how to erase stretch marks – fast!

stretchy

Confession:  The title of this post (like many links that promise fast fitness or body alteration) was intentionally misleading.

And a canister of air will do nothing about your stretch marks.  (At least I don’t think it will….?)

My reason for writing this post is to discuss the problems I see in many fitness- and health-related blog posts and “news” articles.  Maybe you see them too.  Or maybe you avoid that side of the internet, where citations are thrown to the wind and photo alteration runs rampant.

But maybe, just maybe you see promises of flat abs, banishing cellulite, losing “saddlebags” (who coined that term?!), a perfectly toned body, a natural diet, the best food to reduce arm fat, the ideal blend of anti-aging tea …and begin to wonder if you might be a click away from better health.  Or better looks.  Or more confidence.

Here’s what I’d like you to know.

  • Everyone has an agenda.  Everyone.  Including me.  My agenda is to convince readers that the fitness advice you find on the internet probably isn’t helping you, and everything I say is leading up to that point.  Others might be trying to promote a particular brand, promote a certain body type, or even just obtain more hits for their website.  Find that agenda and evaluate it.
  • We are all finite beings trying to figure out what works.  Can we just admit that maybe…maybe we don’t know how life works best?  How could we?  Yes, we can research and read and experiment.  We can observe what works and what doesn’t.  But we are not God.  (Job 38.)  We don’t know everything there is to know about our bodies — how our digestive systems work, what foods damage and what foods benefit, how our muscles can be used best, what wears on our bones and joints most quickly.  We don’t know everything there is to know about the food we eat.  I freely admit that I don’t have all the answers…and I find it impossible to believe that anyone else has them.
  • You are an individual.  There’s more than one way to be beautiful.  And there’s more than one way to be healthy.  There are so many variables: height, body shape, genetics, preferences, health problems, climate, activity level, food budget, sleep schedule, age…  While some things can be agreed upon, many things vary from person to person.  I couldn’t even begin to speak to what your body needs — it is hard enough to figure out what works for me!
  • Opinions still don’t count as facts.  Fact: a hardboiled egg contains just over 180 mg of cholestorol.  Opinion: you should never eat more than one egg per day.
    In college, I actually really enjoyed reading medical and mental health journals.  I loved reading about scientific experiments and discoveries.  But I’m not as interested in reading that I should never drink orange juice.
    Many opinions are valid and even backed up by facts.  But many are not.  Make sure you evaluate the information you read and look for some proof!  (Proverbs 18:17.)
  • There is more to life than health.  Health is important.  Undeniably so.  Our bodies are temples of the Lord, and we need to take care of them in order to maximize our usefulness in the Lord’s work.  (1 Corinthians 6:19.)  We are not to be drunkards or gluttons or lazy.  (Proverbs 23:21.)  We are to glorify God in everything we do, even eating and drinking.  (1 Corinthians 10:31.)  Yet health is not the center of my life.  Christ is.
    I do try to make good choices based on what I believe to be sound science and common sense.  I have a very real consciousness of trying to maintain and improve my health.  But I don’t want to let that consciousness control my life.
    Any part of life can start to overpower the rest if we let it.  Many people focus on work to the detriment of their family, spiritual life, and their health.  Others focus on having fun and ignore everything else.  Often I have let school, work, or personal interests become the center of my life.
    In the same way, health can quickly become all-encompassing.  Life can become a balancing act with food, exercise, and wellness strategies far outweighing anything else. I don’t want my life to look like that.  I want to resist my natural tendency tendency to spend all my free time working out, reading about new exercise moves, or feeling dissatisfied about my body.

I can’t tell anyone how to eat, exercise, or live.  I can’t tell you what will increase your likelihood of a longer, healthier life.  But I would like to remind Christians to live first and foremost for their Savior.  He is the one and only source of truly satisfying life!

How do you glorify God in your body?

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i’ve been rat-coughing-face-shamed

It seems as if every time I glance at the Yahoo headline stories, somebody’s been “shamed”.

They may have been body-shamed, lunch-shamed, dating-shamed, fit-shamed, or fat-shamed.  But unavoidably, somebody somewhere has been shamed.

If you’re not an avid reader of Buzzfeed or poorly edited Yahoo spotlight stories, you might be unfamiliar with this wave of public shaming.  Essentially it has come to mean that somebody made a comment or behaved in a certain way that made an individual feel bad about himself or herself.  It may or may not have been a public comment or behavior in the beginning, but either way, it ultimately becomes front-page news on one or more source when the person with the damaged feelings decides to air their grievance.

Here’s a handy guide to help you identify whether or not something is really shaming.

  • True statements made in an appropriate context do not qualify as shaming.  When the cashier tells me that my coupon won’t work on the loaf of bread I’ve selected, I have not been coupon-shamed.  I have been given a piece of information.
  • Simple statements of opinion do not qualify as shaming.  When someone comments on my YouTube video saying that I look like I’m coughing up a dead rat (true story!) I have NOT been rat-coughing-face-shamed.  Someone has given me their amusingly honest, albeit rude, opinion.

    deadrat
    I thought this was so funny when I read it that it actually made my day.
  • Statements or concepts that are not directed at you do not qualify as shaming.  When  I read an article about how intolerably ugly freckles are (what?!) even though I have freckles I have not been freckle-shamed.  The article wasn’t about me in the first place.  It was about freckles.  I am not freckles.
  • Private communications do not qualify as shaming.  I might feel ashamed to the point of tears when my professor yells at me over the phone, but it’s not public…until I write a post titled “First-year college student stupid-question-shamed by professor has raised $800 for stupid-question awareness”.  (I made up the part about the $800, if you were worried.)

Public shaming does sometimes happen and it can be very destructive and sad when it does.  It happens when an individual is called out in a public forum and receives negative attention that is intended to damage and degrade.  Let’s respect the pain of those who have actually been shamed by reserving the word for appropriate situations.

What is the least accurate use of the word “shame” that you have seen?

God’s plan is not second-best

“God had something else in mind.”

Have you ever heard those words, spoken in the context of a surprising turn of events?  Have you said them yourself?  What do we really mean when those words come out of our mouths?

  • I can handle this unpleasantry only because I know God is sovereign.
  • If it couldn’t happen my way, I guess I can accept it this way.
  • It’s not how I would have done it, but…

I would like to challenge this way of thinking in my own heart.  I want to call it out as terribly wrong.

Proverbs 16:9 tells us that no matter what we plan, God is the one who directs our steps.  It’s only wise and right to make plans, but we must not hold our plans too tightly.  We all know that.  Most people admit freely that God’s ways are not our own.  We even claim to know that his ways are higher than our ways.  But do we really own that truth?

I feel that far too often, I tend to think that my plans are just amazing, and God plans are plans that I have to bear with a stiff upper lip.  How can I think like this?  I am an exceedingly flawed, finite, selfish human being with an eye to my perceived best interests and temporal happiness.  God is a perfectly loving, perfectly wise, all-knowing and infinite being.  Shouldn’t I be thrilled when I find that my plans have been set aside in favor of God’s different plan?

Everything that happens in my life has been orchestrated by God.  That truth doesn’t decrease in beauty when life doesn’t align with my plans.  In fact, I am beginning to revel in the fact that God saw something around the corner that I simply didn’t see — and in his divine love, he chose to keep set me on a better path.

why your next hobby should be one you’re no good at

I’m not a particularly adventurous person.  I certainly wouldn’t fall at the extreme stick-to-the-stuff-you-know end of the spectrum…but I do avoid heights and unknown vegetables.  To challenge myself, I recently decided to try my hand at a new hobby: drawing.  So far my efforts have ranged from truly horrifying…

you wouldn't know, but it's violet from the incredibles.
you wouldn’t know, but it’s violet from the incredibles.

to finished products that actually look okay.

esmeralda from the hunchback of notre dame.
esmeralda from the hunchback of notre dame.

Drawing definitely does not come naturally to me, I enjoy it only moderately, and I don’t think it will help me advance my career.  So why do I do it?

  • Trying new things is humbling.  If all you do is what you’re really good at, you have every reason to believe that you’re just the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Trying something new might be a gentle reminder that you aren’t perfect, and it will open your eyes to the gifts that other people have (and you don’t). You might find yourself appreciating others’ talents more, bragging about your own talents less, and having more patience when someone isn’t catching on to a new skill as quickly as you’d like.
  • Trying new things is a test of perseverance.  It’s not very fun to fail or to have poor results from something you’ve poured hours of hard work into.  This is especially true when you don’t have a strong motivation to try again.  I’m not saying you should waste days at a time on a completely purposeless hobby, but there is something to be said for making a real effort when you can’t see the point.
  • You might surprise yourself.  Everyone’s heard a form of this statement in some context, but it still rings true.  Try something and you just might like it more than you thought.  Even better, you might be surprised at how much effort you put in, how well you used your resources, how well you stuck to a goal, or how quickly you acquired a new skill.

Why not try it?  Choose an unfamiliar hobby that will fit into your lifestyle without too much expense or inconvenience.  Set a specific goal and a time limit for how long you will try the hobby before evaluating your progress and whether you want to continue.  Notice how you feel about yourself and about others, and keep track whenever you observe a positive change!

What hobby will you try?

what are those rings for?

“Are you denaried?”

The question comes from a four-year-old student.  I set down my crayon and smile.  “Hm?”

“Are you denaried?”

I glance around for context clues.  “I’m…not sure.”

“I mean are you denaried to a dad?”

Understanding floods in.  For the second time in a day, a child under the age of six is questioning my marital status.  “No, I’m not married,” I said simply, and I return to coloring in my Bible story worksheet.

“Then what are those rings for?”

I’m almost surprised that the symbolism of a ring means so much in a society that has pushed so many traditional symbols into ambiguity.  Yet time and again, new acquaintances, colleagues, and especially kids ask me, “Are you married?” after they see that I wear a ring on my left ring finger.

Snapshot_20150504

In a public school situation, I keep my answer vague: “No, my ring means that I’m not married yet.”  With peers, I refer to it as a purity ring and usually receive a silent nod or “Oh”.

But with my young students in a Wednesday night Bible study, I decided to give a better answer.

“It means I’m not married yet.  I’m waiting to get married.  When I do get married, my husband will give me a new ring.  We’ll trade.  I’ll give him this one –” I removed it to pantomime the theoretical swap, “– and he will give me a wedding ring.”

What I didn’t tell my inquisitive four-year-old friend was that wearing my purity ring actually has very little to do with marriage.  My purity ring is more than a promise to my dad, or to my future husband.  It’s a a demonstration of my faith in God’s perfect ways.  My purity ring indicates, of course, that I will save myself for my husband and refrain from pre-marital sex. But it also means that I will dress modestly, treat men with respect and restraint, and never love anyone more than I love God.

My purity ring isn’t a placeholder, preparing for the day when a wedding ring might grace my finger.  It’s a symbol of the way I live my life, single or married, to the end of my days.

Do you wear a purity ring?

does anyone know what they’re doing?

One’s evaluation of adulthood really varies across the lifespan.

From birth to about age 8, kids see adults as superhuman.  They’re practically perfect in every way, they get to stay up late, and they know SO MUCH.  They know about the water cycle and the U.S. presidents.  Adults can drive and ride bikes without training wheels!  Amazing!

Around the pre-teen years, a partial manifestation of reality appears in the sulky 12-year-old’s mind.  Adults aren’t perfect at all.  Sure, they have jobs and houses, which is great…but do adults know how to hashtag their tweets?  Do they comprehend the importance of friendships?  Is their work harder than dividing fractions?  Clearly not!  But in the back of that pre-teen mind, a single thought is on replay: When I’m an adult, I will…[be more competent than the adults I know].

This presupposition continues throughout the early teenage years, but as adulthood looms closer and closer, the teenager begins to suspect that they judged adults too harshly in the past.  Then that fateful day comes, and the teenager-turned-adult realizes: I’m an adult and I have no idea what I’m doing.

100% accurate.

I’m a recent college graduate — reasonably competent at most activities of daily living — and I wonder all the time if I am the only person who makes everything up on the fly.  And worries constantly about being totally unprepared for responsibilities.  And still has the movie taste of a 12-year-old.  And would rather wear jammies than actually look presentable.  (And says “jammies”.)

But now I have a new theory.

Maybe we’re not failing as adults because we’re scared and clueless.  Maybe the moment we realize how little we know is when we become adults.  What if our ability to hold down jobs, build friendships, and continue living despite our inadequacy is what makes us truly mature?

If you think you are really good at something and you do it, is it really that big of an accomplishment?  I feel that it’s more admirable when someone takes on a task for which they feel totally unprepared.  I always feel a rush of respect for Frodo when he announces, “I will take the ring to Mordor!  Though…I do not know the way.”

So I have a proposition.  Instead of feeling bad about all the ways we are underqualified — as adults, as Christians, as parents, as teachers, as whatever we have been called to do — let’s embrace the fact that we are indeed incompetent but we choose to keep moving forward regardless.  Let’s embrace that God chooses to use what is weak in this world, and that he demonstrates this in the fact that none of us are really ready for adulthood!

What is one thing that you feel makes you an under-qualified adult?

how to make mistakes 101

For the past several years, I’ve been a professional mistake-maker and am highly qualified to teach this introductory college course.  My work history includes many impressive mistakes with paperwork, common sense, gray areas, school, work, socializing, and life in general!  I am currently pursuing a Doctorate degree in Making Mistakes with an emphasis in Colossal Repercussions.

But seriously.  I make a lot of mistakes.

I used to panic, berate myself, worry, and possibly cry whenever I would mess something up.  Occasionally, I still do.  But it’s absolutely true that experience is the best teacher, and I have a LOT of experience in this area.  I’ve been thinking about my instinctive reactions vs. better, more constructive reactions, and here’s what I came up with.

  • Sometimes apologies are greeted with an ungracious, “Sorry doesn’t make it better!”  And it’s true that there’s a big difference between a mumbled, “Sorry” and a genuine, “I’m sorry that I did x and I will do y to make it up.”  It’s my opinion that the latter apology does make things better.  There really is a reason that we’ve been telling kids for decades, say you’re sorry.
  • When I make a mistake, after the initial horror and guilt and whatnot, I want to make myself look better.  My natural and unkind instinct is to blame someone else.  What I’ve realized, though, is that most people see through this very easily…and nobody appreciates it.  Take responsibility for your mistake and don’t minimize your involvement.  Instead of blaming someone else, explain what you did or will do to solve the problem.  This also lets people know that you’re not utterly incompetent — you can solve problems.
  • In the course of writing this post, I’ve been reflecting on some of my many mistakes.  Some of them still bring a twinge of regret, but many of them are either funny or forgettable.  Although it can be hard to put things in perspective, it really is true that a lot of our mistakes won’t matter in a week, month, or year.  Instead of assuming that your mistake is going to end your career, think calmly about what effect your mistake will actually have.

In summary:

Bad: “Sorry!!!  You shouldn’t have left your elephant figurine on the table!”  She’s probably going to spread nasty rumors around my workplace.

Better: “I’m so sorry I knocked over your elephant figurine.  I have Krazy glue and would like to help you fix it if I can.”  I feel bad that I broke her elephant, but I know this is something we can work through.

No matter how big or small your mistake is, take it to God in prayer.  It may be a little mistake that will be forgotten in a hour.  It may be a mistake that changes the course of your life.  Maybe the mistake wasn’t that big, but someone overreacted and it became big.  God is present in our lives to guide us through problems both big and small, and he is most glorified when offer up our fragile, failing selves to him.

What is your best advice for recovering from a mistake?