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Charla Ink Slingers Prayer Rosary Spiritual Growth

Tis the Season for weight loss?

ornamentThis is probably the wrong time to broach the subject of weight.  Advent and with Christmas time is not when we want to think about losing or maintaining our weight.  In celebrating this time of year, food is often at the center of our parties and exchanges: potlucks at work, Christmas parties, New Year’s parties—food is all around us.  All the eating often instigates regret; we overeat, over-imbibe, too much sugar, too many rich foods.  We lament the weight gain that comes with this time of year. We do not turn down food offered to us, because we know, “Jenny’s famous apple pie is to die for.” Others prepare dishes as an expression of love for others in their lives, and to turn down such a gift would be offensive.  I find myself in this position every holiday season, and this year I decided to head this off before I got in over my head.

Now, I am not at a weight that I am comfortable with.  I am a yo-yo.  My weight goes up and down frequently.  I have had three significant weight losses in my adulthood, followed by three reversions to the original weight I had started out with.  The first two gains were due to pregnancy—never took off that “baby weight.”  The third was graduate school—no time to exercise or plan meals.  I have had a million excuses.  I know I will get to that frame of mind to get back on that horse and lose the weight, but that time is not now.

However, it is eating season.  I told myself I cannot let myself gain any more than I already have.  I need a means of maintaining so that my health does not suffer and keeping up with an eight year old little dancer is not a labored effort.  Vanity is no longer the issue it was when I was younger, but this is a matter of being a disciplined individual in all aspects of my life, so that is where my faith comes in.  I believe that God wants me to be a person who is not gluttonous, but not vain either.  Losing weight is often about looking a certain way, but at this point in my life, I find it is about focus and discipline– two attributes that will help lead me to Heaven. If I look at it that way, losing weight serves a greater purpose.

I need to move my body more and celebrate this gift that God has given me. My body is capable of running and dancing and jumping and playing.  A stagnant body does not celebrate the gift God has bestowed me with. Focus and discipline of course are parts of exercise; I need to initiate these more in this realm as well. All this takes strength, strength I am not always sure I have.memorare

I know that when I need strength, I must turn to prayer, so why should my weight loss or weight maintenance or exercise efforts be any different.  I decided to ask God for discipline this season: to enjoy food as sustenance and for the love with which it was prepared, but not to overdo it.  I started a 54 day Rosary Novena which will end at Christmas. This has helped me with discipline of prayer.  Every morning before I begin my day, I pray this meditation, asking Mary to intercede on my behalf for the intention of strength and discipline, among other intentions.  I follow up the Rosary recitation with a Novena to Mary prayer, acknowledging my struggles and weaknesses, and then complete my prayer with The Memorare.

After several weeks of this, I have found that I am empowered when it comes to food.  I am not serving myself as much in quantity; gluttony is not overtaking me.  I look at food and appreciate it more for aspects other than taste: the amount of love that went into preparing it, the energy that it sustains. I am not looking at myself in the mirror with disgust any longer.  (Yes, unfortunately, I was doing that too often.) I have no inclination to weigh myself either. I do not know if I have lost weight over the last several weeks, but my clothes are not quite as tight.  I am becoming motivated to exercise and offering it up as a way of praying and valuing the healthy body I have been given. I have prayed the Rosary while working out on the treadmill– walking the Our Father, and running the Hail Marys.  When I have found myself wanting to eat out of stress or boredom, I ask the Blessed Mother for her intercession.  A simple Hail Mary usually helps.  I have sampled holiday goodies, but I am not serving myself full pieces of pies or pastries.  I pray I can continue to use this strategy to get into an earnest mindset of significant weight loss by becoming disciplined in my eating and exercise habits.

scaleWeight issues plague so many of us, hopefully my approach might help someone else who has these same struggles.  Are there any strategies associated with your faith or prayer that have helped you become healthier and disciplined?

 

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Conversion Fasting HHS mandate Lynne Offering your suffering Prayer Year of Faith

Fasting for Freedom

 

It’s the Christmas season: a time of feasting that we anticipate all year.  As much as I want to savor this time, I find myself preoccupied with more penitential thoughts.

Just as God guilted me into praying the rosary, He’s been using His relentless, persistent tactics to convince me of the need for a change in my life.  Rightly is He called the “Hound of Heaven”. After several months of evasion, I finally realize that I can’t run away from Him any longer.  I’m being called to fast.

Fasting is not something I’ve ever been good at.  In fact, I’ve never been able to fast in any meaningful way.  Two smaller meals and one regular meal, offered up a measly two days a year, don’t help me feel especially accomplished in the art.  Outside of Lent, I’ve often considered fasting for a particular intention, only to give up the idea at the sight of a Hershey bar.  The mental conversation goes like this:

Self 1: “A Hershey bar!  Just when I decide to fast!”

Self 2:  “What?  You may never see one of these again!  Eat it.  How is giving up a Hershey bar going to help anyone anyway?”

Self 1:  “But I am fasting….”

Self 2:  “Ha–like you’ll stick with it.  Quit kidding yourself.  You just want to lose weight.”

Self 1:  “It would be a nice bonus….”

Self 2:  “Aha!  You have selfish motives!  The whole fast is useless. ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!’”

And just like that, my fast is over—rationalized away before I begin.

Another complicating factor in my fasts: food is an obsession for me.  More accurately, food is an addiction.  Unlike the alcoholic, I can’t simply abstain; I have to eat to live.  The problem is that I function at the opposite end of the spectrum: I live to eat.

After twenty years as an adult, I stumbled upon the idea that every food is not problematic—only carbohydrates.  Pooh-pooh all you want, but I can personally attest (as can AnnMarie) that when I quit eating carbohydrates, my thoughts about food change.  I no longer nosh all day, sneak food in secret, or eat whole jars of peanut butter with bags of chocolate chips mixed in.  The evil little monkey on my back goes away and leaves me in peace.

Of course, I fall.  I get off track and binge like crazy.  And I hate it.  I hate the gluttonous, out-of-control, shoving-food-down-the-gullet-without-tasting-it maniac that I become.  But most of the time I don’t hate it enough to walk away.  So I spin in the vortex for a while, down and down, until I can manage to break free again.

I have also come to terms with the fact that my son has an addiction, too.  He is addicted to pornography.  It’s a battle he has fought since age twelve.   While he lived at home, we could help filter his life.  Now, as a freshman in college, he swims in a sea of it.  Like me, he has managed to walk away and stay “clean” for a while, but ultimately finds himself drawn in again.  Sex, like food, is everywhere.

I’ve prayed for my son—prayed, cried and prayed again.  But what I haven’t been able to do is fast for him.  Only in the last year have I begun to see a link between my son’s addiction and my own.  I have always looked upon his sin as worse than mine, but how different are we?  Pornography is a twisting of the precious gift of our sexuality.  My food obsession, too, is a twisting of the goods that God has given.  (Dieters can even look at “food porn” online—graphic images of forbidden delicacies, intended to stimulate and tantalize).  Both pornography and food addiction represent a warped, disordered misuse of things that are objectively good—things that God has given us to sustain and enrich life.  My son and I aren’t so different after all.  I can’t help but think: if I could give up my addiction, as a fast for my son, how powerful would that be?

It may sound bizarre, but I feel that God has given me a unique opportunity to help my son, to do him a service that no one else can.  It is as though we share a strange, supernatural bond, and I have recourse to special aid by virtue of our common sin.  If only I (by God’s grace) can manage to break free of my chains, I can help set him free in the process.  It’s like a scene from a science fiction movie—but I know that in the communion of saints, it’s possible.

Moses fasted for the sins of the faithless Israelite people, begging God’s mercy for them (Exodus 34).  So did the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9).  The Israelites fasted for deliverance (1 Samuel 7; Nehemiah 9), as did the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3).  Jesus himself told his apostles that some demons are subdued only “by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Pope Paul VI, in the 1966 apostolic constitution Paenitemini (On Fast and Abstinence) wrote:“… mortification aims at the ‘liberation’ of man, who often finds himself, because of concupiscence, almost chained by his own senses. Through ‘corporal fasting’ man regains strength and the ‘wound inflicted on the dignity of our nature by intemperance is cured by the medicine of a salutary abstinence.’”  To put it simply, for those consumed by addiction, fasting is a powerful antidote.

Fr. Rich Simon’s, host of Relevant Radio’s Go Ask Your Father, put the Holy Father’s thoughts into more common language, explaining that in our world we are “enslaved” by many things.  Fasting opposes this slavery.  With fasting, we actively, consciously, choose to forego that which we desire.  Thus we are not mastered by our desires, but willfully master them by saying “no” to self.  Fasting, when coupled with prayer, is a hammer striking at the chains that bind us in sin.  As Fr. Rich says, “Fasting is about freedom”.

Of course all this fasting is still theoretical for me.  I haven’t actually done any fasting.  In fact, as is typical, I have been leery to commit myself to it without a very clear sign from above.  I keep hoping to look down and find this:

But as I was writing, God generously gave me the confirmation I craved.  It turns out that our bishops have issued a Call To Prayer For Life, Marriage, And Religious Liberty.  It is a request for “prayer, penance, and sacrifice for the sake of renewing a culture of life, marriage, and religious liberty in our country.”

I’m no genius, but even I can recognize that my son, a well-formed Catholic young man with much good to offer the world, is a prime target in the spiritual battle that rages in our world.  He has an important role to fulfill in the culture of life—as a husband, father, and community leader—and the sanctity of his vocation is under attack.  The bishops are not asking me to fast for a theoretical soldier in a culture war far, far away.  They are asking me to fast for my son.  They are asking me to strike a blow for the culture of life by working to exorcise pornography from the life of one young man—my young man.  Our culture is renewed not through mighty deeds and acts of Congress, but by me being faithful to my personal call, doing my small acts, changing my own life and family in little ways.  I can’t be Joan of Arc.  But maybe I can be St. Therese.

The bishops call to prayer has five components—including fasting and abstinence from meat on Fridays.  The fast begins on December 30, 2012 (the Feast of the Holy Family) and lasts until November 24, 2013 (the feast of Christ the King).  For a complete outline of the Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty, visit the USCCB website.

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AnnMarie C. Faith Formation Fasting Ink Slingers Offering your suffering Prayer

Be Careful What You Pray For!

“In an acceptable time I heard you…Behold now is a very acceptable time.” 2 Cor 6:2

All my life I’ve been overweight. I’ve always felt hungry; no matter what I’ve eaten I have rarely felt full. I was always the fat girl in every grade, teased by my peers and embarrassed by my body. When it came to food I was unable to control myself. I had to have ice cream if it was in the house. I loved mashed potatoes, rolls, anything sweet or starchy. I even took gummy vitamins because they were so sugary. I was a foodaholic and out of control. For 45 years I’ve struggled with my weight and the negative emotions that go with it.

Two years ago I went on a strict diet and began to count calories. I eliminated wheat, because wheat seemed to have a detrimental effect on my metabolism. I went to bed hungry every night. I lost 40 pounds, but immediately gained back 13 when I added wheat back into my diet. Doctors tested me for celiac disease, thyroid disorders and food allergies but couldn’t find anything. I was suffering from extreme fatigue, I had acne and was so bloated that I looked pregnant. I was depressed and felt hopeless to ever get down to a healthy weight.

I prayed to God to help me get healthy, but it was a whiny prayer and, I’ll admit, an empty one. I didn’t want to be hungry. I hated to fast. Food was an idol to me.

Last summer, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who mentioned to me that when she was trying to quit smoking some years ago, she began to confess that she smoked. After all, the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and damaging it can fall into the realm of sin. This gave me pause and made me think about my overeating as an affront to the Lord.

I began to confess the sin of gluttony in the sacrament of reconciliation. I also began to pray to the Lord to help me become completely detached from food. I wanted to eat to live, not live to eat. I wanted to become healthy and to live a long time so I could enjoy my children and, hopefully grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

About a month after I began praying this way I was diagnosed with a Systemic Candida Overgrowth. All of us have good and bad bacteria in their digestive systems. It seems that mine had gone haywire and overtook my digestive system and got into my bloodstream. This particular bacteria, Candida, is a yeast, which demands to be fed…and what does yeast eat? Sugar! This explained my craving for sweet foods.

The treatment for my condition involved eliminating all fruits, grains, dairy, sugars, mushrooms and fermented products, including alcohol, from my diet. That left me with meat, vegetables and eggs as a basic diet. Initially the anti-fungal medication I was on made me physically ill and I could barely eat. One day, as I sat doubled over with nausea, I remembered my prayer asking God for a complete detachment from food. Wow, I thought, be careful what you pray for…

I have been in treatment for over seven months now and all my cravings are gone. Completely. I haven’t eaten fruit, grains or alcohol in all this time and I feel great! My skin has cleared up, I have energy and my stomach is flattening. Recently I have been able to add a few foods back to my diet, like unsweetened Greek yogurt and occasionally heavy cream. However, most foods I have tried to add back have made me sick and my doctor has recommended staying on this diet for the rest of my life. Now I truly appreciate any foods I can eat and pray my meal blessing from the heart!

The most positive result of my condition is that I have been given the grace to embrace this cross…and a cross it is. I pray a lot before the Blessed Sacrament. Regarding my condition, I only have prayers of thanksgiving. I haven’t asked the Lord to cure me of it because I’ve decided to approach it as a lifelong fast.

Now that I know that in order to stay healthy I need to severely restrict my diet, I feel empowered! I offer up my fasting for my children’s salvation, for souls in Purgatory, for sinners who have no one to pray for them.
Other graces have come as well. My husband has taken his vocation seriously and has stepped up to help me bear this cross. He grills meats for me every weekend so I can have prepared food to eat throughout the week. He has been accepting of the changes I’ve made in our family’s dinner menus. My whole family has been supportive of my new way of eating and even my children have come up with recipes that are within my diet.

So, with the cross, graces abound. When I bake brownies for my children or make a nice Italian meal for a friend, I remember to offer up my fast for the person who will be eating the food. Using my condition for good has brought such joy! Joy from knowing my suffering can benefit others and joy that the Lord heard my prayers and answered me in His time.