Gratitude and long-term weight loss. I’m not sure that most people would say that the two go together. If you ask me, they are entwined and one can not exist without the other.
For so long, I used food as a coping mechanism. It was my best friend, my constant companion, always reliable and never let me down. It was my way out until it just wasn’t anymore. At some point, it stopped working for me and I didn’t get the relief that I used to from ice cream with big salted nuts and chunks of chocolate. Instead, there was pain.
As I’ve shared, I learned that sugar and gluten created a craving that I couldn’t control. I still don’t know why my body responds to sugar and gluten the way that it does, and today it’s not important to me. What is important is keeping my diet sugar and gluten free, and the peace in my life and the joy of not having to constantly struggle with food and my weight.
Without being able to use food to cope with life I had to find something else that would work – and work well. It’s a tough place to be, not able to hide anymore and having to deal with whatever life throws at you.
Shortly after learning that I needed to give up sugar and gluten, I was feeling quite sorry for myself – more accurately I was totally depressed. A good friend of mine asked me what I had to be grateful for. I had to think about it for a little bit, and then responded that I had my dogs, a job, a reliable car, food to eat, a home. I had a few good friends, just enough money to pay the bills, clothes, a couple of pairs of great boots.
This conversation didn’t fix my problem but for some strange reason after listing what I had to be grateful for I felt lighter. My problem didn’t seem so big and I was no longer feeling sorry for myself.
Gratitude is a strange thing. As defined by Wickipedia, it is is a positive emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive. I would define it as a deep feeling of appreciation and groundedness, and a knowingness that I am ok right in this moment. It’s completely intangible but it can change any situation for the better. Again, I don’t know why gratitude works. I only know that it does. I could tell you story after story about the miracles gratitude has worked in my life but I’ll share the one that is nearest and dearest to my heart.
My dad had Parkinson’s Disease and after seven years and his motor skills were declining rapidly. He chose to have deep brain stimulation surgery in November 2006 as a last resort. The surgery was difficult but once he recovered he was back to his old self, moving around better and starting making plans to go hunting, fishing, and travel – things he loved dearly but hadn’t been able to do for so long. He had hope in his voice.
After Daddy had 3 incredible days, I got a call. He was in ICU. I needed to get home right away. It took a few days to find out what exactly had happened, but after many tests it was discovered that he’d thrown a blood clot and had a brain stem stroke. He was nearly brain dead and on life support. We had to make a choice.
Luckily, we had an incredible doctor. I wish I could remember his name. He sat my family down and shared about his dad’s recent death, and how the doctors didn’t give his family all of the relevant information when it mattered most. His entire family was living with huge regrets and he believed that his father’s life could have been saved.
He gave us all of the information we needed, ran every test possible, and allowed us to be present while the tests were being performed. He gave us time to decide what to do, insisting that we walk away from this with no regrets, never having to wonder if we made the right choice, never thinking that maybe if we would have done one more thing Daddy would have made it. And he promised us he would do whatever he could to make that happen.
The next day, my mom, the rock that she is, took my sisters and me in the very same conference room and told us that no matter what, unless we all agreed to take Daddy off of life support then we weren’t going to do it. We’d seen all the tests, talked to the doctors, and most importantly we all knew in our hearts that it was time to let him go. Once off of life support, Daddy passed on in a matter of minutes.
Throughout this entire ordeal, we purposely looked for things to be grateful for. We were grateful for the doctors and the nurses who took such great care of my dad and and our family. We were grateful for support of our family and friends. We were grateful that my dad wasn’t in pain and that he passed on quickly. He was only 65.
In the days that passed, we were grateful for the food that people generously brought and everyone that helped with his service – Father Romano, the funeral home, and for everyone that showed up. We were grateful for those that came to eat with us after the service and helped us get through that very difficult day. We were absolutely surrounded by love.
I was grateful, too, that I could cry and feel the huge loss of my father. I didn’t have to stuff my feelings with a big plate of food.
My mom asked that donations be sent to the National Parkinson Foundation instead of people sending flowers, and we were grateful for all of the generous gifts made in my dad’s honor. Our friends and family sent stack and stacks of cards, and we were so grateful for each one of them. They were like hugs sent in the mail.
Even today, I can tell you that I’m grateful my dad is at peace. If he would have lived through the stroke he would have been paralyzed and had brain damage. My 95 year old Grandma Ruth says that death can be a blessing. I have to agree. My dad wouldn’t want to live that way.
My mom’s life is full today. She and my dad were married for nearly 35 years, and though I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for her I am so deeply grateful that she found the courage and strength to rebuild her life. I am grateful, too, for all of the wonderful family vacations, dinners, weekend camping trips, holidays, antiquing excursions, and the quiet times we sat together and watched TV.
I am grateful, too, for the way this experience has changed my life. I have a deep appreciation for the people I love, for my life, for the gift of just being able to see the sun rise and set every day. Life has a different meaning for me now, and though it would have been nice to learn this without loosing my dad, I am grateful nonetheless.
Gratitude didn’t fix my dad’s death. It didn’t take away the pain or stop the waterfall of tears that came for months at the most inconvenient times, like when I was walking through Wal-Mart or talking to Ozarka’s customer service. It doesn’t stop the tears on holidays or change the fact that there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss him. What it has done is make it possible for me to stand it, to keep living a full life, and to keep reaching for my dreams. It gives me a way to live, no matter what.
Today gratitude is a choice, and a solution for living well. I can be angry or I can find something to be grateful for. I’m not saying that there are times when anger isn’t appropriate because, believe me, there are. But once I work through the anger I need a solution – which doesn’t involve chocolate or cinnamon toast. I need some peace. Gratitude – looking for the good – does that for me.
If I could give you anything, one thing that will help you in life, I would put the practice of gratitude in a box and wrap it so that it was worthy of being on the cover of Martha Stewart Living and ship it overnight – no matter how much it costs. It would be one of the most precious gifts I could give. It would change your life forever.
But I can’t do it for you. It’s a gift you have to give yourself, one you must cultivate a daily practice of using to help you with any situation.
I hope you will – at least try it. Start by leaving a comment below about what you’re grateful for.
I’ll go first.
Today I’m grateful for:
- a husband that loves me completely, supports me, and believes in my dreams
- four dogs that love me and keep me active
- the people that read and support my blog (that’s you!)
- a friend that is sending me homegrown tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, and cayenne pepper
- a basil plant that won’t stop growing no matter how much I cut it
Next week, I’m going to talk about balancing food in my every day life.
And, if you haven’t seen my Fresh Apple Cake, you should check it out. It’s mostly apples held together by a tiny bit of batter and absolutely divine.
May you find balance and freedom,