Thursday, November 15, 2012

Name the Cheeto Muncher

Thanks to my wonderful husband, Matt, my blog now looks like a blog instead of a test tube. I have totally fallen in love with this little fellow in the photo, munching away on the Cheeto (for breakfast, of course), but he needs a name. Give me suggestions. If I pick yours then I will write a blog post in your honor on the topic of your choice.

Let the game begin!

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Weighty Matter

Today I posed the question on Facebook, "How often do you weigh yourself?" So far the replies are what I have expected, all over the map. However, it does  seem that the majority of responses fit into two camps: every day or almost never.

In Camp 1, the motivation of the "every day" people is pretty straightforward and totally understandable. If you struggle with your weight and want to keep a tight reign on it, you keep daily watch lest five pounds leaps onto the bandwagon while you're not looking.

The motivation for the "hardly ever" crowd in Camp 2 seems to fall into two categories. The first is the category that every female dreams of fitting into but few ever make it there. These rare individuals don't get on a scale unless they are at the doctor's office because they just don't think about it. Weight is the farthest thing from their mind and they are totally comfortable in the body God gave them. Life is full of so much more and, well, what is a number, anyway? Sounds like heaven, huh ladies?

The second is far more common. The scale is the Doomsday machine. The purveyor of evil. The scale sees all and knows all and, worst of all, TELLS all. Turns out that a major reason people avoid going to the doctor is that they don't want to be weighed.  Last year, someone who will remain nameless (you can fess up if you want, you know who you are), wore shorts and sandals to the doctor's office in the freezing cold so that she would not weigh so much. Some choose to stand on the scales backwards and ask the nurse not to tell them the number. Others flat out refuse to be weighed at all and threaten to go elsewhere for medical care.

It's funny, isn't it? That a number can be so powerful. It makes no sense whatsoever, but the majority of women (and indeed some men) in our culture are influenced or controlled to some extent by that number.

I am not here slinging mud at others that I have not been bathed in myself. I spent several years of my young life in Camp 1. I weighed myself every day and, sometimes, several times a day. Of course, that is excessive and obsessive and I was terribly mixed up in the bizarre pursuit of the thinness that sucks the joy and life (sometimes literally) out of people. That is a long and messy story that I won't go into here but God graciously healed me through that over the years and brought me to a place of greater peace and less angst.

After the birth of my last child, we tossed out our rusty scale. We didn't want our children, especially our three daughters, growing up with a scale in the house and I knew that I didn't need the temptation to focus on that part of my life as I waded (or waddled?) into middle age. So I moved into Camp 2. Now I won't say that I NEVER weighed myself. There were occasional opportunities, but I would only do so when I felt "thin". All you ladies know what I mean. You can just TELL.

A couple of years back my husband bought a scale without my knowing it, so that he could monitor his attempt to rein in his middle aged middle. He kept the scale hidden for months before I found it in the back of a file cabinet drawer one day.

So now I am one of the "every so often" kind of people that don't really have much of a camp because there aren't very many of them. But even in this small camp I find that the numbers can still have more power than they were ever meant to. And it's crazy. And I say we stage a revolt.

By what authority can a number ever, ever, EVER define who you are as a person? Our culture is sick, deranged, and hell-bent on distracting us away from what truly matters. Whether it is airbrushed models or hyper-fit yoga instructors or uber-righteous news reporters telling us all how fat we are, the world screams that our value is all wrapped up in our physical packages and that bodies that are broken or floppy or fail to live up to the current standard of beauty are of no value. Not only are they of no value, but they are a source of shame and scorn.

But Jesus came for the sick, the scorned, the outcasts. Jesus never once mentioned a number on a scale. He doesn't say, "Blessed are you with a body mass index of 19-25, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven." He never says to the Pharisees, "Why are you so FAT?" He addresses the heart.

What does God require of us? To do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with him, regardless of a silly number.

A Wee Bit of Advice

I HATE advice. Especially unsolicited advice. I really try not to give advice unless asked.

Another thing I hate is our culture's obsession with health and wellness and weight. Taking it into consideration is a good thing. Hanging all of life, liberty and happiness on it is not.

Yet ANOTHER thing I hate is how this world has become even more divided into camps, so that the advice coming from one side cancels out the advice coming from the other and you can find yourself in an absolute schizophrenic frenzy whether you want to survive under the grasp of the evil "change of life," shed a few pounds, or even just grocery shop for your ravenous family.

The advice tends to come from two sides: the Experts and the experts. The Experts are those actually trained in the subjects of medicine, pharmacology, health, and nutrition. They have degrees from credentialed institutions of higher learning. The experts are everybody else. For some reason the experts seem to have the upper hand these days. The rebellion against the medical establishment is large and loud.

On the one side I see the problem. The overprescription of drugs. The overuse of pesticides. The lack of emphasis on "healthy" living (healthy being a rather elusive target).

On the other side I see a problem, too. The assumption that the that a "natural" supplement is always better than a manmade medication (note that I said always) and that the "healthy" living (i.e. the right diet) will cure all ills.

Now the right diet itself is up for such debate it makes your head spin: vegetarian, vegan, raw foods, whole foods (not the store), organic, gluten free, low fat, low carb, paleo, macrobiotic. Eat this. Don't eat that. And by all means, flee the high fructose corn syrup. It is mind boggling and maddening and if you listened to everybody you would be stuck living off of nothing but organic raw broccoli FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Barf.

So, I'm sick of it all. I'm sick of this bizarre obsession with weight and health and doing it all "right." I'm sick of people telling me to entrust my body (and its raging and/or absent hormones) to a fellow in the back of Green Life instead of the doctor who has treated me for years and knows my rather complicated medical and (full disclosure here) mental health history.

So now it is MY turn to give advice. Hah! By the way, I'm one of the Experts. (B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Tennessee, 1986) I haven't worked in the field in over two decades but I have tried to keep up with the comings and goings of trends and information. Much of what I am saying I said back then. Now I only say it with even more emphasis and perspective.

  • There is no magic bullet. There is no supplement, substance or food that will cure you of everything. Only death will do that.
  • Never trust health or nutrition advice from a company or website that has something to sell. There is an inherent conflict of interest. If it looks like good information, then find that confirmed somewhere else, preferably a scientific study done by an independent party, and not just from testimonials.
  • Unless you have a specific medical issue (kidney failure, diabetes, food allergies, phenylketonuria, etc.) there really isn't a food that is going to hurt you as long as you consume it in moderation. Categorizing foods into "good" and "bad" categories sets you up for an unhealthy way to relate to food.
  • If you are in pursuit of weight loss, make it a pursuit of healthier living. Make small, incremental changes that you can live with for the rest of your life. (I may do an entire blog post on what evil "diets" do to our physical and mental health.)
  • Put relationships ahead of the pursuit of your ideal. They really are more important, after all. If you cannot accept a dinner invitation because your host may not cook the "right" foods for you, there's a problem. You can be organic or paleo or whatever you jolly well please at home, but if you can't enjoy the company of others around the table or your kid can't eat a pizza at the school party because of your nutritional ideals, you're too obsessed. 
  • Be careful with the indignation with which you express your views. You may be speaking to someone who does not or cannot share your lifestyle or convictions. Somebody may actually NEED medication, no matter how healthy of a life they lead.
  • Remember that you are going to die. Some day. A healthy lifestyle can go a decent way in preventing certain types of diseases, but it can only do so much. One day SOMETHING will lay you low, whether the source is lifestyle, genetics, accidents or just old age. Don't be shocked. You will not live forever. (When Jackie Kennedy Onassis was diagnosed with lymphoma at the age of 64 she told her kids in "mock indignation" that she was "proud at being so fit. I swim and I jog...and walk around the reservoir -- and now this suddenly happens...Why in the world did I do all those push-ups?")
  • And above all, don't make this your god. There is only one God. He made you for so much more than pursuing health and evading death. Yes, we are to be stewards of the bodies he gave us but we are also to enjoy life and the world he has made.

Carry on.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mommy Blog Rant

I am getting really worn out by the mommy blogs. It seems that every mother of small children out there has a mommy blog. Now some of these are pure fun. They regale you with the ins and outs of mothering small monsters and scheming cherubs and have at least some of us shaking our head in a knowing way and giggling that we remember that well.

I guess I could write blogs like that but I am not a mommy anymore. I am a mom... and a grandmother, and my children are of the age that any mention of their shenanigans just might saddle them with an extra large dose of blog-induced shame. Perhaps one day I will present my offspring with a written waiver, allowing me to disclose what little I can remember of my early parenting days and holding me harmless for any stain to their reputation. But I'm not that brave....yet.

Then there are the other blogs. The teachy blogs. The preachy blogs. The sappy, get-your-spiritual-lesson-here blogs. I can't read those. They make me feel guilty (most things do, by the way). I could never be one of those moms.

Sometimes these blogs tell us what is most crucial as a parent and sometimes the bar gets raised higher and higher. Oh, this stuff all sounds so good on paper but in reality may be much more difficult to pull off, at least for some of us.

Some people just seem to be natural mothers. They are organized and disciplined and love to do things with paper plates and glitter (shudder). These are the moms that are not fazed by juggling multiple small children and keeping chaos at bay. I can only assume that when God handed out this Child Raising Skill Kit, I was in the bathroom.

Last week a friend linked to a a mommy blog article that actually sounded very good (on paper). It was all about teaching your kids that they can take you at your word so that they learn how to keep their word or something like that. I read the blog poster's bio and she is actually a mother of four, though it did not say what ages her four are.

I guess what got to me is that this blog, like most, seem to imply that so much of our  kids' moral and spiritual development is dependent on what we do or don't do, even in the early years. Bummer!

Perhaps I am the only one who struggled here but this "make your yes be yes and your no be  no" principle can be really hard to pull off. I remember when mine were little and the buzzword in parenting was consistency. You must be consistent with your children or they will grow up deranged and drooling. That was all good and well with my first, or at least I could make a B grade in the consistency department, but when I got pregnant with #2 it all went out the window.

Will someone please tell me how you are supposed to be consistent when you are puking your guts out and your 14 month old is pouring out the box of Cheerios or taking apart the television? The "no, don't do that" suddenly becomes a "here, honey, enjoy yourself."

And those rules on consequences to behavior! "Never tell a kid they will have a consequence and not give it to them." That is fine and dandy if you can actually remember. All I know is that by the time I got home from Wal-Mart or the grocery store or whatever place I braved with my brood, any memory of the hair pulling or the karate chop to the sister's solar plexus (which requires a consequence in the parenting books) was replaced by the temper tantrum or the toddler who peed in the cereal aisle. Consequences? Who? What? Just give me some Calgon and a glass of wine. I was happy to have made it home alive.

I am not saying that parents shouldn't be parents. I am just saying that it is **** hard to be a parent and all these blogs of should this and do that can be overwhelming and lead one to believe that this level of parenting can actually be achieved. And maybe it can, for some.

But what I have learned over my almost 23 years as a mother is that you fail more than you succeed. You are weak more than you are strong. You mess up more than you get it right. And that is where you meet Jesus. I know God will have mercy on my children, for he has had mercy on me.