50 Pounds Here and Gone

Near the beginning of October (around the 10th) I reached the goal of having lost 50 pounds! It has been a long journey. I began on April 9th and have remained true to the course ever since. A dear friend recommended two books to me by Kay Sheppard, From the First Bite and The Body Knows; both deal with the subject of food addictions. I found myself fitting many of the descriptions profiled in the book and was intrigued by the idea of really being free from the struggle of overwhelming food cravings. My friend encouraged me to try the food plan for thirty days and to begin immediately and seriously (meaning go “cold turkey” off some serious food and drink substances). I
decided to go for it and began the next day.

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December 2004–This is a terrible picture! It does serve a purpose, however, since it proves who has the Favored Green Christmas Stocking for Christmas ’04

The food plan is a very intense, weighed and measured diet. One of the basic concepts is that certain people are addicted or obsessed with food and that there is a physiological reaction that causes cravings for refined carbohydrates. You can read more about the food plan and the idea of food addictions at Kay’s website: http://www.kaysheppard.com

So on that fateful Saturday in April I went off all forms of sugar (natural or processed, including all sweeteners except for liquid Saccharine), flour, and wheat. I also stopped all caffeine consumption and any high fat foods (like nuts, fried foods, etc). I had a pretty miserable two days as I felt headachy and exhausted. I remember saying to a friend, “I have five children, I can not afford to be this tired! Tell me this won’t last!!” She assured me that I would survive. Ha!

The food plan is very specific in terms of what and when you eat (hence the weighed and measured definition) but it does provide fairly hearty amounts. I eat a good deal of food–it just happens to be extremely healthy and WAY more veggies than my family is interested in consuming.

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December 2004–Taking a lovely walk with Sarah and my mom.

Along the way I have dropped some serious pounds (something in the order of 13 in the first two and a half weeks), have found a real peace over food (most of the time) and developed a real awareness of any sugar that gets into my system (the cravings start almost immediately). I discovered it is possible to get off soda and sugar free gum (two BIG, long time habits in my life). I survived a summer of travel and family gatherings and eating out. All in all I haven’t had any chocolate or sugar or bread products for more than six months.

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March 2005–Soon this girl will discover the joys of millet and quinoa!

Interestingly enough I find I can handle the absence of sweets much more easily than the absence of starches. Last week I was particularly hungry, for some reason, and struggled in resisting the huge Costco muffins I had bought for the family. And yet, at other times, I don’t find resisting difficult at all (or there is no way I could continue this plan for such a long time–I just don’t have that much will power in and of myself).

I wonder if I will be able to enjoy Christmas baking this year without eating any of the treats. I made some cookies for a homeschooling co-op class, last week, and realized that I have always nibbled on the dough without even thinking. It was a bit torturous, as a creative cook, not to taste the new recipe. I have to be careful not to dwell too much on the idea of certain foods or try to smell and savor them–it causes me to be discontent and starts those hunger cravings.

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June 2004–Fixing some fruit and veggies. Down about 25 pounds!

My family and friends have been hugely supportive. Tim is amazed that I’ve continued on as long as I have. He and my friend, Julee, vie for position as my biggest cheerleader. Julee has supported me from the beginning, always believing that I could lose the weight and would succeed (even when I truly didn’t believe it myself). She went on the plan with me (until pregnancy morning sickness drove her to eat crackers) and even spent a day cooking “approved recipes” with me. Julee is always ready to talk about how I’m doing or feeling about it all … much longer than Tim can handle the discussion. She brought over a bag of gifts when I hit this grand goal and was the first to say we had to go out and celebrate my 50 pound loss. More than anyone, she has truly applauded and rejoiced with me over each step of my progress.

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October 2005–Heading out for our Girls’ Night Dinner and Movie to Celebrate 50 pounds gone!!

Tim, as always, is my rock! He somehow knows just the right thing to say to help me remain on track. He helps me see all I have gained (no pun intended) during my struggle to be consistent and points out the habits that I have changed. He supports me in finding new, attractive clothes and never speaks disparagingly about my sometimes odd food choices (does anyone else like millet and quinoa?).

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October 2005–trying on some cute, new clothes.

I don’t know what I would do without my family and friends encouraging and supporting me. They’ve let me talk (endlessly at times) about the food plan and my baby steps toward healthy eating. They cheer and compliment me and tell me I am doing great. The children went through a mourning period as I gave up sugar (perhaps they saw that their own sugar consumption would also be decreasing) but unfailingly applaud my efforts. They are quick to ask me, “Are you allowed to have that?” if it looks like I am eating something unhealthy. Built in accountability!

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These children are definitely not eating on my food plan!

I was trying to find some pictures to post … perhaps a nice before and after shot. As I looked through the months of 2005, I began to see just how little I really let myself be photographed. I could hardly find any pictures of myself and certainly not any without several children posed artfully in front of me (one advantage of having five children). As I looked through the collection, catching glimpses of myself her and there, I began to really appreciate how much weight I have lost. It’s a bit of a shock to put the two images together in my head. I’m still me–thick or thin.

People often ask me what I will do (with my eating) once I reach my goal weight. It’s a difficult question. If you follow, truly, the mindset that goes along with the food addiction books, then, like an alcoholic, you are never “cured” of your addiction but must abstain from those substances forever. I find that idea a bit daunting–it’s difficult to wrap my brain around the idea of being off sugar, wheat and flour for the rest of my life. On the other hand, God brought to mind an interesting connection last week. In all things, discipline is required for true, long lasting growth.

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October 2005–Today!!

When someone begins an exercise routine they are not usually asked, “So, when you tone those arms and gain strength in your legs and some awesome muscles, are you going to return to your couch potato state and stop exercising?” No, physical fitness, if you want to retain the strength and endurance, must be continued.

If someone reads the Bible in a year, working day by day, to go through the entire Bible, would you say to them, “Boy, I bet you’re glad that’s over. Now that you’ve reached that goal, I guess you’re going to go back to trashy novels and smutty movies. You’ll probably want to cut back on all that Bible reading and be more moderate, maybe only a chapter or two on the weekends.”

How ridiculous that sounds! Thinking of discipline in the physical and spiritual realms and applying it to my eating has been eye-opening. Of course, I want to grow in my Christian walk. Obviously one has to keep on exercising or the muscles will turn to flab. I certainly know that keeping my marriage vibrant and loving takes energy and work. Being a good parent requires me to be consistent and attentive. I think staying on track with my eating, and maintaining a healthy weight is going to take constant work. Knowing this, however, doesn’t have to be discouraging, instead it can be another way that I am being refined and transformed “…into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Paul writes about discipline in Titus:

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14

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My sassy new jeans and vest!

Until such time as Christ returns or takes me from this earthly home, I will try my best to honor Him with my disciplined eating. I trust He will give me the grace to run the race and the wisdom to discern the path He has for me. I am thankful that He promises to meet me if I seek Him. I do not want to be back in the place of obsessing over food, with its downward spiral into addictive behaviors.


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A New Job

It has been easily a month since I have written anything for this blog. A couple of weeks ago, I attended a men’s Bible study that was just starting up, and each of the men was saying something about their hobby. One man spoke up: “I write.” It piqued my interest … what kind of things does he write? And then I sadly remembered … I used to write!

One day about two months ago, Kathy called me at work. “You’ve gotten three calls from recruiters today,” she told me. What bad timing … I had just begun a programming class funded by my employer, and was scheduled to go on vacation in a couple of days. When I got home, I looked over the e-mails and messages … they were all for the same job requisition, which must have just been released into the wild of recruiting land. Looking them over, I noticed that one recruiter had actually read my resume and had picked up on what I consider to be the key statement:

I am a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

Interestingly enough, this recruiter also seemed to be the most straightforward of the three, talking frankly about billing rates and the share I would receive. I agreed to have them submit my resume to the prospective employer, and found myself on a phone interview a few days later. They put me on speaker-phone and barraged me with questions, four of them to one of me … I hate those kind of interviews. It is very difficult to project a sense of who you are to more than one person over the phone, lacking visual cues. I guess the interview went well, though, because while I was on vacation in Texas, they offered me the job, sight unseen. I was to be an independent contractor for a six-month period, working for a major wireless company in the Seattle area. After praying and consulting with a number of folks, I decided to take the job. While it is scary to think of being in the market for another job in only six months, the hourly rate they were offering was very attractive, and the work they want me to do was much more in line with my preferences than at my former employer. So I took the job, and am now in the fifth week of employment as an independent contractor.

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Another big change this month — Mom and Dad sold their house in Lakewood. The ‘cousins’ gather here for a farewell to the ‘ole homestead.

The last week at my previous job was horrible in a self-inflicted sort of way. There were so many things that I had done in a slap-dash fashion or that needed just that little bit more of effort (or documentation) to make them workable for my successors … even on my last day I had a list of 24 things I needed to do. I finished most of them, but ultimately had to call it a day. It was very strange to hand in my laptop, give up my train pass, hand in my badge and pager and walk away. Even though I was voluntarily leaving for what I expected to be a much better position, I felt a poignant sense of loss. I guess I had really come to enjoy the people I worked with, if not the job that I was doing.

The commute to my new job is a little tricky. If I try to work ‘normal’ working hours, it takes me more than two full hours to get to work; driving, riding the train and riding the bus. Traffic on the highways to this particular location make it prohibitively difficult to commute for an 8-5 workday. Although my new boss seems a little more rigid about work schedules than I prefer, he agreed to allow me to work from 6-3, so that I can avoid the worst of the traffic. I’ve been leaving the house around 5 in the morning and getting home about 4:10 in the afternoon, which is not too bad. David and Sarah keep asking me, “Why are you here?” I presume theirs are not existential questions, but more along the lines of “Why are you home so EARLY?”

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Construction at The Refuge (http://www.olympicrefuge.org) continues apace.

I really like the work at my new job. I’m doing internal tools and intranet web development, which I very much enjoy. The contract agency who pays me made a special effort to get me my first check … it is always nice to be reminded of why I get up so early in the morning and trundle off to work. And it is strangely pleasant to be back in the telecommunications world … a lot of things have not really changed very much in the three years that have elapsed since I was working at AT&T Wireless.

While I was on vacation in Texas, I did not work on my programming class homework, and (as a consequence) I became rather far behind. With the flurry of leaving my former employment and starting a new job, I found that I had little time to catch up. Today [well, it was "today" when I wrote this] is the last day of the class, and tomorrow is the deadline for all homework to be submitted, or I’ll fail the class. I’ve spent nearly every waking free moment in the past three weeks working on the homework assignments … happily, I’ve finished them all and am waiting only to find out if the last half of a problem has been accepted. (If not, I’ll have one last chance tonight to resubmit it.) While it isn’t that big a deal to fail the class, it is the prerequisite to a certificate program I hope to begin in February … if I have to re-take it, that will cost me $600 and another ten weeks’ delay. I certainly have worked hard to complete these assignments … it reminds me of end-of-semester project deadlines back when I was an undergraduate student at the College of William and Mary.

[Editor's Note: I did manage to pass the class, mainly by wearing down my professor with repeated submissions of homework. "Enough!" he finally cried. "You passed the class, now leave me alone!"]

A couple of Mondays ago, with hardly any fanfare, I restarted the tradition of Special Days with my children. When we first moved to Washington, I began spending one hour a week with each of my kids individually … taking them on bike rides, going for walks, often just driving to the local McDonald’s Playland and watching them play. They really seemed to enjoy having some focused Daddy Time, and I’ve continued the tradition off and on over the last five years. While I was working at my former job, I had Mondays off, and so I grouped the five individual Special Days into a single weekly Special Event or Field Trip. While we were able to go on some cool day trips, I think that some of the kids (especially the older ones) really missed having one-on-one time with me (and I with them).

The trouble is, my schedule is still a little fluid, such that I don’t come home early every day. The kids have Awana on Wednesday nights, and so there are perhaps only three days a week where I am home early enough to easily do a Special Day with a child. Happily, I came up with the idea of not tying Special Days to a calendar week, but rather using a random-selection method on the days when I can spend an hour with just one child. In this way, each child will get a Special Day about three times a month, and I won’t be tempted to neglect my wife or other responsibilities.

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As the weather turns, everyone likes to hang out by our little gas fireplace, even the Muffin.

A few years ago Kathy bought me two little books: How to be your Daughter’s Daddy and How to be a Father to your Little Man, both containing 365 activity suggestions. Some of them are not particularly applicable, and some of them are things I already do often, but they both contain some clever and workable ideas. I decided to buy one for each of my children and to write the date beside each thing that we do. I hope that they will keep these books and leaf through them from time to time, remembering how much their Daddy loves them.

I’ve really missed riding on the train, but Kathy says she really likes having me home early. If I take the train, I can sleep in an hour longer, but I get home three hours later in the evening, with a total loss in family time of two hours. This is somewhat balanced by the fact that I can use those two hours on the train, and that I hate driving in any kind of heavy traffic. Thanks to the high cost of gas, the train is just as economical as driving alone, so there is no heavy penalty there. Maybe I should take the train once a week or so, just to make time to write? I was hoping to join a vanpool, and enjoy the best of both worlds, but I’m having trouble finding one that follows my rather eccentric commuting route. Most people live a lot closer to their jobs than I do, I wonder why?

[Another Editor's Note: My apologies to the die-hard fans (both of you) who have come to expect a blog entry more often than once a month. You can see I had a few excuses, leaving a job, starting another job, finishing a class, starting a Bible Study, etc. In all the excitement, I found that I didn't really have much to say.]

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