This is the third installment of a new series where I let you my readers encourage each other by telling your stories. We are here to learn and celebrate with one another. It’s amazing how much we learn from hearing other people’s stories.
Today, I’m honored to introduce you to Jen Russell. Jen’s husband and Jeff are old college buddies. Josh and Jen are two of the most fun and generous people that I have ever met. Jen has sent me such encouraging emails since I started this blogging journey. I’m so thankful that she is here to share her heart. I think many of you will be able to identify with her story…
I am so honored to be featured on Jenny’s blog and be part of this community she has started.
I am a 35 year-old woman. I have been happily married for almost 10 years and I am the mom of two children, ages 4 and 7. I am a school teacher who is about to finish my 13th year in the classroom. My husband and I are happy people and despite experiencing some unique challenges (losing possessions in a house fire, fathers going through open heart surgery, an anorexic sister, an addict brother in prison), I believe I have lived a charmed life.
In the last 15 years I have struggled with my weight. Up until about 21 years old I was small. I had always been athletic and exercised. But all of a sudden I had some extra pounds on my small frame. I became self conscious about my body. A lot of it can probably be traced to my college diet of Captain Morgan and mac and cheese. After college, my diet changed for the better, but I still averaged about 5 pounds of weight gain a year.
I have never categorized myself as fat, yet here I am, “obese” according to BMI. It feels shocking to put myself in that category. Like any woman, I have struggled with my self-image. This led to questions like, “Does my husband still find me attractive? What is this extra weight causing inside my body?”
As a result, I have tried all sorts of diets and other restrictions. I exercise regularly, make balanced meals, and watch my portion sizes, but nothing has made a difference.
Two years ago my husband, Josh, and I decided to take a different approach. My husband is not overweight, but is always looking for ways to stay healthy. So we decided to start a monthly challenge. We would try something for one month and stick to the committment. You can do anything for a month, right?
So we committed to one year of monthly challenges. In the first year, our challenges included:
–10,000 steps a day
–lose 5 pounds
–going full vegetarian
–running 3 times a week
–no snacking after 8:00 pm
–a vitamin regimen every day
–running a 10k.
The challenges were fun and took discipline. The first year ended and not much had really changed. However, we agreed that we liked being focused on accomplishing defined goals.
Josh and I agreed to continue the monthly challenges but we wanted to step it up. How could we make it bigger and more meaningful? We decided that every challenge had to benefit someone else. We put together our list and were excited that our kids would be a part of it.
We spent our first month setting up an art show for Josh’s mom. She is an incredible artist who didn’t think anyone would want to buy her art. She sold 7 paintings from the show and still sells to this day.
The next month, we focused on gratitude and sent a letter or called someone we were thankful for everyday.
Another month we performed random acts of kindness. We bought a homeless person food, bought the guy next in line his coffee, told a mom that she was great with her kids, and paid the toll for the car behind us (which we do every time now).
Then it hit me. During the two years since we started these monthly challenges, my body never really changed. But it didn’t matter as much to me anymore.
I realize now that being “healthy” is far more than just the numbers on a scale. Health includes filling your soul, living by your values, feeling excited, enjoying life, and setting a good example for your kids. For a long time I let the number at my feet determine how I felt. The last year of challenges has changed that. Being focused on others made a big difference in my perception of myself and my definition of “healthy.”
I know I will occasionally fall back into the trap of focusing on the scale or some other thing to gauge my health. Fortunately, I have a husband who will encourage me and laugh with me along the way. And he and these challenges will help me get back on track anytime I derail.
Now, how will you challenge yourself?
Thank you Jen. I’m honored to call you my friend. To follow along with Jen and her family, be sure to check out her blog here.
Blessings sweet friends – Jenny
I am currently accepting submissions for Sunday Stories. Please limit your posts to approximately 800 words and include at least one picture. Please email them to me at email@example.com.
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