The Power of Small Changes

Think of the last time you decided to make a complete overhaul of something you wanted to change in your life.  How did that turn out for you?  What about the time you were going to wake up 1 hour earlier every morning to read your Bible and pray?  How long did that last?  Did you make it a week?  What about the time you cut out all extra activities in your life to spend more time at home with your family?  How long did it take for “important” things to start creeping back in?  I applaud those of you that recognize that it is time to make some changes in your life.  That is the first, and possibly the most important step in the process of change.  But where you go from there is key to whether or not your pursuit will end in success or failure.

In the area of health and fitness, I have found that more often people approach change with an “all-or-nothing” mentality.  It’s time to start exercising, so they get an expensive gym membership and commit to 6 days a week working out.  Or it’s time to start eating right, so they decide to eat a diet of 1000 calories consisting of nothing but rice cakes and water.  How long do these changes last?  A week?  Two weeks?  A month if you’re lucky.  Most people set out desiring permanent changes, but approach it with the mentality of an actor or actress prepping for a temporary movie role.  And the results are nearly always the same.  All progress, if any was even made to begin with, is lost as soon as the individual “burns out” and is no longer able to keep up the pace.


Small adjustments that are readily achievable create habits that last.  Did you know that by removing one soda a day from your diet, you could lose over 15 lbs in a year?  Did you know that by cutting the average dinner portion in half you could lose nearly 30 lbs in a year?  Forget the wholesale overhaul that you and I both know won’t last.  Find something small in your diet that you can change.  Something that doesn’t need to be there, and that you know you can live without and start there.  Be patient and you will start to see real changes.  Lasting changes.


Come Out of Physical Retirement

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. “  Ephesians 2:10

The term “walk” implies movement.  Not a single action, but a series of actions carried out over time.   We are to be continually engaged in the work that the Lord has for us here on Earth.  He created us to be actively engaged in the world around us, bringing the hope and love of Christ to the hopeless and unloved.  There is no indication that this journey has an end.  No quota to fill.  No years of service to receive our pension.  No retirement age.  Many believe that once they reach a certain age, they are entitled to stop working.  They’ve put in their time.  But the Kingdom of God not only needs, but requires those that are mature in the faith to be actively engaged with the younger workers in mentoring and service.

In the same way, many believe that exercise is for the young.  I hear things like “I used to be able to do that”, or “I wish I could exercise but I just can’t anymore”.  “It’s harder than it used to be.”  As an aging individual, there are two reasons to fight this mentality.  One is what was stated above.  There is still work to be done.  The aging population plays a pivotal role in shaping the generations to come, and they need to remain sharp and focused.  Their physical health plays a significant role in this task.  As we stated before, service is active, and requires work.  Whether it is being able to stand for long periods of time without pain, carry out physically demanding tasks, or have the energy to display vigor and passion in your work, they healthier and stronger you are physically, the better you will be able to carry out the work that God has for you to do.

The second reason is stated right in the excuse, “it’s harder than it used to be”.  When you are young, the muscles, tendons, and bones are naturally stronger, more flexible, and can handle the stresses put on them much easier.  As you age, the muscles get weaker, the tendons and ligaments get drier and less pliable, and the bones get more brittle.  Regular exercise combats all of these degradations of aging.  You might have been able to get away with not exercising when you were younger, just relying on youth to protect you.  But as an older adult it becomes not only recommended, but an absolute essential that you stay healthy and physically active.  It is the only way that you will be able to stay strong, energetic, and pain-free, all characteristics of a vibrant life of service.  Don’t throw in the towel.  God still has much for you to do.  Come out of physical “retirement” and get this journey moving again!

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.   Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:35-38.


Increasing Resting Metabolic Rate

Question of the Week:  What is the purpose of your journey?

Nugget of the Day:  Increasing muscle mass through strength training is the best way to raise resting metabolic rate (RMR).

The major factors in increasing resting metabolic rate (RMR) are an increase in lean body tissue (muscle mass), being young, genetics, or some hormonal change such as hyperthyroidism or monthly cycle.  Scroll through this list and tell me which ones you actually have some control over.  “Being young”?  It would sure be nice to have some control in this area, but unfortunately the clock keeps ticking.  “Genetics”?  Again, while some of us wish we could have chosen our pedigree, our chromosomes are what they are.  And genetics can even account for a 10-20% difference in RMR.  Some engines just run a little more “hot” than others.  “Hormonal changes” are also largely out of our control, so the only remaining factor that we can influence is lean body tissue, or muscle mass.

A few post back I mentioned that excessive amounts of cardiovascular exercise can decrease muscle mass, thereby decreasing number of calories burned, both at rest and during exercise.  Have any of you ever participated in a cardio-heavy exercise routine and wondered why you plateaued after a few months?  One of the prevailing factors leading to this plateau is a decrease in metabolism associated with loss of muscle mass.  Strength training stimulates the body to both retain present muscle and to add additional muscle mass to what you already have.  The benefits gained pertaining to metabolism are in effect for the entire day.  Not only does the body burn more calories during exercise when there is more muscle mass present, but the RMR also goes up and you burn more calories at rest as well.  RMR is important, whether you are trying to shed body fat, or just seeking to maintain your current level of fitness.  And a proper strength training program performed a couple times a week is just the thing your body needs.  I have some workouts that you can use to get started, and keep checking back as I am adding more each week!

“I’m afraid of ‘bulking up’ by doing strength training” is a concern I often hear, and I will address this in the next “Nugget of the Day”, so check back soon!


We Have Traveled Far

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus…”  Ephesians 2:4-6.

I posed the question, “How far have you traveled?”  Sometimes I forget how far I have come.  Before I truly met God, I was full of myself.  Thinking that I had all the answers.  Feeling like I was pretty good “playing” at faith.  Thinking that comfort and ease were my rights for living a “good” life.  But then in a Russian orphanage I met Him face to face.  As I held the boy who was to be my son, it was as if I was holding myself, looking down at me through the eyes of God.  I saw my frailty.  I saw my fear.  I saw my selfishness.  I saw my stubbornness.  I saw my piety.  And I saw my future.  Destined for failure and death if God, “being rich in mercy” and full of “great  love”, had not stepped into my life, picked me up, and carried me out of the future that was before me, and into life.

But God goes farther than that.  He doesn’t stop at just giving us life (though that would be more than we deserve).  He “raised us up with Him and seated us with Him”.  He adopted us and made us family.  Full fledged sons and daughters of the Creator of the universe!  That is quite an ascension.  We have traveled far.  From the pits of our sin-filled lives to the palace of peace and perfection.  But not of our own strength, and not because we did anything to deserve it.  When we were “dead in our transgressions”, he brought us out.  Before we knew how to thank him.  Before we got our act together.  Before we cleaned ourselves up.  Before we took care of those little personality quirks.  He took us as we were.  And, thank God, continues to take us as we are, prodigals though we may be sometimes.  God loves you, and His son Jesus Christ paid a dear price to bring you into His family.  Let us not forget our identity as His children, and may we seek to understand our role and purpose in His family.


Resting Metabolic Rate

Question of the Week:  How far have you traveled?

Nugget of the Day:  Resting metabolic rate is the largest contributor to total energy expenditure, accounting for approximately 60-75% of daily calorie usage.

When people talk about metabolism, and say things like “I have low metabolism” when they can’t seem to lose weight, or “He just has high metabolism” when they see someone who doesn’t have a problem losing weight, what they are really referring to is a measurement called “resting metabolic rate” (RMR).  The resting metabolic rate is the amount of energy required for your body to perform its normal body functions such as breathing, heart activity, and temperature regulation.  Your body requires a certain amount of energy to stay alive.  Even if you were to lie down on your bed for an entire day, as still as possible, your body would still require energy to continue the normal cellular processes that keep the internal organs functioning and the brain active.   This is separate from any activity that you do.

When wanting to burn extra calories, the first thing that people think about is exercise.  Yet you can see that nearly ¾ of your calorie-burn for the day has absolutely nothing to do with how much you exercise.  So if your desire is to increase the number of calories you are expending each day, the best place to start is by increasing your RMR.  How do you do this?  Come back and I will tell you in the next “Nugget” post.