Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for March, 2014

A recent encounter with a former classmate who has lost and gained the same 50 pounds multiple times on numerous diets and programs reminded me why I teach what I do and why diets don’t work.

Following someone else’s prescription for finding and maintaining a natural weight for your unique body–or for living your optimal life–isn’t sustainable. Eventually a crisis comes along, our best laid plans fall short of the demands of a given day, and we find ourselves facing decisions that the “program” didn’t equip us to cope with.

The energy and vitality you need to feel good in your body and enjoy your life comes from knowing yourself–heart, body, mind and soul–and making choices from inner guidance about what you really need in any given moment.

When fatigued toward the end of the day, do I really need a caffeinated diet soda, a cup of coffee, candy bar or bag of chips? Will any of those produce the energy I need to carry me through to dinner with a sharp and clear mind, peaceful heart and energized body?

Everybody is different. Maybe one of those options works for you.

My husband’s 4 p.m. cup of coffee really works for him. It doesn’t work for me. I’d be tossing and turning until the early morning paying the price at midnight for that boost of afternoon energy.  That diet soda may give you a caffeine hit and temporarily satisfy your sweet tooth, but in many people is linked to higher rates of weight gain and can contribute to heart and kidney problems. As for candy bars, composed primarily of simple sugars they’ll provide a quick boost of focused energy followed by a return to fatigue within a relatively short time.

One of the health professionals in my office building told me last week that when she’s in a depleted place and didn’t plan other options, she’ll pick up a bag of gourmet potato chips from our on-site cafe. Organic potatoes  fried in healthy oils and lightly salted, she says that gives her what she needs to get through to the next meal. But you can be sure it is not her “go to” choice for optimal nutrition!

Rather than offering diets or plans, I encourage my clients to become experts on listening to physical cues about hunger and fulness as  well as noticing the physical and energetic impact of individual foods and combinations of foods. What does that look like? I can only tell you what it looks like for me because everybody is different.

Here’s an example from my own life. When it comes to breakfast, a cup of tea with half and half and honey combined with a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon produces a heavy, full, satisfied feeling in my stomach and gives me an initial boost of energy followed by steady, slow burning energy for up to four hours. If I’m heading into a morning full of commitments with no time to refuel, that combo is a good choice, for me, but it might not be for you.

If I’m heading to workout first thing in the morning, opting for tea and a slice of toast with almond butter is preferable.  That gives me a boost of energy,  with a lighter feeling in my stomach that makes for better short term energy to fuel my workout. Then I’ll follow up with a protein rich smoothie after my workout. I do drink tea of some sort most days, but I mix it up and don’t always splurge on the emotionally satisfying but nutritionally questionable additives!

But that is my body. It’s what I’ve learned from years of listening to my experience. I eat differently depending on the day and season.

You are the expert on your body. No one else can tell you what you really need at any given moment. Trained professionals can offer general guidelines about what works best for most people but they can’t fine tune that information to meet the unique demands and needs of your daily life. That’s why I believe that finding and maintaining an optimal weight depends on developing a positive working relationship with your body by aligning information about nutrition and exercise with your own inner wisdom.

What about your body? What works for you? I’d love to hear your wisdom and invite you to share it here so others can learn from your experience as well.

Last month Chloe Sun at Asian American Women on Leadership posed the question, “How do you let others know who you are without coming across as self-promoting?”  She noted that, as leaders of various ministries and organizations, we must promote our causes and invite others to join us. Publicizing and being a spokesperson for what we’ve given our lives to is part of the job.

My passion is helping Christian women love themselves as we love God and others. Thirty years of ministry and clinical work shows me that while many excel at loving others and God, we often neglect our own spiritual, mental and physical health. Where did we learn this?  Not from the culture around us, but with encouragement from an unexpected source.

Growing up in Christian community, I often heard authorities challenge the concept of self-love. I especially remember an acronym taught at camp: How do you get JOY? From putting Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.

Such thinking can arise when scripture verses like Philippians 2.3 – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves” – are read outside of their fuller context, promoting a distorted view of self-care as secondary to caring for others.  When read at face value, such admonitions  seem to tell us that loving others means negating ourselves, thus encouraging our insecurity about being “too much”, taking up too much space and using too many resources.

Yet such insecurities are anything but loving. How is my playing it small and being afraid to step forward to share the good news of what God has taught me and is doing through me helping anyone?

An exposition of the biblical and theological meanings of love is beyond the scope of this post. My point is that when biblical texts or church teachings contribute to anxiety and self-neglect, we’ve clearly gotten the meaning wrong.

Love the Supreme Emotion

From a social sciences perspective, love is a sharing of positive emotional connection between people that elicits a desire to act in ways that support mutual well-being. When I “promote myself” in teaching a class or facilitating a retreat, I ooze with love. Few experiences give me as much positive emotion as supporting psychological, physical and spiritual well-being in others. Most often I feel that sense of positive connection among the entire group strengthen as we move through our time together. And we all leave with a stronger commitment to loving ourselves as we love others.

When our self-promotion comes from a place of love, then refusing to self-promote may be the most unloving thing of all. Letting others know who we are and inviting them to join our causes, participate in our programs or purchase our products and services is an act of love.

I’d love to support you in loving yourself as you love God and others. You can still sign up for “Self-Care through Mindful Awareness” this Saturday, March 22nd, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in South Pasadena. I’d love to support you in loving yourself as your love others either this Saturday or at a future workshop, yoga class or retreat. Sign-up for my newsletter (lower right sidebar) to get updates.

Thanks to my sisters at AAWOL who originally published this blog on their website. If you like what you read here, consider following their blog also.

The quiet stillness of centering prayer opens my ears to hear the birds sing outside my window and the tiny ticks of the clock on my desk. Calm peace fills my body as I remember that my value is not in what I produce. No need to hurry up and finish prayer so I can get to work. My prayer is my work and my work is a prayer.

At least that is how I want it to be.

I am choosing to fast from media overload as my lenten practice this year. Not because media is bad, but because too much of it keeps me from aligning my mind with my soul and my daily actions with the wisdom of the Spirit.

Every email I view demands a decision: open and attend, delete, or delay decision. Every decision to click open an email or link leads to a series of decisions about how to take in that information. In that process I must determine how beneficial it is to me and decide how much time and energy I will devote to it.

Listen from Within

Someone else always has an alternative view of reality or a supposedly better plan for my life. Each external engagement demands I consider yet another perspective on something. Too much of that pulls me away from my own inner guidance, from the quiet, hidden place within where God’s wisdom guides me (Psalm 51.6).

Lenten fasting invites us to turn toward God, to deepen our connection to the voice of the Spirit within as we abide in the love of God in Christ. It’s not just about sacrifice, giving up something or turning away from worldly pleasures.

We fast from bodily pleasures or temporal things not because they are bad, but because they can never fully satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. We let go of sensory overload because it dulls our capacity to listen from within. We let go of pleasures so we can access a felt sense of Spirit’s embodied guidance whose sweetness and satisfaction is much more subtle than that which comes from wine, chocolate and rich foods.

My Great Uncle Solanus Casey said that human greatness lies in faithfulness to the present moment–to be fully present with myself, God and whomever or whatever is before me. I’m not very adept at that. Lent gives me a chance to acknowledge what keeps me from being fully present and experiment with a new way of being. I’m choosing to regulate what information I take in from the internet and focus on staying connected to God in each moment, listen from within, and let go of an old pattern of being easily distracted.

What keeps you from hearing the birds sing and the clock tick? What so fully fills your mind  that you forget to attend to your soul? What so completely satiates your bodily desires that you neglect listening for the wisdom of your innermost being?

More than turning away from something, fasting aligns us more fully with what makes us fully human. Then our prayer is our work and our work is our prayer.

My midlife body isn’t what it used to be and I’m okay with that! The stiff joints that greet me when I stand up after being parked for too long in one position remind me to keep moving lest I get stuck in the all too common midlife rut of declining muscle mass and bone density.

My younger self didn’t have this exquisite built-in system to warn me of the dangers of extended sitting. In my thirties and forties I sometimes spent 8 hours or more a day just sitting. I’d get up every 50 minutes between therapy sessions with my clients—a wonderful imposed break unavailable to those stuck at a computer all day. Back then a vigorous 15-30 mile bike ride multiple times a week plus other rigorous exercise helped maintain the hardiness and vitality needed to sustain my work life.

At midlife I find daily, moderate, engaged, but not too strenuous exercise keeps the aches at bay and my muscles strong. When I try to do too much, too quickly, my body protests. Pushing too hard can leave me depleted and sore. Likewise, a few days of sitting too much coupled with lack of exercise also leaves my body voicing discontent.

This week I pulled myself out of bed for two 6 a.m. strength training sessions. My body has been less achy and my energy stronger both days. I’m going to yoga tonight to balance it out with some stretching and hope to get to a spinning class tomorrow.

As with all things related to health and well-being, staying strong through midlife requires you listen to your body and find the optimal combination of activities for your body. No one can do that for you. Your trainer, yoga teacher or fitness professional can make recommendations, but only you can discover what makes you feel your best.

Finally, it’s important to find activities you like. We will keep doing the things that we enjoy.  If exercise is not fun, you need to find something that is. If it’s only about the results—and the process is not enjoyable—then why do it?

If you’re interested in some fun, challenging but sensitive strength training and conditioning support, check out Fitness Revolution Pasadena. My trainer Joseph is a true gem. I’ve adopted him as my little brother (avoiding the truth that I’m old enough to be his mom). I’d love to share him with you.