It’s 11:20 PM; I just wrapped up another stressful day of work. And now, almost automatically, I find myself microwaving and eating a bowl of ramen noodles – two bowls to be exact.
What am I doing?
I’m not in college anymore.
I should know better.
I do know better.
So what gives?
Tonight is just the latest round in my life-long tug of war with food, fitness, and health. What is it that Paul says? “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate.”
Yeah. That’s me.
I know “the good I ought to do.” I was raised in a family that ate “all-natural” food back in the 80s when it tasted like cardboard – I actually enjoyed carob chips! And my wife is an excellent cook; we eat mostly organically-grown and/or locally sourced foods – fresh! Not canned! We don’t drink carbonated sodas. I snack on apples.
And I love my life; there’s so much to be thankful for. I have a beautiful wife and an amazing four-year old daughter; I’m part of some vibrant faith communities. I do meaningful work; I’m a successful multipreneur (which is ADD-speak for having lots of interlocking gigs and businesses). And yet, there is this core of self-sabotaging behavior that works its way around food and eating. It looks like this: I eat really well all day long, but then “cheat” “just once.” This “cheating” works its way into a habit over a couple of weeks, and the next thing I know my clothes are fitting tighter. Then I work out harder, try and eat better, and a few pounds melt away. But then, they come back.
Here’s the thing: I know a lot about what makes for a good diet. And I’m even blessed to be someone who can afford to eat a good diet in the convoluted foodscape that is 21st century America. I don’t need more food rules; I actually need food grace. I don’t need a complicated set of dos and don’ts; I need a re-start button. I want to drink deeply from the fountain of Life, and let my body and mind be renewed and rebuilt on a molecular level.
Thankfully, I’ve discovered something called Living Fuel, a remarkable whole-food based superfood meal replacement that keeps friends of mine 10-15 years older than me in amazing shape. I’ll be saying more about this in my next health-related post, but for now suffice it to say that I have a grand ambition: Lose 80 pounds and be in the best shape of my life – body, mind, and soul.
In the coming months, in addition to blogging about faith and culture as usual, I’ll also be blogging more about health and fitness. Because it’s all related, isn’t it? It’s a step into greater vulnerability to be sure (kinda like that post I wrote a year or so ago where I confessed to you all that I’m nuts), but if Mike Morrell dot org ain’t the place to come clean with you, I don’t know where (online, at least) I would. Because good theology, spirituality, strategic foresight and cultural analysis isn’t done in some kind’ve gnostic vacuum: I’m a body as well as a brain – what bodies do, matters.
So – this should be a fun next few months. Please feel free to keep me in line if you feel like I’m becoming an info-mercial, or dangerously mirroring those seductively-slick media barrages about the ‘perfect body.’ I want to do neither, and yet I do want to honor bodies, and embodiment, as I seek to incorporate a more integral life practice.
Feel free to weigh in with wisdom and encouragement in the comments!
In the meantime, I leave you with some weight-loss wisdom from KC Craichy, the founder of Living Fuel:
i’m with you mike. i am, and have been, at my heaviest currently but my fault is just eating crap for food. i do well with my CSA through the harvesting time here, but then i eat massive portions when i go out to eat as if i’ll never eat out again. so strange.
i’m working on my weight and fitness to get down to a fighting weight for kid #2. blessings on your journey, you are not alone either.
I’m with you, Gavin. So much of it is psychological, it seems…
I am in the same boat, Mike. Weight can be a lifelong struggle. It seems I can’t get all things firing at the same time. I’ll exercise and eat like crap or I’ll eat well balanced food and sit on my butt. It is to the point that I am seriously worried about cutting my life short. I am in a boat where I need to lose enough weight to create a whole other person. Keep up the struggle. It is a good one and worth it.
Yep – I can relate to that. Firing on all cylinders – that is the opportunity!
Right there with you Mike! I have, and continue to, struggle with the same thing. This current season has been fairly good and I’ve lost weight and am eating/exercising better than before. But I just had to cancel my gym membership ($), so I’ve got to figure out a new routine.
Blessings and Joy on your journey of healthfulness.
Thank you, Aaron. Solidarity as we ‘lighten up’ together!
The best thing I ever did was beginning to eat more vegetables and less red meat and simple starches. I started eating a large salad every day for lunch, and I actually trained my body to crave vegetables in the process. Eating a heavy cheeseburger or steak will just make me feel awful. Simple white bread just seems too insubstantial and tasteless. It’s amazing that our bodies can be trained to crave good things too.
The challenge with eating more salads is you need to work at making them more interesting, like buying some fancy greens, baby spinach, cranberries, tart apples, or sweet pears to add to the mix. You can also try out tuna salad or grilled chicken on top. Also, if you grow your own carrots, you wouldn’t believe how much sweeter they are fresh from the garden!
I’m not sure whether this product you’re trying is good, but I would encourage you to also seek out a solid long term plan that is easy to maintain, and I think teaching your body to crave vegetables is a good way to go!
Oh, I love vegetables, and didn’t grow up eating much meat at all, for financial reasons. Now I probably do eat more meat than before. But yeah, I love salads and veggies, never have white bread, and rarely have just plain bread at all. Still, a sweet tooth is my Achilles heel I think…
Ah, can’t help you there! I love my sweets.
Thanks for being transparent with the world, Mike. You are not alone in your struggle for fitness and health! Take care. Geoff in Nashville
I’ll weigh in with you! (Just not in print though. We can FB message each other. Seriously.)
Peace and Love,
Mike, The best thing for weight loss I have seen is Isagenix. Look at balancing your weight as like the legs of a 3-legged stool. One leg is the mental thing…making up your mind to stick with whatever regimen you’ve chosen, etc. The other is eating high quality food that overcomes the nutritional bankruptcy of most people’s diet from junk food to foods grown on mineral deficient soils. Otherwise, your cell hunger for missing nutrients screams for relief resulting in The Binge. But the missing third leg for most frustrated weight releasers is cleansing….getting rid of all the toxins we have accumulated from living in this huge industrial chemical experimental laboratory called North America. We touch, we drink, we inhale, we eat hundreds of chemicals, heavy metals and other pollutants every day. The key is to do some mild cleansing every day and deeper cleansing at least several times per year (cleansing not fasting). That’s where Isagenix Cleanse for Life comes in. Far infrared saunas can also help as does any activity that makes you sweat plus lots of purified water. But without cleansing, your body will hold on to weight. Extra fat cells and water retention are your body’s way of protecting your vital organs by enrobing those toxins you eat, drink, and breathe every day. Check out http://www.weightlosshalloffame.net for the experience of hundreds of people who have released 30 lbs, 80 lbs, 200 lbs, over 300 lbs. and kept it off for years. Good luck from Vancouver, Canada, I’ll be keeping an eye on your progress on your FB profile.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Phil. Infrared saunas, eh? There’s a local place here in Raleigh, Intestinal Fitness, that offers these. I just might try it out!
I used Isagenix several years ago, did the cleanse…it didn’t seem to work very well for me. I think (as the Living Fuel video I show at the end of my post mentions, having sugars and/or artificial sweeteners kind of defeats the purpose of a detox or nutritional shake. Living Fuel doesn’t taste the sweetest in the world (more on that in an upcoming post), but it seems more wholesome.
By all means try one out at your local sauna emporium. My wife and I used a friend’s out several times and we were hooked. You can just feel the relaxation ease all your joints. And the sweat just pours off you. (Be sure to hydrate before, during and after, preferably with some himalayan salt water). Far infrared saunas are superior to regular saunas because the rays penetrate much deeper (1 1/2″ deep) to sweat out more toxins. They also operate in a much lower temperature range so that even people with high blood pressure and/or congestive heart failure can tolerate them. The one we bought is portable and plugs into a regular 110w wall socket. Quality is very important as you get what you pay for. The brand we have is a Solarus, imported from South Korea made of western Canadian red cedar and featuring “crystal” emitters from Japan.
As to your Isagenix experience, I wonder if you got good coaching. There is lot of valuable lore to be imparted from experienced users of these products that can make all the difference to your success. There could be a number of different reasons you may have experienced discomfort on the program. I’d be curious to know what you came up against.
Right on, Joe! Let’s.
Definitely understand, here. As someone who already went from 320 to the 180 “best I could be”… and then backslid, I relate extraordinarily well. I walk a lot, garden, try to eat healthily most of the time, etc. But trying to get to where I was scares me. It involved eating like a mouse for months, working out 5 times a week, and a time spent addicted to diet pills. I’ve decided I will most likely always be big, but I want to try to move it gradually to mostly muscle this time. Keep me updated, and I will tell you how it goes with me. Good luck and prayers!
I hear you, Jeremy. I don’t want maintaining a healthy weight to be a full-time occupation…some people seem to have all the genetic luck. 🙂
“I don’t need more food rules; I actually need food grace.” I love this statement – I think that Romans 7 is sooooo relevant… it is the rules that “arouse passions” in us… We need a whole new mindset, free from the rules that produce the sin. I don’t know if i’m saying this right, but I do think I know where you are coming from.
Yep. I ALWAYS end up craving whatever I’m trying to avoid – carbs, meat, whatever – when I don’t even ordinarily crave it while not under ‘the law.’ I wonder if that makes me more rebellious than the average person. 🙂
Mike, I have friends who love a weight loss program. I checked it out, as it is a company whose products I trust. The cost for a month on this program was around $350. I just couldn’t justify spending that much to help me lose weight from eating excess food, when there are families who could eat for that amount.
Back to small portions, trying to eat healthier and exercising more, and trusting God’s grace to make me want to do what I know I should do.
Hmm. Marla, was this a total meal replacement system? ‘Cause I figure most of us spend more than $350 a month to eat anyway. Unless that’s just my middle class showing..!
Hi Mike. I, too, have had life-long struggles with my weight. Lost 55 once on Weight Watchers (lifetime member – whatever :-)) and 65 once on Nutrisystem.
I don’t know if you’ve seen my blog entries, but I January 1st of this year, I was inspired by a video that our mutual friend Hugh posted on Facebook, and I decided to heed that advice.
So far, I haven’t misses a day of walking this year since that day. I even had knee surgery a week ago Thursday and *still* didn’t miss a day. For me, I have to make the exercise reach “non-negotiable” status in my day, or it doesn’t work.
Having this “goal” to walk every single day of 2012 for at least 30 minutes has done just that. (Sorry it didn’t come from Ramens [sic] 7 or any other religious or biblical place. 🙂
Here’s a link to my January’s progress entry: http://dailyafirmation.livejournal.com/2012/01/31/ At the bottom of that one, is a link to February’s summary. I’m looking forward to posting March’s entry on Saturday.
Best of luck on your journey!
John, you are an inspiration! But how dare you not quote Bible verses? 😉
P90x! Do it! I just finished my first 90 days and I burned some goo! Eating healthy is important, but people who sit around at work all day gotta get off our butts and exercise. Wake up 1 hour early and do it. I did and now I feel much better. The best part about exercise is that it will make you eat better. You won’t want to waste all the hard work by eating crap afterwards. You don’t need expensive weights or a gym membership. Just a DVD player and some cheap resistance bands. If you have self-discipline problems (sounds like you do too) then you probably need some kind of structure. P90x was perfect for me. Just turn it on and try your best every morning.
I do indeed have discipline issues, but P90X is something I’m exploring. Thanks for letting me know how it’s worked for you!
Bravo to you for getting clear on what you want and having the courage to go public with it! As a coach, my M.O. would be to get you connected emotionally with how your life will be different when slimmer and do a lot of envisioning work around that. Then work on the blocks(why you self-sabotage). I’m a gentle coach who totally advocates for self-compassion and self-love so never be harsh with Self. Instead of seeing your diet as something depriving, how can you re-frame your food choices to be seen as wholly supportive, nurturing and pampering and your exercise habits are empowering? You give so much everyday to the community at large, how about taking the time to really care for yourself? All the best, Maribeth
Thanks, Maribeth. Putting it out here in public helps me be accountable.
Why am I self-sabotaging? Hmm…good question!
I really do think at least part of it comes down to self love (or self hate) It does for me.
And feeling a hunger for something more . . . wanting to feel pleasure “right now”.
Feeling like something is lacking. Food is a way to control my little world.
Counterfeit self nurturing? it’s not like it’s always wrong to eat things we like, that might not be as healthy for us.
and: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Hi Mike… having taught aerobics/exercise for 14 years and 13 years of not…. moving is the key. It doesn’t have to be extreme but consistent.
As Phil said, our food is full of trash. So is our water. Try locally grown veggies, as organic as possible. Filtered water and lots of it …. more than you want to drink at first and skip the fluoride… bad juju …. If you can plant some of your own veggies, that is better.
Outside of that stress, is the worst thing on our diet.
I heard about a minister who gave up lunch as an austerity/prep for famine thing and lost weight. Thinking of small portions as a way to stop being a consumer helps and focusing on your need not desire helps, too.
Food is so much about love and solace but it doesn’t help when the corporate farms are trying to poison us. That food is designed to make us sick & fat and also addict us (check the high carbs, sugars and sodium in your trigger foods).
We get a lot of our produce local – we’re part of a CSA. The rest is organically grown. And I filter my water. I tend to be, I think, an excessively hard case. 🙂 But we shall see!
Thanks for the input.
Best wishes Mike. May the force be with you. These things – addictive behaviors and bad habits – are ubiquitous. Everyone has them. They’re complicated. Is there a part of our being they don’t affect – heart, mind, body, soul, relationships? And they’re insidious. Some time I’ll have to tell you about how I can control my feelings. But the really unique thing about overcoming addictions is that it’s not about what we do that matters. What matters is what we don’t do. The practice involved in overcoming addictions is mostly a practice of letting go. I’ve heard this practice described as the toughest thing we’ll never do. Don’t you think?
Letting to of weight, literally and metaphorically, is indeed one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I totally agree.
Wow, Mike. I’ve heard you open cans of opinions before, but EVERYONE’s got an opinion on weight loss. HAHAHAHA!!
What’s worked for me is bodyweight exercise – almost exclusively strength training. I’ve been doing a partial program for 6 years, and been super happy with the results. I’ve been doing a more complete program for the last 6 months, and I’m even happier now than ever. My progress is measurable and fun.
As you mentioned above, the big question is what’ll keep you at a program. For me it’s 3 things:
+ I really care about playing tennis, and I was getting weak with age. I care every day about whether I will injure myself in a match, and it motivates me. Silly, but true.
+ My mobility was beginning to suffer with age, but after 6 months of really hitting this program I’m thinking about things I never imagined before. I never learned to do a handstand at all, but I’m getting close to freestanding handstands now.
+ I’m amazed by the predictability of the body.
I can learn a tennis shot in about 20 minutes, but it’ll take my body a month to figure it out, 6 months to get good at it, and a year to really incorporate it into my game. “I” don’t know the shot until my mind, body, and will have all incorporated it into my tennis life. I see the same thing played out daily in bodyweight exercise, and the spiritual connections are kind of overwhelming me with excitement right now.
I could go on about my experience learning the pullup for pages. 🙂
I can hardly believe the fun I’m having. I wish the same for you.
Am down to ~283lbs from 330lbs on January 3rd, 2012.
Changed what I’m eating, exercising more, no supplements or meal replacements, rarely hungry.
I’ve been vlogging about it, and I’ve written a couple of posts about it on my blog, still trying to finish the “what I’m actually doing to achieve it” blog post. Happy to discuss if you’re interested.
The vlogs are up at http://www.youtube.com/warwraith
Losing weight can definitely come easier for other than some of the rest of us! I’ve been working out at the gym for two months now and I hardly have noticed the scale budge but two pounds! One book that is helping change my perspective and approach is Ken Wilber’s Integral Life Practice. It’s adding a whole new depth and spirituality to my workouts and the way I approach food and life.
I can feel for you though…believe me!
I’m not going to say whether you should or shouldn’t set a goal weight-wise – it could legitimately be helpful for you. But when I stopped thinking about the numbers and started thinking about healthy satiation, the numbers started getting smaller. I’ve gained 45 pounds since I started at AMBS, and if I keep up at the rate I’ve been losing so far this year I’ll have it all off by the end of the year.
Healthy satiation (I think I invented the term, but I never double checked and really don’t care) is how I refer to the idea of eating healthy foods to the point of feeling full, once I get a sense for how much it takes to make myself feel full. In other words, listening to my body’s limits and then trying to meet them with foods that, if I eat enough of them to make myself full, will have healthful consequences. The freedom has been incredible – since I’m thinking about health and not calories, glycemic index, pounds, or whatever other numerical factor, I don’t fret over whether I’m eating too much like I did when I was numbers-obsessed. Since I’m eating healthy foods, I don’t worry about what I’m eating causing me more problems. Since I feel satiated at the end of a meal or planned snack, I don’t have to worry about lapsing into a splurge later – over the past three months I’ve found the rhythms of eating that allow for health and don’t force me to go hungry. I DO still use a calorie counter to track things, mostly out of habit (and partly because, despite my effort to try not to focus on numbers I still have a fetish for neat graphs and charts), but it’s more of an activity than a stressor.
One of the things that I’ve found really helpful about this is that I am able to trust that if I am pursuing health and doing it well, my body will adjust itself and I don’t have to worry about whether or not I reach my target weight (if I had a hard-and-fast target set). Thinking in terms of gaming metaphors, I continually “level up” in health as my body becomes able to do things it couldn’t before (run faster or longer, for example), and so I’ve managed to avoid plateau problems so far.
None of the information is probably new to you, of course, since you already have a pretty good handle on what it means to eat healthy, etc. But the sense of freedom is what has been so meaningful to me. I feel a ton better about myself in so many different ways. Yeah, it was a lot of work at first – any change of habit is going to require more effort than establishing the habit did in the first place. But it’s been pretty sweet so far.
Prayers for you, that you’ll find your balance and the grace to live in it with freedom.
Wonderful post. Thank you for opening up. I have really enjoyed reading the comments as well. Your comment about it being psychological is so true. I am generally a healthy vegan eater, but I am also no stranger to moments like your ramen noodle episode, only mine feature chocolate candy. So I can completely relate to all of this. Have you seen the book, “Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life” by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung? I think mindful eating as a spiritual practice has enormous power to change all of us. http://www.savorthebook.com/
I’m losing my weight battle too. I never HAD a weight battle until a few years ago. I guess there is something to getting older after all – ick.
Anyway, I’ll be tracking with you. One thing though – I have decided that FOOD will not be the ground that the battle takes place on. I tried that and lost. I like to eat. I’m not going to make myself feel like I’m starving to keep the calories low. I’ll eat reasonably but if I’m going to lose weight, I’m going to do it by speeding up my metabolism, building muscle, and exercising. Food is going to stay on the menu!
Hey – speaking of last year’s post about you being nuts, how IS that going, anyway?
Yep, everyone has a view on weight loss. The first thing to do is to figure out why you gained weight, and make sure that is in your plan. Up at the top of the page, you imply you ate two bowls of ramen because of work stress. Putting aside how to reduce work stress (although that may come next), the question is what can you do for stress reduction instead of eating? Plenty of examples out there, from video games to loud music (on the headphones) to hot baths, to even blog writing. Pick 2-3 of them, and when you come home from a stressful day – don’t eat, do those things instead.
If something else encourages you to eat, find out what it is (my weakness are snacks in the house and decades of having to clean my plate for I leave the table – and now live with a big portions person), and do something different.
And of course – eat less and exercise more.
Staying with a healthy diet always depends on me finding substitutes for the things I crave. It’s still mental, because the replacements rarely taste as good (at least at first)
Like, one of my treats is a brown rice tortilla with coconut oil, stevia, cinnamon and pecans. Yummy!
Coconut oil has a bazillion health benefits, including weight loss. I heard that a rancher once tried to fatten up his cattle by giving them coconut oil, and they all lost weight!
the more I visualize what the food is doing to my body after it gets in there, the more I’m able to control what goes in there.
Retraining the brain. sugar is poison. (I grew up a sugarholic. my family put sugar on everything. even tomatoes!)
Thank you for sharing your life with us. Blessings to you. May you learn to love yourself more deeply than ever, and learn to express that love through what you eat. Lean and mean Mike! here we come!
You KNOW that I am proud of you for your courageous battle – one of great value.
You also know my story – my battle – and currently, my victory… AND it is a daily battle still.
Much love, Mike – you are the hero of your war and victory is yours! Soldier-on.
Mike, I could have written about half of that post! And wow, did it trigger a ton of random and yet related thoughts! 🙂 But I’ll only share a couple.
I’ve had health and weight issues most of my life, tried every diet, fad, pill., etc…. And none of them “work”.
For me, I have discovered it is not a discipline problem, a will power problem, or a laziness problem like so many would try and make us believe. For me, it comes down to independence. And that is a spiritual problem.
Several years ago, God showed me that I was designed for a specific purpose, and while I revel in that understanding, there are also requirements for me because of my unique design. Living a fasted lifestyle is a part of that design. Not that I cannot eat, not that i will never own anything nice. But i am to have a heart that is more in love with God and value His plans for me and others more than any food or creature comfort.
I am in the process of discovering exactly what that means for me. But God is good and gives clues! 🙂 Through the years i have noticed that when i stick to a vegan diet, i lose weight, have more energy and less pain and other annoying symptoms of being out of balance. Does that mean i can never eat meat or dairy again? No! It means that my lifestyle must be one where vegan is my normal. There is grace and i believe that God designs some circumstances where i get to eat that steak! But there is the point… Do i love and trust God enough to let Him decide when and where and how often? Or do i continue to assert my independence and eat what i want? Hmmm… sounds like that pesky sin nature to me! So for me, it IS sin to disregard what God has specifically put on my heart.
I am learning that maintaining my intimate relationship with God is essential on a moment by moment basis, to make that kind of decision (what and when to eat) on a moment to moment basis. And the corollary is also true! I lose that sense of intimacy that i love so much when i fail to make those decisions on a moment to moment basis.
It is a matter of perspective…. knowing the greater reward comes from being alligned with my unique design and purpose that was in my Creator’s heart for me from the beginning of time and living it out by faith, or the short sighted perspective of “everybody else gets to….”. 🙂 Oh how i need grace! And God gives it over and over again.
The good news is that i am on a downward trend with my weight and through this journey have learned some wonderful things about the heart of the Father and the sacrifice of the Son and the comfort, teaching, and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
So my encouragement to you, Mike, is to simply ask God how He designed you to live and move and eat. And then be amazed at both the obstacles that are thrown in your path and the amazing grace you will find in walking that path.
My second thought (pet peeve) that i will share is … why is it that all lifestyle struggles will ban someone from the pulpit in most churches except for the battle of the bulge? That seems just wrong to me. 🙂
Thanks for your transparency, Mike. I will be praying for you and watching your blog for updates
Mike, when I was in Jax I was up to 275lbs. I lost 54lbs of fat in about six weeks because I was riding a bike for miles a day and did both a modified Atkins-type diet and some P90. It sounds like a lot but it isn’t. I don’t exercise more than an hour a day. I don’t suggest you do that but I would start simply by increasing your output or sweat. You already eat well. Because of life changing events which caused me to go to “survival” mode instead of “living” I’m up to 245. Now I am back on the bike and eating better so I am losing fat again. My goal is 210lbs. That was what I weighed when I was in the Army. Through everything in your life, including these posts, may God cause you to recognize and apprehend the grace and wisdom He’s giving you to be successful in this brother. There is only “yes” in Him.
It sounds like you already probably know and try to live by the principles outlined in “Hungry for Change” or “Food Matters.” I have found that 12 Step programs have literally changed my life and spirituality – which became the foundation for having the power to make healthier choices and self-care.
But I need an update, Michael. I’m expecting 6 mile runs by now and a 20% muscle increase.