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.

Check The Environment

The other day an Instagram friend posted this quote:

“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” – Alexander Den Heijer

I loved this because it resonated in me. But as swiftly as the thoughts came in, life swept them away.

I was going through my Facebook newsfeed a few days later and was quickly reminded of that post. It was from an article in the Paris Review from author CJ Hauser. The essay titled The Crane Wife was an incredible read about how a woman found herself on a crane research trip after breaking off an engagement. Here’s the passage that took me back to that earlier post:

Here is what I learned once I began studying whooping cranes: only a small part of studying them has anything to do with the birds. Instead we counted berries. Counted crabs. Measured water salinity. Stood in the mud. Measured the speed of the wind.

It turns out, if you want to save a species, you don’t spend your time staring at the bird you want to save. You look at the things it relies on to live instead. You ask if there is enough to eat and drink. You ask if there is a safe place to sleep. Is there enough here to survive?

Why did this hit me so hard? Spending the last five years ardently working on myself by dealing with my weight, my food addiction, and my (often crippling) anxiety I discovered a link I never knew I was missing! I’ve been so focused on myself that I haven’t paused – consciously – to consider my environment.

When a person has a weight issue it’s often because there’s an imbalance somewhere. Many will consider that imbalance to ONLY be calories in far exceed calories out. It would be nice if that were true. It’s just one part of a much more complex algorithm! There’s usually an underlying cause that leads to the pure calorie math.

For example, consider the environment in which a person lives. Has food insecurity ever been an issue? A person who was deprived food through poverty or even through a parent’s withholding can be a factor.

I personally know a woman whose mother was terrified she’d grow up to be fat. She was slightly overweight when we were kids and her mother was obsessed with how much she ate, what she could eat and where she could eat. Her mother constantly micromanaged her food. When I saw her ten years after we graduated from high school she had gained a lot of weight. I often wondered if leaving her parents house where she had no one to stop her or manage her food led to her weight gain. Turns out her mother was heavy as a child and was taunted throughout her school years. Her desire to save her daughter from the same treatment was the motivation behind her behavior.

Trauma is another item to consider. Comedian Russell Brand famously said this:

Cannabis isn’t a gateway drug. 
Alcohol isn’t a gateway drug. 
Nicotine isn’t a gateway drug. 
Caffeine isn’t a gateway drug.

Trauma is the gateway.
Childhood abuse is the gateway. 
Molestation is the gateway. 
Neglect is the gateway. 

Drug abuse, violent behavior, hypersexuality, and self-harm are often symptoms (not the cause) of much bigger issues.

And it almost always stems from a childhood filled with trauma, absent parents, and an abusive family.

But most people are too busy laughing at the homeless and drug addicts to realize your own children could be in their shoes in 15 years.

Communicate. 
Empathize. 
Rehabilitate.

— Russell Brand

When I first saw this, it hit me hard. The weight of that truth sunk into my core. Although he doesn’t specifically mention food, when it’s abused food can be just as dangerous! When I started to take on the challenge of my weight I had to consider the source! What is the root of my eating? It wasn’t only WHAT I was eating (calorie math) but WHY was I eating (complex algorithm)?

I was stagnant in my behaviors for years. I discovered that despite how I felt about myself the greater risk was in changing. It was far easier to stay the same! I willingly chose a life where I was so miserable in my own skin because even though I was unhappy with myself it was far more comfortable to stay in my misery than to attempt to do something and potentially fail… again. I knew my misery and ended up making it my friend. I was the flower that wouldn’t bloom but I didn’t have the strength to consider switching my environment!

Looking back, I see how taking the steps to work on myself contributed to a change in my environment. To be successful in how you live after surgery you have to be able to eat according to a plan. Before surgery I’d often order food or go out to fast food. I’d have a steady supply of ice cream, chocolate, and cookies at my disposal at all times! You can’t do that after surgery. The first environment I changed was my kitchen! I didn’t even realize that’s what happened!

If you’re struggling or lost, have you considered what in your environment is hindering you? Look around and take stock. Then look inside and try to uncover the roots. Having the courage to honestly get to truth of your weight and being willing to challenge the environment around you will lead to success.

After 30 Days – The Results

In the month of May I had my sinus surgery after a non-stop year of sinus infections that started to impact my overall wellbeing. As I started to heal I noticed just how far from the basics I was living. After RNY Gastric Bypass Surgery you have to be so diligent with food, movement, and daily habits and here I was over 4 years out and being too “busy” to get to the business of weight management.

Too busy. It’s really the most basic excuse and there is to justify why I was no longer paying attention. Taking stock of how I was feeling, what I was eating, and how I was moving made me realize that I needed to hop back on the wellness train. I’ve gained some weight in the past couple years and I stopped journaling my food about 6 months ago. Once you start slacking on your routines the inevitable is coming. Regain is an epidemic with weight loss surgery. If you don’t stay diligent then you have the potential of going right back where you started from. I definitely didn’t want to do that.

So what do you do? You get right back on the horse! I know what works, I’ve done it before, and it was time to do it again. I decided to take 30 days and really go back to the beginning focusing on these core things:

Eat well
Stay hydrated
Increase Daily Movement
Keep a Food Journal
Meal Plan and Prep
Check in with Friends

These were the foundations of my beginning with weight loss surgery. I needed to go back to that kind of diligence. In looking for a plan to help with meal prep I decided to do the Whole 30 because it fit with my goals and there are limitless resources to assist you with doing it. You can find information about the Whole30 here: Whole30.

Primary Foods to Eat During Whole30:
Vegetables
Fruits
Unprocessed Meat, Seafood, & Eggs
Nuts & Seeds (no peanuts or peanut butter)
Certain healthy oils and fats

Primary Foods to Avoid During Whole30:
Junk food
Fast Food
Sugar
Processed Food
Alcohol
Dairy
Legumes
Grains
Bread
Preservatives
Caffeine

I have a complicated history with scales and weigh ins. I like that the Whole30 doesn’t want you to weigh yourself or take any measurements for 30 days. Just do the work and trust the results will follow. I let all of my readers and social media friends know what I was doing as a means of support. For me, it also keeps me diligent. If I tried to do this on my own and it became too challenging I know I’d be the first to quit if no one knew what was happening. I wanted to regularly check in. Not only did I get to support others, but their support was so healthy for me.

I spent 30 days reading labels of all my food diligently checking for sugar and preservatives. I planned all my meals and prepped weekly. I learned to coook with ghee to avoid the dairy part of butter and discovered new ways of introducing veggies into my food. My husband was not too thrilled at first with the Whole30 and he ended up loving the dinners we created and new methods of cooking. The best part is that we took the time to cook together and eat together which was something that we let our “busy” schedules convince us was impossible. It wasn’t our schedules, it was our priorities.

So what happened after 30 days?

Clearer skin
Better sleep
Easier digestion
More energy
No more daily coffees
No sugar cravings
AND
I lost 24lbs in 30 days which I absolutely didn’t expect!

After RNY Gastric Bypass many people believe that the “work” of weight loss is over. That’s actually where the work begins and you have to keep working it for a lifetime or you run the risk of the behaviors you had before to re-emerge. It’s never too late to STOP, cycle back to the beginning and get back to basics to get Back on Track!

Give yourself 30 days and get right back at it!

For tips, tools, and motivation be sure to like my page on Facebook!

Thank you!



Back On Track After Illness

I started to write a blog the other day about my sinus surgery. It really wasn’t until I started to write everything down that I noticed just how long my sinuses have given me problems. I actually first started presenting issues back in May of 2018. That was a year ago!

The past year has been amazing from doing my TEDx Talk, launching my book, and having my dream book signing at my favorite book shop Savoy. I was even nominated for an Athena award, celebrated 10 years with my husband, and moved! Did I mention that I teach POUND several days a week and take karate?

In the midst of all these great things I also took 10 rounds of oral antibiotics of increasing strength and duration, took prednisone for far longer than I ever wanted to, had a PICC line of antibiotics since my “severe persistent maxillary sinus infection” seemed to never go away. Through it all I rarely paused.

Figuring out I’m allergic to a host of plants, animals, and fungi and starting immunotherapy has been great but finally going in to repair my deviated septum and tool through my sinuses has been incredible. I sleep better, breathe better, and even though the first couple of days I felt like I was hit with a bat it is all worth it.

Now that I’m feeling better I got to see just how much this has affected me. I was always very diligent with journaling my food and meal prep but the past few months have been so draining that I barely kept up. It’s easy to make excuses when you don’t feel well. Being under the weather is always a great excuse to slack.

If you’ve been around these Blog parts for a while you’ll know that I’ve had a very unhealthy relationship with scales. It was bordering on obsessive and emotionally controlling. When I had RNY Gastric Bypass I only weighed myself at the doctors office until those appointments became less frequent. I then implemented what I call the Rumble Strip.

On a roadway the rumble strip is the lines placed in the asphalt beyond the white line. When your tires hit them it makes an alarming sound jilting the driver back to attention. My rumble strip is a pair of pants. I have a pair of jeans that I love. They fit well and the true test is how they fit fresh out of the dryer. If I ever want to check how I’m doing I’ll throw on those pants and let them be my guide.

I haven’t done it in a while and with my general slack and boatload of excuses I knew it was time. I put them on yesterday after 3 solid weeks of limited activity recovering from my surgery. They went over my hips and zipped just fine. The button, however, not my finest hour. I’ve officially hit the rumble strip and I’m finally feeling well enough to tackle it!

So many people ask about getting back on track. Not just after weight loss surgery but after any way that you’ve lost before and began the slow creep back. The best thing is always to go back to basics. You know what you did that worked so return there and begin again. The month of June I’m doing a 30 Day Re-Focus where I’ll return to my basics and get back on track.

What are Basics?

  • Count macros and calories
  • Journal all food (if you bite it write it)
  • Chart how I feel when I eat
  • Be sure I’m pausing and taking 10 seconds (read about that HERE)
  • Increase step goal to 15,000 per day
  • Move 60 mins per day
  • Meal prep!

What are NOT Basics?

  • Getting upset about gain
  • Isolating and not addressing the issue
  • Continuing to live in your excuses
  • Not trying to correct the behavior before it gets out of control
  • Hating yourself

Remember:

  • You cannot hate yourself happy
  • You cannot shame yourself thin
  • You can take steps to correct
  • You can reach out for help and accountability
  • You can bounce back
  • We can do it together
  • Give yourself 30 days

Before May 31st

  • Weigh yourself
  • Take measurements
  • Make sure you have a place to journal your food
  • Find an accountability partner or check in with me
  • Have at least 3 days of healthy and portioned meals ready to go
  • Be ready to take this challenge on!
  • NOTE: You will not weigh in or take measurements until July 1st. Feel free to put on your Rumble Strip pants to check progress if you NEED to see how you’re doing before July.

You’ll be amazed what 30 days of focus can do! Let’s do it together. I’ll be posting some free reference guides and helpful planning tips.

The Doctor Is In

I had an opportunity today that was different than any other I’ve had in the past. I was asked to sit on a panel at Rhode Island Hospital with other bariatric patients to answer questions from doctors about obesity and our experiences with medical professionals before, during, and after surgery.

I was so comfortable when I got there. I’ve been very open about my life before surgery and the many changes after so I was expecting another opportunity to share how this process can be lifechanging and beneficial. Then something happened.

The doctors arrived. 

As they entered the auditorium in their scrubs and white coats I started having flashbacks. The flood of memories for every medical professional who treated me poorly or dismissed any issue I could possibly have because I was fat and wouldn’t look any further. Every piece of exasperated advice that left me feeling defeated and alone. Every time nurses would stifle a laugh or talk about me in an adjoining room. Every painful memory came flooding back and I was shocked.

When it was my turn to speak I shared how I was too heavy to be weighed on the scale in the office and the doctor – without looking at me – told me if I wanted to get my weight I could make an appointment at the Providence Post Office and get on the freight scale. No compassion, no understanding, and I felt so low and demoralized. Every single person on the panel had stories about sub-par treatment from medical professionals. It can be alarming to hear what’s been said to people especially when they are seeking help. It was initially overwhelming.

Once I got my feelings in check I realized what an incredible opportunity this is for us and for them. They are here because they are interested in what we have to say and how they could treat people living with obesity with dignity and respect. They asked detailed questions, listened to our stories, and took a genuine interest in treatment from our perspective. I could only imagine the next time they are faced with an obese patient that they will have a better understanding based on this conversation.

I’ve often spoken of Miriam Hospital’s Center for Bariatric Surgery as a haven for information, support, and treatment for people looking for weight loss and management solutions. Today, their commitment to helping their peers – as well as their patients – only confirms what I’ve always known about this program since I walked through the door in 2014, and watched my life transform before my very eyes. When you’re ready for help, they’re ready for you.

For more information about Miriam’s program click here:

Miriam Hospital Center for Bariatric Surgery

The Cruelest Words I’ve Heard

I read a post on a bariatric group a few weeks ago that just stayed with me. She wrote this:

It’s so sad that strangers are so much nicer to me since I lost weight.

This is a fact that many men and women notice after weight loss. People can be truly cruel, especially when someone who is not an ideal body type. I’ve often said that weight is the lowest hanging fruit on the insult tree. The first thing people grab when they want to throw an insult.

You fat (enter insult here)!!!

Don’t think this is limited to just overweight people. Thin people get this too and it’s just as damaging. I used to think calling someone skinny was the ultimate compliment because I wanted to be thin so badly. It’s not an compliment regardless of your intention. It’s a stone that when thrown leaves a mark. You can’t see the mark but trust me, it’s there.

Ultimately, people are much kinder after weight loss. When I first started walking I didn’t want to walk outside because I didn’t want the stares from people on the street or hear insults yelled from cars. This has happened more frequently than you can imagine.

I was eating an ice cream cone at a county fair minding my own business when a man walked up to me and said:

That’s probably part of your problem.

I don’t know what he gained from this. If your mission in life was break me down emotionally by attacking me verbally, then you won, good for you. If you thought this one second insult made in passing somehow got through to me and I would drop my ice cream and join a gym, that’s where you went wrong. You only succeeded in making me feel bad about myself which is the precursor to bingeing. You literally threw a log on the slow burning embers of my fragile self esteem. Congratulations.

Next my mind wandered to a different place. I’ve fought the battle of my weight for over 30 years. Thirty years of not feeling beautiful – and thinking people who said I was beautiful was lying or crazy. This is not a way to live. Then it hit me:

The cruelest words I’ve ever heard are the ones I say to myself daily.

Yes, people definitely treat me better now that I’m smaller, however, that’s an issue that will only be changed when people learn to accept that all body’s are different but all deserve respect. I can’t change other people’s thoughts, opinions, or even their cruelest words. I can control mine.

I don’t believe in diets or resolutions. I believe in creating lifestyle changes that will better my heath and wellbeing. This year I’m working on that nagging voice that gets in the back of my mind and tells me I’m not enough, not ideal, or not worthy. Negative self talk ends today.

The bible verse 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NASB) is a great reminder:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

Notice it reads “your body is a temple.”

It doesn’t say your body is a temple when:

  • You lose weight
  • You gain muscle
  • You cut carbs
  • You fit your high school prom dress
  • You get your body back after childbirth

Your body is a temple – without qualifier! Again, I’m not one for resolutions but I am all about a good, healthy goal. My goal this year is to silence my inner evil critic and remember my body is a temple and should be treated with – and spoken to – with respect.

Who’s with me?

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

Perfectionism, Food Issues and Karate

I’m definitely a perfectionist. I like things done. Right. The first time. I like doing things well and I’m obsessed with things like order and placement. From a marketing perspective this can be considered great or even ideal. One thing that really changed my life was when I discovered perfection’s back story. Perfection is really fear, anxiety, and procrastination doing an elaborate dance.

What does that mean? I can’t speak for all people, but I can certainly speak to my own experiences. Looking over my past behaviors – which was essential to weight loss – I discovered that I would often opt to do NOTHING if I couldn’t do it PERFECTLY. Inevitably, the task I needed to do would likely take more time to complete but I’d want to do it immediately. If I didn’t have the time to do that, I’d leave it to another day.

Perfection is merely procrastination in a tuxedo.

In our last house I had an office studio where I’d make personalized items. After the holiday season it was usually a wreck. I’d open the door and want to clean it to sheer perfection. Realizing how that was impossible I’d simply shut the door and wait until I had more time. If I did get to the place where I’d actually tackle it, I’d often get so overwhelmed at the enormity of it all and shut down. Greetings Anxiety! I knew you’d show up eventually!

As I began the process for weight loss surgery, I noticed how a lot of this behavior was not only in office clean up but heavily tied to my food behaviors. I would never say, “I’m going to cook dinner tonight.” I would say, “I’m going to cook dinner every night for the rest of my life!” When I failed once at my Lifetime Cooking Goal I’d go right back to ordering out because I failed.

I had to recognize that I was constantly setting myself up for failure! In my office I could’ve planned to break down what needed to be done into smaller, more manageable tasks, set a deadline for completing those tasks, and worked toward completion. With cooking dinner I could’ve endeavored to cook that one night and work up to cooking more often.

I mind-tricked myself out of my own wellness!

My internal need for perfection would often have me procrastinating until I felt that I could accomplish something perfectly. What a realization!

As I applied this model of breaking things down into smaller and more manageable tasks, I realized it was not just in office cleanliness or wellness that I had this issue. Karate brought out a lot of this behavior. I wanted to have black belt skills as a white belt. Yeah, that’s not possible. I’d often go home after class and beat myself up for not learning fast enough or looking as good as my peers. It was challenging physically and even more mentally.

After a while, you realize that you will only get better with dedication and practice. I am not a black belt so I won’t have black belt skills. What I can do is learn and practice. I will not know anything instantly. I will have to break it down, learn it in pieces, and put it together over time.

One of the most valuable pieces to all of this is the realization that doing something – even something unbelievably small – is better than doing nothing at all. Gracefully bow out of the Dance of Perfection and Procrastination and begin.

Progress not perfection.

Did You Do It Yourself

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to have a booth selling and signing my books at the Rhode Island Women’s Expo. I loved sharing Food, Sweat, & Fears with new people.

Weight is so personal. You could see it in how people chose to engage at the booth. Some didn’t want to engage at all, while others had more curiosity. Many people opened up and shared stories of about themselves or a loved one battling the issues of weight. Most people seemed like they were looking for The Secret Missing Link Of Weight Loss.

The most frequent question was this:

Did you do it yourself?

The battle rages on. People still seem to believe that weight loss surgery has no element of work and is considered “cheating” weight loss. There was a woman who had surgery and called it cheating! I was stunned. She intimately knows how much work is involved in this process and still called it cheating!

My work is not done. I will continue to speak and share my message about the surgical options for weight loss. Surgery is NOT for everyone but removing the stigma from this option can save lives.

Weight loss surgery is not a quick fix or even a guarantee of weight loss. Long term success eludes most people after surgery. This can be directly attributed falling back into unhealthy eating behaviors after surgery. When you’ve spent your life exhibiting poor eating choices – like me – or you use food as a primary coping strategy – like me – this can be extremely challenging. You have to do the work. No matter how you choose to lose weight there will be work to do.

Coming out of the Thanksgiving Food Olympics and heading straight into Christmas Cookie Season, makes me really sensitive to people’s comments. Probably because the hardest workout I do this season is shaking my head from left to right refusing your offers of cookies and cakes.

I have to do that all by myself.

______________

Did you know you can preorder my new, expanded cookbook Healthy Fare today? Ships before Christmas! Check it out here: Healthy Fare

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Here’s a quick recipe I threw together tonight in a rush. I was pleasantly surprised by how good it tasted and even more impressed with how quickly it all came together: Start to finish including prep time was 30 minutes!

In honor of my cookbook coming out soon here’s a recipe to hold you over! Here’s the printable version: stuffed-portobello-mushrooms-recipe-1.pdf