Food Peace Journal – Joyful Movement & Panic Mode

I got out my calendar to look up how many weeks it’s been that I’ve been on this new journey, six weeks! It feels like six months! Truly I was surprised when it was only six weeks though I honestly can’t tell you why it seems longer. Maybe because so much has happened in a short time for me. No, I haven’t lost weight during this six weeks. I don’t know what what I weigh. It doesn’t matter what I weigh as my quality of life does not hinge on this number. Am I bigger or smaller? I don’t know. I feel a little bigger but not enough my clothes aren’t fitting. But enough I’m edging into panic mode. My fear of getting fatter is edging more to the forefront as I give up more and more control over my body by not dieting or weighing myself.

Panic mode means I am not trusting my body to do it’s job and I’m letting the diet culture and mentality take back over. Also, when you think about how long term off and on dieting affects your metabolism, when you suddenly start eating when you are hungry again, I think you will get a little more rounder for a bit. First of all, suddenly you can eat whatever you want whenever you want. This is a bit like being a kid locked into a candy store overnight, you’re going to overindulge for awhile until you and your body figure out that you are no longer starving it. I feel my moods have improved somewhat, I feel more level. Maybe because I’m not experiencing blood sugar fluctuations so badly? My jeans feel a bit more tight. Not enough that I will need a larger size but in the back of my mind red flashing lights and warning sirens are going off. ‘Stop! Stop! Stop what you are doing! You’re going to get fatter!’. This is so hard to deal with at times. These thoughts put me in panic mode and suddenly I want to go dig out the scale, reload the food journal app and throw out anything not ‘healthy’ or ‘fattening’.

Then I stop myself and look at my body. All that diet culture paraphernalia did not make me thin, it probably made me heavier than what is natural for me by fighting my body’s own natural instincts and defense mechanisms. I am living proof diets only work temporarily and you just get bigger. The more I dieted, the bigger I got. Deep breath, Laura. I am ok, if I have to go to a size 20, so be it. I must be kind and gentle in this process, love myself and my body and the wonderful machine it is. I’ve fucked with my body’s natural processes for years, six weeks is not enough to undo literally 37 years of dieting and restricting and exercising until I drop. This is where patience (something I lack) is my friend. I have to let my body do what it needs to do to heal and get back into a natural rhythm. Plus I am also still learning about listening to the cues when I’m hungry and when I’m full. I find in the evening, I tend to overeat feeling anxious as if I may never get to eat again. I am not sure what this is about as I have a fully stocked kitchen, a grocery store within ten miles and plenty of money to buy food. There is no shortage. Maybe evenings are just an anxious time for me.

Also, being able to eat whatever you want, you’re going to indulge in all those foods you restricted. So I probably am getting a tad bit bigger as I reprogram my mind to not freak out when these formally ‘forbidden’ foods are in my grasp. Case in point is chocolate. I’ve eating a f*ck ton of chocolate in the last six weeks. I’ve received and bought 3 candy hearts over the last few weeks due to Valentine’s Day. The first candy heart, I literally plowed through, the second one was small – only three pieces – devoured in one sitting. The last one was from my husband and it’s the same as the first except 3x’s the size. By now, I will eat one or two pieces and be like wow, that’s sweet and two pieces are plenty. My husband asked me if there was something wrong with the candy he bought me because I wasn’t shoveling it in like normal. Nope, it was fine, it’s just I’ve eaten so much candy lately, I’m a bit overwhelmed by it. When you can have it and have as much as you want of it, suddenly you find that you will not want it so much. Also you’re focusing on your hunger and satiety cues at the same time. You start noticing at one point that you aren’t hungry when you pull out the box of delicious chocolates so you may only eat one or even none, waiting until you are hungry again.

This journey is a bit of a roller coaster. I love jalapeno kettle-style potato chips. So last night at the grocery I bought a bag. I even opened them and ate a few in the car tough they recommend you eat sitting at a table, focusing on your food so you don’t mindlessly shove half a bag of potato chips in your gullet. I spent the evening grazing on them. I’d put them away, get them out, put them away get them out. I even ate them with the nice roast dinner I made. I ate half the bag and still am suffering from their effects this morning. My stomach is burning, my acid reflux is kicked up. So in this case, I am thinking maybe if I get the craving for these chips, I go and buy the small bag even if it means going to a gas station. Or do I just buy the big bag and eat until I realize I can have these whenever I want? This is one of those ‘forbidden foods’ so naturally since it’s the first time I’ve bought them this year, I’m going to overindulge. I think I should just buy the big bag because if I buy the small bag at the gas station, I am in a way restricting myself. Which means I may overeat them a few times and suffer horribly a few times until my brain figures out these chips are no longer ‘forbidden’ and therefore I do not need to eat a half a bag of them in an evening.

Being aware of why and when I overeat is key for me to reverse this behavior. Deep breath, I will be okay. If I get bigger for awhile, then I get bigger. The key remains, eat when I am hungry and just until I’m satisfied, not feeling stuffed and sick. This seems so simple but after not listening to your body for almost 80% of your life, it isn’t going to happen in a few weeks.

Raise your hand if you only exercised to lose weight? ME! ME! Well I like to exercise but my focus has always been calorie burning. Intervals for more calorie burn, longer rides to burn more calories, pedaling until you’re ready to puke to burn off that big lunch. ‘Joyful movement’ is a term I hear frequently on the podcasts and in the books I’ve been immersing myself in this year. Joyful movement is simply doing physical activity you love without any consideration to burning calories or losing weight. It means cancelling the gym membership if you hate going to the gym. Or keeping it if you love going but changing the activities you do and your mindset. You love Zumba class and now you just go to this class because you love the movement and camaraderie of your class mates. Or you put on music and dance around the house. Take your dog for a walk where you actually enjoy the process rather than trying to walk as fast as you can for thirty minutes. You stop worrying about the number of calories burned and you start focusing on the simple joy of moving your body.

Case in point – I am going to list my cycling rollers today for sale. I’ve tried and tried to do stationary riding in the winter on my road bike. I hate it. I get bored in the first few minutes and just want to stop. I’ve tried different methods to no avail. Yes it is a way to add miles to your yearly cycling goal but I can’t stand it. I might as well sell them to someone who will actually use them. I love to dance way back from the school dances and clubs. I’m not very good at it, I’m a typical white girl when it comes to dancing. I’ve never taken a dance lesson in my life but I like more the non-choreographed kind of thing anyway. We have an old Wii and a few Just Dance games. Nothing is more awkward than a fat girl prancing around in her basement, that is until she turns the full length mirror resting on the wall around and forgets about how she may look.

The other night, no one was home and I went down in the basement in a sports bra, shorts and socks and fired up the game. At first I’m a little self-conscious but it’s only the cat and dog watching. Without thinking about calorie burn or time elapsed, I just enjoyed the different dances and trying to do them. Before I know it, I’m covered in sweat and over an hour has passed. Without even thinking about it, I got in an hour of exercise without staring at a clock because I was doing something fun, something I enjoyed. I was wearing my phone to count steps (I do this just for fun) and I amassed about 3000 steps just prancing around in my basement. My bike and rollers just sat there across the way, leaning against the wall. I would have had to force myself to finish 20 minutes of riding on that set up. I would have had 0 fun. The whole dance experience put me in a great mood as well. Joyful movement, those words suddenly made perfect sense.

I love to ride my bike but not inside. Time to sell the rollers. I’ve been holding onto them for several years just convinced this was the year I’d really make use of them. The bottom line is I hate riding in place. So it’s time to honor the idea of joyful movement and bring back fun rather than torture myself to burn calories. No wonder people hate exercise so much. We don’t do it the right way or for the right reasons. I love, love riding my bike on the bike path or my mountain bike on the trails. I will be smiling ear to ear while doing so. But put me on my bike in the basement on training rollers and I’m no longer enjoying the ride. I’m annoyed, frustrated and impatient to get the time over with. If you dread the exercise, it feels like torture.

Pick something you love, make it spontaneous, don’t time yourself or worry about calories burned. There are so many things you can do to move. The majority of us aren’t training for athletic events anyway. I imagine once you start doing things you love for the sheer pleasure of moving, you’ll find yourself much more active in general. I’m going to see if I can buy some used Just Dance games just to have new dances to try because it’s fun!

Until next time, happy eating and joyful moving!

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Week 5 Food Peace Journey – Patience & Kindness

So week five has come to a close today and I have not turned into a whale. My clothes fit about the same. My jeans feel looser but I have no idea if I lost weight or not because that number no longer matters. The freedom of not weighing myself frequently has only added to my happiness about my choice to give up dieting. Though I will admit, there are times, where I feel panicky as if not knowing that number will somehow harm me. I’m afraid I will wake up and not be able to get into my jeans, so I tried on my size down jeans that are just a little too tight at the moment to wear comfortably and I can still get into them. I wish I did not feel panicked at the thought of getting larger. So I’m still working on peace in that aspect.

I bought the Intuitive Eating Workbook by Evelyn Tripoli and Elyse Resch this week and started into the exercises today. I think a point the authors make in the front of the book is how this doesn’t happen overnight and to be kind with yourself during the journey even if you binge eat, eat too much, eat for comfort etc. That it can take a long time to really master intuitive eating and there will be moments or times when you slip. Diet recovery is what this is. One of the exercises was a table where you chronicled your diet history. I can’t remember every diet I’ve ever been on so I summarized but then I remembered a period in my life during ages 24-25, that I gave up dieting. We had a house fire and lost everything and then moved to Kendallville, Indiana, close to where my first husband worked. We rented this home out on some farmland and tended the owner’s trail horses as well as helped with his business, cattle and horses. I had two small daughters and mid way through my 25th year, I became pregnant.

For whatever reason, maybe just the shock of losing everything material, I forgot about dieting. I was staying at home with my daughters, working on the farm, being active without thinking about it. Doing things I loved, like having a garden and being around animals. We didn’t have a lot of money so I cooked most of our meals with a fast food treat now and again. As far as I can remember, I ate when I was hungry, didn’t worry about what I was eating and other than working on the farm and walking the treadmill I bought at Walmart for Christmas, that was it. When spring came, I needed some cooler clothes. We were doing better money wise at this point, so I decided to start shopping a little bit every pay day to refurbish my lost wardrobe. I remember trying on a dress for Easter and finding that my size was too big. See, I had been living pretty much in sweat pants and loose clothing that I had bought after the fire. Since I wasn’t working outside of the home, these had sufficed. Cheap and comfy but I hadn’t realized I had been tightening the sweat pants draw string. I had somehow gone from a size 18/20 to a 14/16 without even trying.

I still can remember that moment in the dressing room when I tried on the size 20 dress only to have it hang off my body. Then when the size 14 fit, I was practically jumping up and down in the fitting room. After I gave birth to my third daughter, I was a size 16 and started into the diet and working out for exercise routine which eventually ballooned me up to a very uncomfortable size 22. My knees hurt walking up the stairs from my heft. I’d diet, fail, binge, diet, fail, binge. I was really unhappy in my 30’s, and by the time I was 35, I was severely depressed and threatening to run out of clothing sizes. Your body is so efficient at saving you from starvation, you just getting fatter and fatter by dieting.

The authors quoted some interesting studies. Six year study of the Biggest Loser contestants shows that their metabolism had slowed down 500 calories a day. A day! The body fought back and made itself more efficient. They also found the contestants had more lean muscle mass at the beginning than at the end after the weight loss. The body was cannibalizing itself for energy. We think back to years before people were obsessed by dieting which really started in earnest in the 1970’s and we see pictures of normally not overweight people. They say portion sizes were less, people didn’t eat out as much and so on. Which is all true. But they also weren’t dieting as a whole or a way of life.

Here is something else in The Intuitive Eating Workbook that I found interesting. A study with overweight Type 2 diabetes people was done over six years with the control group not being placed on diet and exercise that the test group participated in. At the end of the six years, the dieters had a worse prognosis than those in the control group. Researchers were shocked. A UCLA study found that found that fifty-million people who were overweight or obese per BMI standards were actually healthy otherwise. I’ve always felt that BMI is a load of crap. If you want the study references, send me a message and I’ll point you to them.

Dieting could very possibly making us unhealthier in the long run. That is an interesting concept. But when I think back to some of the times when I was suffering most especially with digestive issues was when I had been dieting frequently or strictly. Maybe restricting your food intake and ignoring your body’s needs causes sickness. I mean it does make sense. Your body is asking for what it needs and you smack it down and say NO!. I wish I could attest to whether or not I feel better or more energetic, but two of the five weeks, I have been fighting a nasty flu. I’ll report back on that at a later time.

On a side note, I found a new body-positive podcast called Fearless Rebelle Radio by Summer Innanen. I haven’t finished Episode #111 – Change Your Relationship to Movement – With Louise Green – author of Big Fit Girl but so far I am loving the whole bigger body – fitness message in this episode. It’s like going to group therapy, with the having to sit in an awkward circle with strangers part. I feel very uplifted listening to podcasts like this that aren’t about getting skinny, but doing movement you love without the purpose of losing weight. Actually, the more physically active I become, the less weight loss I saw anyway as I put on muscle. But normally my measurements would decrease but the idea of giving even that aspect up and just enjoying my favorite fitness pursuits like cycling is so freeing and joyful. Challenging myself to new fitness levels because it makes me feel good and not to lose 10 pounds. Check out Fearless Rebelle Radio for yourself. Summer has a lot of different topics.

So in conclusion, all this is a work in progress but it is getting a bit more automatic. Some days I eat often and other days not much at all. Sometimes I will fix or reheat something only to find I don’t want it so I don’t force myself to eat it. It’s nice to not eat something I don’t really want. I do have a long road to go, probably a lifetime but I am happy that I’ve gone in this direction. I hope others will join me as well, shrugging off the chains of calorie counting and forced gym time. Life is truly so short, eat the cake, if you’re hungry and want it!

Week 2 – Peace With Food Journal

It’s a few days less than a week, but I’m adjusting my ‘week’ so I can publish my blog post on Saturdays when people may have more time to actually sit down and read since most of us work weekdays. I’ve deviated from the daily entries now to sum up my impressions for the week.

Mainly, my diet mentality is strong. As I practice being very mindful of when I am actually hungry, what I truly want to eat and my satiety cues, I realized that I categorize foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as well as ‘make me fat’ and ‘won’t make me fat’. At first, I was angry with myself but I gently reminded my impatient goal-driven brain to be kind with myself, I have many, many years of judging foods and not trusting my body. This is simply a habit I will have to work hard on breaking. There are no “bad” foods, just foods that are more nutritious and less nutritious. I heard this on the Love, Food podcast by Julie Duffy Dillon – Love, Food Podcast. I really recommend her show as it is a very supportive non-diet environment that encourages people to use intuitive eating. Julie is a dietitian as well. I listen to the podcast in the car and at work when I can. One episodes she was talking about how there are no ‘bad’ foods but nutritious and less nutritious foods. In other words, there are no foods off limit but you do want to eat exactly what you want at that moment.

On Wednesday, I made my first big shopping trip since I started my peace with food journey. It was in the evening, the stores were packed because of the upcoming snow storm that hit yesterday with freezing rain and what looks like a few inches of snow from my home office window. I had my list but I also walked through the aisles ignoring the commotion around me as shoppers frantically grabbed supplies (the bread aisle was almost empty). Again, I am fighting the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food ideals I’ve seared into my brain. I took my time, walking up and down most aisles and even the junk food aisle I almost always avoid as if Satan himself will pop up between the chips and pretzels. He will then turn me into a big fat waddling whale. You know what? I didn’t run into Satan and I didn’t make any impulse purchases. I didn’t fill my cart with chips and candy. I walked up and down the junk food aisle twice looking at all the colorful and enticing packaging while asking myself, do I want this? Does this sound good? Do I want giant orange cheese poofs? Hmmm… nope.

I go to two different stores, Kroger for mainly produce and dairy as well as wine and things I can’t get at Wal-Mart. I love Kroger Brand ice cream as well. I did buy ice cream but that was on my list anyway. Since Wednesday, I’ve literally had one small bowl of ice cream. I have not binged on it at all. Because I am allowed to have ice cream so it takes away the urge to woof it down in rebellion. Speaking of binges, Dillion states in her newsletter (she has a free newsletter you can sign up for) that we should be kind to ourselves even when we binge. That it’s okay, it’s our way of coping with something and to soothe ourselves. She has a new podcast relating to this subject this week though I haven’t listened to it yet. Essentially, it comes down to showing ourselves the kindness that we show the people we love and even strangers. Allowing myself any food, to eat when I am hungry and not starving myself until the next meal, even if it means I eat ten times that day, eases that whole “I’ll never get enough” fear in the back of my mind.

Unfortunately, I stepped on a scale this week. And the number really means nothing. It’s roughly the same as the last time. I haven’t lost or gained any weight but I felt disappointed in myself for not losing. Then I felt angry for myself for giving into the urge to weigh. Then I took a deep breath, shook it off and reminded myself, just don’t step on that stupid scale. You don’t have to keep measuring your size or weight. You are free from this constant judgement of your body. Just let go of this mentality. I remind myself if I get bigger it is okay, being bigger doesn’t make me a bad person or a loser or a failure. If I get smaller, I remind myself that this doesn’t make me ‘better’, just a different size. I am not my size. My family and close friends aren’t going to stop caring about me if I go up a size and I won’t get more friends or a magically happy life if I go down sizes. Thin doesn’t make you a better person. Thin doesn’t give you the perfect life. It is just a bigger body or a smaller body.

Trusting my body to know what it wants is hard when you are fighting all your old triggers, diet mentality, fear of getting bigger, fear of not being accepted, fear of people making fun of you and so on. Letting myself eat when hungry and circumventing the strict meal ideals that I shouldn’t eat between meals, has also cut down on any overeating. There was one evening that I found myself just a little bit too full. I took a moment to think about what I did to reach to that point and realized, that I hurriedly ate some dessert immediately after dinner. In addition, I served myself more dessert than I actually wanted and then felt I must eat it all. The next time, I waited until I really wanted dessert even though I had already started the dishwasher. Having a bowl and a spoon in the sink overnight would not end the world. A few nights, I didn’t bother at all with dessert or I ate a couple of mints we keep in a bowl on the kitchen pie safe. That was what I wanted.

We hear a lot of ‘rules’ in our life about how to eat or not eat. Don’t eat after 6 p.m. Brush your teeth and call it a night. Sometimes though, I’m hungry at 9 p.m. I’ve stopped ignoring this cue and asked myself what I wanted to eat. The last time it was just I wanted a banana. I ate the banana and it tasted extra sweet for some reason. I try to eat mindfully instead of shoving the food into my mouth. This really helps you pick up on your own internal cues. I have a lot to learn yet, but I am truly much happier getting off the dieting, food rules, and good/bad food lists merry-go-round. This frees up a lot of time to do other things since I’m not fretting or feeling depressed about my weight. Trusting your body = freedom & a happier existence.

The other thing I noticed this week is my internal self-talk when I walk by a mirror. I notice my rounded belly and start to think OMG it’s so big. Again, here is another item that I have to work on. Chiding myself for how I look isn’t showing myself kindness. When I catch myself doing this, I make myself say out loud something I love about my body or looks. Such as “I have pretty eyes” or “my thighs are really strong”. Retraining my thought patterns. Funny, I thought I had eliminated my negative self-talk but it’s still there to a smaller degree but in the background.

So what I’ve learned this week is this journey isn’t simple or easy but it does feel joyful and gives you a sense of freedom. It won’t be overnight and could take several years so I must be patient . I have to pay attention to my tendency to use good/bad food labels. I need to continue listening to my hunger cues and what I want to eat, when I am hungry and stop when I am just satisfied so I don’t feel grossly over full. It just doesn’t feel good when your stomach is the equivalent of a lead balloon. I still need to work on negative self-talk and stay off the scale. Maybe do some meditation on letting go of a bigger body = bad and smaller body = good mentality. I am not my size. I am allowed to leave food on my plate. I also noticed I don’t drink a lot of fluids so I am going to focus on using my fancy glass water bottle I bought this summer and drinking more. I am going to take my vitamin supplements more often. Maybe add in some omega 3 & 6 after reading an article in Psychology Today about how our moods may be affected by our nutrition. Did you know your intestines carry two pounds of gene material? Yes, I’m a nerd, I love reading this stuff.

So this weekend and coming week, just be kind to yourself. Listen to your hunger cues and eat whatever the hell your body tells you it wants. Maybe put the scale away and give yourself a hug. Life won’t end if you’re a size 18 and not a size 8. You are wonderful and beautiful and amazing no matter what. Yes, you are. Don’t argue with me because I’m right! :-). Hugs and love as well as peace with your body and food. xoxoxo

Week 1 – Peace with Food Daily Journal Entries

Below I’ve detailed the first seven days on my peace with food journey. A quick summary of the week is thus: I finally put away my scale and tape measure to further cement my commitment to trusting myself and my body. I’ll admit, it’s a little scary letting these go. I’ve reintroduced some “bad” foods back into my diet and the world didn’t end. I discovered that especially at work, I tend to starve myself without realizing it and I have a lot of subconscious ‘food rules’ I’ve picked up over the years. Eating when I’m hungry doesn’t mean forcing myself to wait until a certain time to eat and if possible, I need to stop whatever project I am working on and eat even a little snack if I can’t break away completely. I need to go shopping and stock my desk with more options for snacks. My diet mentality is strong and infiltrates most parts of my life. This is going to take a lot of time and mindfulness to get out of my life but I believe it will make me happier and more at peace. After the first week of trusting myself to eat when hungry, I still fit into my jeans and I have no idea if I gained or lost any weight. And it doesn’t matter either way. My weight doesn’t make me as a person. I am a bit happier person at the end of the week. And I definitely feel a sense of freedom. I am more than a number on a scale. Keep reading for a more detailed account of each day.

Day 1 – January 2, 2018. My first full day back in the office. What I noticed is I forcibly starve myself ignoring my hunger cues. Why? Probably a combination of I don’t want to be that fat woman sitting in her cube constantly eating for people to make fun of, not that I actually think any of my coworkers even care. Second, it is probably learned diet behavior. I’ll wait for lunch time to eat, no earlier than noon or my day will seem longer. Stupid rules I made up in my head. I found myself feeling very joyful and excited that I could eat whatever I wanted when I was hungry. I even ate my lunch before noon. I need to stock my desk more with snacks and foods I like to eat. We have vending machines but nothing really appeals to me there except once in awhile. Did I overeat? Nope. I ate until full. I ate only when hungry. Day 1 – fun, happy, joyful.

Day 2 – January 3, 2018. I work at home on Wednesdays and I was up early to get caught up on emails and entries that I couldn’t get to yesterday. I’m slammed with a major project and focused all my energy yesterday on getting the first part, the most time consuming part, done. I’m dealing today with some emails where people annoy me. I changed a process to prevent the annoyance. I take charge as much as I possibly can. Around 10:30, I start to feel hungry so I scan for what sounds good to me. Wheat toast lightly buttered and spread with a perfect layer of grape jelly. I never eat jelly! It’s all sugar and no fruit right? It’s BAD for you. I feel myself balk as I spread the dark purple deliciousness on my bread. No, diet mentality, you will not win! I sit down with my toast and a side of a Colby-jack cheese snack and savor something I haven’t allowed myself to have in, well, I don’t know that’s how long. Why have I denied myself a bit of grape jelly? I forgot how good it is, mixed in with a bit of melted butter. Mmmm.. My heart soars for grape jelly.

Day 3 – January 4, 2018. Had to take hubby for a medical procedure so my focus that day was more about him. It was a routine one but the whole thing brings back memories of dealing with my mom’s cancer because this procedure is how they found her first cancer. I wasn’t worried about him but the whole thing makes me anxious. I struggled with wanting to eat to comfort myself especially later that day once we were home and everything was confirmed A-OK. We did stop at one of my fave BBQ chains for lunch but I didn’t overeat. I ate my pulled pork (lunch portion – no bun because I have no interest in that bun) but I only ate about 1/3 of my potato salad (didn’t taste good to me) and half my hush puppies (did taste good but was getting full). I can remember when normally I’d stuff it all down until I was sick. Other than fighting feeling a big snackish in the evening which I think was more due to trying to comfort my previous anxiety, I didn’t overeat.

Day 4 – January 5, 2018. Back in the office and super busy. I wasn’t hungry right away so I had a banana to get me going and then ate my steel cut oatmeal about mid-morning when I became hungry. I did have to force myself to stop working when I got hungry because I caught myself thinking I could wait longer. On Fridays, I go out for lunch with my best friend to this little ‘dive’ type place. I ordered my usual (for now – it changes off and on) of a grilled cheese and a half order of fresh cut fries with a can of Coca-Cola. They were a little slight on the fries and I worried I would get hungry later but I didn’t. I ended up packing my fruit back into my tote bag at the end of the day. I kept feeling like I wanted candy, I think because it’s Friday and that seems like a day for celebration but when I asked myself what I really wanted, nothing appealed to me. I got busy into my work again and completely forgot about candy. When I left work, I thought maybe I’d go through town and stop for a treat but I couldn’t find a treat I wanted, so I just got my car washed and headed home. Later I made a pan of from scratch cream cheese brownies because these sounded really good to me. I ate 1.5 brownies over the course of the night. I ate what I wanted. I didn’t go all batshit crazy and consume the whole pan because I baked the forbidden sweet. Knowing I could have the brownie or two or three brownies if I really wanted them and was actually hungry definitely soothed my fear of ‘not enough’ or the guilt from ‘being fat” or ‘needing to diet’ shame. Today I noticed how I use food to reward myself. It’s Friday, I need treats, I made it through the week. Except when I step back and really look at what I wanted, my usual go to treats weren’t even on the list. And I didn’t feel guilty for succumbing to my love of baking. I had all but given it up because I thought it was making me fat. That made me sad to not bake. Now I have given myself the freedom to bake whatever the hell I want. Feels really good and makes me happy.

Day 5 – January 6, 2018. To weigh or not to weigh? I’m struggling with this question. I’ve been considering weighing myself either once a week or once a month on the same day. While I am no longer looking to lose weight and accept whatever my natural size is, I still have a strong desire to measure my ‘progress’. On one hand, I feel like I should get rid of the scale completely and never weigh myself again, ignoring the number even when I have to be weighed at the doctor’s office. That idea makes me anxious and a bit panicky. Does this mean the scale has way too much power over my life? I think so. If I weigh myself even once a month, doesn’t that mean I’m still using that measurement to judge myself and my worth? Yes. Do I NEED to know my weight? Doctors need it when they have to prescribe but they take it in the office. There are weight limits on rides and such but I have no plans on going to the amusement park soon. So no, I don’t have many reasons to need to know my exact weight every day. Maybe once or twice a year if that. My clothes can tell me if I’m getting bigger or smaller. That’s pretty reliable. So if I keep weighing myself, I am utilizing the scale as a judgmental tool. What if I gain weight? I’m going to feel horrible about myself. If I lose weight I’ll feel good but then I have a tendency to eat more in celebration (I know, it doesn’t make much sense). I think it’s time to move the scale out into the garage pantry and forget it is there. I can’t be free of the diet mentality until I stop caring what that number reads on the scale. I can’t trust my body if I’m relying on a number that can change 5-8 pounds in a few days based on how much water weight I’m holding. I vow to give up the scale and not care about my weight. I am more than a number. This is a bit scary but I can do it. I won’t balloon to 500 lbs if I don’t weigh myself. I will trust my body. I will trust myself. I’m not out of control. I don’t need supervised, I am a grown ass woman. I got this!

Day 7 – January 7, 2018. While cleaning the master bathroom, I moved the scale to a less tempting place and I also put away my sewing tape measure I use to track body measurements. I have removed all the ways I can track progress of weight gain or loss except for how I feel and my clothes. Doing so makes me anxious as how am I going to stop myself from blowing up even bigger without my tools of measurement? I reminded myself that I can trust my body, I just need to pay attention to my hunger cues, etc. and I will be fine. Trusting myself is going to take some time but on the other hand, I feel freedom and peace with this decision. I’ve had a diet mentality since I was around 11 years old when my well-meaning grandmother was weighing me and putting me on diets which started my binge eating. Though I was tall, maybe 5’5 then and only weighed around 125 lbs, I was not fat at all so I’m not sure what my grandmother was thinking. Now I’m 47 years old and maybe even as much as 100 pounds overweight though I don’t know what my “ideal”weight is because I carry a lot more muscle now from my athletic pursuits. I do though have to undo 36 years of diet mentality. Thirty-six years of people telling me I am fat, doctors chiding me, reading 1000’s of fitness and health articles as well as many diet books, going on what seems like a gazillion diets, not to mention all the shame and guilt I’ve carried over my weight. What if I could get all that time back? What if I could have treated myself kindly instead of beating myself up for eating X or weighing myself only to cry over the number on the scale? I don’t have the answer to that question but I do know that I have a lot of work ahead of me to break the diet mentality. My daughter was browsing the Valentines candy at the store and she sent me a picture of a 3 lb Hershey milk chocolate bar. I love Hershey’s bars but my first through was OMG I can’t buy that, I’d weigh 300 pounds. I caught myself and thought you can have it if you really want this giant candy bar. For a moment, I felt giddy like a kid who is looking forward to Christmas. When was the last time I felt that way about food? Can’t remember. Though I don’t think I will buy that candy bar, just having the option to have it guilt free if I want it, makes me happy.

I Give Up! – Cultivating Peace with Food & My Body

As 2017 came to a close, I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in 2018 and beyond. Cultivate more inner peace and not be swayed with every wind that crosses my path. In conjunction with that particular goal, I started thinking about my forever struggle with food and weight. I was considering returning to my food journal app as I had lost 20 pounds using it but then I delved deeper. When I used it my idea was that after six months, I would relearn and retrain myself to eat healthier. It takes three months to form a new habit so wouldn’t six months help ingrain it into my thick skull?

Well it must have not worked because I gained the weight back. On the food journal, I felt hungry a lot, I felt restricted and while I didn’t plan on it, I returned to my eating habits to an extent. I cut out my restaurant and fast food eating quite a bit though and started cooking more so it wasn’t all for naught. So it had partially the effect and result I wanted but my weight went right back to where it was. So as I considered if I wanted to just do the food journal for the rest of my life, I felt in my gut that no, I don’t want to be tied to an app. If I couldn’t learn how to eat better that way, then what was the point?

So I know what foods are good for me and what are not or so they say. I know what portion sizes look like. I exercise fairly regularly, that thank god, is not an issue for me as long as it is something I enjoy. So what is the issue? The issue started when I was 10 or 11 years old living in Lone Elm, Missouri, in a small two bedroom house next to the cemetery. My father was full out an alcoholic who didn’t work and my mother was struggling to keep the family together and the bills paid. My elementary school was literally a two-room Lutheran School and there was a whopping seven people in my class so my options for friends was pretty limited. Plus, I carried the stigma of being ‘Larry’s daughter’ and everyone knew when Larry would drive his car into a tree on one of the back roads. There are not many secrets in a small farming community.

I was having trouble sleeping then, I would sleep with the King James Bible under my pillow after reading Psalms to soothe myself. On particularly hard nights, I would tuck in my few stuffed animals around me as a fully wall of protection. Even though I shared a bedroom with my younger sister, I felt so alone. I would lie in my bed and stare out the window at the stars praying, praying and praying some more that we could be a normal family and my father would be healed from his disease. Then I would pray to God to help me sleep, I was growing more and more exhausted as my insomnia held fast. I was just a kid, I had no idea how to fix this issue. There was no one to talk to, no one to confide in as everyone just excused my dad’s behavior and behest my mom to honor her marriage vows so she would not leave.

But one night, I crept down the wooden stairs and shut the door behind me as quiet as I could. My dad was snoring loudly, probably sleeping off another drunk. I stepped off the last step and turned right into the kitchen flipping on the switch. I stood there for a moment to make sure my parents hadn’t heard me and would come down to shoo me back to bed. Nothing. I breathed a sigh of relief and walked past the kitchen table into the alcove that was the actual kitchen area. Gently I opened the cupboard doors until I found something to eat. I can’t remember if I was actually hungry or not but I grabbed a box of sweetened cereal so common in the late 1970’s. Since my cooking skills weren’t much yet, cereal appealed to me because I could actually ‘fix’ my own breakfast. I took the box of cereal, a bowl and spoon to the table. Pulling the milk out of the refrigerator, I sat down and remember feeling very independent. Plus no one even knew I was awake moving around. I believe this gave me a sense of control in a life that felt so out of control.

The swell of freedom intoxicated me as I poured my first night bowl of cereal. I sat down and ate slowly, looking out the window at the dark night, seeing my reflection which seemed so grown up at the time. Once I finished the bowl of cereal, I wondered what I should do so I didn’t get in trouble. I would have to wash the dish and spoon then put everything back. Except I wasn’t sleepy. I didn’t want to go back upstairs and to just lie there for hours so I poured a second bowl of cereal even though I wasn’t the least bit hungry but the action of feeding myself in secrecy felt too good. Eventually, with a full belly, I crept back up the steps and fell asleep, feeling comforted for the first time in forever. And so this started my career in emotional eating and my mom wondering why we were going through cereal so fast.

Remembering this helped me pick a goal for this year and beyond. I can diet, use food journals and ride hundreds of miles on my bike but until I conquer my emotional/stress/comfort/bored eating habit, I’ll never shake this. There’s also the guilt of eating certain things, the long held diet mentality instilled in me from a young age after spending the summer with my grandmother who loved to feed me until I was ready to burst, weigh me and then chide me for gaining weight. My entire maternal side of my family was overly concerned about their weight and being thin. I’ve suffered abuse as well, which means when I do lose weight, there are times when I draw attention of men that freaks me out internally. My subconscious wants to keep me in a fat suit to protect me from the world. So I have multiple issues to deal with not just one.

This year (and beyond), I want to attack and conquer my eating when I’m not hungry. My diet mentality about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods needs to go as well. This year, I want to discover the freedom of eating and not having to think so much about the act at all. I don’t want to feel guilty or ashamed. I don’t want to weigh myself every day. I want to trust my body to tell me what I need, when I’m hungry, when I’m satiated and what I am hungry for even if it is chocolate cake. No foods will be off limits. I will not sit and force myself to stay hungry until noon or whatever time I’ve deemed appropriate to eat. No more starving myself. No more forcing myself to eat things that I don’t really want because they are ‘healthy’.

I’ll admit, I’ve been down this road before when I got thick into books like Intuitive Eating and such. I just wanted to trust my body but something would always derail me. The last time was the Weight Watchers program at work. I thought it would help me but in the long run, I ended up heavier. Restriction makes me eat more. I rebel against the tight constraints. How many people do you know or maybe even yourself where they had short term success with diets and then gained it all back? (I’m raising both my hands because this is me, me, me!)

So back into the books and resources I can find on emotional eating and finding peace with food. I’ve been reading a book by Linda Bacon entitled Body Respect which is refreshing me on the principles I already know from the last time I delved into the whole intuitive eating, no dieting and making peace with food foray. The one thing that stands out so far in her book is that your body has a normal set point and by dieting, we push this set point higher (starvation effect). To return to your normal set point, you have to quit dieting and eat normally. Do I even know what normally is at this point? Time to relearn.

Today, I listed to multiple episodes of a podcast called Love, Food by a registered dietitian who claims you shouldn’t try to lose weight. People write letters to ‘food’ which entails their struggles with eating, weight gain and so on. The letters are read on the air and the dietitian, Julie Dillion, gives suggestions to help with the issue as well as brings in other experts. Though she grates on my nerves with her super cheeriness sometimes, Julie seems to really want to help people overcome her food issues. It is her passion and all her podcasts are extremely supportive, kind and do not recommend diets or weight loss to anyone. Again, it is simply listening to your body and your hunger cues while addressing your issues head on.

I haven’t thrown out my scale, but I did tuck it away. My food journal app has been deleted. The health tracker that keeps my steps has been tucked away in a less accessible place because it contains my health data on it such as my allergies and so on that can be accessed by first responders. Starting yesterday, I started focusing on my cues. Am I hungry? Do I want to eat this? Does this taste good to me? Am I full? You know what? I found I eat a lot of things just because they are handy or already prepared but not what I wanted. So mid-afternoon, I had my Instant Pot out making steel cut oatmeal because it was what I was craving. I had that for a late lunch because I didn’t eat much due to nothing suiting my taste. Later I had a salad from the Mexican place in town.

Today, at work, I found that I need to stock my desk with more food I find appealing. My tendency to starve myself is very evident in my eating habits at work. I literally try to eat a small bowl of instant oatmeal and make it stretch for as long as I can until I’m starving. Then I may grab a piece of fruit or a protein bar I keep in my desk. My unwritten rule of not eating lunch until after 12:00 to make the day seem shorter can leaving me starving again. Basically, I try to eat as little as possible at work which means I’m probably overeating once home. Why am I doing this? No clue. But I bet I am forcing my body to hold onto fat even more by not satiating my true hunger.

So today, I ate when I was hungry. I even ate lunch before noon and I ate what I wanted which was steel cut oatmeal and an orange. Then mid afternoon, I was hungry again and I delved into the carrots and dip with part of the piece of jalapeño cornbread I brought. I tossed half of the cornbread because I was full. For dinner, I ate a nice bowl of jambalaya with apple slices I coated with peanut butter. Oh and a small bowl of chocolate ice cream with whipped cream on top.

The result of two days of eating intuitively? Have I lost weight and am going down to my natural size? I don’t know. I don’t care anymore. Today I felt giddy with the fact I could eat what I wanted. Not forcing myself to suffer made me happy. There is a very distinct feeling of freedom. Like you just got a monkey off your back. I know I will have a lot of work ahead of me in the coming months and I may even get fatter. If I do, I will buy clothes to fit me and I will get nice clothes. I promise not to punish myself and to always be kind as if I were my best friend. If I lose weight, I will buy smaller clothes and I won’t post selfies saying, look I lost weight! Because it doesn’t matter. I no longer give my weight or size the power to run my life. Whether I’m a size 14 or 24, I am the same person with just a differently-sized body. No longer will I feel inadequate or ashamed because I am bigger nor will I feel smug if I end up smaller. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is I enjoy food, eat when I’m hungry and eat what I want as well as trust my body. That I break this 38-year battle with emotional eating. That I stop trying to hide in a ‘fat suit’. I’m already healthy at the size I am which befuddles my doctors but I am an active woman who generally eats well 80% of the time. I will stop starving myself. I will exercise doing the things I love without having to worry about steps (though I am going to count cycling miles for my year’s cycling goal but that’s not diet-related). I refuse to be a slave to my coping methods, to diet mentality, to learned behaviors that make me miserable.

I am simply going to trust my body to tell me exactly what it needs.

Depression & Nature’s Cure

Depression affects millions of us every day at different levels. Some people are able to function but at a dulled existence. Other people end up bed ridden, unable to function while some even feel that ending their lives are the only way to ease their pain. If you ever feel like part of this last sentence, please, please, please seek help. There is nothing wrong with getting help because it’s not all in your head, you’re not weak or stupid. Trust me.

My own lifelong fight with depression is not a secret and I’ve mentioned in several of my blog posts. And others in my family suffer from it too which lends me to believe it’s somewhat genetic. Though with millions of us suffering, maybe a lot is environmental. We’ve gone from being outdoors, to spending most of our time inside for work and after work. With so many ways to be in front of a screen, we’ve become more of an inside society. Me included. I’d much rather lounge on the couch binge-watching Netflix than go outside especially when the weather isn’t perfect. But therein I believe lies my issue. Too much inside.

I really hate the anti-depressants and I only have utilized them when in a severe depression. My goal is to find ways to keep from going ‘there’ where I’m so dark and despondent that I feel like I don’t want to live. Find my preventative medicine so to speak. I read most articles I see on depression and have read many books on it as well. I’m not a doctor or a psychologist but I think they are just crap-shooting what’s really going on with our brain. There are many studies out there and the one thing I think I have noticed in common is ‘nature’ as far as people feeling better.

They were pushing vigorous exercise as an alternative to anti-depressants. After my mom died in 2014, I rode my bike a lot. After about 20 minutes of riding after literally forcing myself into the gear and out the door, I’d feel like someone flipped the happy switch. I thought maybe it’s a runner’s high type of thing. So I went on the theory that vigorous exercise was the antidote. Late fall I joined the Y so I could continue the vigorous exercise, except it didn’t work. Didn’t matter how long or hard I rode the spin bike, the happy switch never flipped. I tried the treadmill, elliptical and rower going as long as an hour until I was completely drenched in sweat and nothing. Which of course just added to my depression because then I believed well maybe I have to do my vigorous activity outdoors and I just hate riding in the winter and cold.

But the thing I think was missing in this study was where the subjects did their exercise, indoors or out in nature? Japan has practiced ‘forest-bathing’ for years and done studies on spending time out in the woods to combat stress and depression. Other countries and academic institutions have also studied nature’s affects on our mood and depression. I could link up a bunch of studies but feel free to research yourself.

In late 2015, we moved into the country. I started walking the dog up and down the country roads where its more fields and woods than people. When I lived in town, I also walked the dog except it’s not really nature. A lot of concrete, homes, people and while there is grass and trees, I never felt much difference in my mood walking even five miles around town. However, I started to notice after walking the dog about twenty minutes, I’d feel the switch just a little less prominent which lends me to believe that vigorous exercise forces you to breathe in more air which might be why when I was riding, I felt the ‘switch’ stronger than when I’m walking. Maybe there is some microbe or something biological in the air when you’re in nature or the woods that your body needs and a lack of it, throws your brain chemistry off.

I believe exercise helps, exercise is super important no matter what. If you don’t keep moving, you die which is why Medicare and such are pushing seniors to work out and exercise. My theory, which I will test over this next winter, is that the antidote to my depression is nature, being outside at least twenty minutes most days and coupling it with exercise is a double whammy. Which means, I am going to have up my outdoor gear so I can do this on the most frigid Ohio -20 windchill days. I’m fortunate because I live on 1.5 acres surrounded by prairie and woods. I have a pine grove in the back corner of my lot where I can go stand or sit or walk circles around. I love the smell of the pines. Essentially, even if I can’t fathom walking the icy roads, I can walk around my yard to get my nature pill. Vitamin N.

This truly sounds a bit crazy but google it, you will find studies where they have looked at city dwellers and found the ones who live near more green spaces have less depression. Case in point, I haven’t been feeling the best so I hadn’t been outside much. To add to it, they spread turkey shit across the street after they harvested the soybeans. You literally can’t breathe that stuff just smells of death. Coupled with rain, I hadn’t been outside for several days and when I was at work, I noticed I was feeling depressed. So when I got home, I bundled up, grabbed doggo and headed out to walk for 35 minutes.

I left my headphones at home and focused on the surroundings. I walked west from my house pretty quickly as the frigid air was blowing against me but within a quarter of a mile, I can turn south and down into a more protected road. There is more woods on this road as well and the traffic is a bit lighter. The only aggravation on this route is the people on the corner let their two Rottweilers run free and they always come running out to us. They are mostly friendly but my dog goes batshit excited about ripping my arm off. I wish they would put them on a containment system because I’m afraid they will get hit.

Within 20 minutes of my walk, I felt my mood lift. Again, it’s not as dramatic as when I cycle but it does happen nonetheless. Once I got back to the house, I let the dog inside and walked the perimeter of my back yard. The sky was cloudy but the hue of the sunset was cast in the sky as a grayish pink. I stood behind my shop, underneath the pines and listened to the wind rushing through their branches. I felt all the anxiety just flow out of me and go with the wind. I know that sounds hokey but that’s really what it felt like.

After my walk, I picked up some dinner and watched some Netflix. I’m really into Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown where he travels to places like Libya. My sense of darkness, depression were alleviated for the most part and I enjoyed relaxing the rest of the night. I even slept well. Maybe I’m crazy but I’m going to try adding Vitamin N or nature to my regimen this winter, well, all year round, to see if it does indeed keep me from going into a deeper depression. I don’t figure outside of a chance for frostbite and getting hit, it can’t really hurt me to walk or hike this winter. Even maybe just wander around my own back yard on the days I can’t walk on the road or get to a park.

I am going to keep a notebook to jot notes in every day to help me study what helps and what doesn’t. And this spring I will revisit my notes and blog my results. Of course, I must add the disclaimer that just because this might work for me, it may not be for everyone struggling with depression. The best thing to do is to see a trusted doctor and also get therapy especially if you’re not quite sure depression is what is going on with you. Rule out medical conditions because you don’t want to guess you have something when it could be something serious medically. Therapy is also a great tool especially if you have things in your past that may still bother you, even subconsciously. Every now and then I go get a check up as I call it. But try getting out in nature as well. It doesn’t cost much and see how you feel after 20-30 minutes.

Remember, depression affections millions of us, you don’t have to have anything bad going on in your life to be depressed, it can be biological. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s no different than having something like hypothyroidism or another illness. We understand so little about the brain right now. Go with your gut and if your depression gets severe, get help.

I’ll be reporting back later with my results. So give it a try, the nature antidote. Get outside!

The Problem with Relationships (or My 2 Cents)

First off, I am NOT a relationship expert and I’m only writing from my past experiences of relationships in general. Mostly I am going to refer to romantic relationships regardless of sexual preference – straight or gay or whatever as this isn’t a consideration. This is somewhat my shit list regarding the romanticism of love and society ideals and even religious expectations. Things I wish I knew way back when, even before I was old enough to date because most of this can apply somewhat to friendships or familial relationships as well.

1. Don’t believe the fairy tales – relationships are hard, they are work and they aren’t perfect. This whole idea that there is only ONE person out there for you is complete and utter bullshit. And here’s the other caveat of that ideal – the whole premise that you have to be in a relationship to be worthy and whole. Here’s a tip – before you delve into the world of seriously dating – make sure you’ve got your own shit together. Be able to support yourself and don’t be out there looking for your sugar daddy or sugar mama. Don’t base your worth or happiness on another person. Get counseling or therapy for past issues. Sure a great relationship can add to your happiness but it should not be the key to your happiness. Don’t lay that on another person. Just don’t. Get your education or training, get a job, move out on your own for awhile. Get a strong sense of yourself, don’t be afraid to go to a restaurant or a movie alone. You’re not a loser, you’re a strong, independent person if you can enjoy just hanging out with yourself once in awhile. The flip side to this is that you offer another person a good, stable foundation for a relationship since you aren’t hanging on them for your every need and happiness, and that’s a relief to them as well.

Marriage or long-term partnerships will have their ups and downs. There will be days you want to walk out and never come back. You will find that the initial frenzy of feeling in love will fade and be replaced by something more steady (read boring) as biology does her job. People expect that your relationships should be how it is in the beginning all the time but we are wired to have that first flush of love to bring you together and make the connection and then eventually, most likely within a year or less, that fades away to something more common but if you put the work in, stronger and more significant love. True love. Real love. Love you can build a lifetime on as partners, friends and lovers. People will jump from relationship to relationship mistaking this lack of lusty heart-throbbing flush of feelings (or desire) for a relationship failure. It isn’t. It’s just how relationships work. You could be dumping a very good partner for the next attraction only to find they weren’t a better person for you, just new and different.

2. Don’t be an enabler – Don’t rescue, try to fix or help someone do things they can damned well do themselves. I’m raising my hand for this one because prior to my current marriage (been married 3 times), I was the enabler. Not just in my romantic relationships but ALL my relationships. If you have grown up in an abusive or dysfunctional situation or even have heavy religious training, it’s easy to fall into this over-helping way of thinking. For me, I just always wanted to keep the peace and not rock the boat. Then due to the abuse, I subconsciously felt I didn’t deserve what others did and I kept myself in the victim role until I was 38… Yes, almost 40 before I figured this out. Here is the golden rule of not enabling – If a person can and should do it themselves, then don’t do it for them. I’m not talking if your friend is sick and she needs help with her kids, I’m talking the person who is perpetually relying on others to do things for her she should do herself or himself.

My first husband used me as a vehicle to reach his goals, all while cheating on me the entire relationship. Here’s the kicker – he pushed really hard to get married and my instincts were screaming Oh My God NOOOOOO. I was an idiot and listened to him not me. My second husband was a lazy MF’r and when I finally kicked him out, I was relieved. He would sit and guzzle Pepsi and watch tv nonstop while barely working a minimum wage job while whining all the time he was overworked. WTF right? We get caught up in this in families as well. Even our friendships. That friend who everything is always about her. She barely calls you, you’re always the one to call. Ever relationship has times where it leans one way or the other but when you find it’s consistently not in your favor, it may be time to just quietly stop carrying the load. Or you can confront the but chances are they are a narcissist and they will only argue with you anyway.

3. You can choose who you spend the minutes of your precious life with – So much obligation out there right? We do all this stuff in the name of family, love, romance and friendships. We feel we HAVE to like this person or deal with this person or spend time with them. This happens mostly with family. Oh go see your mean, hateful Grandma Edith who insults you and makes you feel awful. Why? I see these memes about it’s sad when people don’t spend time with their family. My first thought is why is it sad? Maybe their family is a miserable bunch of abusive assholes. Why subject yourself to that kind of hell? Granted when you’re a kid, you’re kind of stuck going to relatives homes and so on but once you’re an adult, you get to make these decisions for yourself. I don’t think people distance themselves from certain family members just to be mean, there is most likely a reason for the distance. Maybe it is to protect their sanity and well-being.

The saying ‘blood is thicker than water’ is kind of obtuse in a way. I have blood relatives that wouldn’t walk across the street to help me because there is nothing in it for them. However, I have close friends who wouldn’t hesitate to help me. Your ‘family” should include the people who have your best interests at heart and vice versa. Family is not always blood. And frankly, you can distance yourself from the people who have screwed you over time and again without a big confrontation. Send them a Christmas card if you want, but frankly who cares? Don’t waste you life trying to make other people happy, living up to expectations that are not your own and wasting your time with people who only care about themselves. Surround yourself with love and positivity. With people who cheer you on and not try to tear you down. Remember none of these relationships are going to be perfect because we are human so look at the relationship as a whole, not just one event where she forgot to call you back, how dare she!

4. Choose wisely – Sit down and make a list of what you really want in a romantic relationship. If your goal is to find a guy as hot as Channing Tatum, well good luck with that or in other words – be realistic. Physical attraction is important but if you aren’t movie star perfect, don’t expect to net someone on that same level. I find that having similar ideals and morals and goals in life really helps a lot. You won’t agree on everything but if you want to live in the city and they hate cities, you need to ask yourselves is there a compromise you will both be happy with? People think love is the only thing you need but having similar outlooks on life, helps enormously. Especially about big issues like money, where to live, and children (if you both want them).

If it is very important to you that your partner or spouse share the same faith, then you need to find someone who meets that criteria. No, it’s not romantic but in the grand scheme of things, it will save you heartache down the line when you become resentful and angry at this person who told you they didn’t want to go to church, ever, and you overlooked that important need for yourself. Don’t get so rushed that you feel you have to take the first person that’s really interested in you or succumb to society or family pressure about time. Divorce sucks, breakups suck. There is no way to guarantee that a relationship will be forever but if you can agree on the major points then it’s a lot easier than fighting about them.

5. All relationships require compromise – If you want your way all the time and never want to compromise then don’t get into a relationship. Even the best relationships are going to require compromise, almost every day. And patience. Relationships require tons of patience. It’s a dance of give and take. It’s like ordering a pizza and you get what you want on your half and order what they like on their half. That’s what a relationship is like most of the time. You’re not the same person so you have differing wants, needs and desires. Sometimes the pendulum swings more their way, sometimes in your favor and sometimes it is balanced in the middle.

Pick your battles, make sure whatever it is you are fighting for is really worth it or are you just being a controlling ass. My husband doesn’t like the feeling of not being in control when in the car so mostly I let him drive. My driving scares the shit out of him and it’s just easier to sit in the passenger seat than argue about it. Another example is that I work 32-26 hours a week and he works over 40 with a longer commute. So I pick up more household chores and duties to make up for me working less. Every couple has to find what works for them. But don’t expect it to be all your way. You’re going to have issues if you want to go at a relationship wanting to control every aspect.

6. If you are miserable and unhappy consistently, it may be time to leave – If you are in any kind of abusive relationship, leave now. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200, make a plan and get out. If it’s life-threatening, go today, right this minute. Your life is not worth this person. I don’t care what your vows said, what religion you are, no one should stay in these situations. There are people who can help. Message me and I will find you help, just don’t stay.

That aside, if you find yourself years unhappy and you’ve tried and tried with no change, then you are going to have to step back and take a very honest, brutal inventory of why you are still there. Many people are afraid of being alone and will suffer miserable relationships just so they don’t have to face this fear. There may be financial limitations. Rejection from your family, your church, your friends. Your entire world will be turned upside down and it’s tough, really really tough to walk away from a long term marriage or relationship especially if you have children. So many people stay together for the kids. I can’t really say much here. If it’s not an abusive situation, then I really don’t know. I can see both side of the argument here. Keeping a stable home to raise the kids seems more important than your own happiness sometimes. This is a personal decision and not one I can make any suggestion on. It was hard for me to leave my first marriage but I couldn’t keep dealing with his infidelity and other issues. I would have eventually committed suicide or murdered him. It was time to go.

The truth is that plotting up is brutal and hard many times (and in the case of my second marriage it was easy, a relief) but if you can’t find a way to happiness in this relationship, most times the difficulty you will face at first will be hugely overshadowed with the joy of the new life you create. This doesn’t even mean you find someone else. You could be perfectly happy without a serious relationship. People do it all the time. It is scary to go it alone, you have to make your finances stretch further or in the case of my second marriage, I actually was in better shape. Many times when you can’t find a way to fix a relationships, you are better off without that person in your life. Or maybe you’d make better friends.

7. Avoid narcissists at all costs – Narcissistic people think only of themselves and they use manipulation tactics to control you and get what they want. Doesn’t matter ow smart you are, they seem to prey on people with big, generous hearts. These people rarely change and being in a relationship with them is like running into a wall over and over. You get nowhere. There is plenty of information on the interwebs and in books on how to figure out if someone is a narcissist and so on. I married two of these and it’s miserable. Completely and utterly miserable.

8. Trust your instincts/ trust yourself – This is one of the most important lessons in life I’ve learned not only in relationships but in everything. Trust your instincts, trust yourself. Even if it’s just a faint niggling at your psyche, pull it up and really look at what is bothering you. It’s easy to get swept into popular opinion or whatever, but you are the best compass of what is right for your life. Even if you end up going against the main stream.