Grumpy cat

One of the rudest things you can say

“You shouldn’t be eating that. It’s so bad for you.”

This is one of the rudest things we say to each other in our culture.

We say this ALL THE TIME. From friends at lunch, to families at meal time, neighbors at BBQs, and complete strangers all over the internet, whether through articles or personal commentary, we say this in the name of health.  But what we’re really saying is “you’re doing it wrong and that’s bad. You should be better.”

We shouldn’t be doing is tolerating this statement in our lives. It isn’t okay for people to be in our food or food habits. Even if, especially if, we’re struggling with weight challenges.

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Would you ever say  to someone, “You shouldn’t be wearing that. You’re too fat”? It’s just as rude to tell someone they should or shouldn’t be eating something.

To say openly comment on or to accept commentary on what someone should or shouldn’t be eating, what’s bad or not bad is judgmental and hurtful. No one knows our own bodies better than ourselves. And if we’re judging what others are eating based on body type and/or potential future body type, then we’re missing opportunities to concern ourselves with things that actually matter.

This is especially damaging for children. Forcing the shoulds and shouldn’ts of dietary rules interrupts not just the joy of eating but also the natural signals kids get from their bodies about what they like/dislike, what sounds good, and what they need. Food is meant to be fun and fuel; the best way to keep kiddos healthy is by teaching them to listen to their bodies, not cultural rules.

School Lunch - Girls TableOn that same note, it’s important to teach our children it isn’t okay to judge others’ food. The same way we’d tell them not to peek in the windows of our neighbor’s house or comment on Grandma’s potent breath, we must teach them it’s not okay to make comments about people’s food or food habits.

 

Things that are okay to say, because food is actually really fun and interesting to talk about when we’re not judging each other about it:

  • “That looks really good!”
  • “Did you make that? How did you make it?”
  • “I don’t really like that flavor, but I do like…”
  • “Have you ever tried (name of food)?”
  • “What other things do you like to eat?”

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Health looks different for each body.  The food my body needs and enjoys is different than what your body needs and enjoys is different from what every other body needs and enjoys, regardless of body size and type and health. So unless we live inside each other’s bodies, we have no basis upon which to tell each other what we should or shouldn’t be eating and why.

No more tolerating “You shouldn’t eat that; it’s bad for you.” Stay confident in what you choose for yourself and advocate for each other to eat what sounds good.

#nofoodshame

 

 

 

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Christians are not all the same

We’re not all the same, you know. Us Christians. About the only thing we have in common as a collective church is that we believe Jesus to be the Son of God and He’s our savior. When I say I am a Christian, that’s what I mean. Jesus is my savior, so I follow him. But each Christian is unique in living out what following Jesus means.

What I want you to understand is that I am not one of the Christians who will keep you at arm’s length with a Bible flapping in my outstretched hand showing you how you’re living your life wrong. (The only time I’ll keep you at a distance is if you’re physically, mentally, or emotionally harming me or my loved ones. And even then I am not going to stab you with Bible verses.)

I don’t believe you have to repent or “be right with God” before he’ll wrap you up in His arms to love you. If you want Him, if you need Him, if you desire your life to be different, then turn around right now–as you are–because He’s there with his arms outstretched waiting for you. If there’s repentance that needs to happen, it will happen and it will happen between you and God. Just the two of you. When it’s time, you’ll know because you’ll feel a conviction in your heart–a tug, a knowing, an understanding you can’t explain, a gut-wrench that pulses up your body and makes you a little bit dizzy–and you’ll want to be forgiven and healed from the wrongdoing. You’ll want to be made different.

God will never force you to be different, clean, or “good enough” the way some Christians will. I’m sorry if that has happened to you already. Truly sorry.

Personally, I’ve never seen nor experienced Jesus wait for repentance before he offers love, grace, and mercy. Some Christian’s believe grace isn’t free. I disagree. The best example I have is when Jesus was on the cross being tortured while literally hanging by nails, and he lifted a prayer to God on behalf of his torturers: “Forgive them, Lord, for they do not know what they are doing.” Call me crazy but I don’t think the lynch mob having their violent way with Jesus was “right with God” nor were they repented. Heck, they didn’t even believe Jesus was God. Yet, Jesus, went to bat for them with God anyway. Because he loved them.

He loves you the same. And I’m guessing you haven’t even lynched anybody lately. You don’t have to be a certain way to receive God’s love. Just be you. That’s enough.

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 Of course, you could say, “No way is this true. Dumb Bible speaks fantasy.” Wouldn’t it be great if it was true, though? If this God, this Jesus, this wacky Holy Spirit Christians talk about were the real deal?

Well, I believe 100%. I believe in that LOVE.

And because I believe, and because I love Jesus and I want to do my best to follow him, this is what it means for you and me as friends:

If you are labeled as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or some other sexually oriented specific gender/non-gender label, then I am going to be your friend. I will draw you in close and honor who you are without conditions. I’ll will support your fight for the right to love and live how you need to love and live. If you’re hurting then I will pray for you, hug you, and take you out for coffee.

If you are thinking about an abortion, then I am going to listen to your story, your pain and fear. We’ll wrestle through your options together. I am going to tell you that if you keep your baby, you’re going to be okay and God is going to love you and take care of you and that little baby through the hardships. I will tell you that if you abort your baby, God is going to love you and take care of you and that sweet little baby through the hardships. I’ll tell you that I hope and pray you choose life, but if you decide abortion is the only way, then I’ll help you find a clinic that is safe, help you find followup physical care and mental health support, and help you find healing for your heart.

If you struggle with mental illness and/or are thinking about suicide, then I am going to listen to your story and your pain. I am going to ask you directly if you’re safe and if you’re not, then I am going to find a way to get you help. We’ll wrestle through all your options together. Suicide is an option, but I promise there are better ones. I am going to tell you that you matter, and if no one else sees you, know God sees you and He loves you. And if you don’t believe it, that’s okay. I am going to help you find good mental health support, and I am going to pray for you anyway.

Pick a hot topic and I’ll keep going. My point is:  Right or wrong, sinful or not, I believe Jesus walks with you and God loves you. I don’t worry about nor require your repentance to accept you or hang out with you because that isn’t my concern. My concern lies solely with whether or not you feel loved by God.

Some Christians may argue that you have to repent and get right with God in order to truly earn the love and the grace Jesus offers. I am not one of those Christians. We aren’t all the same. He loves you as is. And so do I.

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Green is…

I’m feeling better. Several hours after writing my last post, I lay down on my living room floor, looked over at my cat, Romey, and asked, “What is my deal? Why am I so full of angst?” I closed my eyes and prayed, “God, help me understand.”

Clear as day a memory flooded my mind from late November 2014–it was week three of my anorexia rehab. I was at my friend Jen’s art studio painting a canvas for a creative non-fiction piece I had written for my friend Kelcey called “Green Is.” I was so nervous; I was afraid of painting something wrong–mixing the colors wrong, making the lines wrong, making a complete mess of the vision that was in my head. The piece was supposed to be green and gold with the writing placed in the middle of the canvas.

As Jen guided me through the process, it didn’t take long to see why God had led me to the studio. Among other things, this session was a lesson in patience.  As I had finished applying the paint to the canvas, I was pleased with what I saw. “Great! All done,” I said. Jen grinned. “Art is never done in one application. You have to go back and fill in all the thin spots.” She held my canvas up to the window and streams of light filtered through my green and gold landscape.

I huffed.

“It takes patience.” Jen said.

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Here I was again, lying impatiently on my living room floor praying to God to help me understand why my eating disorder was triggered. I thought I was better. I’d done the hard work and even went back and uprooted my childhood with my dad. We were healing. What’s the deal, man?

Patience, dear one. I’m not done yet. Don’t let go of Me. 

Then I had the strong urge to revisit the Bible verse that had helped me compose the piece:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Reading it, taking it in, has brought me peace. There are things about my journey I can’t see and don’t understand. It’s going to take patience on my part when I am feeling frustrations of my mental illness.  Despite the mundane-ness, my leaves are still green and I am still bearing fruit… progress is happening and I am being made new.

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“Green Is” is what I call a “color profile” of my friend Kelcey. I write color profiles about people I love, combining the psychological and Biblical meanings of a color with what I know to be true of the person about whom I am writing:

Natural and raw and unmasked, green hides nothing and exposes a balance of the heart. Green is shades of jade, not of judgment and querimonious brood but of life, compassion, and mercy. Abundant in strength and zeal, green constantly flourishes in growth; it boasts endless seasons of spiritual and emotional generosity and spreads a wealth of renewal for withering meadows.  It is the healing Chroma not easily faded, for its peaceful vibrancy remains bold against grey.  Green does not burn in firestorms, rather it braves that which threatens to destroy life and draws upon the waters of faith rooted in the depths of the heart. Green bestows and honors organic love.

Soft are the hues of this lush color in times of revival, planting tender seeds of security and peace, and promising vitality for those who rest upon the nurturing stem of the emerald spirit. Green is a canopy under which lies introspective energy and safety; a refreshing refuge for the weary and fearful.  Verdant harmonies, cast from the warmth of optimism and the coolness of insight, produce the richest of hope for mournful souls. Green is the purest giver of gentle spiritedness among an earthly grove of living treasures.

Purple Is

Cyan Is

Orange Is

Gray Is

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The Mundane-ness of Mental Illness

I’m annoyed with my mental illness. I’ve been trucking along in anorexia recovery for about a year and a half now. I’ve worked really hard to get better, re-feeding my body, re-learning how to listen to and oblige my body cues for food, rest, and movement, digging under the thick layers of pain and distorted beliefs to root out the truth, and traversing through an emotional healing journey with my dad.  I’m better, and sometimes I even feel like I am all better.

Until a random trigger crops up out of no where and rolls around my brain like a pebble in my shoe. I don’t know where the pebble came from, and when I try to shake out the pebble to get on with my life, I realize the damn thing is still in my shoe.

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My mom graduated from Linfield College this past Sunday. It was a challenging and exhilarating six-year feat that my mom conquered with graceful (and coffee-fueled) perseverance. We took lots of pictures, one of which was this sweet shot of my brother, Carl, my  mom, dad, and me:

 

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I love this picture. I hate this picture. The joy and pride and love we have as a family and for my mom is real. Genuine. My heart is happy and warm when I look at this photo as a whole portrait.

But my brain, which has wonky wiring that I’m working hard to reprogram, is spewing all sorts of terrible lies about how I look in this picture. It has triggered up the volume on my eating disorder voice.

You need to know that I hate writing about this and didn’t want to because I am feeling a lot of shame for feeling how I feel. But in an effort to help you (and me) understand the eating disorder, I need to unpack this fresh, real-life moment inside the illness. Because I thought I was better. And I am, but I still have this pebble rolling around in my life called anorexia.

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The eating disorder tells me that in this picture:

  • I look fat and mis-shapen
  • I haven’t been paying attention to my eating
  • I can’t trust my body to intuitive eating
  • I am a fraud with all this intuitive eating shit
  • This body happened without my knowing, without my control
  • I need to lose weight

Shame is telling me:

  • I’m selfish for focusing on myself when it’s my mom’s big day
  • No one wants to hear about my disorder because it’s boring and getting mundane
  • I have become complacent in my recovery
  • Why can’t I just be better already?
  • It’s ridiculous to let an innocent picture trigger me into a tailspin

I spent Sunday fighting the urge to restrict and battling the voice that told me I was weak when I did eat. Monday I tried to work out my anxiety through yoga and running… swearing I wasn’t running to work out my body but to work out my angst and find my healthy voice. I was able to grasp on to enough positive truth to propel me through a good date-day with my husband, who, by the way, was at a loss as to how to help me. He thought I was fine too; this trigger sent us both flailing.

Thankfully I had therapy yesterday, and while my coping strategy with yoga and running worked okay temporarily, my therapist helped me see how the eating disorder manipulated running into a “healthy” choice when my actual healthy self had already questioned the choice as a healthy solution.

“I wonder,” said Tamara, “how things might have been different if instead of running or doing yoga to get rid of the ‘yuck’ you were feeling, you would have… what?”

“Sat in it,” I filled in the blank.

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Sometimes in my illness I try to run away from it. Literally, I guess. When I feel bad, I don’t want to feel bad so I do things to distract or feel better… like running and yoga and cleaning and organizing and even cooking. It’s me trying to “shake out the pebble”– to shake off the shame and shake out the eating disorder. Please understand these activities are perfectly fine when I do them from a healthy space. But when doing them in response to trigger, none of these activities are helpful and can just feed my disorder.

It isn’t until I sit down, still, and let myself feel–usually in prayer–that I uncover what is really going on–why the trigger was such a trigger. I have to take the pebble out with my hands, examine it, figure out where it came from, and decide what to do with it. The process is hard, and after a year and a half of being in recovery… doing this so. many. times., sitting in my feelings feels mundane and annoying because I think I should be all better now. I am better. And what I am going through right now is also normal in recovery. I’m not sick but I’m also not all better. There is no clear box for me to stand in, and I suppose that’s also annoying since I like things organized in their own little boxes.

I don’t have a neat ending to this post. I haven’t yet sat still. I’m fidgety and anxious today, struggling to keep in touch with my body cues. I haven’t approached God yet, and I don’t know why. I usually run to Him first, but I think I am afraid. My brain tells me God is going to tell me I am selfish and self-centered or that I have done something wrong. This trigger is my fault. My heart knows these are lies, but the illness makes me uncertain, and the illness is really loud right now.

 

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Anorexia Recovery: How food changed for my kids

The best intuitive eaters on the planet are kids. My job as a mom is to protect my children’s innate ability to feed themselves well. I wasn’t very good at this until the last year and a half while going through eating disorder recovery. It turns out that anorexia not only affected me, but also my children because I was super controlling of their food and portions. I watched their sugar, fat, and carb intakes; was hyper aware of fruit and veggie consumption; had strict rules about treats; managed snacks; and controlled how much/little food went on to their plates.

That was a lot of work, and really, in the scheme of culture totally normal for a parent wanting their kids to eat healthy. However, it caused stress at meal times. My kids weren’t good eaters–picky, whiny, and adverse to trying new things; everyone seemed hungry all the time;

When I went into eating disorder recovery, I had to relearn how to feed my family and reteach my kids what it really means to eat well. We follow the Ellen Satter Institute principles, which center on getting kids back to their intuitive ability to eat. Do kids need structure? Yes. Do they need to be hyper controlled? No. The nutshell of how this works:

~ Parents choose what and when kids eat

~ Kids choose if and how much/little they’ll eat.

As a mom I had to learn how to:

  1. Give my kids lots of choices of all the nutrients (including sugar, fat and carbs)
  2. Pull back on controlling what my kids put on their plates
  3. Teach my kids how to tune in with their bodies

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What this looks like in our house

We have zero food rules. All nutrients are treated equal, which means ice cream, cookies, and treats have equal value as fruit, veggies, and whole grains. When we don’t put food on a pedestal to be earned or treated as the holy grail of all things yummy, the interest and desire to eat the treats becomes more even keel.

There is no such thing as “good” or “bad” food nor “healthy” and “unhealthy.” We have play food and serious food–all of it good and healthy if our bodies are hungry and asking for them.

We have a zero-pressure environment at meal times. All the choices are put on the table  and then we tune in with our bodies. “What sounds good? Maybe start with a little and see how you feel–if you want more, have more. If you don’t like it, that’s okay. Maybe try a different choice on the table.”

No one has to eat everything on their plate. You don’t have to  try anything if you don’t want to; you can try everything if you want to. Decide what sounds good to you and eat that. If a plate of cookies sounds good… go for it. If your body doesn’t feel good later, we’ll talk about it and see if maybe next time we try less cookies in combo with another choice like chicken or fruit. Maybe our body would like that better.

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What mealtimes look like

Breakfast:

Eat whatever sounds good. Sean typically eats toaster waffles w/syrup or peanut butter; sometimes he’ll have an egg too, if he’s in the mood.

Haley usually eats one or more of the following with a bowl of chocolate ice cream on the side:

  • 1/2 peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Leftovers from dinner
  • Bagel and cream cheese
  • Bacon if it’s freshly cooked

Yeah. That’s right. Sometimes her breakfast is a bowl of ice cream with bacon on the side. Crazy? From a cultural perspective, yes. Biologically speaking, though, her body is reading and absorbing fat, calcium, Vitamin D, sugar and protein–all necessary nutrients to get her metabolism and brain up and running in the morning.

Lunch

Both kidlets get an apportioned amount of dollars  per month in their hot-lunch account. Each day they pick what sounds good–either the hot lunch choice, as per the monthly menu hanging in our kitchen, or whatever sounds good for home lunch. Home lunch will range from dinner leftovers to mac and cheese to a bologna sandwich. They make their own lunches with minor assistance from me. Once in a great while, depending on what’s happening, I will make lunch for them and they are over the moon.

Since ditching the food rules, the kids choose home lunch more often than hot lunch (averaging hot lunch about twice per week).

Snacks

We have a snack shelf in our pantry. They pack their home lunches from that shelf and have free access to the shelf whenever their bodies say “I’m hungry.” After school, they do have to have their snack eaten by 4:15 so they have appetites for dinner later.

I try to keep a bowl of “easy fruit” on the table at all times– grapes, cherries, blueberries–which I refresh every couple of days. Sometimes I switch to carrots, olives, cherry tomatoes. The whole family will graze on these as we’re coming and going through out the week.

Every night we have an optional “last snack of the day” between 8 and 9pm. Sometimes this is something as simple as string cheese or something off the snack shelf or it could be  more involved, like a hot dog or quesadilla. It just depends on the activity we had during the evening. No one needs to go to bed hungry, and, in fact, we find we sleep better when our bodies have fuel for the work it does while we sleep.

Dinner

Dinnertime is where intuitive eating really takes charge. Lots of choices and no pressure. Here’s a visual of what last week’s dinners looked like:

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Monday: Pizza Chicken; arugula salad with the toppings (mandarin oranges, strawberries) separate in case someone wanted fruit but no lettuce; whipped cream (for the strawberries if you want); Go-gurt, Jello, and chocolate pudding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday: My husband cooked Steak & Veggie Kabobs; rice; arugula salad with tomatoes; sliced strawberries. Not much else for choices that night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday: Broccoli Chicken; rice; baked beans, leftover popcorn from snack time; applesauce; cheese and crackers. This night was a total jackpot on the choices! Haley sampled a little of everything; Sean loaded up on cheese and crackers, baked beans, and a little broccoli chicken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thursday: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup; grilled cheese sandwiches; grapes; cherries; pickles. There was also ice cream, but I kept that in the freezer with expressed permission to grab some if desired. Sean’s baseball game had been cancelled due to rain, so we had a rare night at home! I took full advantage of the time by making something a little more time consuming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday: Sloppy Joes; ABC Salad (arugula, bacon, and cheddar cheese); grapes ‘n’ strawberry salad; Spongebob Squarepants fruit snacks; Chips Ahoy. Need I say more here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday: Pizza night! Forgot to take a picture.

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Sunday: Spaghetti Mac w/cheese; chocolate pudding; Jello; grapes and cherries; Go-gurt. I was running low on groceries that day and kind of made up the pasta dish. It was essentially elbow macaroni with meat sauce and shredded cheddar.

It took several months to find a new rhythm and sometimes we run into hiccups if our routine is thrown off, but removing the rigidity and rules (yet still keeping structure) has changed my kids for the better! They eat a variety of foods, including trying more new things; meal times are fun and relaxed; there’s no more begging for treats and snacks; they’re learning how to listen and respond to their own bodies. Now that they’ve reconnected to their intuition, food is fun, nourishing, and enjoyable as it was meant to be!