Workouts to get in TOP shape for summer

Hello there!

The warm breezes have already started and our air conditioner is getting zero breaks right now…..the countdown to SUMMER is here!

We have less than 6 weeks to summer and I am pumped!

I get excited at the prospect of a fun summer every year, but this summer will prove to be particularly memorable.

How about you? Are you entering into warmer weather ready to take on the season? OR do you perhaps feel as though you wish you had a few more weeks to prepare?

Have no fear!

Today I have some workouts for YOU to implement over the next 6 weeks that will help to tighten your muscle and shed excess fat. All you need is consistency and a bit of a tweaked nutrition plan (see more below).

ENJOY! Oh, and cut your body some slack……it’s been there for you all along. So learn to work WITH it, not against it.

mc-7005 WM

THE PLAN.

Here’s the deal; you HAVE to lift some weights in order to get that tight and “toned” look you say you want. So, that’s what you’ll be doing.

Three days a week, you’ll be hitting the iron. Monday and Friday will be lower body days, while Wednesday will etch in the upper body.

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday will be cardio days, adapted to get the most results in the minimum effective dose.

The CARDIO.

Your cardio will be performed in a 2-1 ratio of work to rest. If you are not quite ready for this intensity, try a 1-1 ratio and build up. IF you stay consistent, you’ll feel better in no time.

The minimum effective dose is 20-40 minutes of this type of cardio. If you have a lot of fat to lose, opt for 40 minutes. If you’re just starting out, try 20 and move forward as you can.

Some examples are as follows:

  • Treadmill climb. Warm up for 5 minutes, then set the incline at a level 3 and speed between 3.5-4.5. Walk this for 1 minute. Lower the speed to 3.0-3.5 and take the incline between 12-15. Walk this for 2 minutes. Repeat for the duration of your workout, finishing with a cool down walk for 5 minutes.
  • Step mill. Start with a 3-5 minute easy warm up at a level 3. Take it to a level 6-8 for 1 minute and then a level 8-10 for 2 minutes. Repeat for the duration and end with a 5 minute cool down.
  • Tread Jog. Warm up 3-5 minutes. Take the speed to a fast paced walk for 1 minute, then jack it up to a jog for 2 minutes. Repeat for the duration and end with a cool down walk.

mc-7159

THE WORKOUTS

Lower body days you will focus on ALL the muscles of your lower body PLUS a little bit of abdominal work. Warm up for 5-7 minutes beforehand.

SQUATS. 1 set of 20 reps to warm up, then 3 sets of 10-15 as heavy as you can.

LEG PRESS. 3 sets of 10-15 reps

DEADLIFTS (bar OR dumbbells). 2 sets of 10-12 reps

LEG EXTENSIONS. 3 sets of 10-15 reps

LEG CURLS (seated or lying) 3 sets of 10-15 reps

CALF RAISES. 2 sets of 15 reps

BACK EXTENSIONS. 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps (no weight added)

PLANK 60-90 second hold, 2-3 sets

Make sure you foam roll, stretch, and cool down before you leave.

mc-7020 WM

Upper Body Day will give you a well rounded physique and bring balance to your entire body. With tank top season right around the corner, this workout will build muscle and confidence.

Warm up for 5-7 minutes. I recommend foam rolling beforehand.

BENCH PRESS (or dumbbell chest press) 1 set of 15 reps, 3 sets of 10-12 reps

SEATED DB OVERHEAD PRESS 3 sets of 8-10 reps

DB ROW 3 sets of 10 reps

LAT PULLDOWN 3 sets of 10 reps

DB CURLS 2 sets of 10 reps

TRICEP PUSHDOWN (or seated dip) 3 sets of 10 reps

CAPTAIN’S CHAIR (or hanging) LEG RAISES 3 sets of 10-30 reps

Make sure to foam roll, stretch and cool down.

mc-7059 Need help with the weight? Check out THIS POST on how heavy you should go.

NUTRITION

All the workouts in the world will not help if you aren’t fueling properly.

Instead of focusing on taking away, try to focus on upgrading your nutrition. Make pre and post workout meals your top priority for the first week. Your macros surrounding your workouts should have higher carbs and fewer fibers and fats. My go-to of the moment is cream of rice mixed with a scoop of whey protein. I eat it cold pre and post workout and it tastes like pudding :) Other options include whey protein shakes (some, Like LABRADA offer the perfect ratio of carbs, fats and proteins ready to drink), raisins, rice cakes, toast, lean lunch meat, etc. A pre-workout should be taken in 30-45 minutes prior to hitting the workout. Post workout protein uptake usually happens within 30 minutes, BUT research has shown that the body is susceptible to greater protein uptake up to 2 hours post workout. In other words, don’t let that be a stressor.

Protein intake does NOT need to exceed your need. In order to create a lean physique you do need an adequate amount of protein. Try eating protein at every meal to ensure an adequate intake. Vary your protein for maximum satiety. You can try chicken, turkey, fish, lean red meats, game, whey, casein, cottage cheese, yogurt, etc. Take the time to explore and see what works best for you.

Drink PLENTY of water throughout your fat loss phase. I suggest aiming for a gallon a day for most (your tea and coffee intake can count towards this), but start where you are and add daily.

mc-6953

FINAL THOUGHTS

Remember, the body needs TIME to change. You can expect GREAT improvement with this workout plan in just 6 weeks, but ONLY If you are vigilant and consistent. If you have a lot of fat to lose, know that these 6 weeks will give you a large jumpstart, so don’t get discouraged. Be kind to your body and it will return the favor.

See you soon!

Michelle

 

 

I’m BaaaAAaaaack!

Hey stranger!

In case you were wondering, I went on a fabulous family vacation and unplugged ALMOST completely (darn you Instagram!!!!). I highly recommend this. The simple act of removing myself from the constant borage of other’s lives (as social media works now) helped to rekindle some long lost passions and get me ready to tackle some new goals :)

My question for YOU:

How has your summer been? Better yet, how have you kept it healthy? Even better, what challenges are you finding to staying healthy during the summer?

OK, so that was actually 3 questions……answer below in the comments section along with HOW I can help you stay focused and healthy as the summer comes to a close.

What’s cooking now?

Some awesome new content is on the way for the website and social media channels. It’s all about making health, fitness and nutrition more readily available to everyone seeking a healthy lifestyle. You’ll also see the site get a bit of a face lift AND some brand new services will be added as well.

Please, tell me more!

Gladly :)

For starters, I will be experimenting with home gym workouts as opposed to the big gym workouts. Why? Because just about everybody can work out at home in some capacity. I’ll also be filming videos on building your home gym with the focus on the tiny and the large spaces. We’ll also discuss equipment as in what to spend on, what to save on, what to pass up and how to find good equipment on the cheap.

NEW VIDEOS!

My YouTube page will receive a face lift as well and you’ll see weekly videos now. I’m filming Tabata style workouts, warm ups, cool downs, foam rolling, yoga, abs/core, and lifestyle videos. This translates into some free content to help you get moving and reaching your goals.

NEWSLETTER!

You’ll receive a new newsletter each Wednesday which will contain a workout exclusive to subscribers, plus a run down of what I am eating, drinking and just plain loving at the moment. If you aren’t signed up, put your email into the box to the right —–>>>>>>>>>

NUTRITION!

The blog will focus a bit more on the most challenging aspect of health: your food. We will discover new ways of cooking, prepping and eating that will make things easier. If you’re local, I will also have some pretty cool happenings coming soon ;)

EBOOKS!

I am working on new meal plans, grocery lists, mindset books, workout sequences AND a very special book focused directly to a question I get asked all the time (it deals with skin and weight loss, so get ready).

WHEW!

So, if you’re excited then make sure you sign up for ALL the updates ————>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I promise, no spam :) as that is processed and unhealthy…..

I’ll see you soon with all the new content,

Michelle

Strong camp 110 Waiting for something to happen…… :) Photo by Paul Bucetta

 

gym selfie 7jpgHome gym……WORKS!

What if we were just OK? AND some Instagram inspiration

Oh, my, goodness….2 posts in 1 week?!?!?!? You gotta pinch yourself right?

I digress a bit…..

After you get over the shock of the posts, let’s get down to business. Specifically, let’s get down to the business of being YOU, just as you are and totally rockin it.

Sound good?

believe-in-yourself

We use the above image and saying for a lot of different things ranging from weight lifting to test taking to running, etc. You get the point right? But what if we used it in the sense that right at this moment, we really are OK?

In other words, do you feel like you are enough? Do you feel like you have what it takes, no matter your swimsuit size (those darn swimsuits!), no matter your thigh size and no matter the invisibility of your 6 pack?

I have a truth bomb for you from the ultimate TRUTH:

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. -Hebrews 13:20-21

So, this says nothing about God equipping us with a 6 pack so more people will listen to us……or perky glutes to get the job done. Everything we need, we will find ourselves equipped*.

*Side note as always: I’m not advocating sitting around eating ice cream and Cheetos and not moving, but I really don’t think that’s what most people do. I do think most of us worry about our waistlines in the WRONG way though….

I want you to think about that for just a bit….what would life look like if you were OK with where you are? I know this is foreign to most because the American Dream tells us to always strive for more, but what if we could accept where we are especially in terms of our physical state? Better yet, what could we accomplish if we didn’t worry about our body fat?

This past month has been quite the eye opener for me. I noticed post-comp that I struggled with excessive mirror syndrome….as in, I kept looking in the mirror. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting to see, but the lack of a 6 pack (which I NEVER have unless my body fat is super low) was disappointing. It was so disappointing that it began to take up mental space that would have better been used for other things. In fact, I am convinced that we could find the cure for many diseases if we didn’t focus on certain body parts we wanted to change. I ended up getting sick and long story short I got grounded and have been doing ONLY body weight, low impact stuff for about 10 days. It has admittedly been a struggle, but the mind needs more growth than the muscles at this point.

I can say that I am almost “THERE”…the place where I am OK with the cellulite on my thighs and the extra fluff over my proverbially absent 6 pack. I’m OK wearing a swimsuit and things actually moving. The body was designed this way people! Stuff moves. Some body fat is actually GOOD. I garnered the inspiration I needed from some Instagram accounts that are REAL and HONEST….I also deleted accounts that had boobies, excessive 6-packs, and way too shorty shorts :) I suggest you do the same as scientists have actually found those images to strike closer to porn and further from inspiration.

That said, here are my top accounts to follow:

Busy Mom Gets Fit

GORGO Magazine

Sarah Vance

Fit PB Queen

Amber Dodzweit

 

#TBT: Throw Back Thursday

This particular hashtag seems to have become increasingly popular amongst social media picture users. You know who you are people! So I thought I would take full advantage, I mean the opportunity :) to shed a little light on how I went from being overweight, depressed and suicidal to a bikini competing world traveling missionary who truly kicks…butt. So, check it out.

100_1637I happen to be one of those truly blessed people who has fought with my weight ALL MY LIFE. My mom was a chronic dieter as was her mother before her and so on. The number on the scale was never good enough, the number on the pants tag was never good enough, therefore I was never good enough. By the time I was a teenager I had already been on Atkins, the Fat Free Diet, The Cabbage Soup Diet, Slimfast, Weight Watchers, TOPS, nothing-but-salad diet, etc. You name it, I did it. While most young ladies are beginning to notice boys and wondering what they will be when they grow up, I was just hoping the seams of my stretchy pants wouldn’t give out. I begrudged food and everything it stood for and I believed the absolute LIE that it was in my genes. The truth was..it was in jeans.

100_1631 By the time I had my first child I had wrecked my metabolism. I was tired all of the time and walked the tight rope of starving myself and binge eating. I wore a lot of black too….though I still love black :) . I digress… The question most often asked is “How did you do it?” Well, slowly. I did it all wrong for years. I stopped eating meat altogether and existed on tofu and fake cheese for over a year. Why? Vegans were skinny, duh! I just wanted to be skinny. Every time I would fall into old patterns of starvation and binge eating, I would blame genetics (which, when you think of it is like blaming God, RIGHT?) and step back to the back of the diet line to be sold a bunch of bull that made no sense yet I NEEDED them to make me SKINNY. It’s a crazy world out there y’all, buckle up and be safe when looking for answers.

I found yoga after a few years and things began to unravel. If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I thought about COMPETING when I’m in my mid-thirties, I would have laughed until cried…then I probably would have just cried. So, the steps have been many. Please to NOT discount what I said there: MANY! There is NO shortcut that will get the results that are worth the work. There are no drinks, powders, potions, pills, gels, creams, or even surgeries that can expedite HARD WON results. So, what does it take then?

along the way Step One: HONESTY. I hate to be the bearer of horrifying news BUT…the excess fat hanging around on your body was your decision. WAIT…what about my friend that eats whatever and is tiny? High five them and tell them God must not have thought they could handle the weight loss situation and that, my friends, is why we are all created differently. By the way, don’t think your thin friend has an easy life; they probably deal with things you could never imagine. That info was extra and free, you’re welcome :) OK, SO…be HONEST with yourself. If you’ve been relying on false measures for weight loss, it will backfire in the end. Sit down and look long and hard. In order to shed weight (the more weight, the more change) serious LIFESTYLE change has to occur. That crap about “You’ll lose all the weight you want and never feel deprived” is plain and utter BULL. The first step to cracking the weight loss code is taking an honest look at what you have to work with and what got you there. Basically, whatever got you there needs to be ditched and a new normal needs to take hold.

100_1638 Step two: TAKE ACTION. You know what happens when you talk about reaching your goals? NOTHING. You shouldn’t have to go around justifying your goals and re-explaining them just to keep yourself on board. Less talk, more action…literally. You HAVE to move MORE than you are comfortable with moving to make a change. Again, free advice :)

After2 Step Three: PATIENCE. You must become the Ghandi of weight loss patience. Do not rely on the stupid scale (I will blog in-depth about my scale conspiracy theory later!) and realize that your jeans may fit different from one day to the next. Why? Because your body is a living, breathing, ever-changing organism dude!!! Why on Earth do we think that it should just comply neatly without change or fuss. If I want a smaller butt, then my butt should shrink without anything else changing. WRONG! Your body is in a constant state of change and energy balancing. This is why your weight can fluctuate and why you can feel super tight one day and like a swollen piece of road kill the next. We are sometimes unaware of the salt content in foods and our water balance is hardly ever spot on, so be patient with yourself. It takes longer than 12 days, longer than 12 weeks, longer than 6 months! I think REAL lifestyle change does not truly sink in until after 1 full year honestly (SSSSHHHHHH: I cannot tell you about it right now, BUT something HUGE is coming!). Grow more patient as you reach each individual goal (check out Goal Setting on this blog to figure out how to do that effectively) and TRUST THE PROCESS.

After 1Step Four: Own it. You wanna know the COOLEST thing about reaching a goal that YOU worked for? You can sit back and take a moment to relish in the work you accomplished. You don’t have to give props to some drink or pill…you can say it was you. Well, in my own personal case, it was myself and God cause there was a lot of prayer involved! You can’t hate your way to your goal. Jealousy of others will not get you there. It is, quite literally, all you. I can give you meal plans, workouts, regimens…but at the end of the day you decide if you want to be the person who leaves a legacy or a whiny little life of “IF ONLY”.

Today is the day you decide. Don’t wait until after the holidays. DO it now! Make your plan, make a change, do it for yourself, your family and the rest of the world that is waiting for YOUR impact.

Peace, Love, and Lunges,

Michelle

 

The Body and the Image

When it comes to body confidence, swag and the ability to even attempt to cultivate a style of any sort…the body image you hold as a direct result of your relationship with your body plays a large role.

There is a lot going around about body image, embracing your curves, we’re all made different, etc. Just as many posts about easy diet fixes, magic pills and the top ten moves to get you JLo’s booty are rampant as well. It’s no wonder we spend most of our time longing for immediate results, while the rest is spent in a lackluster daze after the energy expended on chasing after perfection. I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted! And that leaves very little time and energy left for the actual living of a healthy lifestyle.

Need a little direction to come to peaceful terms on the war zone of your body image? I thought you’d never ask :)

  1. Realize that perfection is unrealistic and, quite frankly, boring. Can you imagine if we all had the same measurements?!? I mean, look at the pins you post of hottie celebs (you know you do it). Are they all exactly the same? If it’s only one person, you may need an intervention… Seriously, it’s our nuances that make us each unique. For example: I am straight waisted and for years I hated this rather “boyish” figure. In reality, nobody has EVER confused my figure with a boy, but I digress. It is this slight difference that helps me be unique in my field. Silly, but true.
  2. There can be too much of a good thing. Just like you can ingest too much chocolate and wine (I intend to fully test this theory!), you can also work out too much. Instead of focusing on how many minutes you log on the treadmill, how many classes you attend per week, or how many reps you crank out per day, think about simply moving more. Set the alarm on your phone for 30 minutes and every time it goes off stand up and stretch or take a quick bolt to the bathroom. I’ve stretched in many meetings and have yet to be carried out by security.
  3. Drink up. Yeah, I’m going to preach the goodness of water once again. If you’re prone to headaches, muscle soreness, bloating, fatigue, restless legs, anxiety, or just the blahs…drink your water.
  4. Stop the madness! It’s human nature to compare. Really, we don’t leave the house searching for people to compare ourselves with, it just happens. The problem is that now we don’t even need to leave the house. There is serious danger in comparing your body/skin/face to pictures in magazines and online. I am not against Photoshop, as I enjoy pretty pictures and would be less likely to purchase that bikini if the model didn’t look so darn good in it! However, comparing myself to genetically blessed and professionally enhanced photos is a habit I had to break. Enjoy the photo for what it really is: a piece of art. Then move on.
  5. Set dates with yourself. As corny as it sounds you really do need time to simply chill with who you are. Set aside some time for a beloved activity that you can do alone. Paint your nails, soak in the tub, read a cheesy magazine that you cannot possibly glean any useful information from, write the things you are grateful for, watch that movie that you truly love but would be mortified if others knew you watched it… get the point? Be you, pure and plain and weird all rolled into who you truly are.
  6. Stop with the mirror obsession! OK, I’ll admit that I love mirrors. I own several all over the house and look at myself more than I should. It’s usually to check for food anywhere or to debate the current color of my hair (I have issues), but if I find myself checking for miniscule dimple patches I cut myself off. If you’re always judging your appearance, limit your mirror time and make peace. I do however beg that many people stop and check the mirror before venturing out into the world with pj’s and slippers. You may not care, but why punish those who actually have to look?
  7. Let them eat cake! By “them” I am referring to the voices in your head that want cake, or chocolate, or salty popcorn, or Twizzlers (I love those things for some strange reason). Don’t survive on these foods, but don’t deprive yourself either. It is my firm belief that deprivation leads to wrinkles and that’s just another thing to worry about in the mirror.
  8. Practice acceptance. So, maybe you used to be able to run 5 miles a day and now you can barely crank out 2. Or perhaps you could bench 150 and now you’re on 10 pounders. Life changes. Our bodies adjust and we, as humans, are incredibly adaptable…but only of we allow that adaptation. Don’t hang on to your glory days. Let go and accept right where you are. Have 50 pounds to lose? Accept that fact and work at it in a holistic manner. Don’t kil yourself trying to beat it off. Dealing with an injury? You won’t recover by continually pushing past your limits. Accept where you are in order to move forward.

Hopefully, this will help get you headed in the healthy direction :)

Michelle

michelle3

The Bikini Body Equation

OK, I have to admit that I am no mathlete….however, my parents were totally right when they told me I would use math every day.

Don’t let the title fool you, you don’t have to be set on wearing a bikini to feel better all over. What I really want to talk to you about is a feel good formula that is often overlooked today.

The 80/20 Rule

It’s actually pretty basic. For 80% of your time, try to keep 80% of your foods as close to nature as can be. Eat real food people! Don’t give me that bull about it not being convenient. Really, peeling a banana is a huge inconvenience? Perhaps washing that apple just takes too much energy….yeah right. Eating healthy is easy and affordable, so long as you stick to the basics.

Produce:

Pick the cheap stuff! When produce is in season, it will be marked cheaper at your local market. Ears of corn 10 for $1? SCORE! Grab them up and roast, grill or even microwave them. During the warmer months, citrus fruits and lighter veggies are all in season. Pick mindfully and enjoy abundantly.

Stock up on frozen veggies. Vegetables are usually picked at the peak of freshness and then flash frozen so they do retain nutrients. If the produce aisle is looking ragged or they don’t have what you need, consider stocking up on frozen ones instead. Bonus: if you always have some veggies in the freezer, you can always have veggies on hand.

Grains:

Keep them whole and close to nature. For abounding energy and overall health, plus the addition of a flatter belly, try ditching bread 80% of the time. The whole yeast/gluten/sugar combo (even in whole grains) can wreak havoc on the digestive system, therefore affecting the metabolism. When choosing grains, head for quinoa, brown rice, oats, bran, millet, barley, etc. These are utilized more readily and assimilated for energy easier in their closer to nature states.

Proteins:

Keep them lean and try to have them later in the day. Fish is an excellent source of protein for overall health and you can consume it several times per week. I eat fish almost every day from a variety of sources, as variety is key to a healthy diet. Turkey, chicken and lean red meat and game are also good sources of animal protein. Plant protein can also be consumed in tofu, tempeh, hemp, brown rice, etc. Know what works best for your body and vary it up.

Fats:

I actually eat lots of healthy fats. I mean, if eating an entire avocado a day is wrong, then I don’t want to be right! Stick to healthy, close to nature fats such as avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, grape seed oil, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, natural nut butters (especially almond), etc. These help to keep skin hydrated and supple, just remember that portions should be smaller.

The final key to being ready to strut in your bikini (or shorts, jeans, dress or suit)….

Confidence:

I encourage this 100% of the time. The people who make an entrance, make an impression and ultimately make an impact have confidence, not perfection. None of us have a perfect body or skin. Even super models (as blessed as they are) do get air brushed. Considering the fact that we don’t walk around with portable airbrushing machines, let go of your insecurities and hold your head high. The number one way to do this is to stop comparing yourself to others. The second way to this is to stop judging others. When a judgemental thought about someone else pops into your head, send it packing! When we judge others, we tend to feel judged as well.

Here are my top tips to boosting my own confidence. Hey, I speak in public for a living and spend loads of time in spandex :) Steal what works for you!

  1. Try on EVERYTHING! I actually still shop for clothes in person, not online. Even the same company can make jeans that fit totally different. Don’t tie yourself to one size, think more of fit.
  2. Throw away the scale. I’m tired of this fight….let it go, you’ll feel better once the withdrawal lets up.
  3. Adopt a personal mantra. Mine is a powerful Bible verse: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25
  4. Workout to feel good and increase, not decrease, energy.
  5. Eat foods that nourish your body and your body will return the favor….just give it time :)

Hopefully these few tips will help you on your road to health and wellness. Beware of quick fix detours and remember to never give up!

Michelle

 

michelle3

 

Perfection, or Perspective?

Perfection and perfectionism are extremely interesting to me. The pursuit of perfection seems to be all around us. Just Google the words “Beauty”, “Pretty”, and “Perfect”. The images alone astound me. One thing that I noticed is that no 2 images were the same. Why? Because perfect means something different to everybody. Take the simple art of eyebrows (yes, it has become an art!). The “in” brow changes with the season, the decade and even the shape of the face, yet people are continually trying to achieve it….

When I think of the fitness industry I have to realize that it has been built on the pursuit of perfection. This is why it is hard for those like me, who would rather people focus on health, to get their point across. We are all involved in this “ageless” world pursuit. We don’t want wrinkles or sagging skin. I was sitting in the pick up line at my son’s junior high this morning and noticed a group of girls walking into the school. They all sported short (too short of shorts, but that’s a different subject matter), and I realized that those youthful legs are what others kill themselves in the gym for! It astounded me that we are always working to either regain our youthfulness, or stave off signs of aging all together. What would we look like if God actually allowed us to reach perfection? I have a feeling many of us may be surprised at God’s perfection, which is the ONLY perfect thing.

So, what are we to do? Submit ourselves to aging? Just roll over and get flabby? Of course not. An ounce of prevention goes a LONG way. By the way, if it is loose skin that vexes you, all those deprivation diets you praised as your saving grace make it near impossible to rebuild the amount of collagen you need. We learn something new everyday! So, what can we do? Eat to live and enjoy the flavors God has placed on this Earth. He gave us the run of the land, all the veggies we can handle (trust me, it’s MORE than you think you can handle), the fowl of the air, the fish of the ocean, and the beasts of the land. Keep your food as natural as possible and your body will thank you. I really doubt God made Cheetos….

Another thing you can do is move. Don’t move to punish yourself and atone for past food sins, move to be able to move later. Do what feels good to your body. It doesn’t always have to feel great in the thick of it, but when you finish you should feel accomplished and refreshed, even if you’re sweaty and tired :)

Perfectionism is another issue that causes me trouble. Do I suffer from it? No. Not anymore at least. There is debate on whether perfectionism is an inherited trait or a learned response. There are loads of studies and psychology Today even deemed it a disease. After being bound to it myself and having to deal with those that suffer, I cannot say I disagree. It’s a trap of the mind, similar to any other mental illness. In my opinion though, it is a learned response. Most perfectionists learn this trait as a defense mechanism. I grew up with people in my family whom I never felt “good enough” around (note: not immediate family), and I still have some today. I learned to just adapt to what the world wanted me to look/act like and make any sacrifice necessary. Other perfectionists retreat into their world as a way to prove themselves worthy. I mean, if nobody can do it as good as I can…..it starts to make one a martyr after a while.

Psychology Today puts it this way:

For perfectionists, life is an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. A one-way ticket to unhappiness, perfectionism is typically accompanied by depression and eating disorders. What makes perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure, so theirs is a negative orientation. And love isn’t a refuge; in fact, it feels way too conditional on performance. Perfectionism is usually transmitted in little “messages” from parents to children, some as silent as a raised eyebrow over a B rather than an A.”

It truly is like living under the constant surveillance of failure. Here’s the thing though: failure is inevitable. We live in a fallen world, deemed subject to imperfection. So, is life then one big fail? Of course not! Life is a culmination of ALL of your choices. Each day you wake up to a choice: be slave or be free. Should you choose to be slave, you succumb to the call for perfection, judging yourself and others harshly for marks that aren’t even really there to hit. Choose free and you give in to the wild ride of life where you relinquish the control you only think you have, to the Father Who truly has control over all of life.

I must say it is a freeing thing to choose to be free. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to set us free. If we awake to the same old habits and negativity, we are not free. I received a wonderful complement a few weeks ago from a dear friend. She stated that I had a certain characteristic to not allow what others did or thought about me to bother me. This characteristic she refered to is a result of constant prayer to not be sucked into the trap of perfection. You see, instances in life have no control over you UNTIL you give them control. Defeat is not the final word of the enemy (the negative thoughts) UNLESS you allow it to be. All too often we give control over to those who do not deserve it and we are left to suffer.

One of the most important things to remember is that the hurtful words said about you may not be a result of you at all. Most people who spew hate battle hatred within their own hearts. I CHOOSE not to be one of those people. Daily, I pray (it takes a LOT of prayer!) that I may die to self, no longer seeking a perfection I alone cannot attain, but rather speaking and writing in love as I was called to do.

So, the choice is now yours, daily: FREEDOM OR SLAVERY: which do you choose?

Michelle

What If We Really Were REAL…

I’m coming off a testing and rewarding trip to the She Speaks Conference in Concord, NC. The whole trip up there we had tunes from Chris Tomlin, Britt Nicole, Lecrae, Toby Mac, Jaime Grace, and Mandisa. The song What If We Were Real, by Mandisa, kept playing over and over. If you haven’t experienced it, check it out HERE. This song became the theme of the trip and opened up some tight spaces in my own mind.

It made me beg the question, “What if we really were REAL?”

Do you understand the weight of that question? You see, I was at a conference for Christian speakers and writers, all women. In fact, 650 women. That is a LOT of estrogen in one venue! My first morning was challenging to say the least. I entered with the anticipation of a school girl. I was ready to open up and make new and lasting friendships. This anticipation was quickly met with glares and stares, followed by shuns when I attempted to speak. Was it in my head? I would have thought that except when I placed my back down next to another woman in the foyer and said, “This looks like a great place to dig through our goodies”, to which she responded, “Sure”. Then she promptly packed up her bag and walked away. I found her at a chair in the back of the hotel. Not in the mood for making friends I assume.

So what was the deal? Was it Satan himself making me feel as though I didn’t belong? In reality, I don’t think Satan even has to try in this arena anymore. Women are so full of insecurities and judgement that it frees up the darker forces to focus on bigger things… What if that could change?

So, what would real look like? I spoke with a publishing agent at the conference and at the end of our brief time she thanked me for being willing to be so transparent. She stated that she had not seen that kind of real transparency in a long time. Being real takes a level of vulnerability that most of us are unwilling to tap into. We carry the weight of the world and the expectations of perfection on our shoulders to the point where we couldn’t point out real if it was on our nose! We live pre-rehearsed lives, always thinking of our reactions and the worst case scenarios. What is real?

What would happen if we were open to admitting our insecurities? What if we fessed up to feeling less than stellar? What if we chose to state that we are intimidated? What if we admit that when we see a beautiful woman who seems to have it all together, we feel less about ourselves? And, what if we confess that when we see that same woman with toilet paper stuck to her shoe, we feel a bit better?

I have found in my short life that women can hold other women down far better than any other force on Earth. Think about grade school and junior high. OK, stop crying, it will be ok…. :) WHat if WE could initiate a change in the world? What if we all woke up one day and began behaving a little differently? What if we let the real shine through?

My daughter had to deal with her first run of female competitiveness and nastiness this past school year. I had to lay the harsh reality that it does not end after school is over. Think about it: why is it so important for females to have a gaggle of friends? We NEED teammates!!!! We need to know that we have some double X’s on our side. Why do we struggle against each other?

Perhaps it is the innate and primal need to be loved. I have a little eye opener on that one: there is NOBODY and NOTHING on this Earth that can love you more than your Heavenly Father. Seek FIRST, then everything you need will be added. It took me several decades to learn that. So, why do we as women judge harshly? Philippians 4 gives us the instruction on how we should speak. We are to let no harmful speech escape our mouths, but only that which builds others up. In other words, if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all. Why do we struggle?

Now, I know you’re probably saying that you do build others up, but my question is this: do you build up those outside of your circle? Better yet, do you build up those you differ with? Even more, do you build up yourself?

I know I have given a lot of food for thought here and I promise it will not go unanswered. Throughout the following weeks we will be looking into our hearts and starting our own revolution. This will be a revolution to end all revolutions in my opinion. It is time to put down the fiery words and pick up our inheritance that is promised. It is time for a true change that rips throughout an entire generation. Are you ready to change the world? It starts in the heart of each of us.

Michelle

The Powerful Things Within

20120718-171347.jpg

So, I am sitting in a gorgeous sunroom at the end of quite a physically challenging day and I thought it would be very beneficial to share some thoughts with you :-)

I learned a few new things after branching out (pun intended) and taking up some serious mountain hiking. My family is on vacation in Nashville, TN until tomorrow and we opted for a bit of adventure seeking. Early this morning we set out on what seemed like just a pretty walk. Somebody (guilty!) chose not once, but twice, to take the difficult road. After ending our 3 hour adventure, this is what I noticed:
1. Time really does go by much quicker when you are engaged in the task at hand.
2. God is gracious and gives hikers shade and plenty of breezes!
3. Deer on hiking trails could care less if you see them and do not scare so easily.
4. Water is awesome!
5. Going downhill can be just as hard as going uphill, but you don’t REALLY feel it until you get out of the car upon arriving home.

The sixth thing I learned is in regards to the picture above. Do you know what that is? Well, yes it is a tree smarty pants! But do you know what is wrong with this tree? The large bulge is actually a disease that trees get, similar to cancer.

You see, a bug can burrow into the trunk of the tree and through a series of unfortunate events, the tree is left with a disease. This mass is evidence of the disease. Eventually the tree trunk can weaken and break since the tree is being killed from the inside out. All because something as small as perhaps a hornet wedged its way into the tree.

As I was learning about the plight of this tree, I began to think of my own “trunk”. How many times have I allowed tiny things such as opinions or words penetrate and cause a disease in my soul? Have I allowed guilt or anger to fester and grow into a disease of the heart? Have poor thoughts eaten away at my infrastructure until I am left a shell of what I was supposed to be?

Sadly, these things have happened. I have good news for you though! We are NOT trees! We can be healed and restructured to the people we were born to be. Just as this disease weakens the structure of this tree, the negative thoughts that pierce our minds weakens us. It is all about choosing the thoughts you hang on to and letting go of the ones that do not serve a higher purpose.

If you find yourself feeling unworthy, change those thoughts by discovering your true worth. I’ll even give you a hint: Somebody cared enough to DIE for YOU (John 3:16). If you’re unhappy in your marriage, look into your own thoughts and mind. It is not your spouses job description to make you happy, they are to love you. There is a difference. Feelings of guilt, anxiety, stress, depression; all of these are deep seeded in fear and NOT fostering a stronger trunk for your life to grow.

Make the choice today to begin confronting these thoughts. Dark thoughts cannot grow in the light, but if you hide them they will cause disease.

Learning these things were not all I was blessed with this morning. God also granted me another book idea and I am faithful it will grow, strong as an oak :-)

Word to the wise: after hiking for 3 hours through the mountains, don’t hike for 2 more through gardens and tree houses!

Have a healthy day, in every way.
Michelle

When Letting Go is Necessary

20120715-203100.jpg

Funny thoughts and conversations have been taking place in my head recently. There seems to be an overwhelming majority of people who commit to the all or nothing principle.

All or nothing is simply the belief that we must be doing our absolute ALL to get what we desire, no matter the cost. I have seen many athletes give up good health for the sake of a particular physique.

Why is there such an obsession with all or nothing? Well, take a look at what is downloaded into our psyche each day. Posters that berate quitters and praise those that bring the pain are plastered all over Facebook. I have been guilty of some of the plastering in my past :-) Trainers and gym enthusiasts remind those who have not yet achieved a perfect physique (btw, has anybody ever actually seen one of those?) that they are simply not committed enough. It becomes a cycle that can eat you alive, literally.

I fell victim years ago, and most know my story. I also told you about doing nothing but yoga recently and how my health and my physique changed drastically. The funny thing is old habits die hard. After 1 month of nothing but yoga I felt awesome! But I had a nagging feeling that it wasn’t “enough”. Did you get that? My health improved, I went down 1 size, but I was unsure as to how it would actually “work”. Weird how the mind works….

So, in an effort to fix what I thought was broken, I popped in some tae Bo and finished that with a Tracy Anderson muscle routine. Um, yeah. I ended up with a serious inflammation backlash and was bed ridden for 3 days :-( .

Now, I’m not advising everybody to stop what they’re doing and take up nothing but yoga as we all have preferences to our fitness regimes. The point I am trying to get across is that we go through seasons in life and we must learn to adapt to the seasons rather than fight to stay in the old ones. We are not all blessed with the ability to perform the way we did in high school or stay the same size ( for some of us, we’re in much better shape than high school!) and yet there is an influx of people desperately hanging on. It’s ok to let go.

Life tends to open up a lot more for those who learn to let go of things. Certain things such as the pain of the past and the unrealistic expectations of the future can be set aside to make room for the joys of today. We must simply learn to loosen our grip and accept the freedom offered us.

So, what will tomorrow hold for you? A new day to experience the season of life you are in now, or just another day of trying to fix what you perceive as broken? Living is a choice we make. Actively engage in your life and make the choice to live!

Be healthy, inside and out :-)
Michelle