying inside. Underneath the layers of success was a scared little girl who just wanted to be held, loved and protected from the arrows of the enemy (divorce, poverty, abandonment, addiction and death). My identity was tied to the views and acceptance of others. If THEY thought I was worthy, then I was worthy. If THEY thought I was not worthy, then I was not worthy. Can you imagine living like this? The emotional ups and downs were unbelievable. Maintaining long-lasting, honest relationships was very difficult. I would hop from one set of friends to another, always searching for genuine acceptance when the reality was that I was not always being 100% genuine. I've had a few relationships that have endured over the years, fortunately because they were grounded in love, with the people who encouraged me to be real. The ones who looked beyond the mask and loved me despite my faults.
Over the last two years, I have learned that I need God’s acceptance more than I need man’s acceptance. If it were not for God’s eternal, unconditional love, I don’t think I would have had the courage to let this process happen. It’s not that I’m a horrible person, but I’ve definitely had to endure shameful circumstances and have made choices that I am not proud of. In 2016, after laying ALL of my sins at the cross, God told me to “get the mold out”. After hours of bleaching my house, and praying in the spirit, I fell asleep in a state of sullen anxiety. That night, I had a dream that I was choking and then a black slug slid out of my mouth. The dream was so vivid, that I woke up and frantically looked around me, thinking that I vomited. There was nothing on the sheets. I got a glass of water and then went back to bed. When I closed my eyes, I felt lighter and purified. I wish I could say that was it. That my sins were expelled and that life was good. Unfortunately, that event activated my realization that there is a spiritual war going on right in front me. The eruption of that black slug seemed to crack open the sticky, crusty substance that had sealed my spiritual eyes shut. Prior to that event, I walked with a hard heart in spiritual blindness. I believed in God, but didn't know him. Because I didn't know him, I didn't know myself. As I gained humility through honest introspection, I began to shed the layers of falsehood and self-protection. I stood, naked before the Lord, and became the prime target of a vicious enemy. An opponent so skilled in deception that he almost convinced me to take my life to escape his assault.
Over the next few months, I took refuge under wings of my father. I literally dressed myself in the Armor of God every day. I spoke on the armor so much that when I had bad dreams I spoke on my armor in the dream! The Bible was not only my greatest defense, but it became my home. I felt like the prodigal son who finally came home. During those months, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, I learned how to replace my thoughts with His thoughts. Even when I didn’t feel worthy, I spoke out worthiness: “I am worthy because I am a Child of God.” The more I spoke truth into my spirit, the more I began to feel worthy.
I’ve recently began to study the Enneagram, a personality theory based in ancient traditional wisdom. After taking the brief test, my results showed that I’m a Type 3: The Achiever.
“Threes most basic need is to feel valued and worthy. Threes want success not so much for things that success can buy (like Sevens), or for the power and independence that it will bring (like Eights). Threes want success because they are afraid of disappearing to a chasm of emptiness and worthlessness: without the increased attention and feeling of accomplishment which success usually brings, threes fear they are a nobody and have no value. The problem is that threes can be so alienated from themselves that they no longer know what is they truly want, or what their real feelings or falseness of all kinds.” The Enneagram Institute
Today, I know that vulnerability is directly to accountability. I also know that since my priority is, first and foremost, to be accountable to the ONLY being who possesses unconditional love, that I have the freedom to be open, honest and vulnerable with myself. I am free to live without the mask. I no longer have to be everyone’s HERO. I don’t have to worry what everyone thinks of me. I don’t have to worry about disappearing into a chasm of emptiness and worthlessness. I know that, regardless of the way I look or what I get recognized for, I am beautiful because HE is beautiful. I am worthy because HE is worthy.
“Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointment time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:2-3
Now that I know what motivates me, and that I DO have control over what food I put into my mouth, I need to find a tracking system that works for me! I need an easy to use system that is not paper-based. Whenever I try to keep a paper chart or notebook, I misplace or lose the paper/notebook. Out of sight, out of mind! I’ve also tried electronic tracking programs such as My Fitness Pal to track my food, and it didn’t work. While it is an excellent food-tracking, calorie counting app that many people have found success with, it does not work for me. It takes too much time and is too burdensome for me. I have no desire to count every calorie, and I don’t want to think about every piece of food I put into my mouth. For instance, I don’t want to have to look up and input 2 slices of bread (and what kind), 2 slices of ham (and what kind), 1 slice of cheese (and what kind), and how many ounces of condiment I use when eating a ham and cheese sandwich. I feel so bad for people who must count every calorie! I can’t tell you the number of times I have started this tracking system, and then stopped using it within a few days.
I recently came across an app called BeeMinder. Beeminder is a self-tracking goal-setting app that keeps data points on a yellow brick road. When you are meeting your goals, the app is free. When you fall off the road, you have a pre-set amount of money taken out of your account. I am interested in learning more about this app as a potential tracking system. Nonetheless, what I am hoping is that my “Jar System” and accountability through writing my blog will be enough to track my goals.
"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:1
If there’s anything that I’ve learned as a parent and a school counselor, it’s how to build positive behavior intervention plans and incentive charts! The most effective behavior intervention plan (BIP) is created from the completion of a quality functional behavior assessment (FBA). The more we know about why a behavior happens and under what circumstances the behavior occurs, the more equipped we are at creating a positive intervention plan. For instance, if a child is using a negative behavior (skipping class) to avoid a task (work is too hard) or an environment (being bullied or feel like they don’t fit in), then we would need to create an intervention that would address the motive behind the behavior (avoidance). An effective strategy would be to offer them tutoring, address the bullying, or provide them with a mentor or friendship group. We would also need to know what incentives serve as motivators so that the positive behavior could be reinforced. For instance, if the child likes computer games, they could be rewarded with extra time on the computer once they completed their tutoring session. We would then set a deadline and track the intervention to see if it’s effective or not. If the negative behavior (skipping class) has decreased, and the positive behavior (attending class) has increased, then we know the intervention and the motivational incentives have worked. Finding the function of the behavior and the right motivators are the keys to behavioral success!
I've spent a lot of time over the years considering what drives my behavior, and I've come to the conclusion that I am driven by achievement. This was reconfirmed last night when I took the enneagram personality test and came out as a Type 3 - The Achiever. Achievement motivation is defined as a person’s need to meet realistic goals, receive feedback and experience a sense of accomplishment. I am energized when I am given a specific task and can set goals around that task. I do best when I set performance goals and have opportunities for internal and external feedback. The learning process is my incentive. I absolutely love acquiring new skills and knowledge. Learning is like candy to me. If I could attend school and earn a salary as a full-time student, I would do it! Learning opportunities like social discourse/debate, professional learning communities, college courses and seminars/conferences motivate me more than any other thing, including money. When I have money, I just want to spend it on more learning opportunities. In fact, the money I put into the “I DID IT” jar will probably be used to pay for tuition and/or seminars.
Another important aspect of motivational theory is to consider the locus of control (LOC). If you believe that you can control the outcome (internal locus of control), you are more likely to act to change your situation. If on the other hand, you believe that you don’t have control (external locus of control), you may be less likely to work toward change. I know there are many things in my life that I cannot control. I can’t control when or how I die (which could explain why some people take their own life because it puts control back into their own hands). I can’t control how another person treats me. But, I can control how I treat another person despite my feelings. And, truth be known, I can control what foods I put into my mouth despite the cravings I experience.
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
Yesterday, I created my first SMART goal:
“By Friday, December 1st (time-based and entered into my calendar), I will have written one daily blog per day (measurable, achievable and realistic) about overcoming food addiction (specific) which is grounded in God’s Word (more specific and personally-oriented).”
I love that I started my SMART goal with a “near future” deadline! Since December 1st is only six days away, the likelihood that I monitor and meet my deadline is very good. I will continue to set small, manageable deadlines so that I don’t lose sight of them. I plan to set most of my deadlines in one or two-week intervals. I can’t imagine that I will set a deadline that is more than two weeks out because I know that I will forget about and dismiss it. When we set arbitrary deadlines, we minimize the importance of the goal. Other things come up and take momentary precedence over the deadline. After skipping a lot “well-intended deadlines”, we lose sight of the goal and why it was so important in the first place.
I have also decided that I will create two money jars & place them in visible place. I will label one jar “I DID IT”, and the other jar “NOT YET”. Each time that I meet the goal by the deadline, I will place $20 in the “I DID IT” jar. Each time I do not meet the deadline, I will place the $20 in the “NOT YET” jar. Once I set & achieve the new deadline, I will move the $20 from the “NOT YET” jar to the “I DID IT” jar. The premise is that I maintain a growth mindset and not give up!
The plans of the diligent lead to profit, as surely as haste leads to poverty. Proverbs 21:5
In the field of life coaching, learning how to set goals is the starting point for a purposeful life. I guess that makes sense. Setting goals does give our life direction (purpose) and when achieved, they help us to build confidence and motivation. Unfortunately, not every goal is created equally. For years, my weight loss goal has been precisely that – losing weight. Looking back, I can’t believe I would create such an obscure, undefined goal. No wonder I have been unsuccessful! The second tip that Michael Linenberger offers is the need to create goals that we have direct control over. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds” say “I’m going to eat two out of three heathy meals per day.” I cannot directly remove body weight, but I can control what food I put into my mouth. Also, it’s important to add smaller goals to the large goal so that I can take specific actions towards the larger goal. If the large goal is to eat two out of three healthy meals per day, the smaller goals could include having pre-planned and ready-made healthy meals easily available each day. This would then breakdown into even smaller action goals like creating a grocery list and setting a time to meal prep. Since I’m a visual person, I prefer to write my goals in outline and/or visual mapping form. It would look something like this:
Another important aspect of goal-setting is to make it SMART! If the goal is not SMART, then the chance of achieving it is minimal which would not be a smart thing to do (he he). SMART is a goal-setting acronym that means: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Based. SMART goals provide the structure for building the overall end goal. In essence, individual SMART goals are like the bricks that build the house. The more secure the brick is, the less chance the house has of crumbling. It is worth the time and energy to create strong SMART goals.
My first SMART goal is to lie the foundation for my descriptive, experiential vision statement:
“I once walked in darkness, but now I have light from the Lord. Under a rainbow of color, I run with a spring in my step, free from pain. I have abundant energy and a smile on my face. I am free to live and give and love myself and others. I am a child of God.”
Therefore, my first goal is combine God’s Word with my need to live light (free from the weights and burdens of this world), and in the light (under the direction of the Holy Spirit).
Here is my SMART goal:
“By Friday, December 1st (time-based and entered into my calendar), I will have written one daily blog per day (measurable, achievable and realistic) about overcoming food addiction (specific) which is grounded in God’s Word (more specific and personally-oriented).”
On *Sunday, December 3rd (which I have also entered into my calendar), I will read through my blog entries to examine whether or not I have achieved my SMART goal. I know I will meet my SMART goal because it is intrinsically motivating to me, and time-centered. It’s a natural extension of who I am and where I am at in the stages of change (preparation/determination). I have not set the goal too high by actually focusing on my food choices yet, which is what I normally do. I know I am not ready to begin big changes to my diet. I am still gathering information and building routine. This is where I need to be as I ready my heart and mind for the work stage of saying no to sugar.
*When deciding time-sensitive deadlines, it’s imperative to look at your calendar ahead of time. I initially set my reflection time for Saturday, December 2nd, and then I remembered that I will be at Dr. Leaf’s Perfect You Conference on that day. It would be too difficult to squeeze in a proper reflection on that day, so I decided to go with Sunday.
Ephesians 5:8, “For you once walked in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light; for the fruit of the light consists of goodness, righteousness and truth.”
Day Four: The Descriptive, Experiential Vision Statement
Michael Linenberger, Productivity Expert, offers 4 tips to helping us follow through with our goals. In my opinion, the first and most powerful tip he provides is how to create a powerful vision statement that preps us for our mission. Over the last three years, I chose a bible verse each year to declare my vision for that year. I then created a vision board and hung the vision board in an area where I would see it often. My vision statement for 2017 is Ephesians 5:8, “For you once walked in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light; for the fruit of the light consists of goodness, righteousness and truth.” This verse speaks volumes to my spiritual life. While the year 2016 was the most traumatic year of my life, it was also the year that my spiritual eyes were opened. When I could see, I was able to expose sin and use the sword of the spirit to speak against demonic strongholds.
This morning, as I reflect on Michael’s description of a vision statement, and consider that I am a tri-part being (body, soul and spirit), I recognize that I need to add some personal meat to the vision so that I can ground myself in the goal. In essence, I need to align my body and soul (mind, will and emotions) to the Spirit of God. For my subconscious mind to move God’s word (the scripture verse) to the conscious mind and physical actions, I need to experience the vision, personally, descriptively and vividly, repeatedly, in my mind on a regular basis.
Let’s take a minute to break down the components of what a solid, experiential and descriptive vision statement looks like. First, the vision has to be personal. I have to be able to relate to the vision, in my own way. Second, the vision has to be descriptive and vivid. By using all five senses (see, smell, taste, touch and hear) I can create color and live to my vision. The vision has to be easily accessible so that my memory can recall it quickly. This is how I learned my multiplication facts. Repetition builds recall. Creating a visual representation of your vision, through a vision board, also helps to process and cement the vision in your mind.
Now, I will put that into practice and update my vision verse for the rest of the year (2017). Here goes,
“I once walked in darkness, but now I have light from the Lord. Under a rainbow of color, I run with a spring in my step, free from pain. I have abundant energy and a smile on my face. I am free to live and give and love myself and others. I am a child of God.”
This is what I did to create this vision. First, I closed my eyes to imagine what it means to be a child. For me, a child is free from burden. They are light on their feet. They have a lot of energy and can play all day long. They are curious and love to explore life. They are adventurous and want others to join them on the adventure. They don’t see differences. They only see hearts. Children are by nature helpful and don’t like to see anyone hurt and upset. Once I had that vision in my head, I was able to write my statement. After writing my statement, I re-read it and saw that instead of writing in present tense, I wrote it in future tense. For instance, I said, “I will run” and “I will have abundant energy.” I realized that if I write it in future tense, then I am missing out on imagining my new life as I have reached it. In my mind, it was for someone else…the me I want to be, rather than the me that I am. So, I changed it to reflect the present.
How does this vision statement effect my journey to weight loss? It does so in every way! I am grounding myself in the Word of God. I am aligning my mind to His Spirit. I am seeing myself as God sees me…a child free from the weight and burdens of this world.
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Romans 12:2, "Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.
On Day One of this blog, I wrote, “Here I sit, once again contemplating the idea of trying to tackle my addiction to sugar. Contemplating whether I have the will power to follow through, on a daily basis, with saying no to unhealthy food choices.” As I sit here and reflect on what I wrote, I am reminded of the transtheoretical model (TTM) of behavior change. TTM was taught in all aspects of my formal education…in Psychology, Life Coaching, Wellness Coaching and Personal Training. TTM, also known as the “Stages of Change”, describes how people cease or modify a problem behavior, or acquire a positive behavior. TTM focuses on a person's decision-making process and requires their intentional effort. To change, a person must have a growing awareness that the advantages of changing outweigh the disadvantages of staying the same. People also have believe that they can make and maintain the changes, despite temptations to return to their old, unhealthy behavior. Lastly, individuals need strategies that can help them make and maintain change.
Today, I want to take a hard look at where I am at and what my thought processes are related overcoming my addiction to sugar/food. Where am I in the stages of change? What strategies do I need to employ to be able to make effective change? What are my next steps? In essence, I am counseling/coaching myself in the same way I would be working with a client.
The stages of change are Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation/Determination, Action/Willpower, Maintenance, Relapse and Transcendence. People in the precontemplation stage do not think about changing because they do not feel their bad habit is a problem. People in the contemplation stage tend to teeter-totter, back and forth, between the negative aspects of their bad habit and the positives associated with reducing the bad habit. They are considering the possibility of changing, but are ambivalent to do so. The preparation/determination stage describes individuals who are serious about wanting to change. In this stage, people often do research and begin taking small steps. Perhaps they are gathering information about what they need to do to actually change their behavior. Often times, people skip this stage and move right from contemplation to action which results in their falling flat on their faces and experiencing one failure after another. Unfortunately, this has been my experience on way too many occasions! Stage four involves active will power and follow through. People in this stage use a variety of techniques to help them achieve their desired behavior change. Stage five is the maintenance stage which means people continue to acquire new skills to prevent relapse. Research shows, however, that people often experience relapse. In these cases, it is so important to not get discouraged and feel like a failure. Rather, get up and move back to the preparation/determination stage, and begin again. Some individuals, who “maintain maintenance” for a long time are able to transcend their old bad habits and develop a completely new mindset.
I would say that I am in the Preparation/Determination stage. I have made the decision that I want to lose weight so that I can feel better. I know that I have an addiction to food, especially sugar. The fact that I am writing this blog, and created a GROW Plan demonstrates my determination to change. This makes me feel so good because two days ago I wrote “contemplation” twice. I was beginning to wonder whether or not I was really ready to begin. The other thing I learned while exploring the stages is that I used to jump right to the action stage without preparing my heart and mind for the transition. This time, I want to succeed! I am tired of feeling defeated. I want lasting change, therefore, I am willing to spend as long as I need preparing myself. I will be approach this experience with curiosity and excitement. I will do the research. I will develop a routine and build consistency through this blog. I am not searching for a special diet or a magic pill. I want a heart change. I want a mindset change. I want to transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” Ps. 127:1
Each day, I will be selecting a bible verse (or should I say each day a bible verse will be selecting me) to guide my thought process and writing. The reality is that when I am in the Word, I believe that it is the Holy Spirit who guides me into choosing a bible verse that fits my present need. Today, I was led to Psalm 127:1. For me, this verse screams out the dire need to put God first in all circumstances and tasks. I spent many arduous years toiling away to find happiness and fulfillment in my work, marriage and self-concept/esteem. The more I obtained, the more I desired. It was never enough, and I always felt like I was running in circles. In the year 2016, after laying all my burdens at the cross, I experienced a spiritual attack from the enemy that almost took my life. During that year, I was stripped of all pride and ambition. Years of shame, depression and anxiety related to various life events snowballed into an avalanche of depressive, self-inflicting thoughts. But God. Little did I know that God was allowing my heart to be changed.
For years, I lived as a carnal Christian. I believed in Christ, but I was more influenced by earthly nature than by the nature of God. I put my thoughts and beliefs above God’s word. I would seek His will, but then I would go my own way. Looking back, it’s no wonder that I was always going in circles and always feeling like I took one foot forward and two steps back.
Today, I now understand what it means to be walking in the process of sanctification. The truth is that even after years of attending church, I never heard of the process of sanctification. It wasn’t until I fully submitted to God that I even considered the theory of sanctification, and I certainly did not know there was a name for it. Sanctification is the choice to submit my fleshly desires as a living sacrifice to the Lord. It is a choice to allow the Word of God to renew my mind. For instance, instead of saying, “I know God calls me to forgive, but I there is no way I can forgive someone who did _____”, I say, “I choose to forgive because God calls me to forgive as he has forgiven me.” I then ask the Holy Spirit to give me the power to walk through the process of forgiveness.
I now know that if I do not seek the Lord’s guidance on this weight loss journey, I will be putting forth wasted and pointless energy. In reference to the man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5), I also know that I have to get up, pick up my mat and walk. I must stop making excuses about my dependency to food and rise above my natural tendencies to stay stuck in food addiction. Today, before creating my GROW PLAN, I call upon the Lord to renew my mind. Help me stand firm in the Spirit of self-control and lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Brainstorming my GROW PLAN…
I have been holding off on re-starting my weight loss journey. Lord knows how many times I have tried, and failed. Sometimes I feel that if I don't try, I won't have to worry about being disappointed again. The truth is that I do not like living inside this body. I've gained 40 lbs. over the last five years, and the weight gain does not seem to be stopping. My hips, back and knees hurt. I'm snoring and feel tired 90% of the time. I'm humiliated to even say out loud that I am a Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor. How can someone who has been trained in exercise and nutrition even be in my position? Oh, and then there's the fact that I am a Life Coach and Counselor who helps people work through goals to create transformational change in their lives. I have studied Dr. Caroline Leaf's research on neuroplasticity and I know that my mind controls my brain. Yet, here I sit, once again contemplating the idea of trying to tackle my addiction to sugar. Contemplating whether I have the will power to follow through, on a daily basis, with saying no to unhealthy food choices. I have also been wondering whether or not I want to make this journey a public one, through this blog, or a private one, in my journal. I know that I will be relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to guide me. I will be spending a lot of time in prayer and listening to God. I know this about myself because the only way I have ever experienced permanent healthy change in my life is when I put God first. I am nervous about making this public. I wonder if people will accept me as their coach/counselor once they know that I am just as human as they are? The one thing that I appreciate about myself as a coach/counselor is my desire to have an open and authentic relationship with my clients. I like to "keep it real". It was my own experience with depression and suicidal thoughts that has enabled me to really connect with many of my clients suffering from the same issue. I know first-hand what rejection and abandonment feels like. Nonetheless, I overcame depression. I personally used so many positive spirit, soul and body techniques to my own situation that I can now share with my clients to help them overcome. So, as I sit here and re-consider whether or not I want to make my weight loss journey a public format or not, I have obviously decided to proceed with the blog. Perhaps my journey will help someone who is also dealing with an addiction. My addiction is sugar and food. For someone else, it could be alcohol, drugs, sex, unhealthy relationships, gambling, work or money. Anytime that something or someone has control over you, it is not healthy. Six weeks ago, I stood on the scale for the first time in months. While it was an eye opener, it did not change my eating habits. Instead, I avoid mirrors. Instead, I buy larger clothes so they are baggy. Instead, I make excuses and say "Oh, I'm getting old" as a way to blow off personal accountability. The more I do this, the deeper I dig my hole, and the larger I get!
This journey is going to be a difficult one. Going public is going to put some pressure on me to live up to my goals. Current and future clients will read this and hold me accountable to follow through with the same type of advice that I give them. Nothing takes root without a good plan. Tomorrow, I will create a GROW PLAN for myself. Yes, that is what I will do! Tomorrow's blog will be my GROW PLAN.
Love and Logic Parenting
L&L is not a punitive approach, nor permissive. L&L is an approach where children experience firm limits and accountability within the context of incredibly loving and encouraging relationships. When relationships are damaged, even the best techniques fail.
Maintaining or rebuilding relationship can be very difficult when trying to parent a rebellious and oppositional child. Here are a few tips: (1) make every “hello” and “good bye” a special event by fully acknowledging them with eye contact, kind words and joy; (2) at least once per day notice something special about them…”I noticed that you ___”; (3) remove sarcasm – sarcasm is fun…only for the person who is delivering it – it erodes relationships; (4) love them even when they are behaving not so lovable; (5) neutralize arguing – having endless arguments takes time and energy away from relationships – so does yelling, screaming, and resorting to punitive techniques.
The five Love & Logic principles are (1) Empathy Before Consequences, (2) Shared Thinking, (3) Shared Control within Limits, (4) Shared Dignity, and (5) Maintaining the Relationship.
Technique #1: Putting an End to Arguing, Back Talk and Begging
Step One – Go Brain Dead. The less our lips move, the more effective we become. Don’t lecture!
Step Two – Calmly Repeat a Love and Logic One-Liner each and every time your kids try to argue or beg. Say it with empathy, not anger or sarcasm. Examples: “I love you too much to argue.” “I know.” “What did I say?” “Thanks for sharing.” “I’ll love you wherever you live.” “I argue at 6 am on Saturdays.”
Why do they argue? Arguing is a good way to get attention. Arguing prevents boredom. Arguing enough will get my parents to eventually give in. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing my mom’s face turn red when she’s angry. This is how I can get power over the person that has power over me.
Technique #2: Teaching Responsibility without losing their love
Empathy allows us to remain the “good guy” while allowing our child’s poor choices to be the “bad guy.”
Provide a sincere dose of empathy BEFORE delivering the consequence. The goal is to get your child firmly into “thinking mode” before doing anything else. Examples: “It’s so sad…”, “What a bummer…”, “I’m so sorry…”, “That stinks…” such as…”Oh man, I’m so sad. I talked to your teacher today and she told me about your behavior. I’m so sad that you now have to miss your field trip because of the poor choice you made.”
Technique #3: Setting Limits Without Waging War
Never tell a stubborn child what to do. Our words are meaningless to them. Instead, describe what you are willing to do or allow. Consequences lose their power when…(1) they are delivered with the purpose of getting even with them (2) with anger, frustration or sarcasm (3) repeated warnings or lecture – nagging or reminding, (4) feel sorry for them and we give in.
How do we deliver an enforceable statement?
Examples: “You can keep the toys you pick up”, “I respect myself too much to do extra things for someone who treats me like a doormat”, “You may have a cell phone as long as you are paying for the phone and the service”, “You may get online as long as I’m around to supervise”, “I call the police when I find drugs in my home”, “I am planning on spending $50 for your sneakers. If you can come up with the other $50, you can have the ones you are asking for.” You may have ________ as long as __________.
How would you restate the following unenforceable statements into enforceable ones?
Brush your teeth - Go to sleep…I mean it! - Stop taking my phone. - Leave each other alone.
Hurry up. We’re going to be late. – Put your clothes away. – Don’t talk back to me.
Technique #4: Avoiding Power Struggles by Sharing Control
Examples of effective choices: Will you be wearing your coat or carrying it? Are you planning to be home at 10:30 or 11? Do you want to do your chores now or in an hour? Are you going to take a shower or a bath? Are you going to turn off the tv in 15 minutes or now? Do you want to receive your allowance on Friday or Saturday? Do you think it would be best to pay for the broken lamp with your saved money or do you want to complete extra chores to pay for it? Are you going to turn off your phone now, or will you just ignore your friend’s texting until after dinner?
Kids need to have freedom to make poor choices so they can learn and make better ones later on
Technique #5: Guiding Kids to Own and Solve Their Problems
Step 1: Provide empathy – empathy opens the mind to thinking and problem solving.
Step 2: Lovingly hand the problem back. “What do you think you are going to do?”
Step 3: Get permission before sharing ideas – “Would you like to hear what other kids have tried?”
Step 4: Give a brief menu of ideas and help them evaluate each. Ask, “How would that work for you?”
Step 5: “I love you. If any kid can solve a problem like this, you can.”
Use the 5 steps to explore how you would handle your child saying, “They’re calling me names.”
Technique #6: Teaching Kids to Complete Chores…Without Reminders and Without Pay
Here are a few questions for you to consider:
What will help your kids to feel better about themselves and your family?
What do you want your kids to believe about helping others?
What do you want them to believe about relationships?
How do you want your kids to be motivated?
What attitude do you want your kids to have as they go to school or work each day?