Category Archives: Personal

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.
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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.

“Ceilings, Values, and How to be anything you want to be”

I am nothing if not a personal growth and development junkie. Even as a child, I asked for books on topics that even some hard working professionals have to force themselves to read.  For whatever reason, I distinctly remember in 1998 waiting with baited breath for the latest John Maxwell title “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” to be published so I could get my hands on it. It still, to this day, rocks my world. I definitely recommend that if you have not yet read the book, you owe it to yourself and everyone around you to do so.

The memory of receiving that specific book at that time is so vivid to me because my dad was a member of Maxwell’s VHS and cassette tape club much of my childhood and to me there was no one smarter, determined, or loved by others than my dad was. I know those words expose my age even though my youthful glow does not.

VHS and Cassettes! What excuse do we have now with the capabilities of all the audio files and knowledge in the world in the palm of our hands?

All of that being said, the principal that stands out most to me is

Law #1: The Law of the Lid – Leadership Ability Determines a Person’s Level of Effectiveness. To reach the highest level of effectiveness, you have to raise your leadership lid.

Essentially, you are your own worst enemy or biggest asset.

What are you doing right now, today, at this very moment, at this very hour (outside of reading my amazing words of inspiration and gleaning from my deep wells of knowledge) to improve upon yourself so that you can go further?

We love to think that the things that hold us back are outside of ourselves. This way we can blame people, places, and things for our inability to produce rather than take a cold hard look in the mirror.

Like children, sometimes we can’t move beyond the slight discomforts of action and execution to gain the bigger prize of accomplishment and achievement.

My sons would often rather lose a privilege and be disciplined then to admit their mistakes. They have more invested in the arguments, nitpicking, and faultfinding than they do in just getting their rear in gear and just do what I have asked them. “I can’t put the leg of the recliner down. I’m not the one who put it up.” “I can’t take the dog to the bathroom. I did it last time.” “It’s ______ fault I have poop on my shoe. He didn’t scoop it off the ground.” (Never mind the fact that you could have just watched where you were walking, especially since you already knew that he didn’t clean it up! Instead of letting me know it needs cleaned up, or just cleaning it up himself, it is much more fun to drag poop into the house to prove some epic point and tattle.)

I have amazing sons, but this competitive and argumentative list of excuses  could go on for eternity when all of the disagreements and conflicts just boil down to the fact that no one wants to accept responsibility and just move forward. Even when I say, “You aren’t in trouble. I just need to know”, the human experience dictates that self-preservation is preferable to self-awareness.

At the end of the day what does this mean to you and me?

We need to:

  • Immediately stop telling ourselves false narratives. While other people, places, situations, scenarios, and things inform our daily life and decisions, they are not in control of them and they do not hold the keys to our success and destiny.
  • Identify where the ceiling is. What is truly holding you down? Once you identify your ceiling, the things that you once thought were ceilings will become floors to your next level of personal growth and development.
  • Establish personal responsibility and growth as a core value from which you make all of your decisions. Core values are constant. They are not descriptions of the work we do or the strategies we employ, they are just simply the basic elements of every day of our lives.

In 2010 when I started my fitness and weight loss journey, physical health and being in shape started to become a core value of who I am.

  • I don’t run. I am a runner.
  • I don’t just fit in exercise. I am a physically fit person.

See how that wording shifts the conversation?

If you just say, “I run”, you can easily dismiss the act of running if you don’t fit into your day. However, if “I am a runner”, it is the essence of who I am and I make it happen. I don’t just “mother” my children. I am their mother. There is actually a big difference. Anyone can “mother/nurture” them in a pinch or for a moment in time (School teachers. Babysitters. Grandparents.), but nobody else in this world can be their mother. It flows from my essence.

To begin exploring your own values and begin taking the limits off what you are capable of, think about your life and all of its components and begin rating them.

  1. Things I value very much: These are the things that are your very ESSENCE. An example for me is my physical fitness. Most people don’t value this as much as I do and therefore make excuses about why they can’t or won’t engage in daily exercise.
  2. Things I value: An example of this for me is financial gain. I do value financial gain and I want to be a wise steward of my family’s income and spend with frugality, however, money is not a top priority for me. I don’t value it enough to chase it over something I value very much.
  3. Things I don’t value very much: An example of this for me is a jam packed extracurricular social schedule. Every aspect of my daily life and work is to be surrounded by people and in relational and social settings, as well as run like wild, dragging kids between sporting events, hangouts, and practices full of even more people to socialize with. Because of this, I oftentimes neglect getting into social settings that aren’t work/ministry/leadership/parenting related because I value a little silence here and there. This can be a slippery slope because I know I need my relational cup filled instead of always being the one pouring, so I’m working on balance, but the point is, you most likely won’t find me at a RAVE until 2-3AM every Friday and Saturday craving a party.

I will continue to write about personal development, growth, and life changing transformation, as it is my sweet spot, I have experience in and with it, and I think it is fun to be encouraged and challenged. That said, Are there any particular topics or avenues in this space you would want me to cover?

Monday Musings: Do streaking and productivity hacking have validity?

“Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

Steven Pressfield

Today, January 30, 2017, I kick off a writing streak. Notice, I said writing, not necessarily posting. You may or may not be privy to the musings of my mind during the next 30 days as I attempt to improve upon, and even solidify, my calling as a writer. It is possible that what I put on paper will not be fit for human consumption, and that is ok. Not every basket that Lebron gloriously puts in is seen.

They, the powers that be, say that in order to be an author, blogger, or writer (individual that puts words on paper), you must actually be engaged in the practice of regularly writing. This sounds like common sense, except that it is not entirely true. I have long been a self-proclaimed wordsmith and dabbler into all mediums communication related, except that my writing has yet to be read by many people. Sure, I’ve actually been published on a few websites and in a smattering of periodicals. I’m also positive my Master’s thesis was perused by at least 4 people, of whom I have no doubts lined up with eager anticipation to devour it. (We will pretend that payment to do so did not effect their decision to read my work.)

However, to be a writer, in my opinion, you actually need more than words on paper, but an audience with which to share, mothers and spouses not included.

This is where the 21st century has been simultaneously kind and cruel. The kind part is that the internet, blogs, and social media has given everyone the opportunity for an audience. The cruel part is just a repeat of the kind part.

I do not know what it is that holds me back from doing some of the very things that:

  1. I feel called to
  2. People tell me I’m good at
  3. I actually enjoy once I get started

Steven Pressfield, author of many international bestsellers, would say that I’m just a victim of the “resistance”. Resistance is the unseen powerful force that holds us back and tells us lies. Steven may have popularized the concept of “resistance” in his completely life changing and worthwhile read “The War of Art”, but the apostle Paul seems to be the OG because he so eloquently stated in the bible that he was battling it every day.

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. …..19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

.Romans 7:15 and 19 New International Version (NIV)

 Alas, here is where the Monday Musings come into play:

  1. When I don’t do something I’m compelled and called to do is it a sin even if the very act itself is not a sin? (IE: I love to write. Feel called to write. Entertain and inform people when I write but, outside of work, past academic achievements, leadership responsibilities, friendly communications, and public speech development, I rarely write).

    Wow! I’d just rather not think about it.  Or, better yet, is the very thing I so expertly push aside the exact thing God is wanting me to think about in 2017?

  2.  Do I have things to say that people actually care about? Well, I guess that remains to be seen. I know one thing, I’m going to try my best not to let imposter syndrome or fixating on “results” hold me back. What good is chasing results if you’re not even putting in the work worthy of a result?
  3. So called experts tell you to have a specific audience in mind and narrow the interest window of those you’re writing to achieve maximum success, but I want to write about all the things that currently are the sum of my life. The good news is that other experts say to write about what you know about and that real life stories and experiences are the most fascinating things one can share. I guess I’ll figure out which expert is correct, the one who tells me to exclusively focus on food, fitness, leadership, theology, women’s issues, family issues, or any topic I chose so long as I choose just one of the above topics, or the expert that says to write about what you know about and love?I can’t let my “fear” of covering the various topics that fuel me hold me back. At some juncture I will maybe settle into a cohesive pattern and rhythm of what is the best for me to share and say, however, until then, the resistance can keep lying, but I’m not listening.
  4.  I will test the “productivity” hack who shared with me that streaking is the best way to start and solidify a habit. The truth is a “productivity” hack is kind of an oxy-moron. Sure you can hack your brain and your life systems some, but at the end of the day success, productivity, time management, financial success, a hot body, and emotional wellness can only be “hacked” if you regularly use 4 letter words, well, at least one 4 letter word WORK.

What, if any, topics would you like my rabbit chasing brain to cover on this blog?

As a prequel, be prepared to hear about my marathon training, what I’m eating (or not eating), coffee, books I’m reading and reviewing, my family, my friends, my public speaking and communication endeavors, my church, leadership, and anything else I’m compelled to share.

Do not worry, I am confident that by February 28, the final day of my streak, daily writing will be such a habit for me that you will have me around for a very long time, thus, will have ample occasion to hear/read it all.

Simple, but grand

A healthy relationship is one where two whole people make a commitment to help make the other person the best version of themselves.-Wendy Treat

Today my husband asked me if I needed any help. I had worked all day to get several projects finished and was in the post school, cook and scarf down dinner, clean it up, wrap up loose ends and run frantically out the door for a church function whirlwind. That morning between packing lunches, dressing boys, doing my daily devotionals, hiking in a blizzard to the bus stop, and working out at the YMCA, I had stripped all of the beds, washed the sheets, and somehow also managed to wash my sweaty run streak clothes.

(Full Disclosure: I’m a gross person and in the winter will often wear the same outfit 2 days in a row on my runs. In the summer I don’t do this because I start smelling like a zombie, but in the winter I bend the rules of polite social conduct.)

I asked my husband if he was sure he wanted to ask that, and he assured me he was. Do you know that wonderful man not only asked me if I needed help, but then followed through? He put the clean sheets on the boys bunk beds and made their beds. For sure it benefited him to do this, otherwise the boys would be up all night waiting for me to finish after we got home from our event, but it was an unnecessary act of kindness.

The life lesson in all this is that any wonderful relationship is made up of a series of these unseen, untouted, simple grand gestures. A phenomenal marriage is usually the outcome of a daily choice to carry the weight of life, responsibility, family, and fun with each other. Although he’s always good at speaking my love languages, it’s the unexpected extra mile in a frantic moment that keeps a girlish smile on my face. Yes. It is possible to have the rush of an adolescent crush in a mature, seasoned relationship. I’m racking my brain to see what I can do to one up him. Let the games begin.

What simple, unexpected thing can you do today as a grand gesture of love, commitment, and relationship?

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (Romans 12:10 NLT)

At the finish line of the 2013 Akron Marathon together after running 26.2 miles side by side. He’s the best pacer.

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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