Limits

In a women’s Bible study group that I go to, we recently discussed how God is infinite and we are created with limits.  In Jen Wilken’s book titled None Like Him: 10 ways God is Different From Us (and why that’s a good thing), she devotes the whole first chapter to this characteristic of God.  My mind is wired to think of the human body and how it was created in any given conversation, so naturally in discussing how we should understand our limits, I jumped to thinking about the way our bodies were made and what does that mean practically for us.

Understanding how God has created us is crucial to understanding how to live healthfully.  Take sleep, for example.  God made our bodies to need it, and when sleep is off–when we try to ignore this limit we have as humans–it effects our state of health.  Eating usually works the same way.  God created our bodies to need food.  When we don’t eat enough food, or when we eat too much food, our bodies respond in a way that deviates from a state of optimal health.   Our bodies were also created to move, not to be sedentary.  It is amazing how we can push our limits to exceed what seems to be humanly possible, but Olympians do it all the time.  However, reality is that bodies break down and ultimately have limitations.

Our whole lives as Christ-followers are to be given over to the identification and celebration of the limits God has ordained for us.  He lovingly teaches them to us through his Word, through trials, through discipline.  He humbles us through these means to remind us that we are not him, nor is anyone or anything else we know.

Jen Wilken, None Like Him

 We don’t like to think we have limits, but those limits actually allow us to be more free.  My husband reminded me of this illustration:  if a goldfish is out of water because he wants to be free from the confines of his bowl, he will die.  But when the fish is in the environment he was created to live in, he can swim freely and live.   When we submit to our Creator and live within the limits that he has given us, we have the ability to thrive!  Unfortunately, I don’t like to be told how to live –even if it’s coming from the infinite and eternal Creator of the universe.  However, to try to fight against him and the limits he has given would be foolish and futile because who can know the mind of an infinite God??  Who am I to try to defy the parameters he lovingly put into my life?  Who am I to think that I can eat as much as I want to eat, sleep as little as I want to sleep, exercise only when I feel like it, and then still expect to thrive physically?  David writes in Psalm 139 that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and therefore shouts praise to his God, his Maker.   I want to celebrate — like David did and like Wilken writes about–my human limitations by living in a way that I was created to live and by giving our eternal and infinite God praise while doing so.  I want to thrive like that little fish, don’t you?

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A New Beginning

It has been a long time since I have posted regularly on this blog.  I couldn’t quite explain why I have lost motivation to write, but it just wasn’t there.  For some reason, I was reflecting on it a little today and I think it’s becoming more clear to me what the problem has been.  I tried to blame it on the tough year that we’ve had, going through 2 miscarriages and then being pregnant (due June 2017) which resulted in feeling sick and tired.  But honestly, that has not really been the reason.

This blog has been about healthy living.  The problem is, there are so many voices out there…too many.  I didn’t really know what to say that hasn’t already been said by someone smarter, cooler, fitter, and more qualified than myself.  I figured it was probably time to do away with blogging because I don’t like that I’ve been inconsistent over the past 7 months–but the truth is it is not always for you, it is also a way that I myself process and reflect on what it means to be healthy.  I am not ready to call it quits, but I am ready to take the pressure off myself and just simply share those reflections with you.  I am not the smartest person in the health/exercise field.  I am surely not the coolest.  I never desired to be the fittest person, and there are certainly people way more qualified than me to be writing blogs on healthy living.  However, here is what I do want to offer you:  healthy living from a Christian perspective.  There are plenty of people who make health their god, but I want to look into what God says about health.  Practically speaking, how does the gospel shape healthy living.

For some of you, you will stop reading anything I write now.  That’s ok–I want to be up front with you about where I am coming from.  For others, you will be encouraged and challenged by the things I will write in the future.  My goal is not to get good traffic, make money, or get lots of likes and shares, but it is to use my background in fitness, my desire to write, and my love for God to bring you insights on what it means to live healthy.

Thank you for reading this honest post after months of silence…stay tuned.

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Broken

There is a fascinating thing that happens in the human body when a person does some form of weight training.  The muscle fibers are literally torn and broken so that they can build back stronger.  I was reminded of this specific detail this week during one of my restless nights after reflecting on something that I read, “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us (Hosea 6:1).”  Just as the human body can often be built back stronger once broken, I pray that our nation–torn apart in two right now–will grow to be united and healed once again.  I pray that there will be a movement of those returning to the Lord and putting our hopes and trust in him, because we have strayed in putting our hopes in a presidential candidate.

This is a blog about different aspects of healthy living.  My background is in studying exercise and its affects on the body, but right now I think the healthiest thing we can do is exercise the ability to interact respectfully with people who have different opinions than you.  Let’s develop the skill of hearing other views without getting offended.  Here is a TEDx talk by Brant Hansen with some thoughts on how to do this…it is what we need to do if we want to get to a place of health and strength again.

 

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Seasons

Recently, someone asked me about what I like to do for exercise.  I answered with, “Well, lately I’ve been doing a lot of swimming because my kids have been taking lessons so it’s convenient.”  I continued on to say that before swimming I was training for a 10K so I had been running a lot.  I then finished with how I recently got my bike in working order again and foresee more bike riding this fall.  As I reflected on this conversation later I realized that all my life I have been someone who is in and out of seasons when it comes to exercise.  Sports started young in my family and I loved it.  Fall meant soccer.  Basketball started up Thanksgiving weekend and went right into softball season.  Summer was more laid back, which meant gym visits and occasional runs on the beach.  I liked having seasons.

Seasons are good for your body–doing new things challenge it so that forgotten muscle groups can strengthen. Cycling your workouts also can help you stay interested and motivated in fitness.  If you are bored with your workouts, think about trying something new this fall!

Life is made up of seasons, too.  In some seasons our calendars are busy, others they are more open.  Sometimes life is relationally hard and draining, other times we are thriving and happy.  There are periods when health challenges arise, and then high points when energy abounds.  These seasons can strengthen faith muscles and increase flexibility–the kind where you realize you can’t control everything but have to trust in God’s sovereign plan for your life.

I have been anxious for fall to come this year, but not because I love boots and pumpkin spice latte.  My family is coming out of a hard season.  We have dealt with a second miscarriage as well as my husband’s 4-night stay in the hospital followed by 3 weeks of intense treatments for a staph infection.  I was thankful that during all this it was also Olympic season.  It was just what we needed–something to be happy about when we were sad and being able to watch our team win even though we were feeling the pain of our loss. However, as helpful as the Olympics were to us, they ended.  That’s the thing about seasons–they finish.  What has helped us most this summer is that we know that God is always good, in our hard seasons and in our great seasons.

As I move from less swimming to more biking, I will continue to be thankful for new seasons and for this constant truth from God’s word: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

 

 

 

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Losing Weight: How to Thrive

I wrote a couple of posts about losing weight, because it is something that so many of us wish we could do successfully.  The first post dealt with the fact that it can be a tough thing to navigate when talking about it and talking to people who’ve done it.  The second one was about how to do it.  This one is about how to thrive…because it’s one thing to actually lose weight, but it’s another thing to be joyful, satisfied, healthy and flourishing.

When I use the term healthy, it must be understood that there are many facets to the word health.  Someone can look very healthy on the outside and actually be very sick on the inside.  On the flip side, someone can look not so healthy on the outside but their numbers may be in the healthy range.  Someone can be beautiful–the picture of health– on the outside but hurting and in a dark place on the inside.  I was talking about my thoughts on this topic with a friend and fellow blogger at Fan and Flame, and he suggested that I title it “How to Thrive”.  I think thriving encapsulates exactly what I want to discuss because simply looking healthy on the outside or reaching number goals can be unfulfilling.  To thrive–and thrive once “health” is achieved–is what I believe should be the ultimate goal when losing weight.

So what does it mean to thrive?  What does thriving look like?  What are the obstacles that keep one from thriving?

  • Thriving means freedom;  free from the chains of bondage that addiction brings.  Cre, a friend of mine who recently lost 60 lbs, said this, “I came to realize that food was a ‘drug’ to which I was addicted, and, as I believe was the case with any addiction, I was going to need God to show up in big and tangible ways if I was going to break free from it.”  While many identify with this kind of bondage, there is another kind that exists on the other end of the spectrum.  If gone unchecked, the bondage of structure and numbers–diets and calories–can be an obsession that can be a major obstacle in thriving as well.
  • Thriving exudes inner joy.  It is exciting to reach goals and receive encouraging comments about one’s appearance.  However, when one’s happiness and mood is dependent on whether or not someone recognized how good they looked that day, or if their weekly weight loss goal was reached, or if they had cake at their friend’s birthday party last night, then a healthy balance has not been achieved.  Happiness can change in an instant but joy can be constant.
  • The biggest obstacle to thriving is self-confidence.  Let me explain.  By self-confidence I mean being confident that you can do it yourself and relying only on your own strength to do something–like overcome addiction.  If I am honest, there are things in my heart that I simply cannot overcome on my own.  Things like lack of self-control, or obsession with numbers, or the constant comparing of myself to those around me.  These things are the result of sin in my heart, and I cannot win that battle on my own.  When I sat down and talked to one woman about her weight loss journey, I started off with, “How did you do it?”  The first thing out of her mouth was, “Through prayer and by the grace of God.”  She knew that she couldn’t do it on her own, and God gave her the tools (like self-control) to lose the weight she needed to lose to be healthy.  Another woman I talked to told me about how when she lost weight in the past, it went to her head and that self-confidence became her downfall.  When she was successful the second time around, she said that she “wanted people to know about Christ’s love.”  I think what she meant by that is that God cares about people and loves them.  He wants us to thrive.

So…how do we thrive?  Whether or not you are trying to lose weight, thriving begins with a look at the health of your heart.  What is it’s diagnosis?  The truth of the matter is that without a cure, we are all very sick.  Tim Keller sums it up like this: “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”  Thriving begins with understanding this truth, and clinging to it daily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Cape

About 5 years ago, not long after giving birth to my first child, I joined a breastfeeding support group that played a huge role in surviving my first months –and years– of being a mom.  There was a small group of us that ended up forming a playgroup.  As our kids got older and welcomed new siblings, we’ve stuck together, celebrating our ups together and encouraging one another during our downs.  This past month, the youngest member of the group turned 2 and for the first time in 5 years, none of us are in need of a nursing cover.

Last fall, one of the moms challenged the group to do the Hershey 10K together.  I couldn’t commit right away because I knew that my husband and I wanted to go for baby number 3 so I had to play it by ear.  Then, the miscarriage happened (you can read about it here).  I decided to sign up for the race even though I planned to get pregnant again right away and figured that if I was in my first trimester and training, I would just do the best I could with the energy I had.  It turns out that I didn’t get pregnant, but having something to train for and work towards was a good distraction for me…something to be excited about amidst the monthly disappointments that came my way.

Here’s the thing: a 10K (6.2 miles) might not be that big of a deal to some of you runners out there who have done marathons, but for me–someone who’s never wanted or needed to run more than 5 miles–it was an accomplishment.  Not only was it a personal accomplishment after going through a miscarriage and turning 30* in the same year, but it was a unique thing for this group of moms to do together…something that seemed so un-achievable 5 years ago (because seriously, trying to run while having an infant was not happening for me–and please enlighten yourself and read about why here).

After I crossed the finish line my daughter said to me, “Mommy, you were fast!”  I am so thankful that she was naive enough to speak that statement with such conviction, but all that mattered in that moment was that she just saw her mom accomplish something that was hard…emotionally and physically.  What was once my nursing cover has now become my supermom cape.  Running the mom race is hard, but it is worth all the sweat, tears, and sacrifice.

 

*I am actually 31 now, but being 30 was significant because when I turned 30 in 2015, I wanted to challenge myself in a new way.  I achieved that goal before the race by running my fastest 3 miles (on my own time) and also by running the farthest I had ever run (6 miles during training).  Thankfully, it happened while I was still 30 so I didn’t let myself down 🙂

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Losing Weight: How To Do It

I recently talked with a few people who have lost weight in the past year.  Here is the first thing I learned about losing weight:  it’s hard work.  No matter what method you use, whether it’s a diet plan, an intense exercise regimen, or stomach surgery, there is no easy way to do it.  Therefore, if you are looking for the magic formula that will help you lose weight in a snap, you won’t find it on this blog.

One of the things that I loved about the women that I talked to was that their goal was health.  Their motivations weren’t superficial or to simply look better, but they wanted to improve the quality of their lives and avoid the diseases that were threatening their ability to live well.  Here are 3 things to consider when trying to lose weight:

  • Retrain Your Brain.  When it comes to food, one of the things that each of the women said was that they had to look closely at what they were eating and have a period of strict structure to reteach the brain and the body how to eat appropriately for their body.  I have never been a fan of diets (because if you go on them, then you’ll likely go off them), but always have encouraged healthy eating habits–a lifestyle that is more consistent than dieting.  Many people who need to lose weight don’t have eating habits that work well for what their body’s needs are, so there needs to be a period of retraining the brain and body to learn what is best for them.  Each of the women sought the help of a professional in this area, and I would recommend doing that as well if you are trying to lose weight in a healthy way.  If you are local and need some recommendations, I would be happy to give them to you.
  • Rework Your Body Composition.  If you want to lose 1 pound, there needs to be a 3,500 calorie deficit.  This ends up meaning that you need to burn 500 more calories a day than you are taking in if you want to lose 1 pound in a week.  That is the very basic science behind weight loss, but your body has this thing called metabolism that can throw off the numbers.  Metabolism refers to what goes on chemically inside your body to keep it going.  The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn at rest.  Therefore, one of the best ways to improve your metabolism is to exercise.  Add muscle to your body and improve your aerobic capacity, and you are on your way to healthy living.  Talk to your doctor about this or find a fitness professional if you need help, but start by just moving your body more in the meantime.
  • Reconsider Your Options.  Have you talked to the doctor about all your options?  Have you thought about if there is an emotional, spiritual, genetic, or health issue behind your weight gain or your inability to lose weight?  The success behind the women I talked to has a lot to do with addressing these issues.  There is a time when weight loss surgery might be the right option and there is a time when one needs to realize that their heart and mind is not a healthy place.  I would recommend talking to close friends and family, or someone you trust, to help sort these things out.

Losing weight can be hard stuff.  A lot of work goes into this process, and the best results come when the whole person is addressed: body, mind, and spirit.  Find someone to help you, and feel free to ask me questions if you have them.

If you find yourself interacting with someone who has recently lost weight and you don’t know what to say, check out my previous post Losing Weight: What Not To Say.

 

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Losing Weight: What Not To Say

This is the first of a series of posts on weight loss.

My friend posted something on Facebook about how she’d lost 100 lbs.  Crap.  I knew she was losing weight but I didn’t say anything.  I see her every week, but all of the sudden, it was 100 lbs later and still I hadn’t said anything–it seemed too late by then!  What was I to say?  I didn’t want to say something that is actually hurtful when I was trying to be encouraging.  Is it bad to encourage someone when losing weight, because would that come across as implying that they had needed to?  This is just a small glimpse into my complicated brain.

Right now our culture makes a big deal about body-shaming, so it is hard to know how to talk about the body and how to encourage healthiness while also encouraging satisfaction with how God made you.  What is the right way to talk to someone who’s lost a lot of weight?  Or barely any weight at all?  Or is dealing with baby weight?

Here’s where I am coming from:  about 10-15 years ago I struggled to be happy with what I weighed.  I was healthy and athletic, but not happy.  People would make comments from time to time like, “You look great!” and follow up with “Have you lost weight?” and I was all thrown off.  Did that mean that the 5 lb fluctuation that I cycled through was actually noticeable and people only thought I looked great when I was on the low end of that fluctuation?  I learned quickly to not say anything to anyone about their weight, because I knew what those comments did to my mental state as someone who struggled with my body image.

But am I right to never say anything?   It felt awkward and wrong to have never said something to encourage my friend who had worked  hard to lose over 100 lbs!  I decided it’s time to write about it, because I can’t be the only one who struggles with what to say or not say in these situations.  I want my friends to feel loved and encouraged when it comes to healthy living, not judged or ignored.  I also want to encourage healthy dialogue on this subject and help people to understand when their comments might be hurtful and best kept to themselves.
Here are some thoughts on when to say something and when not to:
1) What is their age? If the person you are talking to is young…say school-aged or college, be so very careful when saying anything about weight. This time of life is so hard and these young people are so impressionable. Ultimately, their body is their own and they will have to figure out how to make choices that are healthy. Young girls will gain weight!  It is a healthy part of how God made the body to prepare for birthing babies one day.  Sometimes, their thought process is not rational or mature when it comes to weight and body image, and their bodies are changing rapidly–tread lightly in conversations with young people that revolve around weight and body.
2) What is their status? Is it someone who was obese and has finally entered the healthy range? That is exciting!! Congratulate them on it.  Those I talked to in this category always were encouraged by kind comments and recognition.  Is it someone who is already healthy and is losing more weight? Maybe it’s not your business to comment, or maybe it is. Just think before you speak.
3) How well do you know this person? Are you close or do you only see them on Facebook and don’t really have much of a relationship with them? This is a big factor. According to the people I talked to, it hurt when someone would ask hard, personal questions and there really was not much of a relationship that was already established. If it’s someone you are close to, I think it is healthy to be able to talk about the big things that are going on in each other’s lives, but please be sensitive.

4) Did they just have a baby?  We all know that pregnant women gain weight.  It is natural and should be acceptable.  The rate at which they lose weight after the baby is born varies from person to person.  Please be sensitive in comments about weight to pregnant moms or new moms.  I once had an older man say to me that I was “getting fat” while I was pregnant.  I gave him a pass because he was in his eighties, but if you are reading this, you don’t get a pass.  Here is an interesting read on weight gain during pregnancy.
5) What are your intentions? I think this is the biggest, most important thing to consider before saying anything. Examine your heart. Are you jealous? Are you critical? Are you happy for them? Are you kind? If you find bitterness or jealously behind your words, it’s best to not say anything (and maybe consider working through your own issues first). If you have a genuine concern that is rooted in love, then speak gently.  If you are happy for the person and care about their well-being, that sentiment will likely shine through in your words.

It was an honor to talk with a few people who have recently lost weight.  Over the next few weeks I will post thoughts, insights, and wisdom on weight loss from their perspective.

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5 Faves for the Face

What you feed your body is important.  What you put on and rub into your biggest organ (the skin) is important too.  That’s why I am careful about the things that I use on my face, especially the products that I use every day. Here are my five favorite face products:

  • Dickinson’s Witch Hazel–I use this to take off my make-up every night.  It’s easy and it has a 1 rating from the Environmental Working Group, which is the best you can get for safety.                                                                                                        Dickinson Brands, Original Witch Hazel, Pore Perfecting Toner, 16 fl oz (473 ml)
  • Physician’s Formula Organic Wear Mascara–My eyes have always been sensitive, so I sought something that wouldn’t irritate them.  Also, I don’t really want toxic chemicals going into my eyeballs…no matter how much it makes my lashes curl.  This mascara also has a 1 rating from the EWG.                                         Organic wear® 100% Natural Origin Jumbo Lash Mascara
  • Physician’s Formula Super CC cream–I love an all-in-one coverage cream, which is what makes this product easy for every day.  I also have used and like this brand’s Organic Wear BB cream.  Super CC Color-Correction + Care CC Cream SPF 30
  • Honest Beauty Lip Crayon–I don’t always put things on my lips because I don’t like the feel, taste, and the thought of practically eating make-up.  When I do, I like this product most and trust The Honest Company as they have the “Honestly Free Guarantee”, which means their products are made without parabens, paraffins, formaldehyde carriers, PEGs, steareth‐n, propylene glycol, butylene glycol, petrolatum, mineral oil, synthetic fragrances, or dyes.                      
  • Honest Beauty Younger Face Deep Hydration Cream–Again, I love this brand and when I turned 30, I figured it was time to use a moisturizer that helps fight the inevitable aging process.  You can purchase a bundle with this company, which saves money on the products you buy.                                                                            

If you aren’t sure about what you are putting on your face, check the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database, which is a good guide to seeing how hazardous or how safe personal care products are.  On their website they have the tag line “Smarter Choices, Healthier Living.”  They also have a great app that helps you out when shopping.  If you are looking to start making changes to your beauty regimen, I would recommend starting with the things you use every day.  These are my 5 faves, and I would love to hear about what yours are!

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Heart, Feet, Womb

It was a Sunday afternoon.  I decided that I should go for a run to shake the funky feeling I’d been having in my feet for the past couple weeks.  A little exercise usually helped when I was feeling weird…there’s something therapeutic about getting the heart rate up.  However, it was on that run that I knew something was wrong.

I felt horrible.  I mean, I-could-barely-make-it-a-mile horrible.  I knew my heart was in better shape than that.  Something had been up with my feet, but this horrible feeling was in my whole body.  Later that night, I decided I needed to take a test to tell me what I already assumed.  I usually keep a few dollar store tests on hand just in case, so I took one…during the commercials of our Sunday night show.  The show was starting so I went back to watching and figured I would check at the next commercial break.

When I checked back, it was as I expected it would be: negative.  I was about to throw it out when I saw it: the faintest blue line, so light that I thought maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me.  Hmmm…not possible.  I just finished my period so it was. not. possible.  You don’t get your period when your pregnant; I learned that in health class 101.  It was a dollar store test, so I dismissed it and figured it was not accurate.  After reading the instructions again I decided that I probably let it sit too long.  I mentioned it in passing to Mike and we continued watching our show.

The next morning I took three more tests and they were all positive.  What?!  This time I even splurged on the more expensive kind–the kind that tell you 5 days early.  I just had my period so I shouldn’t be getting positive tests, but these tests don’t lie — I was pregnant!  My heart leaped and I hoped that maybe all would be ok…maybe it was just a rocky start?

The following week and a half was rough.  Lots of blood work and lots of uncertainty.   My heart was anxious over the thought of a possible miscarriage.  I knew lots of women have had them, but I didn’t think I would ever be one of them.  I was healthy and I already had two successful pregnancies so this was unexpected.  I still had hope, but I was preparing my heart for it to be broken.

And it was.  I started bleeding an hour before I got the call saying that the last round of blood work confirmed a miscarriage.  My heart was broken, my feet oddly started feeling normal again, and my womb was lifeless.

I am sharing this very personal information for two reasons.  First, I realized this past November how odd the body is and how unpredictable health can be.  You think you are doing things right but sometimes things happen that are beyond your control.  I never thought that tingling feet would be connected to a non-viable pregnancy, but my body is unique and I needed to listen to it that day that I went for a run.

Secondly, I am sharing this personal information because I believe that all life is valuable–even the life that lasts for a few short weeks in the womb.  Sharing with you about that life that was in my womb is a way of celebrating that it existed.  I am sad that I will not be holding my newborn baby in my arms on the 4th of July this year, and I long to know what he or she would have looked like and what their favorite color was.  I am so thankful for my two precious children and I know God is sovereign and loving.  He knows what is best for our family and how many children we will have.  He knows how my body works–He gives life and he takes away.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6