Allison Earnst

Off You Go

"God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called." I have always loved that saying. Story of my life. But what does it mean? Well, for me it means that God often calls us to do something that we may not feel equipped to do. Sometimes I think, "Who me? But Lord, that isn't what I am best at." Or so I think. I'm reminded of a few biblical examples of those who understood what it meant to be outside their comfort zones. (Moses, Peter, Mary Magdalene...) But when we're obedient, I believe those are the times we grow and are really used by Him.

Reminds me of my recent trip to Allaso Ranch, my amazing church's kids camp where I was a counselor. So many adventures and fun things to do, one of which was the zip line. As I stood in line with my 9-year-old daughter to fly high above the camp and across the lake, she was all smiles. I was smiling too but beneath my smile and sunglasses, I was scared. How is it that my 9-year-old daughter has no fear but me, a grown woman, is apprehensive?

So the guy tells us, "Just sit on the edge, let your legs dangle, lean over and off you go." I literally asked him, "Can you just push me?" (It seemed easier if the choice wasn't mine, but his) "No, you have to do it," he replied. "Ugh," I growled under my breath. I looked over at my daughter beaming at me from the other zip line, she was seated, feet dangling, just waiting for me. I flashed her a big grin, took a deep breath and off we went.

You know what? Experience of a lifetime. In my comfort zone? No. Worth the risk? Yes.

Outside of my comfort zone, I struggle. I sway back and forth between what is comfortable and what is good. It's a tug of war between my mind and my heart. Thankfully, God knows my heart, and He knows yours. He created us to be anything but mediocre, and He cares about the details of our lives. So today, I am going to move forward outside of my comfort zone, in obedience and in faith that the God of the universe has great things in store for me. He has them for you too. It’s His promise. So go ahead, sit on the edge, let your legs dangle and...off you go.

--Allison Earnst

PrayFit's contributing writer, Allison Earnst, is a fitness expert, motivator, competitor and mother of three. She's been featured in numerous magazines including FitParent, Natural Muscle and Oxygen magazine. She has shared her fitness story on Good Morning America, Extra TV and Lifetime's "The Balancing Act." You can visit her blog by clicking here.

3 WAYS TO CLEAN UP YOUR DIET With the abundance of nutrition information out there, it can be difficult to figure out where to start making changes. Too many steps explored, unfortunately, can sometimes lead to none taken. Here, we've boiled it down to three easy things you can start doing today to clean up your diet.

>> Dietary Do-Overs: 3 Steps You Can Take NOW

Happy Birthday, PrayFit.com

"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." --Philippians 1:6

Read: Philippians 1

For those who may not know the story, after graduate school I held some wonderful positions of leadership as well as some remarkable writing roles. Those opportunities eventually landed me down the hall from Joe Weider of Muscle & Fitness magazine -- pretty neat privilege. Over the course of those years I was honored to contribute to some well-known celebrity books, with one of my co-author titles earning me a New York Times Bestseller credit. But as a Christian in the fitness industry, I knew then what I know now -- that life was not about the body.

And I knew that no matter how smart or how polished a fitness expert I was becoming, God was calling me to teach health as a means of praise; to help people seek fitness with modesty and obedience. And so naturally I felt a strange hollowness and emptiness about my career. I think it was likely an appropriate response for someone doing one thing when he was clearly meant to be doing something else. Over the years, I'd pray for the Lord to show me the right doors, and well, He answered my prayer when He included me in a massive layoff at the magazines. He closed that door five years ago yesterday.

Five years ago today, we started PrayFit.com and we have never looked back. I say "we" because the best thing about all those years -- the magazines, the celebrity books, the awards --  the best part of all that was meeting a guy by the name of Eric Velazquez, hands down the best writer in the business, co-founder of PrayFit and one of the closest friends I've ever had. The first day Eric heard my idea of PrayFit.com - and years before God showed us the door - Eric was all-in. And as you can see, I held him to it. (Eric, can you believe it's been five years?)

But to you, the faithful reader, this one's for you. You're the reason we're here. It's your health and love for the Lord that drives us each and every day. It's our genuine hope that you're drawn closer to God and to better health by the devotions you read. All we ask is that you keep praying for us.

So with that...Happy Birthday, PrayFit. Thank you for the meaning that you have brought to my life and for becoming my life's work.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Eric and I and our spouses --Loretta and Wendy, the real brains of this operation -- would also love to thank our extended PrayFit family; amazing friends and contributing writers, specialists and nutritionists whose expertise has filled our pages and helped us deliver our message to you. Dana Angelo White, Allison Earnst, Catrina Vargas, Karla Dial, Christie Menna, Emily Ann Miller...thank you for helping us deliver this important message to the masses. We are blessed by you!

THE NEXT FIVE YEARS The groundswell of support we've received from churches and communities has been the backbone of our success. Still, we know that we can do more. We know that we can deliver more Sunday messages, develop more small groups and change more lives through our unfailing belief in taking care of the bodies that the Lord has given us. Talk to your church leaders and pastors and arrange for PrayFit to visit your congregation in 2013. Check out the video below and write us here for more info! Here's to five more years of fortifying faith and improving health, in Jesus' name.

>> SOCIAL NETWORKS: Now you can "like," "join," "tweet" and "watch" PrayFit. Click the links below to get plugged in with the rest of the PrayFit community. Facebook HeavenUp Twitter YouTube

Let the King be King

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." --2 Corinthians 4:18

Read: 2 Corinthians 4

Venturing into my 4-year-old son’s room to make up his bed, I had to giggle at what I saw. He had, in his bed: his favorite giant shark stuffed animal, his Christmas elf (two months early), a NERF football, a stuffed penguin and his beloved Nintendo DSI game. As I began moving things around, I realized that he was buried in there as well, sleeping with all of his favorite things. When he went to bed at night, he did not want to let any of them out of his sight for a second. If this meant rolling over in the middle of the night on top of a football or shifting positions to avoid the hard case of his video game, well that was okay. Uncomfortable sleep or not, he was holding onto those precious possessions at all costs.

Sometimes in our own lives we refuse to let go of things that we love. We live in a world where "stuff" is king. We want the best homes, cars and toys and many times those things can interrupt our focus on God and on others. We don't need such a tight grip on those material things around us. Instead, shouldn't we tighten the grip on the One who has provided every ounce of what we have?

I love the concept that we don’t really "own" anything in this life, rather we are simply managers. We cannot take our stuffed sharks and our NERF footballs to heaven and we won't need video games in eternity. We have the greatest gift of all pursuing us every day so that we can live a life of fullness. So, let’s agree to not let our "stuff" be king, but let the King be king.

--Allison Earnst

PrayFit's contributing writer, Allison Earnst, is a fitness expert, motivator, competitor and mother of three. She's been featured in numerous magazines including FitParent, Natural Muscle and Oxygen magazine. She has shared her fitness story on Good Morning America, Extra TV and Lifetime's "The Balancing Act." You can visit her blog by clicking here.

PRAYFIT RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Oatmeal Peanut Butter Energy Bars

You don't need to pour your life savings into mass-produced energy bars. This tasty recipe from PrayFit contributing nutritionist Dana Angelo White (www.danawhitenutrition.com) gives you plenty of body-friendly fuel for your day -- and without the fancy wrapper.

Ingredients: Cooking Spray 1/2 cup honey 1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter 2 tablespoons maple syrup 1 tablespoon canola oil 1/4 cup light brown sugar 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups rolled oats 2 cups crisp brown rice cereal 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ 1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots 1/2 cup chopped dried figs 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions: Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine honey, peanut butter, maple syrup, canola oil, brown sugar, cinnamon. Stir and cook until mixture just begins to bubble, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. In a large bowl, combine oats, rice cereal, wheat germ, peanuts, apricots, figs and salt. Pour peanut butter mixture over oatmeal mixture and stir gently with a spatula until well combined. Transfer to baking dish, cover with parchment paper and press firmly into dish. Allow to cool completely (mix will cool faster in the refrigerator). Cut into squares or bars and serve.

Calories: 240 | Total fat: 10g | Saturated fat: 1.5g | Carbohydrate: 30g | Protein: 6g | Sodium: 70mg

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC is the nutrition expert for Food Network.com and the Healthy Eats blog. She is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

Playmakers

"The wicked flee though no one is pursuing them but the righteous are as bold as a lion." --Proverbs 28:1

Read: Proverbs 28

As I was watching the Miami Hurricanes dominate Georgia Tech recently in college football, one of the announcers referred to a player as "the playmaker." It gave me pause. What a compliment. What an honor. This player wasn’t just out there to fill in the gaps or run time off the play clock. He was "the playmaker" and everyone knew it. He was the heart of the team. All of those around him looked to him for direction and leadership and for what was coming next. Every single play, eyes on him, things were happening. There was action in the room.

When it comes to our faith, are we the real "playmakers" on the Father's team? Do we make the big plays every time the whistle blows or are we sometimes comfortable simply watching from the sidelines and cheering others on? Are we intentionally seeking to share God’s love and amazing grace with all of those around us, not only on game day, but every day?

I want to be bold. I want to be "the playmaker" for God in my own life and for those who would look to me for direction. Every single play, eyes on Him, there is action in the room.

--Allison Earnst

PrayFit's contributing writer, Allison Earnst, is a fitness expert, motivator, competitor and mother of three. She's been featured in numerous magazines including FitParent, Natural Muscle and Oxygen magazine. She has shared her fitness story on Good Morning America, Extra TV and Lifetime's "The Balancing Act." You can visit her blog by clicking here.

TRENDING IN...HEALTH

When was the last time you checked in on the rising epidemic of obesity in this country? If it's been a while, here's a heavy, disheartening update. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 35.7 percent of adults and 16.9 percent of children ages 2-19 are obese. And, if the trend continues, every state will see 44 percent of its population hit the obese category by 2030. Several states will hit 60 percent.

Despite the many causes of weight gain, the solutions are always simple: an increase an activity and changes to diet. A preponderance of resources on exercise and nutrition in the marketplace have failed to stem the rising tide of obesity and weight-related disease. Perhaps it's time for us to stop focusing so much on "the how" and start focusing more on "the why"?

By focusing on our health as a means of praise and seeing the need to be better stewards of our physical gifts, we can commit to serious, long-term change, honoring the One that created us.

"We don't strive to be healthy to be loved by God," says PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña. "We strive to be healthy because we are."

For Discussion: Are you struggling with your own weight? What are the roadblocks to a healthier lifestyle? Do you think the Lord is pleased with the care that you have shown the body He gave you? Why or why not? Have you ever thought of your body as a divine gift that requires better upkeep?

Perspective: Salvation

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose trust is the Lord." --Jeremiah 17:7

Read: Jeremiah 17

It seems like the latest and greatest kids movies these days are all in 3D. Well, if you are an older child that might be great news, but for the younger ones, it can be a tricky thing to understand the concept that you must wear the proper glasses in order to fully experience the intended effects of the 3D movie. Well, my youngest son is not a big fan of the movie glasses and insists on watching without them. We show up on time, perfect seats, bag of popcorn and ready to go. We are all set except without the glasses, the screen is pretty much a colorful blur.

As a mother, this just kills me because I want the best for him, I want him to experience every amazing effect of the movie and not miss a single detail. Yet, as the third child (and a lot like his mom), he is stubborn and he thinks he knows best. So while my other two children are sitting still, 3D glasses on and fully engaged in the movie, my youngest is distracted and restless.

I often wonder if this is how Jesus feels about us. He wants the absolute best for our lives and he offers us the only tool we need: salvation. Some of us are just too stubborn to accept the offer because we think we know best. Until we give up ourselves and fully commit our hearts and lives to Jesus, we will continue seeing and living a flat, one-dimensional life that will never satisfy. We might have our perfect seats and our popcorn ready but until we get the proper perspective -- seeing life through the lens of salvation, living our lives with Jesus, through Jesus -- we aren't really seeing anything at all.

--Allison Earnst

PrayFit's contributing writer, Allison Earnst, is a fitness expert, motivator, competitor and mother of three. She's been featured in numerous magazines including FitParent, Natural Muscle and Oxygen magazine. She has shared her fitness story on Good Morning America, Extra TV and Lifetime's "The Balancing Act." You can visit her blog by clicking here.

FITSTAT: PILATES

Do you do pilates? If so, you are doing your midsection a considerable favor. Pilates, which many dismiss as “for women only” can pay big dividends, particularly when it comes to your abs. Research in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that 36 weeks of pilates training improved the volume of muscle fiber in the rectus abdominis by 21%. And a stronger, thicker abdominal wall means better back support, greater core stability and a midsection worth showing off.

SHOP: Looking to gear up with some PrayFit apparel or wristbands? Click here.

Off You Go

"God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called." I have always loved that saying. Story of my life. But what does it mean? Well, for me it means that God often calls us to do something that we may not feel equipped to do. Sometimes I think, "Who me? But Lord, that isn't what I am best at." Or so I think. I'm reminded of a few biblical examples of those who understood what it meant to be outside their comfort zones. (Moses, Peter, Mary Magdalene...) But when we're obedient, I believe those are the times we grow and are really used by Him.

Reminds me of my recent trip to Allaso Ranch, my amazing church's kids camp where I was a counselor. So many adventures and fun things to do, one of which was the zip line. As I stood in line with my 9-year-old daughter to fly high above the camp and across the lake, she was all smiles. I was smiling too but beneath my smile and sunglasses, I was scared. How is it that my 9-year-old daughter has no fear but me, a grown woman, is apprehensive?

So the guy tells us, "Just sit on the edge, let your legs dangle, lean over and off you go." I literally asked him, "Can you just push me?" (It seemed easier if the choice wasn't mine, but his) "No, you have to do it," he replied. "Ugh," I growled under my breath. I looked over at my daughter beaming at me from the other zip line, she was seated, feet dangling, just waiting for me. I flashed her a big grin, took a deep breath and off we went.

You know what? Experience of a lifetime. In my comfort zone? No. Worth the risk? Yes.

Outside of my comfort zone, I struggle. I sway back and forth between what is comfortable and what is good. It's a tug of war between my mind and my heart. Thankfully, God knows my heart, and He knows yours. He created us to be anything but mediocre, and He cares about the details of our lives. So today, I am going to move forward outside of my comfort zone, in obedience and in faith that the God of the universe has great things in store for me. He has them for you too. It’s His promise. So go ahead, sit on the edge, let your legs dangle and...off you go.

--Allison Earnst

PrayFit's contributing writer, Allison Earnst, is a fitness expert, motivator, competitor and mother of three. She's been featured in numerous magazines including FitParent, Natural Muscle and Oxygen magazine. She has shared her fitness story on Good Morning America, Extra TV and Lifetime's "The Balancing Act." You can visit her blog by clicking here.

TOP DIETS RATED U.S. News evaluates several of the top nutrition plans. Here are the top three

1. Dash Diet This diet plan is heavy on produce and light on saturated fats and salt.

2. TLC Diet Fiber and calcium, two very important parts of any diet, are stressed here.

3. Mediterranean Diet Wine, fish, salads, olive oil. This trendy diet is touted for its balance.

For the full story, click here.

But which one is really best? When selecting a nutritional plan, stories like this can make things even more difficult. Though the U.S. News story rates 20 different diets, each has benefits and drawbacks -- no single plan is the universal choice for body composition or healthful living. And when you consider that each has complicated formulas, painful exclusions and/or odd requirements, their sustainability becomes problematic. For many, simplicity is key to long-term progress which is why PrayFit recommends a diet that lends equal weight to protein, carbs and fat.

Scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that the body responded best to a diet that was split equally among the three macronutrients — carbs, protein and fat. Their research pointed out that this type of diet limited inflammation as well as certain type of cancers by acting favorably on key genes.

Ironically, this is the dietary approach advocated by Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of “PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days.” Says Stoppani: “This not only makes the diet easy to remember, but it ensures that you are taking in a well-balanced diet that provides adequate amounts of quality protein for repair and regeneration of tissues, healthy sources of carbohydrates for energy, and healthy fats for proper brain function, cardiovascular health and joint function. When these three macronutrients are eaten in equal quantities (and in proper amounts), fat loss is optimized, while important muscle tissue is spared. In addition, research shows that when protein and carbs are eaten in equal amounts, brain function is optimized, allowing you to be more efficient at work and on all cognitive tasks – such as your daily devotionals!”

It is worth noting that those with other considerations such as intense training or preexisting health conditions will likely need to alter their macronutrient intake accordingly but as the research shows, this type of dietary balance has plenty to offer for the general population.

>> For a glimpse at how balanced nutrition plays out, pick up our book by clicking here. You can find plenty of workouts to go with your redesigned diet right here at PrayFit.com everyday, or you can try our starter training program by clicking here.