I Said Diet, Not DIE!

diet die When people see the word DIET, they may first see the letters DIE!!! However, diet doesn’t need to be this ugly 4-letter word. There are all kinds of diets aside from diets for weight loss.

There are diets to prevent disease, diets for healthy skin, diets for pregnancy, diets for muscle building, diets for performance – and the list goes on. We even refer to unhealthy eating habits as an unhealthy diet. So why is the word “DIET” such a hated word? Because we have a hangup on the actual word and not what it really means.

Webster’s definition of diet:

a :  food and drink regularly provided or consumed
b :  habitual nourishment
c :  the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason
d :  a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight
e :  something provided or experienced repeatedly

Out of all those definitions, only one speaks about diet as most of the world views diet. To me, being on a diet simply means eating with purpose in order to reach a goal. Sometimes my diet is based on 1200 calories. Sometimes my diet is centered on getting enough protein. Sometimes it is avoiding certain foods to cleanse my body of toxins. But, one thing that my diets always requires is discipline and accountability – and, one thing that is expected is results.

I’m currently dieting to lose fat for an upcoming job so I am restricting calories. Once I reach that goal, I will not go off my “diet”, I will just change it. I will increase my calories from 1200 calories to probably around 1800 calories, keeping my focus on getting the nutrients I need to gain muscle, and to manage energy and fat stores. I would call this my “maintenance diet”. It will be easy, something I can do long term and it will allow me plenty of freedom to “have fun” with food and friends.

When I am “dieting”, I refuse to be bummed that I can’t eat cake for a short period of time while I work toward a goal. No way! It’s just for a season and it reaps a huge reward. I focus on what I’m gaining, not what I’m giving up. I love how the discipline makes me feel and look much more than any piece of cake. Plus, staying on some kind of eating regiment keeps me accountable so I don’t abuse my body and overindulge (which I’m prone to do if I loosen the reins too much and give myself too much freedom).

I treat my body like my bank account, checking my body’s balance and only spending what I can afford. If I am training a lot and at a weight where I’m comfortable, I can eat plenty and have awesome cheat meals. However, if I’m eating more than I’m spending in the gym, then I treat my eating no different than my spending when there’s no more money in the account. I crack back down until I catch back up.

I encourage you to have a new outlook on dieting. Whether you call it eating clean or whatever lingo you seem to like more, it really is all the same. It’s eating with purpose – and it’s smart, responsible, honorable and admired. So what’s wrong with being smart, responsible, honorable and admired? Absoflippinlutely nothing! You are an inspiration to everyone around you who resists discipline! Discipline is healthy!

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness (lots of goodness) and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Cakes

It is very common to have a severe sweet tooth when you are dieting. My theory is that your body wants to replace the calories you are burning, and the fastest way to do that is through sweet rich foods. So even a person, like me, who doesn’t normally crave sweets can find herself staring at the peanut butter like an addict stares at crack cocaine.

To satisfy my body’s cravings, I tend to make more sweet flavored high-protein treats like fun protein shakes, protein popsicles and protein pancakes. Today, I was in the mood for something a little different so I whipped this concoction together and it was totally delish!!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Cakes

1 Scoop Adaptogen Tasty Whey Chocolate Protein
1 Tablespoon PB2 (powdered Peanut Butter)
1/4 C Steel Cut Oats
1/4 C Greek Yogurt
1/2 C Eggwhites
1 Teaspoon Coconut Oil
3 Packets of Stevia (optional)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Hot Cakes

Whisk all of the above ingredients together until it has your desired consistency. I personally wanted my cakes a little thin. I used coconut oil to prepare the pan and wanted to make several smaller pancakes so I could put the extras in the fridge for snacks or quick breakfasts.

Top your cakes with a teaspoon of peanut butter and light maple syrup. If you have really been good on your diet and you want to take this over the top, add a few mini semi sweet chocolate chips on top – or chocolate sprinkles to give it some crunch.

Makes 8 small 4″ pancakes.

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per cake:
46 Calories
5.4g protein
3g carbs
1.4g fat

Nutrients for a light meal:
2 cakes, 1 teaspoon of peanut butter & 1 ounce light maple syrup
171 Calories
12g protein
19g carbs
5.4g fat

Nutrients for a big manly meal:
4 cakes, 1 tablespoon peanut butter & 2 ounces light maple syrup
376 Calories
25g protein
40g carbs
13.5g fat


Edamame & Chick Pea Salad

Edamame and Chick peasCold salads make nice refreshing snacks and sides for summertime. A bean salad is a great way to get a nice balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein in your diet – plus they are SO good for you!

Chick peas, also called garbanzo beans, have numerous health benefits. Not only are they high in fiber (which also aids in satiety) and they have more protein than many other carbohydrates, also contain several key vitamins and minerals. CLICK HERE to read more about the health benefits of Chick Peas on Medical News Today.

Edamame is one of my favorite legumes. What many people don’t know about edamame, is edamame is a complete source of dietary protein. Like meat and dairy, it provides all of the essential amino acids needed in the diet that humans cannot make themselves. If you look at this little bean’s nutrition in a pie graph using the LoseIt app, you will see that your calories come from a nice even balance between fats, proteins and carbs – 30% from fat, 35% from carbs and 35% protein, or 6gms of fat, 16gms of carbs and 16gms of protein! Edamame, like chick peas, are also packed with all kinds of health benefits. CLICK HERE to learn more about Edamame. 

Edamame & Chick Pea Salad Recipe

Edamame & Chick Pea SaladIngredients:
1 bag (2 1/2 cups) edamame shelled
1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 serrano pepper, seeded, ribs removed and finely diced (optional)
1 small red onion, diced (I used half a medium Vidalia onion)
1 Tablespoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 small tomatoes chopped or 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves roughly chopped 

Combine the garlic, pepper, red onion, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste, in a large bowl. Add the edamame, chickpeas, tomatoes and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Let it marinate in the juices for a few minutes (to taste). Then separate the juice for storage, saving the juice for a dressing. You can eat the salad alone for a snack or side dish or toss the salad with greens and dressing for a meal. 

Makes: 11 1/2 cup servings

Nutrition: 1.2 cup serving snack or side
131 Calories
7gm protein, 14.5gm carbs, 4.5gm fat
5.3gm fiber

Double your serving for a meal for 262 calories, 14gm protein, 29gm carbs & 9gms fat.

Dr. Jennifer Stepanek‘s Health Tip

Dr. Jennifer StepanekDr. Jennifer Stepanek, D.C., C.N.S., D.A.C.B.N

Doctor of Chiropractic
Board Certified Nutrition Specialist

Fit with Fiber:  Fiber is cardio protective, glucose regulating and cancer protective. Changes in diet, restricting carbs, can also result in constipation. Gradually increase your consumption of beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, psyllium and oat fiber, nuts and seeds. Snack Ideas: 2 tablespoons hummus & carrot. Add chia seeds or flax to protein smoothie. Sweet potato chips, roasted chickpeas, vanilla pumpkin seed clusters and white bean dip with peppers or chips. ½ avocado with salsa and a piece of fruit. A handful nuts.

Edamame InfoGraphic from OrganicFacts.net

edamame info

Peanut Butter Crunch Cakes

Skip the maple syrup and scoop out some peanut butter! This protein-packed breakfast recipe is yummy enough without high-calorie syrup on top – a great alternative to the traditionally sugary high-carb breakfast.

protein pancakesPancakes:
1/4 Cup Oats
1/4 Cup Cottage
1/2 Cup Egg Whites
3/4 Scoop Adaptogen Vanilla Protein
1/8 Teaspoon Caramel Extract (optional)
1/8 Teaspoon Cinnamon (optional)
2 Packages of Stevia (optional)
Pam Cooking Spray

1/2 Teaspoon Peanut Butter
1 Tablespoon Homemade Granola
Agave Light

Mix well in mixing bowl to make 2 large cakes or 4 small cakes. Top 1 cake with peanut butter, granola and a drizzle of Agave Light.

I logged everything in my LoseIt app to get nutritional information.

Nutritional Information:
Calories: 268 calories
Protein: 22gms
Carbohydrates: 30gms
Fat: 6.5gms

28gm Protein Cereal

If you have been making protein shakes for as many years as I have, you start thinking of creative ways to get your protein powder in your stomach other than a traditional shake. Sadly, so many “protein recipes” are either really high in calories or they are not as high in protein as I’d like.

For instance, protein peanut butter balls are more fat and carbs than protein. Yes, they are incredibly yummy, but not really a true high-protein food. Protein pancakes are much better, depending on you you make them, but they too can end up not being as high in protein as you really hoped for if you mix the protein powder with too many other ingredients. Then it hit me! Why not mix protein with your milk and pour it over cereal?!

Silk Vanilla Soy Milk
Adaptogen Whey Vanilla Protein
Fresh Strawberries
Kellog’s Low Fat Granola

Blend 1 scoop of Adaptogen vanilla protein with one cup of milk (I used vanilla soy milk, but you can use unsweetened vanilla Almond milk which I also love, or even water if you are really watching calories). Slice 4 strawberries into slivers and then cut those slivers in halves to have a chunk of strawberry in each bite. Add 1/3 cup low fat granola and pour the protein milk on top for a deliciously sweet high-protein cereal.

Protein Cereal with Soy Milk:
392 Calories & 28gm protein

Protein Cereal with Almond Milk:
332 Calories & 24gm protein

Protein Cereal with Water:
292 Calories & 23gms protein

The Perfect Meal for Weight Loss

People who want to lose weight always say the same thing: “I just don’t know what to eat”. Ironically, then after I give some suggestions, they are often shocked – or they are under the assumption they are eating “healthy” and believe healthy eating alone should be enough. Well, it’s not. There is a formula to weight loss and I will be sharing it with you today.  It’s not my formula. It’s simply a formula scientists, doctors, nutritionist and fitness professionals use that is proven to work for the majority of people. Today, I want to focus on 3 aspects of the perfect meal plan for weight loss.

1. The right portions

LEAN CUISINEWhen a brand new dieter looks at the portion size of the average low-calorie meal, they quickly get discouraged. The meals appear SO small. However, it’s not that these meals are so small, it’s that mainstream meals have gradually gotten bigger over the years. Making a sandwich for lunch used to be acceptable, now that sandwich has to come with chips, potato salad or cole slaw and a soda, packing on 300-500 more calories just from the extras.

Think about the traditional kid’s sandwich. While a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread is only 375 calories, once you add a small 1oz package of Doritos and a 16oz Coke, you now have a whopping 702 calorie meal. If you add extras to every meal, your calories easily double – and that’s not even including condiments, drink refills and desserts. cdc new abnormal infographic

Nowadays, people eat sodas and desserts on a daily basis. When I was a kid, we didn’t have coke in our house. That was a treat. So was ice cream.

Our family got ice cream once a week. We all loaded up in the car and drove to Dairy Queen and I would get 1 small ice cream cone. My mom used to tease me about being lucky because my grandfather let me get my cone dipped with chocolate, but he never let her get it dipped when she was small. Maybe it was because she battled her weight as a kid – or maybe it’s just because that’s what grandparents do (they spoil their grandkids!!).

The key point here is that treats were a weekly thing, not a daily habit, and meals, drinks and snack portions were much smaller. Look at just how much “normal” portions have changed since 1950.

CLICK HERE to read my blog “Eat Like It’s 1950

2. The Right Calories.

HEALTHY ENTRESThe next important aspect to the perfect meal is learning the right amount of calories to eat in one sitting. This information isn’t based on my personal opinion. I’m simply going to just point you to the pros. Brand name diet companies pay big bucks for the best physicians, dietitians and weight loss professionals to help them create meals that would fit most people’s diet plan for weight loss.

If you look at every one of these companies, NutriSystem, Weight Watchers, Atkins, Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisines and even specialty brands like Jimmy Dean’s D’Lights meals, they all have one thing in common. Most of their meals average between 250 and 350 calories and are based on a 1200-1400 calorie diet.

Even Dr. Oz has a 1200 Calorie Total Choice Diet Plan also backed by Dr. Oz, Dr. Michael Roizen and nutritionist Kristin Kirkpatrick. The Mayo Clinic even has their own 1200-calorie Mayo Clinic Diet. You can pretty much search every diet from every health care professional, and you will find the same caloric restrictions – which should tell you something. It works!

Even if you didn’t know anything about how many calories you should eat a day, but you ate pre-packaged meals, this would put you at an average of 900 calories a day for just 3 meals a day. Now, let’s talk about snacks. Most pre-packaged snacks all range from 100-150 calories. This should also tell you something. A low-calorie snack should be under 150 calories. So, again, let’s pretend you are only eating pre-packaged foods, and you added 3 snacks a day to go with those meals (a snack between every meal to keep your metabolism revved and energy up), you would end each day eating around 1200 calories.

So if you are one of those people who think eating 1200 calories a day is ridiculous or unrealistic, don’t take it from me. This is the industry standard for weight loss.

Let’s look at how a 1200-calorie day could look like.

1200 calorie diet bookThere are even recipe books and diet menus you can find to help you learn how to stick to a 1200 calorie meal plan.

300 calorie breakfast
100 calorie snack
300 calorie lunch
100 calorie snack
300 calorie dinner
100 calorie snack    
1200 calorie diet

My meal plan looks more like this:

Low-Calorie Summer Salad RecipeI am always sharing some of my own recipes and store-bough finds that fit a 1200 calorie diet, like this 315 calorie summer salad.

cardio on an empty stomach
200 calorie late breakfast
300 calorie lunch
150 calorie protein shake
400 calorie dinner
150 calorie snacks   
1200 calorie diet

The Mayo Clinic Diet looks a little different.

Mayo ClinicTheir sample diet below (posted on their site) allows for more calories for meals with fewer snacks. This could be a 200 calorie breakfast, 400 calorie lunch, 500 calorie dinner and a 100 calorie snack. They didn’t list calories next to their items, but it can give you an idea of how they structured a meal plan for a day.

Breakfast. A fruit yogurt parfait (1 cup fat-free yogurt mixed with 1 serving fruit).

Lunch. 1 serving tuna and pasta salad (combine 1 can water-packed tuna, 4 cups cooked shell pasta, 2 cups diced carrots and zucchini, and 4 tablespoons low-calorie mayonnaise — serves 4); 1 small orange.

Dinner. One-third of a 12-inch crust cheese pizza; green salad (2 cups lettuce with 1/2 cup sliced tomatoes, red onions and mushrooms); 2 tablespoons fat-free salad dressing.

Snack. 1 small apple    
Also totaling 1200 calories

 3. The Right Substrates

Stuffed Avocado Chicken SaladNow that you have an idea of correct portions and calories, you need to see where those calories are coming from. Meals rich in healthy fats and protein will stay with you longer, as well as help support your fitness lifestyle. One of my favorite brands, who understand the need for good fats and healthy meats is Atkins. If you browse their foods, every meal seems to have about 20-30gms of protein per meal. This is exactly what I try to shoot for when creating my own meals.

If you don’t cook, and you shop pre-packaged foods, then first look for the right calories, then look at protein. If you get a meal that is high in protein, that also fits your caloric restrictions, then everything else will likely fall right into place.

Personalize Your Temporary Diet Plan

Lose It AppRemember, dieting (or managing calories) is temporary. You don’t have to count calories and restrict foods forever. It’s just like being frugal when trying to save money. It’s a season. Once you reach your goal weight, you can boost calories to match you caloric output to maintain your new weight.

For instance, when I’m needing to lose weight, I eat 1200-1400 calories a day. When I’m in maintenance mode, I average 2000-2200 calories a day. Personally, I like to eat 1200-1400 calories a day during the week and take off on the weekends so I can totally splurge. This helps me manage my weight and still have fun too so I never feel really deprived – all while staying accountable.

Lastly, a 1200-1400 calorie diet isn’t for everyone. The calories you need would depend on your age, lean mass (muscle), weight, age and activity. An athlete requires a lot more calories and carbohydrates than the average overweight office worker who sits at a desk all day. However, the 1200-1400 meal plan has been selected by most brands because it fits most average overweight individual’s needs, which sadly is also normally inactive. So, if you can’t afford a nutritionist, you can follow the nutritionists who help these industry leaders create the best basic guidelines for the general public.

Take the next step.

Download the LoseIt app or go to LoseIt.com and let them give you some free diet assistance. After inputing your information, LoseIt will give you your caloric budget and help you track your calories for the ultimate weight loss results. You can easily scan prepackaged foods or look up your own fresh foods. Create recipes, share recipes and track your progress along the way. It’s the single best tool I could ever recommend to help people on their weight loss journey. Good luck!

Finding Strength (and Peace) – Part 2

As you may know, I’m doing a blog series on “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13. This is Part 2 of this series. If you would like to fully live by this passage, and really feel confident you can do ALL THINGS, then I believe you should want to know if you meet the requirements to claim that scripture. In this blog I will talk about:

1. The definition of “all things” (what God gives us strength for)
2. What is required to have strength
3. How to have peace.

First, I want you to know everything I’m writing about can help you in every area of your life. Whether you are training for a marathon, or you are wanting to be a better parent. We all need strength to get through things – whether a difficult workout or a life crisis. So, where ever you are in your life, I believe this blog can help you.

Bible-read meSecond, I should say, I’m no Bible scholar but I did take the Inductive Bible Study Course in Discipleship Training School at our church, which teaches people how to correctly divide scripture. This is actually probably why I wanted to dig deeper into this text around that famous scripture. I wanted to make SURE I really understood what it really meant, what context it was written in and what we are supposed to learn from the whole text, not just that one verse.

We learned in class to:

–  Never just read a verse on its own without looking at the surrounding verses.
–  Never read a verse and say “what it means to me is…”, meaning, I should be careful to try to make the scripture mean anything different than what God intended it to mean.

Luckily, if you read the verses around it, it’s normally pretty simple to understand what God wants us to get from it – and He still speaks to us individually through each verse, but ALWAYS in line with the rest of his Word.

With that said, here are the verses around Philippians 4:13 again, followed by my next lesson I learned.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

All Things

possibleIn Part 1, I address the word content. Paul said he learned to be content whjether well fed or hungry. Well, in the fitness world, I have to say most dieters aren’t initially all that content. Many competitors who go on extreme diets to compete are far from content, BUT they can LEARN to be content. So I focused on how to be content in all circumstances. Today I want to talk about “all things” and make a check list of how to determine what things God can strengthen us for, and what he can’t (or won’t).

Don’t get me wrong. When Paul says he can do “all things” he means ALL things. He puts no limits on God. When I looked up “all things” in the Blue Letter Bible (great online resource center) it defined it as “each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything”. That pretty much sums it up. It means what it says – ALL things. However, I do believe there is a requirement on our end.

“God isn’t obligated to finish what you started” – Joyce Meyer.

I absolutely love what Joyce says here! Another words, just because you stepped out of the will of God and started something on your own (probably something you weren’t supposed to, or supposed to do yet), God’s not obligated to bless it or finish it. He may choose to do that, but we have to take responsibility for our mess ups, and not just use God as a rabbit foot of good luck to get our way. If you don’t agree, then think about if you were robbing a bank. Do you think God will give you the strength required to do a bank job and get away with it? While God loves us unconditionally, there are conditions (requirements) to receiving His benefits, as well as repercussions to our past mistakes.

The Right Road

Paul was careful to follow God’s lead. One of our friends says “where God guides, God provides”. You can have confidence God will provide strength in every and any situation IF… If you are in God’s will.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

This is the requirement. No matter the task, big or small, something that seems super meaningful, or something that seems silly, the requirement Jesus says here is we must remain him Him. The word “remain” is also interchangeable with abide or to live. Definitions include “to remain as one, to not be different, to not depart from, walk with, to wait for”. Webster defines abide as “comply with, obey, observe, follow, keep to, hold to, conform to, adhere to, stick to, stand by, act in accordance with, uphold, heed, accept, go along with, acknowledge, respect”. The only way you can make sure you are doing any of that is to get to know God and know His ways through His Word. You can’t or obey rules you don’t know. You can’t conform to, or respect, anyone you don’t know. So the 2nd requirement do being able to do all things is to make sure you are on the right path by reading the Bible.

Right RoadLet’s look at it this way. Let’s look at your goals like a destination, as if you are on a trip somewhere. There are no right and wrong roads if you don’t have a destination. You can wander all around and there really is no right or wrong turns. However, when you are on the way to a specific destination, there are definitely right and wrong roads. There are definitely right and wrong turns.

I believe, if you want to claim this verse, the key to having confidence this verse applies to you, like it applied to Paul, is to check the road map (the Word) and make sure you are on the right path. If I want to go to California, no prayer or strength in the world can get me there if I refuse to get off I 95. I 95 doesn’t lead to California.

checkyoself_art_charAs we look at the things we are working toward, I believe it is important to check our heart and make sure they are also in line with God’s will for our lives. This means, we need to ask questions like:

“Why am I doing this?”
“Is it pleasing to God”?
“Is it building people up around me?”
“Do I have peace?”
“is there anything in scripture that contradicts my actions?”
“Would I change anything if Jesus was right there with me?” (The good ole WWJD check)

Even good things can be bad things if they are not the RIGHT things at the right time. God can use all of our gifts, passions and talents, but we just have to make sure He doesn’t have something else He wants us to be investing in at this time. Pray and ask God to direct you. He will either give you tons of confirmation you are on the right path, or He will allow conflict (see the verse below), guilt and closed doors to say “no” or “not now”. He may even say “YES!” but give you conviction or correction to back off a little, be careful or make sure whatever you are pursuing doesn’t become your idol and obsession – bringing you back into a healthy balance with Him.

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. ” Galatians 5:16-17

Peace Through The Process

peace_of_mindOne of the BIGGEST warning signs you are off track is a lack of peace. If you are depressed, angry, bitter, stressed and in emotional turmoil, it is normally the result of being out of God’s will. If you fight God, I can tell you right now, you will be miserable. As it explains above, the conflict between flesh and spirit is designed so you won’t do whatever you want.

I can tell you right now, when Steve wanted a divorce he was so incredibly unhappy. He wanted peace SO bad. He couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t eat. And the closer he got to being completely out of God’s will and leaving me, the worse that got. However, as soon as he started doing God’s will, even though he didn’t feel like it, peace poured over him and he finally got relief – after 7 years of depression, frustration and being unhappy. He was unhappy and not at peace because he was not on the right track.

no-god-no-peace-know-god-know-peace-11You can endure all things when you have peace. You can easily claim that scripture, “I can do all things”, when you know without a shadow of doubt you are in God’s will. It’s the most exhilarating and freeing feeling. You can still have peace even though you made a mess of your life and there is still a lot of “cleaning up to do”. You can still have peace even though you continue to mess up daily. You can have peace even in the hardest times of your life. You can have peace because you are on the right path. Even if I’m still on I95, I can have peace because I turned around and I’m now heading in the right direction to the exit I need to take to start going west. Bottom line is, I can have peace the INSTANT I get back on track.

If you want to claim that scripture, you need to know that you truly can do all things when you are on the right path and at peace with God. Then, that scripture can be more than just a motivational meme but a truth you can have the utmost confidence in, no matter how big or small the task.

Get More Strength: Subscribe to my blog to be notified when Part 3 is posted. :)

Get the Shirt

Here is the link to the tank I have from Ruffles with Love.

I can do all things

Finding Strength – PART 1

I can do all thingsIn the world of fitness and sports, one of the most popular verses of all time is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” – Philippians 4:13. It’s on running apparel, on motivational trinkets, bracelets, necklaces, water bottles, workout clothes, bumper stickers and in motivational memes. Everyone loves to hear they can do all things “with a little help from a friend” – but this isn’t a Beatles song about just “getting by” in life, it’s a verse about living with purpose, having confidence that God will help us accomplish His will in our life.

Today, I woke up with that verse on my mind. I started to think of how often it is used as a source of empowerment to get a job done – how it is used to further OUR will, and OUR own personal goals. This made me want to look at the verses around verse 13 to get more insight – and, as I expected, it was full of so much more depth, correction and encouragement. I studied and studied. What started as a simple blog post turned into a 3 hour bible study.

People Need More Strength

you can do itThere are people desperate for encouragement and strength. I felt this text required more than just one blog post, so I decided to do a blog series on it. This will be Part 1. How many parts there will be, I don’t know! I’ll stop sharing when I stop learning! I plan to dig and dig and dig, until I get all the goody out of this one! I hope you are encouraged and enlightened just as I was today. :)

Before I continue, I have to share this story. Pastor Tim Keller was talking about a guy running from a bear. He said, at one point, the guy needed to jump up in a tree to get away from the bear. He explained that it didn’t matter how timid the guy was or how eager he was to leap up and grab a branch. What mattered is what branch he grabbed hold of. No matter how great his grip was, a dead branch wouldn’t hold him.

This is what is driving me to search this verse out even more. We can grab hold of this verse, but if this verse (like the branch) is dead to you, it’s not going to hold you for very long. So, let’s follow this branch to its strong roots and see just how Paul could have so much confidence in this kind of strength.

The Struggle In Our Circumstance

This is the other part of the famous verse. It’s the part that is BEFORE it talks about doing ALL THINGS. It’s the part about the struggle.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

To fully understand the context of this verse, we have to look at the circumstance of the person writing it. Paul actually wrote this letter to the Philippian church while he was in a Roman prison, literally in bondage. I doubt many of you are reading this in jail, but we all have our bondages, our rough patches, and our hardships, so you can see this text wasn’t written during a super amazing mountain-top experience. He’s writing this letter in the worst possible situation. Now that you have the context let’s look at the verses again and see what we can learn from it.

As I studied this text, I found SO many lessons. This is only ONE of many – and this by NO means is the most important one. I’m just sharing what I’m learning as I study, and I am especially thinking of all our athletes who are preparing to compete next weekend. They are hungry, grumpy, deprived, tired and weak. So, I start with wanting to encourage people who may relate to this part of the verse.

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry”.

The Lesson In Our Weakness

cat-hangryIt’s interesting Paul addresses hunger? I believe our relationship of food epitomizes our bondage to fleshly desires. Everyone can relate to it. We all want to give our flesh what it wants and we all hate it when we have to deny our body of its wants.

Paul is saying he learned to be content whether he was well fed or hungry. That implies there was practice and perseverance, but that’s for Part 2, 3 or 4. What I want to focus on is the attitude of contentment. Remaining in joy when we don’t get our way.

Can we say we have learned to be content when we are hungry? Are we learning to be content with smaller portions and practicing healthier habits, or do we complain non-stop because we have had to give up food we feel we shouldn’t have to give up. Are we fighting the process or are we determined not to let our body dictate our mood or rob us of our joy? It’s food for crying out loud. People have fasted for days and we get grumpy when we haven’t eaten in 2 hours. Really?

Conquering Our Hanger (Hunger + Anger)

hangryFood shouldn’t have that much affect on us. God doesn’t want us to be in bondage to food. It was designed to be a blessing, not a curse. However, it’s our overindulgences that turned it into something it was never created to be. Nothing should have that kind of grip on us. I imagine Paul wasn’t eating very well in prison. I imagine he probably dreamed of his big feast too! While he wasn’t dieting for his health or a smaller waist, he still was probably experiencing hunger pains and feeling unsatisfied by whatever slop they were feeding him – and on THEIR time schedule.

We need to learn (practice required) to be content whether we are drinking water or drinking our favorite beverage. We need to be completely content ordering grilled chicken and broccoli while everyone else orders whatever they want. We need to remind ourselves it is just food, and ironically, what we are eating when we are so-called dieting, is healthy and good (or should be!). Our food choices shouldn’t determine if we have a great time or not. Food will never make us happy. Food is not the answer to stress, depression, anger, PMS or whatever other excuse we have. Food is food, and that’s it. Why do we make it to be so much more than just nourishment and a blessing?

While Paul was able to conquer difficult circumstances, like hunger (and I mean REAL hunger), by looking at everything in light of eternity, I believe we can do the same thing. We must look at the big picture. He kept his eye on the prize, not looking back, but pressing on toward the goal (Philippians 3:13-14). I don’t want to use scripture out of context here, and apply it only to fitness and fitness goals. His goal was much greater than any weight loss goal. His prize was heaven. but I do believe we can learn from his example in every situation – even something as small as a diet.

“but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

focusPaul was able to stay strong because he kept focused. One of Steve’s things he says to me often is “where’s your joy?” When I’m grouchy, hungry or frustrated, he reminds me that my joy should not waiver. He reminds me that there are more important things than the current circumstance. While I may not be thrilled to hear his loving correction in that moment, I know he’s right – and realize I have to suck it up and get over it. How do I do that? I look at the bigger picture. I look at the reward. I look at my testimony. I try to look at my life as God looks at it. It doesn’t take long to realize every temporary struggle pales in comparison to what really matters. It reminds me there are more important things to focus on. What freedom!!

The first part of becoming stronger is not allowing yourself to focus on your weakness. Don’t give it that much power. The next time you want to have a pity party or you feel weak, stop and decide to change your focus. Ask God what HE wants you to focus on and ask Him to remind you of the big picture (HIS picture), and to give you the strength you need to do His will, not just yours.

Want more strength? Part 2 coming soon!

Got Soymilk?

Silk ShakeWhy Protein?

If you are training hard in the gym, you want to know you are giving your body the fuel it needs to maximize your workouts. That’s why protein is so essential for people who are on a regular workout regimen.

You break your muscles down in the gym, so it’s important you build them back up in the kitchen. What you eat, how much you eat and when you eat are all important components of an effective fitness program.

First, let’s talk about WHAT you eat.

Why Soy Milk?

Most people think of diary and meat when they think of protein. Unfortunately, a lot of people are lactose intolerant. Luckily, there are other great milk alternatives – one of which is soy milk. If you struggle to get enough protein without dairy, Soymilk can help.

– No other dairy-free milk has more protein
– Silk Soymilk has 8 grams of plant-powered protein per serving.
– Silk Soymilk has no cholesterol.
– Silk Soymilk is low in saturated fat.
– Silk Soymilk really tastes good!

You can use soymilk just like any milk. Pour it over your cereal, drink it alone, use it in your protein shakes and replace regular milk with soy milk in your recipes. Other milk alternatives will not give you that extra dose of protein (almond milk only has 1gm of protein in it) – plus there are a lot of other reasons to go Soy.

Silk Brand Features:

– Lactose-free
– Dairy-free
– Cholesterol-free
– No high-fructose corn syrup
– No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
– Plant-based
– Enrolled in or verified by the Non-GMO Project
– Responsibly produced
– Free of gluten, casein, peanuts, egg and MSG*

Now for the rest of the What, How & When…. What to eat, how to eat it and when to eat it.

Real Protein

proteinIt is best to get the majority of your protein from whole foods. This can be plant-based or animal-based protein. We only should use protein supplements to do just that – supplement what we are lacking. This means, if I’m trying to get 100gms of protein a day and I normally only get 60-75gms of protein from my regular diet, then I need to probably have a 25-30gm protein shake a day to help me reach my goal.

There is more to protein than even what it does for our muscles – it also is a great appetite suppressant! I’ve noticed when my protein is in check, I’m less hungry throughout the day too! I often snack on sliced meat with avocado and tomatoes, cheese and fruit, nuts, beef jerky and egg whites with hot sauce to help satisfy me between meals. All my snacks have protein and a little fat in them to keep me full and energize!

And I can’t forget protein shakes!! That’s the best snack of all!

Shake Time!

Post-Workout Bananas Foster Shake

If you think about food as fuel, you can understand why it’s necessary to refuel your body after you run it out of gas. You need to put fuel back into the muscle’s fuel tanks so it’s refueled and ready to go again. This is where the sugar comes in. Our body has to replace glycogen stores in the muscle cell, so a post workout shake that is higher in carbs is perfect post-workout fuel.

We also need to give our body what it needs to recover from the torture we put our body through. Since we break down the muscle in the workout, protein is another essential substrate needed after your workout. Here is a post workout shake I make at home. Lastly, since fat slows digestion, this is the only time you want to avoid extra fats like peanut butter in your shake. Fast absorption is ideal during this time since you have a window where your body is more susceptible to using all the fuel you put in that empty tank (which is about 30-45 minutes after your workout).

Bananas Foster is a wonderful dessert with bananas, butter, rum and vanilla ice cream. I made my own healthier version and it’s on our smoothie menu at our gym. Here’s one of the recipes for it.

Silk Soy MilkIngredients:
Silk Vanilla Soymilk
1 Cup Ice
Scoop Vanilla Protein Powder
1/2 Banana
1/8 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/3 Teaspoon Rum Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Butter Extract

Night-time Peanut Butter Pie Muscle Recovery Shake

Another great time to get more protein in your diet is right before bed. We do a lot of our healing while we sleep, so it makes perfect sense why we would want to get a good dose of protein before we hit the sack. Our body can use that protein to repair while we snooze. This is also a good time to have fats in your shake since fat slows digestion and will keep us fuller longer, as well as help us absorb more protein while we sleep.

Silk Vanilla Soymilk
1 Scoop Vanilla Protein Powder
1 Tablespoon PB2
1 Teaspoon Peanut Butter
1 Tablespoon Jello Cheesecake Mix (sugar-free)
2 Graham Crackers (put them for the last 5 seconds of blending)

Remember, if you are trying to lose weight, you need to track your calories. A protein shake can easily get up over 300-500 calories if you aren’t careful. Measure your ingredients and be very selective of each ingredient you add to your shake. Keep shakes between 150-200 calories for snacks and 300-350 calories for meal replacements to help you stick to your caloric budget for weight loss. :)

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This conversation is sponsored by Silk. The opinions and text are all mine.

Top 5 Things to Do While Exercising

busyEveryone is strapped on time. We feel constantly rushed and struggle to squeeze all our responsibilities into each day. After cooking, cleaning, working, taking care of kids, taking care of spouses…we are still supposed to find time to take care of ourself to actually workout. How?

Well, I believe most of (if we were honest) waste a lot of valuable time throughout the day. We spend so much time checking facebook, surfing online, dilly-dallying around, running errands and even just sitting there wondering what you were supposed to be doing because you forgot somewhere between the bedroom and kitchen. What if we could reduce this time? What if we could be more productive with our workout time so the extra time that is normally wasted can be used for more important things?

In my latest article for Answers.com, I share 5 ways to make the most of your exercise time. Take a look at my list and feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

Build friendships, strengthen your mind, grow spiritually, do online tasks and organize your day – all while you sweat! Click below to learn how. :)

CLICK HERE to get my Top 5 Productive Things to Do While Exercising


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