diet

Shackles and Heavy Burdens

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place, where he prayed. --Mark 1:35

Read: Mark 1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWay back in the day, I would often incorporate various tools and tactics into my training in order to become stronger, better. One of my favorites was the use of big, heavy-linked chains. Yes, chains. Boy how times have changed. Seen rarely, and often only in shipyards, these chains were massive. Popeye would be so proud. Well, depending on the exercise, you attach them to the ends of the bar (which already have free weights on them) and perform the exercise.

I got to thinking about those old chains recently. See, chains provide a unique value to training. As you raise the bar higher and higher, the bar actually gets heavier. Why? As you lift the bar up, more links of the chain leave the ground. As you lower the weight toward the floor, one-by-one, the links begin piling up and the load you're carrying gets lighter. Simply put, the load is lightest the closer you get to the floor.

What are you lifting? What burden are you carrying? In many ways, our obligations and daily demands -- linked together -- create a pretty heavy load. Family, work, bills, deadlines, grades, health, illness, link, link...link. Even if you love the calling and the work, the occasional rest is necessary.

Friends, why do we stress quiet times? Because burdens get lighter the closer we get to the floor. If the day were a heavy set of deadlifts, then the quiet, prayerful rest periods do a soul good. Matter of fact, back in the weight room, it's proven that short periods of rest help the lifter sustain the workload with greater success. Beat that with a stick. I just knew those old chains would come in handy someday.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. For the old-school among us, sing with me some Gaither Music...

"Shackled by a heavy burden. 'Neath a load of guilt and shame. Then the hand of Jesus touched me. And now, I am no longer the same.

He touched me. Oh, He touched me. And oh the joy that floods my soul. Something happened, and now I know, He touched me and made me whole."

EATING IN BALANCE

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, where you get 33 percent of each day's calories from these three sources, limited inflammation as well as certain type of cancers by acting favorably on key genes. In addition, this type of eating provides enough healthy dietary fat to support joint and heart function, enough protein to support muscle repair and metabolism and enough carbs to power your daily activities.

What else can this type of balance do for you? Find out here!

Strong Community

"Simon answered, 'Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." --Luke 5:5

Read: Luke 5

Smelly. Dirty. Grimy. These are just a few of the ways to describe Peter and his buddies. After all, they spent their days baiting hooks and cleaning fish. I'm smiling as I picture Jesus the Recruiter walking up to this motley crew. Did He pause and grin, crouching down to watch and listen to them work? Maybe after a few minutes, He looked skyward with a smile as if to say, "I found them."

I'm not sure, but I like to wonder what happened in that moment just before the call. What we do know is that of all the fishermen that came off the water, this bunch caught God's attention. And not long after Christ borrowed Peter's boat, the two were catching fish in water too deep for the nets to reach; Peter's preview to the depths of His love.

Friends, remember. Like that little bird reminded us yesterday, you and I have God's attention. So as we start our cars, open our offices, enter our cubicles, prepare for housework or hit the exercise routine, let's do what Peter did and abandon control. Let's just imagine Him saying with a grin, "I found them," and this is that moment just before the call.

--Jimmy Peña

STRENGTH IN YOUR NUMBERS Pastor Randy Frazee of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio once wrote, “The experience of authentic community is one of the purposes God intends to be fulfilled by the church. The writings of Scripture lead one to conclude that God intends the church, not to be one more bolt on the wheel of activity in our lives, but the very hub at the center of one’s life…" Are you plugged into a good church community or small group?

PRAYFIT NEWS: Team PrayFit Gets Stronger From a Team PrayFit standpoint, we grew in strength yesterday. Details to come but we added to our team in a mighty way in terms of representation and management. We're so grateful to the Lord for allowing it. We'll unveil soon, but we're praising God for answered prayer. Join us!

EGGS FOR MUSCLE How did the incredible egg earn its nickname?

Many of you may think that eggs are just a simple breakfast food — something that’s been on your plate every morning since you can remember. But it is so much more, particularly if you’re looking to gain muscle, says Jim Stoppani co-author of “PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days”(Regal Books). Researchers found that subjects who ate three whole eggs per day gained twice as much muscle in 12 weeks as those who only had one egg per day.

EGG FACTS: One whole egg contains 72 calories, 6 grams of protein, 0 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of fat. But don’t worry — about 80% of that fat is monounsaturated and saturated fat, which actually aids in the muscle-building process.

Strengthen Your Message

"But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength." --2 Timothy 4:17

Read: 2 Timothy 4

Yesterday we touched on what's most important: our daily time with the good Lord. (How is everyone doing on their 5-minute commitment?) But you may already have that part down pat. While yesterday's entry was extremely well-written and uncommonly clever (this is where you just nod in agreement), it wasn't for you. Let's face it, you can set clocks by your prayer and reading rituals. You wrote the book on quiet times. And if so, we're glad you're back, because today we're talking about what fewer and fewer believers are doing once they get up off their knees.

Dr. Charles Stanley recently said that adversity can either be a burden or a bridge. When I look back at my year, I know beyond a doubt that when adversity weakened my muscle, God strengthened my message. What about you? Do you see health as a burden or a bridge? Perhaps you have self-inflicted infirmities or maybe you were blindsided. Distinguishing between the two isn't always easy, is it? But let me be as much of an encourager as I am a tough reminder that our bodies have so much to accomplish for the kingdom. Many of the things God calls us to do as believers require a stewardship-type outlook of the body. Not in vain, but practically speaking. If you're a believer who finds himself or herself unknowingly hiding behind the truth that God only sees the heart -- with all due respect -- a "willful" neglect of the body is a heart issue.

But trust me, I know the battle is tough. I know it's daily. And I know how despair feels. But ask the Lord for wisdom and strength on how to be a better steward in this area. Determine today that only the limits God sets for your life will slow you down. Not anything man-made or self-made. When you close that bible and rise to your feet, tell the Lord your body is at His service now. And if that means adversity, or healthier food choices and fitness-type activities, see it all as an opportunity to strengthen your message.

--Jimmy Peña

PRAYFIT IN PREVENTION, ON MSN: After you've polished off that basket of fries, praying for skinniness may be futile. But across the country, weight loss programs are combining the typical tools of diet, exercise and community support with one more: The power of belief. "The Bible is full of stories of men and women who have conquered obstacles in their life through faith," says Jimmy Peña, who founded the Bible-based program PrayFit. [click here for more]

SODIUM: NOT TOO MUCH, NOT TOO LITTLE

Think you're consuming too much salt? A review published in the American Journal of Medicine found that people who consumed less than the recommended 2,300 mg of sodium per day actually had a 37% increased risk of dying of cardiovascular disease than those who ingested more. So trying to go cold turkey, or letting your spouse take that salt shaker away from you every night at dinner time may not be the best approach.

Still, there are some who need to be careful not to overdo the salt because they have high blood pressure or a history of heart disease. To reduce your levels of sodium, try these simple tips from PrayFit contributing nutritionist Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD.

• Instead of a lot of salt, use herbs, spices, flavored vinegars, citrus juices, or wine to flavor food • Taste your food before salting it • Buy fresh, frozen, or canned "no salt added" veggies, and add a little salt at the table • Rinse canned beans and other canned veggies to remove sodium • Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereal without salt • Read labels: look for "low-sodium," "reduced-sodium," "no salt added," and foods that have less than 200 mg per serving

Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and works at a Washington, D.C.-based independent, nonprofit science organization, where her work is currently focused on environmental and policy solutions to obesity prevention. She also speaks to groups about health and nutrition and provides nutrition education to patients at a free medical clinic that serves low-income, uninsured adults in the D.C. area. You can view more of Emily’s nutrition tips and updates by following her on Twitter, @EmilyAMillerRD.

You Know The Story, Part II

"So he got up and went to his father." --Luke 15:20

Read: Luke 15

We had a rule growing up. If my brother and I got in trouble for doing something wrong, we weren't allowed to keep pouting about it. No sir. Once it was done, and my brother got what he deserved, it was over. Finished. Like it never happened. Well okay, we suffered consequences, yes, but it wasn't held over our heads. In fact, if I was pouting about it later on, you guessed it, I got in trouble for pouting. You know what that taught me? Trust. I trusted my parents. I knew what to expect. Periodically reprimanded, constantly loved.

Although he came back with memories of deeds as stinky as his pig-slopped clothes, yesterday's prodigal couldn't stray beyond his father's love. Before he knew it, a robe replaced his rags, a ring dressed his hand and a feast filled his belly. And while you and I may not have mud on our shoes, there's not a person reading this sentence who doesn't need that kind of grace from a grace-giving God.

You know, many of us have treated our bodies -- our inherited health -- much like the prodigal treated his promised pay. We've over spent and wasted it. But something tells me the prodigal son took better care of the things he was given after he got home. And so can we. For some, there's a family waiting for you, too; waiting for you to start eating better, to stop smoking, to start exercising. They're waiting to celebrate you. Who's coming home, been home, staying home? You're the life of their party. It doesn't begin without you.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Knowing that God sees our hearts, not our waistline, should invigorate and empower us to be better stewards of health. We're constantly loved. Doesn't that fire you up to live your entire life to its fullest? Let's see a few "YES" comments. We ask again: Who's coming home, been home, staying home?

NUTRITION TIP: Eat in Balance for Sustained Health

With all the fad diets out there that promise to help you lose weight for good, the best one may have been under your nose this whole time. 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.

>> Click here for more on the study!

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

The Prayfit Daily Returns Jan 7th! Subscribe Today!

"For unto us, a child is born." --Isaiah 9:6

Read: Isaiah 9

Soon we'll lay down the dumbbells and set aside the running shoes, and replace them with egg nog and wrapping paper. Christmas marks the crescendo of a chorus that began the day after Thanksgiving and will fade before the dawn of the new year.

For many, Christmas is a holiday of toys, food, family and new sweaters that we won't wear 'til next year (if ever). But through all the great things that come along with this season, all of which we too love to enjoy, let's remember the cliche is true. There is a reason for the season: that God came down to our level, because we couldn't get up to His.

So let us be first to say...Merry Christmas!

And finally, we at PrayFit want to thank all of you for your prayers of support, your time spent with us daily and for your encouragement. We're so excited about what God has in store for us and for you this new year.

May the Lord richly bless you and your loved ones today and everyday. May He guide and protect all of you and we pray for abundant health for everyone, so that we may continue to boldly serve Him all the days of our lives.

--Team PrayFit

NUTRITION TIP: SUPER SWAPS

As you look for ways to avoid the all-too-common holiday weight gain, or if you're planning on changing your dietary practices in 2013, your approach doesn't need to be as drastic as you think. Eating healthy does not have to mean a complete diet overhaul. A substitution-type approach can create big improvements in the way you eat, feel and look. To get started, try swapping the following:

• Processed grains for whole grains Research shows that eating whole grains reduces the risk of many chronic diseases. When shopping for breads and pastas, look for those with "whole wheat" listed as their first ingredient. And when dining out, don't be afraid to ask your server to switch your sandwich bread or hamburger bun to whole wheat. Many sushi restaurants will even make rolls using brown rice if you request it.

• Sugary beverages for water Drinks like fruit juices and sodas are high in refined sugar and calories. Their consumption can quickly lead to excess weight gain and eventually health problems. By switching to water, you can prevent this. You will also meet one of your body's essential needs, as water is required for carrying out most of its daily functions. If you'd prefer a bit of flavor, try adding some lemon. Aim for half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day.

• Empty calorie snacks for protein Foods high in processed carbs and fats yet low in nutrients are said to contain empty calories. They provide little to no benefit to our health and can easily lead to weight gain and the maladies that come along with it. Cookies, chips and candy are a few examples of snacks you'll want to swap out. By considering foods high in protein as an alternative -- like trail mix, yogurt, or natural beef jerky -- you will be giving your body a nutrient it needs to build and repair while satisfying your hunger in the meantime.

Amanda McDermott is an ISSA-certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition and the owner of Feed My Body, a nutrition coaching program. Learn more at feedmybody.com and facebook.com/feedmybody.

>> The PrayFit Daily will continue on January 7, 2013. To sign-up, or to get friends on our subscriber list, click here. For now, you can stay with us on Facebook, Twitter, HeavenUp and YouTube. And for a final look at how your health can be used as a means of praise, click 'play' to hear from founder Jimmy Peña.

Jesus Ate Perfectly

"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." --John 4:34

Read: John 4

Jesus ate perfectly. Does anyone find that amazing? Whether during a hearty celebration meal with friends or while eating sparingly on the road as He traveled, He never sinned. In fact, nobody ever ate better. Now, that's food for thought.

Some of you may be sitting back in your chair thinking, "Wait, what? Surely you don't mean perfectly?" Well, in fact, yes. That's exactly what we mean. See, we believe Jesus was perfect in every imaginable way and that includes how He ate. It's easy to think of Jesus as the healer or speaker but perfect eater? Well, while we know He never ate for vanity or gluttony, that truth is easier to digest when we realize that nothing He ate or didn't eat would prevent Him from reaching the cross for your sins and mine. Knowing that, it's tough to argue that He ate perfectly, wouldn't you agree?

So what can that teach us? For one, it should remind us that God looks at the heart, so we might as well get out of the mirror. But it also means that neglecting the body and eating without purpose is a heart issue. On one hand, we can't be so focused on our waistline that we fail to see the needs around us, nor can we eat in such a way that we can't function with abundance or fulfill our potential.

But isn't it liberating? See, like you, I believe Jesus enjoyed a good meal with the disciples and I like to imagine Him leaning back and being the first to doze off. But humbly, I can also see Him going days without food, fasting for Heavenly wisdom for you and for me. Oh my friends, it's when we see food through His eyes that the table clearly comes into focus. Enjoy food, respect food, and learn how it allows you to serve Him. After all, He was the perfect example. Everything He ate or didn't eat, helped Him save us.

--Jimmy Peña

FUN FACT: As we strive — and struggle — to live more like Jesus, it’s important to immerse ourselves in God’s word on a daily basis. But an extension of Christ-like living, whether we realize it or not, is exercise (1 Timothy 4:8) — because Jesus did a lot of it, mostly through walking. Sure, most of that was out of necessity but you can bet that He was pretty fit. Would you believe that Jesus walked over 3,000 miles during his ministry?

>> The Word is out...PrayFit's new, challenging at-home workout DVD is helping people build physical and spiritual muscle! We peaked at No. 14 today on Amazon's hot new releases in exercise & fitness and are determined to hit the top spot. We're blessed by your support...and sweat! Share the link below with others, or order yours today!

Shepherds In Suits: Part I

"And even the very hairs on your head are numbered." --Matthew 10:30

Read: Matthew 10

Back in 2009, I wrote about a small group of soldiers-turned-bodyguards. Once brave on the battlefield for our country, these men now stand in the gap between danger and their client, with no regard for self. On watch and on guard, for the sake of their call.

As it so happens, I was asked to advise their client with training and nutrition as he prepared for a movie, so I had a rare, bird's eye view of their excellence.  And what I witnessed was nothing short of perfection. Selfless, stealthy. Shepherds in suits. I say shepherds because shepherds are fierce protectors; they can handle themselves, no problem. And yet shepherds are as caring for their sheep as nurses with newborns. And because I stayed close to the client, I shared his shield. I was safe, not because of who I was, but because of who he was. One call from the client, and you got the calvary.

So I suppose it's no wonder the bible refers to Jesus as the Great Shepherd. He watches over us night and day, and would go through hell to keep us safe. As a matter of fact, He did.

One call to Him? Calvary.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: How does knowing Jesus watches us so closely help you strive for better health or achieve modesty in how your portray yourself? Does it make a difference?

EGGS & CHOLESTEROL Are eggs bad for you? Hardly. Researchers have found that subjects who ate three whole eggs per day gained twice as much muscle in 12 weeks as those who only had one egg per day and that those who ate eggs at breakfast stayed fuller longer. And despite long-held beliefs, eggs really pose no danger to your heart when part of a balanced diet.

>> To read about how eggs affect cholesterol, click here. EGG FACTS: One whole egg contains 72 calories, 6 grams of protein, 0 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of fat. But don’t worry — about 80% of that fat is monounsaturated and saturated fat, which actually aids in the muscle-building process.

Keeping House

"Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back." —Mark 13:35

Read: Mark 13

My wife Wendy and I live in a house of toddlers which means that at any given moment, our little home can look like hurricane-force winds blew through, tossing about everything that isn't nailed down. Toys are scattered, clothes are strewn over the furniture and...is that string cheese ground into our rug? We try, sometimes to no avail, to keep up with our cyclical mess.

However, once I get word that my mother-in-law is coming to visit, a new side of me emerges -- an unrelenting, super-cleaning alter ego that is intent on spot-shining the house into model-home glory. You see, not only did she and my father-in-law help us buy this place, but Ethelmarie keeps a pretty tidy house. And while she may not be bothered by the mountainous pile of juice cups in my sink, I still don't want her to see them. So my inner Mr. Clean -- the one that speedily washes fingerprints from windows and mops floors -- really only comes out when I know she's stopping by. And while her visits are usually announced, we love that she will occasionally just pop in. As a result, Wendy and I are now doing our best to keep the house Ethel-ready at all times, managing the maelstrom in small, daily increments (as much as Mya and Ella will allow, that is.)

We all have houses to keep -- both brick-and-mortar and flesh-and-blood -- that can benefit from daily attention. And you never really know when company's coming.

Lord, we are so grateful for the bodies that house our souls and do not take lightly that we were made in your image. Please help us find the daily motivation to be faithful stewards of the physical gifts we've been given. Amen.

--Eric Velazquez

HEALTH, ON THE SIDE Side dishes are supposed to be an accompaniment, but many favorites can jam in more calories than you want for an entire meal. Lighten up your plate with these healthy (but still delicious) substitutions.

Instead of: French fries Choose: Oven-baked fries The Payoff: At least 30 percent less fat

Instead of: Mac and Cheese Choose: Rice Pilaf or 5-Ingredient Cheesy Rice The Payoff: A healthy reduction in fat, cholesterol and calories.

(If it’s mac and cheese or bust, try our tips for lightening up your favorite recipe.)

Instead of: Mashed potatoes Choose: A baked sweet potato or sweet potato oven fries The Payoff: Half the calories and piles of vitamin A

Instead of: Butter-drenched vegetables Choose: Roasted seasonal veggies The Payoff: Big flavor for a fraction of the fat and calories

Instead of: Creamy salad dressing Choose: Vinaigrette The Payoff: Healthier fats and 40 calories less per tablespoon

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

Character, Flaws

"You are my hiding place." --Psalm 32:7

Read: Psalm 32

A friend of mine recently asked her fans and followers if they could relate to any particular character in the bible. I never get tired of that question. If you're like me, you don't know where to start. Pick one. The disobedience of Adam? That's me, hiding in the bushes. Insecurity of Moses? Yep, I'm a carrier. What about Sarah's idea of the impossible, versus God's idea of the inevitable? Regretfully, Sarah and I would share a good, if brief laugh.

Indeed, find a character in the bible and you'll find your character flaw. But of all the things I'm thankful for this week, it's not about who I can relate to, but Who chose to relate to me. To think, I can identify with so many of the bible's lowest moments, yet Christ identifies Himself with me.

What are you thankful for today?

--Jimmy Peña

CRAVINGS: BRAIN GAMES Science shows that impulse control may have to do with your blood sugar

Think back on the last time you were hungry for something really bad. When that craving for high-sugar, high-fat and/or high-calorie food hits you like a freight train, ask yourself this: How long has it been since your last good meal? Brain imaging scans show that when glucose (blood sugar) levels drop, an area of the brain known to regulate emotions and impulses loses the ability to dampen desire for high-calorie food, according to the study published online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Your brain runs on glucose, so in a state of deprivation -- which can occur if you go too long between meals -- it may send signals that trigger these cravings. In order to avoid said cravings, your best bet is to have 4-7 small, healthy, whole-food meals and snacks throughout the day. This constant influx of fuel prevents your brain from going into panic mode and keeps you on the right track for healthful, abundant living.

>> For the full story on Science Daily, click here.

He's My Brother

"Then I sent Moses and Aaron..." --Joshua 24:5

Read: Joshua 24

A great friend and mogul said to me yesterday, "I believe God puts people in your life to help show you where you're going." His statement couldn't have been more true about the day nearly seven years ago when I met then writer extraordinaire and future PrayFit VP Eric Velazquez. Little did I know that when I shook Eric's hand in the offices of Muscle & Fitness Magazine, God was showing me where I was going.

In the context of PrayFit, if I could humbly assign Eric a biblical counterpart, it would probably be Aaron. If you're thinking, "Aaron! Yes, of course! Aaron...wait...who's Aaron?" well, that helps my point. Aaron was Moses' brother. Often overlooked, but when Moses was in need, God sent Aaron. Moses stuttered, so God delivered. Aaron 'spoke well' and they became a team.

So please allow me to use the comparison to publicly acknowledge Eric and his selfless, often invisible, critical and fantastic work he does day in and out. If it weren't for Eric, there would be no daily message. If he's not writing amazing articles for the biggest fitness magazines in the country, or inspiring people to grow closer to the Lord and healthier in the process, he's smoothing out my stutter. He's my brother, and we're a team.

If you've been following PrayFit for any length of time, please help me in publicly thanking Eric for who he is and what he means to us all.

--Jimmy Peña

HEALTH FACTS, BY THE NUMBERS The AHA's most recent report on obesity and its ties to heart disease

149,300,000 - Number of U.S. adults (age 20 and older) that are overweight or obese

33.7 - Percentage of U.S. adults (age 20 and older) that are obese

23,600,000 - Number of U.S. children (age 2 to 19) that are overweight or obese

16.9 - Percentage of U.S. children (age 2 to 19) that are obese

33 - Percentage of U.S. adults that report doing no aerobic leisure-time activity

71 - Percentage of U.S. adults with cardiovascular disease that were overweight or obese

1 in 3- Deaths attributable to cardiovascular disease in the U.S.

Source: American Heart Association Statistical Update on Heart Disease and Strokes (2012)

Who Wants the Ball?

"For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." --2 Timothy 1:7

Read: 2 Timothy 1

Imagine a coach before a big football game. The team has taken a knee and their helmets are off as they await the last few words of encouragement. The coach stands before them and says, "Now listen up, boys. We got here as a team and we'll finish as one. I believe in you. But...I gotta admit, I think the other coach is smarter than me, and the other kids, well, they're a lot bigger than you. But hey, it was a fun season. Try not to get hurt. Now, let's go!"

Not much confidence in those words, right? Aren't we glad that's not how God sends us off into the world to tackle our biggest foes -- foes of health issues, financial hardships, relationship battles and good old fear and doubt. On the contrary, if God had a blackboard, He'd outline our daily route...straight to the cross. His pre-game words would be the same today as they were yesterday: "Be strong and courageous, for I am with you wherever you go" (Josh 1:9) and "I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

Who wants the ball?

Question: The Bible is full of wonderful verses that remind us of God's strength, love and guidance. What is your favorite?

--Jimmy Peña

51 FAT-BURNING TIPS

You can find plenty of ways to fight bodyfat everyday here at PrayFit.com but this list, put out by Health.com and picked up by CNN, is easy one-stop shopping for those looking to get a little leaner in 2012. The full list, which includes tips on everything from rep pace to nutritional supplements, can be found by clicking here.

>> NEW! Have you visited the redesigned PrayFit Store? Click here to shop for books, DVDs, apparel and more with our retooled, user-friendly shopping cart.

>> GUEST SPEAKING: Want PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena to come to your church in 2012 to help lay the groundwork for your fitness ministry? E-mail us at info@prayfit.com for more details!

A Dangerous Prayer

"Why did we ever leave Egypt?" -Numbers 11:20

Read: Numbers 11

Did you catch it? They actually missed prison. Not long after the Israelites met freedom, they actually longed for captivity. Behind bars they had no choices. As inmates, they had no responsibility. Even though they were trapped, they were warm, cozy, and full. Their prayer for freedom was a dangerous one. Nothing a generation in the desert couldn't answer.

What about us? When was the last time you and I prayed dangerously? About finances, a relationship...our health? See, once they were set free, the Israelites faced the need for obedience and responsibility; so do we. Folks, our bodies are merely tools, not finished products. Better fitness simply means better equipped. It's tough to visit the poor from the couch, and it's impossible to see the hurting in our own mirror. But we're warm, cozy, and full (even if of ourselves). (Note: this should speak to both the fit and the not-so-fit.)

If God allows us the opportunity for better health, what will we do with it? Will we sit? Focus on ourselves? Will we allow a generation to wander before we see health as a means of praise? If so, why did we ever leave Egypt?

Jimmy Peña

STUDY: HIGHER PROTEIN DIETS BETTER FOR BODY COMPOSITION

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who consistently consume more calories than they burn each day will lose lean muscle and accumulate body fat more easily if their diets contain too little protein and too much fat and carbohydrates.

The results of the study suggest that the minimum protein intake federal health officials currently recommend -- 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams per day for men -- may not be enough to maintain muscle mass in some people. The study participants needed to consume at least 78 grams of protein per day to avoid losing muscle.

>> For the full story from CNN, click here.

GEAR UP: Looking for PrayFit books, DVDs or apparel? You're just one click away. Visit the newly-designed PrayFit store by clicking here.

What Can I Bring?

"They all ate and were satisfied." -Mark 6:42

When the crowds grew hungry, can't you just see the disciples on their tip-toes counting heads? I wonder what number they reached before they realized they were outnumbered? But just to be sure, they decided to count inventory of the basket. "Two, three, four...nope, we're sure of it. Five loaves, two fish."

If you're like me, depending on the day, you've been both the worried disciple and the hungry crowd. In either case, the only one we can ever count on is the only one not counting. But somedays, I feel like the young boy don't you? Imagine him for a second. Little did he know that when his mom packed his bag that morning, he would literally hand it to God.

And while we don't hear the disciples say, "Thanks kid!" or "Glad you didn't come empty-handed, son," I like to imagine that after he got squeezed between the disciples and pushed to the back of the crowd, he found a nice spot on the hill with a good view. Grinning, he put his chin in his hands and watched God make a miracle out of his lunch.

We never know what the day has in store, but we do know what we bring to the day, spiritually and physically. (Let's remember to bring it.) And while we may not get applause, make sure to stick around to watch God do what only He can do with your life, and save me a seat. And oh, did you notice the verse? "They all ate." You never know, maybe the boy grinned with his mouth full, and maybe Jesus Himself brought the little guy his meal. But what we do know for certain is that our work never goes unnoticed (at least not by the one who doesn't count.)

Jimmy Peña

PRAYFIT NUTRITION TIP: Fruits & Veggies by Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD

Let’s be honest...most Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. The federal government’s new Dietary Guidelines say that we should fill half of our plate with fruits and vegetables. Not only does this add a lot of nutrients and not a lot of calories, but it makes our meals colorful and more appealing. Here are some easy, thoughtful ways to bump up your fruit and veggie intake without simply picking up a cucumber and crunching away.

>> Add vegetables to omelets or scrambled eggs, pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese (try broccoli and tomatoes), soups, and sandwiches

>> Add fruit to smoothies, pancake and muffin mix, cereal and milk, yogurt, oatmeal, and salads

Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and works at a Washington, DC-based independent, nonprofit science organization, where her work is currently focused on environmental and policy solutions to obesity prevention. She also speaks to groups about health and nutrition and provides nutrition education to patients at a free medical clinic that serves low-income, uninsured adults in the Washington, DC area. You can view more of Emily’s nutrition tips and updates by following her on Twitter, @EmilyAMillerRD.

AVENUE OF AFFLICTION

"In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider God has made the one as well as the other."— Ecclesiastes 7:13-14

On the treadmill to my right, walked a man maybe 80 years old; on the one to my left, a teenager with a disability. The three of us huffed and puffed, each with a window overlooking a busy intersection -- sort of a fitness fishbowl, if you will. Each stoplight ushered in a new array of commuters and though every once in a while we'd capture the attention of a driver or two, one vehicle in particular caught mine.

But first, isn't it interesting that you really don't know what motivates someone? Some things you just can't see. You can only see the result. Oh sure, while the dashboard on my treadmill might give me distance, it doesn't know what it took to get me that far. Pastor Chuck Swindoll wrote, "Although this journey along the avenue of affliction is unpleasant and unappealing, it is inevitable. Working through the hurt is essential if we hope to become effective for God."

To be effective for God. Isn't that the goal both physically and spiritually? And since we know that nothing hits us without Him allowing it, it's a compliment that He believes we can work through the hurt. Or better yet, we're never in pain alone. So as I stepped in between the two bookends of life on my left and right, it was a comfort to know the steps God took to see me through mine. (Lord only knows what was inside their hearts-the history, the pain, the drive,- but whatever it was, they walked).

And oh yes, I almost forgot. The car that got my attention? An Official Vehicle of the Department of Aging. Somehow, the three of us "vehicles" could easily relate. Wow. Can't you just hear the applause of Heaven? Listen closely, take courage and keep going. Because thankfully, the road we're on as believers? It's an incline.

--Jimmy Peña

CARBS: CHOOSE WISELY

While PrayFit isn't completely against low-carb dieting, we stress the importance of choosing the proper types of carbohydrates to fuel your training and other daily activities. Carbs are, after all, the body's preferred fuel source, so extended or extreme deprivation can backfire for dieters as well as the companies that stake their futures on no-carb schemes. Case in point...

"The low-carb diet craze reached its peak in 2004, with far fewer people following diets like Atkins and South Beach in subsequent years," according to John Robbins, author of Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples. "On August 1, 2005, Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., filed for bancruptcy court protection."

Remember, the key is to control refined sugar, not to overly restrict healthy complex carbohydrates. Refined sugars, such as those found in sugary drinks, white bread and candy, digest quickly and spike insulin levels, which can cause the body to store fat. Complex carbs, such as those found in whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables, digest more slowly and provide slower, steady streams of fuel to cells.

Source: Healthy at 100 by John Robbins

CHARACTER. FLAWS.

November 22, 2011Read: Psalm 32

"You are my hiding place." --Psalm 32:7

A friend of mine recently asked her fans and followers if they could relate to any particular character in the Bible. I never get tired of that question. If you're like me, you don't know where to start. Pick one. The disobedience of Adam? That's me, hiding in the bushes. Insecurity of Moses? Yep, I'm a carrier. What about Sarah's idea of the impossible, versus God's idea of the inevitable? Regretfully, Sarah and I would share a good, brief laugh.

Indeed, find a character in the bible and you'll find your character flaw. But of all the things I'm thankful for this week, it's not about who I can relate to, but Who chose to relate to me. To think, I can identify with so many of the bible's lowest moments, yet Christ identifies Himself with me.

What are you thankful for today?

-Jimmy Peña

CRAVINGS: BRAIN GAMES Science shows that impulse control may have to do with your blood sugar

Think back on the last time you were hungry for something really bad. When that craving for high-sugar, high-fat and/or high-calorie food hit you like a freight train, how long had it been since your last good meal? Brain imaging scans show that when glucose (blood sugar) levels drop, an area of the brain known to regulate emotions and impulses loses the ability to dampen desire for high-calorie food, according to the study published online in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Your brain runs on glucose, so in a state of deprivation -- which can occur if you go too long between meals -- it may send signals that trigger these cravings. In order to avoid said cravings, your best bet is to have 4-7 small, healthy, whole-food meals and snacks throughout the day. This constant influx of fuel prevents your brain from going into panic mode and keeps you on the right track for healthful, abundant living.

>> For the full story on Science Daily, click here.

 

SWING AWAY

October 5, 2011Read: Philippians 1

"For me to live is Christ, but to die is gain." --Philippians 1:21

Well, seasons come and go. Baseball seasons, that is. If you've followed PrayFit for any length of time, by now you know we're baseball people. And personally, I have a tradition. Each year, since I left high school, I call my little league coach on the first game of the year and whenever it could be the last. And yesterday, with my beloved Yankees facing elimination, I called coach. The same voice that comforted me as a 9-year-old, somehow does the same decades later.

Not sure if you can relate, but some days just feel like the last game of the season. Whether at work, school or in your quest for greater health, we often feel like one more strike and we're done. But friend, don't quit. Like Paul said, "For me to live is Christ, but to die is gain." Whatever we lose in obedience on earth, God has something better in mind, especially if it's our Game 7. So step out of the box, and call on Him. Hear His familiar voice. And if the sun comes up, it's not just another at-bat. It's God's sign for us to swing away.

--J.P.

THE DAIRY DEBATE

In "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days," we advocate a balanced diet that splits calories evenly between protein, carbs and fat. The diverse selection on the weekly menu includes plenty of milk, cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt, which has raised some eyebrows. While some suggest that dairy can contribute to inflammation and other allergies, the connection may be somewhat overblown.

"There is little clinical data showing a relationship between dairy and inflammation," says Jim Stoppani, PhD, senior science editor for Muscle & Fitness, FLEX and M&F Hers magazines and architect of the "PrayFit's" nutrition plan. "There is, however, a lot of research showing that dairy protein is one of the most effective for building lean muscle. That is not only important for aesthetic reasons, but for quality of life as we age. And since muscle mass is a metabolic tissue, it can help to further aid fat loss.

Stoppani concedes that dairy's bad rap isn't without cause. "Yes, there is some "evidence" to suggest that dairy products may be related to some inflammation. Again, there is not strong enough data yet to fully support this.  If it is a major concern for you, however, on any diet that recommends dairy you can simply replace any dairy foods with other protein choices, such as eggs, poultry, fish, or beef."

>> For more from Dr. Stoppani, visit his official website at www.jimstoppani.com. To try the PrayFit diet for yourself, pick up "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days" today at Amazon.

AGREEMENT ISN'T ENOUGH

October 4, 2011Read: Exodus 3

"But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" --Exodus 3:11

I wonder if Moses ever went back to the place of the burning bush. Oh, I know it's doubtful, but for one of the pillars of our faith, that spot was a pivotal point in his life, and for yours and mine. But he didn't just agree there. He didn't concur with a sophisticated nod like he was looking at some priceless work of art. No, his body had to get him where his soul had to go. A simple agreement wasn't enough. And so with ashes still on his sandals, he marched through Pharaoh's front door to prove it.

What about you? Do you remember when you were called to task? For me, my soul was called in the 8th grade, then again in 2007 to blend faith with fitness. For you, maybe it was 10 years ago, or maybe even 10 minutes. But regardless, agreement isn't enough, especially when it comes to our health. Agreement is just the opportunity to prove it. So go back with Moses. Get close to the flame. Rub your hands together and get warm. You have your own Pharaohs to face. And when you do, imagine God as He nods, looking at you like a priceless work of art...because you are.

--J.P.

NUTRITION Q&A Addressing reader questions from the PrayFit inbox

Q: I noticed that on page 225 of the book "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days," there is a note to "add artificial sweetener if desired." Isn't that contrary to good health as artificial sweetener's are relatively "poison" and is a contributor to the obesity crisis?  Shouldn't you be recommending honey or stevia?

--Mo, via e-mail

A: Honey provides fructose, which is fine is small amounts but honey is known to cause numerous health problems. Stevia is a pretty good alternative for sweeteners, but it too has research showing some concerns over its safety. The research on artificial sweeteners concludes that they are safe when used in moderation. My personal stance is to avoid these chemicals. However, we realize that some people do need a "sweet treat" every once in a while and we wanted to make the diet tolerable for them. If a diet is too limited in the foods you can eat most people will not stay on the diet. The PrayFit nutrition plan we developed was designed to help people create a lifestyle out of healthy eating, rather than giving a quick fix solution.

--Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days"

>> Got a question for the PrayFit team? Send it to info@prayfit.com, or post it in our forums.

>> WATCH: Click on the player below for a peek at the official trailer for the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge by Lionsgate, due out December 6!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3k7_WPk5LU

HE FOUND YOU

September 29, 2011Read: Luke 5

"Simon answered, 'Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."--Luke 5:5

Smelly, dirty, grimy -- these are just a few of the ways to describe Peter and his buddies. After all, they spent their days baiting hooks and cleaning fish. I'm smiling as I picture Jesus 'the Recruiter' walking up to this motley crew. Did He pause and grin, crouching down to watch and listen to them work? Maybe after a few minutes, He looked skyward with a smile as if to say, "I found them."

I'm not sure, but I like to wonder what happened in that moment just before the call. What we do know is that of all the fishermen that came off the water, this bunch caught God's attention. And not long after Christ borrowed Peter's boat, the two were catching fish in water too deep for the nets to reach; Peter's preview to the depths of His love.

Friends, remember. You have God's attention. So as we start our cars, open our offices, enter our cubicles or prepare for housework, let's do what Peter did and abandon control. Let's just imagine Him saying with a grin, "I found them," and this is that moment just before the call.

--J.P.

RECIPE: BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA Use this recipe to enjoy a healthier, homemade pizza

If you are easily tempted by the lure of buttery crust, bubbling cheese and a "supreme" piling of toppings, well you're not alone. But as tasty as pizza is, it is generally not the healthiest food on the planet. Sure, a slice or two isn't going to have you flooding over your belt line but indulging more than that (or more often) is a -- dare we say? -- recipe for disaster. This alternative from Dana White, MS, RD, ATC, a writer for the Food Network and contributing nutritionist for PrayFit, helps save calories with healthier ingredients, taking the guilt out of your next pizza night.

>> BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA - CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE

NEW!!! Read up on PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge, the newest home exercise DVD from Lionsgate Entertainment, due out December 6. (Available for pre-order now on Amazon)

WHAT CAN I BRING?

September 21, 2011Read: Mark 6

"They all ate and were satisfied." --Mark 6:42

When the crowds grew hungry, can't you just see the disciples on their tip-toes counting heads? I wonder what number they reached that meant they were outnumbered? But just to be sure, they decided to count inventory of the basket. "Two, three, four...nope, we're sure of it. Five loaves, two fish."

If you're like me, depending on the day, you've been both the worried disciple and the hungry crowd. In either case, the only one we can ever count on is the only one not counting. But somedays, I feel like the young boy don't you? Imagine him for a second. Little did he know that when his mom packed his bag that morning, he would literally hand it to God.

And while we don't hear the disciples say, "Thanks kid!" or "Glad you didn't come empty-handed, son," I like to imagine that after he got squeezed between the disciples and pushed to the back of the crowd, he found a nice spot on the hill with a good view. Grinning, he put his chin in his hands and watched God make a miracle out of his lunch.

We never know what the day has in store, but we do know what we bring to the day, spiritually and physically. (Let's remember to bring it.) And while we may not get applause, make sure to stick around to watch God do what only He can do with your life, and save me a seat.

-J.P.

P.S. Did you notice the verse? "They all ate." You never know, maybe the boy grinned with his mouth full, and maybe Jesus Himself brought him his meal. But what we do know for certain is that our work never goes unnoticed, at least not by the one who doesn't count.

GREAT STARTS These two breakfast plans can help you fuel up right for the day ahead

People always talk about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It puts a halt to muscle-wasting, sets your blood sugar right, crushes food cravings and provides you energy for whatever the day holds in store for you. But what does a perfect breakfast look like? Ideally, as we published in yesterday's PrayFit Daily, your entire diet should be a three-way balance between protein, carbs and fat. Jim Stoppani, PhD, nutritional expert and co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days," offers two energy-packed options for your morning repast.

Option 1: 1 cup cooked oatmeal 1/2 cup fresh berries 1 Tbsp chopped walnuts 2 slices cooked turkey bacon

Calories: 296 |  Protein: 20 grams | Carbs: 37 grams | Fat: 8 grams

Option 2: 1 egg + 3 egg whites, scrambled 3 slices tomato 1 Ezekiel 4:9 tortilla 6 oz. grapefruit juice

Calories: 358 | Protein: 25 grams | Carbs: 45 grams | Fat: 9 grams

>> For a full lineup of meal plans and snack options that offer balanced nutrition for your healthy lifestyle, pick up a copy of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days" from Barnes & Noble or Amazon today!