Category Archives: Fitness


Today the #runstreak tried to defeat me, but I overcame. Due to a very hectic schedule today, a foot of snow on the ground, and the fact that the YMCA only has childcare for limited hours on Saturdays, I could’ve possibly been persuaded, in a weak moment, to abandon the streak. Afterall, can this really continue through the rest of the winter? Is it really worth getting totally geared up, bundling up 2 wiggling kids, and hopping in the sled just to pop out a couple of miles on the treadmill? Not to mention the fact that my poor kids already had a day of being drug all over God’s green earth with on the agenda and this was just adding to their to do list. (I’ve found though that a happy, healthy, in shape mom makes happy, health boys. They also love the YMCA kid watch and all of the activities. It’s just getting them out the door that is a marathon in and of itself,) Going to the gym seems reasonable on weight/strength training days, but I really prefer to just be able to jet out the door and log my miles near home on running only days. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, running outdoors is significantly more appealing to me anyway. The  #runstreak so far has been suprisingly easy to stick to, and I’ve had very few times I’ve wanted to abandon it. Even on Christmas morning I had no problems, as I ran at 6 AM past neighbors sleepily getting into their cars for early morning mass enduring stares of wonderment at the sight of some nut logging miles on the blessed holiday morning. However, today was different. It is a random Saturday in January and the weather isn’t looking good for the perceivable future and I’m facing a long term sentence to the treadmill, so is it worth it?

Thankfully, it was worth it and will continue to be worth it. As I read my Runner’s World tweets about the USA Olympic Trials and all of the records being set today in Houston, I shamelessly imagined that I was an Olympic Hopeful as I ran my 4 miles on the treadmill. I’m not embarassed to say or ashamed to admit that in my own fantasy world I’m the leader of the pack. I would’ve gone even further and longer, but child watch was closing and I had an agenda longer than said 4 miles to accomplish today. I’m happy that day #62 came and went and I am victorious. I am blessed with the health to run and I want to never take that for granted and celebrate it everyday. I already have my plan for tomorrow morning ready. Sunday’s are my light day. They are crazy, hectic for me, so I rarely to never run further than my 2.1 mile loop I have in my neighborhood. It’s always dark as I stumble out the front door at 6AM, so I stay in my subdivision where most people have their porch lights on. I miss all the Christmas lights beaming on my path, but enjoy the solitude, fresh cold air, and time to get my mind on the greatness of our God before the Sunday rush really kicks into high gear. Because I will not be able to go to the YMCA tomorrow and use the treadmill, I will be running in the foot of snow. I’m hoping there’s not a lot of ice because I don’t particularly want to be sprawled out in the middle of the street with a broken leg at the crack of dawn. The temperature looks like it will be single digits and windy, so I’ve got all the cold weather gear laying out, ready to eliminate any excuses I might conjure up. Since Sundays are my running “day off” of sorts (I don’t actually take the day off. I just run short and light), I will be able to proceed with caution. Running in the ice and snow without the proper shoes, which I don’t have winter running shoes yet, isn’t advisable if you are pushing distance an speed. I have a trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods on my to do list though to check out shoe gaiters and ice cleats. I’m not sure if I’ll buy these items, but running outside means a lot to me so it might be a worthy investment.

Whatever you want to do and accomplish in life, just start doing it now. Start it today. Don’t put it off any longer. Imagine where you want to be next year and take the steps today to make it happen. Tune in this week for my first two “Frequently Asked Questions”. They will be “What do you wear for running?” and “How did you continue your runstreak while fasting?”. I am going to address the fasting component of running nutrition before I address other nutrition questions because so many people are in the middle of a “First Fruits” fast for 2012, including myself. Tune back in for answers to these questions, more #runstreak musings, some Biblical inspiration, and some Bridge Church musings.


The Streak Continues

Remembering these moments keep me going!

Last 7 Day Report: 29.79 Miles Run, 3,230 Calories burnt running

Yesterday I celebrated day 60 of my #runstreak (That hashtag groups all the people on twitter together that are participating in a runstreak.) with a 6 mile dark, rainy run in the morning. Today, however, I had to do one of the things I hate the most and that is run on the treadmill. Runners affectionately refer to this as the “dreadmill”. Some people do well with indoor exercise, but I am self diagnosed ADD and need the stimuli that running outside gives me to escape from my own head. You would be amused if you knew the lines of reasoning and logic that come to me on my runs. Oftentimes though, I have acute mental clarity and use my runs as a time of meditation, worship, and personal development. I can’t complain too much about the treadmill though. I do live in Cleveland, Ohio where the winters are brutal. I’ve dodged a bullet this year though. Because of our mild winter, ice, wind, and single digit temps have driven me onto the treadmill only 3 times.

I will be blogging about my streak, what it means to me, my struggles and victories with it, and my new fitness routine I’ve started this year. I will also start a “Frequently Asked Questions” portion. I get E-mails from friends and acquaintances all over intrigued with Jessica 2.0. You have to understand that athelete was never a word anyone would’ve ever used to describe me and now people frequently tell me I’m the most dedicated, physically fit person they know. I wouldn’t go that far, but I am dedicated to my new way of living and I want you to experience the same sense of accomplishment and endorphin rush that I feel now.

The streak began in November when Runner’s World issued a twitter challenge. If you want to run, or currently do run, you absolutely need to subscribe to Runner’s World magazine and follow them on twitter. This is a valuable resource for all runners, especially novice and recreational runners. Runner’s World said we needed to fight against the fitness losses and weight gains that we all experience in the Holiday season, remove excuses, and end 2011 strong. They proposed that people join the #rwrunstreak on Thanksgiving Day and run everyday through New Year’s Day 2012. When I saw the tweet it was the week before Thanksgiving and I had already run 4 days in a row that week. I thought, I’m going to take on the challenge. My husband also took the challenge and that friendly comptetition always feeds my running, so I was glad to know that on the nasty days he’d be out there too, not just me. We don’t get to run together much because of our 2 small children, but just knowing that he is going to run at some point drives me out the door to push harder, further, and faster.

So, I took the challenge and ran everyday from then on. I ran on Thanksgiving Day (5 miles in fact). I ran on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I ran on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I ran distances ranging from 2.1 miles to 8 miles on my streak and felt so good after New Year’s Day that I decided to continue the streak into 2012. According to the US Running Streak Association all you have to do to keep a streak is run a minimum of one mile a day. This sounds easy, but sometimes getting out the door is the hardest part. The run is the reward. Getting up in the dark at 5:30 and 6 AM in the winter to get a run in is not always appealing. My bed is comfortable. However, in keeping with no excuses, I know that if I don’t do it then it won’t get done. As a mother and someone that works in ministry, my afternoons and evenings are jam packed.

Since my first race of the year, the Capital City Half Marathon in Columbus, Ohio, isn’t until May, I’m not smack in the middle of Marathon training and have some liberty with my running schedule. I am just working on keeping my fitness levels high and my mileage consistent so that when I’m in the middle of training I can keep my injury rate down. In a later blog, I’ll discuss my continued battle with Achilles Tendonitis.

In closing, if streaking seems weird to you, it did to me at one point too. It defies conventional wisdom for the bodies need to replenish and rest. I feel like my Sunday runs, which I keep to a quick 2.1 miles, are a day off. When you’re used to running everyday a short jaunt is restful and replinishing. I also realize from reading the #runstreak feed that there are people that have streaked for over 30 years. Several people have been streaking for 1,500 plus days. These people keep me going. I can’t say that will be my future, only God knows. I can say though that for now, in this hour, in this moment, there are NO excuses. We will discuss in our FAQ blogs some of the excuses people use and how you can stop those excuses in their tracks.

New Beginnings

2011Akron Half Marathon After the Finish (Sporting my 2011 Capital City Half Shirt)
Me in 2008 in Chicago. I couldn’t have run a mile if you chased me with a gun.

On numerous occasions I have been made aware of the fact that my blog has been neglected and really no longer is relevant. While I am always inundated with life changing thoughts, quotes, statements, and advice (ha. I am a superhero in my own eyes.), I rarely have the time to sit down and put them into wonderful words of life. As I was remunerating on this fact, yet again, on my 6 mile run this morning, I decided to keep with the theme and mantra of my life and put away excuses. The fact of the matter is that if you ever turn on your TV, look at Facebook, or stare at a wall, you have time to do what is important to you. You have to learn to capitalize on every 5 minute nugget that a 24 hour day affords you. I have been living, since January 2010, by a new set of rules in my life. This new set of rules can be summed up in one phrase, “No Excuses”. I get so tired of people letting their lives, families, jobs, churches, and relationships crumble around them because of a list of what can only be described as “excuses”. I put away excuses and made some drastic changes in my life, so this small change of actually keeping up on my blog should seem like a breeze.

If you have known me for any length of time, you know that I literally am not the same person I was when I began this blog in 2008. In 2008 I was in the middle of tremendous transition in my life. I was 55 plus pounds overweight, traveling full time for my job, in the process of moving to a place where I knew nobody, and the exhausted nursing mother of one infant and one toddler. Times have changed. I now am the exhausted mother of a first grader and a pre-schooler, both of whom are capable of feeding themselves when I put it on the table and have a job where I not only don’t travel all the time, but my office is in my home. I have also morphed from the least athletic person that you have ever met in your life, into a marathoner. In fact, I am currently in the middle of a #runstreak and have run every single day with no breaks since November 17, 2011 and plan to keep the streak alive. I feel stronger, healthier, and happier than I ever have in my existence. I want to share with you what I am doing in my life. I have had so many people ask me questions relating to my weight loss, fitness, and running that I have decided the time I’ve wasted on Facebook in the past and the little posts I’ve put that have annoyed my less active friends I will turn into a blog and hopefully inspire those that need inspired and in the process hold myself accountable.

Over the next few weeks, months, and possibly years, you will read a wide variety of things on this blog. I am passionate about Jesus and equally as passionate about not only serving him, but to reach those that are far from God and help them find new life in Christ. A big part of my passion is now rapped up into balanced, moderate living and putting our minds, bodies, self esteems, and well being in a marriage partnership with spirituality. You can’t fulfil your full potential spiritually if you haven’t linked up the mind, body, and spirit connections. I know this very well. The Lord’s prayer tells us that we can ask for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. We know that in heaven we will have a glorified body, so why not seek to walk in health and wellness on earth instead of crawling to our deaths fat, out of breath, and depressed. I will share with  you my running and eating experiences as well as thoughts surrounding every other random thing in my life. I hope I can transition this blog into the dream I have for it. I am on a continuous journey in my life to develop into the best person that I can be.

From Fat to Fit

I have been inundated with requests to take people through my lifestyle change journey and have decided, after answering countless personal emails and typing the same things over and over again, to try and narrate for you my journey, what helped me, what didn’t help, and some things that I’m still working to improve. We are already almost through January 2011 and I imagine some of you have been successful in your resolutions and are full swing into your weight loss and/or fitness/health journey and there are others of you that caved the second the Valentine’s Day displays went up at the stores and you caught glimpse of the beloved lover “chocolate”.

After overdosing on yummy food goodness for at least a month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, most people heave a disappointed sigh as they try to fit into their pants. Having already started the holidays with a few extra pounds they vowed to get off the year prior, they just give in for “one more month” with a renewed declaration in their spirits to try again next year. Well, next year is here and some of those people are currently beating themselves up because they are already off the wagon again. Oh well, better luck next time in 2012 they say. That person was me in 2009. Every year since I can remember I’ve been vowing to lose weight. This blog is my story of journey and triumph.

If you could add up all the diets I’ve been on, all the books on food and dieting I’ve read, and the number of exercise related paraphernalia I’ve purchased in my life, I’m sure you’d be blown away. In fact, I ought to have my Medical Degree in nutrition by now earned by life credits and personal development. It may surprise you to learn a few things about me that I don’t like to talk about. Believe it or not, there are things I don’t like to discuss. For the sake of helping my friends, acquaintances, and even just random women down the street, I will share with you.
Number one, before my two pregnancies and subsequent weight gain, I actually, at one point in my life, struggled with anorexic behaviors. It was actually humiliating for me to admit this at one point because how could a 5’7” 98 pound girl balloon to where I had gotten. How’s that for recovery? Believe it or not, people with disordered eating can easily swing from anorexia to morbid obesity. It really is the same faulty thought patterns that get people. I personally know several obese people that struggle with bulimia and anorexia. I encourage you to not make judgments on peoples eating and fitness levels when you don’t know their story. Number two fact played into my lifestyle change was the fact that my dad was in his 30’s when his health began to fail. He died at 51. Realizing that I was turning 30 in 2010 really took me to a place mentally that few can understand. It’s not about growing older. It’s not about impending wrinkles or vanity, but it was about the fact that my life could already be half over. I have so many relatives that didn’t live very long or healthy lives. My blood Bentley relatives can attest to you that our genetics are some sort of ticking time bomb and they are definitely not conducive to being thin and healthy. The Bentley relatives that are thin and healthy work overtime to be so. We are not natural hotties, but we’re geniuses, guess you can’t have it all 🙂

My struggles with weight began at age 14 when I realized I was fat. I know my mom will read this and weep and say “Jessica how could you think that”, but those of you that knew me then and don’t have the maternal emotional ties will attest to the fact that this was true. I really and truly did need to lose weight. I was ending Junior High and beginning high school and wanted to be attractive to the opposite sex. Puberty really has a way of messing with your head. I began a healthy, balanced diet that quickly spiraled into an unhealthy intake of only 500 calories at the most a day coupled with lots of exercise and quick, out of control weight loss. I’m sure this time period in my life destroyed my metabolism. I would not say that I was anorexic in a classic sense because anorexics cannot see what they are doing to themselves and often times still view themselves as fat. I did not view myself as fat; in fact, I viewed myself as superior to everyone else. They had to eat to live and I didn’t. I had power over it. To make an incredibly long story short, my wakeup call came at a Doctor’s appointment when I was 15 and at 5’7” weighed 98 pounds, had a blood sugar of 12 and was told my liver would fail within a year if I didn’t start eating better. Miraculously, this was all I needed to know. I certainly didn’t want to die. I also had such kind friends (you know who you are) that started calling me “skelator”. This actually didn’t’ help me. I knew this was their way to express how scared they felt about my condition but in reality it just made me feel more superior. I was skinnier than anybody and everyone knew it. I was awesome.

After my wake up call, I was told to gain weight. This was amazing to me. I had never needed to gain weight. I was always fat. I didn’t enter this next phase of my journey very well. I started eating like a crazy person. My body was probably malnourished so was prompting me to eat constantly. My weight went up practically overnight. I wish I had stayed at 135 pounds on my way up the scale, but at some point I quit caring about my weight again. I wanted to be attractive, but at the time had boyfriends and male suitors, so I guess I was accomplishing that on some level. In retrospect, all of this insanity I’m sure was tied into the stress of long term illness. My dad’s kidneys failed when I was in 3rd grade and so for years he was on a doctor’s restricted diet. Our whole house revolved around sodium content, sugar content, and the scale. When your kidneys fail, you have to weigh yourself several times a day because you aren’t peeing at all. You have to make sure the water doesn’t build up too much. I guarantee that my weight loss, although necessary and healthy initially, spiraled into something I could control in my life. My dad went on to a kidney transplant when I was 10 but battled everything in the book for the next 14 years after that until he died. I bet people really don’t know the extent of the stress in my family because my dad was an eternal optimist, a genius, and a hard worker. I even had myself convinced he wasn’t as sick as he really was. Perhaps my over control of calories went the opposite way when I was told to gain weight.

Whichever way you swing, if you are on the anorexic end or overeating end, ultimately you have a very unhealthy relationship with food. One thing that changed my journey was to stop looking at food as anything other than fuel. I still enjoy eating. I love the act of eating with my family and friends. I love to cuddle with a bowl of ice cream on the couch with my husband and enjoy the silence of my kids being in bed. I love celebrating the holidays with food. The only difference this time is that I listen to my body. Food is not your friend or your enemy, it is just food. It won’t make you happy or change your life. An apple tastes just as good as apple pie. So, unless it’s a holiday, why sabotage yourself with the unhealthier choice?

If you sat down to read this thinking you were getting a light hearted blog about weight loss, you are surprised by now I’m sure! I don’t feel like I can be truly honest about how I came to this point without sharing all of that with you. For most people, weight loss isn’t just about food or weight, it’s about stuff much deeper and more complex, so unless you deal with all of that, you’ll just keep yo-yo dieting. I overcame my food issues years ago. Once I got married, I settled happily into life and didn’t really think about food much. I just enjoyed eating. I gained about 15 wedding pounds and then got pregnant with my first son. I then gained 25 pounds being pregnant and lost only about 15 of those pounds after he was born. If you’re not good at math, I’ll spell it out. That means I started my second pregnancy 25 pounds bigger than I was on my wedding day. I gained 30 pounds in my second pregnancy and then was thrown into a whirlwind of life 6 months after giving birth. We moved, began traveling full time to cast vision for the church we were to be starting in Cleveland, and living on an insane schedule. I had lost a few of the pregnancy pounds but found myself actually gaining instead of losing. Because of our travel schedule and preaching at churches all over the country, we were eating out constantly, eating out at weird hours of the day, and offered very few healthy choices and options. I was also caring for a toddler and infant who had no structure or schedule due to the insane nature of our life at the time. I nursed both of my children for the first year and didn’t find the weight loss benefit from it that many of my friends find.

Add to this the death of my dad right before my first pregnancy and pretty much, I had a recipe for disaster. I stood on the scale one morning at the end of 2009 and declared, “I will not be this person anymore.” I was going to lose weight healthy and normally, rid my mind of both the anorexic extremist control of my early teenage years and of the “lassiez-faire” attitude of marriage and motherhood, and get my health in order. I was turning 30 and I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure my sons have a mother that lives to be older than 51. None of my dad’s illnesses were weight related and I might still get some long term illness even trying to live healthy, but I need to know I’m doing everything in my power to lose weight.
I have not used supplements or pills. I have done this the old fashioned way. I have taken all the advice, tidbits, and pieces of knowledge I have gathered over the years and with trial and error applied all the things that work for me. First off, I joined Curves. Curves is a gym for women. Cuyahoga County offered free memberships through the Cleveland Clinic’s Go Fit program last year so I didn’t have to pay any startup fee or monthly fee for 6 full months. The program made you get weighed and measured weekly and if you didn’t go a minimum of 3 times, they charged you. I literally despise wasting money so that was a major motivator and the weekly weigh in’s kept me accountable. I got up at 6:30 am and hit the gym 3 times a week to start off. The weight began to fall off me. It was amazing. I was following the Curves Weight management plan which is almost identical to weight watchers. You have free fruits and vegetables and an emphasis on protein. It doesn’t eliminate carbs, but carbs are no longer your main fuel source. I even allowed myself every Sunday to eat whatever I wanted and didn’t deprive myself during the week. My main key was exercise and counting calories. I use Live Strong/the Daily Plate. They have a website or you can download their APP for your smartphone. I used Live Strong to determine my calorie count for the day, count my calories, and log my food choices. I still use Live Strong. It provides you with the knowledge you need. I bet you’d be shocked if you actually realized how many calories you truly need to how many you are actually consuming. I’ve been one to make healthier choices even at my most overweight points, but I obviously was very unaware of how much was truly going in.

I’m sorry this isn’t a lose weight quick blog. I have found that losing weight quickly doesn’t work. It doesn’t deal with the issues you have surrounding food and body image and it doesn’t’ deal with the bigger picture of how you can come up with a plan that you can live with. It doesn’t change your lifestyle. The fact of the matter is calories in, calories out. The fact is that you can be thin and skinny without being healthy. If been thin or skinny is your goal, I’m probably not the person to motivate you. Jillian Michael’s calls these people “Fat-Skinny People”. Being thin or skinny doesn’t mean you are physically fit, healthy, or happy. I have learned through all of my dieting, food issues, and loss/grief issues due to my dad’s health problems and subsequent death that you are in charge of your own happiness. As a Christian, my joy comes from God. This world wants to rob you of your joy and your self-worth as a human being, and especially as women. God just wants you to be the best you that you can be. My goal is to be healthy. I can serve God, my family, and my fellow man better when I’m healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to be thin, but my health matters more to me.

The fitness gains I earned at Curves pushed me into pursuing what I once thought was impossible. I’ve never been athletic. Even at my thinnest points, I wasn’t truly physically fit. I’ve always enjoyed moving and never been lazy, but most exercise attempts stopped at just speed walking. Now, with Curves, I was doing circuit training, strength training, and cardio and began to feel the need to step it up. My husband had picked back up his quest to be healthy too and mentioned he wanted to do a marathon. I thought, why not, and told him I wanted to join him in a half marathon. My first few days out I couldn’t even run a mile. With a combination of walk/running, Curves, and, I was able to train for and run the 13.1 mile Akron Half-Marathon in 2:34 and that time includes my bathroom breaks so the run was probably more like 2:28.

My story is still ongoing. I’m not to the end of my journey. If weight loss was my ultimate goal, I’m about 10 pounds from my ideal “dream” weight, but it’s not my ultimate goal. I’m currently 26% body fat but would like to be 21%-24% which is optimum fitness for a girl. I’d like to take my health the next level by reducing/eliminating diet drinks, reducing/eliminating artificial sweeteners, and eating foods with very few ingredients. Jillian Michaels says to only eat things that have a mother or that came straight from the ground. I also am trying to not eat foods that have ingredients in them that you need a PhD to pronounce or describe. I’m still working on this. The call of the “hydrogenated” sirens is sometimes too hard to resist. I’d also like to further reduce sodium. I’m a work in progress and God calls me fearfully and wonderfully made. I’ve learned to love the way I look and not compare myself to the Kim Kardashians of the world. Fact of the matter is that normal women don’t look like that because we don’t engage in plastic surgery, have the money for personal trainers, and have personal chefs. I don’t compare myself to my friends that are several inches shorter than me or have a smaller bone structures anymore. I am who I am and God ordained me to be who I am and I’m enjoying every second of my full life in Christ and with my friends and family. Life is a precious gift and I want mine to be as long and healthy as possible.

Helpful hints:
1) Drink lots of water. Not only does it fill you up but it actually increases your metabolism by as much as 30% for 40-45 minutes after drinking it.
2) Eat tons of fiber. This fills you up and helps your body clear out toxins. (Hey, I said it as nice as I could)
3) Eat lots of fruits and vegetables (Sorry. No getting around this)
4) Exercise a minimum of 3 days a week. Having no time is not a good excuse. Make time even if it means setting the alarm an hour early every day.
5) Don’t let money be an excuse. A lack of money is not a good excuse to not eat healthy and exercise. You will either pay in lots of medical bills and health related problems or pay to purchase healthier groceries and for the necessary exercise gear. Either way, eventually you’ll pay. Let health be a priority. Cancel your Cable TV if you have to. Being healthy is more important.
6) Have a good support system. Lots of people have actually tried to discourage me believe it or not. I tune these voices out with the voices of my champions and supporters. Don’t let fat, jealous, miserable, unhealthy people steer your course. Find your true friends and family and let them support you. My husband Jonathan was my #1 cheerleader. He was my workout partner and was happy to help me make healthier choices.
7) Motivate yourself. Ultimately unless you are internally motivated you’ll fail. It is not everyone and their brother’s job to keep you constantly propped up. You have to be your own ally. Set small goals and reward yourself for each one that you meet. Don’t set 75 pounds as your goal. Set 10 pounds, celebrate when you reach that goal, and then set another one.
8) Read and Watch things about health and wellness. I like all the Biggest Loser stuff, all the marathon/weight/wellness documentaries, and books about health. Jillian Michaels “Master your Metabolism” is extreme, but I incorporated some of it and liked it. The book “Spark” is great. Runners World magazine has also been a great addition to my reading. Curves has a weight management book that details their plan that is helpful and there are countless websites and blogs that you can tap into. Educate yourself. I love all of the books in the “Eat this, Not that” series. They are tips that require almost no brain to follow. The books are basically picture books. Hit up your local library. This will save you lots of money in the reading department and you can consume more knowledge that way.
9) Learn to recognize true hunger and not just eat to eat or because you feel like you need to because it’s “meal time”. I’m still working on this.
10) Believe in and value yourself. You are worth it! Don’t let spouses or children or jobs stress you to the point that you stop taking care of yourself. Exercise is an amazing way to clear your mind and make you a better you.