40 Days

Simply put, Lent is a period of fasting which leads up to Easter. It recalls the 40-day fast of Jesus in the wilderness. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends right before Good Friday. The purpose of Lent is to be a period of fasting, self-denial, spiritual growth, and simplicity. Essentially, Lent is a spiritual spring cleaning for Christians. It is a time to eliminate things that hinder our personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to Him.

2012 was the first year that I participate in Lent. Some denominations do not put as much emphasis on this season as others, and I grew up attending a church that didn’t press the importance of fasting and self-denial during Lent. Feeling the need to spiritually spring clean, I decided that I would observe it on my own.

Many people choose to give up an array of things during these 40 days. Most people select their favorite foods, while others decide to fast from certain habits. My obvious choice for 2012 was to give up peanut butter. Anyone who knows me (and my family) knows that we have an addiction to Peter Pan peanut butter. We use it as a condiment, we eat is as a protein, we add it onto our desserts… but we are most known for sitting down with a jar and a spoon, and enjoying just it with an ice-cold glass of milk. Giving up all brands and types of peanut butter was a true challenge. I craved it for weeks. Each time I wanted it, I prayed. I found myself speaking to God literally every hour of the day because that is how often I wanted a spoonful. Lent proved to be extremely effective.

For 2013, I pondered giving it up again… but decided that I needed to be more creative in my selection this year. I then considered the “Real Food” pledge, where I would eliminate all proceeds food from my diet. The pledge is to eat only whole grain, fresh fruits and veggies, locally raised meats, nuts and seeds, limited beverages, and no refined sweeteners, including granular sugar. I’m sure to a lot of folks, this could seem like a drastic measure. However, I already eat this way 99% of the time. Although denying myself peanut butter and non-organic foods for 40 days would certainly prove its point again, I felt like there were other things hindering my personal relationship with Jesus. Actually… there was one specific thing.

I have to admit that I have an addiction greater than that of peanut butter, but it isn’t in food. It’s a habit. I abuse the use of my iPhone. At night, it is right by my pillow. I use it’s alarm to wake me in the mornings. As soon as I turn the alarm off, I am checking Facebook and Twitter, my email, and Game Center (because I have several on-going games with friends). I spend at least an hour in the mornings on various apps. Throughout the day, I am constantly checking in, updating, scrolling, and pinning to the point of ignoring friends, co-workers, and family. It doesn’t stop until I am lying in bed at night… and even then, I can stay awake longer than I should if there is a good Google + chat going on.

At first, I tried to talk myself out of giving up my phone for Lent. I had every excuse in the book. What if someone urgently needed to reach me? When I travel to Haiti, how will I communicate with family? How will I let folks know where I am if I don’t Foursquare my location? The more I tried to talk myself out of it… the more apparent that I needed an intervention from the one thing that consumed a large portion of my life.

After many prayers, I realized that I can set my own rules, as long as they were drastic enough to refocus my brain, heart, and time… and help me spring clean my spirit. I don’t have to give up my iPhone entirely… but I do need to give up a large portion of it. This is what I will be fasting from and denying myself to in the next 40 days:

– My iPhone will NOT be within my reach while I’m in bed.
– I will not access ANY games.
– I will only have access to Facebook, Google +, Instagram, and Twitter from any device for one hour per day, probably 8-9pm (although the time may vary when in Haiti.)
– I will not use Get Glue, Foursquare*, or Pinterest.

– I will still answer phone calls, emails, and text messages when time permits. I plan to only respond to emails twice a day, unless there is an emergency. I do still plan to blog, also when time permits. I want to stop my iPhone dependency, live more simply, and spend free time reading books and in prayer.
*I will allow myself to check into MIA & CLT airports ONLY during my travel for my family.

The next 40 days are not going to be easy, but they are going to be worth the sacrifice.

Are you giving up something for Lent? Please comment below. I would love to pray for you during this time!

 

The Secret to Losing Weight

The secret is, there is no secret. I know, I know…you’ve heard that before. But believe me, it’s the truth. I will be totally honest with you and tell you that all of the infomercials, exercise equipment, gimmicks, diet fads, and all the promises you hear on television WILL NOT WORK if you do not change your eating habits.

Sure, you can get a Brazilian butt lift and 6 pack abs…but not if you eat the wrong foods. No amount of exercise can compensate for bad eating habits. I don’t want to sound mean or disheartening, but the principles are fairly simple. Eat right, exercise, and stay committed!

I always thought that I was a pretty healthy eater… and I am in comparison to a lot of people. I have always maintained my weight and never really been out of control (except for the 10-15 lbs in college). But I also never had toned arms, lean legs, and ripped abs like you see on tv. Well, thanks to my trainer I found out why. It was my diet! If you eat sugar, sodium, and processed/packaged foods (even if they are low fat), they will prevent you from achieving that lean physique. As soon as I changed my eating habits…wow, I started to reveal a super flat stomach!

And it was essentially about getting back to the basics. Eating whole foods in their most natural form. Instead of instant oatmeal already packed with sugar, buy plain oats. I love adding cinnamon, a little brown sugar, or honey. It also tastes really great with a little spoonful of peanut butter. I have also discovered truvia, which is a natural sweetener, and so much better for you than sugar.

Instead of eggs, try egg whites. Or one egg with 3 egg whites. I sauté onions, mushrooms, and sometimes zucchini to add to my whites and then just a pinch of salt and pepper. Eat that with a bowl of oatmeal, high fiber cereal, or put it on a piece of whole grain toast. You will save so many calories and it tastes so much better than something from a drive-through.

Stick to lean protein – skinless chicken breast, lean ground turkey, flank steak or filet, pork tenderloin, white fish, shrimp, scallops, and salmon. Cook in just a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Or season with Dijon mustard, spices and herbs. You don’t have to drown meat in heavy soups and sauces to make them tasty. It’s all about the basics.

Fruits and vegetables – really, you cannot eat enough! And variety is key. Try to eat as many colors as possible. Apples are great sources of fiber as well as strawberries. Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants. Oranges and mangos have tons of vitamin C. Bananas are a staple at my house. I have one after a morning work out because they are a great source of potassium.

My favorites vegetables are mostly green – broccoli, brussel sprouts (don’t knock them until you try them), green beans, kale, and cabbage. Peppers are also great for you as well as onions, squash, and carrots.

Try to eliminate “white” foods. Opt for whole wheat/whole grain bread instead of white. Sweet potatoes instead of baked potatoes. Try brown rice, quinoa, or barley instead of white rice. Whole grain noodles instead of white. If you eat cereal, try high fiber or brands that have less than 5g of sugar per serving.

This may all sound boring to you, and you feel like you are depriving yourself. But if you cook things and add the right flavors, everything tastes great.

And the bonus – you can eat MORE! When you eat whole foods, nothing processed, the amount of food you can eat increases while the calories decrease. Even my dad was amazed at how much food I was consuming when I was training. But that’s because lean protein, fruits, and vegetables don’t have many calories. Yet, they are packed with important nutrients and vitamins for your body.

So if you are stuck in a rut and can’t get those last 10 pounds off, take a closer look at what you are eating. It makes a world of difference!