Decision Point

decision-point-1

Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time at a US Military base for our annual week of SWAT training. It was a unique chance to get a glimpse into the life of a soldier. We got to eat what they eat and sleep where they sleep.

Certainly this experience heightened my esteem for the men and women who sacrifice their lives to serve our country in this capacity. Taken from the multitude of lessons I learned during the week away from my family, I wanted to communicate a truth I bumped into in the mess hall (I’m sure there is an acronym for this that I’m forgetting) of all places which might help you on your wellness journey.

Each morning a group of us SWAT guys would saunter down to the mess hall, or a cafeteria as it would be best described, in order to share a meal with the US soldier. The parking lots and sidewalks were littered with various units conducting PT (physical training) in the early morning hours while we were still shaking the sleep from our weary eyes and feigning for a cup of coffee.

I didn’t know what to expect at these meals as my expectations had been molded by TV shows and movies. I anticipated stepping into line to receive my portion of a slop like porridge. I also expected to sit down to eat elbow to elbow amongst the billowing voices of Drill Sergeants with their regular cadence of disparaging remarks for their young soldiers to correct this or that broken custom.

To my surprise, these stereotypes disappeared as I entered the newly built structure and met those serving the food who were all pleasant and happy to help for the most part. The next surprise was seeing the plethora of food choices that were offered to the soldier. Each morning there were omelets being cooked to order, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, oatmeal, fruit, cereal, toast….you name it, they had it.

While making my way through the line, like a kid in a candy store, I noticed several small signs near the food choices. The food signs divided the food into three easy to understand categories; high performer, moderate performer or low performer. Each sign indicated how the food decision that you were standing in front of fit into one of these three categories. The boiled eggs and omelets were categorized as high performance while oatmeal and other grains were classified as moderate, and foods like pastries were labeled low performance.

What an easy and effective way to look at nutrition choices as we move through the food line of life. Instead of pushing our tray down the line of a cafeteria, we usually find ourselves traversing our cars down the main street near our work or home and seeing the various restaurant signs that we can choose from. For us, we can begin imagining that these billboards display in big neon lettering: high, moderate or low performance food. It is a simple way to understand that nutrition choices abound before us and just because we are on this new wellness journey doesn’t make those choices go away, but rather helps us to realize that each time we eat there is a decision to be made.

Are you in control of what you consume or is what you consume in control of you?

Looking at food with the view of performance categories is also a good way to look ahead at how these decisions will affect your day in the ways that you handle stress, interact with others, or overcome fatigue. The Intentional Encounter Wellness plan helps to teach you ways in which these foods are categorized to be sure we aren’t mistaking a low performance food for a high one and vice versa.

We try to simplify the high performance foods as follows: “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” (CrossFit Journal, September 2002, “The Garage Gym”).

Making decisions between high, moderate and low performance food choices is a great training ground for your will. It provides practice opportunities in making a habit in choosing the good. This lesson in deciding between foods that result in high or low performance easily translates into the opportunities we choose as disciples’ of Christ.

I would suggest that daily prayer in which we are actively seeking an encounter with Christ or visiting someone who is suffering are high performance activities for a disciple, while perhaps the rote recitation of the rosary where your fingers are sliding across the beads but your heart is a 100 miles away would be considered a moderate decision as a disciple. Those low performance choices are when we ignore the prick of our conscience to help someone or decide to swipe away at our phone any time that there is a moment of silence which chokes out the voice of Our Lord.

So, I challenge you to be a high performer today with each decision that comes your way.

A Battle Plan for Purity

By Ron Pereira5-step-purity-battle-planI was fortunate enough to speak to a room full of middle school and high school young men this past Saturday night at our parish’s “Lock in for Life.”  My talk focused on the topic of how to become strong, holy, men before transitioning into the topic of purity.

During the opening aspect of my talk I tapped into my inner Gladiator and showed a clip of the movie Gladiator where Maximus implores his men before the final Battle of Germania to hold the linestay with me!  We talked about how important holding the line, and sticking together, is on the battlefield.

I then explained how our primary leader, Jesus Christ, also challenges us to hold the line… and to stay with Him.  When we fall off the line, and attempt to win the battle on our own, we will be destroyed since, one our own, we’re no match for the devil.  But, when we hold the line, and stay with Jesus, our victory is certain.

We then explored 3 characteristics of strong, holy, men.

  1. Strong, holy, men are sacrificial.  They willingly carry their crosses and put others before themselves.
  2. Strong, holy, men are courageous.  They’re not afraid to be ridiculed and to stand up for what’s right and pure even when they’re outnumbered by the “world.”
  3. Strong, holy, men are temperate.  They know how to control their passions in all areas of their life.

Then, towards the end of the section on how to live pure, holy, lives I shared a 5-step battle plan any of us – men and boys alike – can leverage.

  1. Memorize Psalm 84:1 (or verse 2 in some Bibles) and recite it in your mind, or out loud, every time you see an attractive young lady or woman: “How lovely is thy dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
  2. Frequent the Sacraments and never, ever, miss Sunday Mass and Holy Days of Obligation. Immediately go to confession if you fall into sin and don’t despair.  The evil one wants us to despair when we fall.  Instead of despairing we must get up and seek immediate forgiveness with contrite hearts.
  3. Pray for your future spouse and always leave the door open to the Priesthood.  If you’re already married pray for your spouse.
  4. Get 3 battle buddies and hold each other accountable to growing stronger physically and spiritually.  Or, even better, start an Exodus group.
  5. Practice asceticism and suffer well. One example, take a cold shower every Wednesday and Friday and unite that minor suffering to the cross for your family, friends, and your future spouse if you’re not already married.

I placed extra emphasis on number 5 and really challenged these young men to at least finish the end of their showers on Wednesday and Friday with cold water while they pray for their future spouses (which could also be the church)!

I’d also encourage you to give this cold shower challenge a shot.  If you want to work up to it just turn the water cold at the end of your shower – James Bond style – and and recite 1 Hail Mary.  Then work up to 10 Hail Mary’s.  Once you get to 10 you’re definitely ready for 100% cold water showers!

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

Lessons Learned in the Mud

tough-mudder-lessonsMy work colleague, Steve, recently completed his first Tough Mudder challenge and shared his thoughts on what he learned from the experience over on my company’s blog.

My company is called Gemba Academy and we produce training videos in the “continuous improvement” space.  Specifically, we specialize in the fields of “lean thinking” and “six sigma.”  Now, the “lean” we teach isn’t focused on getting skinny or in shape… instead, we help companies streamline their processes so they can be more profitable and successful.

So, Steve ties what he learned from the Tough Mudder back to lean thinking concepts… but you can easily apply the concepts to our daily lives… most especially our spiritual lives.

You can read the whole article over on my company’s blog by clicking here.

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

Fuel Your Workouts With White Rice

crossfit-white-riceFor the last few months I’ve been experimenting with what I’m eating. Specifically, I’ve slowly introduced more starchy carbs back into my diet in order to (hopefully) better fuel my workouts.

When I first started to eat clean the only carbs I ate were fresh veggies and, once in awhile, sweet potatoes. This definitely helped me lose weight and I’m so glad I approached it the way I did. So, if you still need to shed some pounds I definitely suggest limiting the starchy carbs you eat. And, obviously, you need to stop eating sugar… especially sugary drinks.

But, if you’re at the point where you’re happy with your weight and body composition – and you’re strenuously working out 4 to 6 days per week – you may want to experiment by adding more starchy carbs back into your diet.

Personally, I’m trying to eat a cup or two of white rice a few times per week. And I still eat the daylights out of sweet potatoes and white potatoes. To be sure, I still avoid processed sugar and primarily eat grass fed meat and fresh veggies.

Since making this change I’ve felt stronger during my workouts, which I attribute to having more glycogen in my muscles from the additional carbs. And I’m not gaining weight and my core continues to get stronger and leaner.

Now, some folks recommend eating brown rice instead of white rice since it’s technically a bit more nutritious. Unfortunately brown rice contains something called phytic acid which can cause gastrointestinal distress and nutrient mal-absorption. This phytic acid is found in the bran of the grain that gets removed during the processing white rice goes through. So, this is one time a processed food may be better for athletes to consume assuming they’re eating the rice for the glycogen.

With all this said, everyone’s body is different so if you do plan on introducing something like white rice back into your diet please do so slowly and intentionally.  You may even want to keep a log of what you’re eating and how it makes you feel during workouts. And, obviously, you’ll want to monitor your weight and body composition to make sure the needle isn’t going the wrong way.

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

An Anecdote for Fear

anecdote-2

Recently I encountered a priest who asked me if I was familiar with the Litany of St. Joseph. I responded that I was and he smiled and went on to call attention to one of the titles that St. Joseph has been called; the “terror of demons”. I’ve always loved this title of St. Joseph, because well it is just bad a@*. The priest, who was very elderly and I could barely understand, unpacked this title for me and said that he was called that because of his faithfulness and the interior peace that shined forth from him in his home in Nazareth. He then projected these characteristics of St. Joseph on to me and implored me to be the terror of demons when I stepped foot into my own home.

This was a profound moment for me, an encounter with an old sage who drew something out of me that I didn’t see in myself. It also allowed me to reflect a bit on the life of St. Joseph and what he really was like in the perilous and dangerous circumstances he faced in raising Jesus, the savior of the world.

Who was St. Joseph?

He lived in a culture much like you and I live in, which is filled with a propensity to despair, a sort of love affair with fear and anxiety. He was surrounded by a pagan culture which clung to power, riches and pleasure because it had lost sight of the human person’s inherent dignity, and that there was a God who is good. This incessant thirst for self-propagation was fueled by a mantra of maximizing pleasure while avoiding suffering at all costs. There was a loss of knowing the answers to some of life’s most important questions: who we are, why we are here and where we are going. One who does not know the answers to these questions can find themselves quickly rolling downhill with increasing momentum, landing in a pile of despair. Sound familiar?

Our culture struggles with many of the same basic issues and I have found myself running down the same hill of fear and anxiety like everyone else. With the seemingly obvious way in which the world is spinning out of control it has been easy for me to slip into a state of fear of the unknown or apparent suffering that is headed our way. From the rapid increased threat of terrorism and a “holy war” declared by extreme Muslims to the unknown future of our country, things all around us look bleak. Throw in all of the stress of raising 5 children, money problems, and a job where I must be on constant alert for ambush attacks because police officers have somehow become the “bad guys”, there are many ingredients for a recipe of despair.

It has been helpful in a world filled with chaos to look to the life of St. Joseph and see a man who was righteous even though he was thrust into circumstances that were much tougher than any of mine. He was called to protect the dignity of his wife in a situation where the culture simply wouldn’t understand and would pressure him to toss that relationship he had with Mary away. His family was hunted by a blood thirsty jealous king and had to flee with his family to the country of Egypt where Israelites weren’t exactly a favored group. He also must have dealt with great pressure in raising Jesus, seeing as his son learned the trade of carpentry from him instead of being sent off to a famous Rabbi to be brought up in the faith and mentored.

What is the Anecdote?

St. Joseph is called the terror of demons because of his faithfulness and interior peace. He would have been steeped in the Old Testament and fully aware of the Theo-drama that his people had taken part in throughout the centuries. When the world around St. Joseph appeared to be turning upside down he would have recalled what God said in Isaiah 8:12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people call conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread”.

In other words, the world will be anxious and frightened by many things: losing wealth or health, friends moving away, political turmoil….you name it, they fear it. God tells us that they fear these things because they don’t know Him, they haven’t encountered Him. So, St. Joseph in a particular way would have the insight of the Jewish story, but also a front row seat of how the story is fulfilled in his very own home, with him leading the family that changed the world.

“In the world, you shall have distress” (John 16:33).

Living in a time of great trial, St. Joseph would have been fully aware that Jesus, his beloved son, was not like a lucky rabbit’s foot that would magically make trouble disappear, but rather he could see and trust that he didn’t need to be overwhelmed by that which threatens to make others afraid.

This peace, joy and faithfulness that is exemplified in the life of St. Joseph indeed causes the demons to tremble because his interior strength is impenetrable, and flows from the encounter he had with Jesus. How do you overcome fear in these tumultuous times? Who brings you peace? Are you the terror of demons when you step foot into your home?

St. Joseph, pray for us!

Growing in Holiness Through Sports Pain

growing-in-holiness-through-sports-painBy the end of the regular season the Texas Rangers, my favorite Major League Baseball team, had the best record in the American League earning them home field advance throughout the playoffs. Good stuff!

And since the American League won the All Star game this year the Rangers would also enjoy home field advantage during the World Series. Really good stuff!

The Rangers also have two of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball – Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. Add in postseason veterans like Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran and, man, things looked great for the Rangers chance to make some serious noise this October!

Well, as you may already know, the Rangers flopped in a major way. In fact, they were swept by the Toronto Blue Jays in 3 straight games.

Boom. Season over.

My Sports Addiction

Now, as I’ve written about before, I’ve struggled with an unhealthy sports addiction in the past and this was most definitely something I focused on during the 90-day Exodus purification process I went through.

In fact this was the first baseball postseason I’ve experienced post Exodus so I was curious to see how I handled it. Now, I did watch the games but it was different this year. Sure I was disappointed to see the Rangers get smoked… but it didn’t destroy me like it would have in the past.

I even found myself counseling some of my die-hard Rangers friends who were overly worked up about the situation. I couldn’t help but see my old self in their anger, frustration, and, at times, despair.

Obviously, there are FAR bigger issues in this world than your sports team losing. Take the train wreck of a Presidential election we’re forced to deal with as just one example.

But I don’t think you have to give sports watching up altogether. In fact, I’d argue being a fan of sports is great way to grow in holiness… allow me to explain.

Loyalty

First, being a sports fan can help you practice the concept of loyalty. Do you stick with your team through thick and thin no matter what or do you jump on and off the so-called “bandwagon” based on the team’s performance?

Being a loyal person is obviously important in many areas of life most especially being loyal and true to our Catholic faith. You see, it’s really easy to be a bandwagon Catholic… sometimes referred to as Cafeteria Catholicism where you take a little of what you like and avoid everything you don’t like. This isn’t the way to sainthood or heaven!

Instead, we need to be loyal to all the precepts of our faith no matter the situation and I contend being loyal to our favorite sports teams is an easy way to practice.

Patience

Next, patience is one of the 7 Contrary/Heavenly Virtues. Specifically, patience can help us to counter the deadly sin of anger.

The city of Boston waited 86 years to see their Red Sox win the 2004 World Series. That took a lot of patience!

Likewise, the Texas Rangers have never won the World Series! So, yes, being a Rangers fan is most definitely affording many people the opportunity to practice patience.

Obviously, no one likes to practice patience… getting angry is so much easier… but, again, anger only leads to sin and spiritual death while patience is the way to virtue.

So, my fellow Rangers fan, please stay loyal and have patience. Our time will come!

Temperance

Finally, the Cardinal Virtue of temperance is typically thought of in contrast to the deadly sin of gluttony and can best be described as “moderation” or “practicing self-control.”

The temperate person masters his or her ability to not over indulge when it comes to pleasures of the world such as food, drink, and entertainment.

And, let’s face it, for most of us, watching sports is nothing more than a form of entertainment. So, if you don’t place your love of sports in the proper perspective you can very easily over indulge in them leading to sinful behavior.

So, yes, I believe being a fan of sports is a fine way to practice loyalty, patience, and temperance. Do you agree?

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

Unexpected Lessons

dominic-cover-1

Today I want to introduce you to my fourth child, Dominic, aka baby Saint Dominic. For him, eating clean is a breeze. He never falls to temptation of ice cream or cake and never polishes off a sleeve of Oreos in one sitting. But again, he’s a saint, so it’s not really a fair comparison. Let me explain. Dominic was born with a very rare genetic condition called Genitopatellar Syndrome that affects almost all of his body systems. When he was born the first sight that flooded my mind was a limp, blue, skinny baby. The room flooded with nurses and doctors, lights were switched on and a flurry of confusion and action had overtaken the room. You see, he did not breathe and only took his first breath through the ambu bag the midwife was using to resuscitate him.

Later in the NICU, where he would live for the next 5 weeks, my wife and I were told to bring him home and let him die there, with dignity. But how could we? This was our child! So we fought and chose interventions to keep him alive. And eventually he was breathing on his own with only a little oxygen for good measure. But there was something else we noticed. He couldn’t eat. I would try to feed him a bottle with the watchful nurse standing near and he didn’t know what to do. He would bite it, clamp down, but never suck like the other kids did. We discovered he needed a g-button to eat, which is a hole in the abdomen that allows the food to be pumped directly into his stomach. We consented, and he came home a few weeks afterwards (for only 1 week before another 3 month stay where he would get his trach and ventilator, but that’s another story for different time).

As Dominic grew and he began needing more than just what my wife’s expressed breast milk could provide, we started looking into options. We learned quickly that most kids who are fed by a G-button are given a liquid-only diet which consist of standard formulas like PediaSure or other pharmaceutical formulas. While these products are easier for medical professionals to calculate caloric intake, Macro and Micro nutrient consumption and the like, it didn’t sit well for my wife and me to settle for feeding our child formula for the rest of his life.

Perhaps it was because it was the only thing in his precious life that we had control over, but we decided that we could provide Dominic with real food through his G-button once we blended it enough to be squeezed through a syringe into the tube. While getting the blend consistency just right has resulted in numerous green and purple explosions all over our laps and furniture over the years, I am a firm believer that the clean diet that my wife has chosen for Dominic is greatly responsible for his growth and relative infrequent disease contraction.

Since Dominic’s birth, my wife has made it her mission to show the world the dignity that inherently lies in people like Dominic. She has documented our journey more eloquently than I could ever in her blog http://blessedbyd.blogspot.com/. Once a month she and my mother in law throw down better than Bobby Flay in our kitchen in order to whip up a healthy balanced diet that is perfectly mixed with protein and carbs from veggies and good sources of fat like avocados. This labor of love used to take 6-8 hours but now they’ve got it down to 4. It provides the super nutrition for Dominic to thrive and do things that no one expected him to ever do.

d-walking

While this may be a touching story to most, you might be wondering what it has to do with you, the IE man? Should I get a g-button to stay on our clean diet? Although it would be a cool party trick, the real lesson that we can take from Dominic is that we are all made with an innate dignity. We are all broken in varying degrees, but it is important to realize that our bodies are a gift from God.

When we get this right, then we can begin to see how we can honor Him by taking care of this gift by eating real food and gaining the discipline necessary to make good nutrition choices which can help lead us to true freedom. Unless we are born like Dominic, incapable of sin, then we are affected by concupiscence and morally walk with a limp. We are therefore thrust into a battle for heaven in this life and must pick up our Cross daily with the help of God to win our freedom back. If you look closely enough, you will find a lesson that applies to each of us in this unexpected place…a boy named Dominic, and get a glimpse into the inherent dignity that each of us has been given.

Be Strong. Be Holy.

How to Set Goals You Will Achieve

Goals. We’ve all had them and, most likely, currently have a goal or two we’re currently striving towards. Make no mistake… goals are good. They give us something to shoot for.

Unfortunately, the way most of us go about setting goals isn’t all that effective. So, what I’d like to share with you today is a 5-step process for setting rock solid goals we WILL achieve. In the business, and continuous improvement, world we call these SMART Goals.

SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. Let’s look at each one in turn.

First, goals must be specific and not general is scope. For example, a general goal might be, “I want to lose weight” or “I want to try to go to daily Mass more often.” Again, these goals aren’t “bad” but they are far too vague. So, better, more specific, goals would be, “I want to lose 15 pounds” and “I want to attend daily Mass on Tuesday and Friday.”

Next, a SMART goal must be measurable. In other words, we must be able to see and measure success in a qualitative manner. We’re in good shape, no pun intended, with our “lose 15 pounds” target since we can weigh in each week assuming we have a scale. And we can also keep track of whether we make it to Mass on Tuesday and Friday each week.

SMART goals must also be attainable meaning we must be excited about our ability to achieve them. For example, if your work schedule simply doesn’t allow you to attend Mass every day of the week don’t make that a goal! You’re not going to succeed. Likewise, instead of attempting to “boil the ocean” with an ultra aggressive weight loss goal (i.e. I want to lose 65 pounds) start with something you know you can achieve such as the 15 pound goal mentioned earlier.

The R in SMART stands for relevant which means we should focus on what’s important. I’d even take this further and encourage you to ask yourself if this goal is going to make you a better follower of Christ and person. And, no, getting that new BMW X5 probably won’t make you a better follower of Christ or person.

Finally, goals must be time bound. In other words, we must state when we hope to reach the goal or target in question. This is extremely important as it creates a sense of urgency and commitment. So, we might say, “I want to lose 15 pounds by December 15” or “I want to attend daily Mass every Tuesday and Friday starting this week.”

Lastly, another concept to keep in mind as it relates to time bound goals is something called the Parkinson’s Syndrome which basically states that if you give someone a deadline of next Friday they’ll typically finish the task next Friday… however, if you give this same person the same task with a deadline of next Wednesday they’ll typically find a way of getting the job done on Wednesday.  So, while I’m not recommending you simply shorten deadlines… I am saying that time bound targets can be powerful motivators!

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