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Balance

Photo by Jarod Carruthers

I’ve lost 86 pounds and have only five pounds to go, which is only half a dress size. It’s not like I’ve never been here before, in fact I’ve been here many times. However, all of the other times, it never occurred to me that it would take the exact same amount and kind of work as it did to lose the weight. I’m not sure how that nugget of knowledge eluded me for so long. I’m 53 years old after all. But in the past every time I lost the weight and got to a goal, I slowly went back to my old habits.

The real slide back toward being overweight began when a crisis occurred and I lost interest in eating. That’s right, lost interest, not gained interest in eating more. What I’ve discovered this go-around is that when I’m under stress I want to eat less and bother to cook even less than that and will reach for the easiest possible solution. That translated into processed food that came in a bag. Junk food in neon colors covered in varying amounts of sugar and salt.

A few interesting things to note this time in the weight loss phase. I’m actually eating more in terms of volume, a lot more and less in terms of calories, a lot less and the weight, even at 53 has come off easily and without the obsessions of the past. I’m not longer eating lunch while wondering what I’ll have for dinner. Food is in its proper perspective.

But maintenance is an entirely new topic and I’m a little freaked out. If you’ve been reading my column or blog for awhile you already know that any kind of big change unnerves me at first until I settle in, so no surprise. This is where I’d often sabotage things by procrastinating, or in general trying to fix something that didn’t need fixing.

Instead, I’m allowing myself to just be uncomfortable and approaching maintenance with the same kind of plan I had to lose the weight – a sensible and balanced food plan.

I’m sure there are people out there who can eat without having to figure out how much or exactly what to eat but I’m not one of them and I probably never will be. There are worse things to come to grips with and I’m letting that part go. In fact, there’s a certain amount of comfort in having a plan and knowing that will help me, this time, to stay within the range my body needs and to fuel my ever-more-promising future. More adventures to follow.

 

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Every year, for the past five years, I’ve tried to adopt a new attitude at the start of the calendar year, instead of making up a list of ‘ought to’ that will only haunt me long after I’ve give up on them. It dawned on me one New Year that focusing on a word, like courage or abundance leaves more room for God and offers me the opportunity to be open to His plan instead of my need to fix, manage or control the bejeebus out of a situation.

So, for this year the word that has kept coming up is ‘Believe’ with a capital B. It’s a big word and comes from the notion of believing for everything good, which in my case takes a lot of faith and a willingness to be uncomfortable.

I like control, a plan, knowing what’s coming next and none of that is possible if I’m opening my life up to big growth, positive change and a much larger Master Plan.

So why do it?

That’s when I can feel my shoulders relax just a little because I remember that my methods have never, ever gotten me very far and have often left me feeling lonely and discouraged talking way too much about me and ignoring the blessings right in front of me.

If my closed fist, squeezing as hard as I can around the events in my life has failed, I have nothing to lose by relaxing and trying it God’s way instead. That is going to require me to let up on myself just a bit and be okay with the pace that comes out, fast or slow, on any given day. Frankly, to be okay with big events actually turning out right and without my intervention or manipulation. They just go right. To even be okay with making mistakes and they still turn out well.

A short recap of everything that’s gone right lately easily shows me that sticking with God’s plan has been worth my learning to let go. In the past year, I’ve lost 86 pounds and soon, I’ll be starting out on Maintenance, which is brand-new territory. Updates to all of the photos on the site will be coming soon.

The last of my old debt is getting paid off and my entire financial life is becoming healthy. Yeah, new territory. There is interest in the new thriller, which means a new book in 2013 and traveling across the country speaking to different charities. There are even two different movie companies interested in two different books of mine. A lot of change, one day at a time.

It’s like I can feel these deep shifts from within my spirit and I have no idea what to do with all of it except to hang on and Believe. Happy New Year Everyone! More adventures to follow.

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Photo by Joe Doe 2010

Several people have asked me lately to make note of where I see God in the world. This has been going on for months. So far, it’s not really going well. If I’m looking for the light, to date, I’ve found a flickering match.

I’m over the whole parking spaces or rustling in the trees imagery that a lot of people use to say, ‘Oh, there’s God.’ I’m going to need a little something more. I don’t know if that means a big show or small details but I’m willing to ask for more and with good reason.

I’m tired of my view of God being as narrow as trying to get the full view of an elephant through a three-inch slit.

But convincing myself that God is bigger – getting that notion from my head and deep into my heart – has not been easy. The contrary action that a few people have asked me to do is stretch that view and ask God to show Himself in much bigger ways. Start from within, look outward and expect everything.

So far, not much to report but I’m optimistic and I’m going to keep going. I’m even feeling a little excited about the show that I just know is unfolding. More adventures to follow

 

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Yes, that's my pan. A lot of scorched food has led to a few good cooking lessons

Back in October of last year I finally found a way to eat that wasn’t so crazy and the pounds started to come off.

However, just two months later I was doubled over in pain wondering if I had stomach flu till I realized that the flu doesn’t tend to come and go. About an hour or two after I ate something, even the smallest bites, I was curled up, unable to do anything else, wondering what had happened. A couple of tests later and I found out I had Celiac and my body was fed up with the way I was treating it. No more gluten, which means wheat, rye or barley and in my case, and a lot of people with celiac, no more soy.

I’ve made the joke more than once that God was doing for me what I had refused to do for myself. Nothing like pain as a motivator to get my hand to stop reaching for that cupcake or cereal or cheese-filled pretzels. Instead, I was reading labels down to the last ingredient and ranting about soy being in chewing gum. Trader Joe’s has become my favorite place to shop because unlike Whole Foods they have gluten-free options that don’t include soy. I’ve discovered the web site www.glutenfreegoddess.com and read up on the topic while finding some recipes. I’ve gone out for tea with a gluten-free friend, Jess who smiles at my frustration and then calmly makes suggestions about how I can do things differently. She has an ingenious way of ignoring my sighs and getting me to believe this too will be okay.

At first, I burned a lot of food or at the least dried it out till it was pretty inedible. I’ve also rolled the dice on some salad dressings that said ‘canola or soy’ hoping for the best and realized that occasionally it’s going to be soy and bad things will follow. But over time I’ve turned down the flame on the stove and found the store, ‘Oh Olive’ that has unbelievably good oils and balsamic vinegars that make cooking so much easier. And, I’ve discovered that another friend, Ashley can cook and is willing to come over and teach.

One of my hope-to-do items was to learn how to cook better but I never had much real ambition until I had a good enough reason. Boring green beans and plain chicken is apparently my breaking point.

The good news is, Jess is rubbing off on me and I seem to be more excited about learning to cook with natural ingredients and expanding my repertoire than focused on being unable to pick something up quickly and just eat it. Makes me wonder how that new way of looking at life – some things are worth doing right – will pay off in other areas. I’ll let you know. More adventures to follow.

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Here’s a question that’s been rolling around in my head and I’d love to hear from all of you what you think your personal answer is to it:

If no one was really going to ever read what you write and you were never going to make much money from it, if any, would you still write?

Apparently, my answer to that is no and I’m not sure if I’m happy about that or not. After watching my latest book languish for almost two years, (yep, you read that right – two years – but things are changing on that front too), I found it harder and harder to want to write another word. Three books and hundreds of columns later and I was out of words. I’m not sure if it was because it might mean no one would be reading along with me and sharing their experiences or because I was really out of things to say.

The latter seemed a little hard to swallow since I had always gotten the same kind of internal high from writing that a really good stretch of running had given me. There was a connection to some greater feeling even while typing away, alone at the keyboard. But I had spent two years immersing myself in social media, publicity, and setting up a suitable blog until most of my writing was reduced to less than 140 characters. The business side of writing seemed to be draining all the joy of writing, right out of me.

So, I’m waving the white flag and going back to focusing on what I love, the writing and letting go of the virtual arm-waving to attract more followers or readers or whatever you might want to call it.

Part of my resurgence of joy and optimism has to do with the new agent I’ve connected with who’s going old school and wants me to focus on writing. Genius.

I’m still going to tweet or update but without the frenzy or sense of urgency and just trust that it’ll all work out the way it’s supposed to. All of that time that was spent trying to do what every other writer seemed to be doing is going to get redirected to just hanging out with other writers in my hometown of Chicago and not so we can just talk about writing. Some of that will be spent talking about our spouses or children or even the weather. Then, when I sit down to write I’ll actually be glad to spin another tale. More adventures to follow.

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Ready, set, go get a life.

One of the reasons I’ve slipped so often in the past on the way to my goal of a healthy lifestyle is that I slowly stop doing what was working. Sounds crazy but it’s so easy to do.

One week I’m running, biking and swimming and the next I’m biking and swimming because there was a meeting I had to get to or it was 95 degrees outside. Sounds reasonable and everyone in that meeting thought they should be the priority. Come on, you can’t do everything, right?

Then it gets easier to shave it back just a little further. I’ll work out on the weekends but in the afternoon so I can finally sleep in a little. Before I knew it I was idle again, had lost all of that muscle I’d put on and was starting to eat from the wrong parts of the grocery store.

Here are the questions I was forgetting to ask myself:

How much time have I gotten back because I’m not so tired or move far more slowly? Do those hours add up to more than the hours I’m working out? How much better do I feel about life in general because I feel better about myself and the way I look? How much easier has it been to keep on taking contrary actions and following my dreams because I feel better? Do I want to take a lot of medications when I’m older or do I want to still be running down the road? Do I want to be biking and chatting with some new friends at 6:30 in the morning, which means going to bed a little earlier or do I want sleep in because I was out at a loud bar the night before where I couldn’t hear anything and then walk around for the first few hours like I’m only half awake?

Fortunately, when the idea of slowing down struck me this summer my new biking friends like Ruth and Piper kept sending me annoying text messages asking me where I was and what did I think I was doing??!! Yes, there were extra question marks and exclamation points. They’re very hard to ignore and so, this Saturday there I was again standing in a parking lot at 6:30 getting ready to set out. Thank goodness. I’ve been told that this will continue in perpetuity. Now those are the kind of friends that can help me to really live. More adventures to follow.

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Photo by Nick Bianco

I’ve been battling my weight in some fashion since I was twelve years old and was already 5’9, which made me stand out and get attention. I was too young to understand exactly why I was getting noticed or what to do with it. I wasn’t even sure it was something I should want.

The desire to figure it out while not losing the attention led to stretches of barely eating anything day after day to maintain a rail-thin like quality with equal amounts of years of eating till I was sick and throwing myself into the obese category. The outside package may have looked different to an observer but the brain or maybe the spirit inside was the same. I was obsessed with body image and was mistakenly thinking that in order to achieve my goals everything started from the outside, in.

Intellectually, we all know that’s not true. There have been enough talk shows with weepy people talking about how they finally learned that change has to start from within but if I have decades of practice with one way of doing things till I don’t even notice anymore, how do I translate any of that into actually changing?

I’ve thrown a lot of money, effort and obsessive thinking at getting the right body, whatever that meant at the time and it worked a lot of the time but never for longer than a handful of years.

This time I’ve added in a spiritual element, friends and accountability and the biggest change is the lack of obsession. I still have days that are way too long where I notice desserts way too much. But this time I call someone who reminds me of a few truths till my brain and my spirit come back together. I’m 9 months in so far and 70 pounds lighter. Frankly, I feel even lighter than that while at the same time I’m startled every time I pass a mirror. More adventures to follow.

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Picture by Dru Bloomfield

Tonight was another run with the Triathlon Group and Mo Wills, and it was as if that first run last week never took place. I was still the last one by at least half a lap and everyone else was on one regimen and I was on another running routine but my attitude had adjusted itself.

Fortunately, I was smart enough to call only one running friend of mine last week to rant about how unfair life can be. I didn’t use those words exactly but it’s what I meant. She listened patiently, found a break in one of my sentences and made some suggestions about how to address the issues. It short-circuited my rant and got me back on track, which is why I called her in the first place.

And, on the last lap when they time everyone – lo and behold, I had moved up from a 14 minute mile to a 12 minute mile. Imagine that, if I stick to something I might get better. Going to call it an early evening tonight.

Tomorrow, the bike awaits and a six mile ride with the group. Talk to you later.

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