obesity

National Measures

One common way that national viability is measured is through gross national product, or GDP -- the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within a country in a year, or other given period of time. In the United States, as of 2011, health spending in this country was at 18 percent of GDP, or about $2.6 trillion per year. The estimated annual health care costs of obesity-related illnesses such as hypertension, Type II diabetes and arthritis are a staggering $190.2 billion, or nearly 21% of annual medical spending. Hardly stats worth bragging about. Still, the debate on health coverage in the country rages on, leaving us fractured, polarized and still overweight. As the federal government works to find solutions, even within the framework of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the church is beginning to coalesce around a simple truth: that we can collectively drive down medical costs -- even if it takes a generation -- by becoming better stewards of our health.

"The things God calls us to do as believers require a stewardship-type outlook of the body," says PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña. "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."

Enter the soon-to-be released PrayFit Diet by Jimmy Peña, which goes beyond its own detailed meal plans and macronutrient counts and digs into the biblical motivations -- and mandates -- for taking better care of "the bodies that carry the soul."

This message, which has been well-received in churches across the country since the advent of PrayFit in 2009, has made its way to Washington. Congressman Aaron Schock, who has received plenty of attention for his personal dedication to healthy living, had this to say about The PrayFit Diet:

"Jimmy Peña’s The PrayFit Diet provides the moral case for why every human being should be living with food discipline -- for their benefit and for the glory of God."

Schock put his belief in personal responsibility into legislative language with HR 2649, which would have provided a tax reimbursement for qualified physical activity, "in order to incentivize more Americans to take better care of themselves," he said on his website.

This is precisely where Schock's philosophy dovetails with Peña’s.

"God equipped us for a unique purpose and to accomplish it, He gave us these bodies," Peña says. "What an awesome honor to be responsible for their care."

While the costs of health care continue to spiral out of control, we can rest easy knowing that we are not powerless in this fight. Can faith fight obesity and other related health maladies? We believe it can. And like Rep. Schock says, it's for our benefit...but His glory.

Final Prayfit Diet CoverThe PrayFit Diet, is not only inspired by biblical principles, but it’s also supported by today’s cutting-edge science, and Peña gives you a plan to shed weight fast and the motivation to keep it off for a lifetime. By combining perfectly proportioned meals with biblically based motivation, The PrayFit Diet will give you all the tools you need to live a life that will both inspire you and honor the Lord. The PrayFit Diet is available for pre-order everywhere books are sold.

>> Click here to subscribe to our daily messages for updates and a healthy dose of inspiration each morning.

Agreement Isn't Enough

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

Read: Exodus 3

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 (not to mention for yours and mine). But Moses didn't just agree there. He didn't concur with some sophisticated nod like he was looking at some priceless work of art. "Hmm, yes indeed." No, his body had to get him where his soul had to go. A simple agreement wasn't enough. And so with ash 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 your task? For me, my soul was called in the eighth grade, then again in 2007 to create PrayFit. 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. Like it was for Moses, agreement is just the opportunity to prove it. So go back with him. Get close to the flame. Hear it crackle. Rub your hands together and get warm. You have your own Pharaohs to face. Obesity? Heart disease? A better example for your kids? Perhaps for your congregation? Pharaohs all. And as you march through those doors, let the ash on your sandals be a reminder that agreement isn't enough.

--Jimmy Peña

NUTRITION: The Perfect Breakfast

There are a lot of strong options for your breakfast table in the morning. But when it comes to starting your day, you don’t want to tinker with anything that is less-than-effective at fueling you up right.

>> Click here for the perfect morning combo!

"Let The Healing Never End"

"Jesus wept." --John 11:35

Read: John 11

If you haven't read today's chapter, Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem. And when Mary finally reached Jesus, Lazarus had been dead four days. Perhaps they thought Jesus didn't hurry or didn't notice. Either way, the grief and pain that Mary and the others were feeling moved Jesus to tears. Although Lazarus would soon be having a good laugh, Jesus cried. Why? Because their loss was His too, and their pain hurt. Imagine that for a second. Their agony hit His heart and...gush.

Yesterday I received encouraging news with one of my surgeons (last year's). But it wasn't an easy appointment. So important was this check-up that I had my wife, mother, dad and small corner of friends hitting their knees for me. I even bet my mom went old school -- like biblical -- and prayed in a closet. And it was the doctor who delivered the good news to a teary Loretta. But he wasn't crying with her. He didn't console her, hold her and he definitely didn't cry. Why? He knew the outcome. He saw her tears and quickly knew how to dry them.

You know, if Jesus could instantly dry the eyes of a broken Mary, surely He could prevent His own from welling up. But aren't we glad He knows how we feel? And shows it? Which makes me think, that probably wasn't the last time Mary cried, or cried out to a healing God. And yesterday wasn't the last day we'll follow her example. I'm learning that it's true that on this side of Heaven, the healing never ends. Like you, I often want Him to hurry or notice. If I didn't know better, I'd say this life looks a lot like that short road to Bethany.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Incidentally, tomorrow is my 14-day check-up with the neurosurgeon. Let the dust fly, and like my boys of the group Salvador sing, "Let the healing never end". Amen?

REPORT: ROOT OF THE PAIN Are you walking around each day with chronic pain in your knees or back? It might not be the thrashing you put on your body in your formidable years. It may be the few extra pounds you've accumulated since. The good news is that there's an easy fix.

>> Get the full report here.

LISTEN: Want to take in some of your favorite entries direct from Jimmy? Click here for a selection of audio devotions and be sure to share the link with your social networks!

Your Mission

"I hope you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit." --3 John 1:2

Read: 3 John 1

I remember like it was yesterday, scrounging through an old box of books while whispering to myself, "Your mission, should you choose to accept it...." I'm smiling as I type this sentence. Great memories. See, in 1996, the movie of the year was the first Mission: Impossible, and I was bound and determined to see it. But as a young married couple, times were tight. With both of us working and in school, we watched every penny. I knew that in order for us to see the show, it was up to me. (Light the fuse, cue the music.)

Long story short, the sign at the end of the street read, "WE BUY BOOKS!" And fortunately, I kept every schoolbook I'd ever read (from every class). So if they were buying, I was selling. When Loretta got home, I greeted her with a kiss, a grin and two tickets. Special times.

That story came to mind recently when someone requested PrayFit resources for their church. Seems I'm still selling books. Only now it's for what many see as an impossible mission: to conquer the obesity epidemic in our homes and churches. But I think John said it best. In his third epistle, the first thing he said to a man named Gaius was, "I hope you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit." (v. 2) A worthy hope he had for his friend, especially considering the times in which they lived. And it's still a worthy hope today; a hope that defines our purpose at PrayFit. Is your church in need of help? Does someone you love need encouragement to be healthy for the right reasons? If so, we're on a mission, and we're bringing books.

--Jimmy Peña

THE RIGHT GADGETS FOR YOUR MISSION

The protagonist in the Mission: Impossible films, Ethan Hunt, was successful due to his vast experience in the world of espionage...and a few choice inventions. From voice-replicating throat chips to explosive gum, the tools of the trade were always vital to the mission. Same applies for you and yours. Try these resources when it comes to confronting health issues in your home and community:

>> READ: Our first book, "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 33 Days," provides two 28-day exercise programs, a complete diet plan and biblically-inspired devotions to keep you motivated each step of the way.

>> WATCH: PrayFit has partnered with Lionsgate Entertainment to bring you two home-based workout DVDs -- the second more challenging than the first. Train along with founder Jimmy Peña as you work to become stronger, leaner and healthier, all from the comfort of your living room.

For more information on these and other products, click here.

It Just Wouldn't Be Sunday...

"Why do you seek the living among the dead?" --Luke 24:5

Read Luke 24

Run away. Just run away. Prayfit contributing writer Allison Earnst can often be heard urging people to run away from bad food choices. Simply put, sometimes you have to just physically remove yourself from situations. Can anyone relate?

You know that reminds me, a few weeks ago, we celebrated Easter, and one of the stories of the Resurrection comes to mind today. When the women saw that the tomb was empty, what did they do? They ran to tell the others. They ran away from what was empty. In fact, what were they asked? "Why do you seek the living among the dead?"

Reminds me, on Saturday I wrote on Twitter:

"Donuts aren't the cause of the church's failing health, but whether we continue or discontinue, I'm afraid we'll lose members far too soon."

And wouldn't you know it, the next day the leader of the elder board at church said to the congregation, "It just wouldn't be Sunday without a donut." I turned and asked Loretta, "Did that really just happen?" To which she replied, "You're squeezing my hand." I'm chuckling as I type this sentence, because folks, I know donuts aren't the problem, but our heart toward food might be. Because of that, I think Allison is right when she urges people to do the unthinkable. And in many ways, we need to follow Mary's example and turn from what is empty. Plainly said, if believers are going to be the example in this country for a heart toward health, I think Sunday just might be the best day to start. Don't you?

--Jimmy Peña

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?

The Key to Hitting

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." --Psalm 19:14

Read: Psalm 19

In a New York Times article, Ichiro Suzuki -- Hall of Fame-bound outfielder for the New York Yankees -- said that the key to hitting is having respect for the bat. Mind you, this was coming from arguably the best hitter in the majors since 2001. But for Ichiro, having respect for the bat wasn't always the case.

Back in 1999, while still playing in Japan, Ichiro returned to the dugout so mad about striking out that he demolished his beautiful, black Mizuno bat -- completely destroyed it for all the world to see. But as it turns out, Ichiro was so embarrassed about how he treated the lumber, he wrote a letter to the bat's maker and apologized. And to this day, no other player in Major League Baseball cares for his bats like Ichiro -- it's a reputation he's known for. Rather than merely dumping his bat into the bin like everyone else, Ichiro carefully places his best bats inside a shockproof, moisture-free black case that he keeps by his side at all times.

Now, whether or not you love baseball, the story obviously has special meaning, especially when we consider that Ichiro says that the key to his success on the field is caring for his bat. Not his batting stance, not his swing, not his hand-eye coordination, but the bat itself -- the instrument that's used to put the ball in play. And whether he succeeds or fails at the plate, his bat gets placed back in its place of care. When he mistreated the bat years ago, he apologized to its maker; actually reached out to him. Why? Because Ichiro learned the craftsman made each of his bats by hand, and he figured something so carefully made deserved better attention when placed in his own.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: Uniquely handcrafted by the ultimate Artisan, perhaps our bodies deserve the same Ichiro-like reverence?

OBESITY: THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

Our waistlines aren't just widening because we're eating more. Click here to learn what else is causing this global pandemic and what we can do to reverse the trend.

Dad Hands

"So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.'"--John 20:25

Read: John 20

The older I get, the more my hands are looking like my dad's. I'll be typing or writing something, and I'll pause to look at my hands and immediately think of his. But unlike my clumsy paws, Dad can actually put his to work. He can fix everything or put anything together. Weld it, untie it, prime it, paint it, dig it...you name it, if we put it in his hands, he's able.

It's funny...despite that knowledge, I've often handed something to Dad for help, and immediately began to tell him how do it or what I think should be done next. To which Dad simply says, "James, am I doing this, or are you?" Gulp!

I think we have the tendency to do the same with the Lord. We pray for His guidance, ask for His help, and we "give it to Him," yet we never really let go of worry, doubt or control. (A show of hands of those who can relate...)

But we need to remember that the very same hands that reached for a sinking Peter on the water, and rubbed mud into the eyes of the blind, are the very same hands that still reach for us today. They assure us in hospital rooms and lead us through the dark times. It's no wonder Thomas wanted to see His hands. He can hold us like a newborn baby in one, while holding off Satan's army with the other. He wants us to bring Him our knots each day. It's what He does. He's got Dad hands, and He is able.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: During this holy week, what about you needs to be in His hands today? Your job? A relationship? Anxiety? Your heart? Whatever it is, He is right there. You can touch Him. You will never be the same.

STUDY: Obesity Linked to Chronic Pain

Knees hurt? Back sore all the time? Before reaching for another dose of ibuprofen, you might wanna check the scale. A recent study reaffirmed what you might already know -- that carrying around excess weight puts you at much higher risk for chronic pain.

>> Click here for the story.

The Hearing Impaired

Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would be without sin. But since you say 'We see', your sin remains." --John 9:41

Read: John 9

"Can you hear my voice?" her Dad asked her. "My voice" he repeated. You may have seen the story yesterday or perhaps you've seen similar videos whereby, through a procedure, people either see or hear their loved ones for the first time. Well, this particular moment made this sentimental fool a mess. Watching Amy Barber hear her family for the first time was enough to make even the Tin Man's heart beat. But it's what Amy said that caused mine to stop. Looking at her dad, she answered his question by saying, "I have to focus, because now I hear everything." Only after she got her hearing did she struggle to hear her dad.

Wow. I'm sure many of you could finish today's entry, but in one deaf sentence, Amy reminds us that we are hearing impaired. We have so much going on, so many voices, so many sounds and distractions coming from all sorts of directions that it's tough to hear Him. Our "hearing" impairs us. And it's because our ears work that we have to focus.

So as we hit the day's agenda, amid the noise that makes its way into our lives, let's finish the exchange as our sweet Father asks: "Can you hear my voice? My voice?"

Actually, I think I will let you finish this one...

--Jimmy Peña

Question: What areas of life do you need to tune out in order to hear Him?

AWARD NEWS: This Friday, PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña will be honored by his alma mater, UT Tyler, as one of this year's distinguished alumni. Read the story here.

WILLFUL DESTRUCTION A few eye-opening facts about the most troubling health problem in America

--The annual healthcare costs of obesity in this country are $147 billion a year. This could rise to as much as $344 billion by 2018, according to one major study.

--Obesity has become one of the most expensive health problems in America today, surpassing smoking, according to a study in Health Affairs.

--Two-thirds of Americans are overweight although 85% of Americans characterize their lifestyle as somewhat/very healthy.

--Obese employee sick days total approximately 39 million workdays and 63 million doctor visits yearly.

--12 million Americans are considered severely obese, defined as more than 100 pounds overweight.

--Nearly a third of the children in this country are overweight and some experts believe up to one third of children will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lifetime.

--For the first time in the history of our nation, some medical experts warn that this younger generation may be on track to have a shorter life span than their parents as a direct result of the obesity epidemic.

Source: CNBC's "One Nation, Overweight"

He Just Couldn't

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." --1 Peter 5:10

Read: 1 Peter 5

With yesterday being the start of Lent, I'm reminded about the countless biblical examples of people who had physical reactions to Jesus, either to be near Him or because they had just been with Him. We've said it before, but He just moves us! But there was one person who didn't move a muscle.

The criminal had just been given Heaven. Every sin of his wasted years had been forgiven, his name had just been written in the lamb's book of life, and soon the angels would be teaching him to sing. And yet, despite this gift of grace and mercy, He didn't run to embrace Him. He didn't leap for joy, lift his hands in praise or kneel in worship. Why? Well, he couldn't move. See, the nails were too deep, the pain was too great. If he could've climbed down that cross, he probably would've demonstrated physically what his heart had experienced spiritually.

What about you? You may be 18 or 80, and Lord knows this brief life is not about the body, but if you've been given Heaven, do what the criminal couldn't and tell your body to react. Walk the block, lift some weights, swim a few laps. And by all means, kneel. Don't wait. Celebrate in this life the free gift of the next one.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: Are you preparing your heart for the holiest of seasons? Does that preparation involve physical commitments? Perhaps you're trying to be healthier for your spouse or kids? Whatever goals your heart has, don't let your heart stop. Keep going. For the right reasons, strive. What are some of your goals for spring? We'll help you pray.

TROUBLED YOUTH: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 18.1%.

Worthy of a Frame

"I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." --Psalm 139:14

Read: Psalm 139

Where do you keep your pictures? I’m not talking about fun, random, cell phone snaps or Facebook profile images. I’m talking about the special ones –- those worthy of a frame. That’s where we need to start…the mantle of your heart.

You know, we’ve all heard the statement that if God had a mantle, your picture would be on it. And while I love knowing that, I wonder what you and I would actually look like? At first, that thought might sound a bit weird, awkward or even irrelevant. I suppose it would be if we were talking about the body, but God sees our hearts. And like we’ve said many times, life is not about the body, and our bodies -- these frames -- will most certainly not last heaven.

But if anyone knows our bodies, what they’re capable of, and most importantly, how healthy they were intended to be on earth, it’s Him. So I guess you could say, we’re just pictures of grace; souls He saw worthy...of a frame.

--Jimmy Peña

QUESTION: God loves our souls so much he framed them with bodies. How does knowing that change the way you view the importance of health? Please give us your comments below and please share this with your Facebook and Twitter communities.

DID YOU KNOW? Obesity is threatening national security, according to a new study, because one in four young adults is too overweight to join the military. In some states, as many as 44 percent of young adults, age 18-24, are obese and unfit to serve and protect.

Source: Mission: Readiness

COMMUNITY: Plug yourself into the faith-and-fitness discussion by joining our social networks! FACEBOOK - http://www.facebook.com/officialprayfit TWITTER - http://www.twitter.com/prayfit

Benchwarmer

"So Sarah laughed to herself." --Genesis 18:12

Read: Genesis 18

Benchwarmer. Not something that sat well with me. But during my sophomore year in high school, I endured it for the first time in my life. See, I was a baseball player, and a good one. But basketball? I probably should've hung up the Air Jordans as a freshmen. Sitting at the end of the bench during a blowout game, I hoped my friends and family would assume I was injured; maybe I twisted an ankle during warm-ups or something. But with a little over a minute on the clock, the unthinkable happened. Coach called my name.

"Reluctant" would be putting it mildly. I literally peeled myself off the chair. I removed my warm-ups from my cold body and joined the otherwise sweaty and necessary group of kids on the court. What's the use, I thought. Well, the clock ran out, we shook hands, and I put my warm-ups on as slowly as I had removed it.

Well, leaving the locker room that night to face the awkward "good game" from loved ones, Coach stopped me. He said something that I'd carry the rest of my life. He said, "I wanted to see your reaction when I called for you late in the game. Jimmy, it's never too late to make an impact."

Maybe you're wondering what kind of influence you can have. Perhaps you think it's way too late in the game for God to use you. That family member? Too far gone. That group of friends? Too set in their ways. No way God is calling me from the bench at my age, with my past. 

Folks, God has a way of doing the unexpected. And if He noticed Sarah laughing at the news of her baby on the way, rest assured He sees our reaction. So, take a minute to consider what the Spirit is whispering to your heart. If it's too lofty, too lowly, too late...God just may be looking for our reaction to His call. Carve this into your heart...If God calls for you, it's never too late to make an impact.

--Jimmy Peña

WALKING FOR HEALTH Just an hour of this low-impact activity per day can make you 50% healthier

Watch some TV? Just make sure you go for a walk after. New research put out by the American Heart Association showed that an hour of walking per day can cut your genetic tendency toward obesity as a result of watching the picture box by half.

"In our study, a brisk one-hour daily walk reduced the genetic influence towards obesity, measured by differences in BMI by half," said Qibin Qi, Ph.D., study author and a post doctorate research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass. "On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle marked by watching television four hours a day increased the genetic influence by 50 percent."

The study included 7,740 women and 4,564 men from the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Researchers collected data on physical activity and TV watching two years prior to assessing BMI.

>> For the full story, click here.

But He Did...

"The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel." --Matthew 15:31

Read: Matthew 15

What a week. If you missed any of the entries of healing and faith, please take a few minutes to scroll the archives. But as we turn the page on our topic, an entry from February that I wrote in the midst of my storm came to mind today. It was called, "But Even If He Doesn't." Do you remember it? Here's an excerpt.

"At the edge of a fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego had a decision. Bow to an idol or be thrown in a furnace. They chose faith, believing that God would deliver them from the very fire that tested it. But then they said, 'But even if He doesn't...' That part of the verse has taken up residence inside my heart this week. They didn't jump knowing they'd be delivered. They jumped knowing the Deliverer. I'm shaking my head as I type this sentence. I want an 'Even if He doesn't' kind of faith. Save me, help me, heal me. But even if He doesn't..."

Folks, we all struggle. But I'm fixing my hopes on the promise of eternal life to make sense of the struggles in this one. These bodies -- as frail as they are at times -- are God-woven miracles; temporary on purpose and built "for" a purpose. And I promise you, when mine catches back up with my spirit, look out. After all, back in February I said "But even if He doesn't..."

Hmm...but He did.

--Jimmy Peña

STAT OF THE DAY: If you watched the presidential debates this week, or even if you didn't, you likely realize that health care and the economy are critical issues in this election. But lost in the political posturing of the high cost of health care are the root causes of the spiraling costs. According to a recent report by MSNBC, obesity costs the U.S. $190 billion per year in health care and lost work productivity. Will that come up in the debates? Should it?

PRAYFIT TV Check out and share this inspiring video about the transformative power physical stewardship

Jimmy Peña's message of "Life is not about the body, but health is a means of praise" is being well-received by congregations around the country. His story-telling approach to how a healthy body can strengthen the body of Christ and inspire abundant living is a message you don't want to miss.

>> For ministry assistance or to get Jimmy out to your church, write us at info@prayfit.com.

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?

Benchwarmer

"So Sarah laughed to herself." --Genesis 18:12

Read: Genesis 18

Benchwarmer. Not something that sat well with me. But during my sophomore year in high school, I endured it for the first time in my life. See, I was a baseball player, and a good one. But basketball? I probably should've hung up the Air Jordans as a freshmen. Sitting at the end of the bench during a blowout game, I hoped my friends and family would assume I was injured; maybe I twisted an ankle during warm-ups or something. But with a little over a minute on the clock, the unthinkable happened. Coach called my name.

"Reluctant" would be putting it mildly. I literally peeled myself off the chair. I stripped my warm-up off my cold body and joined the otherwise sweaty and necessary group of kids on the court. What's the use, I thought. The clock ran out, we shook hands, and I put my warm-up on as slowly as I had removed it.

Well, leaving the locker room that night to face the awkward "good game" from loved ones, Coach stopped me. He said something that I'd carry the rest of my life. He said, "I wanted to see your reaction when I called for you late in the game. Jimmy, it's never too late to make an impact."

Maybe you're wondering what kind of influence you can have. Perhaps you think it's way too late in the game for God to use you. That family member? Too far gone. That group of friends? Too set in their ways. No way God is calling me from the bench at my age, with my past. 

Folks, God has a way of doing the unexpected. And if He noticed Sarah laughing at the news of her baby on the way, rest assured He sees our reaction. So, take a minute to consider what the Spirit is whispering to your heart. If it's too lofty, too lowly, too late...God just may be looking for our reaction to His call. Carve this into your heart...If God calls for you, it's never too late to make an impact.

--Jimmy Peña

WALKING FOR HEALTH Just an hour of this low-impact activity per day can make you 50% healthier

Watch some TV? No judgement here. We like NCIS: Los Angeles, too. Just make sure you go for a walk after. New research put out by the American Heart Association showed that an hour of walking per day can cut your genetic tendency toward obesity as a result of watching the picture box by half.

"In our study, a brisk one-hour daily walk reduced the genetic influence towards obesity, measured by differences in BMI by half," said Qibin Qi, Ph.D., study author and a post doctorate research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass. "On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle marked by watching television four hours a day increased the genetic influence by 50 percent."

The study included 7,740 women and 4,564 men from the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Researchers collected data on physical activity and TV watching two years prior to assessing BMI.

>> For the full story, click here.

Worthy of a Frame

"I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. --Psalm 139:14

Read: Psalm 139

Where do you keep your pictures? I’m not talking about fun, random, cell phone snaps or Facebook profile images. I’m talking about the special ones –- those worthy of a frame. That’s where we need to start…the mantle of your heart.

You know, we’ve all heard the statement that if God had a mantle, your picture would be on it. And while I love knowing that, I wonder what you and I would actually look like? At first, that thought might sound a bit weird, awkward or even irrelevant. I suppose it would be if we were talking about the body, but God sees our hearts. And like we’ve said many times, life is not about the body, and our bodies -- these frames -- will most certainly not last heaven.

But if anyone knows our bodies, what they’re capable of, and most importantly, how healthy they were intended to be on earth, it’s Him. So I guess you could say, we’re just pictures of grace; souls He saw worthy...of a frame.

--Jimmy Peña

QUESTION: God loves our souls so much he framed them with bodies. How does knowing that change the way you view the importance of health? Please give us your comments below and please share this with your Facebook and Twitter communities.

DID YOU KNOW? Obesity is threatening national security, according to a new study, because one in four young adults is too overweight to join the military. In some states, as many as 44 percent of young adults, age 18-24, are obese and unfit to serve and protect.

Source: Mission: Readiness

COMMUNITY: Plug yourself into the faith-and-fitness discussion by joining our social networks! FACEBOOK - http://www.facebook.com/officialprayfit TWITTER - http://www.twitter.com/prayfit YOUTUBE - http://www.youtube.com/prayfit

Make Believe

"So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing." --1 Corinthians 9:26

Read: 1 Corinthians 9

As I was leaving Gio's Boxing Gym in Burbank (Calif.), amid the familiar cadence of speed bags and jump ropes, something a cornerman yelled to his boxer caught my attention. "Stop trying to look like a fighter and be a fighter!" he said. I literally stopped in my tracks. What a powerful statement. Just how powerful, I'd realize just moments later.

Walking toward my truck, I came upon a film crew about to shoot a documentary -- a boxing documentary, no doubt. Lights, cameras and make-up. I stood for what seemed like years and watched a make-up artist applying shades of purple, black and blue to an actor's face and under his eyes. Boxing gloves? Check. Legitimate shorts? Those too. But he wasn't dressed for - nor returning from - a real battle. "Stop trying to look like a fighter and be a fighter," ironically echoed in my head.

I wonder about my faith. And maybe you wonder about yours. Am I a make-believer in life? Or do I help make believers with my life? Like the verse above, I don't want to shadowbox. I want purpose. Give me somethin' to hit.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: In what area of your life, spiritually or physically, do you need to stand to fight? How can the Prayfit community pray for you? List your battles below or simply list them as "unspoken request(s)".

REPORT: CHILDREN OBESITY SPILLING INTO MANUFACTURING

A CNN report recently called attention to the latest casualty in the childhood obesity epidemic: school furniture manufacturers. Because of the expanding waistlines of children -- a full 15 to 17% of all kids are over 95th percentile for obesity -- manufacturers are forced to develop desks that can accommodate them. Child car seat manufacturers are also having to adjust with new designs to keep heavier kids safe.

"Childhood obesity affects their safety in matters beyond child seats and ill-fitting school furniture," the report says. "Obese kids are more likely to get heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure and are more prone to diabetes, bone and joint problems. Their health problems are also more likely to follow into adulthood."

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

ACTION PLAN: Let's be part of the solution. Today, take stock of how much activity your children are getting each day, taking physical education at school and organized sports into account as well. Discuss the importance of regular activity with your child and make today the first day of a scheduled family “workout,” where you spend 15-20 minutes exercising, walking or playing together.

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)

GRACIAS A DIOS

October 20, 2011Read: John 20

"Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." --John 20:27

"The usual?", I asked with a smile. The sweet lunchtime waitress and I have grown accustomed to each another. I'm greeted, not with a menu but with a name. By now, she knows I don't like ice in my water, and that I prefer egg whites. Probably in her late sixties, she speaks beautiful Spanish and forces me to practice mine. I know she likes my PrayFit hat and goes to church just around the corner. Today, however, she lingered longer than usual after showing me to my booth. I knew immediately she was more empty than my stomach.

"Do you ever doubt?" she asked as she straightened her apron and adjusted her bifocals. Before I could answer, she began to serve up her hurt, and as she phrased it, the need to "see Him" in her life. A glimpse. That's all she wanted. Something to feel, something real. I didn't presume to have all the answers, but we chatted. By the time I ate and payed my bill, my friend was assured of two things. 1) she wasn't alone in her doubts, and 2) she wasn't alone at all.

Friends, Jesus understands. That's why when He showed His scars to Thomas, He showed them to you and me. In order to reach us, He let us touch Him.

Gracias a Dios.

--J.P.

KIDS & ASTHMA

Want to keep your kids lungs healthy? Keep them at a healthy bodyweight. Research shows that overweight or obese children are 50%  more likely to have asthma than children who maintain a healthy weight. But even if your child is heavy, keep them eating a sensible diet and make sure they still get 60 minutes per day or more of moderate to rigorous physical activity. Increased physical activity can actually work to improve lung function, so the benefits far outweigh the risks. More severe cases should be monitored more closely, of course, so be sure to consult with your family physician before starting your child out on any structured exercise program.

 

 

 

 

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

NATURALLY

September 7, 2011Read: 1 Corinthians 6

"You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." –1 Corinthians 6:20

Running up the first steep hill of her half-marathon this weekend, Loretta came up behind a man going maybe half her speed. But since hills are hills, they struggled up together, each at their own pace -- two warriors needing the same air to answer the call of the hill. Halfway up, Loretta passed him, but not before they gave each other verbal encouragement.

You know, we've received a number of heartfelt emails and messages lately from many of you in dire need of encouragement to exercise. You've expressed that, for whatever reason, you just don't feel motivated. Well friends, we're praying for you. But at the same time, truthfully, not feeling motivated to honor the body is like saying you're not motivated to be honest. Remember, just because something doesn't come naturally to you doesn't mean you're not called to do it.

So please be encouraged. And do what God has mandated by respecting your body as one of His valuable tools. And oh, yes, the man Loretta was running with on the hill? He had no legs. Using his arms alone, he slowly turned the wheels of his chair over and over and over. Why did he climb? Well he probably had a few good reasons, but the fact that it came naturally, probably wasn't one of them. But no matter what (or why), like you and me, He was simply in the race and the hill was in the way. Answering the call of the hill isn't easy, but because Jesus said yes to His, you can say yes to yours.

--J.P.

HEALTHY WEIGHT LOSS Reality-show rapid may not be realistic, or sustainable

A generation of crash diets and miracle fitness programs have fed into our collective and undeniable need for instant gratification. The good news and bad news is that some of these gimmicks work -- if only for a time -- keeping our eyes fixed attentively on the scale. No decrease in weight today? Take heart. The small print says it all: "Results not typical." Healthy, sustained weight loss may not be as rapid as you'd like, despite whatever conceptions NBC's "The Biggest Loser" may have created.

"Usually when people lose a lot of weight quickly, it’s mostly water weight," says PrayFit contributing nutritionist Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD. And once the water weight is gone, the frustration tends to set in, she says. "The early weight loss creates false expectations about the rate of subsequent future weight loss. A weight loss rate of 0.5-2.0 pounds per week is more likely to mean that your weight loss is from fat tissue. It also usually means that the weight loss is more likely to be maintained over time.

If you're striving to lose a few pounds, commit to making solid, sustainable lifestyle changes that can help you be a better steward of the body you have been given.

>> 8 WAYS TO EAT BETTER...FOREVER: What changes should you make if you're struggling to lose weight? Here are eight simple strategies anyone can start using today to start melting away inches and pounds.

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.