Friday, December 3, 2010

Zits, Juicing and the Better Me

I'm juice fasting this week.

I woke up the other morning with a huge, unfriendly zit from all that terrible food I've been giving thanks with for the last week.

A Thanksgiving zit. How lovely.

So, realizing the need for some detox, and anticipating that the bridesmaid's dress I'll be squeezing into in a couple of weeks for one of my best friend's weddings may be a little snug, my meals for the most part this week consist of juice. Beets, carrots, celery, garlic, jicama, leafy greens, citrus, apples, cucumbers and ginger are piled up in my refrigerator and on my counter tops awaiting their final destiny within the blades of my fabulous juicer. I think they're proud to go out of this world in such a way. It is a most honorable death.

I've been doing a lot of juicing this year. I read some books last winter and Derek got me a juicer for Christmas so I could do my own experimentation at home, like the mad scientist I wish I was. Well, maybe not the mad part. When I started my juicing odyssey, I needed to lose 45 lbs.

I've lost 19 as of today.

So I have 26 to go. I'd like to lose another 10 in the next two weeks. I know that seems a bit extreme, but juice fasting is one of the healthiest ways to lose weight. Your body shuts down the digestion processes for the most part after a couple of days of fasting because the vegetable and fruit juices you are drinking are very easy to digest and don't require a lot of energy. So your body is able to take that huge amount of energy that is usually used for digestion and apply it to healing itself. At first, you lose quite a bit of old fecal matter, and I won't be gross, but it's quite encouraging to feel the lightening of your body by getting rid of old waste that has been accumulating in your intestines.

Then, because you are getting all of your nutrition from raw foods that are full of wonderful enzymes, your body starts to attack it's fat. Quite a bit of the toxicity in the human body is trapped in our fat. So as it is burning through the fat, causing you to lose more weight, it is releasing those trapped toxins and they are able to escape your body through your skin, saliva, stool, and sweat. Often you will notice that your body smells funny, your tongue feels coated and your skin feels funky. This is all the result of toxins making their way out of your body.

As the fast goes on, and I don't recommend doing more than a day to start with, and then moving up from there, you feel better and better. Often while I'm on a juice fast, I sleep phenomenally. My sleep is deep, restful and healing. I've also noticed that I have really good ideas when I'm on a fast, maybe because my brain is able to focus better, and I have incredible energy. My skin starts to glow on about day 2. Prior to this week, the longest juice fast I've done was 3 full days. I had amazing results. I lost 10 lbs. and have kept it off. I felt so much better after I had done it, not so sluggish and foggy. That optimistic and healthy feeling hasn't left me since I've started juicing so much.

This week I'm doing a five day fast. Fasting is so incredibly good for you. There are excellent benefits to be won not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well, by practicing regular fasting. It gives your body and digestive system a chance to rest and repair itself and gives you an opportunity to go without for awhile, brightening your perspective and inviting a whole myriad of healthy gratitude for the amazing body that God has given you. We are "fearfully and wonderfully made" it says in Psalm 139:14, and for me, juicing and juice fasting has been life-changing.

One of my biggest quests for this year as my children went off to school and I was left home alone during the day was to get healthy. I had gained about 40 lbs. over the last three years from when I was at my healthiest in 2007. Back then, my boys were babies, which required all kinds of work but for some reason I was able to keep a pretty regular running schedule and ate plenty of healthy foods. Derek and I were even able to somehow manipulate our schedules to include running some 5k's.

But as a result of some hard financial times due to some very unexpected and quite expensive home repairs and the crash of the housing market in Florida (and many other states too), we had a pretty stressful year and I did what I always do when I'm stressed out: I began to eat. I ate and ate and ate. Salt n vinegar chips with hot sauce, which is my favorite evil snack, tons of refined sugar and white flours and rices with heavy fatty "comfort food" sauces, frozen dinners, Chinese takeout, pizza, and on and on until, whaddyaknow, I had gained 40 lbs.

So frustrating. Talk about self-hatred. Not only was I disappointed in my inability to handle stress in a better way, especially when I knew better from all the health, fitness and nutrition books I'd read to get there in the first place, but I was mad at my lack of willpower. I couldn't run without breathing like an asthmatic. I couldn't eat healthy food without feeling it was the beginning of a long diet back and I didn't know if I had the resolve to do it again. I couldn't shop for clothes without leaving the store feeling like a fat lard and an abysmal failure. I started hating myself. Then I started lying to myself. I pretended it didn't bother me that I wasn't the best version of myself. For a long time, almost two years, I just gave up.

Sometimes starting is the hardest part of a journey we know we are meant to make.

But I truly, deeply want to be all that I am meant to be. I know it's not super spiritual to be ultra concerned about my physical health, but what I put into my body is an indication of the health of my mind and my spirit. After all, God made us physical beings, so while it's not the most important thing to be physically healthy, it is important. How can we expect to fulfill the calling and purpose He has soaked each one of our lives with if we don't have the energy, stamina and health to work hard at it?

I was putting crappy food into my body and acting as if I were a martyr for being overweight. Maybe you've done this too? Every time I would look in the mirror I would tell myself how ugly and fat I looked, but then I'd start to mentally list and catalogue all of my grand excuses for why this had happened, justifying my own unwillingness to move in the direction of change, however small.  Every time someone gave me a compliment, I would cement into my brain the exact opposite message they had given me. They'd say you look nice and I'd think but I don't look great. My perfectionist tendencies combined with my self-torture made me a walking time bomb of negative criticism.

So I don't write this to point fingers, or act the know-it-all about health. I just want to be honest about my struggles, hoping that someone out there is given a little more encouragement or inspiration to take that next step in their own journey. Juicing has changed my life. It has helped me to see the energy level that is possible for me and allowed my body to get rid of the toxins that were making me sick and tired all the time.

It has helped me to better live my life, and though I'm not there yet, 26 lbs. from now I hope to have a huge sense of accomplishment and the energy and rest to keep up with the work required to make my dreams a reality. I know, with the grace of God as my constant companion and the willingness to work these life issues out daily for myself, it is possible to be, in every category, the very best version of myself.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My Boy Toys

On any given weekday, if you show up at my house unannounced after school, you may find any manner of blanket and chair built contraption in our living room. You may find a tent set up in the family room, or a rock city being constructed in the backyard. There could be small people running around in inexplicable combinations of costumed attire or someone in the bathtub with every spatula I own and a towering display of measuring cups, each with a different army man in them. There may be a pillowcase tied to a sword, hanging off of the trampoline net in the backyard and billowing in the breeze. Or a series of sticks stuck in the ground in a row and then tied with string and spaced with pieces of paper marked with random letters and shapes on them. There might even be a huge hole that has been dug and filled with sticks, water and inflated plastic bags. Everyone could be hiding in the closet, or someone could be guarding the laundry room door with a pair of chopsticks. You will have no idea what any of it means.

But they will.

You see, in the time they could have spent watching television or playing a video game, my two little boys were inventing a new language, or putting on a play, or playing pirates on the trampoline. They were stealing all the spoons out of the silverware drawer to dig up worms. Or singing freshly invented songs on the tire swing, and trying to build a catapult out of sticks, rocks and yarn. They were involved in a heated debate about how high the Lego tower around the tree trunk should be, which ended in someone tattling, and were instructed to work it out like gentlemen, without violence. They may or may not have followed this wise advice.

They play outside constantly. Sometimes they drive us crazy because they're not in a trance in front of the television so they require a lot more interaction. But it's worth it. Just ask a couple of poor tiny trees with a spider webbed network of ropes tied all over them in the front yard where homemade swings and child-engineered brilliance are experimented with daily. Some future genius architect of some amazing physics-defying building is probably living in my house right this minute while I write this, smearing toothpaste all over everything in the bathroom every morning as he gets ready for school, and forgetting to put his dirty laundry in the hamper every afternoon.

I grew up with boys.

I had three little brothers and our house was never quiet. In fact, in a two story house with wood floors in my brothers' rooms, if you were unfortunate enough to be meditating or trying to find inner peace on the bottom floor, it often sounded like the ceiling was about to come down. They were always wrestling, pummelling and ambushing each other.

I remember playing manhunt and capture the flag with my brothers in my teenage years in the orange groves near our house late at night with thirty or so people from school and church, everyone decked out in camouflage and war paint, armed with pocket knives, rope and flashlights. We usually had to sneak over the ditch and under the fence to get in the groves in the first place and then there was no shortage of muffled shrieks (from all the girls), blinding lights being shined into eyes and random oranges and grapefruits hurtling past one's ear as he or she crouched in a hyperventilating state, trying to avoid capture or worse, the huge spiders that lived in the orange trees.

I shudder now just thinking of those disgusting spiders.

I was always a bit of a tomboy and spent plenty of time climbing trees, exploring the woods, and building forts. I still think that kind of childhood, with tons of time spent outside, to be sacred. And rare. You just don't see lots of kids playing outside anymore.

So I think God knew what he was doing when he gave me two boys.

I realize that quite a few parents don't have the type of schedule or freedom that gives their children hours of time outdoors to learn uninhibited. And I know a lot of video games are educational.

But leaves are more educational.

And rocks. Trees. Lizards and worms. Dirt and kitchen utensils turned props. And puppy dogs.
Usually when our children ask if they can watch television, the answer is no. I believe deeply that Derek and I are doing them a huge service in this regard. Less television is more.

I have to admit, in my normal crazed goal-setting self, I'm a little bit Utopian about my children. As much as it is in my power, I am determined to see them to adulthood with every opportunity for their betterment, and have many ideas of what this finished product looks like. For my boys, my forward thinking involves qualities such as being Christ-followers, men of their word, punctual, wise, able, tender-hearted, self-controlled, articulate, comfortable with leading and following, and gentlemen. I want my boys to be well educated, both with books and the outdoors. We're trying to raise men. Men in the real definition of the word.

So Derek and I decided a few years ago that we didn't want our boys to fit in. We didn't want them to take their cues from Hollywood. We didn't want them to be addicted to video games, television, or entertainment. We wanted them to treat women with respect and honor and never to judge the value of a person by what is on the outside. We wanted them to value their time and not to be always bored without electronic forms of entertainment. We wanted our children to be able to use their ingenuity and God-given creativity to invent their own entertainment.

We wanted them to love God.

We wanted them to read good books.

And we wanted them to play outside a ton.

For us, the idea is that their lifestyle as adults will be inspired by the great and the beautiful, principles from the Bible, nature and the classics, so we knew we'd have to give them the kind of childhood conducive to that.

I don't pretend to be an expert at this kind of childhood.

We make truckloads of mistakes.

And this is all still in the experimental stages. They are still small children. And we will always be a parenting work in progress. But I believe in parenting on purpose, in writing down what we hope the finished product of our children will be, and then aiming accordingly with our habits and allowances. I get excited about this kind of strategizing, about the huge influence I have in the lives of two very special someday men.

Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it."

With our sights set on excellence, I hope and believe that in allowing our boys hours every day in exploration of nature, promoting the reading of good books like Treasure Island, Gulliver's Travels or My Side of the Mountain, and by studying and upholding the principles found in the Bible, despite our many mistakes, we are helping to make them into the finest kind of men. The kind of men that will make a difference.

The kind of man you'd want your daughter to marry.