Burn The Ships

Last weekend we sang a new worship song, Burn The Ships by the duo For King & Country. It’s a powerful song with a deeply personal backstory mixed with this story about a ship of explorers. Here’s what Luke Smallbone said in an interview about the song:

“I read a story about an explorer going to a new land. When he arrived on the shore, he calls everybody off of the ships and said, ‘Hey let’s go explore this land and see what there is to be seen,'” Luke explains. “All the men were terrified of going into the unknown and he realized that even those boats were grimy, stinky and small, they wanted to stay on the boats because it was familiar. The next day he calls them out again and when all the sailors were on land, he gives the command to burn the ships because he said, ‘We’re not going to retreat. We’re going to move forward in our lives.’ 

Over the coming days the song would not leave me and neither did the story. It hit me because I intimately understand the comfort of a fully destructive comfort zone. The sailors knew the ship was “grimy, stinky, and small” but it was far more comfortable to stay in the horror you know than to step into the unknown. It actually reminded me of my closet.

Yes, my closet.

I used to have what I called My Closet of Hope. It had clothes in every possible size. If you needed formal wear I had gowns from a size 16-28. How about an outfit for work? I had you covered from a size 14-32. Casual day wear? My largest inventory from large to 6x!

Why?

I stayed on a roller coaster of weight loss and weight gain. When I lost weight I’d still hold on to my bigger clothes in case I gained again and when I’d gain weight I held on to smaller clothes in the hopes I’d fit them again. After weight loss surgery I decided that I was no longer hanging on to my old clothes. It was harder and far more emotional than I ever dreamed it would be. I kept ONE shirt and ONE pair of pants that I bring when I speak at the hospital.

What does this have to do with the worship song? My Closet of Hope was really a Closet of Fear. Much like the sailors, I feared something new. I’d been overweight for 30 years and it may seem odd but it was scary to even think of being anything else! Holding on to those clothes was almost like giving myself permission to retreat back to the way I’ve always been.

Up to that point I’d been a slave to food because I was using it to cope with my often crippling anxiety. I hid my feelings behind a wall of shame and ate to feel better… yet always felt worse. I was incapable of asking for help and would use humor as a means of deflection. After RNY I unknowingly made the decision to “burn the ships” in my closet. By donating all of my clothing I was propelled into a new way of living with no easy way to retreat. This also meant confronting my feelings, adjusting my coping behaviors, and getting help for my anxiety and food addiction.

That was my ship. Your ship could be removing yourself from a toxic relationship, stepping out in faith at a new opportunity, or leaving anything behind that no longer serves you. It’s never easy to burn a ship, to leave a comfort zone, to try something new. I had to step out in faith, trust God, and fall to my knees before I fall into ice cream.

What’s your ship and are you ready to set it on fire?

Read more of the personal story behind this song and hear the song: Billboard Article – Burn The Ships.

Sowing and Reaping

When I look back on my life I see themes based on how I was feeling mentally and emotionally over time. It seems like there are periods of fear, anxiety, and depression but also times of emotional stability, providence, and abundance. I’ve learned to love and appreciate the ebb and flow of my time on earth. I am able to fully know joy because I’ve been fully intimate with fear and pain.

As time went on I learned more, became more open, and learned to ask for help. My fear of doing these things kept me in over my head, doubting myself, and difficult to be around. Self love is a learning curve and self care is too.

Twenty years ago I could best describe my life as flailing. In the ocean of life I wasn’t exactly drowning but more like doggie paddling for a very long time. My arms would get tired, I’d sink for a bit, flail for a while and get back to paddling. I was always one paycheck and 5 minutes ahead destruction.

The critical mistake I made was instead of asking for help, I’d try to maintain the charade that I had everything under control. I absolutely didn’t. When it all came crumbling down I remember a lot of people being surprised. I was only surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

I had a moment to reflect on that time at the Camp Berea Women’s Retreat in Hebron, NH,  this past September. Leaving a workshop I saw a woman I worked with years earlier. She recognized me instantly. We only had a second to talk as we were both on the move. I kept catching glimpses of her the rest of the weekend but I never got a moment with her.

On the final morning of the retreat, we were packing the van getting ready to drive several hours back to Rhode Island and I saw her again. She was with one of her friends also getting ready to leave. There were so many things I wanted to say but didn’t know if I could say them or if I should say them. I turned around to go to the van and it was like God Himself turned me back around. This was my moment and I had something to say.

I went over to say goodbye and then I told her this:

I knew you at the darkest time of my life and you were always so kind to me. I will never forget your kindness, it really was a shining spot when I needed it most.

As the words came from my mouth I was crying and then she was crying. She didn’t realize that she had a positive effect on me. She never knew how sad and overwhelmed I was and just how much I appreciated and needed her encouragement.

It reminded me of a quote that I love (that the internet has been attributed to everyone from ancient Greek scholars to Jar Jar Binks)

The true meaning of life is to plant seeds of trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.

Reflecting on my walk with Christ I can feel the true weight of that statement. For years I ran from God but in looking back I can see the seeds that people planted along the way. From my Godmother who first showed me the love of Christ to one of my neighbors years ago who never wavered in her faith despite my many questions and general disbelief. I was getting trees planted all around me!

Flash forward ten years later when my daughter asked my husband and me to attend church I didn’t realize that these seeds were going to get Living Water and ultimately led me to my old friend that God placed right in my path at a women’s retreat 20 years and 200 miles from when I saw her last. She, like the others, never knew she planted a seed of kindness and a seed of God’s love. Two decades later she got a moment in the shade.

You may think your words are falling on deaf ears, you may believe that you aren’t affecting change, you may even think you should stop because people aren’t hearing you. Never underestimate the power of planting a seed. You may even be blessed by a moment in the shade!

 

 

Who Are You Fighting?

I first walked into East Coast Karate two years ago on a whim when a friend of mine posted they were hosting “Buddy Week” where people can bring a friend to try classes for free. You can read about that experience here: The Karate Adult

Karate – like anything that challenges you and takes you out of your comfort zone – had proven to be a place where I experience the most growth physically and mentally. I’m a person who likes to do things right and well. I like the satisfaction that comes with doing something to the best of my ability. I’ve also been known to “not see the forest for the trees.” I can get so mired in details that I fail to notice the big picture. That became abundantly clear a couple of weeks ago.

In karate class, we’re often sent in groups by rank to work with a sensei. A sensei is someone who has achieved a rank of black belt or above and is entrusted with the training of underbelts. On this particular day, we were paired with Sensei Les and we were thrilled. A little backstory on Sensei Les: when I first started in the dojo he was going from his final green belt (green with a black stripe) to his brown belt. His entire belt rank was amazing. I can safely speak for my entire group when I say that we would watch them in absolute awe and wonder if we would EVER look like that.

Before I get to our conversation on the day in question I want to share how Sensei Les challenges us. He’s a man that always does things to full potential. If you’re going to go then GO and GO ALL THE WAY! It’s inspiring. I can get inside my head pretty quickly and I like to mentally go over things before I put any speed or emphasis. I was paired with Sensei Les and we were learning a new drill. I’m trying to work it out – trying to get it perfect (ugh) – and I go to punch Sensei Les. Remember, I’m trying to work out details so I’m not placing any power in that punch. As I “punch” him he just stares at me.

Me: You’re supposed to block…
Sensei Les: You’re supposed to hit!

(apply cold water to burn)

That was the first day I just laid waste to my perfecting BS and just did the drill and it was amazing. I was almost forced out of my head because I was going to do the drill or get drilled. I wouldn’t want to take an errant punch from anyone at our dojo but certainly NOT from Sensei Les. This was a powerful lesson (and epic clapback) that paved the way for our next session with Sensei Les at the helm.

Karate is learned in stages almost like child development. You have to crawl before you walk and certainly before you run. As you improve and progress you learn more advanced ways of doing moves. This is hard for me because I want to know what is RIGHT. RIGHT! What is universally correct. There’s a lot of nuance to karate. (I know, I know.. I’m working on it!)

Sensei Les is taking us through our katas. We start from the beginning and we know the patterns of 11 of them. As second level green belts (green with white stripe) we are at a place where are no longer crawling through karate. Sensei was gifting us with fine tuning our kata with more advanced moves. This is where Sensei Les was when I started karate. Having him teach us is like seeing the light in the tunnel! I want to absorb everything!

Me: Sensei I notice that you move your arm this way yet another Sensei does it slightly differently. Which way is correct?

Sensei Les: They’re both correct.

Me (mentally starting to crumble): Wait, which way is classically correct? Like which is the way that we should learn in our development now?

Sensei Les: Who are you fighting?

In an instant, the light bulb went on and my brain simultaneously snapped! As I was wandering aimlessly through the forest looking for trees I missed the largest and most fundamental part of karate:

Karate is a fighting style!

When we spar in class I fight. I’m actually surprised by how much I like to spar. It’s fast, there’s no time to think, you act and react accordingly or you get hit. Despite knowing this, I was approaching this entire class like a chance encounter with someone in an alley would go like this:

Oh, you’d like to attack me? Hold on… can you stand right there? Give me a second, I just have to perfect my punch placement! All the while my attacker is just letting me get set up. I would never do this in sparring but I was failing to connect the two. We are not learning poses!

When we learn kata we also learn bunkai or the practical applications of kata. I remember in the beginning just thinking that I need to know WHAT I’m doing then I can learn WHY. That logic is fundamentally flawed. Knowing the why improves the what, even at the beginning. Especially at the beginning! Why have I resisted this? Sensei Dave has said it repeatedly. This was the first day I received it.

One question from Sensei Les and my karate has taken a new level of intensity. Every moment is in preparation for an actual fight. In the mirrors, I am my opponent. When I practice I think of the fight and I’m preparing for it.

Ultimately, this works in so many areas of life:

  • If you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your ability
  • When preparing for any battle know who you’re fighting
  • Practice like it’s real because when it’s real you won’t get to practice
  • Move, block, or get hit… the choice is yours.

Domo Arigato, Sensei Les!

Farewell 2018

Thank you 2018. What a whirlwind year! Goals achieved, dreams realized, and relationships cultivated; tempered with loss of loved ones, physical health issues, and personal challenges. From the joy of publishing my book and speaking on the famous red dot of TEDx to the tragedy of losing my aunt, this has been a year.

What I’ll take from every joy and pain of 2018, is that life ebbs and flows moment by moment. We tend to trick ourselves into the newness of a year on January 1st but a new opportunity is born every second. Not just on January 1st, not on Monday morning, but every moment you’re alive is a chance to do better or be better. Don’t get sucked into the hype of a new year. Be present in moments. If you stumble, all is not lost! With the simple blink of an eye, by the grace of God, you can try again.

Thank you 2018. If you’re reading this then my heartfelt thanks to you! What a gift and pleasure to share this space with you all. I can’t wait to show you what’s planned for 2019!

God Bless!

Regina

Overwhelming Wellness and the Power of Words

I’ve seen a lot of posts lately from people overwhelmed by their health goals. I totally understand it because everywhere you look there’s a new thing to try that could potentially be better than before. Keto. Low Carb. South Beach. Atkins. They all seem remarkably similar.

What do you choose?

I’ve discovered that for me it was abandoning all of it. Diet is a dirty word with a limited time connotation. You do it “for a while” then when you try to just live your life after the “diet” is over you’ve likely gained the weight back and more.

There’s a lot of power in words like “diet” and even “cheat meal” carries some weight. This meal that you can take advantage of for another limited time that usually brings you only emotional relief and no real nutritional value.

Now, let’s look at “junk” foods. You know what they are: chocolate, sugar, high fats, and usually quite delicious. They are also the first things you remove when you’re on a “diet.” “Healthy” foods are usually things like vegetables and kale and often carry the weight of a necessary evil in a diet.

Are you seeing the power of these words? Have you noticed when you eat “junk” you feel like junk? Or a “cheat” meal makes you feel like you’re getting away with something? Don’t you always want most what you cannot have and it almost seems sweeter when you “get away with it?”

Imagine there are no “good” or “bad” foods. Is it possible that food is food? Can a cinnamon roll drenched in gooey icing have the same word as kale? Food really is food BUT cinnamon rolls are less nutrient dense than kale. Ultimately, that’s the difference.

We strive so hard to be “perfect” on our “diets”‘and we often are; yet during that window of time, we’re miserable. We count down the moments to chocolate and bread and we can’t enjoy where we are or what we’re doing.

When I speak at the hospital the most frequent question I get about food is: “Does this mean I can never have (insert what you love here) ever again?” I’m not the Food Police for adults. When I opted for surgical weight loss it was because my weight was completely out of control and I couldn’t manage on my own without outside help. When I took that step I also realized that moderation is not a strength of mine. With RNY Gastric Bypass could I eat chocolate again? I choose every second of every day what goes in my mouth. Will my stomach tolerate it? Most likely not. Could I eat it? Yes. Should I? No. What just happened there?

I took the item I wanted – chocolate – and I ran it through a couple of gates before the gateway of my mouth.

  • Do I want it? Absolutely!
  • Is it nutrient dense? Not at all.
  • Am I helping to maintain my fitness goals with this? No.
  • Is wanting it NOW more important than my long-term goals? No.
  • Why do I want the chocolate? Usually, an emotional response to something troubling me or it just looks darn good.
  • Do I eat it? No.

There is no diet, or cheat meal, or junk food. They are all opportunities. An opportunity to eat nutrient-dense foods that work toward reaching your health goals and less nutrient-dense foods that may hold you back from your goals especially if these decisions continue to outweigh your nutrient dense decisions.

There’s one other interesting caveat to the power of words and your food choices. Calories. I hear a lot of this as well: “I eat good, healthy foods and I continue to gain weight!”

A calorie (kcal) is the amount of heat energy it takes to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius (Wikipedia). By this logic, 10,000 calories of ice cream and 10,000 calories of kale are equal. How your body uses the kale and the ice cream will certainly vary and there’s an entire degree program for Bioenergetics that I do NOT have. The groundbreaking thought process here is that you can still have too much of a “good” thing because if you aren’t burning those calories then weight gain is inevitable.

So what do you do?

Try to find a way to make peace with your food. Don’t give it names of good or bad or junk that will subconsciously assign an emotion to what you’re eating. Pass your options through several gates and ultimately decide if it’s worth it for you. My experiences with bingeing food made me very aware that food felt great…. until it didn’t. Find a way to live your life well and if you get a moment of indulgent, less nutrient-dense food then let that be what it is – an option you made. Not a failure, mistake, or any other negative connotation. If it was a decision you wished you didn’t make, acknowledge it and remember the next time your making decisions.

Stop dieting and start living!

Also see: Take Ten Seconds.

Battling Perfection

Sometimes there’s something powerful when you see your behavior for what it really is and deciding to leap instead of continuing to look!

If you haven’t already feel free to like my Facebook page! There’s a lot new information coming that I can’t wait to share with you!

Thank you!

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Hard To Get Wrong

Remember the old joke about a man lost in New York City? He asks a New Yorker: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? The New Yorker answers: Practice, practice, practice.

Practice is the basis of excellence. Even if you were gifted with a talent, practice hones snd refines your skills. Karate is no exception to this at all. I learned a few months ago what I was doing wrong with my training and I saw the benefit of the switch I made last night at my Belt Test.

A few months back Sensei noticed that my last kata was my best kata. I was proud of myself for about 1.2 seconds. He followed his comment up telling me that my first kata should be my absolute best because I’ve done it the longest. He suggested I work on all of the kata from beginning and working up to my latest and if I make a mistake go back to the beginning. I started doing that during my practice at home.

In class a few weeks laterI discovered my next practice flaw. We were working on basics and Sensei said:

Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until it’s hard to get wrong!

That showed me something about myself. I’m a list maker and I like putting check marks on said list. Done. Complete. Move on.

Karate can seem like a activity where you can make a list and check things off as you go but in reality you can’t. In the beginning, you learn basics and patterns of movement. As time goes on you learn techniques to deepen your skill level. This process is continual.

Last night I tested for my Blue Belt with Black Stripe. This is my final Blue Belt. With the launch of my book, work, and moving I’ve had to practice in any corner of time I could find. I’ve done more practice in the shower, in front of the microwave, and in public places more than I care to admit! The joy was seeing how these microwave moments and my new understanding of practice came into full swing yesterday.

Belt testing usually begins with a workout. More like a You Feel Like You Might Die Session. Yesterday’s workout did. Not disappoint. As I’m typing this I feel like my thumbs are as sore as my abs! After the workout we generally take a break and then Sensei will call each group up to perform their kata and their kumite in front of the class starting with white belts. There are several belt ranks that would test before me so I was looking forward to kicking back and watching the show.

This. Did. Not. Happen!

Sensei called us back to our lines and we did each kata until it was our final kata. I was not remotely expecting that! I had about 2 seconds to ponder what was happening and we started! My anxiety was about to explode but then I remembered that this is just how my practice has been over the past few months and like most Saturday classes! You stay in the group until you’re way over your pay grade and you respectfully bow out. I had to just focus and do what I’ve been doing in the shower but do it in the dojo with scores of people watching… thankfully, with clothes on!

When I walked into the dojo at 44 years old with no clue or expectation of what the next 18 minutes looked like – let alone the next 18 months – I never expected this. The physical challenges, mental exhaustion, and trying to get to Carnegie Hall with all my practice! Another thing I never expected was to walk into a place and join with a group of other human beings searching for their own sense of health, challenge, and purpose. I also didn’t expect to love so much. Karate is a path that can feel like you are walking on your own but every step you take is on the hands of masters who went before you lifting you up and you’re. holding the hands of your peers steadying you on the way.

This was the hardest belt test by a country mile but the one I’m most proud of. I still have a ton to learn, techniques to deepen, and practice to do but I’m ready to continue down the path with the greatest friends a girl could ask for!

Living Like Koi

There are certain species of fish that are rumored to grow as large as their environment allows. I say rumored because the validity of that statement cannot be wholly substantiated on the great wide internet. It’s alleged that Koi fish are one of those fish who will grow in that manner. Koi fish are beautiful! They are similar to common goldfish in coloring, temperament, and their docile nature. Interestingly enough, I’ve seen more Koi on human bodies via tattoos than in the world.

Moving. We are moving. Not my favorite thing to do. This time we added another little stress into our move: downsizing. What a chore. When we rented our little piece of Shangri-La at the beach it was a summer house that we took a two year lease. Then another year… and another… and finally another.

As each kid moved we assumed their rooms with our necessities. Can you hear me laugh? What you discover when you move – especially when you downsize – is that there are precious few things in your house that qualify as a necessity. We’ve found things in here that we forgot we had! Things that we absolutely HAD to have when we moved here but never took out of the box.

This house currently holds 2 adults and two dogs with a combined body weight of 16lbs. Why on earth do we have 5,000 coffee mugs and bunch of stuff we won’t use? Things we just had to get to make this easier or that more convenient only did this: deprived us of cash and space. Apparently, we are Koi fish. We will utilize every ounce of space we’re given.

Clear, purge, reduce. It’s almost like weight loss in a way. In order to lose weight you have to reduce what you eat, purge your unhealthy habits, and learn how to positively handle and address your emotions… almost like a clearing. You discover that everything that weighs you down isn’t yours to carry. You learn to let go.

There’s actually something beautiful in letting go. Everything we touch has a memory. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by how many memories we had in this house. Kids having friends over, graduations, grandkids visiting, our parents visiting, our grown kids visiting! Our annual summer family gathering. We even hosting a wedding in our backyard! We are now tasked with holding on to the memories without holding all the stuff.

The big items will move to our new place today and we’ll reside comfortably with 3 less bedrooms and free from all the things we just knew we needed. I’m looking forward to utilizing our space better, more organized, and for the first time: with what we actually need not what we think we need.

The trick will be making sure we really are like Koi and will keep in size with our new environment.

Terror, Typos, And Roundhouse Kicks

I’ve blogged for over a decade on various platforms so sharing parts of my life or general observations of the world around me isn’t new. I first got my stride writing on MySpace. Everyone had anonymity through embarrassing screen names which made what you were sharing have a layer of privacy. As the platforms shifted we lost that anonymity. Facebook literally put a face to our feelings and comments. Despite shedding that last layer of privacy, we continue to share. One would think after all these years of sharing that writing a book would be what comes naturally. One would be wrong.

When I started writing I wanted to be open and honest which were two things I’ve spent a lifetime NOT being about my weight. From lying about how much I was eating to how much I weighed, openness and honestly were not a part of my program. Diving into those feelings and emotions were terrifying but the more open I became the better I felt AND the more I realized that I was never alone in those feelings.

Writing was emotionally challenging. The rewrites were unreal. I struggled with sharing too much or too little. I struggled with sharing parts of other people’s stories that overlapped my own since I felt they weren’t mine to tell. Then I struggled with my anxiety.

Should I write this?

Will anyone understand?

What if it’s universally hated?

These thoughts are the devil and sometimes incredibly paralyzing. I’d write, then rewrite, then try again, and again… and again. Then I noticed that these changes and rewrites were really more about delaying progress than seeking perfection. Procrastinators are truly perfectionists with anxiety! I was starting to lose my nerve but I had many books already sold from the preorder so I knew I had to turn off the internal chatter and just do it!

It was then I discovered the intricacies and potentially issues with self publishing. There were formatting problems, platform delays, and shipping issues. With every delay my anxiety was rising because this process was only to take about 40 days from book completion took way longer than that. I wanted my first signing and book pick up to be at Higher Grounds Community Coffeehouse and I had to reschedule it 3 times waiting for my books to arrive. I made the decision to order my pre-ordered books and first round of books to have on hand – sight unseen. An enormous leap of faith for a perfectionist. Even doing this resulted in people ordering from the Amazon bookstore receiving their books before I received mine!

Last Thursday after months of delays and oddball issues my books arrived. In looking them over I noticed some typos and some formatting issues. Things I definitely should’ve caught but I was so concerned with the forest that I failed to see the trees. Amazon’s self publishing arm is very new and apparently still had some kinks to work out from the author end of things. What’s beautiful with self publishing is that the books are print on demand and easily updated. I’m working on this formatting issues and typos now. If you’ve ordered one of these original books thank you and I hope the typos aren’t too distracting from the story itself.

What I’m most proud of is that I did it. Knowing things weren’t completely perfect I still did it. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, once said:

“Done is better than perfect.”

For a person who obsesses over minute details, this is a challenging concept. Historically, I’d rather do nothing than something substandard! I’m discovering that karate is helping me immensely in this area.

When you watch a trained person do a karate move it looks effortless – almost simple. Yet, when you try to mimic the movement you become keenly aware that it is not simple. It’s really a million tiny moves working in perfect harmony! A roundhouse kick is a prime example of that for me. Looks pretty simple, right? You’ve seen it on TV and movies forever, right? Try it. Everyone from Bruce Lee to Steven Stegall to Patrick Swayze made it look easy. It’s not.

My kicks will only improve with the combination of time and training. Time alone will not do it. I could be enrolled in karate for 50 years but if I don’t practice I won’t improve. Training is also not enough. You can learn the basics of a kick in one session but you won’t master it that day. I really want to master it that day! REALLY!

I have to continually remind myself:

I will not master anything immediately.

Procrastination is the devils way of blocking your progress.

I have never been alone in my feelings of self-doubt, anxiety or fear and that sharing that – even imperfectly – is of great benefit to someone who needs it.

And done can really be better than perfect.

Sometimes.

To see Food, Sweat, & Fears on Amazon click Here

Healthy Faux Big Mac Recipe

Here’s a fun, fast recipe that I posted on my Facebook and Instagram pages the other day. It’s healthy version of my favorite before RNY food: McDonald’s Big Mac! This one has all the essence of the taste of that famous delicious burger without all the regret (and none of the bread). Let me know if you try it!