The Tortoise Wins Again

Why must we learn the same lessons over and over again? Why do silly moral stories stay so important through generations? I’d say we just need reminding again and again.

When the heat of quarantine was going on, I remember seeing post after post about how we’d learn to slow down like we had been during quarantine and we’d learn to spend some time for ourselves, our hobbies, and our families. Yet, now, I feel I’ve filled my time and my capacity back to its limits – and I’m not the only one.

Life has done yet another number on my family. While we figure out our finances and make plans for the future, I’ve left my blog and my Instagram nearly to rot. See, I’m doing that thing I always do – trying to make Superman leaps and bounds instead of little pieces at a time. I’m trying to grow a community on Instagram in a few weeks, I’m trying to make myself write a personal blog once or twice a week!

It’s a constant flaw of mine to try and go the entire distance as quickly as possible. See, I tell my bosses this – but I expect such perfection out of myself that it comes off like I can’t take correction from my bosses. Truly, it’s that I can’t take the correction because I expect my first try to be the only try. This is an anxious flaw of mine (probably tied to the way I manifest my 2-ness and how I think I need to earn love and respect).

So a blog and an Instagram? I wanted everything to be perfect right from the start.

So here’s to breathing and scaling back. Learning that not everything has to be perfect right away. That only half a pound of difference is okay. That meditating only once a week is okay. That posting only once every 2 or 3 days is okay. That making a blog only once every week or two is okay.

Yes, I know scaling back means that progress and growth will happen at a slower rate, but to be honest, I know myself by now. If I don’t take it slow, then it won’t happen at all. So if I have to choose between inching-by progress and not changing at all, I choose the tortoise.

So deep breath, my friends. Keep your head up. Remember to forgive yourself for mistakes. Remember that small changes are better than none. Remember that life isn’t always going to go the way you imagined it. Remember that everything really will turn out okay.

Onto the second half of 2020, what do y’all think?

Shoot me an email if this speaks to you, or comment and let me know what techniques you use on your perfection to allow yourself space. How do you keep margin in your life?

Painting for the Non-Artist

Creativity can be such an outlet and distraction for the anxious mind (and who can binge eat with a paintbrush in their hand?). I think a lot of our generation is figuring this out. Not only are the felt posters of days passed coming back, but adult coloring books, or coloring apps are being advertised as stress-relievers. There is definitely something about making something pretty, even if you know it took little-to-no skill to make it. It calms the mind.

But for all the coloring book people I know, I know very few people who paint. Painting was always something I thought took a lot of skill to do well, but I’ve learned through the past couple of years that you don’t need a lot of skill to relax your mind in front of a canvas.

I am no Bob Ross, trust me. Typically my best work requires the urge. I have to feel that need to make something creative. I call it the “artistic seizure.” I paint, draw, craft, doodle, even sculpt, but usually they come out sub-par, more for me than for the observer, unless driven by that seizure. It’s only been recently that I’ve felt I’ve been able to recapture a love for the creative, even without it.

My family used to make out like I was some hot-shot artist with tons of talent because a doodle of mine was accepted as a front-cover for some Kidz magazine way back in the fourth grade. This doodle was just a pen drawing that we were taught in art class – like a strange concept on Van Gogh’s sunflowers, and I had added this puzzle-squiggly background with different colors and submitted it. From that day on, I was “the creative one” and I felt a lot of pressure to be really, really good.

It got to the point where I didn’t want to draw or try anything in high school because it wouldn’t be up to the standard I felt that I had been put at. Writing was where my focus was, and it took awhile before I felt comfortable creating anything else.

I got to college and there was this girl who talked about painting as her outlet all of the time. Painting was pretty foreign to me at the time, something that skilled artists could do but that was it: they could take these random colors and smoosh them together… and then ta-da! Something recognizable.

This girl in college, though, she didn’t paint scenes or things or people. She painted backgrounds and words and hung them up all over her room. So I tried it with her, and then I bought my own paints and tried it myself. Soon, any time I had an “artistic seizure,” or even when I just wanted to relax, I turned to a canvas.

Painting is not nearly as taxing, as hard, or as expensive as I always thought it was.

Setup/Supplies

I’ve been painting for about 5 years now, and I can tell you that unless you’re going for gallery-quality, cheap paint is just fine! I actually just use Apple Barrel paint you can get from Walmart for 50 cents a pop. You can also go with just your primary colors and a black and white if you’re skilled at mixing. I wasn’t then so I still have tons of left over colors I can mix now.

I like to paint the cap of the paint bottle with the color so I don’t have to pull the bottles out to check, and it immediately shows me what the color looks like on white.

Now get yourself an old sheet, some plastic palettes, and a cheap set of paint brushes in different sizes. **Fun tip: you can also use Q-tips, sponges, your fingers, or anything else you can clean paint off of after to paint with!** Lay out your canvas (these also can come cheap from Walmart), and sit yourself down in front of it.

My Process

You’ll notice that my paintings typically have a colorful background, and something on top. My process goes the same way: background, then I decide what to put on top of it. If I could paint and mix backgrounds all day, I would. Here are some tips for making something simple if you’re looking to start somewhere.

Pick your colors! I usually go with one color and make a gradient, but here I decided to go with a pastel color scheme. Drop the colors on the canvas and just smear it with your brush. Make it blend by crossing the colors over each other. If you start to blend a color you didn’t intend (like some of the accidental brown in mine), wipe the brush and add a new color!

You can sprinkle some flecks by dipping the brush into a pool of the color desired and flick it onto the canvas. I threw some green into the corners and added some white flecks on mine.

At this point, you should let your canvas dry while you figure out what you have the inspiration to put on top of your background. I’ve done a purple background with pumpkins, or a green background with a Christmas ornament. You can practice on a piece of paper before you put paint to canvas if you’re nervous.

If you decide on a quote, you’ll have to think about spacing and make sure you don’t end up having to squish the end of the quote on the bottom of the canvas, so sometimes using a pencil on the canvas lightly will help you space your words correctly. I used the phrase “Dream Big” because my family is big on it, and I feel like a lot of what I’m doing right now requires some pretty big dreams.

I always over-decorate my pictures. I add too many little touches, too many flairs or sparkles or swirls. The funny part: THAT’S OKAY! I already knew getting into this that this wasn’t a picture I was going to frame and have in the living room. This might be a picture to put in my future art studio or in a creative space… and that’s ALSO OKAY!

How many times have you colored in a coloring book and thought “Well, if it’s really good, I’ll hang it up over the fireplace!” (Hint: You haven’t. No one does.) Let yourself enjoy the silliness, let yourself over-embellish or make a mistake. Try a weird technique, use a weird tool. It’s more about the process than the product.

Heck, if you hate it in a month, you can always paint white over it and make something brand new.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this let’s you explore your creative side that you might have never known existed!

This article is also going to publish on City Lifestyle! Check out my page here.

Creativity and Anxiety

High School Journals, starting June 22, 2009.

Say hello to my sanity from High School. These journals are filled with tears, with ripped pages, with pen and pencil, with history, with frustrations, with pretending, with texts, with passed notes… and so much more.

My first journal started when I was about to be a freshman. I had gone on a mission trip to Montana and was in a small town writing about the stars and how they made me feel small. I wrote about how home didn’t feel real when I was out there, and while I knew there was drama going on, I didn’t have to be apart of it there. I wanted to stay there forever and escape it all and I wrote and wrote about that.

Then about an hour later, a friend had some drama about a boy that we both liked and I had to write about that. Then the rest of the mission trip (and hence the journal for that week) was filled with petty B.S. – focus on boys and girl drama. A game of hot seat. Seating in the car rides. Just goofy stuff.

Then I got home and *ish* hit the fan. Family drama and fights that happened while I was gone. In the aftermath of 2008, my step-dad had lost his job. We were evicted around a week later and lived with a family from our church for three months. When those three months had finished, we moved in with another family from our church, a foster mom and her adopted kids – running the total number of people in her house to 12. I turned 15 while we were in that house.

It’s hard to talk about that time because there were some fun days, and it wasn’t all terrible. It’s also hard to talk about without feeling ungrateful or feeling like I’m airing dirty laundry. The screaming fighting of our family (and families), the tears, the constant fear, the anger I still harbor… it’s all almost too fresh to talk about. I dreaded going home. I hated being around the people in that house. I hid in the closet more than once. The one month where I self-harmed was in my most desperate time of living there.

On top of the fear, the lack of security, feeling the need to be strong for my parents, and so on – I was 14, going on 15. I had enough struggles just figuring out my place. Figuring out how to be a friend, how to like boys. I had some of the most serious family struggles among my friends, who had no idea how to talk to me about them. So I ignored them with my friends. I focused on whatever boy I liked at the time or the drama that my friends were having with the “other side” of the youth group. I know at times I came off boy-crazy or obsessed (sorry about that, by the way!), but it was my coping mechanism. I pretended. It was the only way I knew how to survive.

What got me through the hardest year of my life and the hardest years of growing up were these journals. For perspective, 3 and 1/2 of the 8 composition notebooks I used as journals I made in high school, covered that one year.

More than once I would cover pages in scribbles, incoherent rambling, or screams.

When I went to college, I started seeing the on-campus therapist. I originally went because I had learned some new information about my dad who had passed when I was 10. The new information had messed with the image I had of him so much that I felt like I was re-grieving, bursting into tears at the oddest moments for example, and I needed someone to process with. However, the experience, of course, became much more than just about my father.

We talked about growing up and the loneliness I had. We talked about the insecurity of my age in high school and the need to hide the problems I was having. Sometimes I would tell her things that would make her eyes go wide. She would marvel and say a comment like, “I’m impressed you are who you are today.” Eventually, I mentioned the journals. She dug in, and asked how many, how often.

Everything seemed to click for her. “Those journals might have saved your life,” she said. Then she told me the importance of a safe space where you feel you can be yourself, even if no one reads it. Even if you are completely vulnerable and it’s embarrassing to read later, the honesty can be so cathartic. What was hidden and unknown and unclear… is now on paper and can be judged to be serious or not immediately.

A friend of mine has been super encouraging through the last month of starting this blog and the Instagram. She sent me a message today reminding me that being as raw and real as I am is important because people need to know they aren’t alone. Even if it comes off like you’re looking for sympathy or if it’s a little **too** real sometimes, it’s important.

Both she and a reader/commenter on a previous post agree: writing is good for us. you can diminish the fear of the thing. You can see an old thought pattern and change it. If you publicly blog, you get the feedback, the reminder that you’re not alone. Just knowing there is someone out there who might be reading what you’re writing can be comforting by itself.

A writing/drawing space in my house, with a sneak-peek kitty in the hallway.

And if writing isn’t your thing? That’s okay. There are so many other ways to be real, to release emotions in a positive way. Something I did in college was doodle – I would cover full pages with doodles and really try to find the right symbol or shape to express an emotion. I then covered the pencil in sharpie as a focus technique. I would make sharp lines to express anger or passion, and swirls for confusion. Curling shapes took the place of thinking and pondering. I took peace in knowing the pages meant nothing to anyone else.

Most here are from January 2015.

I also sometimes use crafting as a way to simply ignore the world. The world fades away during a DIY. You spend too much time considering how a thing looks or what to do next to ponder and sink. Sometimes all we need is a distraction.

Whatever you choose to do to cope with the world around us, make it a healthy habit. Scribbling can be a healthy habit. Crafting can be. Painting… building a house. Drawing. All of these are habits that let you feel like something is being created. Something is coming into form. Don’t let your life waste away while you cope with the problems around you.

Feels a bit hypocritical, coming from the girl who ate two bowls of cereal after a stressful day at work this week. I have not learned this lesson. But I am trying to take my own advice.

Love y’all. Hope this finds you well. Thanks for reading.

For some new recipes, check out this new page!

Not Every Day is the Same

Sometimes… I am KILLING it. Two weeks ago, I had my Thursday 5k, I ate about 1350 calories – some of it in the delicious pasta recipe I had seen. I didn’t go back for seconds, and I crocheted and watched This is Us instead of late-night snacking.

Delicious Pasta Recipe I got from @conditionedbykaty on Instagram.

Some days, I do great – even on the weekend. I do everything I am supposed to – I work out! I go to bed at a good time! I even clean! …And there have been a lot of days where this doesn’t happen. I wake up late, I grab a sugary granola bar for a snack, I dump some creamer in my coffee, I make a peanut butter cheesecake and have a second piece.

I made an Insta post this week with the caption: “Anxiety, you don’t go away overnight – but I am trying to pack your bags.” I don’t know how to go about making everything better all at once, and it drives me crazy. I’m still trying to climb that mountain in one, single, Superman-esque bound.

My therapist says I do not forgive myself easily, and I see it. I tend to always find a way to put the blame on myself, no matter what the circumstance was. I should have tried harder, I should have gritted my teeth – it is within me to make the change or to fix the relationship… even when I know that not everything can be controlled or fixed with such determination.

In fact, just today, I realized (in a session with the glorious Michelle of course) that a lot of my fear stems from this idea that when I fail or mess up, it causes people to leave. I fear that those who love me or care about me are pretending or that I tricked them somehow – so the idea of messing up? That’s terrifying. Messing up breaks the spell I put on them, or is the straw that makes someone not care enough to pretend to like me. I think somewhere along the line I decided that I was only beneficial/loveable to people if I did my very best.

One of my professors in college used to sit me down and say “Jessica is enough,” and the words never sunk in. I thought “Well, I am not enough if I don’t do what is right, if I don’t do the right things to keep people around.” These thoughts are hard to get rid of, because in some ways, they are true. We have to be good people, we should be helpful, but worth doesn’t come from our actions.

I struggled this past week with getting the nerve to write another post because I was afraid I would come off like a hypocrite who was trying to teach the world to be better when I had nothing together. I also didn’t want an emotional post that gave no one any benefit. Here’s my concession for both: I don’t have anything together. I am fighting all of the time against my anxiety and my fears. I am constantly reminding myself of reality. Here is what I am doing to get through the valleys and the days I don’t do what I am supposed to do… and maybe it helps someone else.

Grounding

I am learning to ground myself – not to my room, but to the environment and reality around me. It reminds me of a book (that I am afraid to spoil the ending of) where the main character, after trauma unfolds in her life over and over again, learns to be okay by reciting every good thing she had ever seen someone do.

I am married to a husband who loves me and chose me. I am working at a company that chose me to work for them. I have friends who choose to hang out with me and talk to me about their lives. I remind myself of these things over and over again. This keeps me from sinking into my mind with uncontrollable thoughts of not deserving the things I have, or this weird impostor syndrome I seem to have developed.

Concessions

I cannot fix all of me at once. This I must remember. I have so many anxiety-ridden habits and poor health habits.

I love to eat, as referenced in my Emotional Eating post. I bite my nails and the inside of my mouth. I pick at scabs. A lot of my favorite hobbies involve sitting still. I love carbs, and I love late night eating… and every time I feel like I am cracking the whip on one bad habit, the others swing to the forefront again.

I have to focus on one thing at a time and let the others lay where they lay for the moment. If I have to get a manicure to cover my nails, that’s okay. If I have some pasta dishes more often than not, but I am not binging at 11pm anymore, that’s okay. If the only workout I do for the day is a short walk, that is okay.

It may be possible as well that we can re-frame those days where we’re not as productive, and even do them on purpose. A friend of mine, Jess, describes these days as “Expand Days.” These days are for when you need to refresh or reset. The point is to allow your mind to expand to new ideas, avenues of thought or ways of doing things. You achieve it by just chilling out and “being,” not actively doing anything but enjoying the present moment. Having “Expand Days” or even just good-old rest days on purpose may help me feel like I am not slipping up, but being intentional.

Personal Progress

In 7th grade, I dreaded gym class. I was your average gym student – not the slowest or the fastest – but mannnn I hated it. I heard we were going to have the 20-minute run in the Spring and I would have sworn to you that my stomach turned to lead. The day of came and the gym teacher said a phrase that sounded like heaven: “Even if you granny-shuffle the whole thing, I will be happy and you’ll still pass.”

You best believe I did just above a granny-shuffle. And I even found a way to pass the time as we ran around the football track: I pretended I was on the field and dodging other players. I found out what the minimum was, and because I am that kind of person, made sure I did better than at least that. I knew I couldn’t be the best, but as soon as I found out I didn’t have to, I felt so much better.

I am not your skinny Instagram fitgirl and blogger. I am focusing on small successes and personal progress. I am becoming more full with smaller meals. I am making better choices on dinners. I am feeling better in my clothes, even if the scale hasn’t changed much yet. Personal Bests are all I can get right now, and it still feels pretty good.

Personal Progress

Thanks for reading y’all. Let me know what solutions you use for ignoring that voice in your head. What do you do when your progress doesn’t feel like it’s enough?

Follow me on Instagram! @allroadsleadtoyum

Emotional Eating

I have only recently received the official diagnosis from a medical professional, but I have always known that I have persisting anxiety (GAD being the proper name). A lot of this is related to the circumstances I grew up in. I had divorced parents, drug use in the family, I moved all of the time, lived under shaky financial situations, was homeless for a year, had a parent die in my formative years, had a mixed family, and so on. I learned early on, for better or for worse, truth or otherwise, that I cannot trust the people or world around me to take care of me, so I obsessively plan and blame myself when things go wrong (even when they are not my fault) because “I should have known better.”

All of this to say that when I try to pinpoint a time that “stress eating” in my life was not in effect… I can’t. A very early memory is stealing extra Flintstones gummies. Another is our constant influx of Taco Bell and Blue Bell (darn those bells). My cereal binges where I would fill a large salad bowl with cereal and milk, then taking the cereal box with me so I could refill until the box was gone. I took tens upon tens of granola bars from the pantry and hid them in my desk, or took gallon baggies of cereal to my room (Sorry, mom). The second I had autonomy I bought full jars – jars with an S! – of Nutella to eat with a spoon.

Not only that, but food was reward and love and community. I remember getting ice cream after a performance, or going out to eat with family being a huge treat. Getting to pick the place or our own pints (or half-gallons) of ice cream when we got A’s. Sneaking candy into the theater, making cookies, eating gallons of pasta, getting thirds – all of this was all mixed together with family and with love and with quality time.

October 2009, Probably at CiCi’s, with Abram (brother)

On and on I could list moments where I turned to food over the last seven years being out of my parents’ house. Food does this special thing to me: it makes me stop thinking.

See, normally my mind spins and spins with all of the what-if’s. My life and I have trained my brain to feel constantly on-alert and to anticipate the worst case scenarios, which would be helpful if I was on safari or hiding from the law which my brain assumes I must be doing. I feel at least somewhat anxious or worried at all times. I wish I could say that this is an exaggeration, but truly, when my world is 95% good and 5% something going on, I will worry and worry at that 5% until it bleeds – it’s a habit that runs over into my other bad habits like nail-biting.

But, oh, when I eat…. it’s quiet. Blissfully quiet. My worries seem less important, my chores can sit on the back burner, this food is the thing captivating my attention. The world quite nearly blurs around me while the food is in sharp definition. However, the second I am out of food, or so full that I am in pain… everything returns, and with it – guilt and shame from eating in a red haze.

April 2015, iHop pancakes

I know, from some of the research I’ve done preparing for this post, that stress is a huge factor. Short-term stress can shut down appetite in order to allow you to focus on the task at hand. However, long-term stress pumps in the hormone cortisol.

“Cortisol increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat.”

Harvard Health Publishing, source

Emotional eating can quickly turn to binge eating. MEDA (Multi-Source Eating Disorders Association) says that this slippery slope is more of a continuum (source). Emotional eating can start as a snack or some comfort food that settles your nerves or fills your actual hunger, but it can quickly devolve into your only coping strategy, or something you do until it hurts you, either with physical pain and the need to purge or with shame and guilt.

While I’ve never purged, I do binge-eat when I eat my emotions, and just these realizations have begun to push me in a better direction. I am now more aware when I am slipping into my haze-eating, and I try to push the food away when it brings me to that state. However, in order for me to truly master this thing there are a few crucial things I need to address:

  • My anxiety and stress need to go down.
  • I need to find a new outlet that lets my mind quiet.
  • I need to associate food as fuel not food as love.

These are some tall orders. I have found a few hypotheses, if not quite solutions.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Something I have never had a lot of success with is meditation. In all honesty, I’ve never really tried. I get bored quickly, or my mind runs away before I muster the patience to corral it back. The idea of sitting in the quiet and meditating has always seemed so foreign to me. I grew up in a house with noise and with music constantly. There was no respite unless to sleep, and even then – we slept with radios in our rooms.

Mindfulness is another practice that has seemed strange. How do I pay attention to the food I am eating more? Is it the simple act of knowing what I am eating? Am I supposed to focus on the sensation? Upon reflection, I can see how the mindless stuffing of food into one’s mouth can be a stumbling block, but again, I’ve never tried mindful eating.

This upcoming week, I am going to try meditating at least three times for at least 20 minutes each time. I will also try eating mindfully on a meal or two, and maybe I’ll report back some results on Instagram.

New Hobbies

We are all taking up new hobbies while locked in our homes for our quarantine 2020. At Walmart the other day I noticed that all of the sewing kits were gone and it gave me a bit of a chuckle. Heck, I am currently blogging for the first time so I might be a hypocrite for laughing. I have been thinking about returning to some of my old hobbies, and seeing how they fare, since I’m ditching food as my best friend.

I have been crocheting on and off since 2018, and I have owned a guitar since 2011 or so. I also love playing video games with my husband, so I am going to prioritize doing some hobbies of mine through the week and seeing what sticks again.

Associations

Here is the hardest one. How does one break an association? Is this a Pavlov situation that I need to reprogram? Is this a gradual process that will happen as I avoid using food as my comfort? I’m going to pose this question to any followers here or on Instagram, and hopefully we can start some dialogue. I’d love to have a post about this in the future.

This post has been a little heavy. I realized the truth of it as I was writing. I actually spoke up while writing and mentioned it to my husband – how far back this goes for me. I’ve been an emotional eater for a long time. There is some hope that as I address my anxiety and continue seeing my therapist (bless you Michelle), that I’ll continue to make strides.

What sorts of habits have you broken? How have you changed a negative association to a good one?

Thanks for reading, y’all.

Some cookies I made today… so sue me.

Roadblocks to Weight Loss

“I have been thinking about the idea of excuses for some time now. They are like menacing demons that creep into our lives without us knowing. They are roadblocks, white lies to ourselves, a reason to set the bar lower, and self-justification for achieving less than our full potential.”

Lorii Myers, No Excuses, The Fit Mind-Fit Body Strategy Book

It’s time! The time has come! It’s time to get real. Gettin’ Real with Jessica. No, that’s awful – I’m not calling it that. Let’s just call it honesty and move on.

I talked in my last post about my weight loss history and about how my pattern is to all-or-nothing, lose a bunch of weight fast for one event, then gain it all back (and sometimes then-some) only to repeat the process over and over again. This may not be the case for you, or for anyone else, but this is mine.

The obvious solution? Make real, lasting changes to my entire lifestyle. Make better choices in food and activity, make healthier dinners, go on walks, exercise. So why don’t I do it? Because it’s freaking terrifying! I love when “fit girls” go “It’s a lifestyle change, not a diet,” because that sounds scary af. Who wants to change the entire way they are living life cold turkey? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Another thing I’m scared of? Hiking. (Please stop laughing.) I get up to the foot of whatever darned thing I’m hiking up and stare up at that stinking summit and just groan. “How am I supposed to get up there? This is a huge task!” I think. The few times I have gone hiking, I’ve had these thoughts and it is only when I stop looking up at the summit that I can just think about one step at a time and only about halfway through do I start to think that I can actually reach the top.

Dog Mountain – Montana 2013

Perhaps this is one and the same fear. I stare at the summit – the summit here being “a Jessica who is free of her anxiety habits (biting nails, chewing cheeks, excessive worrying, OCD habits, spiraling), a Jessica who is at a healthy weight, who exercises regularly, makes amazing healthy dishes, never emotionally eats, gets to enjoy back dimples and maybe a little abs. “That is an insane amount of ground to cover, how on earth am I supposed to do that?”

And my health blueprint says “All or nothing! Jump in with both feet or it’s not worth doing! Do it for three weeks until that big thing coming up so you’ll be able to wear that dress you like!” If we’re going with the hiking analogy, I tell myself I can jump from the bottom to the top in one go and that’s the only way that it’ll be worth it. This analogy is starting to fall apart though, so I am going to let it go.

So instead of doing what I normally do, let’s start by identifying the roadblocks that always get in the way, and maybe by the end of identifying them, I’ll have a few simple steps I can start with. Now, which things stop me from having better health and mental habits?

  • Time
  • Money
  • Emotional Eating (Eating for Comfort)
  • “Eating Events”
  • Motivation

Time

This is the excuse I believe we are all familiar with. Our busy schedules, trips, events, and daily lives can all take away that precious time we need. This is not a topic I feel I should or need to preach on, because my daily schedule is not busy enough to have a good excuse here. I don’t have children to cart about, and my husband and I have regular office jobs. We do little else but work and go home, and the occasional weekend get-together or D&D sesh.

However, I can identify a special time when “Time” itself gets in the way, and it’s holidays. Whenever I am out of town or have family or friends by, I find it hard to stick to things I want to. Who wants to work out when they could hang out with their best friend? Or wants to have a salad when you need to show your family the place with the amazing nachos you’ve been talking about?

Here is a crossroads for me, and for all of us. We have three options.

  • Abandon all healthy habits with family/friends. Eat dessert first, eat as much as you like because events are the only time you can let go.
  • Ease off the gas on holidays and with family/friends. Enjoy the time you have, but in moderation. You can have a piece of cake, but don’t have the second.
  • Stay strict at all times. Be the guy who brings pretend dressing to Thanksgiving or better yet, the guy who sips a protein smoothie at Christmas dinner. (You can see I’m not fond of this option)

I think pure abandon is probably not the best route, but it is the route I am most familiar with (and is the reason I’ve gotten sick at Christmas, twice!). I need to make practical steps towards ordering the smaller ice cream, getting water, and moderation at holidays and with family, but not using it as an excuse. I can also feel free to avoid hour-long workouts when I am on vacation, but it’s not a bad idea to go on an afternoon walk with some family.

There, Jessica, not so hard to take one step up that huge mountain!

Money

*shudder* I have so much money anxiety. I’ll probably get to talking more about it at a later date, but I think just the one anecdote may get the idea across:

Leaving college, my wonderful grandparents sent me some graduation money that I used to deposit on a rental and furnish said-house. After doing all of that, I had some money left over and decided to get an Xbox so I would be able to play with my then-boyfriend. As I left Wal-Mart with the box under my arm, I had a panic attack in the car. I hyperventilated and would have returned it immediately had my boyfriend not started driving me away.

And so, you see, money and I are not usually friends. Particularly ~ spending money ~ and I are not friends.

Last year, I followed a diet plan with FitGirls and budgeting extra money for the expensive healthy meals they wanted had helped a bit, but only for the month that I did it and not for a long-term solution.

A couple of things have already begun to help me: following healthy blogs and other ladies on Instagram for one! They have great recipes that look not only easy to make, but like they are delicious. I also found ALDI, a grocery store which sells overstock goods, as well as off-brand foods (which are just as good), and cheap produce! *ahem* Let me repeat myself. “CHEAP PRODUCE.” The same grocery products I bought at a Wal-Mart when I lived in small town Kansas are 40-80% cheaper at ALDI now that I live in the Kansas City area.

I feel like money is one of those easy arguments, but at-home workouts have always been an option, and especially now, during and after the Stay-At-Home order, I think that is becoming more and more apparent. I do wonder how our gyms around the nation will be affected by this realization.

Emotional Eating

This is so big a topic (especially for me), I believe I will be writing a post about this over the weekend. Stay tuned!

“Eating Events”

By this, I mean dates! Hanging out! Galas, banquets, and events literally built around the food we will eat! I can’t say no to you, crab puff. Nor you, buffet. Nor you, ice cream date.

My husband and I bond over food. We love to eat together and to go to restaurants. Local places, chains, sit-downs, drive-thrus, you name it.

One solution I’m implementing? Our date is now a walk and cooking together. Chop these veggies, I’ll make the pasta. I’d love to Pokemon Go again and do that for a whole Saturday afternoon. Let’s find festivals of food, where we’ll have to walk around in the sun to enjoy the tastes. Let’s try new things and not just new foods!

March 2018, Gun Range in Wichita

Motivation

“I’ll give you something to cry about!” Anyone else hear that one growing up?

You want motivation? I’ll give you motivation.

Working out increases your metabolism, improves your mood, helps to prevent all kinds of health problems like diabetes, poor circulation, poor immune systems, etc.

Having better nutrition helps your skin, your energy levels, your longevity, etc.

Taking better care of your mental health… is self-explanatory.

But all of this is head knowledge that I am sure you and I already have. Motivation comes from within – from wanting to be better.

And I want to be better. I’m done being worse, or being okay. I’m ready to be better. This, my motivation, will drive the rest of those roadblocks out of the way with time. Even if I stumble or fall back, there’s always tomorrow.

Here, by the way, is the summit of the first mountain I really hiked:

February 2013, Dog Mountain Summit, Montana

And here is that same summit again, in the Fall:

October 2013, Dog Mountain Summit, Montana

Thanks for reading!

Weight Loss History

We all have a history. Sometimes it’s our childhood, our 20’s, a weirdly obsessive ex… sometimes it’s our weight loss.

Man, oh man, do me and my weight loss have a history. In high school I barely had to think about it. I was more concerned with the drama my family was always having or with ignoring it by focusing on the drama my friends were having. It was easier to think on things like the boy I liked at the time or on my friend’s most recent fight with another friend than to dwell on anything else.

I knew I wasn’t a stick figure, but I knew I wasn’t fat, so I ignored my weight and ate what I wanted. I did my Senior Pictures in the December snow of 2012 and then headed off for my year-long missionary program.

Three months in Montana with my missionary group was a blast, of course. I went to Bible classes, made close friends with the other 11 members of my class and prepared to start the six-month middle leg of the journey in Costa Rica. I ate and ate and ate at every meal. By the time I returned I felt overweight for the first time.

However, six months in Costa Rica quickly changed that. I was outside and in the sun daily, drinking tons of water, eating nearly nothing but fruit and vegetables from the local farmer’s market, and playing with kids 6 out of my 7 days a week. By the time I returned from Montana, without doing anything on purpose, I was the smallest I had ever been.

October 2013 – weight not measured

I felt amazing! Everything fit beautifully, I could put on anything I wanted and feel comfortable, and I had done nothing on purpose! I headed back to live with my parents in November and stayed through January, celebrating the holidays with gusto and returned back to my normal right before college.

College brought its own set of insecurities, and while I’d love to talk more about the people and moments that brought some of that on, I feel that it may still be too fresh for the people I know and would be out of taste. Regardless, my first year of college brought my first year – ever – dieting. I did MyFitnessPal and lost 10lbs for my banquet dress, and then relaxed again, reinflating over the summer. I lost again another 10lbs before the holidays, and reinflated even more after the holidays of 2014 and following. So on the cycle continued until I began to date my now husband, Matthew.

April 2016 – photo credit to Karli Kick

We found that we were a lazy couple – we loved video games, TV shows, card games, strategy games. We loved driving around and going to eat. Every year I would start to lose some weight – a max of 15 lbs at a time – and immediately after gain it back.

When we got engaged, I was convinced that I was going to lose weight for the wedding. #sweatingforthewedding I called it, of course. I used MyFitnessPal, I joined FitGirls, I tried Advocare and Smart Coffee. I hit 150lbs in 2019, not quite what I was post-Costa Rica, but so close, and all the wedding events leading up were getting in the way of workouts and spending money on more expensive food. I also couldn’t really afford to lose any more, as my wedding dress would have need torn apart to make it any smaller.

When the wedding day came, I had regained 5lbs, going back to 155 lbs, but I felt great in my dress. Of course, I always take advantage of any time I get to post a wedding photo, so enjoy:

~ June 1, 2019 ~

Since our wedding and honeymoon, we’ve hunkered down like true newlyweds, doing all of our favorite things and eating all of our favorite things. Before we knew it, we had gained what we’re calling “the marriage-30″(+).

I can tell you that I never expected to regain all of the weight. I had hoped that with my greater loss, when I bounced back I would just go up the normal 10-15lbs, and then I could lose it again afterwards and it wouldn’t take too long once I decided to nose-to-the-grindstone. LORDY WAS I WRONG. It all came back with a vengeance.

Now I say all this (boring) history because our history is usually a good indicator of what I am calling our Body-Blueprint. Our habits and our ways of thinking typically follow a blueprint that we’ve created long ago (on purpose or not), and when we let an aspect of ourselves go on auto-pilot, we follow the blueprint to a tee. This also applies to money and the way we spend, but here I found it helpful to really examine the way I handle my body – and to see the way my weight loss journey has twisted and turned.

My habits are:

  • Find a special event to lose weight for. (Banquets, Dances, Summer, Wedding, Vacation, Birthday, etc.)
  • Lose the weight as intensely as I can in an all-or-nothing attitude. (Calorie restrictions, 6 days a week exercise, etc.)
  • Immediately jump into my “life back to normal” afterwards. (Little to no exercise, eating what I want when I want)
  • Ignore the damage I’m doing until all my progress is gone. (“5 lbs is easy to lose” “I can do this this weekend and I’ll diet next week”)
  • Feel terrible about it.

Clearly, my problem is not losing weight, but in making it unsustainable and then having no plan to keep it all off. I’m tired of fitting into my favorite clothes for one trip or event! I want to fit in them for the rest of my life! It’s time for me to dig deep, and find some lasting strategies.

Check out my Instagram for some “before” pictures. I am going to be putting on the clothes I want to keep for the rest of my life and use them as my signposts for success as the months go on.

What do you find to be your biggest roadblock in your blueprint? What in your blueprint needs a red line markup? Thanks for reading and let me know what strategies you find helpful.

And…. Go!

This is where the fun begins.

This week was the start of what I am calling my new beginning. See, I have a tendency to avoid these hard-line statements in favor of qualifiers. I love “for now” and “we’ll see” and “I’m hoping,” because these give me an out. When I mess up, I have license to throw the whole idea away… but this time I won’t let myself do it. I am saying, right here, right now, that this is the beginning of a Jessica that cares about her well-being. As comfortable as sad and anxious and chunky can be (and we can talk about the comfort of staying where we are later), I need to step out of that, and learn that “Yum,” isn’t just what I am used to. “Yum” can be found wherever we are.

New Mexico – October 2016

Why do this? Why a blog and an Instagram?

  • Accountability! The more people I have on my team, watching my posts, reading my words, the more liable I am to stay on track! (The Stick)
  • Fun! I love writing, and I enjoy making content. Everyone enjoys that sweet, sweet validation of likes and comments, but just the creation process makes me feel worth-while. (The Carrot)

I hope that as I create content and post that you, you reading this, will be one of my helpers. I need a community around me. The fewer people I tell, the more likely I am to quit. The more people I have to help me… well, many hands make light work. So thank you in advance for helping me in the changes I am making.

So now for another big question: “But why though? What needs changing so bad?” This is the hard part, the honesty. Here, I am hoping that as I become honest, you’ll feel the real urgency of the change that needs wrought.

  • The most obvious and easiest thing to change; my outward appearance. This includes both losing weight and getting in shape. “But Jessica, you look great!” Nah, I don’t need that! What I need is to have a healthy BMI, be able to go up the stairs without panting, and darn if I wouldn’t love to look slammin’ in a bikini. These outward changes are worth making, but your point does lead me to my next change.
  • I need to change the way I see myself. I am your everyday girl, and I feel just as insecure about my body, about my opinions, about myself as any other girl (Not to say that guys can’t feel insecure, but stay with me). Isn’t it… exhausting? It’s bad enough to have the rest of the world question your authority, your education, your abilities, your appearance, your motives without doing it to your-darn-self. I am ready to leave that behind, and learn to trust myself.
  • It’s time to stop embracing my anxiety as a part of me. I have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and my therapist is constantly giving me tips and books to help me control/understand it. What do I normally do with these wonderful resources? IGNORE THEM. It is so much more comfortable to sit in my worries and sift through them over and over again – to let the current of the whirlpool take me down to the bottom again – than it is to fight against it. Fighting your own nature…. #feelsbadman

Each of these has its own subtopics and side-rants that I can get into as I address each. There’s no fix-all for this stuff, and there’s no guarantees. There isn’t a manual and no one-size-fits-all.

That’s where the name of this blog comes from: “All Roads Lead to Yum” means that we can find happiness where we are. That ice cream and avocado toast are both acceptable. That size 2 or size 10 are okay. That anxiety doesn’t go away overnight, but that we can take a road, take one step at a time and make choices that lead down the road to… well, I’m calling it “Yum,” because there is no perfect this side of heaven. There’s progress, but no perfection.

So here we go. Let’s get started. Take my advice with a grain of salt, since really I am giving the advice to me – but hear me out – and comment and like so I can know where your head is at. Thanks for reading, guys and let’s dive in. Step…. one.

Grand Cayman Islands – June 2019