Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Comforter

Who or what is the comforter in your life?  Where do you turn when life makes you anxious, stressed, and fearful?  For me, the answer to that question has been clearly, food, for most of my life.  I have often lied to myself and others by saying that God, The Holy Spirit, is my Comforter.  However, the amount of pounds that added around my waistline over the years, from eating ice cream and brownies, tell the real truth.  

This week, I had a job interview for a customer service representative position, in which I had already made it through four different assessments/prerequisites for the interview itself.  I thought that they would offer me a position at the interview but drove home disappointed at the thought of waiting some more for confirmation.  I was told that I had to wait two more weeks to find out if the job was mine.  A situation like this would have previously led to a binge on sweets as an anxiety cure.  This time, I instead actually turned to my God and Savior to help take the anxiety from me.  I still ate some food in response to my stress but it was a healthy alternative, consisting of a cup of strawberry Greek yogurt.  God helped me to make a healthy choice and to not give in completely to my fleshly desires.  This is a huge step toward victory in my life, and I will continue to walk with Jesus to the finish line!

Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey "When You Believe"

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)

Saturday, February 18, 2012


In my past attempts to lose weight and feel great, I have always had the tendency to go all out at the gym, working out for two hours per day and 6 days per week.  This always led to some sort of an injury and ultimately, me giving up on my mission.  I almost fell into this same trap this time around.  

My trainer, at my request, set me up with a 6-day fitness program.  Today would have been my sixth day at the gym but feeling extremely sore, I decided to give it a rest.  Most would say that this is a lazy decision, including me.  However, I reminded myself that this is a lifetime journey that I am on, not a race.  I am going to lose my weight!  It is just going to take time and causing injury to myself by trying to lose the weight as fast as I can is not going to get me there.  It would just end up in another failure.

I have come to the conclusion that the best way for me to sustain my fitness program is to make the 6th day of my program optional with Sundays being my day of rest.  I have to realize that there is no shame in adapting my program to add "some" rest into the equation.  Even if I workout only five days per week, that is still five times more days than I was previously exercising.  I just have to be careful to not keep trimming my program down until I no longer have one.

With that said, I just wanted to share a song with you that has really been an inspiration to me, to tell myself not to give up.  It is a song by Toby Mac, called "Get Back Up":

Philippians 1:6

English Standard Version (ESV)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

BACK to the Gym?

Day 5

Have you ever said to yourself, "I don't have time to exercise".  Well, it was tempting for me to say that today because of the list errands that my family and  I had to complete.

The first thing in the morning, right after breakfast, was a routine doctor's appointment for my wife because she is 31 weeks pregnant with our expectant daughter.  Everything turned out well at the appointment and everything is going according to schedule.

After the appointment, we stopped by Walgreen's to get a snack.  I ate one of those peanut caramel crunch Smart Protein Bars, made by MuscleTech, which was the yummiest protein bar that I have ever tried.  Some of the past ones that I tried either tasted like chalk or had health- destructive high fructose corn syrup as one of the ingredients.

This snack trip was followed by a trip to Little Chick shoe store so Isaiah, my two-year-old son, could try on some shoes because he is growing quickly.  However, to my amazement, his current shoes still fit, at least maybe for another day or two, so we didn't buy any shoes.  After the shoe shopping, we went shopping for food at the Natural Health Food store, and then we were going to go shopping for more food at Aldi.  However, Isaiah fell asleep in the van so we went home and postponed the shopping trip for later today.  After all this shopping, I was wiped out and certainly did not feel like working out.

I knew that I had to overcome this sluggish feeling and put my flesh in check if I am ever going to be victorious in my journey, and in my life.  That is why I decided to work out in spite of my sluggishness. I knew that if I didn't go today, I might not go work-out tomorrow or ever again.  Today's fitness program had me working out my back muscles, followed by 20-30 minutes of cardio.  I did three sets of back exercises on the three back muscle machines at Planet Fitness, and I have to admit that I didn't do the full 30 minutes of cardio.  However, I did do 20 minutes.  It is my understanding that I am not going to be perfect in my quest to live healthy but trying is better than doing nothing at all.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

English Standard Version (ESV)
 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[a] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
  1. 1 Corinthians 9:27 Greek I pummel my body and make it a slave

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ABSolutely Wonderful

Day 4

Today, I hit the gym hard after a breakfast sandwich, which consisted of eggs, turkey ham, and real mayonnaise on whole wheat bread.  
The focus areas of my body were my chest and abs.  I completed three sets of chest exercises on the machines, and then went to the ab circuit training area at Planet Fitness.  

My program is supposed to consist of 12 minutes doing the ab circuit; however, I did that first ab crunch, and it felt like I was punched in the stomach by a combination of Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson at the prime of their careers.  I felt like giving up at this point but I decided to rest for a minute and get back at it.  My favorite ab workout machine was the Ab Coaster, a machine that I once coveted, which is almost like a ride and an exercise at the same time.  I completed 8 out of the 12 recommended minutes, not bad for the first time working my abs in years.

Afterward, I treated myself to an exercise dessert of 30 minutes of cardio on the Arc Trainer.  I ended my routine with some stretching and went home to drink a protein fruit smoothie.

For lunch, I mixed some mandarin oranges, a can of albacore tuna, and some mayonnaise in a bowl, and ate it with a spoon.  For dinner, I ate a healthy meal from Panera Bread, a half chicken sandwich with hummus and tomatoes on whole grain bread, along with some black bean soup and an apple.  The total calories from the meal was only 450 calories, with 25 grams of protein and a whopping 18 grams of fiber!

I finished my day off with a little bit of dark chocolate and a few sips of red wine.  My abs are still sore but I am gaining energy, and I cannot wait to work out some more!

Romans 8:5-6

Amplified Bible (AMP)
5For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and [a]pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit and are controlled by the desires of the Spirit set their minds on and [b]seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit. 6Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that [c]comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever].

Monday, February 13, 2012

Getting with the Program

Day Three

Planet FitnessToday, I had my first appointment with a fitness trainer at Planet Fitness.  His name was Shawn, and he showed my how to properly use the equipment, and designed a fitness program which was tailored to my goal to simply shake this fat off of my body. 

The program consisted of working out for an hour per day, six days per week, consisting of 30 minutes of strength training followed by 30 minutes of cardio.  
Each day isolates a different muscle group.  For example, on Mondays I will just do the machines that strengthen my back.  On Tuesday, Legs, and so forth.  On Saturdays, I will do circuit training, which is a simultaneous combination of strength training and cardio.  

My choice of machine for cardio is a machine called the Arc Trainer, which is kind of like an elliptical machine but has a more fluid ice skating type of motion.  I have seen these machines before but never used one until Shawn recommended it to me and showed me how to use it.  I tried the machine out for 30 minutes today and had a blast.

All in all, I love the environment at Planet Fitness, and the low cost.  It is only $1 to get started and only $10 per month after that, with unlimited personal training.  I recommend that anyone, looking to get started on the path to health, check this place out. 
 There are several locations across the U.S.  For more information, check out the website.  I am overly excited about how much better I feel already, and I cannot wait for tomorrow's workout.

As far as my nutrition aspect of my journey, I began the day with some high-fiber Kashi cereal with bananas.  After my workout, I made a protein shake with coconut milk, bananas, a small orange, and some whey protein powder.  It tasted like an orange cream-sickle and was delicious.  
For lunch, I had some healthy home-made chicken tenders that my wife made, using whole wheat flour for the breading.  I also became familiarized with salad again by eating spinach leaves covered in a low-calorie yogurt ranch dressing.  It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  Vegetables, in my former mindset, was solely for the rabbits to eat.  However, this is no longer my thought if I want to live a healthy, vibrant lifestyle, and I do!

Philippians 4:13 Amplified Bible (AMP)
"I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]".

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Enemy's Obstacles

Hello, it is Day Two in my journey to transform my health and my life, and Satan has already tried to throw some stumbling blocks onto my path.  Yesterday, just after signing up for a gym membership at Planet Fitness, and having had my first work-out, I came home and discussed with my wife about how awesome the gym was, and how great I felt.  We were discussing what it would feel like for us to both be healthy and fit, when all of a sudden, the door bell rang.  I answered the door to see who it was, and to my humor, it was a little girl selling Girl Scout Cookies with her mother's help.  I felt bad laughing at the little girl and her mom, and I had to quickly explain that my wife and I were just discussing living healthy lives, which made the little girl's mom crack up and say, " I guess that's a no then".  I quickly replied, "yep".  It was a crafty attempt by the enemy to thwart my plans, I must admit.  Those Samoans sure are tasty!

In addition to this quick temptation coming my way, I faced other challenges while at working today.  I work as a cashier for Walgreen, and today, all the junk food that I ate toward the end of the week was at war with the healthy food that I ate during the last couple of days.  This war wreaked havoc on my body, and led to frequent trips to the restroom.  Needless to say, it wasn't a fun day at work.
Also, as a Walgreens cashier, I am responsible for scanning all kinds of food items, and it seemed like all my customers today decided to buy all of my "former" favorite junk foods, including my very (former) favorite Half-baked Ben and Jerry's ice cream.  I am also required in my position to suggest to customers that they should add promotional candy bars, such as Reese's and Snickers, to their purchases, also former favorites of mine.  I was thinking that I need a new job if I am going to successfully lose weight and feel great.

God really helped me to resist temptation today.  He helped me by bringing to mind what victory will look and feel like, playing with my kids, and being a better husband and employee.  When I weighed my options, sweets vs. life, life won over my mentality today.  Satan lost the battle today but I know he will be back because he does not want to see a joyful, victorious Christ follower because victorious Christ followers have the power to change the world, to lead people from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God.

New International Version (©1984)
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Journey Begins

Hi, my name is Mike Russell.
I am 5'9" and I currently weigh 300 pounds!  I have constructed this prison of fat around me over a course of four years, and have decided today to break free today by choosing to live a healthy lifestyle, including a diet of only natural foods straight from the finger of God and a daily dose of exercise. 

My most important key to success will be prayer and devotion to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  
He is the One that said in John 10:10: 
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (NIV).

Up until now, I have not lived life to the full.  I have not enjoyed activities that I would like to do such as play sports.  Shopping for and fitting in clothes has even been a challenge.  

I have not even been able to eat an ounce of food without the food police (relatives, friends, and strangers) giving me the evil eye.  This is no life to have.  
How can I proclaim victory in Christ if I am fat, sick, and nearly dead?

My wife, two-year-old son, and my daughter due in April deserve better from me.  My son wonders why I cannot play with him because I get out of breath so easy.  I refuse to let him live the same childhood that I lived through, one that involved bullying because of my obesity. Therefore, I will live by example from this day forward.

Today, I began a gym membership at Planet Fitness and worked out for the first time on this journey.  I worked out for 20 minutes on an elliptical machine and it felt great!  Over the course of the next year and beyond, I am going to be updating my daily progress on this journey to reclaim my health in Jesus' Name.  

Feel free to come on this journey with me if you are tired of not living the abundant life that Jesus died for you to have!