How Getting Punched in the Gut Can Lead to Six Pack Abs!

Punched in Gut Ab Workout

Today’s article is going to be short and sweet due to a rather hectic work week for me.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is the tip I’m about to share is extremely easy to put into action… in fact you can take action immediately if you’d like!

Now, in previous articles we’ve written quite a bit on the evils of sugar, why many of us are always hungry, and how to lose weight by controlling insulin.

In this article I’d like to build on these articles by sharing a simple, yet extremely effective, abdominal exercise any of us can do at any time in just about any place.

And all you have to remember is what it feels like to get punched in the gut!

Say what?  Yep.  Imagine you and a friend are messing around and your friend decides to give you a little punch in the stomach.

Now, imagine you see the punch coming.  What would you do?  Most of us, if we couldn’t get out of the way or block it, would likely tighten our stomach muscles.

Well, as it turns out, tightening your stomach muscles like this is a fantastic way to strengthen your core.

And the best news of all is you can do this exercise while driving in the car, while reading a book, or while typing a blog article like I’m doing right now!

There are a number of ways to do this… I normally just flex my stomach muscles as hard as I can while trying to pull my belly button to my back.  I usually hold it for 20 to 30 seconds… I do try to breathe which isn’t easy but is sort of important!

I then rest for 30 seconds or so and do another round.  After 2 or 3 rounds I’m definitely feeling it!

And, if possible, I’ll also turn or tilt my torso to one side or the other and repeat the exercise… doing this hits the obliques.

And, like I said, you can do this just about any where and at any time.  And no one even needs to know you’re doing it!

Now, full disclosure, I got this idea from Mark Sisson over at Mark’s Daily Apple.  There are some really good bloggers out there in the fitness and nutrition space… but, in my opinion, none of them come close to matching what Mark puts out week after week!

So, give this ab workout a try… if you’re eating clean and getting some other exercise in this little ab blasting workout will be a very nice compliment to your other efforts.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

What Genuine Love Looks Like

By Mike ShortWhat Genuine Love Looks Like

“He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will” (Luke 23:18).

While recently praying through the Passion narratives I was pulled in by this quote from Luke’s Gospel. It is referring to Pilate releasing and excusing Barabbas, a murderer, in order to appease the crowd. What jumped out at me when I read that line was how quick we all are to excuse our own attachments, distractions, and sin, even murder, rather than surrender to Jesus.

Just 9 verses later we see Jesus making excuses for us and reconciling us with the Father, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

The great Triduum is upon us once again and it’s a unique time in the liturgical year in which we can ponder the great love that God has for each of us. The God whom out of love for us sent His Eternal Son who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. All so we could share in His abundant life and joy.

Jesus, while hanging on the cross, in a particular way, shows us what genuine love is and how we are meant to share in His divine plan. The crucified Christ shows us that genuine love is a free, total, faithful, and fruitful love.

I’d like to unpack how this is communicated through the suffering that He endured for us, and how we often come up with excuses in order to hold on to our attachments and selfish inclinations instead of surrendering to The One true genuine love. We can use this as a litmus test to reveal if our actions match up with what genuine love truly looks like, or rather if we are buying into a counterfeit love.

Free

“I lay down my life, that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10: 17-18).

Christ shows us that genuine love has to be free. He was not coerced, manipulated, or even intimidated. He tells us he freely gave His “back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting” (Isiah 50: 4-7).

How often do our actions lack true freedom? We can easily mistake our slavery to attachments and sin as freedom, because we have re-defined freedom to mean doing whatever we want, whenever we want, with whomever we want.

However, Christ shows us a stark difference in the kind of freedom that genuine love possesses. If we think we are free from attachments such as alcohol, money, control, or status, then let us test our freedom and deny ourselves. Only then can the power our attachments be revealed. If we’re unable to say no, then our yes means nothing. The Good News is that we are meant for true freedom, the kind that will allow us to lay down our life for a friend.

Total

“God’s love has been poured into our hearts” (Romans 5:5).

Without reserve, Jesus poured Himself out totally for you and me… by name. As men we tend to compartmentalize our lives, which can be a good attribute in some cases, but other times it prevents us from giving ourselves completely to others. Our different compartments include our physical, spiritual, emotional, and financial lives, just to name a few.

We often withhold one or more of these parts of our lives from our wives and children which results in a coldness and distance in our most precious relationships. If we never looked upon a crucifix, then we could easily forget that Jesus shows us that genuine love is to be a total, self-donating love. Upon the cross He did not withhold anything, his love was complete. This is our model for how we are to give ourselves to our family and neighbor- holding nothing back.

Faithful

“I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you” (John 14:18).

In the face of suffering, or any discomfort for that matter, we often find ourselves running the other way and avoiding the scourge at all cost. Jesus shows us a different way to love, a love that is faithful, even to the end.

While his flesh hung from his broken body, Jesus persevered and mounted the cross. He opened his hands to allow the steel to tear through. Not once did he have a change of heart or yell “Enough!” He instead continued to empty himself and endured the greatest suffering hanging on a tree by the hands of men whom received their very breath from him.

Had He not been faithful, had He run the other way as we often do, or instead sent legions of angels to wreak havoc on His enemies, then He would not have been able to show us something we are capable of. Faithful love.

Opportunities for us to take on Christ’s faithful love abound, but we all too often fall for the counterfeit. Instead of being present to our children and wife, we opt for mindless entertainment. Whenever our finances get tight, we lose our job, or get a bad diagnosis; our inclination is to blame others, even God. But Christ shows us on the cross that He is faithful to us, and He will give us real power in these moments to withstand the greatest temptation.

Fruitful

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

There are many paradoxes of the Christian life, things that may seem contrary to our good. However, Jesus shows us on the cross that if we are to obtain life, real joyful Eternal life, then we must first die to self.

Without the reminder of the cross, we might fall for the counterfeit of selfish love. We may entertain a desire for an “abundant” life filled with money, power, and pleasure. If only I had this or that position, or a certain amount of money, then I would finally be able to truly live.

This is the lie that we all fall for… it’s in the air we breathe. We all know through our experience that these things never fully satisfy. But Our Lord on the cross shows us that if we want new life, to be a resurrected people, then we must give Him our lives. We must echo David and say “A clean heart create for me, God; renew within me a steadfast spirit” (Psalm 51:12).

We live in a unique time in a post-Christian culture in America. I believe we’ll be given the same opportunities to help others encounter Christ as first century Christians did. Pagans during that time encountered Christ in His disciples precisely through the way that they loved. “All men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35). We should all keep a crucifix nearby, so that we can be reminded of the gift of genuine love that Jesus poured out for us.

The Church, in her wisdom, tells us “Man is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, [and he] cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” (Gaudium et Spes 24).

Brothers, let us conform our lives to the crucifix and love radically just as Jesus has loved us.

Stay Awake

By Ron Pereira

Stay AwakeThis past Palm Sunday, while walking in the back of my parish’s narthex with my 2-year-old baby girl (who still quite doesn’t understand the whole “church voice” concept), I did my best to listen attentively to the Passion narrative.

And, while the entire narrative is obviously powerful, there was one particular part that truly spoke to me.

Then going out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.” –Luke 22:39-40

While it wasn’t read this past Sunday, here’s St. Matthew’s account of the same scene.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” -Matt 26:36-38

Jesus then goes off to pray on his own. St. Matthew continues the story:

When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”–Matt 26:40-41

The story continues with Jesus going off to pray two more times only to find his three disciples dead asleep:

Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.” –Matt 26:45-46

Become Part of the Story

I was taught a powerful scripture study technique many years ago… and this technique is to imagine that you’re actually part of the story.

So, in this case, I imagined I was one of the apostles that was just asked by the King of Kings himself to stay awake. To not sleep.

What would I have done? Would I have fallen asleep? Or would I have done my best to stay awake and in prayer for our Lord?

Easy to Criticize

Sure, it’s easy to criticize these three disciples for their “failure” since we’ve never let our Lord down (sarcasm).

In fact, it’s also easy to criticize Judas, the betrayer, for his heinous and weak actions since, you know, we’ve never committed mortal sin before.

So, as I continue to reflect on this one small section of the Passion Narrative I can’t help but realize how similar I am to the three disciples who fell asleep.

And, sadly, I’ve also had my fair share of Judas moments when I’ve turned my back on our Lord and committed grave, mortal sin, with full knowledge and consent.

But, thanks be to God, what I’ve continued to do, unlike Judas, is return to our Lord with full contrition and sorrow seeking His forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation which He gave to His church with these powerful words:

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained. –John 20:23

Stay Awake

So, as Holy Week continues, my personal theme is to “stay awake” with our Lord this week and every week after.

I’m committed to doing my best at everything in front of me… most especially all the spiritual aspects of our rich Catholic faith.

But, I’m also doing my best to “stay awake” in all of the other responsibilities our Lord has put in front of me.

This includes being the best husband and father I can be (put the stupid cell phone away Ron) while also doing my best at my work… including the work Mike and I do here on Intentional Encounter.

And, obviously, I’ve been trying, and will continue to try, to do my best when it comes to eating clean and working out. In fact, this morning, as my arms shook during the final round of my workout… I did my very best to unite that minor suffering to the cross for some dear friends of mine who are battling serious health issues.

You see, to me, staying awake is quite simple. It means finding ways to glorify God no matter what we’re doing or how we’re feeling.

I even recently challenged my children to be strong and holy when they participate in sports. In other words, they can glorify God by leveraging the gifts He’s bestowed on them by playing with intensity and maximum effort.

And you and I can also glorify God as we respond to the various life situations we find ourselves in. All we need to do is stay awake.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Intentional Accountability: Mar 21 – 27

Accountability March 21Welcome to another edition of Intentional Accountability!

Mike and I wish each and every one of you the very best this Holy Week.  If possible, we’d encourage you to unite any physical sufferings you may experience while working out – or fasting – with the cross on behalf of those truly suffering sickness, sadness, loneliness, or any other challenge.

If you do any sort of work out (spiritual or physical) and would like to share it with others simply scroll down below the post and leave a comment.

You never know… your workout may be the motivation someone needs to improve their spiritual or physical fitness!

Need Help Getting Started?

Now, if you’re not sure how to get started?  No problem.  Download our free Intentional Wellness eBook by completing the form below this article.  Inside the eBook we share a 40 day workout plan anyone can use to get started.

Limber Up

Limber Up

Do you ever see a lion limber up before it takes down a gazelle?

Quick, name that movie…

Most of us agree that stretching and mobility work before or after workouts are simply inconvenient add-ons… and annoying add-ons at that!  But, as it turns out, this is a critical topic if we hope to be our best. So, in this article, I’d like to get into the issue of mobility and the benefits of focusing on it.

If you’ve begun the 40-Day Intentional Wellness Plan then you’ve likely noticed there are some traditional stretches sprinkled in with some positions that you may not have seen before (i.e. spiderman stretch).

Unfortunately, as your workout habits become ingrained, the act of warming up, mobilizing joints and muscles, and then cooling down after your workout soon become tedious. They quickly get watered down to a few arm waves, an occasional triceps stretch, and a quick leg shake to “loosen up,” and then it’s 3…2…1 go!

Asking for Trouble

Shamefully, I’ll admit this is the way that I’ve warmed up and still do occasionally, but we’re all setting ourselves up for injury, or at least a workout performance that has been drastically hindered by our own laziness.

Most of us skip this part because we don’t see the benefit. We don’t really care about what our knees and hips will feel like in 20 years because it’s not right in front of us. The truth is that if you begin to pay attention to mobility, it will increase your performance during workouts and enable you to function better in the daily grind… now!

Should I Stretch Cold or Warm?

hamstring stretchI’m sure you’re familiar with the age old question, “Should I stretch before I work out when I’m cold, or after I’m warm?” But, this is the wrong question. Usually these stretches are just talking about muscle lengthening, and we don’t consider the joint positions that the muscles are supporting nearly enough.

When we think of stretching before a work out, what usually comes to mind is standing up with our legs straight, and bending over at the waist to try to get a stretch on the hamstring muscle group.

The problem with this position is the hamstring muscles are being contracted in order to keep us standing and thus cannot truly be stretched. We’re placing pressure and tension on our lower backs and on structures around our hamstrings, but the muscles themselves are in a state of work so they aren’t receiving the desired benefit.

Another way to illustrate this is to look at your bicep when it is fully flexed. Your bicep is engaged, totally contracted, and thus can’t be stretched in this position. It’s easy to see that it would be futile to try to gain a stretch in a fully contracted state.

What may not be as obvious is the fact that when you’re in weight bearing (standing), your muscles are under tension, being contracted, and thus cannot gain all the benefit from stretching as they would if they were unloaded (not being used to hold your body upright).

A New Perspective

spidermanWith this new view on how our bodies can receive the most benefit from stretching and mobility, the outlook of our warm-ups needs to change to reflect joint position, neuromuscular control, and midline stabilization.

Our body is a complex system that has numerous components that affect each other, both when they’re working well and when they’re broken. I would suggest that most of us are broken… we’re driving on flat tires and we all think it’s normal.

Sure, you can still go places while the rubber shreds off and the rims get beat up, but just imagine how far we could go if there were air in our tires. We have broken systems and are inhibited in the positions that are needed to recruit the right musculature to perform functional movements effectively.

This results from various things like injury, but often comes from just sitting in a chair, hunched over all day. If we sit in a flexed position with a rounded back all day, then inevitably we’ll squat with a rounded back and pick up the 50 pound bag of dog food with a rounded back. Our daily performance and work output can improve dramatically when we get this piece of the puzzle right.

More to Come!

With this all said… the focus of our upcoming eBook will incorporate more instruction and focus on mobilization and mechanics in order to develop a solid foundation and help with our existing movement deficiencies.

Until then please continue with the stretching plan we’ve laid out in the Intentional Wellness eBook (that can be downloaded below this article).  These introductory stretches and mobility exercises will equip you with a solid foundation.

Intentional Mobility

Through a system of mobilization we can work to allow our bodies to express the strength that they actually possess instead of being inhibited by poor mechanics. It’s time to stop treating this part of our workout like an afterthought and focus on the details.

A lion may not limber up before it takes down a gazelle, but we can keep from moving like hippos by educating ourselves about mobility and making it an intentional part of our wellness plan.

Oh, by the way, the quote at the beginning of the article came from the cult classic Zombieland (which may or may not be your cup of tea… but it’s a classic quote used by those who hate to stretch)!

Ever Wonder Why You’re Always Hungry?

Always HungryLast week we explored one of the keys to losing, and keeping, weight off.  This key, as I shared, is to control the amount of insulin that’s released by the pancreas.

Today I want to introduce another powerful hormone that some claim to be even more critical to weight loss than insulin.  And this hormone is called leptin.

What is Leptin?

Leptin, sometimes called the “satiety hormone,” is produced by the body’s adipose (fat) cells.  It’s called the satiety hormone since its main job is to tell our brain (the hypothalamus to be precise) that we have enough energy (fat) and don’t need to eat.

So, in a perfect world, an overweight person would produce a lot of leptin which would then tell the brain to not eat and to burn off some energy lest we become fat.

Enter Leptin Resistance

Unfortunately, the world hasn’t been perfect since Adam took a bite out of that apple and brought something called leptin resistance in the world.  Don’t believe me?  Go read Genesis.  Leptin’s in there.

OK… I’m kidding.  It’s not in there but I suppose you could indirectly blame Adam.  I mean he brought sin into the world and sloth is a form of sin, right?  OK, let me get back on track.

The reason many overweight people constantly feel the urge to eat may be due to something called leptin resistance.

Basically, when someone is leptin resistant their brains no longer “see” leptin.  So, even though fat cells are producing all kinds of leptin… the brain thinks you’re starving and need to eat.

And, to make matters worse, since the brain thinks you’re starving, and may eventually run out of energy, it makes you feel lazy and sleepy in hopes of conserving energy.

So, you’re hungry and lack energy.  Not exactly a good formula for managing weight!  And, as it turns out, I know EXACTLY how this feels… it wasn’t so long ago that I’d want to nibble my kids fingers off late at night since I was so hungry (even though I’d eaten a full dinner a few hours earlier).

What Causes Leptin Resistance?

That’s what leptin resistance is.  But what causes it?  Well, as with any hormone, there isn’t just one thing that causes leptin resistance.  But, research has shown the following factors may contribute to leptin resistance.

How to Fix Leptin Resistance

So, those are some of the potential causes of leptin resistance.  Obviously, then, to fix leptin resistance we need to do the opposite!

In other words, we need to control insulin production, eat less sugar and simple carbs, throw the bread away (except the Eucharist!), eat more fish oil, get 8 hours of sleep, relax more, and repair our hormones before launching into the Intentional Wellness 40-day workout plan!

But, I’d also like to share, as food for thought, the approach I’ve personally used to get my weight under control.  Now, to be clear, I’m not 100% certain I struggled with full blown leptin resistance but I most definitely struggled with intense cravings and seemed to always be hungry (especially for things like salty chips and fast food)!

Again, as we’ve stated before, we’re not doctors and don’t even play them on TV… so be sure to consult with your doctor before making serious changes to your diet.

Breakfast

I now consume mostly good fats for breakfast in the form of grass-fed butter and organic heavy whipping cream in my coffee.  I also add MCT Oil which is another good fat (more to come on MCT oil in a later article).  I may even add a few egg yokes into the blender with the butter, cream, and MCT oil which may sound strange… but I promise you’ll love it if you give it a try.  You do need to blend it all up for optimal results.

Now, a few times a week, I may also eat some eggs and veggies for breakfast along with my coffee… but I try to never consume simple carbs first thing in the morning.

The idea behind eating good fat, first thing in the morning, is to promote satiety and get the body burning fat straight away.  Our bodies burn what we feed it.

Lunch

For lunch I typically eat protein and veggies.  Salads are the easiest choice.  But, again, I do my very best to not consume many, if any, complex carbs like potatoes for lunch.  And I have most definitely stopped eating all bread (except, of course, the Eucharist).

Dinner

Lastly, for dinner my amazing wife almost always prepares a healthy dinner. As as aside, my wife has been eating clean far longer than me and I owe so much to her for slowly, and patiently, working on me until I finally saw the light!

A typical dinner for us will be protein (chicken, beef, fish, etc.), veggies (broccoli, carrots, salad, etc.), and a complex carb like sweet potatoes or, every once in a while, regular white potatoes.  Oh, and we smother our veggies and sweet potatoes in grass-fed butter with a dash of sea salt!  Trust me… we enjoy our food!

The key is the complex carbs.  Eating complex carbs later in the day will satisfy you while also increasing the brain chemical serotonin which aids in getting better sleep.

Water

I should also say I drink water from morning till night.  In fact, besides two cups of coffee in the morning… I only drink water.  Now, once Exodus is over I’ll likely enjoy a beer or glass of wine every once in awhile… but water will always be my main beverage.

In Summary

So, if all of this makes your head hurt… and belly rumble since you’re hungry… I can boil the remedy to losing weight and repairing broken leptin systems down to three words – eat real food.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

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Intentional Accountability: Mar 14 – 20

AccountabilityWelcome to another edition of Intentional Accountability!

If you do any sort of work out (spiritual or physical) and would like to share it with others simply scroll down below the post and leave a comment.

You never know… your workout may be the motivation someone needs to improve their spiritual or physical fitness!

Need Help Getting Started?

Now, if you’re not sure how to get started feel free to check out what some of us did the last few weeks:

And, of course, you can download our free Intentional Wellness eBook by completing the form below this article.  Inside the eBook we share a 40 day workout plan anyone can use.

A Journey Towards Freedom

A Journey Towards FreedomThirty days ago four men huddled in a living room and discussed the various demands and challenges that Exodus would present over the next 90 days as we all agreed to begin the journey together. Where were we headed? The desert.

Three of my close friends and I decided to embark on the trek that Those Catholic Men developed call Exodus:

Exodus is based on a challenging 90-day period of purification, a dying to self, which is supported by a fraternity of like-minded men for greater interior freedom and, eventually, a more purified and selfless love.

We began our journey at the beginning of Lent so there was already a penitential aroma in the air, but this goes far beyond Lent and potentially much deeper.

The question that we all have, especially in today’s cultural climate, is “what’s in it for me?” We’re accustomed to getting the answer to this question rapidly and if the answer doesn’t satisfy us we simply swipe it away.

As such, I’d like to begin to unpack my answer to this question from the perspective of a married man with 5 beautiful children, one of whom has profound disabilities, a high stress job… and, oh yeah, a second job!

Clarity

If you’ve glanced at the various disciplines each Exodus group takes on during the 90 days, it may appear extreme, over the top, or down right unrealistic.

Each of us had varying degrees of doubt before we began… but we made the decision to commit to Exodus and to each other.  And, once we dove in, and the scales fell from our eyes, what we were most taken aback by was our initial fear, and disbelief, that we could in fact do this.

Here are a few of the parameters we’re following in case you missed it in Ron’s Exodus article.

  • Cold-lukewarm/short showers
  • No alcohol
  • No soda or sweetened drinks
  • No television or movies
  • Regular and intense exercise
  • 7 hours of sleep per night
  • Plus several more!

Over the past thirty days these disciplines have become a part of my daily life with the help of God and my brothers. By carving out the distractions that unknowingly consume our lives everyday such as our phones, TV, and sports I began to see and experience life again.

I realized how my former habits created this constant noise in my life… and I just accepted it as normal. It’s been like putting on glasses for the first time and being able to actually see.

From this new vision my encounters with Our Lord have become profound and frequent. I’ve always had a holy jealousy of those that have had a relationship, a great friendship, with Jesus. This was always a desire of mine, but it seemed so foreign and distant, or just simply unattainable. Through careful attention to the disciplines described above, I’ve begun to finally hear Him.

He’s spoken to me through Scripture and other holy sources and I’ve heard Him answer deep questions about current struggles and anxieties. I didn’t need a theology degree to hear Him or even much biblical literacy for Him to break through and offer His friendship to me, in written words and messages that I could clearly understand.

Brotherhood

Exodus is designed so that four men commit to the challenge together and thereby form a band of brothers… in other words battle buddies.

I would venture to say that most of us don’t have many close male friends with the common mission of encountering Christ. Divide and Conquer… it is a proven military tactic and the enemy continues to utilize it against Christian men.

Men tend to fall for the lie that we’re on our own and that we must provide for our families and climb the ladder of success in order to prove our value, and there’s no one there to help us. When embarking on the journey of Exodus with your team, you quickly realize how important friends are and it’s a component in our lives that’s often missing.

Through shared successes and failures, you begin to gain confidence in one another and achieve things that you didn’t think were possible. The competitive nature of men in this type of challenge helps to push you to continue on the path even when it’s difficult because you’re beholden to one another.

These friendships that develop between your battle buddies are of course a mere reflection of the grace and power that comes from a friendship with Christ.

Eucharistic Life

Before starting Exodus, I was like most: stressed to the max, chasing my tail, and never getting anywhere. By casting off the many distractions that plagued me and gaining the support and accountability of my team, I’ve found that I now have the energy needed to give of myself to my family and the desire to share the love of Christ with others.

This longing to offer my life to others is the life that we’re all called to. A Eucharistic life. I was always frustrated with myself because I knew that this is what my family needed, but I never felt like I could catch my breath long enough to give anything to them.

Now, life has seemingly slowed down, and I truly am able to enjoy the encounters with my kids and can listen to my wife and begin to appreciate who she is for our family. The journey has enabled me to put things in their proper order even though I still have the same amount of work and responsibility.

Even though we’re only 1/3 of the way through our journey, I can clearly see the profound impact that it’s had on my relationship with God, my family, and the outlook that I have on the gift of life.

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How to Lose Weight & Keep it Off

How to Lose Weight & Keep it OffIf you’re anything like I was not so long ago… you may have some weight you’d like to lose. The question is how.

Is it enough to run 3 miles every day? Perhaps the secret lies in the old calories in/calories out philosophy. You know… starve yourself a little and crank on that stair master. No pain, no gain, right?

Well, from my personal experience, and the experience of many others in the fitness industry (who weren’t educated in the ways of the Standard American Diet… aka the SAD Diet) I can safely say chronic cardio and counting calories isn’t the answer to long-term weight management.

Instead, if you want to get your weight under control, and more importantly keep it under control for the rest of your life, you must learn to control an extremely important hormone called insulin.

What is Insulin?

To understand how insulin works imagine you just sat down for a nice dinner at your favorite steak house and you’ve just eaten a piping hot baked potato with your steak dinner.

Shortly after dinner your digestive systems kicks into gear and converts the starch from the potato into a simple sugar called glucose.

Once glucose makes its appearance your blood sugar rises and insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, quickly arrives in order to get the glucose out of our bloodstream.

Insulin makes this happen by storing the glucose in your liver and muscles as glycogen. As an aside, this glycogen is the fuel we CrossFitters rely on to power us through that 15-minute AMRAP workout!

So, to review, we eat the potato, which is converted to glucose before insulin shuttles it off to our muscles and liver as glycogen.

What’s the Big Deal?

Sounds OK, right? So, what’s the big deal?

Well, if you’re eating clean, this potato isn’t likely going to cause an issue (even though a sweet potato may have been a slightly better choice due to a lower glycemic index). Sadly, though, the steak house saga continues.

You see, once dinner is over you decide to order a monster piece of chocolate cake that’s been smothered in hot caramel sauce. And let’s not forget that giant side of vanilla bean ice cream.

Well, once the cake and ice cream make its way into your body it’s also converted to glucose. The problem is… once your liver and muscles are full, and can’t accept any more glucose, the rest is stored as saturated fat. Not good.

The irony to this story is it wasn’t the fat from the steak that gets stored as fat… it’s the excess glucose (sugar) from that potato, cake, and ice cream that gets stored as fat!

Insulin Resistance

Now, sadly, the story is far from over… and it gets worse I’m afraid.

You see, whenever we eat too many carbs (or processed sugars) our pancreas reacts by pumping out more insulin. But, as we already learned, once our liver and muscles are full of glycogen they eventually become “resistant” to insulin.

In other words, while insulin is doing its best to move glucose, which can be toxic if it remains in our blood, into these cells… the liver and muscles have essentially “shut their doors” and aren’t allowing anything else in.

So, the glucose remains in the blood and the pancreas starts to pump even more insulin. This is bad since insulin, in excess, is also toxic.

Luckily, insulin is persistent and eventually finds a way to (usually) move that glucose into fat cells.

So, the good news is we don’t immediately die from glucose overdose… the bad news, however, is we get fatter as a result.

Now, in our example we’ve only discussed a potato, some cake, and ice cream… but, obviously, if you’re following the Standard American Diet, which calls for an incredible amount of grains and carbs, and feasting on processed food, fast food, and other sugar filled candy and snacks… insulin resistance is an extremely likely situation. In fact, a 2002 study showed 32% of all Americans were likely insulin resistant.

And, left unchecked, insulin resistance can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.

What Causes Insulin Resistance?

Now, as we learned earlier, once our cells are “full” of glycogen (which is almost all the time for overweight and sedentary people) they may become resistant to insulin.  And, as it turns out, this resistance only increases as the pancreas continues to pump out more insulin and causes the liver and muscle cells to “strengthen their doors” in order to keep the excess glucose out. In other words, the resistance gets even stronger.

Then, as if this isn’t bad enough… eventually – after working so hard – the pancreas can get “worn out” and essentially give up the fight and stop producing insulin which then leads to extremely serious health issues including diabetes.

And, while I’ve been pretty tough on carbs and sugars, and for good reason since research shows refined carbs are indeed associated with insulin resistance, there are other potential causes as well.

For example, studies have shown that visceral fat, aka beer bellies, around our organs may lead to insulin resistance. Put another way… while insulin resistance leads to us getting fat… being fat can also lead to insulin resistance!

Next, sedentary lifestyles, where exercise is something you watch others do, has also been shown to contribute to insulin resistance. So, lying on the couch with a bag of chips watching the game is likely hurting you far more than you know.

Finally, chronic inflammation as a result of too much omega-6 fat (and not enough omega-3 fat) coupled with an overly stressful lifestyle can contribute to insulin resistance.

Now, while this isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive treatise on the causes of insulin resistance it’s my hope it will help you better understand why you may be struggling with weight loss.

What to Do?

So, to wrap this article up I’d like to leave you with some good news! Namely many of us are in complete control of insulin resistance. And, no matter how bad things are, there are some specific steps you can take to regain control.

  1. Stop consuming processed sugar (fructose) on a regular basis (soda, candy bars, sweets, etc.). It’s OK to treat your self every once in awhile… but continuous consumption of processed sugar is very likely going to cause problems.
  2. Minimize your carbohydrate intake. Instead of eating bread, rice, and pasta throw some extra veggies on your plate and smother them in grass fed butter. And, don’t worry… the grass fed butter isn’t going to cause you issues!  Good fat, like grass-fed butter and avocados, don’t make you fat… processed sugar and carbs do!
  3. Bring your Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats into balance. Omega-3 fat is found in fresh water fish, flaxseed, and things like fish oil supplements. These are good. Omega-6 fat is found in things like processed vegetable oil, sunflower seeds, and most fast food. In a perfect world the ratio of these two types of fat would be 1:1. Unfortunately, today this ratio is closer to 15 (Omega-6) to 1 (Omega-3).
  4. Exercise. And I don’t mean you need to become an obsessed CrossFitter… although it’s sure worked for me! Instead, take a walk a few times a week. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park farther away and walk a bit further to the store. Just move. But, to be sure, more strenuous strength training is going to move the needle faster!
  5. Sleep. I didn’t mention it earlier… but lack of sleep has also been shown to contribute to insulin resistance. So, do your very best to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.

Now, if these 5 action items aren’t enough… here are a few more. But, if you take my advice (after consulting with your doctor of course) and clean up your diet, exercise, and get more sleep I feel extremely confident you’ll experience weight loss like never before.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

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Intentional Accountability: March 7 – 13

Intentional AccountabilityWelcome to another edition of Intentional Accountability!  Participation fell off a bit last week but I’m confident we’ll get it cranked back up this week.

Anyhow, you know the drill!  If you do any sort of work out (spiritual or physical) and would like to share it with others simply scroll down below the post and leave a comment.

You never know… your workout may be the motivation someone needs to improve their spiritual or physical fitness!

Need Help Getting Started?

Now, if you’re not sure how to get started feel free to check out what some of us did the last few weeks:

And, of course, you can download our free Intentional Wellness eBook by completing the form below this article.  Inside the eBook we share a 40 day workout plan anyone can use.