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Sweat, Blood, Tears + A Birthday For Clean Water

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Sweat, Blood, Tears + A Birthday For Clean Water

August 23, 2014

12:45 a.m.

I cursed into the pitch black of the night. The wind was gusting at 30 miles per hour. My hip flexors were on fire. I was relegated to a fast walk. Oh! What was that noise? A mountain lion? No, just the wind in the trees freaking me out. Was that a snake I just about stepped on? I assured my mind that it wasn’t. It’s funny how the scrapes on the trail looked like snakes. I kept moving forward. Tiredness was beginning to takeover. All I could think about was sleeping. For days. Maybe at the next aid station I could lie down for a few minutes and close my eyes. I was closing in on mile 70.5 and my head was messing with me. Why was I running 100 miles again?

—–

It all began about 21 years ago. I had always been active as a kid (growing up and toiling on one of the country’s first organic vegetable farms was a natural fitness playground) and running was a part of that. A particularly horrific personal life event catapulted me into running full time. Despite taking care of my younger siblings, working on the farm 15+ hours a day, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. most days and ran. In $13.00 Velcro shoes no less. Sometimes I ran barefoot. No one supported me in my running. In fact, several family members made fun of me for running. I brushed the negativity aside and ran anyway. Other things may have been taken away from me but running wasn’t going to be one of them.

As the calendar turned and the years marched on, I continued to run. I experienced more loss and mourning. Sadness and grief. Throughout these really tough circumstances, I continued to run. It was the place and time where I could talk with God, process what I was going through, and rejoice in the freedom I had recently found. Running helped to heal my soul.

—–

After I ran my first marathon I said I would never run another one again. My running coach told me that whatever I said in the first 24 hours did not apply. And he was right. Because a few weeks later I decided that I wanted to qualify for the coveted Boston Marathon. After a few setbacks and injuries, I started running on trails full time and fell in love with them. This is where I belonged. Naturally, when one starts running on trails 100 percent they sign up for a 50K, right? Well, that’s what I did. I finished that race strong. Two weeks later ran a road marathon and qualified for Boston Marathon. Two weeks later, I ran my first 50 mile ultramarathon. That following week I was running on the trails and thought about my milestone birthday coming up in a few months. As I ran, I thought of all I had endured, survived, escaped from. I wanted to celebrate my 30th birthday in an epic way. What better way to celebrate it but by running a 100 mile ultramarathon?

And that’s precisely what I did. August 22, 2009, I ran my first 100 miler and finished in 24:58 (that’s 24 hours, 58 minutes). Following that epic celebration of sweet, blood, and tears (sadly, no birthday cake or ice cream!), I bit the ultra endurance bug from that point on. Hard. I took four weeks “off” and then preceded to run in a 24-hour relay, three marathons, and one half marathon. All in a four week timeframe. Marathons became “easy” and I thought back to what I said after I ran my first marathon. That running coach was right. 

It would take almost 2.5 years, however, to run my second 100 miler. The scars and trauma from the first 100 miler ran deep. That race turned out to be my first DNF. At mile 80. After running for 24 hours, 1 minute, no less. That one (ONE!) minute put me past the cut off. I mentally recovered from that DNF and a little more than a year later, I once again stood apprehensively at the start line of my third 100 miler. This particular course was very challenging. It was in the remote backcountry of Bryce Canyon, Utah. Deep sand, having to use hands to climb up some sections – the course was brutal. Injury finally took me out at mile 45. Another DNF. It didn’t sting as much as the first one, but I strongly dislike not finishing what I start!

——

It was late Spring 2014 and I knew my 35th birthday was rapidly approaching. I knew that without a shadow of a doubt, I would regret if I wasn’t at the start line of the 100 miler that started it all. Could I run 35 miles (the previous year I ran 34 miles to celebrate my birthday)? Sure, but I knew that I would not be happy with that choice. And so I set plans in motion (no pun intended) to go back to the place that started it on.

I like my endurance events to be an extension of my life and part of that is to support worthy causes that truly make a positive difference in others. And that cause is Blood: Water. What better way to celebrate my 35th birthday than by running 100 miles to provide access to clean water for Africa?!

Friday, August 22, 2014

 

The birthday, 100 miler ride! Thanks, Silvercar!

My birthday! Silvercar sponsored the ride to South Dakota from Denver International Airport. My friend, Erich, also flew in to crew me during the race. During the trek up to Custer, South Dakota I thought about the last five years and everything that happened in them. The hopes, the dreams, the disappointment, the ups, the downs, the DNFs, the time spent training, and the precious communities in Africa that I was running for. Somewhere along the drive north, the clouds gave way to sun and I fell asleep (I knew I would be thankful for this nap come the next day!) and since Erich was driving, I caught some shut eye.

 

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LH100 pre-race meeting.

Upon arriving in Custer, I picked up my race packet, chatted with the race director, Royce, and then sat in on the pre-race meeting. As the minutes kept ticking away the nerves began to grow. I thought about where I would be tomorrow at this time. Back at the hotel I ate the food I brought with me. I knew that this little town would not have organic, plant-based, real food options so I brought all my food that I would need with me. My birthday and pre-race meal consisted of quinoa, assorted raw veggies, some legumes, Hemp Hearts, and a kombucha. Delicious. It was a wonderful meal. I turned the lights out and prayed for good sleep. It’s always hard to sleep hours before a big event like this!

Saturday, August 23, 2014 

 

WY Welcome Center en route to Custer, South Dakota

4:00 a.m.

The alarm rang. D day was here! I checked the weather app right away. I had heard heavy rain during the night and I really did not want to run another 100 miler in the rain (the 100 miler in 2012 was in the rain) and I was delighted to see that the forecast called for clear skies. It was going to be a good first day being 35 years young!

I had some organic chia oatmeal, a few sips of kombucha, water, and we drove to the Custer high school track where the race would start. I posted a few quick updates on social networks, chatted with some other runners, tried to calm my nerves down, and at 6 a.m. the gun sounded and we were off!

One of the things about running 100 miles is that you pretty much know you won’t see the finish line till 24 hours later. If you think about it too much it hurts your head. So I pushed that thoughtout of my mind and enjoyed the first few miles.

The course was brand new this year compared to the one five years previous. We were warned about the “false flat” but in those first few miles you forget about that because well, you feel pretty good. I talked with the other runners around me and we watched the light break the darkness. I arrived at the first aid station feeling way too good and told Erich I was running too fast. He reminded me to slow down. I had some sips of organic tart cherry juice, a few bites of the organic sprouted grain bread with organic sunflower butter + raw honey + organic cinnamon + organic ginger + organic maca sandwich. Hmm, was it good! It was still pretty shady so I didn’t need my hydration pack refilled. The aid stations were fairly close together for this 100 miler and for that I was grateful.

 

My favorite drink besides water!

The course took us by Crazy Horse and I searched for it in the midst of the heavy fog. I never did see it. The next aid station brought back painful memories. It was where I had my first breakdown five years ago with horrible blisters. Erich gave me more of my organic food and refilled my hydration pack. 10 miles in and only 90 more miles to go! As the runners spread out (there was also a 50K, 50 miler, and a 100 mile relay happening at the same time) we were all running pretty much by ourselves as is very typical for a ultramarathon. The sun was beginning to make its appearance and I prayed it wasn’t going to be as hot as it was last time. That was Mile 15.1 and Hill City Aid Station came quickly and I was still on good pace for a sub-24 hour finish. After some organic carrot juice, organic tart cherry juice, Yukon Gold Potatoes with Celtic Sea Salt, organic turmeric (I choose these foods for their anti-inflammatory properties, energy, adrenal support), I was trudging down the road again. My goal was to make aid stations quick and effective. During the latter stages of the race it can be hard to leave them as they are not only sources of nutritional nourishment, but also moral support and encouragement.

The next few aid stations went by without much incident. It was starting to get hot so I took my shirt off to help keep my body cool. I also made sure to take salt caps whenever I saw Erich. As I was running, I kept a mental note that I would be running back during the dark on these sections. This wasn’t a technical course (thank God), but there were historic tunnels that dark in the daylight and I could only imagine how spooky they would be in the real darkness of the middle of the night! I pushed those thoughts away and kept running.

 

It all looks so easy on paper!

By this point, I had talked to several runners and got some advice for running a “false flat” course. Because most ultras are run in mountains with massive hills that force you to walk, running a course with no visible hills already was playing mind games with me. Remember how I was feeling good those first five miles? It would come back to haunt me. I very rarely run with headphones, but at the 50 miler last month, Joel (an aid station captain as well as 100 miler veteran) told me to listen to something. So at mile 24.8 I requested my iPod and started listening to worship music. Mobile phone coverage ended around this point as well so it was good timing. I tried to take some photos along the way, but keeping the mind happy, the body moving, it’s hard to stop and take pictures when you know that the sooner you finish the sooner you can sit down (and not be forced to get back up!)

I could feel hot spots on my feet and told Erich at mile 33.8 that at the next aid station we’d need to address them. The weather was overcast again and even a slight dampness in the air. I was just thankful it wasn’t blazing hot!

It was about 2:21 p.m. when I got to mile 37.5 and the Rochford Aid Station. Collapsing into the chair I started to peel off my compression socks and shoes. Erich taped them up, put on new socks, same shoes. Oh how I hate, hate, blisters!! I had some more organic, anti-inflammatory foods as we were tending to my feet and gave my iPod to Erich as it was starting to rain. After I left the comfort of the aid station I regretted giving my iPod because I had a long “false flat” section to conquer.

 

During the first hour of race

As the sun began to set I knew the real race was about to start. At this particular point in the race I passed some gorgeous homes – no, more like estates. It sure was beautiful on this August Saturday, but I shuddered to think what it must be like on a Monday morning in February!

 

Do you know how hard it is to squat and take a photo after running 50 miles?!

Because it was an out and back race course other runners began to trickle past me ( “heading home” as I like to call it). I only had a few more miles to go to the turnaround and they felt like forever. There was an aid station at mile 49.3 with the turnaround 0.7 miles further. This was my least favorite part of the race. I opted to not stop at this aid station on the way out but throw my hydration pack to Erich to refill so I could keep on running, get to the turnaround (I did manage to take a quick selfie with the turnaround sign), and run back to the aid station and refuel. It was 6:25 p.m.

Do you know how hard it is to squat and take a photo after running 50 miles?! After briefly sitting and forcing myself to eat, I got up and muttered “100 milers are freaking insane” and trudged back up the incline. I won’t call it a hill but after running 50.7 miles even a mole hill felt giant!

Erich jumped in to pace me and it was so very good to talk with another human! It helped take my mind off the intense pain I was in. We shuffled and talked and caught up on what transpired in the last 12 hours. At this point I was making good time and even a sub-24 hour finish time was still within reach. We kept leap frogging a few other runners. It was dark and we didn’t realize it at the time, but we running (like, really running) on a gradual downhill that would end up coming back to bite me.

 

In the early stages of the race. It was (thankfully) overcast.

It was a little after 10 p.m., and the soft light and chatter of the Rochford Aid Station beckoned us. We began to map out a strategy. Erich would go get my warm clothes, I would begin stripping all my current clothes off (literally), redress, eat while doing this all, try not to cramp, refill hydration pack and last but not least, get in and out of the aid station as quick as possible. I knew the longer I wasn’t moving it would really hurt to get going again.

Erich and a female aid station volunteer helped me undress (do you how difficult it is to take off a sports bra after running 62.7 miles? Pretty much impossible!) and then redress. It was good to have on warm clothes on. With gloves, hat, a fresh sports bra, compression shorts, long sleeve shirt I felt like a new woman. I was already losing my appetite, but forced myself to have a few bites of organic Yukon Gold Potatoes with turmeric/coconut oil/Celtic Sea Salt mixture. The organic tart cherry juice still hit the spot though! (I was later told the cross country team- volunteering at this aid station- were making s’mores. Even though I am an organic and plant-based gal, I would’ve had one!)

Ten minutes later, I was on my way down the lonely, dark trail with my headlamp lighting the way. Erich ended up running about a half marathon with me and he went back to crewing/sherpa-ing responsibilities.

 

The Mickelson Trail

This is where things started to go south. I was mistakenly told that the next aid station was mile 80 and if I kept the pace I would for sure make the sub-24 hour cutoff. But as I was shuffling down the trail I was doing the math and knew that the miles were miscalculated. That was discouraging news. This also where the “fast” miles began to hurt me. Literally. I trudged into the next aid station and didn’t want to eat a thing. I had some lukewarm organic matcha tea, some fruit, the steadfast organic tart cherry juice. The pain was gradually increasing. All I wanted to do was sit. Getting out of that chair was the last thing I wanted to do. My hip flexors would not let me run. I tried to break into a trot and it simply was not happening. I left mile 66.3 and knew in my gut it was going to be a long night. Just how long a night I did not know.

The course was on the Mickelson Trail and for the middle sections of the race course there were gates (I guess to keep cattle in??) along the trail. You had to pause running and open them up. During the daylight this wasn’t a problem, but at night I kept fearing I would run smack dab into one. The line “things go bump in the middle of the night” took on a whole meaning. Thankfully, I never ran into one.

It was cold. The wind was fierce. I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was sleep. Forever. I kept telling myself I could take a little nap when I got to the next aid station. Warmth and closing my eyes sounded so heavenly!

 

One of the tunnels along the trail (daylight here).

I kept walking at fast pace, hip flexors still not cooperating, shuffling down the dark trail. Why was I doing this again? Oh that’s right! To provide communities in Africa access to clean water. I kept this mental picture in my mind every time I wanted to stop.

I soon saw the faint lights of the Mystic Aid Station (mile 70.5). I came in worn out and ready to drop. I was fighting exhaustion big time. They say that you can die sooner from sleep deprivation than from starvation and I believe that. The wind was howling. And the wind chill made it about 29 degrees. I told Erich I wanted to close my eyes “just for a little bit” and preceded to get in the passenger seat, recline the seat back, and go away to dreamland. Well, that didn’t go according to plan. My body somehow knew that we were not finished with what we set out to do about 18 hours previously. So I sat back, practically fell out of the car, and stared into the deep, dark, dreadful night. Running alone on this section (remember the spooky tunnels?) plus the cold, the dark, the exhaustion, the pain … oh how I wanted to call it even! I shed a few tears. Grabbed some more layers (did I mention it was freezing?) and verbally said “I’m done”. Another runner, Norb, and pacer, Brian, came into the aid station. Erich was doing his best to get me going and I wasn’t so sure of this plan. Brian came over, took me by the arm and said “run with us”. “We’re going to do 20 minute miles.” Knowing I would be with two other people lifted my spirits and soon the three of us were on our way. It was 1:25 a.m. on Sunday morning, August 24, 2014.

 

Approaching tunnel during the daylight hours.

Within the first couple hundred feet I dry heaved and I remember Norb saying “oh no”. I told myself to pull it together and march on. And that I did. Norb and Brian talked and I was still in a brain funk and kind of out it. I remember Brian asking me questions, but that’s about it. I was still dreaming of a warm bed!

I’d be remiss to mention one important detail. Peeing. For the last several hours the Mickelson Trail had my DNA all over it. I must have peed what seemed like a couple hundred times. It can be a variety of things (cold, electrolyte imbalance, other) and I didn’t really care, to be honest. I was happy I was peeing because being dehydrated can be worse! I laughed to myself internally as I realized my squats were getting less and less low. But I still managed to pee on the ground and not myself. (Can I put that skill on a resume?!)

Mile 75.3 came and my appetite was long gone by this point. Nothing sounded good. I was tired of eating, swallowing, chewing, thinking, moving. I was over this 100 miler. I knew I needed to eat something and as much as I hate to write this (you won’t believe it) the only thing that sounded remotely good was soup. And the only option was ramen noodles. NOT my first choice in a 1000 years. Being a real, organic food advocate and eater I cringed at this. But it was 2:30 a.m. and told myself to eat something. It was 100 miles for Pete’s sake. And so I had a few lukewarm swallows of ramen. Yuck. I can’t remember the last time I put processed “food” into my body. (**If** I run another 100 miler – and that’s a big IF – I’ve already thought of a way to have hot “Sarah Approved” soup for me to eat.)

 

Still running…late afternoon on the 23rd of August.

It was also freezing at this aid station. The volunteers were wrapped in blankets and told us to get in and out as quickly as possible. It was the highest point in the race plus exposed and the wind was making conditions miserable. There were even some slight snowflakes falling from the I left that aid station and kept telling myself “one foot in front of the other” and “mind over matter”. Both of these quotes took on a whole new meaning for me during the course of this race. I was still only able to power walk with a few attempts at “running” with no success. It was faster to walk at this point. I told myself I would keep moving till I crossed that finish line. Repeat quotes. I did have my iPod on and listened to the worship music. Having good, positive music is one of my keys to staying positive when everything around me is falling apart. One of the songs that played was by Jars of Clay Run In The Night. I chuckled to myself. If only they knew how literal that song was!

I had pulled away from Norb and Brian at this point and arrived at mile 80.1. Less than 20 miles to go! It was now 4:35 a.m. I drank some of the organic tart cherry juice and hobbled on. The pain was intense. I thought back to my first marathon and a nurse telling me that childbirth is so much easier. If that was the case, that showed just how difficult running 100 milers is. I told myself I could do anything. I knew by this point I would not be finishing in sub-24 hours. In fact I would be lucky to finish at all! I was ahead of the cutoffs, but they were always in the back of my mind. Oh how I dislike cutoffs. Strongly dislike.

 

Beautiful sky heading into sunset.

I knew I would arrive at the next aid station just as the sun was coming up. My second sunrise to behold without sleeping. Why was I doing this again? Yes, that’s right! The communities in Africa who long for the luxury so many of us take for granted: clean water. I power walked (marched) on.

Sure enough, at 6:15 a.m. I arrived back at Hill City, mile 84.9 and it was light out. I had been running-moving-shuffling-hobbling; whatever you want to call it (just not dancing) for over 24 hours now. I thought back to five hours ago of when I wanted to end it all, curl up in a little ball and just sleep. But yet here I was, still moving forward despite the excruciating pain I was in. It wasn’t pretty, but are 100 milers supposed to be pretty?

 

One of the last photos before heading into darkness.

This aid station was at a park and I got to use a real restroom for the first time in over a day! Using a toilet seemed strange. Once again I thought of this luxury that so many of us (me included) take for granted. Yes, I was glad I kept going when I wanted to stop at 1 a.m.

Even with the sun coming up it was still cold but the wind had died down so that was a welcome relief. I wasn’t eating much but I the organic tart cherry juice and organic carrot juice were still appealing so I drank that. I was paying as close attention as my weary mind could to how I felt nutritionally. And this intuition was good. I forced myself to have a few more bites of the solid organic food Erich had ready for me and swallowed what I could. I knew I only had a few hours left to go and I’d make it. I wasn’t too worried about calories at this point because A) I wasn’t running hard and B) it wasn’t hot out. If I kept my head in the right place (clean water for Africa, clean water for Africa, clean water for Africa), I’d make it across the finish line in one (but badly hurting) piece.

The whole sleep deprivation thing kept creeping up on me and I kept pushing that out of my mind. Mind over matter, Sarah, mind over matter. One foot in front of the other, one foot in the front of the other. Those were the phrases that were running (no pun intended) through my head for hours.

 

I made it! (You can’t see the tears streaming down my face.)

I trudged on, somewhat demoralized I wasn’t finished by now, but also happy I wasn’t pushing the cutoffs! Mile 89.9 came and I couldn’t eat anything. I still had 10 miles to go and I just wanted to cross that darn finish line and sit in a chair and not move. Erich refilled my hydration pack and I continued to march dutifully on. The next 5.7 miles were all uphill, although not technical, it was still uphill. My legs and feet were still on fire. They had been like this for hours.

I grimaced at the pain and kept the communities of Africa in my mental vision. If they could walk 35 miles for water – not even knowing if it would be clean or not! – I could most certainly suck up the fire raging in my body and finish this race. It seemed like the last aid station would never come into sight! The sun was creeping higher in the sky and I could feel my face getting sunburned. It was still chilly though and I had all the clothes I had put on 12 hours previously. I passed another runner, Dale, who Erich and I had leapfrogged way back between miles 56 and 62. He was in rough shape. His body was in a half moon shape on the right side. Not in a straight line. I hated to see the pain he was in.

 

MY SHOES ARE OFF! Notice my “missing” little toes.

After what seemed like hours, I finally approached the very last aid station. I believe I grunted a few tears. I told Erich I somehow had a pricker in between my big toe and the second toe. I had been running on it for about 10 miles now and the pain was unbearable at times. He asked me how I got it and I replied “I have no idea”. I didn’t want to stop, sit, take off socks, shoes, survey the situation, fix it however we could, and then put socks and shoes back on. Time was a precious commodity! I was **this** close to finishing. And **this** close to collapsing into a chair and not having to get up for a long time. Before Erich sent me on my way down the trail he asked me what I wanted at the finish line. All I could think of was to get my feet out of my shoes!

With 4.4 miles to go, I tried to run but it was apparent that my hip flexors had enough and I agreed them. The sun was burning my face up. I longed for a visor. Some shade. A chair. A bed. AND FOR THESE SHOES TO COME OFF! It was like running on hot coals with splinters. It was a new level of pain for me and not one I’ll soon forget. My feet hurt so bad at times, I even contemplated tearing my shoes off and hurling them in the woods. Running barefoot seemed like a good idea. But since I knew I probably wasn’t rationally thinking I left them on.

 

Erich getting ready to tend to my poor feet.

I passed another female runner and this lifted my spirits. I told her and her pacer good job and we both kept moving forward. Clean water for Africa, clean water for Africa, clean water for Africa. Suddenly, I thought back to what Erich asked me and I remembered the ice foot bath I had when I finished this race five years ago. That. Was. What. I. Wanted!

Those next few miles dragged on. I thought for sure they moved the finish line to the North Pole and didn’t tell me. A 50 miler runner and her family came up the trail to witness the last few hours of the 100 miler. They proceeded to power walk with me and talk. I couldn’t exactly think straight and who knows what I was saying, but they stuck with me those last few miles and their presence was much The finish line seemed like a mirage. I kept thinking I was hearing the cheers and celebration of the finish line area but it wasn’t. The minutes ticked by. I could not believe what I had just put my body through. The excruciating pain I fought through. The long, long night. Two sunrises. And zero sleep. Words flooded my brain and yet I felt numb to what was happening.

Then out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of the high school where I began many, many, many hours ago. Was it still 2014? What was my name? Birthdate? I saw Erich and tears filled my eyes. “When I turn 40 please remind me to go to the spa” I told him. The last 400 feet finished on the track where it all began. The small crowd at the finish cheered and clapped. I attempted to break into a hobble, but it was not happening. I succumbed to the shuffle I had been doing for the past 13 hours. With what energy I could, I lifted my arms into the air, tears filling my eyes and crossed the finish in 29 hours, 11 minutes, 45 seconds. I did it.

 

Much gratitude to my feet! They went through a lot to get me across the finish line.

And just like that it was all over.

As soon as I crossed the finish line I fell into Erich’s arm and wept. From the roots of the hair on my head to my poor, aching feet, my body was trashed. Other crew members and runners came over to congratulate me (this is what I love about 100 milers and small races!) and helped to pull my shoes off. What I thought was a splinter were really blisters. In fact, my feet were COVERED in them. I was missing both of my little toes – they had been taken over by blisters. People came over to ooh and aww and offer their condolences to them. Soon, someone brought a dishpan with ice water. Even though I was shivering it felt good to get my feet out of those shoes and into fresh air and cold water (to help with the swelling).

The various crew members, pacers, and other support people all helped the runners trickling in. It was an overwhelming sight. Every time a runner crossed the finish line we all cried together. Each one of us saw what we had been through and to see them finish was an incredible experience.

Dale, the runner I mentioned earlier, was the last runner to officially finish. We all cheered for him as he made his final lap down the track. He had started this race two (or was it three?) times before and this time was his first finish. I got goosebumps watching him cross the finish line.

It’s so interesting how you tell the body to do something and it listens. And then you cross the finish line and you can.not.move. We had to make our way to the awards ceremony and that was an eternity away. Erich and another kind guy helped me stand and walk, but within the first step we knew that it would be years before we ever reached the area so they hoisted me up into their arms and carried me a short distance to the room. I was in an exhausted, emotionally spent state of mind, but oh so very happy to be a finisher. Ironically, I managed to win my age group!

My feet needed attention, so Erich and I left the race and headed to find a drugstore. The medics had given us some supplies to aid in the blister care. Erich kindly tended to my feet (and mentioned that it was the grossest thing he has ever done) and bandaged my poor feet up.

Every time I looked at them I cried. They had been through so much. Even as I write this (three weeks post finishing) I have tears in my eyes.

Before leaving, we wanted to use our $10.00 coupons that was given as part of the race. We could use them almost anywhere in the little town of Custer. I had my eye on The Purple Pie Place before the race began and I used that as motivation several times during the race. We were in line when a rowdy kid STEPPED on my foot. I screamed, clutched the side of the counter a little harder and sobbed. After all my feet had been through, now this? It was more than I could take.

We had to drive back to Denver and that ride was brutal. Going straight from running 100 miles to sitting in a car wasn’t ideal, but we made the most it. We were both thankful it was a Silvercar. 

We stopped at two rest areas on the way back. I knew that movement was key and as much as I didn’t want to move, I had to. It took everything I had to lug myself out of the car, hold onto the side of car, step up on the curb. There was a plot of grass and I fell onto it. I tried to make it look like I was doing a cow/cat pose, but I’m sure I looked ridiculous. In fact, I know I did.

We made it back to Denver and Erich got a hotel room for us. I had to use a wheelchair to get to the room. Walking was oh, so very difficult. At this point I had been up for over 40 hours with 29 of those hours, running. When I saw the bed I almost cried. The other thing I wanted to do was to brush my teeth! Boy, did that feel good. Taking off my sweaty clothes was also another treat.

I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to sleep (the body might have stopped moving, but the muscles still keep going sometimes). I was also still going in and out of extreme hot flashes. I could not get warm. It’s almost like being really, really sick – fever sick like. But I didn’t have to fear not sleeping. I slept hard for about 12 hours.

August 25, 2014

The next morning was Monday and Erich was gone. I had to somehow get out of bed, get a shower, and get down to the car. I gave myself plenty of time to get these simple tasks done! I felt (and probably looked) like death. And concluded that all 100 milers should have a personal assistant for at least three days.

This was also the first time that I looked in the mirror. The wind and sun (and stress) even took a toll on my lips. It was like a Botox injection gone wrong. It took about a seven days for them to heal. Yup, my whole body was a wreck.

It’s weird to have accomplished something pretty significant and the rest of the world keeps on ticking like nothing even happened. Every time I thought of those 29 hours, 11 minutes I wept. Running 100 miles is a very emotional event.

I still didn’t have an appetite, but knew I needed to eat something (I did have a plant-based recovery shake right after finishing and some bites of pie but that was it). I saw a sign for Chipotle and thought that sounded good so I hobbled in. I was still feverish and could only eat a few bites. So much for that idea.

I finally arrived at my friends, “walked” in the door and fell on the floor. Every step I took wore me out. I slept fitfully the rest of the afternoon. The car needed to be cleaned out and it was clear that I was in no shape for that task so my friends graciously hauled in everything and cleaned it out.

The kicker was that I had to fly out to Canada the very next morning for a work trip to Manitoba Harvest. I had no idea how it was going to happen, but I was determined to make it happen.

Tuesday morning came and I unpacked just to repack, washed my hair (even blow dried it!) and was promptly worn out. I still had to return the car and fly. I was in no condition to walk so wheelchair it was. My feet were still in bandages so it was clear that “something” happened. I got a few inquires about them and the people were in awe of the feat. I flew to Canada, arrived in a wheelchair and the next 2 days were rough, but at least bearable. However, that Tuesday evening I got my appetite slowly back and enjoyed a meal for the first time in four days. On Thursday, I was able to put on shoes (TOMS) again for the first time in four days. By Friday. I was able to walk (slowly) and got to go to yoga. And then I slept almost the remainder of the day. I couldn’t get enough sleep. Saturday I was feeling really good and walked for about five hours with a TRX workout I discovered at a nearby gym Yoga Public with a good afternoon nap in between walking around Winnipeg. That evening I was really sore and in some pain and I knew I overdid it. The following day was Sunday and I didn’t move a whole lot.

But Monday morning I wanted to get in a workout and even though I was traveling, I got up and walked to Yoga Public at 5:45 a.m for yoga and TRX. Yup, I was feeling back to my old self again and that felt good.

I was drinking plenty of muscle recovery tea, eating really good, organic, whole, anti-inflammatory foods and this really helped with my recovery. I discovered the only organic cold-pressed juice shop in Winnipeg and that was a Godsend. I kept walking and I was surprised how good I felt physically just a week out from the race.

The emotional side of recovery was (is?) a different story. There will be times I will just tear up for no reason. Not being an emotional person this is unusual for me. It’s teaching me to be extra kind to myself and give myself love, grace and self care.

——-

As I was running the race I told myself I wouldn’t run another 100 miler. Since finishing I’ve had several people ask me when my next one is. Having been at the start line of now four 100 milers and finished two of them I guess I’m not exactly going to stop this sport anytime soon. I’m also a “young” 100 miler. The average age of a female 100 miler is about 45 years. So while I can not answer that question right now – the emotional and physical scars are still healing – it’s probably safe to say I’ll be embarking on more 100 milers in the future. Hell, five days before the race I was looking at one of the ninth toughest ultramarathons (Fat Dog 120). Is that an indicator? It might be.

If you’d like to help communities in Africa have access to clean water you candonate directly to Blood: Water here.

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Yoga For Anyone

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Yoga For Anyone

Think you can’t do yoga? Well think again because anyone can do yoga!

When most people first hear the word “yoga” they immediately conjure up thoughts of a monk in a far away land or they think of someone in a twisted pretzel pose and conclude they could never do that! Well friends, I’m here to inform you that anyone can do yoga.

Why? Because even though yoga has many different styles and poses the elements of yoga can benefit anyone regardless of flexibility and gender.

Here are 7 reasons why anyone can do yoga:

1) Yoga is about connecting breath with movement

If you have taken a yoga class with an experienced yoga teacher they will usually cue the sequence movement with breath. Even though yoga has thousands of poses given all the variations it’s important not to forget about breathing as you are moving your body through the yoga sequence. Always come back to the breath. This is one of essences of yoga.

 

Model: Sarah Stanley. Photo credit: Doug Kean Shotz

2) Yoga is the physical, mental, and spiritual practice to transform the body and mind 

This is the definition of yoga and I love it! Many things are spiritual to me as well as physical and mental: running on the trails, climbing a 14,000 foot tall mountain, cycling on the open roads, moving my body on my yoga mat. (Spending time with my faith community as well as listening to good worship music round out my spiritual practices.) Every time we step on our yoga mat we have another chance to build a strong mind and body. This strength will get you through the tough times in life that are bound to happen. If you can tame your monkey mind you can do great things.

3) Yoga is about community

Have you ever been a part of a strong yoga community? I’ve had the privilege of being part of one and it was one of the best times of my life. A yoga community can be a soft place to land when the storm is tossing you around like a paper airplane. It does take being vulnerable and opening your soul to those around you to be part of a supportive and thriving yoga community as this is where growth and transformation happen. Being vulnerable can be scary and perhaps that’s why more people don’t take yoga (headstands anyone?) for fear of looking stupid or whatever story they keep telling themselves. However, freedom is found when we embrace the scary places and walk through them with another person.

4) Yoga is about being present

I’ve had a yoga teacher who told us that if we only did one pose the entire class he would be happy. And that pose was being present and focusing on our breathe. When was the last time you JUST focused on your breathing? As I’m sure you know oxygen is important for our health (duh!) but many people hold their breath without even realizing it. Be present (no more multitasking). And focus on your breath.

5) Yoga can be done anywhere, anytime

Just like running, yoga can be done anywhere, anytime. You don’t have to be on your mat at 9 a.m. every morning to practice downward facing dog or to focus on your breathing! Yoga can be done on the airplane (close your eyes and focus on your breath alone), in airports, in the mountains, by the lake, or on the living room floor. Note: if you have anxiety or other mood issues yoga is a fantastic way to help calm the mind and heal the body.

6) Yoga is about calming and strengenthing the mind

Ever find yourself caught up with the chatter in your head? Me too. This is why yoga is so beneficial for anyone! Whether you take 15 minutes at home or 60 minutes at your local yoga studio this time is for yourself to put the past and future aside and simply focus on the present. Tune in to your body. How does it feel? Focus on your breathing and every time your mind starts to wander off bring your awareness back to it. (Tip: if you have trouble falling asleep focus on your breathing.)

7) Yoga is about daily practice

Getting into the healthy habit of setting all else aside and focusing on your mind, body, spirit for at least 15 minutes a day will have you seeing results you didn’t think were possible. A daily practice is going to look different for each of us. The point is that once you establish the healthy habit of daily mind+body+spirit awareness will you understand the positive benefits of yoga (and healthy living in general). Do you think about brushing your teeth? Probably not. It’s a habit deeply ingrained in you. So to is the daily healthy habits we get the honor of forming each and every day!

Peace and love to you~

To learn more about Silk visit here and here

Cover photo credit: Brad Coy

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Silk. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

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Birthdays, Running, and Clean Water for Africa

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Birthdays, Running, and Clean Water for Africa

desert-2.jpg

This is the week! The week of my birthday. The week where I’ll ask people to celebrate my birthday with me by helping communities in Africa have access to clean water with Blood: Water. (You don't even have to run 100 miles!) The week where I'm going back to where it all began. The week where I’m counting down the days and hours to the start line of my 4th 100 mile ultramarathon.

For those of you new to me, here’s a little background. 5 years ago I ran my first 100 miler to celebrate a milestone birthday (can you guess what it was?) and I finished that race in 24 hours, 58 minutes, 3rd place in my age group and 7th overall in female. It would take me 2.5 years to attempt another 100 miler (the scars from the first were pretty traumatic!) and that race ended in a DNF because I missed the cut off at mile 80 by one minute (after running/moving for 24 hours). After mentally recovering from that loss I once again entertained the thought of running another 100 miler and toed the start line of a race course that was beautiful but oh so very brutal. 20,000 feet of elevation gain at above 9000 feet on rugged, remote trails was one of the most difficult races I’ve ever attempted. No words will do that race course justice. None. Sadly, injury took me out at mile 45 (and 15 hours of running) and once again the letters ‘DNF’ became seared in my memory. Even harder to accept was the feeling that I let the cause I run for (Blood: Water) down. But thankfully that feeling wasn’t true. Many people in Africa got access to clean water because of this run and that’s what mattered at the end of the day (or night because this is an ultramarathon after all).

I enjoy celebrating my birthday in a positive manner. A few highlights from the last few years include road cycling from Washington, D.C to New York City plus a half marathon in 2010 in support of Orange Laces, in 2011 I rode my bike again this time from San Francisco to San Diego in 2011 in support of Kids on Bikes, and in 2013 I ran 34 miles solo in support of Compassion. Doing something athletic in conjunction with causes that truly make a preventative difference is how I prefer to celebrate my birthday. (Although if someone wants to make me an organic, made-from-scratch birthday cake I won’t object :))

 

Finishing Lean Hose 100 Mile Ultramarathon on August 23, 2009 at 6:58 am. (24 hours, 58 minutes)

Finishing Lean Hose 100 Mile Ultramarathon on August 23, 2009 at 6:58 am. (24 hours, 58 minutes)

So the week is here. The miles and miles have been put in. Preparing myself mentally, physically, and spiritually. Lots of real, organic, whole foods have been consumed. Visualization has been consistent. Will 21 years of running pay off for me? Will I am able to manage feet blisters that always seem to plague me on 100 milers? Will I be able to keep the negative voices out of my head when the pain is horrific? Regardless of those answers I will give it my all when the gun goes off at 6:00am MST on Saturday, August 23, 2014. As I toe the start line of another 100 mile ultramarathon knowing that I’ll have moments of agony and joy, pain and happiness, doubt and confidence, low lows and high highs, hot weather and cold weather, what will keep me going is the cause in front of me: clean water and clean blood for Africa.

Running 100 miles at one fell swoop is not an easy task and I would appreciate your encouragement and positive support along the way. Leave a birthday greeting in the comments below or on any of my social links.

And lastly, my birthday is this Friday, August 22 and I’d love nothing more but to have you celebrate it with me by giving directly to Blood: Water! They have a few campaigns going on so pick one that speaks to you.

This year Silvercar is sponsoring the ride to/from South Dakota so be sure to follow our social platforms for the latest updates, photos, and other interesting tidbits along the adventure!

p.s. super grateful to Erich for crewing me- again!- at yet another ultra. I couldn't do it without your support.

xo

Cover photo taken by me on one of my training runs.

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Cheeseburgers and The Church part six

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Cheeseburgers and The Church part six

Cheeseburgers and The Church

During this series, we’ve been taking a hard look at the dichotomy of the faith community and the health and the food choices they make.

I'd highly recommend reading the introduction, part two, part three, part four, part five.

Forewarning: if you aren’t ready to read and hear the truth, you may want to bookmark this for later. 

And before you dive into this article, please know I write this with the utmost love and compassion for you. I care VERY deeply about you and the health of our country.

Human trafficking, children living in poverty, clean water in Third World countries are all very popular charity work within the faith community. I, myself sponsor two children living in poverty and contribute to the clean water efforts in Africa. I also do not buy Big Food products, drink bottled water, drink coffee or eat meat. I don’t drink soft drinks (never have) or eat fast “food” (it’s not really food). And I make sure my dark (organic) chocolate is fair trade and not made with slave labor. Why? Because I strongly believe that my faith should permeate all areas of my life, not just “Stuff Christians Like” to quote a popular book and website.

You see, it’s really hard to say you’re against human trafficking and then buy products that keep people entrapped in slavery.

It’s a dichotomy to say you believe stealing and lying are sins, but then stuff yourself on take-out, BBQ and Krispy Kremes.

It’s a dichotomy to say you are for spiritual health, but completely ignore how you are treating the very body God designed.

It’s really easy to say addictions (pornography, alcoholism, drugs, smoking, etc.) are wrong, but then be addicted to copious amounts of soda, sugar, unhealthy “food”.

The faith community as a whole (no denomination discrimination here) rarely talks about their health. However, it is becoming increasingly harder to shove the elephant in the closet.

Spiritual health, physical health, mental health - they are all connected to living a healthy life that God intended for us. And you can't have one without the other. Everything is connected together. Everything. I’m not going to brow beat you with Bible verses about health because that's just not me, but the Bible does have plenty to say about the topic should you need proof that this is a viable concern.

Something has to change. The faith community has to wake up to the sleeping giant in their community before that giant wakes up and devours its prey. We can no longer ignore the problem. How can we share about the Living Water when we’re drinking poison on a regular basis? This dichotomy is screaming from the pews! You see, it’s really easy to shout from the rooftops that people need Jesus, but it’s a lot harder to face the reality that our daily purchases (Big Food) actually keeps people away from Jesus. It’s easy to say you love Jesus on Sunday morning, but a lot harder to treat our health the way God intended the other 167 hours of the week.

The health of our nation has been my work for years. During this work, I’ve noticed that the health of the church is pathetically appalling. We’re treating our bodies like garbage disposals and our souls like a landfill. We're buying and consuming products that keep people entrapped in slavery and poverty. Did God really create us to trash the every thing He created? I don’t believe so.

BHT, coloring dyes, GMOs (pesticides, Roundup, hormones and antibiotics to include rBGH & rBST), artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, preservatives - these are just a sampling of ingredients in all Big Food products.

And what do these ingredients do to your health? They are all linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, tumors, obesity, low immune system, chronic sickness, ear infections, infertility, male sterility, hyperactivity, autism, depression - the list is endless.

So if you’ve made the connection “did I make myself sick?” the answer is most likely, yes. Between 90-95 percent of all diseases (including cancer) are preventable through lifestyle. This is according to NIH. We can no longer use a Hail Mary when we’ve neglected our health all along. Grace is wonderful, but treating our bodies like an afterthought is a disrespect to God’s grace.

I cringe when I see believers post photos of their food choices and lifestyle. Especially when they post photos of what they are feeding their kids. It almost makes me ashamed to be a believer! Pretty photos of sugary products that cause disease. Candy that causes a host of health issues. Celebrating a milestone at fast food joint. It’s not a judgment, but an indicator to me that we have a ton of work to do in the faith community on this topic! And then a few days later updates indicate they are sick again. Or have another ear infection. You name it. And guess what? It's all connected to what they put in their body. You can't treat your body like crap and expect good health.

The faith community should be a place of healing but sadly it’s a place of promoting sickness. Donuts and coffee at the welcoming table. Men’s breakfast with five different types of farm factory meat, white, refined flour biscuits and gravy and pasteurized juice (no nutrients). Ladies Tea with the main attraction being sugary treats. These events are keeping people trapped in their food addiction. How is that helping them? It’s not.

FYI: Big Food is designed (important note: not created by God) to keep people addicted to their products for life. That is not living in freedom, my friends. Big Food also destroys the land God made, uses unethical labor and other humanitarian issues that should greatly concern you. Here are two great resources to find out how many slaves you use: Made In a Free World and Slavery Footprint. Very insightful to change your buying and eating habits.

No wonder people think we are hypocrites! We are! But you don’t have to be a hypocrite any more. You can change. You can start to match your words with your actions.

The truth will set you free and the truth about what you feed your soul, what you feed your body will free you and generations to come. Being healthy isn’t just for yourself, it’s for generations to come. And another little fact: did you know that what the mother eats sets the DNA for the next 5-6 generations? That’s a pretty powerful reason to start cleaning up your plate! What you are eating will determine what diseases (or good health) your future generations will inherit.

This message of health and what we put in our bodies is one that virtually no one wants to speak about. While others may be okay with, I am not. As believers, we are the light to those around us, but sadly our light is tainted with toxins and sickness and disease. Not because we are human but because we have ignored our health all along. We need to be on forefront of this battle, not sitting on the sidelines!

Another topic: Do you know what GMO is and what is happening to the very earth that God created? Did you know that if you are buying Big Food products (virtually anything in commercial supermarkets, Wal-Mart, Target, etc), consume fast “food”, or chew gum, that GMOs are in those products that God never intended to be in your body? GMOs are a real issue and so far the Christian circle is pretty silent on it. We need to be on forefront of justice issues, not waiting for someone else to take the initiative. And yes, health justice is very much a topic that impacts the faith community.

Our faith values need to coincide with our food choices. Our faith values need to match our ethics when it comes to what we put in our mouth or slater on our skin.

The faith community can’t live without their coffee, but did you know that it takes 37 gallons of clean water to make one cup of coffee? To dig deeper, coffee and cocoa are two crops that use slave/human trafficking/child labor the most. Yes, health justice is very much related to your faith.

What can you do? Here are 9 ways to start matching your faith with your daily choices and walking the talk.

1) Disrupt your buying and eating habits

I’m not going to sugarcoat it and suggest baby steps. We’re too far gone for that. Clean out your fridge, your cupboards, pantry and get rid of the toxic products. Yes, even that baking powder (if it’s not Rumford brand it contains Aluminum).

2) If you are a church leader, start talking about this issue

Work at a church or other faith community? Start the conversation. Share this series with them. We can not ignore the issue anymore. If you don't feel comfortable talking about it, I'm happy to talk with them!

3) Change where you shop

If you are currently shopping at Wal-Mart, Target, commercial stores for food, stop. You get your health from where you shop. Get to know your local, organic farmer. Shop at local co-ops, health food stores, farmer’s markets. Here is a great resource to get you started. On a tight budget? Read this. But remember, how much are you paying to be sick? Medicine, time off work, doctor visits- these virtually do not happen with the people that buy and eat real food and take care of their body. Something to think about.

4) Hire me to speak and/or host a workshop

I’d love nothing more than to help your church leadership, community and get well. We’ve designed the workshops to be a practical source of knowledge that you can apply instantly.

5) Work with me personally

You can sign up for our 21 day program and learn how to eat, cook, shop, live, prevent disease and reprogram your mind, body, life. So worth it!

6) Educate yourself

Before you put another thing in your mouth or swallow another pill, read the ingredient label and know the associated (and serious) health risks. Calories aren’t the focus of this exercise. It’s what makes up the product that is either giving you disease or giving you health.

7) Eat real, God-made food, drink, cures

It’s pretty simple what to eat: if God made it, you can eat, drink, consume it. If God did not make it, do not eat, drink, swallow, chew, consume. And PSA: soft drinks, Slurpees/Icee, energy drinks (Red Bull, Monster, etc) are not real drink. Ditch them right now.

8) Buy organic

There are so many reasons to eat organic! One of the reasons is that pesticides are toxins and fat cells like toxins. So if you want to lose weight, eat organic. Another huge reason is that organic farming also cares for the land that God created. Conventional farming does not. Again, put your faith into practice by buying that which God intended for you.

9) Devour this site

This website, Twitter, Instagram, eNewsletter and other social platforms are filled with countless resources to help you live incredibly well, prevent disease and share the love of Jesus to everyone around us. Here are some other vetted sources:

Dr. Mark Hyman

Food Babe

Tania Mercer

Andy Bellatti 

Robyn O'Brien 

Living Maxwell

Maximized Living

Dr. Matthew McAlees 

Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Nutrition You Can Trust

Kristina DeMuth and Moxie Dietitian (also contributor to this series)

I pray for you daily that the truth will set you free. Please be part of the solution instead of contributing to the problem. I believe in you!

Much love, peace and wellness to you.

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Cheeseburgers and The Church (part five)

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Cheeseburgers and The Church (part five)

Cheeseburgers and The Church

So far we have touched on several topics with Cheeseburgers and The Church: In Part Two of Cheeseburgers and The Church, I talked about Big Food Industry and the its role in human slavery and poverty.  In Cheeseburgers and The Church Part Three, I discussed how our cheap meat and animal-sourced foods, highly refined food products are failing to provide stewardship to the Earth, non-human life, as well as human health. In Cheeseburgers and The Church Part Four, I discussed my frustration with Faith Based organizations promoting unhealthy food options in their church gatherings, mission work, and volunteer service projects. (If you missed why this series started, read the introduction here.)

Today, I am going to muse on faith, money, and health. I know for a fact that in the Christian community, people are called to be good stewards of their financial resources. I would argue that all humans, for the sake of the common good, should be good stewards with their financial resources too. When it comes to "cheap" food (e.g. fast food, cheap meat, processed food, sugar sweetened beverages), we are "investing" in expensive health risks for ourselves, our families, and greater society. In one of my public health classes, I learned that  each year America spends well over $2 TRILLION dollars on health care .... with only 3% of that $2 Trillion going to public health work (PREVENTION). These numbers are ASTRONOMICAL! Especially, considering that we spend more on health care than any other country, yet we still aren't doing better (in terms of health) than other developed countries.....

Chronic diseases, which many are PREVENTABLE with lifestyle choices, are largely to blame for our high cost of health. In fact the CDC's website states:

"As a nation, 75% of our health care dollars goes to treatment of chronic diseases. These persistent conditions—the nation’s leading causes of death and disability—leave in their wake deaths that could have been prevented, lifelong disability, compromised quality of life, and burgeoning health care costs."

The American Cancer Society reports:

"Each year, about 585,720 Americans die of cancer; around one-third of these deaths are linked to poor diet, physical inactivity, and carrying too much weight."

Additionally, the CDC predicts that by 2050: 1 in 3 U.S. adults will have diabetes!!! In 2007, diabetes alone costed $174 billion in direct and indirect causes! Type 2 Diabetes, which makes up about 90-95% of all cases of Diabetes in America, is PREVENTABLE with lifestyle habits like healthy eating, being physical activity, and maintaining healthy weight.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is the cause of death for about 1 in 4 Americans, has officially become the number one killer for men and women in America. The CDC reports: "CVD costs the United States over $300 billion each year, including the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity." CVD is preventable!!!!

Everyday, I am becoming more convinced that people are wired for temptation, procrastination, and impatience. In America, we expect fast and quick results... immediate gratification for our desires, "needs", and happiness. We spend money foolishly on food because "it tastes good" rather than investing in food that does our body good. We don't see food as fuel and "medicine".... we procrastinate to take care of our health, and we are impatient to see results of our change in lifestyle (eating more whole, real foods or increasing physical activity). We want to see immediate results.... so we invest in expensive, and often times, unhealthy weight loss supplements. OR we "give-up" on trying to live healthy--we just stop. OR we decide that we don't need to worry about chronic diseases now because we are young--- BUT the truth is that chronic disease starts YOUNG. Children develop tastes for foods, they are rewarded with "treats" at sporting events, and grow up believing that they are "invincible" to chronic health diseases----BUT the truth is THEY ARE NOT. Children throughout the United States are being faced with "adult" diseases like diabetes, hypertension..... fatty streaks (from high cholesterol) are building-up in the arteries of young children. I will never forget learning about this in my Intro to Nutrition class 7 years ago..... It's shameful, especially when we have been given so many wonderful and health promoting resources (beautiful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans.....). Eating "foolishly" is costing us more than just our financial resources, however, it's taking away quality years of life that could be spent living to our greatest potential. It's taking away from our quality of work,  and our years to spend with families......our time, feelings, and relationships are invaluable and can not be replaced. Chronic health conditions are often intangible ..... but when you start to believe in PREVENTION and believe that YOU have have control over your health, then things happen....

The beauty is that WE DO KNOW from research that eating whole foods, especially fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes, nuts and seeds, can help reduce risk of chronic health diseases and lower risk of all-cause mortality. Additionally, eating can TASTE AMAZING and doesn't have to break the bank (see: Oh She Glow's for plant-based recipes and plant-based on a budget). Eating healthy is a rather cheap form of health care that comes with additional benefits (possibly: increasing natural energy, maintaining a healthy weight, increased positive moods....). Being physically active can also be inexpensive and easy! You don't need a gym membership to move your body. Going for a walk, riding bikes, swimming in a lake..... wall sits, push-ups, jumping rope planks, jump squats, yoga moves, sit-ups, taking the stairs.... if you are are reading this, then I am sure you can find a youtube workout video to motivate you! The library also has videos and books for rent. Make physical activity apart of your daily routine.

Don't believe me about prevention and lifestyle!? Then watch this....

And this..

Do I need to explain more? What you eat matters for your health, the health of your family, and the health of your community!

Faith communities can and SHOULD respond to this health crisis in America. Some faith communities are responding to these health issues, which I find really refreshing! (see: Faithful Families, eat smart move more, ).... and I hope that more faith communities will RISE to the challenge to be PROACTIVE, STEWARDS to the Earth, to financial resources, and to all human health.

To paraphrase what my Haitian friend and I had conversed about last month, we can't expect God to save us from our foolishness. We are killing ourselves by ignoring the power of our choice. We must acknowledge our individual and community responsibilities to care for the Earth, our human bodies, as well as non-human life.

Now GO be a good steward--- spend your money wisely, live in prevention, and shine your light!!!!

Read Part Six here.

In good health,

Kristina

kAD
kAD
 

Find me on Twitter: @kristinademuth_RD

or Facebook: Moxie Musing

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Cheeseburgers and The Church (part four)

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Cheeseburgers and The Church (part four)

Cheeseburgers and The Church

We're in a series right now called Cheeseburgers and The Church: the health message. As I (Sarah) look around the faith community I see a few common denominators: obesity, food (a lot of the wrong "food"), unhealthy people and hypocrisy. How can we take care of the souls of the people when we treat our bodies like garbage disposals? Last week was February 27 and it was the End It Movement Shine The Light on Slavery Day. What many in the faith community fail to realize is that the food-like products they are buying are often times produced with slave/child/human trafficking labor. What Cheeseburgers and The Church series is attempting to do is to take a hard look at how we treat our bodies and the purchases we make say a lot more about us than just going to church every Sunday. It's time for the faith community to wake up and start putting their words into action: eating real food, drinking pure (filtered) water, and to stop buying products (Big Food) that keep our fellow citizens entrapped in slavery.

Part One (Introduction to this series by Sarah Stanley)

Part Two (by Kristina DeMuth)

Part Three (by Kristina DeMuth) 

Part Four (by Kristina DeMuth

Part Five (by Kristina DeMuth)

Part Six (by Sarah Stanley)

--------------

Last week, I returned home from a sweet, short trip to Haiti to check-in with the children and the staff I lived and worked with last year. In "Cheeseburgers and The Church (Part Two)" I shared my experience of living in Haiti and making the connection between the Big Food industry and poverty. In this series, I would like to bring the idea of industry down to an individual and organizational level......and share with you some words of wisdom that came from a "health warrior" I met on my last journey.

These are several tweets that I posted that strongly illustrate some of the emotions I felt during my ministry...

  1. "The "white savior" and how our influence of power shapes the developing world."
  2.  " Another child asked me for candy yesterday.... Americans=candy, junk food! That makes me mad and sad." Followed by... "Corn flakes & juice are NOT health foods. Corn flakes= processed GMO, juice= sugar beverage. Wish I could make a public service message." and " What also makes me frustrated about corn flakes is that it's displacing real native cultural foods...."
  3.  "The problem we are now seeing in Haiti w/ illness according to my Haitian friend,"People believe in medicine, they don't believe in food." Followed by "diabetes, hypertension, strokes... Mostly are lifestyle diseases that have been on the rise in developing countries due to westernized diets."
  4.  "I wish more Americans would come to Haiti and try the native foods!!" (Here are a few pictures of the native foods)
  5. "Elders speak wisdom and truth about life. Take time to listen..."
  6.  "I cringe when I see missionaries leaving Haiti (one of the poorest countries in the world) and filling their bodies with processed crap."

Many missionaries, Expats, service volunteers, are all  trying to do the right thing-- serve other people that have a need. The troubling part about our service, however, is that we aren't always aware of how our power of influences shapes the lives of others. We often times come into situations with good intentions, but never think about how those intentions undermine and oftentimes displace traditions, artistry, and rich-culture. I have realized this throughout my experiences in Haiti, specifically with how it relates to food.

It frustrates me when people come to Haiti and have no idea about any of the rich, native foods of the county. They come to do service and developmental projects, and then fill their bodies with SAD (Standard American Diet) food-- pizza, french fries, candy, pop, and meat. They bring treats for the children they visit in orphanages----filling these already malnourished bodies with highly processed, refined foods. In the middle of Cite Soleil, one of the poorest slums in the world, I've had children asked me for a piece of candy. I have had a child cry while I visited a friend's home because I didn't bring a piece of candy! Why are Americans associated with candy? Because that's what Americans are doing...passing out candy, as though life is a carnival. Yes, the candy brings the child a few moments of joy and makes us "feel good" because we've put a smile on his/her face, BUT we don't have to witness the long-term consequences of these actions: the influence we have on cultural eating patterns and the implications it will have on this child's health (many of these same children often don't have dentists, doctors, tooth brushes, or basic sanitation). You may think it's just one piece of candy, but you are just one of millions thinking that it's just one piece of candy. Let me tell you, kids in Haiti are as happy to see fresh fruits (especially the more "rare", native ones) as they are to see sweets and candy! (See: "How to screw up orphan care in the name of Jesus: 8. Feed them a crappy diet.").

The role of influence on health and food extends beyond just the sweets we bring and share and into everyday, cultural staple-foods for these people. To many Westerners, food appears to be just food. BUT food is more than that. Food is about emotion and power, and in many parts of the world, food is also about status and class. Some foods, like edible weeds and native grains, become "food for the poor" though the nutritional value of many of these foods are critical for optimal health and food security for many people around the world. Undermining these health promoting and rich native foods during our times of service, does long-term damage to the people and the cultures we are trying to help (See these research articles on food security and developmental work) including deadly consequences. I am sadden to hear stories from my good, Haitian friends about their parents suffering with lifestyle diseases (or dying from them)  (See my blog "Education is Power").

Strokes, diabetes, hypertension... many of these are preventable by eating whole, real foods and being physically active. Coke, refined-grains, cheap meats, candy, corn flakes, cheetos.... they are all "foreign" foods that are "more palatable" and brought in by foreigners and, consequently, displacing native, whole-some foods (see my blog "Musing on Food-aid Again"). I kid you not, some children are eating only cheetos and juice for dinner, and (in the case that I am aware of) it wasn't because there was a lack of food available. Where did people get the idea that cheetos were an acceptable meal for children? Perhaps it was the Americans? Maybe it was the health professionals in America that have ties with food industry?

Chiritos
Chiritos
 

While doing "service" on one-hand, many people are also doing "dis-services" on the other.. not just to themselves, but also to the people they are trying to serve. We are blinded by how our poor eating patterns are harming the health of others, and how our moments of joy are doing long-term damage. We think of it as "just food" or we think that we are the experts about food because we have had our own personal relationship with food. I am not out to play the blame-game. I used to be in the same shoes as every other missionary/ volunteer.... I used to eat the highly processed foods with chemicals and ingredients I couldn't pronounce.. but then I became educated and now try to be more conscientious about the foods I put in my own body, share with others (and allow them to put in their bodies), and the how the my own food choices impact a much larger, sometimes intangible system.

You, personally, may not be involved with mission-related work in a foreign country, but we have a nutrition-crises here in the United States that needs to be addressed. In many places across the country, children are being fed carnival food at school-- they are being fed cheap, processed, an fried foods that are not health promoting. The meat we are producing is destroying the environment, our health, and increasing antibiotic resistance. It's been reported that over 23000 Americans die of superbugs per year...that 30 million pounds of antibiotics are being used to raise animals for human consumption (only 7.7 million pounds of antibiotics are used in hospitals) ....and 80% of these antibiotics are being used as "preventative mechanisms"....Our cheap meat and our cheap "snack" foods are REALLY EXPENSIVE FOODS with the increase in healthcare costs and the loss of human lives!!!! Our current food system is abusive to the workers producing our food (exposing them to toxic chemicals), the environment (depleting the soil, and polluting our air and water) , the animals (factory farming---thousands of animals crammed into cages and living in their feces), and our own health (see TEDxManhattan and "Antibiotic Resistance and the Food Supply").

Many churches throughout the United States have fundraisers and weekly/ monthly fellowships that serve processed juices, conventional cows milk, donuts, pizzas, pancake-breakfasts, grill-outs, spaghetti dinners, and fish frys.... some churches may even serve meals at homeless shelters, pack-food for foreign countries, collect canned goods for food shelves. How can we turn all of these church functioning, fundraisers, and services into events that honor HEALTH--- honor the body as a human temple and the food that we put into it as medicine? How can we offer more health promoting food choices (e.g. fruits and vegetables) and less processed, refined food options (e.g. chips, white bread, cheap meat)? Can churches promote more meatless options to cutdown on the environmental constraints and the production of "cheap meat"?? How can we learn more about the cultural-food practices in countries that we are packing food for? Are there options for locally sourced food-aid that we can put our money to instead? How do our food choices at volunteer events and church functions contradict the faith messages about stewardship to our Earth, to our bodies, and to others?

In closing, I would like to leave you with this message a Haitian "health warrior" shared with me about health, nutrition, and the bible. This is an excerpt from my blog:  "In regards to foolishness, the Haitian man again shared with me a message from the bible about the eyes, the ears, and the mouth. We have been given all of these things to see good, hear good, and speak good…. but in today’s world, people are interested in foolishness. They aren’t interested in doing what is good for their bodies. They may listen, they may speak, they may see…. but they do not act on wisdom. They act on foolishness."... Further reflecting on foolishness, the Haitian man said, “People believe God made everything for humans to eat. They pray over it and think it is blessed. They think it will do no harm to their bodies….. but I don’t think so.”We must stop acting as though our Creator is going to save us from what humans have done to destroy our global food supply. It is foolish to think that we have no control in our food choices or how we construct/ develop food environments for  both others and ourselves.

kAD
kAD
 

In good health,

Kristina

Find me on Twitter: @kristinademuth_RD  or Facebook: Moxie Musing and learn more about my work in Haiti at For I was Hungry

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9 Ways To Be A Better Runner

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9 Ways To Be A Better Runner

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What runner doesn't want to be a better runner? They seek personal records, long for faster recovery time but at the same time, fear injuries. No runner wants to be sidelined! So how do you stay a happy runner? By taking great care of your body! Here are 9 ways to be a better runner. (Not a runner? They still apply to you too!)

1) Eat real food. The number one mistake I see runners making time and time again is not eating real food. Sadly the common thought is “I ran x miles so I can eat whatever”. This couldn’t be further from the truth! If you are a runner that means it’s imperative to eat even more nutrient-dense foods and to put down the processed food-like products. The SAD (Standard American Diet) is sad for a reason. And many runners think they can “run off” what they eat. However this is simply not true. Toxic ingredients harm your health regardless if you are a runner or not. You don’t want to be a fake runner so why eat fake “food”? Coloring dyes (Blue 1, Blue 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, etc), BHT, man-made trans fats (fast “food” is a great example of this), refined white sugars and flours, artificial sugars (Sucralose/Splenda, Aspartame) are all ingredients that cause many health problems  Want to be a better runner? The number one thing you can do to be a better runner is to eat real, organic, whole, non-GMO foods.  And this should go without saying but drinking sodas and running is a recipe for disaster. Soft drinks create weak bones. As a runner you want strong bones. So if you need one more reason to ditch the soda, here you go! Running is just one part of wellness and a healthy life. Don’t neglect the other parts! No more Big Macs, okay? :)

A sample list of real foods (all organic of course):

  • Hemp seeds and powder
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Bok choy
  • Avocado
  • Chia seeds
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Cacao nibs
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Carrots
  • Red onions
  • Sprouts
  • Legumes
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Coconut oil
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Spirulina
  • Quinoa
  • Butternut squash
  • Red kuri squash
  • Brown rice

2) Drink real electrolytes. Electrolytes and running go hand in hand. But it’s super important to get these electrolytes from real food sources instead of Gatorade/Powerade, etc. Powerade still contains Brominated Vegetable Oil. Electrolytes don’t come from a plastic bottle. Not only is plastic a toxin but the ingredients in sports drinks are as well. Food dyes are made from petroleum and coal tar and cause a variety of health diseases (like tumors, cancer). So where will you get your electrolytes? From real food. By following the above advice (eat real food) you will get all the electrolytes you need. You can also make your own electrolytes drink as in this graphic. I’m an ultrarunner and I run super long distances on real food and real electrolytes. It does work :) If you want to see what Gatorade does to your insides, watch this. It's not pretty or healthy!

3) Get plenty of rest. If you are burning the midnight oil at both ends it might be wise to reconsider your current lifestyle. Sleep and rest is another essential for being a better runner. Running on a tired body over time will result in physical stress which in turn will weaken immune system leaving you more susceptible to viruses. Another thing to remember is that time in bed does not equal time slept. Between falling asleep, waking up at night, falling back asleep, those precious minutes don’t count as sleep time (bad news for parents!) so tracking your sleep can be helpful to making sure you are getting the right amount of sleep for your body.

4) Active, smart recovery. If you start the day with a run or just ran a race (of any distance) sitting for the rest of the day is not smart recovery nor beneficial for your muscles. Sitting hinders blood flow to your muscles. After a race, walk around. Move! Walk the next day. Repeat. Getting the blood flow back into your muscles will speed recovery time. Run in the morning before work? That's awesome but you need to be active all day long. Get up from your desk every hour and walk around for 10 minutes. There are so many health benefits to hourly movement.

photo 2 (7)
photo 2 (7)

5) Practice yoga and strength train. Only running only works certain muscles. And that’s not being an effective (or smart) runner. All muscles need to be strong to help prevent injury and run faster. Start by incorporating yoga and strength training into your weekly fitness routine. Squats, lunges, pushups, bridges, plank are all great movements that you can do anywhere. But don’t be afraid to go to the gym and lift weights! Yoga is also great for building strength- bonus: calming the mind at the same time. 

6) Running on soft surfaces. Concrete is not an ideal running surface. The first choice should always be dirt trails and then pavement. Pavement has a little “give”  whereas concrete does not. Running on concrete will make for a very unhappy body and exasperate injuries. It’s okay to run on the neighborhood streets- just be sure to run towards traffic. Be sure to wear ID and reflective material. (Rules of the street: cycle with traffic, run against traffic.)

7) Chill out! Many runners are Type A. Myself included. While not necessarily a bad thing, this can get us into trouble. If we continue to run on stressed out adrenals (fight or flight) it will catch up with us sooner rather than later. By learning to tune into our body and knowing when to back off you can become a better runner for the long haul. Whether its taking a week or a few months off of running that time off will do your body a world of good. Use this time to point practice point number 5.

8) Keep your body healthy! Massage, acupuncture, chiropractic care, Graston/ART are all fantastic ways to keep your body strong, in alignment and most importantly, healthy. Each of these treatments has its own set of health benefits. Chiropractic care is extremely great for runners and athletes. Subluxation can cause all kinds of problems (weight gain, hormone imbalance, headaches, etc). Acupuncture is another personal favorite.

9) Use natural anti-inflammatories. If you are in chronic pain and you think it’s from running, take a deep breath. Running isn’t the cause of your pain! It’s what you are putting in your body that is. Remember point number one in this article? The SAD (Standard American Diet) promotes inflammation (from it’s acid-producing products) and inflammation breeds disease. And popping NSAIDs do not cure the problem. By healing your body from the inside out you don’t have to live in chronic pain! Personally, I train pretty intensely and one of the reasons I don’t have chronic pain and can recover so quickly is by making sure everything I put in my body is real. No toxins. The problem with NSAIDs is that with repeated use they can cause kidney failure, liver failure, ulcers. They also increase the chance for heart attacks. Instead of popping drugs use turmeric, curcumin, ginger. Even my friend Gabe (a MLB player) advocates for eating an anti-inflammatory “diet” (diet as in what you eat, not some weight loss gimmick). In fact, turmeric has been proven to be just as beneficial as NSAIDs but with no deadly side effects (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine)!

How do you use turmeric? Simply make a raw, cold-pressed shot with it and/or sprinkle on savory dishes like eggs, legumes, brown rice, veggie stir-fry.

Key points to remember:

  • Running is not exclusive to being healthy.
  • Running is part of a healthy life. What you eat, drink, think and put on your skin is just as important as the sport of running.
  • Runners must eat nutrient-dense foods for a strong, healthy body; to reduce recovery time, to recover quicker.
  • Eat well (real food) to run well.
  • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
  • Get quality sleep & rest.

Happy, healthy running to you!

This post was brought to you by New Balance and #FreshFoam. Check out this cool, interactive map to see where runners are taking their new running shoes for a spin!

Cover photo credit: Southern Foodways Alliance  

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Cheeseburgers and The Church (part three)

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Cheeseburgers and The Church (part three)

Cheeseburgers and The Church

We're in a series right now called Cheeseburgers and The Church: the health message. If you missed part one and part two be sure to read them and find out why this series is being written!

Today Kristina writes on stewardship and how it impacts the faith community and how we eat.

Stewardship. It's the one word that resonates with me when I think about the challenges our world is facing with natural resources (food, land, water). Failing to be good stewards to the Earth has created astronomical repercussions that are not necessarily visible to the human eye on a day-to-day basis. The lack of stewardship to our Earth and it’s resources are destroying not just our vital ecosystems, but also the dignity and wellbeing of human beings.

First, let's cover the basics. What is stewardship? The Oxford University Press 2013 Dictionary says this: Steward: (verb) to manage or look after (another's property).

As a steward, we take ACTIONto look after someone or something; to attend to its’ needs, to care for it, and to respect it as if it were the property of an honorary guest.

For Christians, the idea of stewardship is presented in the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis. God created the Earth and all of the creatures that inhabit the Earth...and as the story goes, they were all good. God appointed the man and the woman to have dominion over the Earth and all of the creatures that were created; in other words, God gave the man and the woman the responsibility to care for creation.

This idea of stewardship extends beyond just Christian theology. It presents itself in other religions, as well, through the use of nature and humans (see Pyari 2011).  We see stewardship even extend beyond religion and into cultural practices in the way that groups of people socialize and communicate. The golden rule: “treat others the way you would want to be treated” is one of the actions of stewardship in the context of relationships.

The idea of stewardship is present in doctrines of world religions, and it is inscribed in many cultural rituals and social interactions (see Pyari 2011).

Ultimately....

"Whatever we do to the earth, we do to ourselves."

- Chief Seattle

So  just how does this idea of stewardship fit within the context of food-systems, nutrition, and humans? Simple.

The food-system greatly impacts the many different ecosystems that inhabit the earth. The way in which we choose to use the soil and the land, as well as the way we raise animals impacts the health of all the creatures that are apart of this global ecosystem.

Look all over the internet, we are continually seeing news about factory farming and its destruction to the environment, its cruel treatment to animals, and its encouragement of monocrop systems and GMO. There are articles flooding the internet and research about over-fishing, loss of native species, and the rapid rise of global warming.... and its impact on human and non-human life.

We are destroying the planet with our food choices. We are failing to practice stewardship to the animals, the soil, to human and non-human existence. We are taking resources from the Earth faster than we are returning them and protecting them. As we continue to industrialize, we loose touch with the natural world. We disconnect with the environment and instead "buy-in" to consumerism... marketing, social-status, idols. It's about money and business, not about stewardship. We are taught to consume, not to protect.

The land and food environment has become a "Carsinogenic" stew, as Derrick Jensen describes in his book "Endgame." We are filling the Earth with chemicals, we are exploiting our bodies by filling them with chemicals.... and our bodies and the environment are responding in repulsive ways. We have failed to be good stewards.

We must acknowledge the environment when we consider our food choices-- something that is not apparent to us when we make purchases at the grocery store. "Natural" doesn't always mean "good for the Earth."... "humanly raised" does not mean "good for the animals".... these are labels, "green-washing", marketing claims to increase consumerism, to increase the profit of the rich, but not necessarily the profit of our global ecosystem. Participating in these systems (knowingly or unknowingly) is not being a good steward to the Earth, as well as to human and non-human life.

The 14th premises Jensen makes in "Endgame" is this:

"From birth on—and probably from conception, but I’m not sure how I’d make the case—we are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the wild, hate wild animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we could not allow our homes—and our bodies—to be poisoned."

We no longer have a healthy relationship with our food. We give thanks for the flesh and the plants that we eat, assuming that the blessings will provide us with good health and nourishment, but we do not act. Stewardship is a verb. It is an action. We have been called, as people of faith, to take action to protect these resources, to protect both human and non-human life, and to protect the bodies we have been given.

I am calling on faith communities, no matter your religious beliefs, to respond to our environmental crisis. To take action towards being and preaching the word of STEWARDSHIP. To live out stewardship in everyday life.

Things to consider:

- It's estimated that 64% of fisheries have been "overexploited", especially in communities where many poor people rely on the fish for their own nourishment.

- 70% of the Amazon has been destroyed for factory farming and animal feed

- In Comfortably Unaware, Dr. Oppenlander references an FAO report that states 30% of all landmass is used for livestock production and 33% of agricultural land is used for GMO crops for animal feed. Additionally, we are raising more food for animals (for human consumption) than we are for humans.... and we are producing animals for human consumption at rates that are higher than considered natural. How is this healthy for our bodies and our planet? How is this stewardship?

- Deforestation for industry (monocrops, factory farms, textiles) depletes the soil of vital nutrients, impacts the quality of our air, destroys the ecosystem of the creatures that rely on the trees for survival.

- Processing foods requires energy, increases pollution (e.g. byproduct wastes like the acid whey from Greek Yogurt), and stimulate material wastes (e.g. packaging).

-CO2 and methane production from livestock is increasing climate change

-Climate change increases the core temperature of the Earth, which impacts weather systems (e.g. dramatic fluctuations of droughts and floods) that in-turn impacts the global food supply.... which will further impact the livelihood of human and non-human existence.

-Climate change is expected, and already is, impacting the lives of the world's most vulnerable people. Where resources are already scarce and poverty AND malnutrition are prevalent, climate change has its' greatest impacts. In addition to increasing vulnerability to food security, bacterial related diseases will continue to rise... further increasing the rise of malnutrition and (preventable) deaths.

-"Americans die each month from toxins and other workplace hazards,and more Americans die each week from preventable cancers that are for the most part direct results of the activities of large corporations, and certainly the results of the industrial economy." - Jensen

- How are we protecting non-human life when we place animals in cages and exploit them for human consumption? How is this system by any means natural? In Christianity, humans are called to have "dominion" (meaning control or governance) over non-human life but how is our "governance" lacking "stewardship" and responsibility, compassion, and care?

In good health,

Kristina

kAD
kAD
 

Find me on Twitter: @kristinademuth_RD  or Facebook: Moxie Musing.

Learn more about my work in Haiti at For I was Hungry

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Cheeseburgers and The Church (Part Two)

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Cheeseburgers and The Church (Part Two)

Cheeseburgers and The Church

We launched a new series last week called Cheeseburgers and The Church: the health message. If you missed the introduction article, be sure to read it!  Today is part two and is written by Kristina DeMuth.

Big Food and the faith communities. 

How can the two possibly be connected?

I asked myself the same thing a year ago… and that’s when my life changed.

It was last year at this time that I was living and volunteering as a dietitian in Haiti. Like many low resource areas of the world, Haiti has vast environmental constraints (e.g. deforestation), and extreme cases of poverty and malnutrition. During my time in Haiti, I was working with a small community just outside of Port-au-prince (the capital) to help enhance micronutrient intake of the children by utilizing native foods and increasing diet diversity.

american rice
american rice
 

Many places I traveled throughout the city, I would see signs for sugar-sweetened beverages (e.g. COKE and 7-up). Corner stores and vendors filled with highly processed, imported foods (e.g. candy, chips). I would find myself picking up wrappers and containers around our community and reading the ingredient labels the best I could—artificial dyes, added sugars, trans fat, and chemicals I have never heard of. Many of these products coming from America and other wealthier countries. Unfortunately, it was easier to find a bottle of pop than fresh water. Processed foods were made highly available compared to the local, fresh produce (that I greatly enjoyed and preferred).

Tampico
Tampico
 

Being bombarded with advertisement and sales of processed, imported junk and American white rice was incredibly heartbreak especially when all things considered--- malnutrition is prominent in this country, many people don’t have basic health care, and people are poor without much money to spare. When money is spent on these foods with the little money that they do have, it is ultimately going back to Big Food business in a “developed” country rather than into the hands of the local, small farmers (who are some of the poorest people in the world!!!).

When I returned from Haiti, I started doing more research and investigating the role politics plays in our global food supplies. It was never a concept that had been important to me before. Because really, how could MY food choices in the United States be impacting the lives of people in other countries?

I was in disbelief.

I picked- up a few resources-- "Uncomfortably Unaware" by Richard Oppenlander,  "Food Politics" by Marion Nestle, and “Out of Poverty” by Paul Polak. I also stumbled upon Food Empowerment Project and learned about the work Oxfam was doing with their “Behind the Brands” campaign. ....AND IT HIT ME.

Food is about power. It’s about an unequal distribution of resources. It’s about politics. Yes, it is about nutrition… but more than anything food is about systems and power.

change bar
change bar
 

The Hershey chocolate bar, the cereal in the cupboard, the Coke/Pepsi/ Evian waterin the fridge... all of these products are apart of a system MUCH larger than made visible at the cash register.

In many of the poorest areas of the world, Big Food companies have brought their industry. As my mother always reminds me, assume positive intent of people. I am sure, like many people, Big Food saw these as opportunities to bring business to other countries and provide jobs. BUT what we know from research and advocate groups is that these, perhaps, good intentions are DESTROYING cultural groups and systems.

Women and children being enslaved--- being paid unjust wages with poor working conditions. Farmers are being forced off their land to grow monocrops (e.g. planting just sugar cane) rather than food for their families. Deforestation and environmental issues are only exacerbated from the destruction of forest for farming purposes. For example, cattle ranching has contributed to 70% destruction of the Amazon rainforest (Americans have been huge consumers of this beef). The destruction of the forest not only destroyed vital eco-systems, but it further has displaced over 90 native tribes of PEOPLE (Facts from Uncomfortably Unaware).

Imagine for just a second that someone decided to destroy your home, your neighborhood, and the sacred place where your ancestors lived? Or perhaps that you were a young child SOLD to the chocolate industry, unable to go to school, never able to see your family, paid very little and maybe even WHIPPED for not working fast enough (More on the Chocolate Industry, and My post here).

“When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh” – Lauren Ornelas's Tedtalk 

Human slavery exists in the 21st century. Poor people, women, and children around the world are working to make the wealthier people “luxurious” foods…. (and sometimes these foods are even being marketed back to the people who are enslaved making them....).

As a faith community, how can we sit back and pretend that human slavery in the 21st century isn’t happening? How can we ignore the fact that our precious earned American dollars ARE SUPPORTING HUMAN SLAVERY, HUMAN POVERTY, AND DESTRUCTION OF CULTURAL GROUPS when we continue to purchase products made from Big Food industries that aren’t working to address these issues. As my friends and I always say, “VOTE WITH YOUR MONEY.” … and raise your voice.

For how much money these companies spend MARKETING their products to you, they could be working to really improve the conditions for which many of these poor people live. Working to enhance ecosystems and communities rather than destroying them.

If I am not mistaken, the only time Americans (generally speaking) stop to think about the lives of people in low resource areas of the world is when they hear about disasters on the news, or when major famine and war plague a country. People react and send their money, pack food at hunger relief organizations… and then they carry on with their daily lives. Occasionally, praying for those living in poverty and praying for world peace. And then the typical American wakes-up in the morning, eats a bowl of Frosted Flakes or Cheerios, drinks milk from conventional cows, eats a few Pringles, Oreos, and a pepsi for lunch, has a Snickerbars for a snack, eats a big steak for dinner, and polishes of the day with a little Ben & Jerry’s (more on Behind the Brands here, more on factory farming here). Again, prayers are said, money is sent to a relief organization… and people continue on with their lives WITHOUT ever thinking that their food purchases and the companies that produced their food has contributed to the cycle of poverty and the destruction of human dignity...  for the very same people that are only thought about when their stories make headlines because of tragic deaths and natural phenomenons.

Honey Nut Cheerios

Honey Nut Cheerios

 

While we sit and dine in “luxury”, we support human slavery.   We support the destruction of ecosystems, climate change, and poverty.

We are just comfortably unaware.

AND that’s a slap in the face.

 So what can we do about it?

Learning about these issues has impacted me both professionally and personally. I've worked along side people in Haiti-- I have seen extreme poverty. I have smelt  poverty. I have touched poverty. I care passionately about people in poverty. AND since I care about these issues, it has helped me to want to better understand how MY OWN personal food choices impact larger systems and lives... CHANGING THE WAY I EAT (because this happens on a daily basis) MAY POTENTIALLY HAVE BIGGER IMPLICATIONS FOR THOSE LIVING IN POVERTY THAN SENDING RELEF MONEY OR SIMPLY JUST SAYING PRAYERS.

Fair Trade Certified

Fair Trade Certified

I am continually working to find better products for my own consumption (e.g. fairtrade, local farmers markets), educating myself about food politics, food systems, climate change....and inspiring others to (hopefully) do as well. Because at the end of the day, OUR CHOICES MATTER. We can either sit back and allow these things (e.g. child slavery, landgrabs) to happen, or we can do something about it (e.g. boycott--aka vote with your money, petition/ protest, demand fairtrade).

AND ultimately, we can turn PRAYERS into ACTION.

In good health,

Kristina

kAD
kAD
 

Find me on Twitter: @kristinademuth_RD  or Facebook: Moxie Musing.

Learn more about my work in Haiti at For I was Hungry

Updated articles in this series:

Part Three (by Kristina DeMuth) 

Part Four (by Kristina DeMuth

Part Five (by Kristina DeMuth)

Part Six (by Sarah Stanley)

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7 Winter Workouts

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7 Winter Workouts

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As the East coast gets hammered with yet another ice/snow storm, many are wondering and asking, how will I get my workout in? Never fear! Here are 7 workouts for you to tackle this winter season. No snow around you? No worries! You can still get your sweat on with a few of the workout suggestions below!

[This article is brought to you by New Balance and #FreshFoam- their new running shoe! Be sure to check out this cool interactive map of where people are getting active with their #FreshFoam shoes!]

No.1) Stairs. This is one of my personal favorite workouts. Unless you live in a remote part of the country, stairs are usually available. Be them in your home, apartment complex or building, the mall or shopping center, or workplace, stairs are everywhere! Stair workouts are great anytime of the year to build strength, strong hearts and lungs. One benefit or stair workouts? Your legs will tone and get great definition. And we know you want that. :)

No.2) Shoveling. If you are in the snow belt, no doubt you’re familiar with shoveling snow. (And probably a few choice words to go with it!) Shoveling snow can be a really great total body workout. From your legs, obliques, back, arms, core, everything gets worked. Be sure to warm up before you shovel snow to prevent risk of injury. Jumping jacks will do the trick. Have a short driveway? Shovel your neighbors!

No.3) Snowshoes. Another one of my favorite winter activities! You don’t even need to own a pair of snowshoes! REI rents them so grab a pair, some friends and go on a snowshoeing adventure. There is something special about being in the snowy forest and getting a good workout in. It’s peaceful. Calming. And beautiful. I’ve been blessed to snowshoe in the great mountains of Colorado a few times and my soul & body felt so refreshed afterwards. Highly recommend to put this on your list of fitness things to do!

No.4) Skate. Now you might be thinking ice skating, but I’m thinking of a another kind of skate. The “skater” exercise. This can be done a variety of ways. One of my favorites is this one: standing on the right leg, bend the left leg behind the right leg and squat down into a “skater” position. Move the left leg back & forth fast at least 25 times (start with 10 if you are new to exercise). Repeat on the other leg. Another version of this move is to stand on the right leg and get into a squat position. Place the left foot on a towel and drag it and out towards your right leg. Be sure to keep your back from hunching over and make sure your core is engaged. Move the left leg in and out rapidly for 25 times. Repeat on left leg. (This move works best on a smooth surface like a wood floor.) This is also called sliders.

No.5) Ski. Now you don’t have to be a downhill skier to enjoy the benefits of this sport. Nordic or cross-country skiing is a great exercise without fear of falling flat on your face! And since the 2014 Winter Olympics are currently underway, what better way to get inspired than by watching these amazing athletes? (Biathlon has always intrigued me, by the way.)  P.S. Anyone want to do this with me some year? It’s on my must-do list!

No.6) Sculpt. This another exercise you can do anywhere, anytime! Weight/strength training helps build a strong body. You don’t even need a set of weights! Your own bodyweight is perfectly fine. Air squats, tricep dips, pushups, jumping jacks, jumping jack planks, mountain climbers, superman, lunges are all simple moves to incorporate into a HIIT routine. You don’t even have to go outside! Of course if you do have a set of weights at home, even better.

No.7) S(hike). Okay, okay. All the words had to begin with the letter ‘s’. So hike merged with snow. Have you ever gone on a hike in deep snow? It’s quite the heart-healthy workout! It requires you to use full leg range of motion. A s(hike) is also beautiful if snow has just fallen.

--- Your turn!

What are your favorite ways to get active in the cold weather months? Any of your favorites on this list? Any you want to try? And lastly, be sure to catch New Balance #FreshFoam in a city near you! 

Cover photo credit: dee & tula

 

 

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Cheeseburgers and The Church

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Cheeseburgers and The Church

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[Introduction] This has been on my heart for a long time (a very, very long time).

As I look around the faith community I see a few common denominators:

  • We go to church
  • We love food (a lot of the wrong food and drink)
  • We are unhealthy

Until last year (2013) America was ranked number one in the world for obesity (Mexico recently took the number one spot and America moved to second place).

By the year 2030 obesity related health care costs are estimated to reach $550 Billion in yearly costs if current obesity rates continue. That’s a ton of money spent on a preventable disease!

By 2030 51% of people will be obese. (And obesity contributes to all kinds of health problems including cancer.)

Current obesity-related sick care (i.e. “health care”) costs are at an outrageous figure of  $147 to $210 billion a year.

Currently 1 in 3 children are obese.

For adults, 2 in 3 are obese. That's 1 Billion adults globally.

Childhood obesity alone is responsible for $14.1 billion in direct costs alone (yearly).

Furthermore, the obesity rates across the continental states are predominantly in the Bible Belt territory. This is one of the biggest dichotomies in (Christian) society today. As a faith community we should be the example to others of how we should take care of our whole body, not just one part of it.

With more and more people being diagnosed with cancer and other diseases and childhood obesity increasing at a staggering rate, I believe it’s time for the faith community as a whole to start doing something about this preventable problem.

Using a title from a great documentary, we don’t have to be fat, sick and nearly dead! God made us to live abundantly healthy lives, not sick, just-getting-by lives!

Grace and prayer are two amazing parts of our faith. But using them as a Hail Mary when we’ve not treated our bodies the way God intended us to, is, in my understanding, irresponsible. God asks us to be good stewards with our money, time and yes, body.

I believe that the faith community should be on the forefront of this health crisis. So far we’ve done a terrible job on this front. Almost every event centers around toxic food. There is diabetes for breakfast (donuts and coffee  with sugar) at the welcoming table. Men’s Breakfast centers around arty-clogging food-like products (nitrate-made bacon, gravy, biscuits, steak, eggs and ham). Fall Festivals are packed with hyperactivity and disease like cancer (candy). ("Food" dyes are linked to tumors and cancer*.) Caring for only the spiritual needs and neglecting the physical, emotional needs is an unbalanced approach to living the life God wants us to.

(Yes, there have been a few programs (i.e. The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren) started to help with this ever-growing problem, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.)

My passion and goal for quite some time now is to come along side The Church and the faith community to equip and educate them on how to start the conversation of healthy living and turn it into a wellness revolution. That’s why the salt/light project was born.

I have many pastor friends and I know they have a ton on their plate (no pun intended). The last thing I want to do is add more to their to-do list! So, this series is going to attempt to start the conversation that is so desperately needed in the faith community. If you are in a leadership position at your church, a pastor, a pastor’s wife, worship leader/leader’s spouse, or any other influential person in the faith space, will you share this series with those you care about? Will you join me in helping America regain their health? And lastly, can you pray that hearts will be open to this information? Talking about food and weight is not an easy talk to have! But we can’t ignore the elephant in the room any longer.

There are many facets to the obesity crisis that is sweeping America. Wellness is not singular, it’s plural. Just like being spiritual or having faith isn’t just going to church every Sunday, so too is wellness. Living a healthy life includes a healthy mind+body+spirit. And this includes what we put into our body (food and drink).

This series will try to attempt to shed some light on topics not commonly discussed in the faith sector. It’s a (health) message that is so desperately needed! We’ll discuss the kind of food and drink we are consuming in greater detail as the majority of our health problems stem from toxic food. Exercise is great, but if you aren’t eating nutrient-dense food, fighting disease is null. (You don’t need to wait to read future articles tho, just browse through our website to learn more about what you are putting in your body!)

Here are few topics that will be tackled and discussed:

  • Ethics, fair trade and our food supply (we say we’re against human trafficking, but what do our food purchases say?)
  • Eating and cooking with real food to prevent disease and illness
  • Exercise: living complacent or active lives?
  • Events: centered around faith or toxic food?

Regardless of what denomination you attend and whether you go to church twice a year or every weekend, there is no discrimination here. This series applies to everyone.

And as always if you need further help, we are always here to support you in your wellness journey!

Next week part one of this series begins with an article written by Kristina DeMuth on Big Food and Faith Communities. Don't miss it!

Updated links to articles in this series:

Part Two (by Kristina DeMuth)

Part Three (by Kristina DeMuth)

Part Four (by Kristina DeMuth

Part Five (by Kristina DeMuth)

Part Six (by Sarah Stanley)

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Sources:

F as in Fat

U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization

American Journal of Preventive Medicine 

Phit America

CDC

*CSPI

Prevention Institute 

Obesity Statistics 

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7 Habits of Healthy People

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7 Habits of Healthy People

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It’s the first week of 2014 and as the days turn on the calendar, many people will lose their resolve to be healthy. This is because they’ve made unsustainable resolutions instead of attainable goals. But the main reason most people do not follow through on their New Year Resolutions is because they haven’t learned that healthy living is a mindset. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. A way of life.

So what sets those apart who live a healthy life, day in, day out? Here are seven habits of healthy people.

1. They know it’s a life-long lifestyle, not a short-term diet(s). Healthy people know that it’s a lifestyle, never a diet. Whether it’s a mainstream diet or a lesser known diet, healthy people know it’s about making daily, sustainable changes. They learn how to eat. Counting points doesn’t teach people how to eat. Food isn’t points! Food is nutrition! Real, whole food is life! Depriving yourself of food isn’t a diet, it’s starvation. No matter what comes along in life, healthy people continue to eat healthy. Their bodies crave raw, cold-pressed juice, not a greasy pink slime burger or 17-ingredient french fries. Healthy people also know it’s nutrients in, nutrients to live. Not calories in, calories out.

2. They drink water, not soft drinks (and rarely alcohol).  Regardless of the day, month, year, healthy people are consistent in drinking their water. They carry their reusable water bottle around with them everywhere. They drink at least three liters of pure water daily. And healthy people don’t add toxic powders or liquids to their water either. Consuming a glass of wine daily/weekly, attending every Happy Hour that comes along or having to “celebrate” with a beer for an athletic event are things truly healthy people just don’t do. Free health tip for you: alcohol is acid-forming and disease comes from acid. P.S. Kombucha, organic green and white teas are also beverages of healthy people. But they always drink plenty of fresh, pure water!

3. They eat real, whole foods, not low fat, low calorie, sugar free, fat free, skim products. This is one of the staples of truly healthy people. They are not duped by products with labels that say “low fat, low calorie, sugar free, fat free, skim milk”. (Skim milk is not just “cream off the top, by the way.) Healthy people know the difference between healthy fat and man-made, deadly fat. They eat foods in their whole form (real organic butter, organic whole milk, fresh, organic vegetables & fruit in their whole form). They eat the whole, organic egg (not just egg whites). Big Food Products are not the same as real, whole foods. Healthy people eat real fat (avocado, raw nuts and seeds, coconut, hemp), not processed fat (cheeseburgers, french fries, deli-meats).

4. They live by the choices they make and the word “moderation” is not a part of their vocabulary or mindset. Healthy people have a cookie and enjoy it. Without using the phrase “everything in moderation”. The word (moderation) is used when people feel guilty about their food or drink choices they’ve made that they know they shouldn’t have. How many times have you seen a photo of a plate of freshly made kale chips with a caption that read “everything in moderation!”? Never! Healthy people own the choices they make, they don’t use an excuse to justify poor eating behaviors. Fast food (in reality it’s Fast Death with Disease) is never eaten by healthy people. They know better than to poison their bodies with that artery clogging junk! P.S. You can read more about moderation here.

5. They make reasons to live, not excuses. Healthy people don’t live their life by excuses, they live with reasons. Excuses can creep in very quickly if you aren’t careful. “It’s too cold”, “I don’t feel like it”, “I’ll do it tomorrow”, “it’s the holiday season” or “I earned it” are common excuses from people that haven’t learned how to be healthy (yet). In order to live a truly healthy life, you’ve got to get excuses out of your vocabulary and mindset!

6. They don’t let the holiday season or special occasions sway them. The difference between 365-living healthy people and mediocre healthy people is this. I can’t tell you how many posts I saw this last week of so-called healthy people stating they are “going to eat clean” and “no more hamburger helper” and “drink more water”. The holiday season doesn’t deter steadfast healthy people. They plan ahead, bring healthy snacks with them, drink pure water daily, and exercise. They don’t use the holiday season as an excuse to stop living and being healthy. They’ve trained their mind as much as they’ve trained body. How can you tell a healthy person apart from the rest? Living healthy is at their core of everything they do. Healthy living isn't a season, it's an everyday healthy habit. It’s who they are. Day in. Day out. It’s the air they breathe.

7. They cook at home, rarely eating out. Healthy people cook at home with fresh, real ingredients. Regardless if you are plant-based or omnivore, healthy people cook from scratch at home. Healthy people know the joy it brings to cook a homemade meal! They shop at a local farmer’s market or co-op. They use fresh, real, whole food ingredients. Boxes and cans and mixes aren’t a part of their pantry staples. Their fridge is overflowing with organic vegetables and fruit, not plastic cups of GMO yogurt. Healthy people know that nutrition comes from real food. And they’ll prepare nutrient-dense meals, snacks and lunches to keep their body in great health.

And a bonus as it’s really important.

8. They think healthy thoughts instead of negative ones. Healthy people know that what they put in their bodies is just as important as what they think, listen to, watch, read. Your perspective on life is based on what is influencing you. Healthy people keep good, positive company, listen to empowering and positive music, podcasts, shows (and don't watch much TV).

Healthy living is a title you earn by living it faithfully, not given. It’s being consistent - day in, day out. You can’t imagine life any other way. You can’t imagine not eating kale daily or drinking water consistently. Healthy people can’t wait to move their bodies or try new exercises. Healthy living isn’t just a fad, it’s a way of life forever and ever!

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Your turn!

Are you living a truly healthy life? Do you want to start living well? Join {wellprint} and you can start your wellness journey today! 

photo credit: LuAnn Snawder

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My Training

Wonder what & how I train? Read below & you will find out:) Friday, April 3, 2009

5:00am

This morning I woke to POURING rain! I had a quick protein bar, then I met with my trainer friend & I did a tricep, back & core weight workout for an hour. Then I hit the Stairmaster for 30min (slow, 3:56 miles, 164 flights). Then I proceeded to get SOAKED walking to my truck (wish I had some shower gel with me, lol) and quickly raced home....yes, I tend to race EVERYWHERE:) lol.

9:00am

Had a bowl of Kashi with milk when I got home....hmmm good!

At 10:30am I took a 75min power yoga class.....where once again I got soaked going to class:) It felt great to do "downward dog", "upward facing dog" "warrior 1, 2, 3″. Yoga is a perfect way to tone your body and also get some wonderful stretches in:) After class I had a Pure Pro Protein Shake.

1:30pm

For lunch I had multi grain Sushi, Triple Squash Soup & fruit from Whole Foods. Was quite yummy:)

Then at 5:15pm, I went for a 6.5 mile run. I did a warm up mile, then did 6 1/2 mile repeats at 3:30 average. The start of my run started off raining, but after 10min, the clouds gave way to WONDERFUL sunshine! I could smell & see the beautiful cherry trees and hear the birds sing. That was my music:) YES, you can workout with an Ipod:)

For dinner I was pretty hungry, so I had: pancakes, Stuffed Cabbage, Black Beans with cheese and Raspberry & Vanilla Frozen Yogurt.

AND of COURSE, water ALL DAY long:)

That was my training for today! Feeling great....tomorrow is TWO weeks till my 50 miler!! WOOHOO!!

As always, smiles & Sarahshine to YOU:)

Photo by Mike Baird

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April and Your Goals

How can it be April already? If you are like me, you are wondering how time flies....this is also the time of the year where you can see if the goals you set at the beginning of the year are working for you or not:) Did you have a health/wellness/fitness goal? Are you having trouble with it or have you let other things get in the way of you reaching it? No mater your answer, I hope that this post will INSPIRE you to go DO IT.

How can you DO IT? Please make your goal attainable! For example: today is the 3rd of April, by the end of April, you can set a goal to drink more water & less coffee, soda, iced tea or other beverages that you like.  The human body is made of about 60% water. YOUR body needs water:) This is a simple goal that you CAN make a priority:) I encourage you to make a simple goal & share it with someone (me if you want to). The keys to making a goal:

#1) make it attainable

#2) tell someone about it

#3) make it a lifestyle!

So, what is your goal? I would love to hear about it so I can support you!

Smiles & peace!

Photo by Notsogood Photography

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