Monday, August 12, 2013

Faith & Fitness: Week 7


“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Fitness is a journey. The time it takes to reach your goals is a reminder that God does everything in His time. Would I like to be a size 8 tomorrow? Oh yes.  But I am confident that I am honoring God by taking care of my health, and since my body is a temple of His Holy Spirit, then my desire to take good care of my health is a desire that pleases Him.  I believe He will allow me to meet my fitness goals, but it will take time and work on my part. And when I reach those goals, I will appreciate them that much more because I worked so hard- and I will give God the glory because I know I didn’t do it all on my own.


We just completed Faith & Fitness this week, and we are praying about the possibility of running it once a month, then running the whole 7 week series again, possibly twice a year.  I hope these posts have been a blessing to you and have helped you improve both your spiritual and physical health!

Faith & Fitness: Week 6


“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:10-12

There are many temptations in the area of health & fitness.  We already talked about overeating, but there are other extremes as well- working too hard in the gym, possibly to the point of injury or exhaustion, showing pride when we start to reach our goals, and taking dieting to extremes. Exercise and body image can become idols. We should not work out just to look better, but because we are being good stewards of the temple God has given us. If we keep our focus on Christ, and keep everything in moderation, we will bring Him glory. I can easily take things to the extreme & keep the focus on myself & my desire to be thin, but we all need to remember that God is our strength, and we must keep our focus on Him. How easily Satan can get us to turn our attention to ourselves- whether we are meeting our goals or not! You can wallow in self-pity when you don’t see the numbers on the scale moving, or you can thank God that you are doing something good for your health, even if you don’t see results right away. You can be swept up in pride when you meet your goals & are feeling fantastic, or you can thank God because He allowed you to reach those goals.

Faith & Fitness: Week 5


“Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits” Psalm 103:1-2

A friend said to me: “I was just thinking after my workout how blessed I am to be able to workout, move my body, lift weights, etc. my health is a BLESSING and I know I can take it for granted.”

How much do we take our ability to exercise for granted? Do we feel like it’s torture? Do we feel deprived as we try to eat healthy foods & deny ourselves sweets and treats? Do we realize we are blessed to be able to move our bodies, and that some people are not that blessed? When a workout gets particularly tough, and you’re running low on strength & energy, thank God He has given you the ability to do that hard work, as difficult as it is! Don’t forget that God has blessed you to be able to move your body and He has provided you with healthy foods to eat. Instead of griping about depriving myself of sweets, I make myself a huge fancy salad that makes me feel like I’m at a restaurant, and I thank God for my delicious meal as I savor every bite!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Faith & Fitness: Week 4


"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin." Hebrews 4:15

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." Galatians 5:22-25
Who doesn't struggle with self control? Last week we touched on binge eating- which is my major flaw in the area of self control. God can give us the strength to overcome this, and to develop healthy eating habits.

Think about when Jesus was in the desert for 40 days & Satan tempted him to turn the rocks into bread. How hungry do you think our Savior was? What strength it must have taken to deny himself at that point! We can call on Him for that strength when we are tempted in our eating. Because "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".

Faith & Fitness: Week 3


"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20
In this scripture, Paul is speaking of abstaining from sexual immorality, but we can also honor God with our bodies by keeping ourselves healthy. I used to binge eat all the time & I would feel convicted: am I honoring God with my body when I eat a whole pint of Ben & Jerry's? Am I treating my body as a temple, or a garbage disposal?
This is something I still struggle to control. I stopped buying ice cream & chips, but I can still binge on a bag of almonds & raisins when I am not being mindful. I continue to ask God for strength to honor Him with my body by taking good care of it & exhibiting self control- which we will talk about next week!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Finally, what you've all been waiting!

The chili recipe was shared here before, but I included it again in case anyone missed it.


DISCLAIMER: Everyone wants my recipes, but I don’t measure when I cook, these are estimates, taste as you go!

This salad is a treat, not an everyday meal- there is sugar in the salsa, the ranch is creamy, and there is a lot of cheese!

spinach- enough to fill the plate
Trader Joe’s healthy 8 veggie mix (broccoli, carrots, green pepper, red cabbage, green cabbage, jicima, radish, celery)
about half a chicken breast shredded
1 slice turkey bacon crumbled
1 avocado cubed
2 tbsp Trader Joe’s pineapple salsa
drizzle of cilantro ranch dressing (see recipe below)
shredded Mexican blend cheese

Layer all ingredients on a large plate in the order listed.

¼ cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp white vinegar
salt & pepper
garlic powder
onion powder
finely chopped fresh cilantro
enough milk to get it to salad dressing consistency

Mix all ingredients together.  I like to wait until the sour cream is almost empty & make it right in the container.

(Because you couldn’t pay me to give up peanut butter, actually you might be able to- if you paid me, I could afford to switch to almond butter, I’m sorry, but at $5 a pop, I’ll stick with peanut.)

1 very ripe banana, peeled & frozen
1 tbs peanut butter
2 tbs plain unsweetened coconut milk (add more if not blending)
1 tbs (or more!) cocoa powder

Put all ingredients in blender or food processor, blend & serve! Comes out like soft serve ice cream!

half an onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced or shredded
a few tbs crushed garlic (to suit your taste, I like a ton!)
olive oil
taco seasoning (
adobo seasoning
optional: 1 pkg browned ground beef or turkey
2 tbs tomato paste (Trader Joe’s sells it in a tube now!)
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup of chicken, beef, or veggie broth
1 can black beans
1 can cannelini beans
1 can diced tomatoes
half a pkg Trader Joe's frozen super sweet fire roasted corn
1 pkg Trader Joe's frozen tri color peppers (or chop up your own)
handful of frozen spinach leaves*
handful of frozen kale*
optional (if you want to make it a cheat meal because of the grains): 1 pkg Trader Joe's 10 minute farro (or you could use brown rice)

*I buy spinach and kale bagged like for salad, stick the whole thing in the freezer, crunch up the bag, then throw handfuls in everything for extra veggies that are too small to be detected by picky children.

Turn the slow cooker on high, and add chopped carrots, celery, & onion, with a splash of olive oil, all the seasoning, and the crushed garlic.
When the onions are soft, add all the other ingredients except the farro & give it a good stir.
Cook for 6-8 hours, add farro 10 minutes prior to serving.

1 tbs butter or olive oil
½ an onion, diced
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced or shredded carrots
1 tbs crushed garlic
½ cup green lentils
½ cup red lentils
1 cup frozen kale and/or spinach
1 cup chicken, beef, or veggie broth
optional: 1 pkg sweet Italian sausage, sliced into coins
salt & pepper
optional: cayenne pepper
optional: parmesan cheese

Place butter or oil, onions, celery, carrots, and garlic in the slow cooker. When onions have softened, add all other ingredients except barley, rice, and parmesan cheese. Cook on high for 3 hours or low all day. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. 

This can also be an “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of meal. Add every veggie or meat you want! Sometimes I make it with chicken breast instead of sausage, and just shred the chicken after it’s cooked all day. Sometimes I make it completely vegetarian. I’ll also throw in a can of black beans or garbanzos if I have them in the house.

1 tbs olive oil
half an onion, diced
1 tbs (or more!) crushed garlic
3 zucchinis, sliced into half circles
2 yellow squashes, sliced into half circles
1 package (or about 2 cups) sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 jar marinara sauce
1 container ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 tbs parmesan cheese
2 tbs milk
salt & pepper
garlic powder
onion powder
Italian seasoning mix or basil, parsley, oregano & thyme
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup goat cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sauté onion & garlic in olive oil until onions have softened. Add veggies, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add marinara sauce.

In a separate bowl, mix ricotta, 2 beaten eggs, parmesan cheese, milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning.

Spread half of the veggie/sauce mixture in a greased lasagna pan, then spread the ricotta mixture on top, sprinkle with some of the mozzarella & goat cheese, reserving most of it for the top layer.  Cover with the other half of the veggies & sauce, then sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella & goat cheese on top.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  

Everyone is asking about my salads.  Honestly, they're all variations of the same ingredients:

Lettuce (spinach, red leaf, or bagged spring mix)
shredded chicken breast
crumbled turkey bacon
hard boiled egg
slivered almonds
Trader Joe's healthy 8 veggie mix 
kalamata olives
roasted red peppers
shredded carrots
pea shoots
cheese (feta, gorgonzola, shaved parmesan, or goat cheese)

Dressing is usually extra virgin olive oil with salt & pepper. Sometimes I'll treat myself with balsamic glaze from Trader Joe's or the ranch dressing recipe above (usually with parsley & dill instead of cilantro). 

Faith & Fitness- Small Changes


I don’t think I could wake up tomorrow and do a complete overhaul of my diet and routine. Remember, small measurable goals, right? Here are the changes I made:

The first thing I did (years ago) was take out high fructose corn syrup from my diet. Your body does not know how to process it, so it stays in your system.
The second thing I did was take out white foods- white flour, white rice, white sugar- I still eat these things if we're eating out because there's not always an ingredient list available but I don't buy them the grocery store and that's made a big difference - you must read labels! I looked for whole-grain flours in my breads- no enriched flour- that is (white) flour that has been processed so much that nutrients had to be added back into it because they were stripped in the processing. (This was back when I still ate grains regularly).

These first 2 changes resulted in dropping 10 lbs almost immediately.  I knew I needed to start eating more whole foods but that seems like an impossible change as a busy mom. These were 2 small changes I could make without derailing my whole routine.

The next change was to start making green smoothies for breakfast every day and sometimes lunch - that took off another good chunk of weight. I use a whey protein powder (I like designer whey) and kale or spinach with a very ripe banana- the riper the banana the more cancer fighting properties it has. I add berries, sometimes a scoop of peanut butter, coconut milk or iced green tea as the base and I add cinnamon which has weight-loss properties and Chia seeds which are very high in fiber & protein and sometimes I also add flaxseed for fiber. I need to start adding probiotic powder, as probiotics are very beneficial to your health. I used to use kefir, but I have been cutting back on dairy.
Eventually (last month) I was ready to take grain and sugar out of my diet almost altogether- I allow myself a treat on Tuesday night and Sunday mornings because that's when the church is serving Panera goodies! Those are indulgences that are worth it- never waste your treats on junk that's not "worth the calories" (I don't count calories but I still like this expression).

I thought this change would be impossible, but it's been rather easy. Again, I started small- stevia in my coffee, fruit when I crave sweets. Lettuce wraps with cold cuts instead of sandwiches.  Later I was able to switch from cold cuts to preparing a bunch of chicken breast in my slow cooker at the beginning of the week- less sodium, no preservatives, and more bang for my buck! Now for lunch, I make a big salad every day. I use Trader Joe's healthy 8 chopped veggie mix, & other pre-chopped veggies, & a bit of crumbled cheese like feta or gorgonzola so there's not a lot of prep.

At the beginning of the week, in addition to the chicken I prepare, I also hard boil 2 dozen eggs for salads & snacks- my family eats these up SO FAST! And I prepare a bunch of turkey bacon & crumble it up. I slice carrots on the diagonal for “chips” to pick up hummus or homemade ranch dip.

 (my garden- the only thing I planted from a seed was the cilantro)

The only thing I really need to do at lunch time is slice an avocado & wash some lettuce. You could do bagged lettuce, but I find a whole head of lettuce lasts longer, and I replant the root in my garden & get my own homegrown lettuce for free! (You can also do this with celery, onions, and any vegetable that leaves you with a root when you're done with it!)
Dinner is usually chicken or fish & lots of veggies or a side salad. I almost always make dinner in the slow cooker- it allows me to do the hard work at a time of day when my children aren't as needy, and it's a healthy way to prepare foods. My go-to meals are balsamic glazed chicken thighs, chili, and lentil soup with tons of greens.
It was important for me to find alternatives to the sweet treats I usually ate because I definitely have a sweet tooth. (Experts say you should wean yourself off sweet flavors- I’ll let you know when I’m ready for that- ha!) I found a recipe for Paleo fudge that used raw honey instead of sugar and I used less honey than it called for. I pour it over almonds or pecans for some added protein, and sprinkle in some shredded coconut- voila! homemade almond joy. The whole family loves it. I also made up my own recipe for ice cream using a frozen banana instead of cream and sugar.
This is what has worked for me so far- I am still not eating completely “clean”, nor am I entirely sure what is & isn’t clean.  I hear legumes are bad, but I’m not sure why (looking into that now).  When I reach a point where the weight is no longer coming off, perhaps that will be my next change.  For now, I like my chili with black beans! The point is, everyone has to find what works for them. One of my favorite fitness resources, Metabolic Effect, puts it this way: "One person’s perfect fat loss plan is another person’s formula for being fat or flabby." You have to find the foods that keep your hunger, energy, & cravings in check AND result in fat loss. They like to say you're a detective, not a dieter.
My good friend & fitness expert puts it this way: if you can’t eat this way for the rest of your life, it's a DIET. Same for exercise- if you can’t sustain it, it won’t work.