Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Skinny Minnie

Several months ago, I had an experience while attending a conference at a hotel that I still can’t wrap my mind around: a stranger called me “Skinny Minnie.”

I had just finished a sweaty, refueling one-hour workout at the hotel’s fitness room and decided to finish my morning with breakfast at the lobby buffet (before I took my shower!)

“Wow,” the waitress said to me, “I wish I had the chance to work out too. Then I could be a Skinny Minnie like you are!” I chuckled nervously and thanked God for the reminder not to go too crazy on the buffet food. The reason for my sense of being uncomfortable, though, was that I have never been called “Skinny Minnie” in my life and didn’t know what to do with the label. I was stunned, actually, particularly since the waitress was small-to-average sized but still asked me for advice. I didn’t get it.

What I do get is that I look and feel better than I did before. It has been years since I’ve stayed thinner, but I am still getting used to this new ‘me’. I even look normal and blend in; I find I’m almost invisible as an average-sized person. But to be set apart as Skinny Minnie was unsettling; it was as uncomfortable as the time I couldn’t ride the kiddie amusement park ride with my son because I was too large. As for the waitress: I was no smaller than she was. Her comment to me was simply a reflection of her own perspective on how she looked and felt, not how I looked. No matter what our size, it’s the size we have of ourselves in our minds that seems more tangible than the view in the mirror. Our mind’s mirrors are distorted with years of insecurities, expectations, and self-esteem all wrapped around the outer layer of our selves that contain the sense of who and what we are, regardless of our outward appearances. We want to separate the physical from our intellectual and emotional selves, but we cannot. As I continue to wander down the path to self-identity as an average-sized person, I continue to blend the various parts of myself into a complete being.

Despite being uncomfortable, I am grateful for the “Skinny Minnie” comment; it gave me the chance to share my story of losing over 100 pounds with that waitress. It gave me a chance to share my faith journey, and to remind her that she was beautiful just as she was. I find it interesting to have the opportunity for a conversation simply because my t-shirt was sweaty. Time for a shower.

Tip of the week:
Taking the time to work out on a regular schedule, despite the time of year or vacation plans, is key for my sanity and commitment to being healthy. Endorphins aside, I always feel better in so many ways after my workouts. When I don’t feel like starting my workout, I remember it feels better when I’m finished, and with that reminder it’s easier to begin.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Speed Limit 45. (part 2)

Last week’s blog post referred to an unusual speed limit sign. Instead of the customary “Speed Limit 45” out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a sign that said something extra. It said: “Speed Limit 45. This IS your warning.”

I continue the warning theme this week with some reflections on that sign. I’ve noticed more speed limit signs since then, all of which simply state the speed limit number. I continue to ponder the implicit warnings, however and ask myself: What do I need to pay attention to? What is my warning sign, really?

One easy way to reflect on my life’s priorities is to consider what I would do today if it literally was the last day of my life on earth. Geneen Roth writes some wonderful pieces in her Good Housekeeping essays which discuss food and health issues; one such article referred to “priority-setting” exercises she uses in her food addictions workshops. Geneen described a workshop exercise where participants are asked to list what they would do differently if they knew they had only one year left to live. Then they list what they’d do differently with only six months left to live. Then three months. Then one month. One week. One day.

Keeping a focus on these one-day items on my own mental list helps me know why I wouldn’t want to need another warning sign to accompany the familiar “Speed Limit 45” message. My one-day list includes my faith. Prayer time. Slowing down. Purpose-filled activities. Family time including lots of snuggling with my husband and kids. One thing Geneen noticed is that her workshop attendants included “eating anything they want”, “bingeing”, “chocolate” and similar entries in their one-year and six-month lists, but as the timing got shorter and hit the one-week and one-day levels, the bingeing wasn’t on the list anymore. When we know that our time is really short, we don’t want to waste it on our food obsessions. My own personal warning: if I had one day to live, bingeing would not be on my one-day list. And so I proceed along my process, one slow step at a time, to reducing my food obsessions and increasing my faith obsessions. I want to take my warning signs seriously.

Tip of the week:
My very favorite way to start the day is my prayer time. After that, though, I exercise! I exercise regularly because I need to exercise, NOT because I love it. Like other activities which are NOT my favorite, I find getting them done early in the day (along with filing paperwork, paying bills and planning dinner!) can make them easier to accomplish and frees my mind for enjoying the rest of my day!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Speed Limit 45. This IS Your Warning.

“Be careful. I love you.” It’s what my Dad always says when I leave the house.

On a recent road trip, I noticed an unusual speed limit sign. Instead of the customary “Speed Limit 45” out of the corner of my eye, I saw something extra. It said: “Speed Limit 45. This IS your warning.”

How interesting, I thought. A speed limit sign with a message attached. Actually, multiple messages come to mind. Today’s message relates to a lifetime of my dad’s cautionary reminders. “Be careful!” my dad always said as I rushed out the door to test my new-found driving skills at the ripe old age of 16. Now, almost 35 years later, he says “Be careful. I love you.” I realize that the “I love you” add-on is the real message. It’s not only about reflecting his fear, but also about sharing his concern and love for me when he reminds that he hopes I return from another driving road trip with all my limbs—heck, my life—intact.

Most of my life I have been aware of my dad’s cautionary nature. “Don’t trip.” “Watch out.” “Don’t drop it.” Of course, I usually did trip, or drop whatever it was I was carrying. The mental images come from the second half of message itself; instead of telling me what not to do, it might’ve been more effective if he suggested what I should do instead. The speed limit sign interests me in its reminder that I often take the common messages out there to simply be precursors to the real warnings. When we’re children, the idea of a warning system is appropriate, but as adults, it’s a challenge and a priority to kick up my attention a bit so that the familiar signs serve to be the warnings in my life, too.

My own message today is a reflective one of gratitude for my father, despite his cautionary warnings over and over in my life, on this week leading up to Father’s Day in which I honor and celebrate him. I celebrate the love that underlies the warning messages; I celebrate the care, concern and loyalty with which he always stands by his family, and I celebrate the familiar messages that include the follow-up meaning: “I love you” whether or not those precious words are actually spoken.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

Tip of the week:
Watch out for those familiar “FOOD” messages in television commercials! If I find the commercials triggering suggestions about eating that I choose to avoid, I simply turn off the TV temporarily, or breeze through the commercials by fast-fowarding through them on pre-recorded shows.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Prayer is a Commitment and it takes Time

I had the privilege of speaking at the church ministry in Allentown called RiPPLE where Pastor Tom and the Ripple-rs inspired and encouraged each other with stories of ‘ripple’ effects; sharing how one good deed can lead to another, and particularly when we are following God’s will in our lives, the results are amazing. I presented my “Gain Faith, Lose Weight” concept including tips on how to pray with a greater focus on God and see the resulting increase in faith for ourselves. One of the key points in the talk is this: Prayer is a commitment, and it takes time.

For today, I am taking the time to expand on this concept in the hope that the inspiration to hang in there with prayer can be shared and reinforced.

All great stories, including mine where I’ve lost over 100 pounds within five years with God’s help, have at their core, a significant event; a turning point. There is no way to make great strides in this world whether it be in relationships, in personal goals, in quality of life, without a turning point where we discover for ourselves that the pain of change is actually less than the pain of remaining the same.

Those turning points in our lives can be triggered by prayer. I observe that when we’re in our deepest crises and in our highest joys in life, there’s a natural response “God, help!”, or “Thank you, God!” Why not implement this same desire in the mediocre parts of our life journeys; the straightaways on the roller coaster of life, where it seems nothing is happening but actually the energy to ride up or down that hill is being built. Prayer is critical, not only in the highs and lows of life, but all those points in between. And so the concept: Prayer is a commitment, and it takes time---comes into play.

I have found that a turning point in my life combined with the commitment to prayer is truly powerful. This prayer commitment is its own time scheduler; there is nothing else in my life that can or should interfere with it. Only then does the prayer “work” for me; only then do I know I’m on the right path, at least.

If I’m not committed, or if I’m not willing to put the time into it, my prayer life becomes stale; mundane; ineffective. All it takes is a mustard seed of commitment and a small time slot of my day, and I am back on track. Life, with its ups and downs, is still a smoother ride. Amen!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

RiPPLE Ministry: guest speaker this Sunday!

Announcing a new Meetup for RiPPLE -The Lehigh Valley Emerging Christianity Meetup!

What: First Sunday Celebration featuring Lisa Tomarelli - potluck supper follows after

When: Sunday, June 6, 2010 4:00 PM

The Caring Place
931 Hamilton Street
Allentown, PA 18101
(610) 433-4680

Gain Faith, Lose Weight?
is a concept developed by Lisa Tomarelli. who spent more than 40 years of her life struggling with weight issues. Naturally goal-oriented, she battled to lose weight through diets, exercise and self-help systems?yet she failed year after year.

Then something changed: she lost more than a hundred pounds. In addition, she has kept it off. Her secret? Faith.

This is still a faith journey for Lisa, every day. Through her ?Gain Faith, Lose Weight?? program, she invites others to walk by her side. Her message: through prayer, God?s love is abundant enough to help us all!

Come and hear Lisa's inspiring story. Feel free to check out her website ahead of time at,

Following our meeting we will be holding a potluck supper for those who attend our meeting. Bring something to share with the rest of the group. We'll be welcoming our summer intern who will be joining us beginning on June 6th.

See you there!

Learn more here:

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