What I Really Did

Hardly a day goes by that I don't receive the comment (either in person or, more often, via messages on this blog) of how amazing it is that I "beat the odds" and lost (and have kept off) the weight. Now, don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful compliment and I'm definitely so grateful for the lightness and freedom that I feel each day that is a result of shedding this excess weight. However, my biggest accomplishment is not changing how I looked on the outside but, rather, changing so many toxic things that were at the core of who I was.

We can approach this from a spiritual, new age angle and say that I changed my thoughts and, therefore, changed my reality. Or we can take the clinical approach and say that I implemented behavioral modifications that resulted in a more positive outcome. Either way, I changed so much about myself that I can hardly recognize who I used to be, so much so that it seems so unreal to me now that I was able to live that way for so long.
After years of feeling a way that I can only explain as...."blah", I began to feel weary. The food that had once been used for celebration, comfort, etc. had now turned against me and made my body almost too large to function. It didn't really even taste good anymore, especially when I knew how it would almost instantly make me feel once the taste was gone. The drone of the t.v. no longer soothed me...it actually began to prickle the little hairs on the back of my neck (it often still does). Avoiding housework and other life things that just sat undone all around me no longer gave me a sense of freedom and relaxation. In fact, it began to leave a permanent knot in my stomach and drain me of the little energy that I was even able to wake up with in those days.
And, then, there sat this new helpless little person who looked to me for everything. What did I have left to give to him? Not much. I barely had anything within me to begin with. That is probably what finally pushed me over the edge and forced me to decide if I wanted to continue to "get by", spread myself a little thinner with my new title as "mommy" and just make the best of it or if I wanted, instead, to grab my life by the throat and choke the shit out of it!!

And that is exactly what I did.
When I left my house, my 12 year marriage and career that I had worked so hard for (because of my lust for money) in 2009, I would love to say that I walked out with my head held high, hell bent on making a new, better life for myself and never looked back. The truth is, I was broken. I collapsed into my parents' house a messy heap of a person...barely a person. Years of numbing myself had taken it's toll. Who was I? I knew what I DIDN'T want anymore but what did I want now?

The only thing I knew for sure is that I didn't want to feel this empty and miserable anymore. Something else I knew I wanted was....a boyfriend. In retrospect, my priorities were most definitely screwed up but, all I knew, after years of a passionless marriage, I was starved for it. And, it turns out, when you have low self-esteem and are desperate for a man that you don't always wind up making the best decisions. Who knew?!

I won't rehash, once again, the lows I went to in my pursuit of a man who didn't want me. I will, instead, talk about my ascent out of that low place and into the light. Because, just like my weight, my willingness to lower my expectations of what I needed and deserved, and to make myself look like a crazy love-starved fool to get it, was symptomatic of my tendency to focus on external things for happiness instead of looking for it between my own two ears.

We all have that hole that needs to be filled. Some people fill it with food, some with drugs, some with video games, others with sex. The slightly more sensible ones fill it with work, their children or religion. I filled mine with the easiest, best feeling things, whatever that happened to be at the moment. Once I stopped focusing on those various things and turned my focus inward, my life changed forever.

I've spent hours upon hours of writing blog posts that can best outline and explain the changes I made that led to my better, happier, healthier, more complete and amazing existence but I feel they all fall short. If I could sum up the catalyst for all these changes and the vehicle that helped drive them in one sentence I guess it would be "I remembered myself." Each and every time I felt weak and powerless, I began to recognize that there was one common thread, I was focusing on something external. This empty, exhausting feeling would vanish almost instantly as soon as I consciously turned the focus back onto myself.

One of the ways that I began to find a more lasting good feeling is in a way that I have repeated over and over again in many other posts, although I am sure it is not the glamorous, fun solution some people might want to hear about. Exercise. It became my thing I did for me. After a lifetime of finding new and creative ways to avoid moving, I was going out of my way to make it happen. I began to realize that anytime I thought about how I could improve my health through exercise and nutrition, I began to feel energetic, inspired and focused. It became how I dealt with feeling out of control.

The times that I suspected Mr. Not-Right-For-Me was cheating on me or when he added another bullet point to the ever-growing "Things That Are Wrong With You" list I would, of course, start by feeling helpless, hurt and/or angry. Then I would feel something else. Determination. I would turn that pain and lack of control into something amazing and I would propel myself toward my next fitness level. I started to become addicted to this feeling of control and started to use it whenever I felt out of control in ANY situation in life. Then I started to progressively realize that I felt empowered any time I could control ANY aspect of my life. Where I once would let laundry pile up for weeks, I began to feel addicted to the feeling of sliding the last drawer closed after putting away freshly laundered clothes. I craved a clear, clean space and am now acutely aware of how an unmade bed drains my energy and makes me unfocused.

I no longer go through the motions while living a numb, half existence. My heart is in this! I am living with purpose and meaning. Passion for life is a sustainable passion that can not be taken away by an external source.
Now, a couple years since I left my old life so directionless and out of control, I know who I am, what I love and what fills my empty spot. When I nourish my body with food and exercise, my mind with constant growth and my soul with self-love and freely giving of my self and my love to others, I feel so completely full. It is a fullness that all that food and all those poor choices in life never afforded me. It is a fullness in the depth of my soul and my cup runneth over.

Side By Side Before/After Pics

Sadly, I've never been able to figure out how to do side by side pics for my blog. Luckily my boyfriend rocks! So, finally, I actually look semi-professional now!.....

Ways to Eat Right on a Budget

I VERY OFTEN hear people complain that they can't afford to eat healthy. Well, as a single mom on a tight budget, I'm here to tell you that eating healthy is possible for basically everyone! Here are the ways that I have found to get quality food for very little money:

1. Farms and Farmers' Markets! Local farms provide cheaper, fresher, often cleaner produce than in the store. I am very lucky to have a couple of farms and farmers' markets in my area and, for a large portion of the year, I get fresh (often organic) produce for a fraction of the price I would pay in the store for the substandard counterpart. I can leave a farmers' market with a giant bag of organic produce for under $10. I can leave my local farm with the same size bag for under $5. Plus, I'm supporting small farmers and local business. It's a no brainer!

2. Salvage Stores. I recently discovered a type of store that has changed my life!! Grocery salvage stores. These are often run down stores that smell funny and you don't give a second glance when you're driving by. In fact, I live in a very small town yet I have 3 salvage stores (that I know if so far) within a 5-15 minute drive. These stores receive the regular grocery store "rejects". Sometimes it can be because the expiration date has passed or is about to pass and, other times, it could be something as small as a slight tear or scratch on a label. The savings in these stores is AMAZING! I LITERALLY can leave one of these stores with 2 giant cloth bags absolutely packed to the brim with organic produce for $3-$10. For instance, the BIG plastic shells of organic spinach or salad mix that are about $6.99 at Walmart are....brace yourself....$0.25 at the salvage store that is 4 minutes from my house. And these are almost never even out of date. Sometimes the expiration date is a week out and the produce looks exactly like it does in the grocery store where I would pay 28 times more for the same thing!

3. Order online in bulk! Okay, this might not be for everyone but, for me, it saves a lot of money on certain items that I eat frequently. Here is an example. If you buy 100 calorie snack packs (which are almost always horrible choices that leave you hungrier, for actual hormonal reasons, than when you started), you are spending anywhere from $2-$5 for about 500-800 calories of junk. Meanwhile, you can buy a 5 lb bag of raw cashews on Amazon for $36.65 (this includes shipping). First, raw cashews are an excellent balance of carbs, protein and healthy fat. They will keep you fuller longer and they have a thermogenic effect which means that a 100 calories of cashews is actually LESS calories than 100 calories of the over processed simple carb fake food that you get in the snack packs. More and more we are learning that a calorie is NOT just a calorie. It's much more complex than that. So $36.65 seems like a lot? Well, there are 12,400 calories in 5 pounds of cashews. Which means there are 124 100 calorie "snack packs" in this package. This translates to $0.30 per snack. If it came in a box of 5, it would be $1.50. THAT is bargain shopping!

4. Shop the markdowns. Doing this one thing has saved me SO much money! When I grocery shop, I have a set list of staples and then I make my rounds through the produce and meat section looking for markdowns to build my meals around for the week and to buy extra of to freeze if it's a really good price. For instance, my son loves Harvest Farms all natural hot dogs. They are generally $6-$7 a pack so we don't get them very often. However, when they were recently marked down to $2.99 a pack, I emptied the case and loaded up my freezer. Also, I check the expiration date of the organic chicken and always try to hit the store the day before it expires because I've learned that my store marks it down to an insanely cheap price that's less than regular chicken. Sometimes I've had more than 10 packages of organic chicken frozen. And it's a great feeling to know it's there! And my son is eating a lot of bananas this week because they had a bag of probably 20+ perfect looking organic bananas for $1.49.

5. Get the staples. Some of the cheapest foods are also the healthiest. Eggs, for example, are a perfect food! Forget what you've heard about eggs being bad for you! Eggs contain healthy fats that your body needs! The key is to get eggs that have omega-3 in them. It will generally indicate this on the package. These run about $2.50-$3.00 per carton. Which comes to $0.21-$0.25 per egg. I try to keep about a dozen eggs boiled at any given time because they are my go to food when my son and I need a quick meal or snack. Other low cost, healthy foods include tuna fish, bananas, sweet potatoes, and dry beans.

6. Stop eating out! Nothing bugs the crap out of me more than people who tell me they can't afford to eat healthy, yet they eat at fast food places on a regular basis. If you find yourself in this category, try not eating out for one month. Any time you find yourself refraining from eating out when you generally would, write down the date and how much you would have spent (including tip if applicable) and keep a running tally. At the end of one month, multiply that total by 12 and divide it by 52 to see how much extra money could be going into your grocery budget for healthy food each week.

7. Grow a garden. I haven't actually done this one yet but, after knowing enough people who can stroll out in their garden and pluck fresh produce straight from the ground for their meal that evening, I am chomping at the bit to get started this Spring. Don't have room? How about a few herbs in your kitchen window? It brings a little nature inside (which can lift your spirits) and plants actually clean your air!

8. Decide that you can't afford to NOT eat healthy!!!! Yes, healthy food can sometimes be a little more, even when put to use all of the above. However, disease can easily be much more costly. And not just financially. How much is your happiness and comfort worth? How much are the extra, QUALITY years that you may get to spend with the people you love worth?

Also remember that our dollar is our vote. It is our communication to manufacturers and the government (who currently subsidizes crops that are almost exclusively used to create the poisons that are going onto the shelves and into our and our childrens' bellies) of what foods we want to see more or less of. As we cast our vote each week at the grocery store in a healthier way, we will create much needed change in this country. Health care costs are higher than they've ever been and continue to rise. If we don't pay for our health on the front end, we will continue to pay for it on the back end and we will be miserable in the process.

Happy New Year

True change doesn't happen until we pry ourselves up out of the ground where we are currently stuck...even buried. Until we cast off past hurts, long held beliefs and ideas about who we are and what we deserve, real change can not happen. We need to be fluid and flexible, able to switch courses as needed in life. Today is NOT that magical day when our lives will completely change and we will become that person we've always longed to be. No single day will be that day. BUT today is the only moment we currently have to start looking at our lives realistically, to stop shifting blame (and, therefore, POWER) onto other people and start assessing what we can change first. Real, life-long change generally happens in tiny steps. Let's take that first step today. And the next one tomrrow. By 2014, we will be well on our way to that person we've always longed to be!
Stay true to yourself. Give yourself what you deserve this year. Happy New Year!