I have always loved eating. Food excites me. In college, my sister and I would pool our resources and feed our little families elaborate creations that costed very little, but tasted very good. I taught myself to cook. In my early married days I stumbled through the kitchen, and threw out many a pan of gravy. When becoming a mother, food became very important to me in a different way. The quality of the food, where it came from, and how it was prepared grew more significant to me because I wasn't only feeding myself anymore, but I was feeding growing children. Having chosen to exclusively breastfeed them, and knowing the satisfaction of that and the good health it brought them, I had to carry that over to their relationship with food. I suddenly understood why my grandmothers would beg us to eat, eat more, and get so happy when we did.
The food I ate hasn't always worked in favor for my health and my body. Most of my life I've shuffled between being somewhat overweight or very overweight. When I dieted, I starved, exercised hard, and binged on cheat days. I lost weight, but it didn't last. Eventually I would cave, being tired of struggling with what I could and wanted to eat.
When I gave birth to my first daughter, I knew I wanted her to maintain her confidence and a positive body image. I wanted to give her the blessing of healthy eating. I just didn't know how to be the example of that for her. I wasn't comfortable in my own body. I've always been athletic, active, and fit at all weights. What was on the outside and how sluggish and sick I felt so often didn't reflect the person I knew I was. I didn't feel attractive at all and I wasn't sure what I should try next to change that.
I tried being a vegetarian along with my husband for five years. Breastfeeding made me crave meat so voraciously, I had to eat it. I tried limiting portions and felt hungry all the time. I stopped drinking pop. I didn't buy as many sweets. I ate food from health food stores. While I would drop some weight with these changes, it wasn't significant and didn't help me to feel any better.
When I gave birth to my second daughter, I weighed around 240lbs. My daughter was 11lbs. at birth. I had some complications with giving birth, and looking back, I do believe my eating habits and our collective weights had a large role to play in that outcome. It was after her birth that I knew I had to take control of this. I had to find my happy place with food. There couldn't be any more diets. My practices around food had to be a way of life. It had to be compatible with feeding my family - growing children and working husband. I had to learn how to be nurtured by food and how to prepare food for good health.
At this time, I was fortunate enough to be walking with a mama friend who introduced me to the book Nourishing Traditions and the work of theWeston A. Price Foundation with Sally Fallon.
This step coupled with my adopting a whole, traditional foods lifestyle for our family has brought me to a place of the best health I've experienced in my life. I'm stronger. I'm fitter. I've learned to eat for my metabolism and genetic predispositions. I get sick much less often. I also maintain a normal weight with little effort beyond living a healthy lifestyle. Food doesn't bring burden upon me anymore. I don't count calories or fat. I eat what my family eats. Food isn't a crutch, but a joy. I'll never be able to unlearn this stuff and because of that, I don't know (outside of abnormal circumstances) that I'll ever find myself eating theStandard American Diet (SAD) again.
Principles for the Beginning:
If you can tackle these five things, you are well on your way to healthier living. It isn't easy. I caught a lot of flack for my choices at first, but I stand by my convictions and the results I have seen. I'm comfortable in my imperfect body because it is healthy and most of the time it serves me very well. It isn't about weight any longer, but it has become about whether or not I'm optimally utilizing the body I have for max benefit. It is a temple after all. I'm also confident about the food I'm feeding my family. It won't be long until you too will be eating pizza for dinner and calling it healthy - because it is!
I have been every clothes size from 4 to 18 in my nearly 36 years. I'm 5'8" and have a large frame. By the time I was in 5th grade, I was just a few inches shy from the height I am today and I weighed 145lbs. I'm used to being a "big" girl. That is part of my genetic makeup and who I will always be. That is ok. What isn't ok when it comes to our size is how it affects our life. If being "overweight" creates for us an unhealthy situation and puts us at risk for disease, then we must become determined to change that reality.
After my second pregnancy, I lost over 100lbs. by taking back my health. I found the beauty of yoga and traditional foods. I became the smallest I have ever been since becoming an adult. At that time, my focus was on having a thin body and eating healthy food. It worked. I have come to find, I have tremendous willpower when I set my mind to something.
At this time, my third pregnancy (daughter) is two years old, and I am three pounds away from a realistic and reasonable goal weight. I couldn't believe it when I got on the scale yesterday! I have been working once again to regain my health because I have been experiencing some depression and other health issues. I had almost completely let go of my "healthy" lifestyle. Yet, what I have come to realize is that approaching our health and weight is as much a spiritual practice as it is one of making goals and working our tail off.
Since coming to learn and utilize Sacred Birth Work, I apply the same spiritual principles to all aspects of my life. What I have come to understand is that it is important to take literally the statement once made by Jesus the Christ, "Neither will they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21) There are a very many things that we experience on this earth that is completely our choice. There are yet other things that we cannot control, but we can put those circumstances into a context which will allow us to better deal with them. The amount of heaven we experience in this plane is reliant on our willingness to turn to God.
My motivation for losing weight now is a healthy body and mind that is better prepared to do the work of God. It is a healthy body and mind that is better able to raise confidence and strong young women (I have three daughters.). It is a desire to break a cycle of disease that is hereditary. It is a desire to be fully myself - my best self.
Along with my doctor, I picked a goal weight that was achievable and maintainable for my body type. I, then, began to approach my reclamation of health as a spiritual practice. For in regaining health, I am doing no less than seeking God more wholly and in turn an experience of heaven within. A body and mind in harmony or seeking to be in harmony will know God.
It took me awhile to find this knowing. When I originally undertook losing weight and addressing my health issues, I went about it like I always had. I quickly learned that my body is not what it used to be. And the exercise I had chosen exacerbated my problems. Sometimes though, we are dealt a heavy hand in order that we may fall back on the Truth. I picked my yoga practice back up (first, releasing all the excuses as to why I couldn't do yoga) and my exercise became a prayer. I re-embraced my traditional foods diet and do my best to imbue my food with love. The process became my worship of the Divine. The Divine in me. The Divine in my family. The Divine that is Truth.
It isn't the easiest process. There are days when I feel like I'm not up to par. However, it is a practice. It is a road that doesn't end. There is opportunity for more practice. In every practice, there are those moments when I feel God in, through, and all around me. I have let go of expectation, and have determined myself to practice. Then, I get on the scale, just to see, and I'm three pounds away from the goal.
Kelli Hansel Haywood is the mother of three daughters living in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. She is a writer, weightlifter, yoga and movement instructor, chakra reader, and Reiki practitioner.