I’m sitting at the peninsula in our kitchen, what has become one of my favorite places to write. It’s in the middle of everything, so you would think that it would be distracting, but I think sitting alone in the office gets on my nerves after a while, then I get to be hard to live with, if you know what I mean.
We’ve come off a great Christmas break and are well into a new year. What do you think it’s going to hold for you?
For me? I really have no idea. I mean, I know about some things, like planned trips, work, school… the usual. But I don’t know what to anticipate as far as the deeper things go. I don’t believe in making resolutions because I don’t think they’re manageable or realistic. Goals are okay too, but so often life doesn’t happen the way you would like it to, and it can get so discouraging to look back and realize you’re nowhere near where you thought you would be.
When I look at this year I see myself working through some things. Growing. Hopefully.
One of the first is this space. You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t written a whole lot in the past year. I kept telling myself it was because I was too busy, didn’t know what to write about, etc. But, in truth there are always blog post ideas running through my head. I do feel inspired. Yes, I am busy, but I do crave the writing.
I’ve been thinking about this off and on for months, and today it finally hit me. I haven’t been writing a lot because I was trying to be something that I’m not. I read a lot of blogs, and in honesty, most of them are light, home decor type places to spend time in. I think it’s because life can feel heavy or overwhelming here much of the time, and that’s where I escape to. And that’s fine. But, I started wanting to write like that. The problem is that it doesn’t come naturally to me. I kept thinking I needed to put more pictures in my posts, and if I couldn’t do that then there was no point in writing. I stepped away from our Rollings In Haiti blog because I didn’t want the blog to be all about that, but in doing so I stepped too far away from daily life. The bottom line is that I wasn’t writing like me. The posts that I truly loved writing were the ones where I just shared what was on my heart or mind. Some of that is just life in general. Some of it is about Haiti. There might be a recipe thrown in there every once in a while. I went back and read my very first blog post this afternoon, then several others. Did you know that I’ve been writing online for 11 1/2 years? That seems crazy to me.
So, this is what I want for myself in this area this year – to write more, and to write about the things I love, just because I want to. To step away from that “blogger” mentality where posts need to look a certain way and just be me. I know that’s what you really want anyway, because that’s what you respond to and engage with. That’s the reason my Dad asks me when I’m going to write a book every time I go home. That’s why it’s not satisfying to a post about certain things. Reading through some of my old posts reminded me of how beautiful and simplistic the process used to be for me. I just wrote. Sometimes there were pictures, and most times there weren’t. If you want to go and read any of those posts you can by visiting our old blog. One of the things that struck me is how much of a journal it was of our family’s life, and how much I’ve missed that, or just highlighting a thought that runs through my mind or sharing an experience from the day to day. So, more that.
In that vein of thought (you know the one about just being me and sharing things that are actually happening), Chris and I are doing the Whole 30 right now.
What? What is this Whole 30 thing?
Well, it’s basically a diet reset. For 30 days you take dairy, grains, legumes, preservatives and sugar out of your diet, then after the 30 days you systematically reintroduce them to see how you feel. All of these foods can cause inflammation in your body, which does crazy other things, as well as throwing off how your body processes sugar and fat. It’s basically getting back to eating whole, unprocessed food like people did 100 years ago. It sounds a bit drastic and when I first heard about it I thought no way. It seemed scary and like too much.
Before I share about how it’s going, let me tell you why I’m doing it.
First, as you know, my weight has been an issue for a long time, and I’ve tried a variety of things to get that down. And each time it’s been a huge struggle for me. I would do well for a while, but then would get discouraged and give up. It’s hard to look at a life ahead of you with always having to track everything you eat, and when you don’t you feel guilty and like crap. That was my cycle.
In the past two years or so I’ve been struggling in other areas too. Just not feeling like myself, being tired all the time, cranky more than I was happy, very emotional (I’ve always been a cryer, but this was getting ridiculous) and my joints were aching and I just felt bad all the time. For years I’ve attributed all this to being overweight, and I think it’s definitely part of it.
I’ve repeatedly asked myself if other things could be causing the symptoms, but then it felt like a cop out. I should be able to control this, right? Hm. Just before Christmas break a few pieces came together for me. They had sort of been formulating for a while, but one night I sat down with Chris and talked about all of it and it made sense. I should back up a bit here…
Aside from the stuff I just mentioned, there’s a key factor, which is that starting in 2008 and going until about 2012 or so we were under excessive stress. I’m not talking our water pipes burst and we need to fix them kind of stress, I’m talking about the kind of stress that gets classified as chronic. In late 2008 I had a miscarriage. In the early part of 2009 the mission was the victim of an arson attack and we were sent death threats, and we knew who was responsible. About two years of legal issues came with that one and the overall feeling of not feeling safe or relaxed in your own home. We were in the process of doing an adoption. There was an earthquake. We had new volunteers join us that ended up causing a ton of problems that led to a split within our organization and the years of rebuilding. We finished our adoption. I got pregnant and had a baby.
In the middle of that time period we were able to take a 4 month sabbatical and we were very intentional about getting counseling. I remember our first session with our counselor, after we had given her the run down of everything we’d been dealing with to that point, and she looked at us and said, “Wow. No wonder you guys are needing help. Any one of those things would have been enough trauma to cause PTSD in the average person, and you’ve been carrying all of it and are still functioning incredibly well.” And then she ordered full physicals for us both.
You see the connection there? Our trained counselor ordered blood work because she knew that stress causes havoc on the body. Excessive stress? Even more havoc.
Over the years I gradually gained more weight and it was natural to completely blame myself. Recently though I started to realize that I can’t look at just one part of things, I have to look at the big picture. When I do that I have to acknowledge that the stress of life has caused side effects for me. Yes, weight gain is part of that, but so is mild depression, and my body just not functioning properly. And each thing affects the other.
I’ve been looking at ways to take better care of myself, and talking to a few people here in Haiti, but it’s a slow process because resources are limited. The other day Chris and I had a big heart to heart about things and while I felt raw, there was a desire to do something different this time. I knew I would just keep struggling with the cycle if I kept trying the things that I had been. A bit later in the day I was just scrolling through Pinterest and Whole 30 popped into my head. I knew it was a book and an eating plan, like a cleanse. I looked it up on Amazon, read a bunch of reviews, found the website and it all just came together together. Where I had thought no way before, I was thinking yes.
I bought It Starts With Food for my Kindle and started reading. And then I started researching some more. And then I decided that yes, I was going to do this. Chris started noticing I was looking at stuff and asked what was up, so I explained. He offered to do it with me as an encouragement. I told him that he needed to read the book before he fully committed so he knew what he was getting himself into. He got into it and all of the sudden our conversations started changing and we realized that this wasn’t just a me issue, but that we had both developed a lot of food issues and that many of them had been amplified by all the stress we’d been through. The book goes into the science behind how our bodies process food, and what happens under chronic stress and other things like that. For the first time everything clicked for me and I realized that no matter how hard I tried on my own to keep doing the things I had been, I would never really fully get there because my body is broken right now, and it needs to get better.
So, last Friday Chris and I started Whole 30. And you know what, we’re already both feeling better. Within two days of not having grains of any kind in my system my back pain was gone. This is a huge deal for me because every single night I was waking up multiple times because I hurt so bad. I had always attributed it to weight gain but now I can see that it’s related to what I’ve been eating. Chris has chronic acid reflux and daily takes 2 Nexium antacid pills. In less than a week his acid reflux has noticeably gone down and he’s only been taking 1 pill. We’re both excited to see how we’ll be feeling three weeks from now, and what foods are triggers for us when we reintroduce things.
So, that’s a big deal for us right now and honestly, something that is shaping so much of what I’m thinking about these days. For so long I’ve lived under the weight of, well, my weight. It’s so freeing to know that there are other reasons for why I’m the weight I am right now, other than just eating too much. Whole 30 works to address not just what you’re eating, but also why. Why do we snack when we do? Is is stress? What are the triggers? Late night snacking? Hmmm. It’s really fascinating, and I’ve already learned so much in just a week. The best part is that while I’ve been occasionally hungry, the cravings haven’t been too bad, and I’m learning why I want to eat when I do, and what I really need to eat in those moments. You know what else is amazing? Eating a delicious meal and actually stopping when I feel full and not eating with my head because I tell myself that it’s just so good and of course I want more (because your body using sugar the wrong way will do this to you).
I’m looking forward to sharing more as the month progresses, and especially after we’re done. It’s like a big old science experiment! And there’s no calorie counting or points or special medicine or… you get the idea. It’s freeing and I’m feeling so good so far.