Thursday, January 29, 2015

Stop and Taste the Food

I recently read an article on why it's beneficial to chew your food slower and longer (read here). The benefits are quite amazing. It's interesting to see how the things we end up bypassing as a culture, seem to be the things that breathe life into us. Creating on-the-go meal replacements or the drive-thru, accommodates our busy schedules but has a bigger impact than imagined, I suspect. From the statistics of how well kids do in school when families gather around a table at night, to the types of food consumed, and down to how long we chew, the table is quite important.

We gather as an extended family often :)

Chewing slower actually starts a whole digestive process that begins with your saliva. It releases chemicals in your gut to prepare digesting the food, it triggers hormone indicators, and insuline response. Saliva even protects your teeth from decay. 

Family night out at the mall. 

Your body's response time is 20 minutes to realizing that you're eating. How many of us are done in under 10 on a regular basis? We are conditioned to eat quickly do we can move on to the next "important task." Studies show that people who chew their food longer and slow down, are able to maintain a healthy waistline. Also, when eating with others, we tend to put a little less on our plates or not get up to grab seconds. Maybe God is trying to speak to us. The evidence even shows us how He intended us to spend meal times. Slowing down. Talking. Building relationships. Chewing. Not scarfing. But savoring. 

"When we stop everything else to gather around the table and eat a meal made by someone's hands, we honor our bodies and the God who created them. We honor the world He made and the beauty of creation. And in that moment we acknowledge that even though life is fast and frantic, we're not machines and we do require nourishment, physically and otherwise." Bittersweet by Shauna Niequest.

It's no coincidence that the physcial and spiritual intersect. It's not just what you eat, it's how you eat. I think God wants to bring wholeness into our lives through the foods we consume and the manner in which we consume them. The dinner table has the power to be spiritually formative in our lives. We develop practices that can set the tone and pace of our lives. From recalling about your day, to sharing your dreams, to feeling safe enough to share a struggle, to praying, to listening to your kids' hearts, and all the way to mending broken fences of relationships. 

Some of the most enriching times of my life where at a table. I dare to say that they continue to be around a table. I have shared my struggles and celebrated exciting new things to come. I share communion at church every Sunday around a table with hundreds of Christ followers. I've built close friendships and had girl outings that bring bonds you don't get anywhere else, at a table. From MOPS to discipleship group, lunch with a friend, to dinner with my husband and girls. God invites us to the table. Why don't we start practicing it more? Let's invite the Spirit, enrich relationships, foster good conversation, and chew slower to create unity and wholeness in all aspects of our lives.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Embracing the Imperfections

I've been feeling God call out my tendency for perfection. The problem is...I'm not perfect...and I never will be. We're always striving, right? But should we? If my goal is to glorify God with my life by loving Him and loving others, why strive for something I know I cannot attain? 

Stay with me here. I'm not saying, "throw in the towel on becoming better in life" by any means. But it's about Jesus, not doing the right things, right? It's so hard to remember that after I look in the mirror, get snappy with my girls, eat too much of the "wrong" food, feel jealous, hold onto hurt, obsess over something minor, and feel insecure. My instinct is to improve. I feel guilty or I say to myself that I am going to "do better" like somehow I need to strive for that perfection. 

Grace. It's what Jesus taught and it's what most Christians teach (Lord willing). There's age old songs that say, "come as you are" and we reach out to people who aren't following Jesus. But in a lot of circles, once you start becoming a follower of Jesus, there's a pressure to live up to perfection or being blameless. Saved by grace and then feeling like works keep you there. We end up focusing on rules to keep us in line. I struggle with trying to live up to this. I have for years. My struggle has gone from feeling like I was almost perfect in many areas (and extreme anxiety in areas I fell short in) to now feeling so imperfect. One caused pride and the other causes fear. Both focus on myself and steer me away from loving God and others. But thankfully God has led people into my life over the last 7 years, to start revealing to me that my quest for perfection is not what God calls me to. The quest is to know Jesus and to love others. Period. 

My abs are far from a six pack. I'd like to have a little more definition. I don't eat perfectly. I struggle with vanity. My house is a mess most of the time these days. Sometimes I feel inadequate that I don't plan to homeschool my girls anymore while most moms around me do. I obsessed over something stupid (that I thought wasn't done perfectly) and nagged my husband in the car yesterday till he showed annoyance. I can be judgmental of others' decisions that don't affect me at all because I have a set of rules in my head that should be followed. I am clearly a mess. 

Thankfully, I am learning to feel the nudges of the Holy Spirit to recognize these things. That maybe it's not the issue I obsessed over that's the real problem. Maybe the problem is striving for perfection that we can't live up to, like my attitude that was not loving my husband, but trying to live up to a standard while almost pounding it into my husband (thankfully my husband displays Jesus' love to me a lot and always forgives/forgets my sins).  My attitude with God and with others is what matters; learning how to truly love. God is telling me that my standard for perfection interferes with my love for others, and Him.  

Am I the only one who struggles with this ideal of perfection? I am working on listening to what God is saying in my life. How to not snap or not be negative without making it about following a new rule. Finding practices or spiritual formations that let the Holy Spirit transform me and bring me closer to Christ. Like physically opening my hands up during prayer, or starting the day with the Lord's prayer, memorizing scripture, seeking close relationships with others who are disciples of Jesus, pausing before I speak, and speaking blessings over my daughters and others. But also, learning to embrace my imperfections and let God transform me through them. A guest pastor spoke at our church today and he said that at his church something they say is "no perfect people allowed." How awesome. Well I am here to say that I am far from perfect and I am learning to be ok with that because it's not about me. Thank you Jesus for whispering to me how much you love me and letting me know that I am still lovable, including my imperfections. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Toss Your Weight Loss Goal

2015 is here, along with New Year's resolutions. How many of us make goals and put the same, year after year, goal of being a certain weight or losing a certain number of pounds? What's the next step? I am daring to say that the problem with a weight loss goal is taking the focus off of being healthy, not recognizing the journey you are on, and not making it an attainable goal. There is no goal of "how" you'll get there. Maybe this is why most people have fizzled out by summer on their goal. Is a number on the scale proof that you are a healthy individual? Let's redefine your weight loss goal with some simple ideas I have.

We are all on a journey. We are making healthier bodies or unhealthier bodies by the choices we make each day. Weight loss and money seem to relate very well to each other. If you ask most wealthy people how they got wealthy they aren't going to say it happened overnight or by a get-rich-quick scheme. It happened through small steps and staying consistent. It happened because they sacrificed when necessary, for the sake of the future. Being the weight you want to be is the same. You have 3 to 6 meals a day to work with. We all get 24 hours a day to fit in a 30 minute workout. Each choice has a good or bad consequence. So where are you on your journey? Let's look at some areas of your life that might steer your goals away from "weight loss" to lifestyle changes.

#1 Energy
Why not make your goal oriented around the type of day you'd like to have? Want to be lethargic by 2 o'clock and too tired to get off the couch at 7:00 PM? Focus your goal around improving your energy level and do some research on how to attain that. Maybe that means changing what you eat for lunch, or doing 20 minutes of yoga before you let yourself sit on the couch at night. How about starting your day with fresh, hot tea instead of a coke at 10 AM? 

#2 Body Aches
Stiff most mornings? Maybe you sit in a chair all day for work. Making a goal to decrease body aches and pains is completely do-able! Your body is communicating to you that it needs something you aren't giving it. That may be drinking more water, needing to warm-up your muscles, get a massage, stretching before and after your workouts more thoroughly, and just plain moving more. 

#3 Reverse Back and Knee Pain
A large amount of people I have worked with struggle with back and knee pain. But guess what? You have the power to make it better! What a goal that would be on your list of resolutions, huh? Again, do the research, make sure your doctor has no restrictions, and get to work. The simple fact is that your muscles can be strengthened enough to take pressure off your spine and knee caps. There are so many safe exercises to prevent pain and injuries, form is key and having guidance to do proper exercises can change your world. If you take OTC meds for these pains, that wreaks havoc on your body, and many people take pills everyday when all that's needed is some dedicated work to reduce pain and inflammation. Diet of course will play a role in this because the body's inflammation response has to do with nutrition. Your daily dose of fruits and vegetables will help that.

#4 Improving Strength
Maybe you need to tailor your goal towards achieving a regular activity that is too hard for you to do. Instead of leaving the heavy bag of salt for your softener in the car for your husband to pick up for you, focus on lifting heavier weights during your exercise so you lift the bag yourself. Maybe it's as simple as being able to open up the salsa jar with your bare hands. What about picking up kids or grandkids? You can increase your strength at any age! 

#5 Vegetables
When your focus is only a number on the scale, people will do crazy diets. Diets that don't help you be healthier, but just focus on that number. Crazy to the point of barely eating, or injecting hormones not meant for their body, or eating only packages of food delivered to their house that is in powder form. Why don't you make a goal to increase the number of vegetables you eat each day? We KNOW without a shadow of a doubt, without a doubt, that eating large amounts of vegetables reduces every single negative health concern by vast amounts. E-V-E-R-Y one. Obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart problems, acne, skin disorders, auto-immune disorders, you name it, vegetables fight it. So start with adding one more serving a day and increase from there. If you're eating 5 servings of vegetables a day, guess what will be thrown out? Probably less empty calorie foods that cause those problems. Woah, removing a culprit but adding in something that fights problems, now we're cooking! I am certainly not perfect with my eating and this is a call to challenge myself and keep adding more. So let's do this. 

#6 Challenging Exercises
Maybe you enjoy working out or you have a routine but still can't make that scale budge. First, read #5 again, and then hone in on improving areas you are weak in. Maybe push-ups, burpees, your balance, core strength, planks, improving your running time, or lifting a certain weight.  The harder you work at achieving these things, the more you'll improve your body. Want to know how to get better at push-ups? By doing push-ups. How to stay in a plank longer? By practicing the plank. It means you'll be pushing your body to limits you haven't gone yet, which in turn benefits your body. 

#7 Managing Ailments
How great of a goal would it be if you got off your high blood pressure medication in 2015? What about no longer being type 2 diabetic or pre-diabetic? It's possible and I am your #1 fan and cheering you on! Since a lot of Americans are in one of those camps, I have trained quite a few taking medications for these things. I have also seen my clients come off these medicines completely. One man in particular was on 12 medications a day. 3 were for blood pressure. After working with him for a few months, he lost weight and was able to go off all 3 blood pressures meds. All 3! If you shift your weight loss goal to doing things that get you off medications, the weight loss will follow, but you'll have a healthier body and feel the results.

#8 Cutting the Sugar
I just read the other day that a hundred years ago we each ate about 10-20 pounds of sugar a year. Now we eat over 100 pounds of sugar a year. Hold the phone. That's insane. Just like vegetables, we also KNOW the effects of sugar on the body and nothing good comes from it, really. It's just pure pleasure when consuming with sugar...until afterwards. We also know that our bodies get addicted to sugar just like drugs. So limiting your sugar intake is an excellent goal that can easily be put on paper. Even completely cutting it out for a period of time is acceptable to kick the addiction. 

#9 Creating an Exercise Habit
Hate exercising? Guess what? I used to hate it. I'm serious.  I love it now but it took time. The first step was creating the habit. That takes time. There it is again. Not a quick fix. Nothing 6 weeks will cure. What if you set your goal to exercise 2 days a week without missing a week in 2015? That's it. Start slow and just stick with 2 days. You might say, "But Steph, what good will that do me?" There's a myth that says we have to exercise 6 days a week to get anywhere. We are going for distance with this one. When you start off sprinting, you'll slow down and stop. That gets the diet cycle going by trying to exercise too much and starting at zero. 
Let's say you maintain 6 days a week of exercise for 6 weeks and fizzle out to once every 2 months (this is not unrealistic). Going at such a hard pace can just discourage your mind every time you workout after that 6 week point. I will average the time at 30 minutes a day. That's 56 workouts in the year. Pretty good, sure. You're looking at burning probably around 8,400 calories in the year. That's about 2 ½ pounds of fat (pound of fat burned is 3,500 calories). But typically when restricting yourself and trying to maintain too high of exercise expectations, binging and consuming more calories happens after the fizzle.

Let's turn this around and shoot for an attainable goal. If you commit to 20-45 minutes of intentional exercise 2 days a week, you'll average around the 30 minute mark. That would add up to exercising 104 days this year! If you burned an average of 150 calories a workout you'd burn 15,600 calories this year. That equals losing 4 ½ pounds of fat, without changing your diet. This doesn't include afterburn and adding muscle, that you would maintain from the regular exercise (which makes you burn more calories all the time). Next year you could shoot for 3 days a week and would be able to maintain because of the habit you formed this year. The cycle would be broken! 

#10 Taking Protein Seriously
Eating enough protein is an essential element to building the body you want, but many forget that. We eat a lot of carbs and bad fat these days. When dieting, calories are restricted and people turn to low calorie foods, some good, some not. Eating cabbage and carrots all day isn't healthy either. Those are healthy choices, but our bodies need protein. It's the foundation of building muscle, keeping blood sugar steady, feeling full, balancing hormones and keeping the body functioning properly. A lack of protein can cause a variety of problems in the body. From thinning hair, to lack of sleep, losing muscle, and even to anxiety and depression. So eat that steak and make bacon. Just choose quality meat sources free of hormones, antibiotics, and are fed at least partly grass. Protein creates a lean body, so aim for protein with every meal and snack you eat. It'll satisfy you, help you burn fat, and keep your blood sugar levels stable (hint for pre-diabetics and diabetics).   

That was a lot of information but hopefully you can sort through it with goals you've made. Let's start focusing more on quality of life, rather than shoot for a goal that doesn't take your journey into account. So start where you are, with what you eat, what habits you need to form, what your doctor is telling you, what your blood work shows, and how you'd like to feel. Maybe if you approach it from that angle, 2015 will not be about conquering a number but a journey of healthy steps you take.