This past weekend my family and I winterized, moving lawn chairs to the shed, hanging bikes and more. Preparing for the needs of tomorrow is responsible, mature and important. Despite knowing proper diet and exercise is needed for vitality, especially later in life, many do not prepare for tomorrow finding themselves unhappy and dependent. I'm supposing financial advisers see "Grasshopper and Ant" lessons all of the time.

In America we take care of our grasshoppers. This little ant appears tired to me and why isn't that grasshopper working? With busy lives and growing responsibilities, it's easy to neglect mindfulness of tomorrow so here's 3 tips to help you.

 

1. Envision Yourself in 20 Years--As a final project for my Intro to Health and Fitness P120 class, I asked the college freshman to write a paper describing their current health and fitness habits and then to project their health and bodies at age 40. Most of them looked at me with horror because I suggested that they will be 40. This is typical with us all as it is scary to think about being 40 or 60 or 80... Fortunately there is no such thing as a bad heart in your 90s, just saying. 

 

2. Create a New Vision--Now that you're over the horror of fast forwarding a couple of decades, create a new vision. Twenty years is enough time to build a business, raise a family, travel the globe and accomplish your life goals. Use your imagination to picture a new vision of your life and dream big!

 

3. Go For It!-- One of my favorite quotes is, "If you want something you've never had, you have to do something you've never done." Creating your life for a better tomorrow requires a plan, diligence, and consistency. Remember those ant worked through the summer and rested though the winter. Rest does come if you have planned and saved. If you're feeling weak to make changes, remember what Proverbs 30:25 says: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer. I've never seen an ant carry more than a large crumb. They just carry a new crumb on each trip to the anthill. 

 

As you prepare for tomorrow, I hope you are able to avoid a pesky grasshopper leaning on you and you carry your crumbs!

Accepting help can be difficult. For those of us over-achievers it can perceptively threaten our competence. Can I say let's eat some humble pie? Recently at the gym I helped a chick push in her 100+ pound prowler on her last lap of our group training. To push a prowler for any length of time or distance requires strength, endurance and lots of sheer wit. In my experience, the prowler will condition and fatigue it's driver.

Knowing this woman was at her limits, I thought I was being helpful and encouraging to assist. Knowing my limit is a 65 pound prowler for the required laps, I had completed the set and was already recovering. Gathering some extra energy I helped push her in for approximately 20 yards. She was offended. Shortly after the training session was finished I saw her completing her prowler set alone. I suppose this is a testament to integrity though not sure what this actually gained her? She seemed to be throwing a major pouting fit as she pushed alone. I left her alone this time as did everyone else.

Despite the vulnerability involved, Accepting Help Helps You and here's 3 reasons why:


1. Life Is More Fun Together:  Accepting help on the last lap does not mean you're incompetent, it means you didn't finish alone. Life is more fun together and what's the point of crossing the finish line if nobody s there to celebrate with us?

 

2. Understanding Limits: Too often we take on more than we can handle. This becomes obvious when an area of life starts falling apart: our house becomes a mess, we gain a few pounds, the bills start piling up. Pushing ourselves to the place of needing help, helps us understand where our limits are and how they are growing and changing.

 

3. Gratitude: Saying thank you is so much more delightful than having a silent (or not so silent) pouting fit. Only our insecurities challenge us to believe we have something to prove. Accepting help develops gratitude within us which brings us joy.

Somewhat recently I accepted dinner for my family when I was starting my new job. Nobody died, I didn't have a baby or was in hospital, my friend just saw my limits were exceeded and stepped in to help. I'm glad she did. My family appreciated her chicken tenders more so than any Hodge-Podge dinner I would have thrown together.  My heart changed from worry about "getting everything done" to gratitude and what a great transition that is!

Obesity rates are rising. In 1985, the highest obesity rate in any given state was <14%, according the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1). These days there isn't a State in the Union with less than 20% obesity; and throughout the southern "stroke belt", obesity rates are an upward of 30%. The trend isn't much different with our children.

Some hospitals and pediatric clinics are reporting 30% obesity rates with children. Type II Diabetes in children is a recent and "normal" 21st century phenomenon. Deplorable. This all comes down to regulating blood sugar levels, which is preferably done through diet and exercise, not medication.

Is Childhood Obesity Child Abuse?

When a child doesn't receive proper nutrition, our American society gets involved. The nurse will notify a social worker who will follow up with the family and so on. If proper nutrition is not achieved, it is considered neglect and the child will be removed from the home in order to receive proper care. The damage occurs more slowly with obesity and diabetes, however the results are analogous. Diabetes is a slow killer. 

In teaching my Health Professions Intro to Health and Fitness course to college freshman, I have observed these young adults are coming from various backgrounds. As they are learning health and fitness basics, I can tell a few of them are experiencing that awful feeling that the carpet is being pulled out from under them: They are 18 years old and obese and they are mad at their parents for leading them to that state. I hope they choose to take personal responsibility and change instead of staying mad.

Our Christian communities aren't much better and have yet to develop the maturity of accepting that maintaining health and weight comes through proper diet and exercise, not yo-yo dieting and pills with a token walk around the block for exercise every now and then. We have Christian brothers and sisters who are feeding themselves and their children to death. Sad. 

Diabetes and obesity will change the course of one's life forever, if not treated or managed. Treatment alone can be expensive and a multitude of other health problems can also arise, not to speak of the social insecurities associated with being overweight that affect relationships and career. During the slow kill, the quality of life decreases. Realizing the harm that obesity causes children should create a righteous indignation..it needs to be seen as child abuse.

(1) Obesity Trends Among U.S. Adults Between 1985 and 2011. Atlanta: Center for disease Control and Prevention 2013).

The most frequent question I am asked as a fitness instructor is, "How do I get rid of this?" (envision woman grabbing abdominal fat).

Okay, so you don't have to envision. Having strong abdominals after spending 3.5 years of my life pregnant and birthing 4 children (yes I'm boasting), here is my skinny on belly fat:

1. Burn It Off

The best and only way to reduce abdominal fat, or any other fat tissue for that matter, is burning it off. I'm talking about burning calories here, you know, cardiovascular exercise? Say hello to your friend the elliptical or treadmill because to burn off the belly, you will be spending lots of time on these machines.

2. Why Type of Fat?

There are 2 kinds of abdominal fat:

Subcutaneous Fat--This is the fat just beneath the skin, burying your six-pack abs. When you bend over, it bunches into rolls or you can purse the excess into various shapes as demonstrated in the picture, 

Visceral Fat--This is the fat that is underneath your abdominal muscles and lives among your internal organs, weighing them down and increasing your risk for heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.  

3. Keep Your Waist Circumference to Less Than Half Your Height

This simple advice can save your life because ABDOMINAL FAT IS DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH. Yes, I'm yelling at you. Of 30,000 adults of various ethnic groups, waist circumference in relation to height had reliable and greater discriminatory power in predicting cardiac and metabolic complications (1). The larger your waist, the more at risk you are for heart disease, stroke, hypertension diabetes and cancer.

4. Core Strength

Your abs are only as strong as your core. The core is a complex, biomechanic mechanism that is still being debated by kinesiologists. Keeping your hips flexible is necessary to maintain spinal alignment and back strength. If you achieve spinal alignment than you can activate your pelvic floor muscles (yes, those are fine motor muscles down there!). Finally, your diaphragm can only be toned through resistive breathing exercises. I will see you in yoga soon!

5. Diet

My experience is that carbohydrates and sugars will inflame the body, collecting in the abdominal area. Keeping carbohydrates around 40-50% of your diet will help reduce the belly. Also, many people unknowingly struggle with food allergies which are inflaming the abdominal area and enlarging the waist area.

Why Jesus Didn't Have Fat Abs-- I'm certain Jesus didn't have fat abs for a few reasons:

1. Jesus was literally on the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is a clean and healthy diet without refined sugar and trans fat. Food was scarce back then, I doubt he overate.

2. Jesus walked...EVERYWHERE!

Covering notable territory throughout his ministry,Jesus was a Rabbi and therefore made regular annual trips to Jerusalem to attend festivals and holy days. These trips aren't recorded in the Bible but can be assumed through his duties and Jesus was serious about these events because He went despite knowing people were out to kill him! Jesus got plenty of cardiovascular exercise

3. Visceral fat is a first-world problem, not an ancient-world problem.

In conclusion and once again, ABDOMINAL FAT IS DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH!!! If you struggle with oversized abdominals, my first suggestion is to hit the gym and burn that belly off. You will of course have to monitor and clean your diet, seeing if you have irritants to specific food groups. Remember, ultimately it is the ratio of calories in versus calories burned that maintain your weight. Adding in your core strengthening will also help reduce your waist size. Talk with your doctor about a lipid profile as well. Getting into those skinny jeans just might save your life!

(1) M. Ashwell, P. Gunn, and S. Gibson, "Waist-to-Height ratio is a Better Screening Tool than Waist Circumference and BMI for Adult Cardometabolic Risk Factors: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis," Obesity Review 13 (2012): 275-286.

Young Millennials have earned themselves the "selfie generation" label with their nose and smiles to their phones. These young people keep residence with their parents well into their twenties and postpone the settling down thing in order to establish their career and travel.

Grandma and Grandpa watch in dismay concerned that "Tweet" may mean something naughty and defending their contributions!

This week I asked my college Intro to Health and Fitness students to submit a paper to me answering the question: Why is your life worth the deliberate and consistent effort to stay healthy? Upon reading the varied responses, it became quite clear to me that this Millennial Generation values health quite differently than their predecessors.

Boomer Selfishness: My gross judgement of the Baby Boomer generation is that they have neglected their health, are massively overweight, and are expecting the Millennials (or any other younger generation) to be financially responsible and inconvenienced for this. This criticism comes from my decades of experience as an Occupational Therapist. Most if not all of the Boomer patients seem entitled to their Medicare coverage paying for the medical intervention given to treat their preventable illnesses and diseases or "Lifestyle Diseases". Yes they paid in, yes they could have taken care of themselves and avoided Lifestyle Diseases. The stats from the Heart and Stroke Foundation seem to back my opinion:

This sort of health behavior causes heart attacks, strokes, orthopedic issues and more. The Boomers obviously haven't listened to Michelle Obama's lessons and feel entitled to burden the Millennials with their unnecessary health issues. Besides, they raised the Millennials, right?

Abating Millennial Selfies: Millennials have earned the reputation of the "Selfie Generation" (take away final e and add sh). Seems valid. When reading the papers I assigned, I learned that the Millennials have closely observed the health habits of the Boomers and value their own personal health. They still eat unbalanced diets with pizza, ice cream and a lot of PBJs. They also choose to ride their bikes instead of drive. My favorite quote from the stack was, ""I couldn't think of anything more selfish than to put my loved ones through trouble and misery just because I failed to take care of myself." Our health is a moral and ethical dellima that can rob people of their time, energy and joy; not to speak of breaking the 7th Commandment, "Thou Shall Not Kill". The Boomers selfishness in their health issues has and will defiantly rob the Millenials of financial capitol and other resources. However, I believe Boomer Selfishness will ultimately bring authentic social capitol to the Millenials through a situation that will require empathy, patience, and reason to get their nose out of their phone. Boomer Selfishness will Abate Millennial Selfies.

There are 83M Millenials and 74M Boomers which means there will be plenty of help to take care of the debilitating Boomers. Obese patients do require 2 people to safely transfer in and out of a wheelchair or bed. I suppose if the Millenials are still living at home by then, it would be more convenient to take care of mom and dad. It takes a lot of humility to admit that the greatest lesson you gave your youth was through your faults or mistakes. I don't know that the Boomers will embrace this realization. If you are a truely a healthy Boomer (not a part of the 80% disillusioned ones who think they are healthy), my apologies for harping on your generation and I ask you to share this with your Boomer peers. These Millennial values might virtually be healthy for them!

For the record, Tara is a GenXer!

 

After picking on President Obama in my recent post Why This Hobby Lobbies Religious Freedom, I want to express my intrigue and gratitude for the Michelle Obama effort to make our country healthier.  We need it.  Just look around, or look down, or perhaps you should keep your eyes on the blog.  What the Obamas are trying to accomplish is good and smart and nearly impossible.  Just look at our leaders in Congress.  Many of these leaders are fat and spending tax dollars that ebb years off of your lifespan.  Some are evidently blind too.   This congressman (R-WI) was overheard telling a woman at Washington's Reagan National Airport that First Lady Michelle Obama, "lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself."

Okay dude, for one, that posterior is called a booty and Michelle has an awesome one!  Just look, George W. and Obama even agree about THAT!

Michelle is also a pear shape which has many added health benefits and longevity.  Enough on that.  The Obamas understand the need and value of being healthy.  American health care cosst have skyrocketed to 3 trillion dollars anually with 97% of that money being spent on 50% of the people. Health care reform is a must and requires us all to take responsibility in making healthy choices.  So why are your tax dollars killing you?

 

1.  Community Design

Most American communities are designed around the automobile.  Sidewalk and bike trails are too sparse, motivating people to drive their car versus ride their bike or walk to work. Moreover, traffic engineers base a street's "level of service" on motor vehicle facilitation, not pedestrian or biker facilitation.  According to these guidelines, pedestrians are "obstructions", slowing traffic.  Independent of our excessive body weight or physical activity, our daily amount of time sitting in a car, office, school etc is directly linked to  cardiovascular disease mortality. For more information and research on this, see my blog post:  The Deadly First World Disease You Likely Have.

 

2.  Healthcare Regulations

Of our 3 trillion annual healthcare dollars, 95% of it is spent on state-of-the-art-cures, or saving people (Lifetime Physical Fitness and Wellness, 13th edition, Hoeger).  During these life and death health situations, such as cancer, people are not concerned about cost or wasteful and inefficient spending.  Congress doesn't want to touch the idea of regulating these decisions because it would require putting a monetary value on people.  Instead, the country prefers to have a reactive approach to health spending -- 1.5 Trillion annually on obesity and smoking related diseases.  I think our R-WI congressman above fits in this category...

 

As a person of faith, I believe we have a moral obligation to take care of ourselves and our communities.

Our light shines healthier, longer and brighter when we take care of our bodies.  Out of your love for Christ and his sacrifice, I hope you will choose to take responsibility for youself because of your value, rather than waiting for Michelle Obama to come to your school and teach you about being healthy!

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.--Matthew 5:16

For years I have harped on my yoga classes about the harmful effects of sitting and the importance of hip flexibility observing that most people in my American Midwest classes become contracted and slightly deformed with a pelvic tilt by the time they are in their twenties.  The contraction becomes stronger resulting in mild back pain and significant inflexibility while in their thirties and if they are not properly moving, people experience significant health and well-being issues in their 40's and beyond.  Can I say back pain?  While prepping to teach my freshman learning course at Indiana University Kokomo, I learned this issue has been officially coined by the scientific community as "Sitting Disease"(1).

The research of Sitting Disease indicates that sitting more than 3 hours a days cuts off two years of life.  Women who sit more that 6 hours a day have a 100% greater chance of dying a decade earlier than women who sit less than 3 hours a day.  Men who sit more that 6 hours a day have a 50% greater chance of dying a decade earlier than men who sit less than 3 hours a day (2).   My suspicion of the significant risk percentage between women and men is that women have wider hips and experience more contraction in the pelvis though pregnancies, therefore the intensity of Sitting Disease is more profound.  

According to research most Americans spend at least 8 hours sitting and sitting is unnatural for the body...God did not invent chairs, people did.  Sitting in chairs for such prolonged periods of time IS hazardous to one's health.  Sitting Disease is a first world problem.  Those who are unable to afford the luxury of a chair squat.

Some cultures can afford chairs though have not integrated them into mainstream.

Think about what your next business meeting would look like if everyone squatted.  Perhaps this is a new opportunity to streamline meetings with less disagreement and more getting to the action items (the dude here doesn't look like he can talk much anyway!)  I personally wouldn't wear a short dress or skirt in this sort of meeting.

While sitting to write this blog post, I decided that despite my career in yoga, I too should combat Sitting Disease in my life.  

 I could tolerate the squatting blogging position at my kids table for approximately 20 minutes to which I then moved to a kneeling position.  

Fortunately Sitting Disease can be reversed through a quality fitness program and well, less sitting.  If you suspect you have this deadly first world disease (which if you are American and can't do the splits, you likely do), starting moving!  Incorporating a regular yoga routine to help improve your hip flexibility will make a difference.  Stand or squat to do your work and if you must sit in an office chair, get up to move and stretch at least once an hour.  Sitting in a half or full lotus while sitting in a chair will help as well.  Walking instead of riding in a car, walking after meals, squatting while watching television...the functional solutions are endless to decrease your daily sitting time.  I hope you will make the change to fight Sitting Disease in your life...your life literally depends on it!

Resources:

(1)  M.R. Bracko, "Can We Prevent Back Injuries?"  ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal 8, no.  4 (2004) 5-11.

(2)  Hoeger, W.W.K., & Hoeger, S.A.  Lifetime Physical Fitness & Wellness:  A Personal Program.  (2013) pp. 21.  

On the journey of helping others transform their bodies, I have found that the transformation isn't just physical.  I've yet to meet somebody fully satisfied with the physique and functionality of one's body.  Whether it be losing weight, gaining strength, running faster, experiencing less pain, having tighter abs, moving more freely, improving posture, standing with better balance, building endurance or...well you get the point, there is ALWAYS a desire to transform the body.   So why is it that some people meet their health and fitness goals, look awesome all of the time and enjoy working out while others spend a lifetime yo-yoing with their 20-60 extra pounds? 

With over 20 years of fitness experience, I attest this statement to be entirely true. 

 What exactly is the mind supposed to believe then for the body to achieve?  Believing one can lose those 40 extra pounds, bench press 300 pounds, run a marathon, hold the hand stand or complete their 10 pull ups is only part of belief it takes to make permanent transformation in the body.  We all know that proper diet and exercise will achieve results though the restaurant parking lots are still more crowded than the gym and wellness center ones. 

I've heard EVERY excuse: Time, money, illness, kids, transportation...  When my husband was struggling with his weight I finally asked him how he felt about me spending our 401K savings with another man?  It took him a moment, however he did come to realize that he is valuable enough to take care of himself and that taking care of himself is also a fundamental way of taking care of our family.  Since this time his motivation to eat healthy and exercise has been consistent because he believes his life to be worth the commitment.  And there you have it:  The type of belief that will truly transform the body is the belief you are valuable enough and worth the effort to commit.  Anything less results in relapse and temporary change. 

You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.--I Corinthians 6:20

The price Christ paid for you is non refundable.  I am still mesmerized that my life was worth the life of Christ and believing this to be true requires me to take care of my body as valuable.  I honor God with my body by keeping it healthy and strong.  Sometimes the hardest part of any journey is the first step, but remember that first step is one more than you did lounging on the couch.  I hope you will join me in gratitude for the sacrifice of Christ and believe you are valuable enough to commit to your health and fitness.  You're worth the effort and you'll be glad you decided to believe as your body transforms!

We all intuitively want to be involved with practices that benefit our lives; however, sometimes the barriers keeping us out are irrational and enormous.  Let's face it, most of America has access to information that teaches people to make healthy choices, yet we still have an enormous obesity problem (no pun intended).  Understanding the benefits are not enough, we must literally experience the benefits, and only then through discipline and consistency can we grow.  I often tell my classes that the hardest part of class is showing up.  Somehow with exercise, people feel they must be an expert on day one...but it isn't going to happen!  On day 3 or 30 it still won't happen, though you might feel more comfortable and confident then.  So here are my Top 5 Reasons to help you overcome barriers and try a Christian Yoga and Meditation Class.  I hope you enjoy and will stop in soon!


5.  When you show up, something happens.  

The hardest part of class is showing up remember?  If you don't show up, nothing happens, if you do show up, you will move which heightens your energy and endorphin level.   We do transform from the inside out, so this transformation may be a while to see or feel, though some effects of a yoga class can be felt immediately.

 

4.  You can do more than raise your hands. 

The raising of hands is a recognized method of praise in many worship traditions. How about using your entire body for Jesus? (Romans 12:1).  The expression of praise and yearning in a physical sense is heightened when the larger muscle groups are involved and you don't have to feel awkward because everyone else in class is using their entire body too.

 

3.  This may be the only quiet time you get. 

If you are crazy busy and have young children in your life, having a moment of silence is rare.  Attending yoga class promotes a meaningful internal experience and helps you to regroup in a quiet setting.  You will think more clearly and be more productive.

 

2.  Christian Meditation is Awesome.   

Meditation is proven to strengthen your immune system and help you cope.  Christian Meditation is even better because it helps us realize Christ within.  It can be challenging to be still, however in a group of people accustomed to meditating, you will embrace it with ease.

 

1.  Quit looking for God and start listening to God.  

I stumbled upon Christian Yoga and Meditation and found it incredibly healing, because I was able to stop looking for God and start listening to God through the silence. Many others have found the same experience.  My faith has been spurred and I can't help but to share this with the world, so I hope you will stop in on a class sometime and transform your pain and stress into inner peace and healing through the power of faith celebrated in Christian Yoga and Meditation!