Slimming through grace and the not so perfect ‘Bikini Body’.

clothes on likeMy parents in-law visited last weekend which was lovely, and having not seen me in around six months, mentioned that I had lost a lot of weight.
It is probably fair to say that in this time, my body has undergone a few changes. My clothes have definitely been fitting better.
But I haven’t been trying to, more just having an overhaul on my thought life, which has been much needed.
So here’s a little of my journey in case it blesses you.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Hormones

imageIn February, I stopped breastfeeding our youngest after fourteen months, which was a record for me, as the other two stopped of their own accord at 7 and 8 months respectively.
This ended up only happening by God’s grace, as whilst I have massively changed my perpective on extended breastfeeding, I was exhausted and getting quite fed up, yet she was showing no signs of losing interest.

I was in entirely new territory.
While I didn’t want to force her, or trick her into stopping, there were two of us in the arrangement and one of us was heading towards tipping point. But I didn’t know how to without hurting our relationship and the trust between us.
All my efforts of cuddling her in the night rather than feeding her, and offering a bottle during the day, had come to nothing but stress and tears. So in the end I gave it all totally to God. How hard I was finding it. How frustrating. And I asked that He in His grace, would stop it for us both – peacefully – by the end of the week.
I didn’t have that much faith that it would work, but I was willing to choose to hope, and sure enough, without any fanfare, seven days later we were completely done.
All my hard efforts had achieved nothing but misery, but His Grace was sufficient. Funny that.

Re-Thinking Food

About two years ago, my husband P and I spent six weeks following The Plan, a diet who’s tagline is ‘It’s not calories, it’s chemistry’, and who’s general premise is to work out which foods are reactive with your individual body chemistry.
How come some people eat only ‘healthy’ foods in small portions, exercise but still never seem to lose weight, and in addition have a long list of ailments, whereas others eat whatever they like, full fat, meat and ‘unhealthy’ foods and yet remain slim and vital?

Recitas’ reasoning is, that any food which is reactive to your body will cause some form of inflammation eg. headaches, histamine reactions and weight gain.

Inflammation can build up over time, affecting your health, and causing your body to be less efficient at digestion, because it is using up precious energy fighting it.
This made sense as a premise, so we went for it.

The process opened up my eyes to foods which I had previously thought were doing me good, but were actually doing the opposite.

I found that wheat, rye (though not gluten generally, as oats were great), potatoes, beef, corn and possibly tomatoes are not my friends. And pomegranates make my lips tingle and peel!
It eimagexplained why I would have ‘fat days’, where despite eating well, I would be several pounds heavier from one day to another, feeling sluggish with too-tight clothes.
It helped me to tune in to my body better, learning to listen to what it was telling me. And I began to re-evaluate my relationship with food, seeing it not as something pleasant simply to fill me up- but there to actually nourish me. Something so obvious that I had missed it!

I lost a little weight, but found it frustrating as I seemed to be reactive to everything. However P lost a stone in a week and a half and kept it off for ages.

Eating like that didn’t totally last, because the demands of work, small children and a new pregnancy left us too tired to bother to plan meals well, and all I really craved was stodgy bread and shreddies. However over the past two years or so, I have gradually committed to eradicating my ‘bad’  foods from my diet, and now pay better attention to my how my body responds to new things.
I have really felt the benefit, with less bloating and tummy pain, and a little consistent weight loss, tempered with the freedom to throw it out the window on special occasions, knowing that only a day or so of eating better can reset me.

Exercise

imagePeople have often commented to me that I must be very fit due to running around after our three small children, but for the most part that hasn’t really been true.
Exhaustion from lack of sleep, bouts of depression, winter and the effort it can take to get three children out of the house by myself, meant that I really lacked motivation to do much, so some days were really sedentry.
Things became easier once we moved house, as it was summertime and our location was now so central, we could walk more.

Then, mostly out of curiosity, I bought a Fitbit from Ebay, in a bid to see how much I was actually moving. It has been so useful in encouraging me to recognise my habits and understand why they are as they are. And to make the effort to get out if we have been too still.

P has been freeing me up most days, to go out and walk for about 45mins+ in our local parkland, and I cherish it.
Despite being a very physical person, I have always found jogging a chore. Probably because growing up, it was always associated with needing to lose weight. And understandably, I find the idea of exercising simply for this purpose, utterly soul destroying. I need a positive reason to do something that takes effort, not be focussed by an attitude of lack.

However, I discovered years ago, that when I don’t move or get out much, my mental state plummets.
imageSo although exercise is obviously part of my walks, the main reason I love them is the free headspace and chance to talk to God without the distractions of children, or chores.
These regular rambles have allowed my mood to lift and my creativity to flow much better, and I find that I am more patient with my family.

I also think better on my feet and find that I am better able to process what is going on by talking out loud, without being overheard, so having this  opportunity without being overheard, is such a blessing. I am able to cast my cares better, and lean into his grace for all the day to day stuff.

Re-defining my body image

These past couple of years have taken me on a journey with food- where it comes from (it’s ethics and quality), exercise and health, but the biggest thing which has been slowly changing, is my self image.

I grew up in an immensely loving and encouraging home, told that I could achieve anything I wanted and that shooting for the moon was the best thing I could do. This has stood me in good stead for many aspects of life, but the one area which has never felt so unconditional or freeing has been that of body image. Particularly body weight.

We were all sporty and dancey and so naturally that had a bearing on our shape, but from quite a young age, and definitely in my pre-teens, it became very evident that slim was beautiful and fat was ugly, something confirmed through attitudes at home.
So when at 13 I started earning money, spending much of it on chocolate, and beginning to gain weight alongside the changes of puberty, I became aware that I should be dieting to lose it again. By the time I was 15, I had become well practiced at seeing all that was wrong with my body- maybe not horrendously wrong- but certainly in need of definite ‘tweaking’.
I was aware that I hadbikini body big thighs for a bikini, and had really begun to believe that if I was going to win the love or interest of some boy or other I was keen on, I would need to lose a few pounds by the time ‘the’ party came round where I felt I had my chance.

  I had bought the lie that it really is about how you look, and that beauty really did equal slim.

The funny thing is, that my parents were always very loving, trying never to speak insensitively to us about our body shape, though encouraging of self improvement, but in this area I was getting very mixed messages.

I remember asking for some advice from a sporty family member, about how to tone up my tummy muscles, as I was losing the washboard stomach I had had in childhood and after years of dancing. Instead of the advice I had asked for, I was given the reply “Oh your tummy is fine, it is your bum and thighs which need work.”
This has gone down in our family history as a classic example of tactlessness, and has been forgiven. The point is though, that I thought I had a serious ugly problem in a few areas, and that I would never be totally acceptable, despite my many gifts, until these were fixed.

It is amazing how these words go in deep, and how strongly they inform your sense of selfdieting scales image. I have always been on some sort of diet or been watching my weight. I have also felt guilty at times, for assaulting people’s eyes with my less than perfect beach body and finding myself making apologetic comments. HARDLY an example of a healthy self image!

Praise God for his grace, I have never struggled so much that it has begun to destroy me, and I have had a fairly robust love of food, and awareness that there is more to life than image and specifically weight. But nonetheless, it has always niggled away at me. Robbed me of some of my peace, and definitely made me feel inadequate.

I have started to learn better what food suits and nourishes my body, and I have better understood the link between my physical life and my mental health, and I still love too much sugar. But I have never felt totally empowered to see lasting change. And frankly, I don’t want to spend my life counting calories, and sticking religiously to a rigid diet, all to serve some warped perspective of beauty.

Which brings me to the crux of this piece.
I can’t do it, but Christ in me can.daughter of the king 1

I had a revelation, when reflecting on this, that I need God to change the way I think of and value myself. His is the only opinion that matters.
I need to stop measuring my image through the world’s or my family’s eyes. I need to see myself how my perfect heavenly father sees me.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. -Proverbs 31:25

So I asked, and God has been changing my heart, correcting my vision to see myself through his eyes.
I have said that I would like to lose a little weight, to be fitter for purpose and to fit my clothes better, but that first and foremost I wanted to see myself as I truly am –

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. -Psalm 139:13-14

I asked that I would see and make wise choices with food and drink in the moment.
Any weight loss would be a side effect.

I haven’t been trying to lose weight. I have been trying to love myself better, and see myself in the light of truth.
NOT in the lies told by the enemy to hurt and sabotage my effectiveness in the building of God’s kingdom.
I want to finally shake THESE LIES  which have held me captive for so long, robbing me of joy, making me believe that as I get older and don’t have the same youthful body, that my husband will want to know me less.
This. Isn’t. True.
I am beginning to really believe it.

I have been calling this ‘The Grace Diet’ – I make no effort’, but allow His grace to work proverbs 3131through me. It is working, I enjoy my food, and I am more at peace.
And, incidentally my clothes are definitely roomier.

Gypsy, Dreams and God Moments

 

‘Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.’
Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

So, it’s that time of year when we were all supposed to make resolutions to be better versions of ourselves, and usually have failed miserably by this point in January. It has become such a standard expectation, that even when we don’t really subscribe to the idea, we still find ourselves having made half promises to be and do better, and then when we fail, brush off the disappointment with a ‘well I don’t really believe in making New Year’s Resolutions anyhow’. So why does it still seem to get under our skin?

I think that we have a God given desire to dream, to realise these dreams, and to speak them into existence. As we commit to voicing them, we in turn, become more open to receiving what we dream of, always supposing that we have surrendered any idea that we can ‘make it happen’.

I don’t know about you, but I am a natural control freak, I like the idea that I am in charge of my destiny and that I am both capable and determined enough, to bend the world around me into the shape I require. Yet experience has taught me that this is not so.

I can no more bend the world into the shape which suits me, any more that I can force someone to love or like me, or stop time. And if I really think about this, I wouldn’t want to. Just as I wouldn’t want to be forced but invited, I can only invite the world to join me on my adventures, only invite someone to know me, trusting that friendship may follow. If it were forced, then it wouldn’t last, and it wouldn’t be true, and at some point everything would come crashing down on me, and I would be left ineptly attempting to rebuild and sustain the wreckage.

However, I can learn to line up my thoughts with the one who does promise to hold me, who draws out the poison and allows my wounds to heal perfectly. The one who calls me to be part of an adventure, one far bigger than myself, for which I have been designed and designated a strategic role to play.

I can invest time, care and love into the relationships with which I have been entrusted.

I can learn to speak life and blessing over my time, my dreams and my relationships, and I can learn to trust – a really hard word which requires so much surrender and comparatively little tangible ‘doing’ – that what is good and best for me, and God’s glory, will come to fruition at exactly the right time, in the right way. This is sometimes SO hard to wait for.Gypsy 1

I went to see Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre in London at the end of November, and it blew me away, something which I find happens all too rarely. I watched Imelda Staunton give a heart-stopping performance as Momma Rose, and found myself wanting to remain there, in that bubble of theatrical magic, for a very long time. I also looked at the role, and felt my heart say “That’s mine, I can do that, in time. I want to do that.” Suffice to say, it has been a very long time since I felt so strongly about a role. Gypsy 2

My heart was moved by the quality of the show and performances, and by the subject matter – the dignity of people, and the desperate cries of mothers and daughters in pain and yearning to be loved, unconditionally. And I once again felt that deep desperation I used to feel all the time, especially pre-drama school, to be who I am called to be and to give life to the huge potential and unstoppable capacity to dream I have inside of me.

I have barely stopped talking about Gypsy since.
I received the sound track for Christmas, and when I missed the live showing, my wonderful husband found it on BBC iplayer and downloaded it for me, so I have had the joy of watching it again several times.

This has been both to re-capture and better understand something of what happened to my heart that night. Because it wasn’t simply the joy of seeing a great piece of theatre and a masterful performance, it wasn’t even the connection with a cry of brokenness that is international and sometimes overwhelming. But it was a God moment. Not the show itself, amazing as it was, but one of those moments when God pulls you up out of sleep, into a full wakefulness, and shows you something of his purpose for your life. When He reveals something deep in your spirit which either you never knew was there, or in this case, had had to allow yourself to let go of.

Like being pulled out of sleep at any time, it is uncomfortable and exciting and surprising all at once. I am feeling more alive, more tender and more emotional. That desperate passion which had been building over the past few months feels as though it has come to a head, and I am not sure what to do with it. I miss acting and working as an actress more than I can express, and yet have willingly laid it down in front of a God who made me that way, knowing and trusting that he will either return it to me better than I could have dreamed, or given me something even better instead.

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I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my children, and see the legacy which I am leaving written in and through their lives as WAY more valuable than anything I could achieve on stage or in film. I truly enjoy being a full time mother, and am committed to being a home educator because we are convinced that this is the best way forward for our family. I have never once missed working (or the hope of work), more than I have delighted in and willingly given my heart to spending my days walking alongside three amazing children, and helping them navigate what adventures and purpose they are called to. And I have repeatedly asked God to take away my desire for acting if it is not his purpose for me.

Yet it hasn’t gone. It has periodically reared its head, and now feels more present than ever. I can only assume that I still have acting adventures to come.

But I have no idea of what these are, how they will look, or when they will be. I have no idea how these dreams of acting, marriage, motherhood and home educating will work together, but I know the God who makes the impossible possible, so I am certain that He knows how.

Therefore my plan, if you can call it such, is not to try and bend opportunities and people into the shape I am dreaming of. But instead to hand all of this over to the one who is eternal and therefore knows the best time and way for all of this to occur. HE can shoulder all of the responsibility needed to see these dreams called into being, and I shall ask Him to keep my heart and eyes open to see the moments which need seizing, plus the courage to seize them. I will continue to live and walk in His grace, building my relationships and seeing my family grow. This is the only way I can find peace, so watch this space.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zecharaiah 4:10 (NLT)

To Trolls Foreign And Domestic

Thanks for stopping by,
But I didn’t ask you to stay.
You are welcome to look in,
To see what I have to say,
But if you don’t like it,
That’s fine –
Don’t stay.

I have ideas, vision,
Which matter immensely to me –
But I don’t expect us all to share,
Or even care about the same.

I am not ashamed,
Just convinced –
Hence the commitment to offering a perspective,
Boldly putting outside of me,
What may not necessarily
be only
my opinion.
If I didn’t think it offered truth,
I wouldn’t share.

If this bothers you,
I am sorry to disappoint.
Open to open-hearted dialogue,
I take no interest in getting
Bogged down in a slanging match.

Please don’t troll,
Lying in wait under a bridge until you are ready to pounce –
Because that’s what it feels like.

As though you declare that I have no right to share my views,
That news and research are invalid,
And conclusions drawn are mere idiocy.

I don’t hound you this way.

If you truly want to discuss –
I am open,
Interested.
But when you just want to argue –
I will not play ball.

So let’s agree to disagree,
And if my take on things bothers you that much –
Stop showing up.