soul and body meet in faith, food, and fitness

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On being led by my left hand

I’m starting to post over at I Believe in Love! It’s a great online community of people who believe that love in our current world is still possible. Real stories from real people who have faced struggle and blessing in their relationship journeys.  Here’s a quick excerpt from my first post…

Left to Lead

“We’re both lefties,we are, this dude of mine and me.  And today, as I sat holding his hand, it occurred to me that there’s a lesson in both of us being lefties.  Of course there’s nothing profound about holding hands, my left in his right. But when I slow down, small moments like this tend to stick with me most profoundly.

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If I consider holding hands as a metaphor for our relationship, I see that when my left hand is holding his, I can’t use my dominant hand, while he still can.  He can open doors, swing an ax, write a birthday card, and even chop vegetables because his left hand is free and the other is still holding mine—holding on to our relationship.”

Read it all at:


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Fighting the busyness by bravely choosing trust

It’s been almost a month since I last posted and I have to restrain myself from starting out with “hey, internet, it’s been a little quiet, but I’ve been so busy. Fall is a busy time each year”…yadda yadda yadda. I have to fight saying it because it makes me feel important. It justifies the ways I’ve been spending my time – makes it feel like I’ve been pursuing something noble.

When I examine how I use my time, I tend to be harsh with myself for not getting this done or that to do crossed off, but as I learned from Jennifer Fulwiler earlier this year, I have to be brave in my to dos and know that I’m getting done what God expects of me, so long as I’m not neglecting those I love.

It’s far easier for me to neglect people, neglect those I’ve been asked to serve, for the sake of crossing off my to do list than it is for me to continually set my own priorities aside. So, I’ve tried to practice this year by cutting back on my obligations outside my home. Choose a few focused activities where I feel called most to serve. It certainly has helped me be more present in my home, but somehow I’ve managed to fill that time too. I’ve been reflecting on how it was that I previously had obligations after work 3-4 nights a week and I can’t fathom that now! I’m so grateful a dear friend encouraged me to scale back and pushed me to figure out my priorities.

And although the lesson from Jennifer has been circling in my brain all year and I continue to utter it aloud to myself every so often, I’m still caught.  I’m still caught in the wheel that says I should do more, be more, help more. Some nights it’s all I can do to pull myself away from work and towards bed.

There’s always one more email. One more request. One more person I should try to connect with – whether it’s a friend who I need to reconnect with or inviting someone to join my next challenge group.  There’s always one more. One is enough for the lies of Satan to creep in, saying I’m not enough.

I want to choose trust instead. Maybe Mary can teach me that.  I want to trust that the things I’m getting done and the places I am each week are exactly where I’m asked to serve – if only I live in that, rather than living caught up in the next thing I’m supposed to get done.



What I learned from Whole30

At varying points in my Whole30 journey I felt great, terrible, bloated, like it was the easiest and greatest, and like it was the worst and would never end.  It was a bit of a roller coaster at times, but overall, I’m quite glad I tried it out and think I have a few things I can carry along with me for the long term.

What is Whole30 you ask? In a nutshell, for 30 days you remove all sugar, dairy, legumes, and grains from your diet to hit a reset button in your body and let it heal from years of poor eating.*  There’s a whole science behind it if you care to learn more (it’s quite interesting and even though my Whole30 is over, I still want to finish reading the book).

Sausage veggie goodness

One of my favorite meals of the month

Let me start off by admitting that I didn’t even make it the full 30 days and my Whole30 was far from perfectly compliant.  Eating meals can be so community driven. For example, when I was eating in groups, celebrating with others (weddings! milestones! Yay!), it was hardest to stay compliant. I also slipped on the rules when travel complicated my ability to control my meals.

Doing Whole30 forced me away from my addiction to sugar and away from my reliance on grains to round out a meal.  Prior to Whole30 I felt I ate a fairly balanced diet already and stayed away from most highly processed foods.  However, I would be the first to admit my reliance on sugar.  Not simply as a quick energy source, but also for emotional reasons – rewards, a crutch during stressful times, etc.

breadless sandwich

Trying a breadless sandwich idea from Amazon_Ashley

Whole30 helped me begin to recognize my emotional reliance on food a bit more and try to address it slowly. Thirty days is not long enough for me to completely break out of those habits, but it did highlight for me how closely my eating can be tied to emotions. Instead of not eating at all, I would substitute for something Whole30 approved to munch on.  That’s not exactly the point – but feeding my body something good is a step in the right direction, rather than eating sugar or salty processed foods.

Whole30 also gotten rid of that 3 o’clock haze that I often experience at work.  In feeding my body well with fruits, vegetables, and proteins, I was able to rid myself of that most dreaded part of the afternoon where my mind goes a bit fuzzy after lunch and I hit a slump.  Ding, ding, ding – it’s tied to lunchtime carbs and how I process them.  Cleaner lunches helped me stay more focused at work, and I also wasn’t dipping in energy from a sugar crash – extra bonus points.

My body feels well nourished, my mind is sharp, I know I’m fueling myself well so why quit? Why not make Whole30 a permanent part of my life?

brining pork chops

Brining pork chops is a revelation!

Food is about more than nourishing my body.  Of course that’s the bulk of it, but as I alluded to earlier, the toughest moments of Whole30 were when I was with my community and I couldn’t fully participate because of my chosen diet.  Especially when eating as a guest in someone’s home, I did not always have the option to be compliant. I also had a work trip during my Whole30 that completely derailed my efforts to stay compliant.  Trying to figure out compliance while traveling deserves it’s own full post, to be honest.  I did try my best for the first few days of the trip but there was an emotionally exhausting piece of trying to balance a new work situation, travel in a new locale, and the funky way of eating. Hence the derailment after a while.

All that said and done, I do hope to incorporate what I’ve learned from Whole30 into my every day life going forward.  I hope to keep grains to a minimum still (after going a bit grain and sugar crazy this first weekend off Whole30) and also keep off the addiction to sugar.  Sugar cycles are crazy quick to take hold in my body and I have a major sweet tooth.  So, my goals are to figure out the balance of celebrating and enjoying food, but not letting the hormonal affects of food dictate what I’m putting into my body.  I also have been entirely convinced that long term, to fuel my body well, I may need to take drastic measures (drastic as in Whole30) when I find myself in a season of poor food decisions.  It’s the reset I needed after summer sweets and treats.

I know some of you other Catholic bloggers did Whole30 – what are your reflections now that it’s over? Link in the comments and I’ll be sure to click over too!

*I also modified to continue drinking Shakeology throughout my Whole30 experience, after having followed another Beachbody coach’s experience of going off Shakeology and doing Whole30.

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7QT: Whole30, new jams and more

It’s been a while, but I’m linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary again!

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At the risk of being WAY disjointed in my 7QTs, the rest are completely unrelated and jump from topic to topic. But hey, that’s the name of the game, right? I’m in a hurry to get out the door!

— 2 —

I’m a week into my Whole30 challenge, you know, the one that Haley started? She invited me to be sort of the “fitness guru” of the group, if you will.  So far, it’s been a great community of people to bounce ideas and learn their favorite Whole30 compliant recipes.  I feel GREAT, but then again, that’s what happens when you fuel your body well, amiright? I needed a reminder of that before I started the Whole30 challenge.  My eating had gotten so poor over the summer that a few of those pesky pounds crept back on. But….

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…that doesn’t mean I’m losing perspective on the progress I’ve made already. Maybe you missed my last post with transformation pics from my journey with Beachbody fitness programs. If so, please stop by!

Before and After

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All this feel good-ness from Whole30 means I’ve been eating a lot of great meals with lots of good protein.  I am committed to eating locally when I can, so meals like this are a win! I knew the source of every item on my plate! Veggies all from my Bergefurd farm CSA and beef from my parent’s farm. Grilling, whole30, and locavore win!

locavore win

— 5 —

Did you see the push Gina is doing for her friend’s son to get a Diabetic Alert Dog? Please check it out! Cameron’s 8 year old words are so heartfelt.

— 6 —

sweet gift from a reader


A few days ago I was surprised by mail from a work connection who follows me here and on Facebook. She sent me the sweetest note and a book she thought I would find inspiring. She wrote, saying that although she doesn’t comment or interact much, she has been inspired by what I’ve written and she put herself on a journey to better health because of it. It was such a kind gesture and a reminder that even if I don’t know about it, words can be a powerful catalyst to change in someone’s life. I know I’m a small fry blogger, but it was so encouraging.

— 7 —

I’ve been feeling blah lately about the music in my car and waiting to be inspired by someone new.  Thankfully, my best friend Rach told me to check out Steffany Gretzinger’s The Undoing.  And BAM…a similar kind of heartfelt, inspiring, powerful music that I enjoy from Audrey Assad, right out of Bethel Music.  I promise it’s worth the purchase. Enjoy!


Keeping my progress in perspective

Transformation with Beachbody
I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long while now. I’ve done the big piece of the prep and had professional photos taken to show my transformation story (scroll all the way down), but I’ve been hemming and hawing for weeks over how to write it out.  I’m trying to convince myself it’s simply a problem of inertia and that once I start writing, I’ll be able to move along at a nice clip and get my story out.

Yet I doubt.  I doubt there is value to what I’m writing. I doubt there is value to my story.  Remember that post a few months ago about how Jen Fulwiler’s story doesn’t compare to mine? The doubt has crept up. How can my story compare to hers? Her story is inspring! Yet, I want need to push through and share more of my story. I need to share it because I’ll doubt I’ll every truly feel like my story is ready to tell, like this journey towards being fit is done. After all, the summer has gotten away from me and a few of those pesky pounds have crept back on while I wasn’t looking.  So I need something to encourage myself even, I need to keep my progress in perspective.  This is a lifestyle change I’m working on here and if I’m not paying attention I slide back towards old unhealthy habits.  Change is hard and all that, right? Right.  So here goes…my story might be a work in progress, but then again, so am I.

If you’re here just for my transformation photos – welcome! Scroll to the bottom. If you care for all the details, carry on…

Believing the lie

I bought into the excuse (read lie) that I would always be a size 10 and there was no going below it.  Brief periods of time found me at a size 8, but I quickly regained that weight after I stopped paying attention to my eating. I reasoned that it was simply my body type and I needed to come to terms with being larger than I wanted. I wasn’t happy about it, but there it was.  So get used to it.

In 2012 I attended a local TEDx event and heard a speaker go on about setting a BHAG – a “big, hairy, audacious goal.”  I went home that evening and wrote frantically that I wanted, no NEEDED a BHAG in order to finally lose weight and get fit.  I wanted to lose 30 lbs and was going to start out strong!

April 2012

Me and the Stoney ladies at Lifeteen’s Women’s Retreat around that time.

I started counting calories, checking in with a friend about once a week with a weigh-in, and after a several weeks I lost 10 lbs. I felt great! …and then I promptly lost momentum when the summer season hit. And the weight went right back on. Again. 

Fast forward 6 months to the end of the holiday season at which point I was feeling fat and lazy trolling through Facebook. My friend Michelle is a mom of six and I’d seen her drop weight and get fit throughout that time. Now, she was inviting any of her friends to join her in what she called a “Challenge group” where I would commit to a specific fitness program and have the accountability of others to check in on me daily.

Hoping this would be my ticket, I decided to join and invest more than I was used to in a fitness program. I was scared of failing, scared of not being able to do it, scared that I was wasting my money, but I needed the outward accountability and encouragement of the women in my first challenge group to help me believe I could reach that BHAG.

I’ve reached major goals before, but I didn’t believe that I could reach a weight loss goal (let me be honest and say, I still have trouble believing it). I didn’t believe I would ever be happier with my body.  I didn’t believe I could make working out anything more than a chore.

A work in progress

And while I’m still a work in progress on body image, I see the strength my body possesses, thanks to challenging myself to make fitness an important element of my life.  I still see the areas where I’m weak, the areas I hope will become leaner and stronger in the coming years, but what I believe now is that I can achieve it. I can making a lasting change in my lifestyle – I know it because I already have.

The change was is hard. There were many days at the start where I remember figuring out ways to cheat and get extra calories or eek the most possible food out of my allotted calories for the day.  Days where I would do a second workout, simply to justify another snack.

As I journeyed, I moved beyond those early tactics and began to see what truly keeps me well fed, what nourishes my body, and helps make me stronger for tomorrow’s workouts. I examined my crutch foods and now try to keep them out of the house, I write my workout down each day on the calendar hanging outside my bedroom, and check in each day with my online community. Seemingly small changes that build over time into a healthier life.

Importance of community

That very first challenge group where I was a participant (and now the challenge groups I run as a coach) gave me a community of people who are striving for similar goals.

My life didn’t look like theirs.  Some were stay at home moms, some were professionals on the road each week, others were working corporate jobs and taking care of their families. But they too wanted to figure out how to live a healthier life without disregarding their soul. Without giving in to doubts whispering through our heads.

On the days I didn’t believe I could get out of bed at 5am when my alarm went off, I knew they weren’t hitting the snooze. Danielle would be up on the other side of Ohio and be pushing play on her workout.  And Katie would be squeezing it in between home schooling sessions with her kids.  And Joia in between life as mom and minister. On days when I didn’t think I could do it, seeing their commitment inspired me.  They would cheer me on.

So as much as my transformation story is about me and the things I’m still processing through, it’s also about them.  They are my people in this part of my story.

So, did I reach that BHAG of losing 30 lbs? 


Not yet. But I’m not giving up. 

During these summer months I’ve slipped backwards slightly, yet I want to cling to those things I’ve learned before.  I want to cling to the belief that I can make it all the way to that BHAG.  The doubts are pinging around in my head rather loudly still, but I know they are of the same origin as that original lie I believed about not being able to change.

This is only a mid way point for me.  I’ve made significant progress from where I started and I can be proud of the milestones I’ve reached so far. That’s the perspective I don’t want to lose. The journey won’t end, until my time on earth is spent.  So I’ll keep working on both the soul and the body part of this. Won’t you join me?
Transformation close up 000-2a 000-8a running shot Professional shots Transformation photos brick wall close up

Photos by the lovely Corynne at Paper Lantern Productions

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Praying off the storm

We could see the storm rolling into the valley where the two rivers met, where we’d made camp for the evening. With rain soaked ground everywhere it had been an ordeal to find the right spot to pitch a tent and we were moving a bit slower than the previous days of the hike.

Tents pitched and canteens refilled, we prepared for Mass on the Feast of the Assumption and saw the rain bearing down. Father Nathan paused before beginning to address us and invite us to pray the rain off and invoke the intercession of Our Lady to starve off the rain for enough time so we could have Mass.

There knelt 19 of us, young adults from around the US, journeying together through the wilds of the Scottish Highlands with two Priests and a Religious sister. And pray we did. Fervent prayer, imploring the Lord to hear us and turn the direction of the rain so we could bring Him glory and praise in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

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Guest blogging at Someday Saints

Now that I’m back from my trip to Guatemala, I have a few posts swimming around in my head —things I’ve learned as a Beachbody coach, preserving the summer harvest, and keeping progress in perspective. Hopefully these will be forthcoming in the next few weeks b/c I miss posting more regularly.

With school gearing up and summer activities beginning to wind down (although I’m not ready to be done yet!), you can feel the shift of seasons.  If you’re like Gina,  you might be ready for a change in routine.  With the thought of getting into a new routine for fall schedules, Gina started a great fitness series on her blog and invited me to share a guest post.  You can read the full post over at Someday Saints (and catch a glimpse of me running)!

A Higher Purpose in Exercise

“With these obstacles in mind at the start, training could easily have been overwhelming. Below freezing temps, ice, dark morning hours, plain old tiredness – I could think of a myriad of reasons to avoid that 5am wake up call. What got me through those 5am training runs in the below freezing temps was the spiritual link to those seminarians. I would begin to complain about the cold or the early hours, or both, and gently the Holy Spirit would remind me why I was training and it would push me up that next hill or out the door into the cold or rain.”