Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An A La Carte Catholic

I debated as to which of my blogs I should post this.  I decided to post this here, because it's a addressing a different hunger in me, a spiritual hunger.  I've been trying to regain a spiritual connection for years, and it's suddenly occurred to me I might be going about it the wrong way.

I’m Catholic and have always used Lent has always been a period of personal reflection.  Well, maybe not always, but since I was old enough to realize that giving up soda for 40 days wouldn’t necessarily make me a better person.  At some point, probably in high school, I decided giving stuff up wasn’t for me, and I would try to add something instead.  I cannot tell you what I added 10 years ago, but over the past few years, my Lenten promise has been to get back to church.

I was very involved in the church community in high school and in college: youth group, teaching CCD, singing in the choir, Eucharistic ministry, etc.   I truly believe that going to church regularly when I was in college helped me through my depression and helped me to deal with my father’s death.  After college, the regularity with which I attended services dropped drastically. 

For the past few years, my Lenten resolution has been to go back to Church weekly.  In 2009, I did pretty well.  I’m not even sure if I cared in 2010.  Last year, I think I went once, maybe twice.  This year, I decided it’s time to try again.

But I’m doing a lot more reflecting, also.  Why is it that I make this decision to go to church (and I do it several times a year, not just at Lent) and then don’t do it?  Is it necessary for me to attend regular services to have a spiritual connection?  Most recently, I’ve started to question if it even makes sense for me to align myself with any church when I don’t subscribe to some of their teachings.  And suddenly, I had a light bulb:

For years, I’ve been a non-practicing, a la carte Catholic. 

I figured the things that I didn’t totally buy into were just no big deal.  I belive the big things: we have one God, the creator, who gave up His Son for us; we are born into Origianl Sin, but are absolved through Baptism; I believe in Heaven and eternal afterlife with Christ.  I enjoy the traditions: receiving the sacraments; Lenten reflections; choirs at Mass.   But there were a few things that just never made sense to me.  Generally, these relate to social and political teachings of the church.

I’ve tried to write my thoughts on the specific issues with which I do not agree, but my thoughts aren’t coming out properly.  I think I need more time to explore those ideas.  This is what it comes down to: is it hypocritical to pick and choose in which teachings of a particular faith you will believe?  As a follower of a particular faith, should you subscribe to and 100% believe in all of their doctrines?  Whether I am practicing or not practicing, is it even possible to be an a la carte Catholic?  Most importantly, can I say that I support a faith that blatantly opposes certain social practices I adamantly support?

And so I commit to attending church regularly for the next 6 weeks (at least weekly, possibly a once or more during the week) while I search for and pray on the answers to these questions.  I’m not saying I’ll have all the answers when I’m carving into the Easter ham, but at least I’ll be working on it.  It almost seems silly to go to church to figure out if you should continue going to church, but this is my comfort zone.  It's helped me work through issues before.  Maybe it will again.  Or maybe it won't.  Either way, it's worth a few hours a week to find out.

I also commit to giving up fast food.  But that’s for another reason entirely.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lose It How You Want to Live It

I'm not 100% sure if this advice has been given to me, or if I've just heard (i.e. read on the WW's boards) it given to others, but either way, it resonates.

The idea is that you don't want to do anything now (while you're losing weight) that you wouldn't want to keep up with when you get to goal and maintain your weight.  (You know, for forever.)

And while I love Weight Watchers, and the tools it provides, I do not want to be counting points and tracking my food foreverrrrr.  I just don't.

Let's backtrack, shall we?  The year is 2004, I'm 20 years old, about to enter my final year of college, and realize I'm at my heaviest weight ever.  I got an e-mail from Weight Watchers Online that contained the success story of a young woman who was my height, had my starting weight, and had achieved the goal weight I had in mind.  I joined immediately, learned how to count points, haves snacks, and reasonably enjoy meals out.  I didn't drink at the time, so keggers weren't an issue for me, like they are for a lot of college students.  I also was living off-campus and had my own kitchen and was able to prepare my own meals.  It was awesome, and I felt I learned so much.

Nine months later, I had lost 40ish lbs and felt and looked the best I ever had.  It was the first time I can clearly remember being happy with my body.  Around the time I was reaching my goal weight, some friends suggested a book to me: The Fat Fallacy by Will Clower.  In a nutshell, the book discusses the French Paradox and the author's experience of losing weight and getting healthy in France, despite is resolve to give up worrying about calories and fat grams.  The basic recommendation was to eat whole foods, ditch the processed stuff, listen to your hunger signals, and eat in moderation.

That just made so much sense!  For the next year and a half, I'd say I followed Dr. Clower's advice about 90% of the time.  I still had my indulgences, but they weren't frequent.  And I maintained my ideal weight that whole time!  It wasn't until I started graduate school that I began to make processed and fast foods a part of my regular diet again.  And that's when I started to gain the weight back.  Some of it was stress eating from a stressful work environment, some of it was eating out too often when I became involved in a new relationship, but a lot of it was that I just didn't take the time to make wholesome foods anymore.

I recently wrote that after conquering my emotional binge eating episodes, it was time to refocus on my weight loss efforts.  I rejoined Weight Watchers Online.  But I've found that I'm burnt out on counting points.  I've been doing on and off for the past 8 years, and more on than off in the past 4 years.  I have to get honest with myself: Am I willing to count points forever?

This is a scary question for a loyal(ish) WWer.  You think, "If it's worked before, it'll work again, so I'll just keep doing it."  And don't get me wrong, Weight Watchers is a fantastic program.  But I'm sick of counting and tracking and I don't want to do it forever.  I know that I've had success with just "watching what I ate" and listening to my body, so I've decided to wean myself off of WW. The first step is to stop counting points.  Since I currently have my Weight Watchers Online subscription through April, I'm not giving it up just yet.  I am switching my tracker to the Simply Filling Technique and I will track what I eat, but not count points for it.  I decided to keep tracking for the moment because I sometimes tend to do a lot of "well, I haven't had a treat in a while, I can eat this cookie."  But really, I had a treat earlier that week, or maybe for breakfast that day.  I'm also going to keep my weekly WI to hold me accountable to my choices.  If I start gaining, then I'll be able to go back and see just how often I have a "once in a while" treat.

While I didn't track anything over the weekend, and do think I listened to my hunger signals, I'm calling today Day 1 of no counting.  I'm keeping my WI's on Friday.  I need to do some cooking to make sure I've got good meals to get me through the week. 

Project Eating Real Foods starts now.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Year of Congruence

Last week I had the privilege to attend a woman's networking event with a panel of women leaders.  The topic was "Ways to Leadership."  There were a lot of interesting things and topics discussed, but there was one that really, really, struck me.

One of the speakers started talking about how every year she chooses a word to represent that year.  She reflects on the previous year, assesses if anything was missing or needed more attention, and decides her word for the current year. 

Naturally, I decided to reflect on 2011.  It was the year of setting and missing goals.  I wanted to lose weight, but instead I became a secret binge eater.  I wanted to build my business, but I lacked the consistent action necessary to achieve that.  Those were pretty much my two main goals.  I realized, however, that if an outsider were to look at my actions on any average day of 2011, they would not have been able to determine what goals I was trying to achieve. 

In short, my actions were not congruent with goals.  So my word for 2012 is congruence.  I want my actions on any average day to indicate the goals I am working toward. 

If you had to come up with a word for this year, what would it be?