9 Things I’m Doing to Stay Balanced Right Now

The first full month of school is in my rearview mirror. And I can honestly say, it’s taken every bit of the last 30 days to successfully transition. Moving from Loosey-Goosey-Sticky-Summer to the Rhythm-Routine-School-Schedule is difficult, even for a girl like me, who THRIVES in rhythm and routine.

Here are a few things (some old and some new) that I’m doing to stay balanced during this busy school season.

1. I’m Setting A Lot of Timers.

Remember when I talked about my Facebook addiction? Turns out, it’s impossible to stay addicted to something when you only designate a whopping 15 minutes a day to it.

Seriously. I think I’m fully recovered.

Timers aren’t only for social media, though. I’m setting timers for anything and everything that feels daunting and overwhelming. (Think housework) Many-a-night, I’d crawl into bed trying to recall what I accomplished that day. Where did the hours go? No more. Setting timers is helping me spend the hours intentionally. Plus, it always surprises me what I’m able to accomplish when I’m racing against a clock. In fact, I’m racing against one now. It’s a physical reminder that if I stay focused and keep my rear end in the chair, I might create something helpful for you.

2. I’m Filling My Mind With God’s Word.

This, not the timer, is the real reason I’ve become indifferent to Facebook. After I wrote this post, I decided that every time I’m tempted to check social media or emails, I will first (or instead!) read a few verses or a few chapters of the Bible. I leave my Bible open on my kitchen counter, next to my phone. Well, on top of my phone, actually. Amazing how, after I’ve taken a few minutes to let God speak to me, the urge to see if someone “liked my status” loses its impact. (Saying that out loud sounds even more bizarre than thinking it.)

Bible

 

I realize I cannot even begin to comprehend the life-changing and long-term benefits of this practice, but I have already noticed a few. First, I feel more centered and peaceful and clear-headed. And second, God’s wisdom is at the forefront of my mind whenever I’m facing a personal challenge or need to counsel a child—which is pretty much all the time.

I mean, really, funny cat videos will only get you so far in parenting wisdom.

3. I’m Writing Everything Down.

I’ve always proclaimed the importance of this, but even I, The Keeper of All Lists, go through times where I wing it and hope for the best. This Fall, winging it is simply not an option. I am the parent of two busy teens and a second-grader, all of whom have full homework, extra-curricular and social calendars. On top of that, my husband is a busy hospital president and triathlete. And we are building a house. Which means, we will soon be selling a house. And also, moving.

It’s so much.

Anything memory-worthy immediately goes from my brain onto a list or the calendar. I also have a morning checklist to remind me who needs library books, what day we are carpooling, and who needs an extra snack for Cross Country, as well as All The Other Things I Need To Remember. It’s incredibly liberating to release this information from my brain onto actual paper. Then, I can free my brain to think thoughts. Not lists.

Calendar

4. I’m Dealing With Emails Immediately.

This summer, I cleaned out my inbox. In one sitting, I deleted over 10,000 emails and unsubscribed from every life-sucking email list. At that moment, I vowed to forever keep my emails under control and spend as little time as possible lingering there. Sometimes I respond quickly from my phone, but mostly, I’m setting a timer and processing them at night or first thing in the morning.

5. I’m Planning Meals and Preparing Dinner Early.

Serving my family healthy, home-cooked dinners is a high priority for me. And the only way I can pull it off with our busy schedule is to plan my meals, shop from my meal plan and prepare as much as I can while the kids are at school. The Crock Pot is my new BFF.

6. I’m Getting Myself Completely Ready Before I Get the Kids From School.

Making sure I’ve prayed, blogged, exercised, showered, shopped and socialized during the school hours leaves me free in the evenings to be completely present with my kids, which is the most important thing to me in this season of life. That means, I don’t leave any of my personal things for the evening. No dinner with girlfriends. No evening runs. No after school phone conversations or texting. If it’s about me, I handle it while my family is away.

(I realize many of you don’t have this option. You are working outside the home or homeschooling during school hours. If I worked outside the home or homeschooled, I would need to come up with a different plan, too. I’m not saying this is the only way. I’m just saying this is what I need to do to make this season of life work for my family. You will need to seek God’s wisdom for your life and your season.)

7. I’m Saying No to Good Things.

Yes, the Thursday night skating party would be fun. As would the fundraiser and the home-décor party and the neighborhood yard sale and the Women’s Ministry Connect Groups and the seminar and the Band Booster Meeting.

I’m sorry, but no thank you.

Every “yes” to one of those things means I’m stretching myself a little thinner. Every “yes” to one of those things means I become more brittle and anxious. Every “yes” to one of those things means a “no” to something else more important to me right now. No offense, but I’m choosing my “yeses” and “nos” wisely and intentionally.

8. I’m Doing As Much As I Can Before I Go To Bed.

Packing lunches, setting out clothes for the next day, stuffing backpacks, signing permission slips and school papers, and getting the coffee pot ready. All that happens before I shut my eyes for the night. And makes for much more peaceful mornings, by the way.

9. I’m Reading Life-Giving Books in Bed.

I always read at night. But I haven’t always been picky about what I read. Sometimes, I’d get lost in a good novel. Sometimes, I’d read a parenting book or a marriage book or self-help (aka, all the ways I need to improve myself) book. Or maybe a fitness magazine or a cooking magazine or a stack of catalogues. Whatever was on my nightstand, that was what I’d read. But I realized that not all reading material promotes restful sleep. For example, when I read parenting books, I spend the whole night fitfully worrying about my children and all the ways I need to be a better Mom. Or, if I look through furniture or house décor catalogues, I toss and turn over all the things I need to do to get our house ready to sell or get the new one ready to inhabit. So, I’ve become highly selective about my nighttime reads. I still read that other stuff, I choose to do it during the day or on the weekends, instead of at night before bed. (BTW, I just finished, for the second time, Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. I think it’s one of my favorite nighttime reads ever.  It also has outstanding recipes, which I am determined to make–each and every one.  And, also,  I want to buy it for all my friends.)

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Hey! How about a little Give-Away? Leave a comment about this post and I’ll enter you in a drawing to win a copy of Bread and Wine.

Give-Away Rules: The comment MUST be on the blog. Facebook comments and emails, as lovely as they are, will not enter you in the drawing. Sorry, but I’ll go batty if I have to chase all your comments down  All entries must be received by Midnight, Wednesday Sept 17.  

 

Disclosure:  That link up there is an affiliate link.  If you purchase Bread and Wine by clicking through that link, I receive a small commission.  I did not receive any free copies for this giveaway.  I really just wanted someone to have it, because I love the book so much.

 

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Fitness Friday: Setting Proper Goals in an Age-Defying Culture

I thought I was immune. For 25 years, I exercised 4 to 6 days a week, ate a well-balanced diet and enjoyed a healthy relationship with food. I was the weird girl who actually liked her body, loved vegetables and looked forward to workouts. I was certain the inevitable “Slowing Metabolism” that comes with age would bypass me. After all, I did everything right. Right?

Wrong.

The year I turned 40, I gained 23 pounds. It came on quickly, at a rate of about 2 pounds a week. I changed nothing to trigger the weight gain, other than starting on a “weight-neutral” anti-depressant a year earlier. I was still exercising, still eating well.

It was scary. Every time I stepped on the scale, the number was higher. I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes. I hardly recognized myself in the mirror. After I took approximately 8 home pregnancy tests (all negative), triple checked my scale for battery failure or technical malfunction (all in fine working order) and checked every clothing label to see if someone accidently switched my clothes with those of my 10-year-old daughter (nope), I self-diagnosed a 20-pound butt/thigh tumor.

I made an appointment with my family doctor, my GYN, a homeopathic physician and a dietician. The overwhelming consensus and final diagnosis was that I was….

*drumroll*

perfectly healthy.

I wasn’t sure what to do with that. I mean, I didn’t want to be sick, but I desperately needed an explanation for the weight gain. Mostly, I got a shoulder shrug and a sympathetic, “Well, you ARE 40 now. This sometimes happens…the metabolism slows…

It took about a year of very hard, focused work to lose 15 of those 23 pounds. I never did get to my pre-40/pre-Lexapro weight, and I’ve been struggling to get there ever since. I’ve done all I know to do. Everything from up switching up my diet (vegan, vegetarian, paleo, calorie restriction, intermittent fasting and gluten free) to continued back-to-back high-intensity workout programs, (1 year with a personal trainer, followed by P90X, P90X2, P90X3, Insanity, and Jillian Michaels Body Revolution.) On top of all of that, I walk or jog a few days a week. Yet, depending on the season, I still remain anywhere from 6 to 15 pounds over my Pre-40/Pre-Lexapro weight.

I used to think if a woman struggled with her weight, it was because she wasn’t trying hard enough. After six years of trying hard, I don’t think that anymore.

Redefining My Goals

In January, I led a 90-Day Challenge group on Facebook. There were about 15 women, most of us 35 or older each with different goals. Over those three months, I observed the women fall into one of two camps: those who struggled with maintaining consistency (would skip workouts, binge on a plate of cookies) and those who struggled with progress (would consistently eat well and exercise, but failed to see the scale budge.)

I shared that with my husband, who said, “Where are the ones who are consistent AND reaching their goals?

Good question. Most of them are in their 20′s or early 30′s, I suppose.

That got me thinking that perhaps we were setting the wrong goals.

In a culture that idolizes youth, it’s tough to grow old. Pick up any woman’s magazine and there is a cover article encouraging us to “defy” age. Every other advertisement promotes a product promising to “erase lines,” “smooth wrinkles,” and “reverse damage.” We celebrate women with firm skin and toned thighs, even if it comes by way of surgical or digital alteration. The juiciest celebrity scandal is often a favorite actress caught in a bikini, revealing her cellulite.

This is ridiculous. And insulting.

Age defying

As a 46-year-old woman, it’s wearisome to constantly counterbalance this garbage with reality—the reality that we are, in fact, aging. And with that age comes some wrinkles, sunspots and cellulite.

Women over 40 must come to terms with the fact that we are not our 25-year-old-pre-baby selves. Shoot, we’re not even our 35-year-old-post-baby selves! This is not an insult. Age really DOES slow the metabolism. Our thighs really DO get bumpy. Our bellies really DO get softer. Even if we’ve been doing everything right for decades. Even if we are still doing everything right.

So, Do We Just Give Up?

I have a “perfect weight” in my head. A number I’m constantly measuring myself against. Wanna know the last time I was that “perfect weight?”

It was after I buried my son.

Oh, and one other time a few years later: after coming off a 40-day fruit and vegetable fast.

So, let’s review: The only times in the last two decades I was my “perfect weight” were when I was 29 years old, grieving the loss of my first born child, too devastated to eat—-essentially starving myself. And also, when I had gone almost 6 weeks eliminating meat, dairy, grains, beans, nuts, sugar and skipping meals—-essentially starving myself.

The problem with most weight-loss goals is that we are often using a bad measuring stick. Measuring yourself against a 20-something-pre-baby version of you is a BAD measuring stick. Measuring yourself against a post-tragedy or post-fasting version of you is a BAD measuring stick.

I’m so done with that.

Maybe we should go ahead and set a weight loss goal, but adjust it to fit our current season of life. Maybe we do need to lose 20 pounds or more for our heart or to treat diabetes, but maybe it’s going to take a lot longer than the recommended 1-2 pounds per week.

Or maybe we should just treat our bodies kindly and let the scale fall where it may.

Like in the trash bin, perhaps?

Maybe instead of berating our bodies over ten pounds or arm flab or muffin tops we could set some health goals that look more like this:

1. Completing a workout program.
2. Training for a race or event.
3. Gaining strength, endurance or speed.
4. Managing a medical condition without meds or with a reduced dosage.
5. Eliminating or greatly reducing processed foods and sugar.
6. Trying something new. (OMG, remind me to tell you about trying CrossFit last week)
7. Drinking water.
8. Giving up alcohol.
9. Getting enough rest.
10. Successfully managing stress.
11. Trying new recipes with local, seasonal food.
12. Feeling good.
13. Setting a good, well-balanced example for our children.
14. Liking our bodies.

Does that sound like giving up? Giving in? Unbalanced in any way?

I don’t think so. I think it’s wisdom. We may gain a few more inches on our hips after 40, but with those inches come wisdom. Why don’t they mention THAT on those magazine covers?

Sure, we may mourn the loss of our flat bellies and firm booties, but look at everything we gain: life-experience, patience, self-confidence, grace, perspective, intelligence, balance and a healthy sense of humor about it all.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much prefer I inspire someone with my patience or my perspective rather than the circumference of my waist or the width of my rear end.

Let’s set some new goals, ladies.* Let’s give ourselves and each other permission to grow older. And if we are going to defy something, let it be the misconception that being thin and young and flawless is all that matters to a woman. You will inspire an entire generation of young women coming up behind you.

And that, my friend, is infinitely more beautiful than firm thighs.

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*If you are a man of any age and your testosterone and muscle mass has allowed you to reach all your weight-loss goals and you’re all, “What’s the big deal? Just cut back on the brewskis!“, I think I speak for every one of my female readers when I say, you best be quiet right now.

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