Friday Fundamentals: Hope and Social Justice

I just finished reading “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown, PhD. She describes what is going on in individuals and society at large when we experience shame. When I try to talk about what I have learned from this book, I have had to start out describing what shame really is. I told one person about shame, and their response was that they wish people were more ashamed these days – ashamed of their immoral choices. That is different. What they really wish is that people would feel more guilt about their choices, but because people already feel so ashamed of who they are, their behaviors are justified, sort of. Dr. Brown describes shame as an attack on our identity or inherent sense of worth, and fear of disconnection. Shame is “I AM bad”, while guilt is “I DID something bad that doesn’t align with my values.” Guilt compels people to change and grow.  I am totally paraphrasing any of the information I got from this book, just so you know. If you want direct quotes, read the book. It is awesome.  (By the way, this is a super long post, but I hope you’ll bear with me).

When people experience shame, our “flight or fight”, or natural response is one of three reactions: to move toward it (to please or appease), move away from it (hide, become detached or depressed), or move against it (become aggressive, shame or blame others). You know we see examples of this EVERYWHERE. That is the point of Brene Brown’s message. Shame is a plague on our society. Because of shame, we are isolating ourselves, propagating disconnection. People are afraid of being vulnerable because we believe we live in a world where there are two types of people: kill or be killed.

“Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.”
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

ONE example of shame that resonates with me the most is how all women experience shame around motherhood. All women do. If you have no babies, people start asking when you are going to start, or remind you that you won’t be able to have babies forever. If you have a baby, you’d better be married, that baby had better be flawless, and you had better be perfect. Then people ask when you’re having another. When you have them, you feel pressure about everything: too many kids, too few, you’re too young, you’re too old, they are spaced too close, they are spaced too far apart, you should co-sleep, you should let them cry, your kid should be reading before they can sit up, they are too thin, they are too fat, vaccinate, don’t vaccinate, you’re too permissive, you’re too aggressive, and ultimately you are wasting your college degree and an insult to the female sex. If you can’t have children, you are burdened with shame, and you will never understand what it is really like to be a mom. If you have ever had an abortion, you are in a world of shame (not advocating anything here, I just want to make a point). Everyone can find a reason to say you are a BAD mom. Shame. Most of the time, people who are pointing the finger the loudest are the ones who feel the most ashamed of where they are in this spectrum. I saw a meme recently that said something like, there is no way to be a perfect mom, but there are a million ways to be a good one. That’s good stuff right there.  Check out Brene Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto on her website.

“The real questions for parents should be: “Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?” If so, plan to make lots of mistakes and bad decisions. Imperfect parenting moments turn into gifts as our children watch us try to figure out what went wrong and how we can do better next time. The mandate is not to be perfect and raise happy children. Perfection doesn’t exist, and I’ve found what makes children happy doesn’t always prepare them to be courageous, engaged adults.”
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

I took a personality psychology class during my undergraduate studies, and we discussed the plague of personifying characteristics as inherent flaws rather than simple choices. Think of that last time someone cut you off. Did you think, “boy, that was rude. Didn’t they see me here? Maybe they did not learn how to drive properly” Or did you think, “what a jerk!” and go the rest of your trip driving offensively because the road is full of jerks, essentially becoming one yourself.  In shame culture, we attribute our choices to who we are, rather than simply our process of learning and growth that is naturally fraught with mistakes.

“When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.”
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

If we consider Erik Erikson’s stages of psychological development, we go through a phase where we either experience autonomy, or shame and doubt.  If you never experience true autonomy (self-efficacy), you get stuck in that phase.

We all have something to gripe about. All of it, very real. Sexism, racism, class-ism, ageism, sexuality, level of education or the type of work you do, religiosity vs. atheism, political views, parenthood, single vs. married, fat vs. skinny, the list goes on and on! We all fall into some category that we identify with, and we can find someone on the “opposite” side claiming their plight is worse, or more credible. Everyone is fighting over who is the bigger victim rather than owning our story.

Brene Brown says that to conquer shame we have to own our story so that we can be the ones to write its ending. In my mind, this means applying the atonement of Jesus Christ, His grace, to repent and make your life new. It means being agents who take accountability for life and choices, having the power to act for yourself, rather than be acted upon. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explains this concept: “As you and I come to understand and employ the enabling power of the Atonement in our personal lives, we will pray and seek for strength to change our circumstances rather than praying for our circumstances to be changed. We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14)” ( “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality“)

Dr. Brown says the antidote, or the supernatural response to shame is empathy and connection. Find someone who will commiserate with you and console one another with soothing responses of identification and compassion. I believe the most important connections we can have that create the deepest resilience are our connection with God, and our family and/or ancestors. In the context of what I am saying, a deeper remedy to the problems of our society is hope. What is hope? Hope is a topic Dr. Brown touches of briefly in her book. She says hope is “grit” or “a function of struggle.” The ability to endure discomfort because you have developed strong character. Hope is a learned trait. It is cultivating our capacity to persevere. It takes practice to learn how to endure discomfort, failure, stress, tolerance, delayed gratification, rejection, and fear. People who have hope know who they are, they have self-efficacy, and are resilient to those things that cause pain or discomfort because they can endure it knowing there will be a bright side to it all, or at least an end. Someone who has hope doesn’t let tough things change who they are.  They can enter into a vulnerable situation with hope that they can endure it.

” Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God” (Ether 12:4, The Book of Mormon, emphasis added).

If people had hope in a better world, they would not be insecure when they hear insults, but would let it slide because they can endure a little discomfort. When you have hope, you can act on faith to produce that better world. Faith is an action word that compels us to do something supernatural. Rather than focus on the negative, look for the bright spots.  Rather than fighting the things you disagree with, promote the things you believe in and care about.  If you hope to grow a garden, you act in faith to plant a seed and to water it and nourish it (See Alma 32, The Book of Mormon). If you give up faith that the seed will grow, you will stop nourishing it. You will also lose hope that you will ever have a garden.  You might wonder why you’re experiencing a trial, and perhaps it may simply be that you need a greater measure of hope.

“Sister Burton told Latter-day Saint women that as they move along life’s path, the Lord gives them burdens to carry that they might yoke themselves to Him. ‘Yoking ourselves to Him not only helps us develop the spiritual muscle needed to get us through our current trials but also blesses us with His enabling power, which helps us face the future trials that surely await us.'” (General Auxiliary Presidents Speak to Women About Atonement).

I believe that through hope we have the power to see the world differently, to look for the bright spots, to have hope in a better world! Then, have faith that we can do something about it. We don’t have to all agree with each other, but we can let things slide without it breaking down our character. We can show expressions of love to others who may be ignorant of our plight. We can also seek out those who will understand and have empathy rather than withdraw and become bitter.

“Wholeheartedness. There are many tenets of Wholeheartedness, but at its very core is vulnerability and worthiness; facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough.”
“Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

“And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.
“And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works” (Alma 7:23-24, The Book of Mormon).

“And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?
“And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.
“Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.
“And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.
“If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.
“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure” (Moroni 7:40-48, The Book of Mormon).

 

 

Wednesday Willpower: The Waiting Place

When you’re young and naive and you are first reading this book, it sounds like encouragement!  It looks like Dr. Seuss is telling you all the great things you have ahead of you, and what an exciting journey it is!  Then, you grow up and get a little more experience, and you realize that Dr. Seuss is actually warning you about reality.  He warns about the times when you’ll fail, times when you’re lost, times when you will have to wait on something before you can progress.  He talks of loneliness and disappointment, trials and weakness.  And you realize then, he is really talking about real life, and we can only hope that our story really does end well.  At least Dr. Seuss is optimistic in the end.

The waiting place is where nothing is happening, and all you can do is wait. And wait…and wait…and wait.  It feels like we’re always waiting for something.  What a terrible place.  Is there nothing to be done to get out of this place?  I feel very familiar with this place…like my second home.

The waiting place makes you feel self-absorbed, self-conscious, helpless, discouraged, impatient, and doubtful.  What is to be done?  Have I been forgotten here?

In The Book of Mormon we read about a people who can only wait.  The people of Alma become enslaved by the Lamanites and the people of Amulon, a wicked man and former priest of King Noah (check out the book of Mosiah to learn about the history of this people).  Under the reign of Amulon, the people of Alma were laden with tasks, and were forbidden to pray aloud.  However, they continued to pray in their hearts.  In answer to their prayer, the Lord told them this:

“Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:13-15).

Notice that the Lord did not immediately relieve the people of their burdens.  Instead, He gave them the capacity to bear their burdens with ease, and to continue “cheerfully and with patience” to submit to God’s will.  They probably would have faithfully waited for the Lord to deliver them from bondage for as long as they needed to, and He would deliver them as long as they were faithful.

I always remember this scripture from my first year at EFY (Especially for Youth, like youth summer camp for a week) the year it was “Joy in the Journey”:

“Therefore, continue your journey and let your hearts rejoice; for behold, and lo, I am with you even unto the end” (Doctrine and Covenants 100:12).

We are never left alone.  When we are feeling trapped in the waiting place, the best thing we can do is to improve our attitudes, turn ourselves outward to serve others, and be better disciples of Christ.

Read also:

Alma 7:11-12
Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-9
Ether 12:27

More on this:

“We Can Find Happiness”: http://www.lds.org/plan/we-can-find-happiness?lang=eng
“You Matter to Him” by President Deiter F. Uchtdorf: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/you-matter-to-him?lang=eng
Mosiah chapters 2 through 4: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah?lang=eng
“The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality” by Elder David A. Bednar: http://www.lds.org/liahona/2012/04/the-atonement-and-the-journey-of-mortality?lang=eng&query=atonement+journey+mortality
“Mountains to Climb” by President Henry B. Eyring: http://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/05/mountains-to-climb?lang=eng#footnote2-10405_000_010
“Forget Me Not” by President Deiter F. Uchtdorf: http://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/general-relief-society-meeting/2011/09/forget-me-not?lang=eng

Wednesday Wondering: Being a Peacemaker

What does it really take to be a peacemaker? Just wondering. Is anyone really good at being a peacemaker?

It says in the Guide to the Scriptures that a peacemaker is “A person who brings about or promotes peace (Matt. 5:9; 3 Ne. 12:9).” I get the part about promoting peace, but to actually bring it about is a little harder.

To understand more what it means to be a peacemaker, I refer to President Thomas S. Monson’s talk from the Priesthood session of General Conference in October of 2009 entitled, “School Thy Feelings, O My Brother.”

In President Monson’s talk, I learned that “Anger doesn’t solve anything. It builds nothing, but it can destroy everything” (Lawrence Douglas Wilder, quoted in “Early Hardships Shaped Candidates,” Deseret News, Dec. 7, 1991, A2.)

We’ve all felt anger. It can come when things don’t turn out the way we want. It might be a reaction to something which is said of us or to us. We may experience it when people don’t behave the way we want them to behave. Perhaps it comes when we have to wait for something longer than we expected. We might feel angry when others can’t see things from our perspective. There seem to be countless possible reasons for anger.

To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can make us angry. It is our choice. If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry.

…we are all susceptible to those feelings which, if left unchecked, can lead to anger. We experience displeasure or irritation or antagonism, and if we so choose, we lose our temper and become angry with others. Ironically, those others are often members of our own families—the people we really love the most.

School thy feelings, O my brother;
Train thy warm, impulsive soul.
Do not its emotions smother,
But let wisdom’s voice control.
School thy feelings; there is power
In the cool, collected mind.
Passion shatters reason’s tower,
Makes the clearest vision blind. 8
This last poem reminded me of a section in my health textbook about emotional intelligence. I found it invariably profound to consider the discipline it takes to master emotions to this depth. But, I imagine many fights would be avoided if people could master emotion.

“Emotional intelligence can be defined as the degree to which we can skillfully and adaptively deal with our emotions and those of others.
“More specifically, this involves the following:
1. Recognizing feelings as they occur
2. Responding to feelings with neither impulsive, aggressive reactivity, nor suppression, denial, distraction, or avoidance
3. Being able to tolerate and contain strong emotions and soothe yourself in the presence of powerful feelings
4. Being able to use the energy of strong emotions to motivate yourself and respond skillfully to the situation at hand
5. Being able to perceive the content of feelings in order to connect the emotion to its source and understand why you are feeling a particular emotion
6. Being able to recognize and bear the feelings of others without needing to distance yourself or dissuade the other person from having their feelings
7. Being able to persist in the face of fear or frustration and cultivate resilience
8. Being able to delay gratification
9. Being able to be curious and stay open to feelings rather than close down, tighten up, or turn away from emotions
10. Being able to express a wide range of emotions in a way that is natural and to a degree that is appropriate to the particular situation

“How do you cultivate emotional intelligence? The key lies in the ability to develop the overarching skill of mindfulness – the ability to dispassionately observe thoughts and feelings as they occur and while they’re occurring. This skill is aided by culivating a “witness” or a “watcher” in your mind and noting the arising of strong reactions with a certain detachment. By holding our reactions in a larger mental space we can make more measured, wise, and skillful responses to the situation at hand.
“Mindfulness can be cultivated by simply paying more attention to the operation of our minds, slowing down our lives enough to make more detailed observations, and staying in the moment so as to maximize awareness of our selves and others. Although we often have a limited ability to control external events, it turns out that we have a great deal of ability to discipline, focus, and train our minds. With practice, we not only can become more emotionally intelligent but also may be able to cultivate an ongoing peace of mind that many people find so elusive” (Core Concepts of Health, Insel, pg 101).

No one is perfect, except for Christ. Only through Him can we truly possess the pure love of Christ: charity, and become peacemakers. I believe relationships can heal. It requires faith, and the willingness to bear the yoke of grace together with the Savior, and become like a child.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30)

Wednesday Wellness: Humility

Being humble doesn’t mean being weak. Being humble simply means acknowledging God’s hand in my life and attributing all of life’s gifts to His tender mercy. Humility even means attributing life’s trials to His perfect understanding of what I need and what I am capable of.
After losing so much weight, my sweet mother sent me a note saying, “don’t let it get to your head.” At first I thought she was suggesting that I was being prideful, or bragging about my success. Then I realized that what she really meant was to stay humble and not forget where my success had come from. She wanted to make sure that I wasn’t getting lazy because things were going so well, or to slack off in a false sense of security. She has a very good point.
It would be so easy to give up. It would be easy to fall back into old habits and start being careless about my health or my responsibilities. It is so much easier to sit around or to eat junk all the time, to give up on exercising and trying to eat well. It is ingrained in my nature – human nature – to take the path of least resistance, to give in to carnal cravings or make excuses. It’s natural, but I don’t think giving into my nature is what is best for my long-term success or happiness. I know it would be easy to give in to these things, but I can’t let down the divinity within me that is rooting me on to keep going and never give up! I have to acknowledge that as a steward of my body and mind I cannot forsake the knowledge I’ve been given to care for this gift that God has given me. Besides, at any moment I could lose everything. I could become ill. I could get injured and lose my capacity to do basic functions. I could become unable to care for myself or my family at any moment, and the inevitability of the end of this life constantly looms like a shadow, even at my age. Life is a gift that can be taken away at any moment.
I know that seems depressing. It happens to people all the time. I’m always impressed by people who take on physical challenges and overcome them as though it were not a handicap at all, but a great catalyst to success! (See Paul Schulte, and Stephanie Nielsen) I don’t know if I have that much strength within me to do that! I don’t want to find out either! So I live each day in grace knowing that I must do my very best and the Lord will do the rest!

Elder Bednar said it best in “The Tender Mercies of the Lord”:

The Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Faithfulness and obedience enable us to receive these important gifts and, frequently, the Lord’s timing helps us to recognize them…We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live. When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance (see 1 Nephi 1:20).

Sunday Spirituality: Wrestling in Prayer (Revised)

A thought occurred to me that maybe a lot of heartache and trial could be avoided when we take the time to commune with the Lord through prayer. Enos talks about wrestling with the Lord in prayer and received a remission of his sins. What does that really mean to me? Enos prayed MANY hours before he received his answers. Is it only a matter of time before we receive the answers we seek? Or is it a matter of the state of our mind, and heart? How often do I pray until my prayer becomes a conversation, and my mind and heart become enlightened by revelation? Usually this happens when I am anxious about something or am struggling for an answer. But what if my prayers were always full of anxiety that I might be always open to receive revelation? How much more would I be prepared to learn if I always had the capacity to receive it?

My favorite definition of prayer is in the Bible Dictionary:

As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.

Heavenly Father is just waiting for us to ask Him for what we need.  I believe that when we open our hearts in prayer, the Spirit gives us the words to pray and prepares our hearts to receive the answers.

Wednesday Weight Loss: The Beginning

Before: From This...

When my son was born nearly eighteen months ago, I needed to get back into shape.  I was very overweight.  I had been doing OK  through my son’s first year, but as his first birthday approached I felt like I was ready for more.  I read on this lady’s blog that she had “organized” her weight loss.  Being an organized person myself, I was interested and checked it out.  She talked about this program online that is just like Weight Watchers, only it’s free, and that’s when my paradigm shifted.  This post is what I learned.  In the last eighteen months, I have lost 50 pounds, but nearly 20 of that was in the first three months of starting this program.  I haven’t reached my goal yet, but just knowing that I am on the right track is empowering!  I know I will eventually get there.

This is not a quick fix, fad dieting, drop weight quick solution for anything.  What I did was a lifestyle change!  This was a makeover of my life and my habits and I became healthier over all.  I learned that if you want to truly be healthy, if you are serious about losing weight, then you have to be willing to take this seriously, be honest with yourself, and you’re going to have to be willing to get your butt down on the floor and do some sit ups, and push ups.

(Disclaimer:  I am not a professional and I don’t claim any medical credentials.  You should consult a doctor before starting any weight loss program).

  • Step 1: I joined Lose It! .com and started tracking EVERYTHING!  I had to be completely honest with myself.  It was tedious and time consuming at first, but totally worth it!  This program has given me a profound sense of self-efficacy.  I feel empowered by knowing my boundaries and goals.  And it has been a lot of fun!  Lose It! is a FREE program that will allow you to easily keep track of your diet and exercise.  There is a huge database of foods and exercises you can search, but you can also add any food and exercise if you have the nutrition/caloric information.  You can add recipes easily and it will calculate the nutrition information of each serving.  You can share your progress with friends via Facebook, Twitter, or email, or adding friends within the program.  There is even an iPhone and Android app to make it that much easier!  This was my first step and the one that opened my eyes to how quickly calories add up!  Check it out!
  • Step 2: “Listen to this dude, [Alton].  He knows what he’s talking about” (name that quote)!  Seriously, though.  Check out Alton Brown’s “Live and Let Diet” program.  I LOVE IT.  It is the ultimate NON-DIET program.  It’s all about moderation, and getting all the right kinds of foods when you eat.  To help me track the quality of my diet, I created a spreadsheet to make sure I am getting all the right stuff.
    • Follow Alton’s advice about what to/not to eat

      Source: Uploaded by user via Jodi on Pinterest

    • Drink LOTS of water
    • Moderation and balance are good things to remember.  The cool thing about the Lose It! program is that your goals are daily ones, but they also span the entire week.  That means if you are really good for several days, you may be able to go over one day and still be within your weekly goal.  Or, if you mess up one day and eat too much, you can make up for it the other days and still be within your weekly goal.  Don’t beat yourself up over a bad day.
    • I generally try to eat a protein and a carbohydrate in every meal.  I eat fruits in the early part of the day, and vegetables in the afternoon and evening.
    • Get plenty of fiber and probiotics via whole fruits & veggies, whole grains, yogurt, and if needed, supplements like ground flax seeds, psyllium husks, and acidophilus.  I know there are other ways to get probiotics, but this is good enough for me.
    • Drink LOTS of water.  I drink three 24 ounce bottles/cups of water a day.
    • In general, I eat the same things for breakfast and lunch.  That makes it easy to plan and discipline myself.  I get my variety from dinner and plan at least one vegetarian meal a week.
    • Alton’s video leaves off talking about breakfast, and in the show he goes on to talk about his smoothie.  I have this smoothie every morning (but about half the portion he prepares). (Here’s the recipe).
  • Step 3: Fitness is KEY.  I’m pretty busy, so fitness is kind of tough.  But without fitness, I would not have been successful!  I have had to organize my time in a way that will allow me to get exercise into my schedule every day!  I try to do about 45 minutes a day.  I started out walking twenty minutes a day on my treadmill at about 3 mph on a 10% incline.  I added a few resistance exercises including this routine that got me started (link).  A good baseline fitness test is one I found here. I took the 30-day challenge and I still try to do it everyday since.(Check out this online stop watch to help track the intervals of this workout).  It’s just 7 minutes of intense intervals, but it’s a good foundation for my daily workout.  (I have a spreadsheet to track the 30-days.  Just click here to get it).  Once I’ve done this, I feel energized to do the rest of my workout, be it jogging on the treadmill, strength training, or a video. Then, I go record everything into Lose It! and watch my calorie budget rise!

That’s it?  Yup!  That’s it!  You really have to personalize the program to yourself and how it will work best for you, but this is all I’ve done!  I keep track of (and improved) my diet and exercise, and that’s it.

I try to get the most out of my workouts by intensifying them (this blog explains how to do that).  I am not on a diet, but I work hard to stay within my caloric budget.  I eat salty and sweet treats, but in moderation.  I actually have a food scale to keep track of those little things.  1 ounce serving of potato chips means I eat 1 ounce!  One serving of those Cadbury Mini Eggs is just 12 eggs, but if I’m gonna eat ’em, I’m only gonna eat 12 of those darn mini eggs (as delicious as they are!).  I plan for splurges by cutting back elsewhere or exercising more, just like a financial budget.

Grace has played a major role in my transformation.  I used to feel like I was a failure if I messed up, or quit if I couldn’t hold it together.  Now, I just try not to be so hard on myself.  I put my trust in the Lord and do my very best.  He will make up the difference!  So if I have a rough day, I get over it so that tomorrow can be better.  If I constantly dwell on my faults or my unworthiness I would never change.  But, the Lord empowers me to change in spite of myself.

After: ...to THIS.