Category Archives: Nutrition

Marathon Musings

This week began week 7 of the above 18 week Full Marathon Hal Higdon Training Plan. 564 miles of running are virtuously mapped out in this handy and easy to follow guide.

Said mileage is not counting the final 26.2 mile parade/death march/symposium on masochism, in celebration of the hard work, early mornings, chaffing, blisters, endless loads of laundry, and buckets of sweat and tears.  I have been following Hal’s plan for every single 26.2 mile event in which I have ever towed the line and definitely recommend it.

Hal’s stuff is precise, easy to follow, and doesn’t have all kinds of weird pace and tempo calculations thrown in the mix. My brain is always processing, running is my mediation and time away from precision. Essentially, Hal could’ve written “Running for Dummies.” In fact, he may have. (Someone look into this and let me know)

This week, Valentine’s week, week 7 of the Intermediate Level Training Plan is very significant for me. Now that I’m training for marathon #10, my training doesn’t really kick into gear until week 7. My “off” season running patterns consist of 25-30 miles a week with cross and strength training in the mix, so until I jump above that mileage threshold, my training is more mental prep and anticipation than anything.

I am often asked about my routines, practices, and mileage, so I hope to give the inquiring minds a glimpse into what a very average, middle aged, slow long distance runner does to maintain her mediocre paces as the weeks progress.  (That sentence needs read with all the sarcasm in which I wrote it. I actually kick my tail, own my nutrition, and strive for my best, and yet still come up as a solid mid packer. I guess not every long term love story exists in the land of non stop bliss and progress. Sometimes love is grand. Sometimes it’s mediocre. Sometimes people are oddly inspired by normal. I’m banking on this. I want you to read my angry running rants, sappy running love stories, runs that were inspired into sonnets by nature and birds and joy, and those runs which end with my hip cursing me out.)

I had anticipated telling you about the struggles running and I have been having lately with our relationship, but since it’s Valentine’s Day, I want to honor running for the goodness it has done for me and save the honesty, authenticity and bad mouthing for some upcoming posts. While we are never “on again/off again” (There is no off. Maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I’m worn out.), running and I definitely vacillate between engaging in a great sordid love affair, and me playing bitter, angry, and jealous because running seems to dole out the awards and gains I know it has stashed somewhere to other less dedicated people at high rates than it does to me.

Maybe I’m just tired today. Maybe I’m still upset that my husband kept up with me on our pace run Saturday even though he was suffering from some bird flu deal and I, a perfectly healthy specimen, couldn’t even leave him in my dust no matter how hard I tried. Why does he get to snot, cough, and pant his way to a fast finish while I dug deep and pushed hard, only to find him still at my heels? I did have a minor emotional melt down when we hit stop on our Garmin watches, but then I recovered. I can’t break up with running just yet. Passion is a 2 edged sword and you can’t have endorphin highs to the moon without dealing with some demons that creep in and try to convince you to call it quits on occasion.

The true, unadulterated psychotic hold that running has on me exists, in part, because of how hard I work at it sometimes. Can we ever appreciate fully what we don’t have to pour our heart and soul into?

Perhaps, yes, I should revisit what training plans and approaches I use as I endeavor at some point to run the all elusive sub 4 Hour Full marathon, but for now,  the hectic pace of life, work, family, and marathon seasons past is telling me to run for fun in Pittsburgh in may and remember, I don’t have to do this, I get to do this.

A Glance at my Running Week:

Mondays I do the run scheduled for Tuesdays plus strength training/core work
Tuesdays I do the runs scheduled for Wednesdays (medium length)
Wednesdays I cross train plus
strength training/core work
Thursdays and Saturdays I do the 2nd medium length run (which is when I squeeze th pace run) and the other day I do the long, slow run and sometimes do a fast finish or mimic race pace towards th end to get used to keeping it up while tired. It depends no my work and life schedule on which I do on which day. Flexibility is the only way to get it done. The training plan is not a legal document, just an excellent guide. Get it in when and how you can.
Fridays  I do the run scheduled for Thursdays plus strength training/core work
Saturday, see Thursday
Sundays are my “Rest” from fitness day.  I go for a walk before church by myself to pray and prepare, and then often go for another walk in the evening with the dog.

 

 PSA: Dressing in the dark for a 5:30 AM Run and Strength Training Session could result in a deadly mix of color palettes (Although, navy and white on black and purple could be the new trend. Who knows?) . Thankfully, the “lunks” at Planet Fitness are also in a semi sleep deprived state and most likely don’t notice. Also, I don’t want anyone looking at me when I work out. Also, don’t talk to me because the suns not even stinking out yet. Also, I smell. Please breathe my sweaty air and let it keep you away from engaging me in an overly giddy pre-dawn chat session. I’ve come to get the job done so my productivity can kick off, not to make new BFF’s 🙂

 

Why Monday Matters

Monday has long been the bane of human existence. If you follow the generally accepted calendar, Monday is day one of the “work week”, and thus the perceived dreaded bearer of bad news. Those who are more optimistic try to convince themselves that Monday has magical fairy powers to motivate the otherwise immobile sacks of human flesh that we all have felt like at some point.

From the Garfield comic strips, which tell a tale of Monday woe, to the the ever present social media memes declaring Monday to be anything from the day for Motivation and fresh starts to the 24 hour time period in which we should all retreat into an apocalyptic style shelter and pray for survival.

Whether you cheer and “rah, rah, rah” on Mondays because this is your week, your time, your chance, your moment to shine, or rather choose to pull your blankets over your head in anxiety ridden sorrow, Monday seems to carry with it a certain mystique.

For better or worse, Monday is not going anywhere anytime soon, and the call to responsibility and action has been sounded from deep within its cavernous expanse. Monday matters because to manage Monday means to manage yourself. To prioritize your time, tasks, and energy on day 1 of the week, means to produce and move forward with the behaviors that become accomplished actions, which in turn result in accomplishment and accolades.

I will be the first to admit that this Monday, February 6, 2017, tried to kick my tail. This Monday truly played its role as the playground bully quite well. You see, this isn’t just any ol’ Monday, it is the Monday after the Super Bowl. When my alarm went off at 5:45 AM, which is actually later than the optimal for me 5:15 AM needed to squeeze things in, I forgot that it was Monday. I actually thought it was Sunday. Once I realized that “Groundhog Day” had already passed (ancient movie reference which makes me seem old, but wise), I was faced with a choice.

  • I could get up, dress up, show up, and never give up, or
  • I could reenter my carb, fat, and sugar induced coma that I justified due to it being Super Bowl Sunday. The good news is that I do not drink alcohol. The bad news is, studies have proven that unhealthy eating, habits, and patterns can knock you for a loop and produce a legitimate state of “hangover”.

I am happy to report that I chose the former. I got my sorry tail out of bed and went about my usual running and strength training routine. I then caffeinated myself, put on business clothes, and went to live out my calling and purpose ( I said I don’t drink alcohol. I never once mentioned my drug habit. If it’s from a bean (coffee) or a leaf (tea) and produces hyper focus and productivity, I’m all about it.)

The moral of this story is that Monday Matters.

  • Monday provides us with 24 hours to make progress on our goals.
  • Monday offers up the balance that need to in order to discover and live out purpose.A drum that plays at random and with no rhythm is a cacophony of noise, not the beat maker and dance director that it was created to be.
  • Monday reminds us that we can’t eat like a 897 pound gorilla and expect to jump out of bed with pep in our step.
  • Monday mentors us into making choices that benefit our future selves, verses always living in the sweet siren call of present self.
  • Monday means we are alive to live another glorious day on this planet.
  • Mondays that require an alarm mean we are either gainfully employed, or have people in our lives that are counting on us to provide diligent care. It reminds us that we are not alone.

So, on this Monday, remember that self-care means living in a way today that will help you thrive tomorrow. If you cast off restraint on the weekends, know that Monday is your personal trainer, chef, guide, assistant, and friend to make sure the entirety of your life doesn’t go off the rails.

 

A marathon is much more than 26.2 miles

If you ask a person how long a marathon is, you will get an extremely wide variety of answers. Of those answers, it is absolutely maddening to a full marathoner when someone tells you that they themselves have run a marathon, or their cousin has run a marathon, only to find out that they were referring to a random 5K that they did once. I don’t want to burst your bubble, but a 5K is only 3.1 miles. The “marathon” that these people supposedly ran can range anywhere from a friendly 1 mile charity run to an actual full marathon. I wish that when co-workers, family, friends, and strangers shared with me the tales of their tragedy and triumph, knee pain, and shin splints which resulted from their “marathon” that I could just smile and celebrate with them, but, in fact, I seethe inside. I arrogantly wonder how your 3 mile walk can compare to the 1700 miles I logged in the past 12 months, as if the marathon was my lover and you offended him.

You see, a true full marathon is 26.2 miles in distance, but it is, in fact, much more than that. The marathon is the story of a full season of dedication and preparation, discipline and dedication, fun and labor.

A marathon tells a deeply personal story.

I feel sorry for the people who have signed up for a marathon on a whim, and are just lucky enough to have youth on their side, so they finish this majestic event without giving it the proper training and respect that it deserves. Sure, if you are youthful and you haven’t let your muscles atrophy with disuse, you can stumble your way through this event. You might not be able to walk the next day, and you might curse the moment you were born, but you will receive a medal nonetheless.

To truly appreciate the marathon though, one should get a training plan, set a goal, and persevere through the entire season. The marathon won’t change you unless you fully invite it in. I would venture to assume finishing a marathon without embracing its essence is like the difference between a one night stand and a monogamous blissful marriage. They are incomparable.

As I train this season for my 10th full marathon, I am reminded to respect the distance, lean into process, and know that this journey to the finish line has very little to do with the actual event and everything to do with putting the work in day in and day out. This year, at least for the Pittsburgh Marathon, I am freeing myself from a time goal at the actual event and attempting  to run each training run with the respect that it deserves. My daily and weekly mileage exists for more than an arbitrarily set time by my ego and my comparisons of myself to others, it exists to make me stronger. I have no control over many of the conditions that I will face on race day, but I can determine the degree to which I allow myself to celebrate my trip to the starting line. Even a bad run for me is a good run because I am becoming the person I never dreamed I could be and yet always wanted to be.

I am alive. I am healthy. I am strong. I am fit. I am fierce. I am free.

The marathon, with all of its agony and beauty, has made me a better leader and person, but most importantly it gave birth to my identity as an athlete.

Marathon, you might be 26.2 miles on race day, but my journey has no finish line.

I get asked a lot about my training plans, nutrition, weight loss and maintenance, and running journey. I look forward to sharing with you about this and encouraging you on your path.

 

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Here is Jessica, with her amazing cousin Paul, before she and running hooked up. This photo was taken exactly 1 week before I began my nutrition and fitness journey, and about 4 months before I started run/walking to speed up my fitness journey. The rest is a beautiful love story because running spoke to my soul and no long was about weight.

Is February the new January?

I am noticing a new trend emerging on social media and throughout the internet where people are shouting from the rooftops the magic of February 1. Many of these people are declaring that their New Year’s resolutions are just now beginning, and their slates are wiped clean from this day forward. We are already on day number 32 of the new year, and it appears that a majority of people have just now shaken the carbohydrate induced coma of celebration.

Is February the new January, or are February 1, March 1, April 1, and beyond just the ameatuer happy hour? Are they the new excuses du jour?

Is February the new January, or have the “resistance” and monster of “self sabotage” just gotten dressed up as grandmother, and all of us Little Red Riding Hoods can’t even recognize that the wolf pack is in the corner laughing?

The truth is, professionals have a bias for action, and results eventually follow action. Success and progress are attracted to motion.

Amateurs, however, spend a lot of time planning, tweaking, dreaming, over analyzing, debating, lollygagging, justifying, and bellyaching, all while expecting results to find them. After all, they deserve results, “likes”, accolades, trophies, and cheers just because they intended to do something and talked about it for a while.

Don’t get me wrong, my life is a series of fresh starts, new mercies, and big vats of grace piled upon grace. I love nothing more than a fresh month, a clean slate, a new virgin monthly calendar just waiting to be devoured and discovered. Calendars and new days are my thing. I have a phone calendar, a wall calendar, a work calendar, and a personal 3 ring binder of calendars, to-do lists, and productivity hacks. All of these are linked together, and all of these track every member of my family, our whereabouts, and the plethora of things that need managed, juggled, and overseen to make our home, church, jobs,  little league sports leagues/extracurriculars, and marathon training plans stay on the rails and moving in the right direction.

The problem I’ve discovered with juggling all of these things is that it is easy to convince myself that the most important things can wait because the urgent is crying out. I am an expert of what I have identified as positive procrastination. It is not procrastination in the traditional sense of putting off work, but positive procrastination is its own animal. Positive procrastination is where you put off your purpose, your destiny, and the most important life changing tasks and habits in favor of something that brings a more immediate gratification or diversion in the short term, but actually robs you of the gains and growth of just diving into the hard stuff head first.

For example, how many of you have already faded out on your January fitness resolutions because you had laundry to do? When it’s cold outside, it’s easier to fold warm laundry, even if you hate it, then to go out into the cold and log some miles. Laundry keeps you in the comfortable confines of your home (if you are so blessed to own the machinery) and away from the cruel world. In the face of getting a college education, working out, going to the grocery store to buy healthy fresh ingredients so you don’t eat Little Caesars one more night,  laundry sounds like the equivilient of a carnival cruise. After all, those who keep up on laudnry are in the running for sainthood. It appears to be the crowning achievement of the working mother.

We relish in the “how does she do it?” narritive. She works from sun up to sun down and yet her family is robed in luxurious, soft, clean and fragrant linens ornately folded and stacked in color coded piles waiting with eager anticipation for their return to the dressers and closets.

Now, laundry, in and of itself is necessary, and of course evil, thus a necessary evil. Should you keep up on your laundry? By all means. I shudder to think of this household of 4 sweaty humans and all of their piles upon piles of clothes if I decided to abdicate that responsibility. In fact, I just had an argument with my 11-year-old who is now wearing up to 4 different outfits a day. If you thought having boys would preclude you from this nonsense, think again. The desire for swag is real!

However, laundry (or insert other appropriate form of positive procrastination that makes you feel angelic and accomplished and loved and worthy) is not the single most important part of your day.  Taking care of you is. Spending time in prayer and devotion is. Taking care of your loved ones is. Discovering and living out your purpose is. You must prioritize destiny over doldrums, your daydreams will become realities.

You are the missing link between the person you WANT to be and WISH you could be and the person that you are frustrated with right now. What would your future self want you to do today?

What do you want to have accomplished by February 28 so that on March 1 you don’t have to post cute meme’s and selfies of March 1 being when resolutions really start. March 1 is the new January, you’ll be tempted to say.

So, whatever you call them, intentions, resolutions, goals, one words, focus points, targets, etc (See, even the SEMANTICS of life change will distract some of us enough to keep us from actually doing anything. We will just argue in a comment section about why we do or do not set resolutions and why they do or do not work, all the while we are slipping further and further behind in the journey to become our highest and best selves.)

Whatever it is that you want to term them or define them as, just start moving towards destiny today. Make a month-long streak of something you want to do. Try to form a new habit to replace an old habit. Try to visualize yourself on February 28 celebrating whatever accomplishment you have set out for and don’t let month after month after month in 2017 slip by. (Hopefully said celebration will be done with clean clothes on because laundry, although a distraction when inappropriately prioritized, is at some point a necessity. You win some. You lose some.)

Create a vision. Make it plain. Write it down. Do something right this second to move on it. Ready….Set….Go!

Early morning date with myself, some amazing podcasts, the stair master, and my weight/strength training routine. Wednesdays are for cross training. The resolution crowds have dwindled too, giving me my pick of weight benches. When it comes to working out, sometimes the early bird doesn’t get the worm because there are swarms of others looking for their piece too.

Change is not a 4 Letter Word

People love a good weight loss story. Since it is still technically January, I’m assuming many people are still at least attempting to maintain some semblance of resolve with their goals for 2017, and research shows a good portion of the US determines to lose weight every January. In that vein, I want to just share with you a few tidbits from my weight loss and running journey so that you have a better framework of where I’m coming from.

Lately, I’m always accused of having a fast metabolism and of being a skinny girl. This brings me equal parts satisfaction and frustration. The satisfaction portion is obvious, but the frustration portion is that I work like my life literally depends on it to maintain my current physical state.

As an individual that recognizes that one’s mind, body, and spirit must be in alignment for passion and purpose to fully collide, I reassessed where I was at in my life when I was staring down the barrel of turning the big 3-0 in 2010. I was out of shape, 60 pounds larger than I should’ve been, fat, flabby, and apparently a willing accomplice to this physical state of being. I was the perfect martyr, complaining that genetics dealt me this hand.

I had always struggled with weight and body image to a degree, but after I became a mom to my two boys, I had somewhat settled into it and felt it was my destiny. I’m never going to be tiny and one pearl of old age is self-acceptance. I have always been confident in everything, except my physical appearance, and I had decided I was done feeling bad about myself for how I looked.

Something, however, flipped in me as my waist bands grew tighter and my scale kept creeping upwards. I was never a lethargic individual, but I knew as I got older that would become my new norm if my pant size continued to grow in proportion to my age. I don’t mind adding chronological years, at least it means I’m still alive, but I decided I didn’t have to grow old and I certainly didn’t have to be old and fat. There were more reasons to lose weight than to try to look like a super model and for the first time in my life, true balance, health, vitality, and wellness were my physical quest.

I’m now fit, semi addicted to running (of which I never dreamed would occur. I couldn’t’ even run one mile when I first ventured out), energized, and more passionate about every area of my life than ever before. I am learning to celebrate the highs and lows of my life while gaining wisdom, knowledge, and experience, and I love sharing that spirit of celebration with others.

Regularly running marathons is now my current hobby of choice, and at one point was on a run steak, running every single day with no breaks, from November 17, 2011- May (well I blocked the exact date because it felt like a divorce) 2013.

I know I haven’t shared the who, what, when, where, and how’s of this journey in this post, but if you read the archives, you’ll find some information, and I will periodically revisit this topic.

Everyone needs someone they can identify with, learn from, and live in relationship with and I’m putting myself out there to hopefully be that person for someone and in the process, let you peer into my home, head, and heart and glean from you.

The truth is, YOU CAN DO IT!

I’m a multifaceted person.  I vacillate from fitness guru to theologian to mom to foodie to psychologist to marriage counselor to motivational speaker to wife and back. I’m not an elite athlete. I’m just a girl who was born into an overweight family with terrible genetics that decided to rewrite her health and fitness story.

The greatness realization of this journey is that people aren’t kidding when they tell you the mind, body, and Spirit must all be aligned and working together for wholeness and wellness.

Do you have any body and fitness transformation stories to share in the comments and discussion portion?

 

The Chobani Principle

Surround yourself with dreamers, doers, and believers. But, most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.- Sheila Gerald
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Nutritional benefits aside, Chobani tastes amazing!! It always pairs best with my other love, coffee (especially Starbucks)

 

 

I am Jessica and I have become a Chobani addict. I absolutely love their Greek Yogurt. In fact, to make it affordable, I buy it by the truckloads at Costco. I have been known to make special trips to Costco just to ensure that my supply never runs low. The highlight of my January was that both Target and Giant Eagle had Chobani on sale at different moments, opening up the opportunity for me to explore and indulge in the flavors not offered in the Costco superbox.

Upon opening up my Chobani this morning, (which by the way is a perfect pre-run food item) , and promptly licking off any excess yogurt that stuck to the lid (I am that person), I had a flash of inspiration. What if I approached everything in my life like I approach Chobani yogurt? It may seem like my daily Chobani obsession was easy to come by, but in fact, my relationship with it started very tumultuously.

I have always been a lover of yogurt and a calorie counter. Even when I was at my highest weight and was totally out of shape, I was still aware of every calorie that I consumed. I was never mindless about my destructive choices. That being said, I was locked into eating “Light and Fit” yogurt because it was 80 calories and fat free. I kept hearing about Greek yogurt and all of its benefits, and yet I just kept eating the yogurt that had little to no protein and that had artificial sweetners just because it was 80 calories versus the 140 in most Chobani individual fruit cups.

How many things in life do we get stuck on, even good choices, when something great is out there waiting for us but we refuse to even try? “Light and Fit” was a good choice, but Chobani has turned out to be a great choice. Chobani leaves you feeling full, the flavor is much richer, and it has more of all of the good stuff that your body needs. (I was NOT compensated at all for this post. In fact, nobody at Chobani even knows I exist.)

The Chobani principle, which I invented in case you didn’t know, has turned out to be a small step to a lot of big change. I had honestly never eaten Quinoa, Hummus, or a whole other host of body nourishing and delicious items before because I was stuck on eating “diet” foods and ate what was familiar.  It is an educational experience to learn that not  all health foods are diet foods. In fact, chia seeds have an enormous amount of calories and almonds are chock full of fat. There are a lot of good things in life, like calorie counting and watching what you put in your body, but there are even greater things like focusing on your health and achieving specific wellness goals. There are containers of Chobani in every area of your life just waiting for you to peel the lid off and give it a shot.

Can you believe that I used to cook and serve Minute White Rice for my family and myself? I am horrified every time I think of it. My 899 pound bag of organic brown rice that I buy at Costco tastes so much better, fuels our bodies, and the only change it required for me was to actually buy a rice cooker and realize that minute rice might have been a good choice for one season, but greater choices were out there.

FYI: Rice cooked in a rice cooker is infinitely more delicious that what is cooked on the stove or microwaved in some lab generated instant package.

I guess the point I’m getting at is that the Chobani Principle applies to everything. What paradigm shift do you need to make (for example obsessing about calories at the expense of true health and nutrition) that will take you to the next level? What products do you have brand loyalty to that might not be the best option for you and your long-term mind, body, spirit goals?

Paradigm shifts that I’ve encountered since turning 30:

  • I used to hate running and could never run even a mile—I’m now a marathoner.
  • I used to obsess about my weight all the while watching it creep up or yo-yo everywhere—–I now stay within a 3-5 pound range with minimal “extra” effort (I still count every calorie and run like a crazy person so I guess some of you think that’s way more than minimal “extra” effort, but it’s really not. It’s habit now.)
  • I used to think texting was horrible and didn’t even have it on my cell phone plan. I mean, why can’t you just call me?——I finally added it to my plan and now hate being called. Hooray for convenience!
  • I used to obsessively clean up every single item my kids played with and dragged out without concern of the stories they would tell their therapist about Type A mom one day—–I now wait until they are on the bus to restore the order I need or wait until Sunday night/Monday morning before I take everything they own and hide it somewhere. They actually are now allowed to play in the family room and have books and toys in there and their therapist can be regaled with stories of how cool and fun mom is instead of how she was obsessively cleaning 24/7. It’s almost like they live in their own home and have rights associated with that just like I do… Fancy that!!

As you can see, there are many ways to apply the Chobani principle. How will you step out of your comfort zone today to see long-term goals realized?

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Shameless bragging in 3, 2, 1……….Both boys had parent/teacher conferences yesterday and both boys are rocking out in academics and behavior at school. Maybe I gave them just enough of my Type A to succeed, but not enough to cause psychological distress 🙂

Step by Step

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. (3 John 1:2 NLT)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA picture I stumbled across yesterday of myself with my cousin Paul 2 weeks before I started my mind, body, spirit transformational journey.
 

iPhone Fall 2012 to Fall 2013 Jess 607

Versus a picture of me this past summer (2013) with my beautiful aunt (You caught me looking at family photos yesterday!)

Today I had a reminder of how powerful habit is in our life. Besides celebrating Day 807 of my runstreak (which means for that length of time I’ve run everyday with no breaks), I had an interesting conversation with my husband. I don’t like to talk about our fasting a lot on the blog because I feel like that is a personal decision that we make to honor God in our lives, however, I feel that in the interest of exposing how I achieve my mind, body, spirit balance and how I am going about my “one word” for 2014, alignment, I thought I could let you in a little bit.

We begin each year with a 21 day Daniel Fast. I have spoken about it before in previous blogs, but you can also google it if you are unfamiliar with what it entails. We also fast at least one day a week, and in addition, kick off each month by fasting 3 days at the start of said month. The purpose of our fast is multi faceted, but one of the benefits of it is increased health and vitality.  It is not a magical spiritual, mental, or physical bullet, but step by step you grow in every area of your life and start to see God’s blessing increase with each new season of fasting and prayer.

Physically, there is no doubt that when you eliminate grains and animal products, your body isn’t using as much energy in the food/digestion area which releases it to execute more exciting uses of energy. I will be dabbling more into different food choices and detox strategies later this year that I will write about and keep you informed on, but for now, I just want to encourage you on the power of habit. The Daniel Fast is much more spiritual for us than it is physical, but you can’t separate the two. Some of my food detox journeys and research undertakings have little spiritual focus. They are just me pursuing the best physical and mental me I can be, but without a doubt, every time I’m my best physically and mentally, I’m also my best spiritually. It is a circle.

We ended our 21 days at the end of last week, and yet when faced with what to eat for lunch today, my mind only gave me the options that were “Daniel” approved. It was like I had forgotten that my typical egg sandwich was even an option or that pretzels weren’t “forbidden” foods. Am I cured from my cravings? I doubt it. When my mileage amps up the closer to the marathon we get, you better believe I’ll be elbow deep in all natural ice cream and other treats, but for now my new and reset habit system will allow me to further my health goals with little to no effort on my part.

Because I’ve been making good choices, good choices have become automatic. One decision for a cheeseburger won’t derail my life, because my habits are set. One busy day will not keep me from a life of bible reading and devotions because my  habits are set. There will be occasional steps out of the healthy habit train and that is fine with me. I’m in this for life. I’m not an ethical vegan or vegetarian and I have no known food allergies, therefore I have no real deep and meaningful reason to “deprive” myself.

The cool thing about habits is that once the correct ones are cemented, you don’t feel deprived, ever. Habit makes the automatic wise choice for you 96% of the time and that makes it possible to be “bad” the other times. See, there is no black and white. Gray is where the party is at, but your brain and body won’t let you “party” too much because it will desire to return to its setpoint or habit structure.

God created us for far more than we give ourselves credit for. We are generally so busy fighting our human nature with its impulses and temptations that we forget to lean into the momentum that God has stored up for us. God created our brains and bodies to embrace habit and instead of utilizing this amazing computer program he downloaded into us, we are constantly trying to uninstall the very thing that could take us to the next level.  We stop celebrating how far we’ve come and start seeing how far we have to go.

We label segments of our life into categories:

  • Black and white. Good and bad. Wrong and right. Cold and hot. Pessimism and optimism.

Could it be that many things we weigh ourselves down with mentally, physically, and spiritually were never meant to be categorized? Could it be that we have never embraced gray areas?

We stunt ourselves by not embracing the gray areas. There really is no good or bad. Something is better than nothing. Take it step by step. The reason this lifestyle change has stuck is because I approached it with the lens of legacy and the long journey.

Never stop celebrating how far you’ve come. Always build an altar of memories poised for praise (photos in this blog are to jog my memory and celebrate the journey). Sure there is still a long way to go. Sure there are still mental, emotional, spiritual and physical demons to slay, but what if instead of worrying about the unseen, we just baby step our way to the legacy we want to leave.

One day at a time your habits will change to match your dreams and decisions that once stressed you out will become automatic no brain choices. How would it feel to  use your willpower for greater things than survival mode? What if instead of fighting food cravings and a lack of desire to exercise you could use your energy and will power to fight for social justice? Seem like a leap? It isn’t. You can do it. I did it.

My brain and my body were created for more than considering what to eat and what to wear. God put greatness in me and I’m going to live a long healthy life pursuing his promises, living out my purpose, and declaring hope.

When negative thoughts bombard your mind, say, “I am strong. I am well able. I have what it takes. I can do this.”-Joel Osteen