This blog recounts my fitness journey into the sport of triathlon and the gifts God has blessed me with while on it! May the movements of my life boldly proclaim that the sparks we encounter in scripture will kindle hope in our lives!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Red Dress Moment

So, back to the awesome birthday gift from God! It was a series of moments over several days really. A powerful ministering of the Holy Spirit to my heart. I've done my best to refrain from editing the events. Some of it is very raw and is painful for me to re-read, but most of it is breathtakingly beautiful and made more so, I think, for the contrast between the beauty and the pain. 

He is FAITHFUL!

Here you go...


My Red Dress Moment

My mom was giving me a ticket to Riverdance for my birthday. On my birthday, I’d turn 37. I would be going to Riverdance with my youngest sisters. Jolene is 27, Julianna is 20, and Victoria is 18.

There was a lot going on inside me before she told me this. I had begun to allow myself to be angry with my husband over how he treated me during our marriage. I’d recognized how I would use different activities, t.v., food, books, to escape facing the anger and hurt that resulted from our relationship and how it affects my life right now. I’d been grappling with my body image and how I’d lost more than 55 lbs since his death, but looking in the mirror and not being happy with that, and still just seeing the fat me. I was wrestling with God about my finances, again, and what it looks like to trust Him for this present moment without worrying or growing anxious about the future. I’d been on the edge of tears for about 2 months and had just begun to be aware of how deeply I was engaging my body through my training and how cleansing that was to my spirit. So much emotion was just under the surface and my body was willingly letting go of so much “stuff”.

The gift of tickets to a beautiful event should have been a wonderful spirit lifter – but it wasn’t. I found myself irritated by the whole idea.

To start, I no longer had any dressy clothes that fit. I knew my sisters would be going all out for the evening. I didn’t know that I could justify purchasing something to wear that, in all likelihood, would only be worn once, because I wouldn’t be the size I was for too much longer and wouldn’t get another chance to wear it. I was still paying for some clothes that I could no longer wear! On top of that, I had one week to shop. Then I’d have to stress about even finding something. The school year was wrapping up and we had a million end-of-the-year activities. I didn’t have a lot of spare time to shop for a dress! In addition, my sister Jolene keeps asking me if anyone’s asked me out yet. I was concerned that an evening could get messy in the “men department”!

Sure enough, my sister called me. “You know,” she said, “we’re planning on going glamorous for this. I’ve got my scandalous shoes and a great dress. You are planning to dress up right?” ….Right. “I don’t know, Jo.” I explained to her about the state of my wardrobe and not wanting to spend the money right now. I could tell she was disappointed.

A couple of days ticked by and I was becoming cranky about it. I found I had some free time and a coupon for $10 at JC Penney. “Fine,” I thought, I need a new belt anyway. It won’t hurt to look.” But it did hurt. It was physically painful. My entire body tensed up as I walked into the dress department. I tried to concentrate on relaxing.

There was quite a rack of clearance dresses and I went ahead and checked in my current size. There was a beautiful red dress and I pulled it off the rack. I was thinking, “I LOVE red and it is a good color for me.” And then, “Whatever, that would be a miracle for it to actually fit!”  I grabbed about 7 other dresses, some clearance and some not, figuring I could at least tell Jo I had made a valiant effort to find one. I headed for the dressing room.

I tried on the first several dresses and wasn’t thrilled. I tried a black one, and it was o.k., but the price tag was $80 and I just didn’t know that I could do that. I had saved the red one for last. I was able to admit to myself that I really wanted it to work. It sure was pretty and feminine, and red! It had this funky zipper on the side and I couldn’t quite get it all the way up, but, I knew it would work. It fit! Then I looked in the mirror and I felt my smile disappear.

“Who do you think you are?” a voice whispered. “If you wear that dress you’ll be ridiculous. You’re not shapely enough or pretty enough to wear it and certainly not feminine enough.” I tried to ignore the voice and I checked the price tag - $34.95. Reasonable. I really wanted the dress. I wanted it to be a dress I could wear. “The cost won’t matter if you look ridiculous,” said the voice. I got dressed and got ready to leave the changing room, I looked at the dress one more time. The voice won. I just couldn’t do it. I left the store and called my sister.

I explained to her that I spent an hour trying on dresses that just wouldn’t work and I really couldn’t justify the expense. I told her about the red dress and how I just wouldn’t be confident enough to wear it. I told her what I planned to wear and that I might not look like I belonged with them, but I didn’t intend to ruin their fun. She told me she knew I’d be fine in whatever I wore, but that she was going to pray for me. She was going to pray that I would see myself as the sexy, desirable woman that God made me to be and that I would embrace that. “Whatever,” I thought, “not real high on God’s priority list, I’m sure. Besides, that’s not the issue here.” I finished the rest of my errands and headed home.

Well, the next day was bad….really bad. I finally called my closest friend mid-afternoon.

“I don’t know what is wrong with me. I’m so crabby. No matter what I’m doing, I’m crabby, and this whole dress thing just makes me so angry.” Charis knew about the whole dress thing.

“Jesaca, I’ve seen the outfit you’re going to wear. You’ll look great! Don’t worry about it. Your sister’s will have to be o.k. with it. Don’t let it get to you.”

It took me a few minutes of talking it through again to really put into words what was bothering me. I explained about the red dress and that I really wanted to wear a dress, but I just didn’t feel like I could. Who did I think I was?

“I thought you just didn’t want to buy a dress or stress about looking for one. I thought you were concerned about how the evening would go with your sisters. Where in the world is this coming from?” she asked. “This seems to be a recurring theme lately. Remember you said that about swimming in the lane?” I had. I felt that way about swimming in the lane at the pool. I felt like people would frown at me because I didn’t belong there. “When was the last time you got dressed up and did a grand event like this?” she asked.

I had to think really hard for a moment. “I don’t remember. It would have had to have been before my husband died. It would have been with him.”

“What was that like?” Charis asked gently.

I had this sudden vision that she had opened a set of double doors and was coaxing me to look into a tightly packed closet that held my life with him. All of this emotion rushed at me, so many memories all jumbled down around me together, none of them pleasant.

“Well,” there was just so much, it took me a minute to get started.

I did the best I could to prepare for any event with my husband. He usually didn’t want me shopping for anything new, but he’d chide me about not having figured out something sooner so that I could have shopped-but whenever I tried to do that, he wouldn’t let me shop or he’d find something he didn’t like about anything I found when I did shop. He’d typically comment about why didn’t I have something that was right to wear, or that the shoes weren’t quite right, and why didn’t I do something with my hair-when I thought I had! I remembered a discussion that we’d had not long before his death. He asked me why I didn’t take better care of myself, like my sister. I felt so helpless when he said that. I knew what my sister spent in time and money to “take care” of herself. He said she always managed to look so put together and why couldn’t I be more like her. He would make me grovel to get a haircut or a new bra, forget about hair color or clothes or shoes! He was very honest that he thought I had a big nose, but said it suited me. He told me I wasn’t feminine or sexy, but that he was o.k. with that. The only times he ever said I looked beautiful were when he was in front of more people than just me and it was humiliating because I knew he didn’t mean it and I figured they knew too.

I stumbled through explaining all of that to Charis and then one more thought crashed into the others.

“The whole time we were out somewhere he would be saying, ‘Who do they think they are, anyway? Who do they think they are?’ He’d be all charming to everyone, but would say that to me the whole time. Then after we left I’d hear all about how he couldn’t stand how someone spoke or what they talked about or what they wore. He’d talk about how he had been treated poorly or how two-faced people were. I would be on edge the entire time we were out, waiting for something anyone would do or say that would set him off and create a scene. I’d worry about what I was doing or saying that would make him come down on me after we got home.” I was a little bit weepy and a lot angry by the time I got it all out.

“It wasn’t very fun, was it? Jesaca,” Charis said, “he can’t tell you that anymore.”

“No,” I declared rather violently, “No, he doesn’t get to tell me that anymore. He chose, he chose and he doesn’t get a say in my life anymore.”

“Well, I’m glad we flushed that out!” said Charis. “You are a daughter of the King – remember that!” What a relief!

Charis helped me think about how to prepare for the next time I hear his voice and how I can cut it off before it tries to interfere with my life now.

It was Thursday and Riverdance was Saturday night. By the end of the day, I determined to go back to JC Penney.

Friday morning I loaded the girls up and off we went. I was going to buy a dress and it didn’t matter how much it cost! All the way there I was trying to prepare my heart to accept that the red dress would probably be gone. That’s o.k. the black one would work and there were several of those.

I dragged the girls behind me through the store as fast as I could go!

There was the clearance rack. I checked my size. It wasn’t there. The red dress was gone. Well, of course it was gone, I really couldn’t wear it-there it was again-that voice! Stop it. Darn it! You don’t get to tell me anymore!!! I found the black one again and the girls were lending their own suggestions. I gave one last glance over the clearance. Nope, no red dress. “Well, maybe I should just check this larger size,” and I began to move another dress along the rack. As I moved the dress aside, there it was, the red dress. Really? I giggled. Of course. I checked the tag, but I already knew it was the only one and it was my size. As I pulled it off the rack I could hear the girls ooooing and aahhing and in the stillness of my heart God’s love washed over me with “I knew you’d be back. It’s time. I kept it hidden just for you.” I knew I had an incredible smile on my face.

I grabbed a wrap off of the clearance rack and raced the girls and the dresses over to the dressing room. This time I tried the red one first. Abigail helped me with the zipper. The girls loved it. I looked in the mirror and I heard it again! “Who do you think you are?” I thrust my chin into the air. God answered for me this time. “You are My Beloved.” My heart leaped as my spirit agreed. “Yes!” I declared, “I am beloved and redeemed. A ransomed daughter of the Most High God! And He chose this dress just for me!” All the way to the cash register I continued to burst with awe for His love for me. At the checkout the clerk exclaimed over the dress. It WAS really beautiful. My girls were beaming. “My mom’s going to wear that dress,” offered Lydia. “She looks beautiful!” The gal rang it up. “Well,” she said, “look at that, it’s only $20! You’re getting a great deal!” Of course I am. My God is awesome that way and He wanted me to have that dress and know that He was giving it to me!

I got the girls in the car and stepped outside to call a friend. “The dress was still there! I bought the dress. It was waiting for me!” I cried as the tears trickled down my cheeks. I would only have to wait one day to wear it.

When my sister showed up on Friday night she let me have it. “You liar! You did too buy the dress!” I shared the story of the dress and all I had discovered in the last days. We laughed and cried together. “I prayed for you!”, Jo reminded me. “I prayed for you!”

On Saturday evening, my sister did my hair. I’ve never had an up-do before! I did my makeup and my mom showed up to watch the girls while we went out. It was time to put on the dress! Mom helped me zip it up and I tied the shiny red bow sash. I headed for the mirror and was astonished at the woman who looked back at me. She was beautiful, graceful, elegant. It was me as I’ve never seen myself before.

Mom snapped some pictures and we headed out. The gift of the dress was more than enough to minister to my needy heart, but God is determined to minister to us exceedingly, abundantly beyond what we can imagine.

From the moment we left the car for the State Theater I was swept up in His passionate love for me. Waiting outside, then in line and while visiting before the performance He reminded me repeatedly, “Remember who you are. This is who you are. I am always with you. You are mine.” At one point during the performance I realized how relaxed I was, how much I was enjoying the evening. There was a smile on my face and I was caught up in the breathtaking beauty of the dance. “My darling…” I heard, “this is what I have for you. Accept it. Embrace it. The freedom I offer. The beauty – the life. You are no longer in bondage, desolate. Remember this taste of the fullness of my love for you. I made you exactly who you are and you are lovely!”  Tears rolled down my cheeks as He poured out His love on me in that moment. There was no anxiety, no fear about what would happen after the performance. I breathed it in. What a joyous evening it was!

That gorgeous red dress is still hanging on my closet door where I can look at it all I want. I look at it and remember that night and I remind myself that it wasn’t just one night. I will forget, and in His mercy and grace He will remind me again. Those promises, those words of love are for right now, for this moment and for the moment after this, and for the future. The truth that is restoring me has a root that is moving deeper and deeper within my soul and I know who I am.

I am His.

 Ready for Riverdance....and beauty!

Cannon Falls Du

But before I get to that incredible birthday gift from God, I have to tell you about my first duathlon experience!

I had already done a 5k in April. I came in about 10 minutes faster than my original 5k time the previous July!

I was excited about the Duathlon the first weekend in May. I knew that I was as ready as I could be. Here's my journal entry about that day....

Charis and I setting up our transition areas.


As I fell asleep on Friday night I remember thinking, “God has this all under control. No matter what happens tomorrow, I'll have done what He asked me to do and I need to rest in that!” After 3 nights of not sleeping well at all, I finally slept a solid 7 hours before the duathlon. I woke up thanking God that after all I've been through in my life I'm still healthy enough and my body still works well enough to pursue this endeavor. I thanked Him for creating me to be who I am and for granting me this opportunity. I reminded myself that I really do want to live for Him like I'm jumping off a cliff and envisioned what that looked like today. If I messed this up, He was gonna catch me anyway.

I ate two eggs on a tortilla for breakfast with some yogurt and a sprinkle of granola on the side. I made a shake to take along if I'd need it later and the blender broke up just as it finished blending. Seriously, the little spinning mechanism completely disintegrated- fortunately that part wasn't in the shake!

I put my bike and gear in the car and Kirstin and the girls too and off we went.

I followed Matt and Charis and it was nice to not have to think about how to get there. Besides, I had to continue to concentrate on relaxing and remembering to breathe!
 
I remember pulling into Cannon Falls and feeling my stomach flip over. We turned a corner and I could see the orange cones along the street.

Abigail and Lydia started to chatter and ask tons of questions. I love it when kids ask questions. They are all framed in the context of their own world. “Are those cones for your race, mom?” Then we saw the fairgrounds and all of the banners and the transition area and people getting set up and everything became real. Kirstin started asking me questions that I couldn't answer and I had to ask her to just “go with it” today!

We had to pull over for a potty stop before we parked. It was going to be a bit of a hike back from the car and Charis and I had both been downing water since we left. Then we parked the cars and unloaded everything.

I reminded the girls that Kirstin was in charge and they needed to ask her any questions or tell her if they needed something-I would be unavailable! I handed her $20 and the car key, just in case, and told her to “just take care of the girls and enjoy the morning!”

As I put my bike back together and checked everything out I noticed that the front brake was sticking-again! I concentrated on relaxing and asked Matt if he could help me out-he is an engineer. Good grief! I prepared myself for changing a tire tube, but don't understand much about the brakes! Matt couldn't do much without a screwdriver, which we didn't have, so he explained how I could reach down and give it a little tug if I needed to. I had to plan to just avoid using the front brake. Super. That's the first thing I learned that day about what I need to work on!

We hiked everything down to the transition area and figured out what to do there. Well, as much as we could. Charis has this philosophy about just doing what everyone else does and she really looks like she lives flying by the seat of her pants (which is why she's so good for “must prepare for everything” me), but as she was laying everything out it looked like she knew exactly what she was doing and I said as much. She then informed me that she had watched a video the night before and thought about calling me about it, but she didn't want to freak me out.

Well, she was right.

Besides I didn't have much to lay out. My helmet and my gloves and figuring out what the most efficient way to point the bike was.

I pinned my number on my shirt. I got my ipod out and strapped all the cords where they needed to be. Charis was looking around and I heard her say, “Good, we aren't the only ones with ipods...” We checked in and they wrote our numbers on our hand and arm! We were official! We proceeded to potty stop again, warm-up, stretch some and take off our long pants and jackets. They had this little briefing about the course. Why do they do that to me. The few events I've done they say you are responsible to know the course. It just adds to my anxiety. I don't ever feel like I know where to go or turn or not turn. Didn't understand this time either.
We're official!

We headed over to the start line. Charis asked if we wanted to stay together. I assured her I didn't want to hold her back. I think we run pretty even, but I knew she'd smoke me on the bike. As I stood there waiting I thought, “I'm doing this and there's no one to tell me I can't and it's o.k. for me to do it just for me, just because I can. Thank you God!” I seriously almost started crying. Then we were off.

That first 2 mile run was easy and fun. I wasn't thrilled about the little potholes everywhere. Charis and I stayed together. She kept asking me about my heart rate to compare to hers and then she'd inform me of our pace. Which I think was between 10 and 11 most of the time. She informed me later that she didn't stay with me on purpose and that I keep a good even pace. Our little cheering section was screaming and hollering and Matt was snapping pictures.

I couldn't find the water stop as we were coming into T1 and I was still trying to decide on whether or not to wear my jacket. I didn't wear it for the run, but it was chilly and I knew the wind was going to be harder on the bike. I decided against it, and my transition was pretty quick. Helmet, gloves, tuck away the ear buds. Charis told me not to wait on her and I told her I wouldn't. I knew she'd pass me anyway. And she did pass me at about the 1 mile mark. I told her to “GO, GO, GO!” I pushed pretty hard to about mile 4 and passed several people. I realized that the hills we were going down we'd have to go back up on the way back! I just didn't know how my legs would hold up. I didn't want them to not want to run! I kept 1 eye on my heart rate monitor and tried to gauge more by that, knowing that my legs are pretty resilient. I did the best I could to manage the gears and the hills and accepted that I'm going to have to get a lot more practice with this bike thing. I know I can do better. I was happy with how I was doing when I came to the turn around and then-the wind hit me. It was fierce!! I was so glad that I had my sunglasses on. Even with them my eyes were tearing up! Then I realized the item I forgot...chapstick. I put that on my mental checklist for next time.

Yep, I'm still thinking I want to do this again!

I was able to get some water, then I dropped my water bottle and had to retrieve that. The wind didn't help! A couple miles later I felt a tugging start at my ankle. My shoelace was wrapping around the pedal!! Immediately my mind went to how to get the bike stopped without falling over and which foot would have to do what. I got stopped safely and out of the way. Then I had to figure out how to get detached from the bike! I backed it up enough to loosen the lace to get my foot out and unwind the rest of the lace. I'm not sure how long that took me! Then I had to get the shoe back on. I did it and I stayed calm. I even passed a few people on my 7 mile trip back. Of course, I lost track of how many people passed me by during the shoelace debacle!

I could see my cheerleaders jumping up and down screaming for me and waved for Matt's picture. I came in to T2 thinking, “Great, just 3 more miles to go!” I felt pretty good. I dropped everything off and downed half of one of those gel things and some water. I pulled my earbuds out of hiding and off I went!

 Headed out of T2...yes, that's my muscle.

My legs felt like wood for about a mile. I just kept going. I remembered reading about that. After they loosened up I felt like I could just keep running. I saw a lot of people walking. I passed Charis coming the other way at about mile 1, so she was a good mile ahead of me. At the 1.5 mile mark I walked about 4 steps to drink whatever it was they were handing us.

I ran and ran and ran and I LOVED IT! It felt so good. At that point I knew I was going to make it to the end-no problem.

I kept thinking about how hard I'd worked for this. I began thanking God for His healing in my life, for my freedom and my good health and for partnering with me in this desire. I thanked Him for Charis (and Matt), Paula, and the Homfit guys.

Then the finish line came in sight and there were my girls and Charis holding out their hands to me as I went by. I crossed the finish line and my girls gave me huge hugs. Charis did too! The time on the clock said 1:58 even...and I can't believe how confident I am that I can do better next time! Matt got more pictures and we drank lots of water and had snacks and stretched. I drank my shake. We packed up our stuff and we watched the awards while enjoying the beautiful, though windy, weather.

My cheerleaders and me!
Kirstin (friend first, nanny second!), Abigail, Me and Lydia.

I just kept thinking, “I did it, I really did it! That's awesome! I've gotten this far...I've got to keep going! This was an unknown, I can make it through more unknowns.”

We headed home and I certainly felt grungy by the time I got there. I looked at that number on my arm and my hand while I stood in the shower. I couldn't make myself scrub it off! There will be more numbers. Just this once I wanted to hang on to it, to savor it for 1 more day and be reminded. If God and I could do this-what else could we do?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Assessment #3!

About the same time I had my moment "in the lane" I was due for my next assessment.

Here's how I was doing:

Circumference
Arm start......36cm
Arm 5/1/09..33cm

Abdomen start......106.5 cm
Abdomen 5/1/09...95 cm

Skinfold
Thigh start......50mm
Thigh 5/1/09...37mm

Jean size start..........Women's 18
Jean size 5/1/2009...Regular 12

Weight start..........248 pounds
Weight 5/1/2009....191 pounds

                            9/29/2008                           5/1/2009

I had lost 37 pounds in 7 months with the help of the HOMFIT guys. A total of 57 pounds in 16 months!

I really felt wonderful, but my new body demanded that I take on challenges in my head that I didn't realize I'd be facing when I started a journey focused on my body.

God gave me one of the most glorious gifts for my birthday just a few weeks later...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Embrace the Athlete

All during the 2008-2009 school year Abigail and Lydia had swim lessons on Monday afternoons. I swim while Lydia has her lesson. Most of the other moms sit and visit while they watch their children swim and that's nice. I've enjoyed that too, but I've always wanted to be the mom that got in the water and I felt like it just wasn't possible for me. I've come a long way. I'm sharing this from a journal entry at the end of April 2009...

Interesting experience at the pool yesterday.

The water was a little cooler than last week.
I noticed that my suit is definitely too big now and have no idea when I'm going to find the time (much less the inclination) to shop for a new one.

There was a man using the lane and he was clipping along at a pretty good pace. As I walked down the ramp into the water I began my usual argument with myself.

It doesn't matter how much I prepare ahead of time, I still end up in the argument. The argument used to begin long before my body hit the water, however, and I'm very thankful that has changed. It used to begin as I started packing up the swim bag before leaving the house!

“Just start swimming.”

“What if someone sees me?”

“Of course, someone will see you, silly, it doesn't mean they'll pay any attention.”

“What will they think? People will think I don't belong here, what am I thinking?”

“You do belong here! You were created/fashioned to be so much more than what you are, but you have to pursue it!”

“I don't swim very well. What if I mess up and they are laughing at me and I just can't see them laughing? Especially if I swim in the lane. I want to, but I probably don't belong in the lane. When will I be good enough to swim in the lane? But, someone might think I'm a dork because I'm not swimming in the lane.”

I just can't win when I argue with myself like this.

Most times now I just dive under and drown out the argument. I've purposed in my heart to do battle, though I can't seem to win it yet. I'm determined to keep fighting until I win - and it's over.

This time, Abigail snapped me out of it. “Mom, aren't you going to swim?”

I remember why I'm here. I have a calling. I don't care what anybody thinks except The One who has called me to it because He knows the desire of my heart and He put it there. I want to accomplish this for myself, to be a different person than I have been. Restored, greater, more eternal, living more in the Kingdom than on this earth and this is one more thing I need to do to get me to my goal.

I give Abigail a smile and a little wave and get started.

Of course, I'm not in the lane. I'll swim along the outside of the lap lane in the open swim area - with all the kids that are splashing and swimming all around.

I check the clock and I determine to swim the full length of the pool, which I've not done before. I've been told I need to do 9 laps (olympic distance pool) to make it the ½ mile I'll need to to be able to swim in July. I tell myself to take my time and just keep swimming until I make 9 laps. Freestyle. And I'm going to breathe on both sides as much as possible and pause if I need to but start right back again. I'll work on the battle for the lane another day.

I made it to the end and back twice before I needed to take a break. That's 4 lengths. Abigail looked at me with big eyes. “Mom, did you go all the way?” I laughed a little bit and allowed myself to be delighted, “I did, I went all the way-4 times!” Two laps down!

I was ready to start in again and the man in the lane approached me at the rope. He was a very non-threatening sort, but I started to panic a little. He was still breathing heavily from his last lap.

“You should use the lane.” He said. What?!!

He continued, “Even if I'm in here there's plenty of room for us both.” I thought about this for a minute. Did I have to say it out loud?

“Well,” I began, “I'm just not a very good swimmer...”

He cut me off. “You're trying, that's what's important, and you don't need to keep running into all those kids.” (The kids that are there for free swim actually stay pretty well out of the way!) “Use the lane. I'm done now. Even if someone else comes, they'll share, you should use it. Keep at it.” And he hoisted himself out of the pool and left.

I want to cry now just thinking about it. What a gift that was to me.

As I held my breath and ducked under the lane line I was thinking about “embracing the athlete” and wondered if this counted.

I looked down the length of the pool.

I was in the lane!

I determined to swim for as long as I could swim. I relaxed and enjoyed the rhythm and kept at it. I sucked in water about 5 times and had to flip over or stand up in the lane while I choked on it. I stopped to catch my breath at the end of the lane about 3 times. And I made it 5 more laps of the pool. It was an awesome moment. God is soooo good to me.

Food: what, how, when?

I found that I was eating all the time! These are the things I found through trial and error with instruction from my trainers that have been most successful for me...

1) I try to follow the 30/30/40 rule. The total day's calorie intake should be 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbohydrates.  I don't stress out about every last thing on the label, but some people need to watch for specific sensitivities. I find that if it falls into this ratio it's a fairly healthy option. If I eat any bars (they can be handy!) I try to be sure that they fall most to the protein side. It's really difficult to get that protein in so I try to pack it in wherever I can. My latest protein snack choice - tuna! Thanks, Paul.

I have just now begun counting calories! I have 15 lbs to go to reach my high weight goal of 165 lbs. I still keep the ratio in mind, all calories are not created equal and our body needs nutritional balance to function optimally!

2) I plan what I will eat and when! Seriously. First thing in the morning I look at my day and plan what I have time to eat and when. I WRITE IT DOWN in my food log! Then as the day goes on if I have to make adjustments I note the changes in the log. I eat something every 3 hours. It keeps my blood sugar levels nice and even and keeps me from being ambushed by a hungry binge at any point during the day and that gives me time to be conscious about my choices.

3) I got in the habit of taking a healthy snack and my water bottle along every time I left the house. I won't be caught out somewhere without excellent quick options. I encouraged my daughters to take ownership of their own water and snacks as well. Apples, almonds or baby carrots have been the most efficient options though I'll sometimes wedge the apple and have peanut butter with it if I'm in the mood!

4) If I'm at a social event where there is food, I eat it! Most of the time I eat small servings of whatever is being served and I enjoy it. Sometimes I indulge a little more, but I've usually planned for it within my week of eating if I do. I DO NOT deprive myself of foods I enjoy. I DO NOT diet. I've armed myself with information that gives me a balanced perspective on food's purpose in my life. With God's strength I moderate my intake and exposure to them and rejoice in the blessing of a healthy body that allows me to feel vibrant and serve Him well! How can we feel deprived when we put each element of our life in a place of priority that honors Him above all else when that is truly the desire of our heart? It's still a daily surrender for me...I have to examine myself and be honest with myself and the Lord about what I really want, period.

What do I want? The truest redeemed heart of me wants to honor and glorify God with my life, but there are days I don't successfully step forward from that place! As I've been on this journey I recognize that I need to continually examine this area and others for misconceptions and lies I believe that keep me from walking as closely with Him as I desire and from going the places He has for me to go.

One day, one of my HOMFIT trainers encouraged me to "Embrace the Athlete" and that took me somewhere I'd only dreamed of going...