Sunday, March 29, 2015

What's hiding in your closet?

This summer my son is going on a missions trip to Northern Ireland with the youth group from our church.  I am so proud of him!  This trip is a tremendous opportunity to serve others and grow in his relationship with the Lord.  This weekend the team held a tag sale to raise money for the trip.  It was fun to put it together, but a lot of work as well.

In preparing for the tag sale, I went through my closet and pulled out everything that does not fit me anymore.  There's very little left!  Monday morning, I realized I have a closet of clothes that used to fit me about 12 or so years ago.  I gained weight, put them in the basement and kept thinking, "I'll wear these when I lose weight."  Of course, one year turned into 12 and I never even looked at them again.  I pulled out a few of the dresses Monday morning just to see.  I had a good laugh.  The other night I pulled out the rest of the clothes and had a grand time going through them.  I tried on a few of my old favorites, especially the ones I bought when I accomplished my lifetime membership to Weight Watchers in 2003.  Although everything is completely out of style, just about everything fit, except two dresses that are a little too snug.  I had so much fun!

 Do you remember when this style was fashionable?  The pink number reminds me of Little House on the Prairie.  Oh my!

Surprisingly, trying on all the old clothes was a breath of fresh air.  The sad part is, I'll never wear these things, even though they fit.  They should have been donated years ago when they were more fashionable.  A few things were even too big for me.  I wonder why I was hanging onto these things?

The flower pants and the white capris were two of my favorite outfits.  I wore these for exactly one season after I reached my goal weight on Weight Watchers in 2003.  The white ones have lovely teal flowers embroidered on the bottoms.  So chic.

This makes me think about things that are hidden.  Are there treasures in your closet that you are missing out on?  Things buried beneath dust and rubble, waiting to be uncovered?  Maybe it's not literal, like me and my old clothes.  Maybe it's a rusty talent you have not taken out to use in a while.  Perhaps it's an old friendship that needs restoring.

I used to cross-stitch.  This is one of the pieces I did.  What is your hidden talent?

Or maybe there are things you are hiding, trying to avoid.  Kind of like me avoiding my "skinny clothes" because I was ashamed of being fat.  Deny they are there and you're not fat.  Sometimes there are things in our past we cover up, hide from and try to avoid.  We work hard to avoid them and often they sneak up on us in ways we do not expect.  Wounds from childhood.  Unresolved issues from young adulthood.  Sins from the past which haunt us.

God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:3

My challenge for you is to clean out your closets.  Literally and figuratively.  Go through your clothes, take anything you have not worn for a year or more and donate it to charity.  (If you live in my area, donate any tan or black pants, skirts or shorts to a local school.  Kids need them for uniforms.)  It is liberating and a lot of fun!!!

Cleaning out the closet of your heart is a little more complicated, but far more necessary.  If you have a hurt from the past, the first step is to pray.  Seek the Lord for guidance.  Surrender to him.  There is absolutely nothing in your past He does not already know, but He loves you anyway.  He sent His son to redeem you.  Christ paid the price - you do not have to carry the burden.  Next, talk with someone you trust to begin the healing process.  You may need to work through this with a professional and there is nothing wrong with that.  I warn you, it's difficult and painful to look, really look at yourself, to look deep.  But when you do, when you address the monsters in your closet, you can become free.  That freedom is worth the journey!

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

My Redeemer Lives by Nicole Mullen

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Struggle Is Real

I started this blog because people ask me all the time how I lost so much weight.  Typically they are very polite, struggling with their own weight and are seeking encouragement for how they can lose weight.  I love the opportunity to share with them.  Sometimes people have not seen me in a while and are shocked at the difference.  Either way, I don't mind the attention, although sometimes people have boundary issues, like the lovely lady who grabbed my cheeks and said, "Look at you!"  Ummm, yeah, thank you.  (awkward)

I must say the struggle is real.  It does not come easy ... losing weight, keeping it off and getting to the gym daily.  I am dealing with two new struggles.  One is I need to drink more water.  I bring water to work with me, but I am not drinking it.  The other is new aches and pains I have not had before.  Two weeks ago, I strained my right hip flexor (which is getting better, but is still tender).  Yesterday, I strained my lower back.  Today I was up at 2:30 a.m. in pain and I can barely stand up straight.  Ibuprofen, ice, rest (not too much), stretching.  Repeat. 

To be completely honest, This morning, I feel like I've just about had it.  I don't want to be in pain.  I want to eat what I want.  I don't want to go to the gym.  The struggle is real.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Yesterday was March 19, six months until the Ride to Remember.  Oh my!!!  Panic attack.  Three weeks ago I did a one hour boot camp at the gym and nearly passed out.  One hour of extreme whatever it was they put us through and I was done for the day.  How am I going to make it on this ride if I can't handle one hour of extreme cardio?  If my back and my hip are aching now, what in the world will it be like on a 106 mile bike ride?

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  
Galatians 6:9

I have talked about this before.  These self-defeatist attitudes will only get to me if I allow them.  How important is it to me to keep the weight off?  Is the free dessert from the restaurant worth the calories and carbs?  How important is it to me to do the ride?  Am I willing to do whatever it takes to train for it?  Even if it means aches and pains along the way?  Even if it means going to the gym if I'm sore and tired and just want to give up?

So when people ask me how I lost the weight.  I tell them, "I have a story, but if you want the quick version, it's carefully watching everything you eat (EVERYTHING), exercise AND 'sticktoitiveness'."  (Yes,  this is a new word in the Tracey Coleman Dictionary:  sticktoitiveness = the determination to never give up.)

Be strong, stick to your goals.  Do not give into yourself!  Overcome temptations and work through challenges.  Get to the gym today!!!

Remember I told you one of my goals is to be able to do three sets of 10 push ups?  I'm not there yet, but I can consistently do six push ups.  This is a small goal, but it helps to keep me focused.  What is your goal?  Can you break it down to something smaller and more achievable?

But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.
2 Chronicles 15:7

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Weather vs. Whether

Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul.  
Worship His holy name.  
Sing like never before, O my soul. 
I worship Your holy name.*

My favorite seasons are Spring and Fall.  I LOVE the spring for the flowers, the newness of everything, the bright colors, and for finally being able to open the windows.  I LOVE the fall not only because it's back to school, but for the amazing smells, crisp air, and apples!  I enjoy Summer too, but my favorites are most definitely Fall and Spring.  

Winter, on the other hand, takes its toll on me.  This year has been particularly harsh.  While the first snow is usually exciting, by the seventh storm, I was more than done.  The short days are oppressive.  It's depressing to leave for work and come home in the dark.

The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning.
It's time to sing your song again.
Whatever may pass  and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.

In my journey towards fitness, it has not been the "weather" that has kept me back or moved me forward, for that matter.  It has been decisions whether to eat right or not, whether to workout or not, whether to take the stairs or the elevator.  As an obese person, it was not even so much the image in the mirror that made me feel good or bad about myself.  I felt out of control, overwhelmed and just didn't  care.  I was tired all the time, my joints ached.

What I failed to realize is all you need is to take the first step,  couple it with determination and you can start the journey.  It has been a long road for me, with several setbacks.  When I fractured my thumb last March, I could not use my hand to do anything.  This limited my workouts, so training was at a standstill.  If I was not at the gym, I tended to eat whatever I wanted, and as much as I wanted.  Ultimately, I did not give up.  I kept moving forward.  Looking back, it's easy to say, "If you had only fill in the blank a year ago, you would be  . . .  by now."  But I needed that part of my journey to learn how to overcome the setbacks and to stop listening to my own self-defeatist attitudes. 

This weekend, I attended a women's conference at my church, entitled, "Out of Hiding."  There were some topics that stirred some things up in me.  When I came home, I was feeling low about a particular situation and I wanted to eat.  The old feelings of hopelessness and being out of control crept up.  Unexpectedly, a dear friend invited me to a comedy show, something I definitely needed.  We spent some time together before the show, so I had the opportunity to talk about what I'm going through.  Instead of using food to help comfort me, I am seeking the Lord for direction,  Consciously, I know He is the one in control and I need to trust in Him.  At a deeper level, it is much harder than that.  It's not easy...trusting God and at the same asking Him to help me forgive, surrendering to Him.

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing your praise unending.
10,000 years and then forevermore.

With Spring approaching, I thank God for the sunshine, for warmer and longer days.  It lifts my soul.  The warm weather will bring new opportunities to go hiking, ride my bike, and to spend time with the Lord in His creation.  I realized this weekend, that no matter what storm I am facing, He is with me and will satisfy my need.  I only have to seek Him.

What journey do you want to begin, but something is holding you back?  Trust in the Lord to lead your path and begin the journey.  Challenge yourself to weather the storm. Endeavor to succeed.  Accept failures as lessons to help you stick to your path.  Whether you realize it or not, you just need to take the first step to begin the journey.

*10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman

Monday, March 9, 2015

Fear and Pain

When we first got a Wii Fit, I did the yoga exercises daily.  Within a  week, I hyper-extended my knee and could hardly walk.  This lasted for well over a month.  My physician sent me to see an orthopedic surgeon.  I was initially seen by the physician's assistant (PA), who ordered additional x-rays.  Diagnosis:  osteoarthritis, probably as a result of a childhood injury.   Treatment:  physical therapy, Naproxen and a list of activities to avoid.  When I eventually saw the actual surgeon, he told me I would eventually  need a knee replacement and gave me a ten-year prognosis.  I was 39 years old. 

Why is my pain unceasingmy wound incurable, refusing to be healed?
Jeremiah 15:18a ESV

In 2012 I joined Weight Watchers again and started going to the gym often.  I lost close to 40 pounds.  I was pumped and feeling good.  In July, I hurt my knee again, this time I could barely walk at all.  Recovering from a knee injury meant an MRI, an extremely painful cortisone shot, and the above treatment regimen.   The result: I stopped going to the gym and my diet went out the window.  I gained all the weight back and at least an additional 25 lbs.  It was out of control.

Stress and fear of re-injury held me back.  I felt trapped, like there was nothing I could do.  Last year, when I decided it was time to do something about my weight AGAIN, fear kept me from moving forward.  I did not want to fail AGAIN.  I did not want to be in that kind of pain AGAIN.  I was terrified of having a knee replacement.  I was 44-years old, my 10-year prognosis was closing in on me.  Fear is powerful.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
1 Timothy 1:7

It is hard to admit that I allowed fear to paralyze me, that I was not dealing with my stress levels at all.  As a Christian, I believe God's Word and I know it is there for me, but I was not applying it to this area of my life.  I would like to say that I turned to God for answers, but I did not.  

Working with a trainer taught me to exercise without injury and helped me to cope with the fear.  In September, when I did the Rugged Maniac, my knee became inflamed again, which lasted for months. I was in pain 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Sometimes the pain was sharp and severe, but most of the time it was a dull ache.  During this time, I took it easy on my legs and finally made an appointment to go back to the orthopedic surgeon's office.  In December, they took additional x-rays, which did not show any changes.  The MRI from 2012 did not show anything conclusive, so the PA recommended arthroscopic surgery as a diagnostic procedure to see what else might be happening.  I was terrified.  I had made so much progress over the last year.  I did not want a six-week recovery period to derail my efforts, as I had allowed it to in the past.

Knowing my fitness goals and my limitations, Dmitriy has spent considerable time with me focusing on strengthening my legs.  He also gave me different stretches to improve flexibility.  At each week's session, we talk about how my knee is, how the leg exercises are going and he makes adjustments (if needed) to the routine.  He has been amazing!

Here's a quick timeline to show you how much this helped:

December 9:  first meeting with Dmitriy (continued weekly thereafter)
December 16:  appointment with PA at orthopedic surgeon's office
December 22:  scheduled arthroscopic surgery for 1/29
December 25:  woke up in pain at 3 a.m., unable to sleep  
December 26 - January 15:  No knee pain!
January 16:  called to cancel the surgery, the assistant moved up the pre-op appointment
January 23:  pre-op appointment with the surgeon.  Surgeon cancelled the surgery!!!!!!

Let me be clear, osteoarthritis does not go away, but stretching and exercise make it manageable. It is a chronic problem, which I have learned to manage better.  I have to listen to my body and can't overdo it.  Recently, I decided to do both leg strengthening exercises and cardio during one visit to the gym, which resulted in several days of pain.  This was not smart.

Yes, be bold and strong! Banish fear and doubt! For remember, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9  (TLB)

I am so grateful to Dmitriy for helping me through this.  In spite of my fear, he helped me keep my focus and move forward, never pushing me to over-do it, teaching me what I need to do to strengthen my leg.  He'll say something like this, "We are going to do this to help strengthen the posterior chain.  Eventually we will build up to this (exercise).  You'll get there."  He is very good at explaining the physiology of it.  The clinical explanation, while over my head, is something I appreciate.  Of course, I probably drive him crazy. I am stubborn, I don't believe it will work, and I complain.  But I am learning to trust the process.  It's not easy.

This is a journey and I have not yet arrived at my destination.  Along the way, there have been side-steps and u-turns here and there, working through and pressing forward are key.  Keeping my eye on the goal.  While I failed to turn to God for direction in this, I do know He is with me every step of the way. He has guided my path even when I haven't asked him. Our God is an awesome God!

What is holding you back?  Is it fear?  Of pain?  Of failure?  Of success?  If something is keeping you from moving forward, be it fear or something else, it only takes the first step to start in the direction you desire.  Move the obstacles out of your way.  Achieve your dreams.  Make them happen.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The real battlefield

Every year on January 1, millions of people resolve to lose weight, exercise and become healthy and fit.  They start off for a few days, maybe a few weeks, some even make it for a few months and then something goes wrong and that's the end of it.  Few people make a New Years Resolution that sticks.

Why wait until January to start your "New Years" Resolution?

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14

What happens?  Why do we promise ourselves to do something for ourselves and then give up?  Why?

In 2014, I had just about every excuse to give up.  I sprained and fractured my thumb.  Work was incredibly stressful.  I went back to college to get another degree.  While I tried to stick with it, I was discouraged. I wanted to lose weight, I knew what I needed to do to make it happen.  But I was not doing it. I am a stress eater, so I use food to help me cope.   I made excuses.  Even though I was losing weight, I was not making progress like I should.

My beautiful green cast!

Looking back, I can see more clearly what was going on with me.  It was a mental battlefield and I was losing.  I was fighting with myself, arguing that I was too tired, too stressed, too busy.  I worked hard and I deserved the glass of wine, the hot fudge sundae, the cookies.  I did not make time to plan my meals, to eat right or exercise, even though I knew that is what I needed to do if I wanted to lose weight.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
1 Peter 4:12

I needed to re-think my fitness goals.  Not what my goals were, but how exactly I was going to accomplish them.  Getting a new trainer in July helped me with that.  Mike was a great motivator and made my workouts more fun.  Having the Rugged Maniac ahead of me kept me focused.

I started an internal dialogue with myself, making deals with myself, having mental contests.  "Do 10 minutes on the bike, then go do the weights."  When I got to eight minutes, I'd say, "You can do 15 minutes, it's not that hard," and 15 would turn into 30.

After Mike died (I wrote about this in a previous blog), I had to re-engage the mental dialogue.  "You can't give up!"

At my first "getting to know you" session with Dmitriy, it was a reality check.  This was the first time I was really honest with myself.  I talked to him about my fitness goals, what I liked and what worked for me in the past, what did not work well.  Dmitriy gave me the, "If you want to lose weight, this is what you really need to do" talk.  I resisted at first.  Seriously.  I told him the same thing I told Mike.  But Dmitriy pushed the issue and somehow convinced me to start tracking all my food.

Nutritionally, I had tried everything on my own.  I rejected anyone's help or advice because, "I'm a lifetime  member of Weight Watchers.  I know what I need to do to lose weight.  I know how to eat. I just need to do it."  I was losing weight, but it was slow going.  I have to tell you though, the timing was right for me.  I realized that life is too short to play games.  I said to myself, "What are you doing?  Mike is gone.  Would you stop arguing and listen for a change?"  I agreed to try it for a week.  It was no where near as hard as it was the first time.  I learned how to work the program better, talked to Dmitriy about my struggles.  "How in the world can I eat enough protein?"  Dmitriy was awesome.  He told me to try this or to try that.  One thing that helped the most is him telling me to not stress about going over or under with the daily nutritional goals, to try to reach  my caloric intake and to get at least 100 grams of protein.  This was key.  I was not longer stuck and suddenly I started losing weight faster and my body fat started to diminish.

The struggle is real.  I'm not saying it's easy.  I would do just about anything for a hot fudge sundae.  I drive by McDonald's and think, "I want one of those $0.99 hot fudge sundaes so bad!"  Now, come on, Tracey.  If you're going to blow it, why would you waste your calories on a McDonald's hot fudge sundae?  (At least go to Friendly's and get a banana split!)

The real battlefield is the one that takes place in my mind.  I am worth more than a hot fudge sundae. I have to convince myself that a hot fudge sundae is NOT my reward for a stressful day or hard work.  In fact, food can't be my reward.  When I have a bad day, which I do sometimes, I have to convince myself to not give up.  "Today was a bad day.  Tomorrow is a fresh start."

These things contribute to "bad" eating days:
  • Not planning my meals well (or at all).
  • Eating out.  (You cannot control for calories.  Restaurants load up even their healthy choices with fat and sugar to make them taste good.)
  • Being too busy.
  • Not eating enough during the day and being hungry later.
  • Not having healthy food options in the house or at work.
Reflection is critical.  What worked?  What did not work?  What can I do better next time?
It is what helps me to overcome the battle I have with myself.

Today is a new day.  I will not celebrate with a hot fudge sundae!  However, a really good workout at the gym is definitely in order.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Friends, be encouraged.  Did you make a New Year's resolution?  How are you doing with it?  It's not too late to go back to it.  Do not give up!  Do not let setbacks and obstacles become road blocks.  Invest the time and effort in yourself.  You are worth it!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


At the first session with my trainer each month, it's the "moment of truth." Hop on the scale, measurements are taken and then compare today's data to that of last month.  Despite the fact that I have seen decent results at each month's weigh-in, I despise the process.  Today, however was different.  Today I am within 5 lbs of the maximum range recommended for my height (based on the CDC).  FIVE pounds!!!  (So far, a total weight loss of 64 lbs. since 1/1/2014.)

Five pounds!

Something else happened tonight.  I did FIVE push-ups.  Five real push-ups.  No modifications.  Honest to goodness, real "man" push-ups.  Truth is, I probably could have done at least one more, but I got so excited that I did five, that I stopped.

Last night I was not feeling very well.  I was tired and hungry, my workout did not leave me feeling great like it usually does.  Physically I felt weak.  I thought to myself, "You are never going to be able to do those push-ups.  You should just give up."  Last night, that is what I said to myself.  Good thing I don't meditate on negative thoughts because tonight when I got to the gym, I stretched and decided to do some push-ups.

When I cried out for help, you answered me.  You made me bold and energized me.
Psalm 138:3 (NET)
Who would have ever thought this number would bring me such joy!!!!!!

I was ready to quit last night. But tonight I finally got past the bump.  I was stuck at two for months.  It was a road block and I just couldn't get past it.  But tonight I did!  This is a small accomplishment to most, but to me it is huge!

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Treasure the small accomplishments, they are worth celebrating!  (Not with a hot fudge sundae!)  The small goals you achieve along the way (even just seeing progress towards your goal) make the journey more enjoyable and less daunting to realize.

Mike made me do it.  Dmitriy helped me to make it happen.  Thank you!!!