Running out of gas?

dog running in circlesSo I was walking my little white Lhasa the other day when I stopped and spoke to our friendly neighbor who keeps an eye on our house while we are away. He was cleaning out his garage and I asked him how it was going? He sighed and told me this terribly sad story:

“aah, not so good Ellie.” he sad sadly shaking his head, “I was cleaning out the front of my garage yesterday when I placed a pan of gasoline on the  driveway. A little dog came up and started drinking it before I could stop him. He then started acting berserk, going round and round as fast as can be. Then he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks and keeled over.”

Well, being a tender-hearted person, I teared up and asked, “Oh how sad! . . .  he died?”

“Nope, he just ran out of gas.”

EEEER!!! I couldn’t believe I fell for that old joke! Reminder to self: Jesus did say, “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself.”  (Mark 12:31)

Well, as I continued along my path, I focused my thoughts on God as I usually do and came up with a Spiritual principle I can derive even from THIS illustration.

How many of you have seen brand new Christians get excitedly “gassed up” on the Word of God? They are ON FIRE for the Lord! They remind me of a pendulum which wildly sways from one side to the other. I am so happy they found the Lord but I am also apprehensive. For I have seen what happens next over and over again. When the first challenge comes, they run out of gas. They shake their fist at God and wonder how He could treat them so badly? They turn away before anchoring themselves to the Word of God.

God never guarantees smooth sailing as a Christian. In fact, Christ declared just the opposite.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

As a Christian, be prepared for conflict and discouragement. Be secured in the Word.  A Spiritual walk over a lifetime usually consists of many steps forward and one or two steps back. The important aspect of this is to continue growing and moving forward because our Lord’s welcoming arms are outstretched, waiting for us. God doesn’t change his mind. He is constant. He will never disown us, even when we rebel or do something incredibly foolish like return to our old, degrading habits.

As I continued along, another thought crossed my mind regarding the above illustration; that of a link between spirituality and health. How many health-seekers start out fanatically gung-ho and suddenly after three weeks run out of gas?!  They had declared they had found the perfect diet plan! “This one says I can lose 26 pounds in two weeks! All I have to do is give up all carbs and run ten miles each day.”

How realistic is that? Not very if you have read my past blogs.

They profess to all how wonderful this complicated but beneficial new plan is. They want everyone to try it because after all, it’s truth! . . .  until it isn’t. It worked for this celebrity, why didn’t it work for me?  It simply turns out to be another diet guru’s false plan.

Real change starts from within and is grounded in factual, Absolute Truth. Remember to keep yourself anchored to the Word of God and He will direct your paths.

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:6

Caffeine: Villian or Hero?

th5ATHF6ICI received a great question by my friend Denine Taylor, http://de9k.wordpress.com  regarding caffeine intake. I realized that although I had written a bit about caffeine, hadn’t really written a post ON it. So I wanted to rectify that situation promptly!

As in any food, moderation is the key. Caffeine is a drug and like any drug can change body chemistry. So here’s the good, the bad and the ugly on caffeine:

 

The Good:

  • Caffeine affects two brain transmitters called adenosine and acetylcholine. These are stimulants which wake you up, begin to jumpstart your metabolism and regulate your day.
  • Caffeine helps prevent cognitive impairment and recent studies have shown it can ward off Alzheimer’s as well as Parkinson’s disease.
  • Taken while studying or before a test, it can boost memory recall.
  • A little caffeine improves your mood.
  • Caffeine can dilate your bronchial tubes and therefore open your airways. This is helpful if you have a lung disease such as asthma or COPD.
  • The stimulant affect of coffee can lead to a more regulated digestive system.
  • Caffeine by itself contains no calories (but also has no nutritional value.) Chocolate, coffee and teas do contain many beneficial nutrients and are fine in moderation.
  • I believe the coffee bean was found in the Garden of Eden and therefore, like anything created by God was originally “very good.”

The Bad:

  • Caffeine is a natural diuretic and interferes with vitamin absorption.  By washing away valuable B vitamins, one cannot convert food into energy. If you find yourself gaining weight, cut down on your caffeine intake, but do so gradually to lesson withdrawal symptoms.
  • Caffeine is extremely addictive. One patient of mine consumed thirty cups of coffee each day and it took months to wean her off it.
  • Caffeine will remain in your system three to twelve hours. If I consume a cup of coffee or iced tea at noon, I won’t be able to sleep until midnight. My husband on the other hand can fall asleep immediately after drinking caffeinated products.
  • Too much caffeine dehydrates and ages, causing wrinkles and dry skin.
  • And how many can actually sit down and have a cup of coffee, cola or tea without having something to go with it like cake, cookies or potato chips?

The Ugly:

  • Caffeine is a stimulant which if taken in excess can cause sleep disturbances, rapid heartbeat, mood changes, migraines and tension headaches.
  • Since caffeine is a drug, it psychologically affects the mind. Coupled with its diuretic effects it can even be dangerous if consumed in excess. Thiamine and Niacin, two B vitamins influence the calming aspect of our personality. Do you know that people have actually gone crazy after niacin depletion occurred?  Yes food is that powerful! Which makes me question whether young people who consume so many caffeinated energy drinks today, are unknowingly influenced by that fact when school violence occurs today.
  • Caffeine depletes water soluble minerals, magnesium, potassium and calcium which regulate heart rhythms. Too much caffeine causes heart palpitations, increases blood pressure and weakens the heart muscle. It can also cause jitters and nervousness.
  • By depleting calcium, it affects bone loss, creating dangerous osteoporosis.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.”                                    1 Corinthians 6:12

Today we live under grace and anything is fine in moderation. Drink caffeinated products sensibly and in balance. Side note: My husband and I just returned from our son’s lovely wedding to a truly beautiful lady. But while away, I sure missed my husband’s fabulous coffee! Thanks Babe.

Overcoming Food Addiction by Faith

By now you probably realize that food, being a bunch of chemicals, is addictive. Chemicals change our neurological and metabolic functions; sometimes without us even being aware of that fact. Food addiction is similar to smoking, drugs or alcohol addiction because it changes our brain neurotransmitters and bodily chemistry. As one patient described it to me, “it was like a switch going off in my brain and I couldn’t stop.”

And some believe food addiction is even worse than drugs, alcohol and smoking because we cannot get away from food – it is always there, staring us in the face. It is in the vending machine, on television commercials, magazines, along the road you travel home on. If you are having a stressful morning, it is easy to reach for the donuts in the break room. donuts and temptationAngry? Those pretzels are therapeutically crunchy!!! Lonely? You might find yourself reaching for the comforting chemical found in chocolate, called phenylethylamine.

It is a fact that food is a soothing drug when we are emotionally stressed. Another important  truth I have discovered is that the more I turned down donuts, processed and fast food and placed more wholesome foods into my system, the less I desired junk food. Today it doesn’t tempt me to stroll past a table covered in sugary snacks. If you begin to select mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and lean protein, you’ll discover for yourselves how wonderful it is to break that pull toward unhealthy choices!

Self-medicating with food, drugs or alcohol does make the pain go away, if only for a short time. It changes our chemical make-up, providing pleasure, relaxing us. It is a hard habit to give up. I urge you to reach out for God’s strength to get you through those hard times. Many turn directly from God however when hardship hits. If you are a kind person observing what’s happening in today’s world, injustice hits especially hard. You might even question God. Why would He allow such things to happen?

“He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.”  Psalm 107:20

God does care deeply. It breaks His heart when He sees suffering. But He allows us, just as He has since Adam, free choice; either loving obedience, apathy or self-destruction. God gave us free will and would never make us do something beyond that will. God wants us to choose what is best but in His love, He did not create puppets. God will not force us to do what we don’t want to do. Actions have consequences and choosing to consume chemically-laden, processed foods will ultimately react in physiologically destructive results.

I understand personal choice. As much as I wanted my patients to become healthier, they had to want it more than I wanted it for them! I watched as they chose a more healthier lifestyle . . . or destruction. It was either victorious or painful to watch but it had to be their choice. Change starts from within the individual.

Most people probably don’t understand the intricate, complicated processes of physiology but we see the result of its positive or detrimental choices. Isn’t this similar to how we see Jesus at work in a new believer’s life? We see the results of positive choices as well.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12

Who Does Rejection Hurt Most?

hiking in the hot summer heat“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4;10

Summer in Arizona occasionally reaches a stifling 120 degrees or more, but usually it remains around a cool 112-115. I love hot weather! Occasionally I see people however, who hike, bike or even run in this heat. I suspect it is a macho thing and I say a silent prayer that they have consumed enough fluids.

Sadly every year, some succumb to a heat exhaustion or heat stroke unnecessarily because they fail to bring life-sustaining water with them. Or drink water, even when it is offered along the trail. I believe it was last summer when this exact scenario occurred. A couple hiking up a nearby mountain in extremely high heat, was offered water along the trail but refused it, only to be overcome by dehydration, needing rescuing later.

Living in the desert is a metaphor for life. Many ideas come to mind and this one I wanted to share with you:

Have you ever had someone who needed what you had to offer but steadfastly refused it?  For example, I have partnered with male golfers who, to put it kindly, could have benefited from lessons. Rather than request a practical golf tip from my golf pro husband, who would have freely provided one, they purchased some new gimmick promising to reduce ten points off their handicap.  Another one purchased a new set of golf clubs, concluding that was the answer! All the new equipment in the world won’t fix the real problem because success begins from within the mind and the heart. Awareness is the first step to change.

I’m sure other nutritionists, dietitians and fitness instructors can identify with this scenario as well. Occasionally I offer my nutritional expertise to Christian friends who are about to attempt some harmful, crazy diet plan.  Because this is my ministry, I expect no monetary retribution; only the relief of seeing someone turn from false diet gurus and become healthier for our Lord.

I had a friend at a previous church who weekly professed to me how much she enjoyed reading my blog. She exclaimed happily how certain posts had motivated her toward her healthy pursuit. (Although I might have encouraged, it is always God who motivates one to change, not me. I am only the messenger.)  Regretfully when we chose another church to attend, she refused to follow my blog anymore. Who did she hurt more? Me, herself or God?

Sadly, when I picture people refusing help, I visualize our Lord kindly offering free, Living Water which sadly, most toss aside. Rejection. Whom did that act of rejecting Jesus’s Living Water hurt most: Christ or the one who refused the gift of eternal life?

This world we live in is a parched, unsurvivable desert. We are only here for a short time for no one will get out of this life alive. We can choose this day to accept the eternal Living Water Jesus willingly offers or reject it and hike a mountain of worldly challenges alone. I urge you not to remain in a desert wasteland forever. Choose the Living Water of our Lord and live!

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38

 

 

True Champions Practice What They Preach!

I am finalizing my interview with David from David Vale Fitness this morning.  I urge you to log on to http://www.davidvalefitness.wordpress.com and discover his remarkable health transformation for yourself.

E: Okay David, because you succeeded in conquering your health challenge, would you mind telling our readers what you found to be the most important aspect to health?David Vale and family

D: Pairing together fitness and nutrition is so key to success. I do believe that proper nutrition is 70% of the equation and equally as difficult to achieve. One can simply lose padding with proper nutrition alone. But total health must include some aspect of physical exercise.

E:  So true because muscle efficiently burns fat.

D:  Right. Physical exercise should be incorporated at least 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes each time. But, this does not have to be something one dreads or monotonous activities that are easy to lose interest. What I seek for my clients is a balance of cardio, resistance, body weight, and interval exercises throughout a week. Simply put, I want folks to get their heart rate up a couple days a week and I want folks to use their muscles the other days.

 E:  And what should people expect from this type of workout?

D:  This balanced approach will strengthen heart and cardiorespiratory health, increase bone density, recruit muscle growth and joint strength. This also increases calorie burn and reduces the risks of atrophy, osteoporosis, heart disease, and diabetes. I encourage folks to keep an open mind, try new things, and find that type of exercise that clicks with you. For me it was home-based workouts like P90X and running. But this can also be gardening, brisk walking, group fitness, or things that you naturally do around the house.

E:  Anyone who goes onto your website will be impressed that you truly practice what you preach. You are an inspiration to many who have a lot of weight to lose. Can you tell us a little about how you accomplished this tremendous weight loss goal?

D: Thank you so much for these kind words. I do what I love and love what I do. But, if you had told me three years ago that I would be writing a blog, teaching fitness classes, or would be an inspiration for others, I would have called you crazy!

E: You obviously had a great support system surrounding you. Any encouraging words for our readers on that?

D: Here’s the truth: it takes work and support. It took work by me and support from my family and friends. And focus – there are folks out there that for some reason don’t want you to succeed. Ignore all that.

I achieved success through the combination fitness, nutrition, and accountability. I consistently exercised using the 2 day rule (I don’t skip more than 2 days in a week). Nutrition was an evolution and the toughest part for me. I made incremental changes each week where I sought to replace a poor food choice with a healthier alternative. For instance, instead of fries, I would try a veggie or baked chips. Over time, my palette changed to where I went to a fully clean nutrition plan like the one I described previously.

E: If only more people would understand that as people stay away from the junk, the less their body craves it physiologically!

D:  Exactly! And for accountability, I sought out friends and others online that have either already gone through a health change or had a similar interest. My wife is a Dietitian, so we always have great meals and foods in our house because of her influence. But, I had to learn how to eat right when she wasn’t looking. When times got tough (and they will) it was key to have this group to be accountable to and to lift me up. Now, I lead these groups and provide that support system for anyone who desires a healthy lifestyle.

E: I appreciate your openness David, in overcoming a personal challenge. I know it will also assist many with conquering that dreaded muffin top area too! No doubt, forty years from now, you will still be as much of a personal testament to clean, positive living as you are today. I so appreciated your time in answering one of my favorite follower’s question. Thank you.

 

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” Ephesians 6:10-12

 

 

Aspiring to Conquer Muffin Top Mountain

Today we continue our interview with David Vale of David Vale Fitness, http://www.davidvalefitness.wordpress.com  who really lives what he professes:

Ellie: Yesterday we discussed the basics. Today I’d like to talk about something that’s probably a gimmick, like those new exercise machines I’ve seen at trade shows. They promise great results but reminded me of the old exercise machines with the mechanical belts that didn’t make someone lose anything but their money. Can’t remember what they were called . . .

david vale individual photoDavid: Funny! I can’t remember what the name is either. I also remember the butt rumblers that you would sit on. I have heard of folks buying home machines and losing about 1450 .. dollars that is!

A machine typically has a singular function and exercises one body part. The reality here is one’s body will adapt to that one exercise, become more efficient at it, and eventually lose its effectiveness. This will also place focused stress on the body parts used which leads to a greater possibility of injury. Remember to include a balanced exercise plan that incorporates cardio, resistance, body weight and interval exercises. One really needs to find a balance and a mixture of exercises to train the entire body including upper muscles, legs, core, synergistic and functional moves, and cardio.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Everyone starts somewhere. If that somewhere is an elliptical or treadmill, that is awesome! Once one finds success being consistent here, then I would look to introduce additional or different exercises.

E: Well, what about basic walking?

D: Walking is great. And often times this is a great place for folks to start out. Over time, however, walking can get monotonous, so I would suggest finding some variety through a music playlist, recruiting some friends, changing the scenery, or adding intervals of brisk walks or jogs based on ones ability or comfort level. The risk with walking is that it does burn less calories, which means it will take longer to get rid of the extra padding. This could discourage folks or cause them to lose focus. To offset this, one can also hold light weights, increase pace or intensity with hills/inclines.

E: Would you discuss a common question I receive about fat, please? Does fat stay in one place as many believe or continually circulate throughout our system?

D: Generally speaking, people carry weight differently and often times in concentrated locations. Women tend to carry it in the thighs and rear. Guys tend to carry it in their lower bellies. Genetics also plays a role where it is carried too.

E: Hot spicy foods are thermodynamic and burn calories in a small way and water-based foods are very beneficial. Any hope of losing through specific food choices?

D: Certainly. As long as those specific choices are not part of a fad restrictive diet that is limiting or not sustainable. I guide folks to a clean nutrition plan filled with lean meats/alternative proteins, legumes, grains, superfoods, fruits, veggies and a focus on real food.healthy food

E: Your personal weight loss transformation was incredible! Tell us a little about that please.

D: I used to count calories, but do not anymore. Now, I count ingredients and purely focus and simple, natural, and local (if possible) ingredients prepared with simple cooking techniques such as grilling and roasting. Eliminating or greatly reducing processed, refined, fried, high sodium, sugary drinks and fast food are very important. I also seek out foods that have anti-inflammatory qualities. My meals contain a balance of macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) with typically a lean protein/legume, grain, 2 veggies, and fresh cut fruit.

E:  I totally agree that’s a sensible approach.  I’m sure you stress water as essential as well?

D: Water is so important and we tend to neglect it. Switching to drinking water only is an easy way to reduce bloat and melt away a couple of pounds very quickly. Plus it gets one away from drinking that dreaded sugar filled soda pop.

E: Absolutely! People don’t understand how detrimental soda is to weight loss, but that’s an entire blog on its own! Tomorrow we’ll conclude our interview and David will tell us how he overcame a health challenge with the help of his family. Always remember; God gave us life, we should live it gratefully and abundantly!

“Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1Timothy 4:7b-8)

Ridding Ourselves of the Muffin Top!

I was asked recently by one of my lovely followers (who will remain anonymous due to the question) regarding the challenge we sometimes face: the Dreaded Muffin Top (and I’m not discussing overfilling the cupcake pans!) No, I am speaking of that challenging area just above the hips that seems to overlap our jeans. How do we rid ourselves of that horrible, unflattering area?

So being a nutritional counselor, not a fitness instructor, I turned to an expert. If like me, you admire people who “practice what they preach” then David Vale of David Vale Fitness, is certainly one of those people.David Vale photo

 

“I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” ( 1 Corinthians 9:27)

After facing chronic health issues, David needed to make a choice: He decided to take control of his life; losing 60 pounds through clean nutrition, consistent fitness, and accountability. This not only transformed his physical health and appearance, but also changed his mental outlook with positive energy and a happier attitude. Now as a husband, father, Certified Fitness Instructor and Online Fitness Coach, he assists others in reaching their goals. I urge you to discover for yourselves how much he has overcome by logging onto his blog http://davidvalefitness.wordpress.com/ and see for yourself.

 

So I approached him for his expertise when facing this particular fitness challenge and he graciously subjected himself to one of my world-famous, probing interviews:

Ellie: David, thank you for helping my readers who, over time, seem to accumulate “extra padding” around the middle and above the hip area. Are there any specific exercises that would target this area?

D: This is a very common question that I encounter. Unfortunately, spot reduction or targeting specific areas of the body to lose weight is a common myth. The adage that Abs are made in the kitchen and not in the gym is true. Exercises will help one burn calories, but proper nutrition needs to accompany exercise in order to be effective at reducing the “padding.”

E: (thinking): Great! Eat for nutrients! That’s what I profess! Thumbs up David!

D (continuing): However, that does not mean this area should be neglected from an exercise standpoint.

E: Rats, if only it were that simple. Well for example – how about using small weights? Are stretch bands of any value? Stretching side to side?

D: In exercise terms, it is very difficult to isolate a particular targeted spot. Sure, if you want stronger calves, work them a lot. But spot reduction is difficult. What I usually do for my clients is consider approaches that incorporate the core, provide synergistic moves to provide a balanced approach. In fact this area of the body from the hip flexors to just below the chest (the Core) is critical to exercise and strengthen. Building a strong core will make every other aspect of exercising easier, enable greater endurance for functional daily activities like laundry, yard work, etc, and prevent injury.

E: Personally I have always disliked floor calisthenics but if that’s the only way to rid myself of a pesky muffin top . . . do they work?

D: There are certainly many exercises to strengthen the core. The best part, you can do this without doing dreaded crunches. You can use body weight exercises, and do this up to 3 days a week. Exercises include leg lifts/scissors, planks, side planks, standing elbows to knees, high knees jog in place, and seated side to side twists to name a few.

As David has demonstrated, if he can do it, you can do it too! We will continue our interview tomorrow, discussing among other items, if certain exercise machines are gimmicks.