Bound by Lust, Liberated by the Ethos of Redemption

I just found this passage recently from  Theology of the Body Explained – A Commentary on John Paul II’s Man and Woman He Created Them by Christopher West

The subject matter is Celibacy and Solitude:

Christopher West and Pope John Paull II talk about remaining in the “ache” of man’s original solitudethe “ache” to which the Lord himself refers when he said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). The conscious choice to refrain from marriage “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” becomes a powerful testimony to the fact that God and God alone can ultimately fulfill that “ache” of solitude. Men and women who vow to a life of celibacy devote their yearning for communion directly toward God.

I look at the “ache” and I am deeply attracted to it. And I recently figured out why I am so attracted to it:

“For those whose hearts are bound by lust, the idea of choosing a life of total continence is absurd. But for those who are being liberated from lust by the ethos of redemption, the idea of sacrificing the genital expression of their sexuality “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” not only becomes a real possibility – it also becomes quite attractive, even desirable.

This was me – I was the one who was bound by lust. But I experienced that liberation from lust by the ethos of redemption and let me tell you, it was an amazing experience that I wish EVERYONE could encounter. Because I now recognize that my life has been dominated by lust, I am now extremely excited about living the rest of my life as a celibate. I am welcoming the “ache” with open arms.

I don’t expect anyone to really understand this except maybe for fellow…celibates? 🙂 But for those who are single by choice, those who know that being married and having children is not the path you have been put on, I would propose to you, fellow singles, this life of celibacy for the kingdom. This is NOT a person’s way of saying that “marriage is too hard” or “dating is so tiresome” so therefore, “I’m just going to be single and celibate forever.” No, this is not that at all. This is choosing to live for something greater. For me, I am choosing to go down this path because I feel God calling me to it. For others, they might feel God guiding them to marriage and children. For others they might feel the pull to religious life. I have never felt a desire or yearning to have a family of my own. This feeling has never faded over time and I have never changed my mind even as I enter my late 30’s. This is how I have always felt and now I can finally put a name to it. Now I finally know WHY I never felt the pull to the other vocations – My singleness IS my vocation.

There’s another nugget of wisdom from TOB:

“Celibacy is not only a matter of formation but of transformation.

The Holy Father recognizes that a proper examination of the way in which the celibate vocation is formed, or rather “transformed” in a person would require an extensive study beyond the scope of his analysis (see TOB 81:5)”

And this is why I cannot explain my feelings adequately. How someone becomes or chooses celibacy is so transformative, that a deeper explanation is needed.

I’m actually excited and thrilled to live out the rest of my life as a celibate. And I couldn’t possibly feel this way and this wouldn’t be happening at all if it weren’t for the grace I received after finally attending confession at the TOB retreat last month. After 15 years of living a lust-driven life, I finally have that weight lifted off my shoulders and now I can focus on living an authentic life. The life I was called to live, to be the person I was called to be.

Ahhh, the joy of freedom!

Bonus material: I came across this video from Jackie Francois about the Ache of Singlehood – Worth watching for those who are single AND married. Pretty sure she and I share the same brain. 🙂

 

The Body is a Sign of the Divine Mystery

If you’re just joining us, be sure to read my last post to get “caught up.”

“You are made in the image and likeness of God.”

This statement was implanted firmly in my brain starting in Freshman Religion class. I remember thinking “I know this is true, but I’m still not quite sure what it means.”

I don’t think my 14 year old brain could process it. And this is probably true of a lot of teenagers.

I knew my life was a gift from God, but I also remember thinking, “But what does God have to do with my parents conceiving me?” In other words, what do Sex and God have in common? I literally had no idea the two were connected, as strange as that sounds to me 23 years later.

Now, after reading TOB, something finally clicked.

Human nature is both spiritual and physical. We aren’t spirits “trapped” in our bodies. The Church has always maintained that we are embodied spirits, or spiritualized bodies. Through the profound union of body and soul in each of us, our bodies reveal or “make visible” the invisible reality of our spirits. But it does even more. Because we are made in God’s image, our bodies also make visible something of God’s invisible mystery.  TOB For Beginners

God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange. CCC 221

And here’s where this all comes together –

God created us male and female so that we could image his love by becoming a sincere to gift to each other. This sincere giving establishes a “communion of persons” not only between the sexes but also-in the normal course of events- with a “third” who proceeds from them both. In this way, sexual love becomes an icon or earthly image in some sense of the inner life of the Trinity. TOB for Beginners

Whoa.

Have you ever heard anyone describe sex like this? Yeah. Pretty awesome right? It gets better.

As St. Paul says, quoting from Genesis, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).

This passage from Ephesians 5 is a key text- perhaps the key text- for understanding the body and sexuality “theologically.” Christ is the one who was sent by his Father in heaven. He also left the home of his mother on earth. Why? To give up his body for his Bride (the Church) so that we might become “one flesh” with him. Where do we unite sacramentally with Christ? In a most profound way in the Eucharist. TOB for Beginners

Confused? Don’t be! It’s simple really.

When all the confusions are cleared and the distortions are untwisted, the deepest meaning of human sexuality – of our creation as male and female and our call to communion – is “eucharist.” John Paul II describes the Eucharist as “the sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride.” God created us male and female right from the beginning to live in a “holy communion” that foreshadows the Holy Communion of Christ and the Church. In turn, the gift of Christ’s body to his Bride (celebrated in the Eucharist) sheds definitive light on the meaning of man and woman’s communion.

The Spousal Analogy

The Bible begins with the marriage of the first man and woman and it ends in Revelation with another “marriage” – the marriage of Christ and the Church.

And here is what we learn from the Pope’s Theology of the Body: God wanted this eternal “marital plan” to be so plain to us – so obvious to us – that he impressed an image of it in our very being by creating us male and female and calling us to become “one flesh.” TOB For Beginners

So two things to take away from this:

1. God is a communion of love

2. We are destined to share in that exchange (God wants to “marry” us – Hosea 2:19)

There is so much more to be discussed here but it is my hope, my dear readers, that you now have an idea of what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God. I understand it’s a difficult idea to wrap your head around, and one that is never going to be understood completely due to our limited brain power, but that’s why it’s called the “mystery.”

Fitting in My Faith: I look at Eucharist differently now that I have read TOB. Now I understand why it’s a sacrament. Now I understand why marriage is a sacrament. Now I know why the Church takes it seriously, and now I appreciate it even more when I hear the words, “This is my body, given up for you.”

I also appreciate life, my own life and the lives of others, much more greatly. I don’t think of how we are created as just “sex between two people who love each other.” And 9 months later, life. It’s much more than that. It’s a sacred union. It’s not gross or disgusting or bad. It’s awesome and it’s miraculous and it’s a small, tiny, itty bitty taste of what heaven is going to be like. No, we won’t be having sex in heaven, 🙂 We’ll BE in heaven, we’ll be in UNION with God! We’ll be married to Him!

This is the purpose of sexual union in the divine plan: to prefigure in some way the glory, ecstasy, and bliss that awaits us in heaven TOB For Beginners

I don’t know about you, but understanding why we were created, makes me have greater faith of the heaven that awaits us all.

to be continued….

-Michelle

Becoming the Best Version Of Yourself

When I started out as Personal Trainer 7 years ago, I recall giving a few pieces of advice that seemed to resonate with people. One of these “declarations” has come full circle for me as it was repeated to me almost verbatim at a retreat recently.

I uttered one little sentence to a woman in the locker room 7 years ago as she confided in me that she was struggling with making healthy food decisions, giving in to temptation everywhere she went. She was ready to throw her hands up in surrender and say, “Forget this, it’s too hard!”

Without much hesitation on my part (which is rare since I never seem to know quite what to say to people right away, I usually need a few minutes), I said to her: “It’s really not as difficult as you think it is. We all THINK it’s hard but you’re MAKING it hard. It’s simply about being aware. Constantly conscious. You have to be constantly aware and conscious of every decision you make, and that includes every time you open your mouth to eat or drink.”

I remember this woman looking at me and saying something like, “Wow, you’re so right. I never thought of it that way. Constantly conscious. Yeah. Wow, I’m totally gonna use that. Thanks!”

Color me surprised, I just gave advice to someone that they’re going to USE?!

This came full circle recently. At a retreat, one of the participants mentioned a talk given by Matthew Kelly, a popular Catholic speaker and author. He’s all about becoming the best version of yourself. He believes that God wants us to be the best version of ourselves, that we are called to be more than mediocre. We are meant to live authentic, purpose driven lives and that means being aware of our daily habits – Are we choosing things that will help us become the best version of ourselves? Or are we just seeking temporary pleasure instead of sustainable happiness?

Matthew Kelly’s favorite analogies is the Gym/Diet analogy.

It goes something like this: Think about a time you’re scheduled to get to the gym. It’s your day to workout.

Now think about the effort that goes into it. You’ll have to get your workout clothes ready, you’ll have to get in your car, drive to the gym, change in the locker room and then you finally get on the floor and you have to navigate your way around the gym while trying to avoid eye contact with peering eyes from strangers, find a machine/weights that are available and a bench, or other equipment, get your workout in, work up a sweat,take a shower and then get some food afterwards and then head home or to work.

For most people this might not seem like a lot of effort. A First World Problem if there ever was one, right? But what if you REALLY want to watch something on TV that night? Or what if you celebrated a birthday last night and you still have leftover cake in the fridge? What if you’re hungover from the night before? What if you have some beer and Doritos nearby? How much do you feel like working out now? Probably not very motivated.

And here’s the question Kelly proposes: Which of these options is going to help you become the best version of yourself?  Hitting the gym or sitting at home eating crappy food?

I think we all know the answer to this question.

But wouldn’t it be nice if we were “constantly conscious” of this every time we went to reach for the Doritos instead of the gym bag?

I have told my clients to put something on their fridge/cupboards or even your screensaver/wallpaper on your phone (since we are one those constantly) which issues the same “challenge:” Is this food going to help me reach my goals or will it deter me and send me back to square one? If I eat this/drink this, will I feel temporary pleasure or will I feel sustained happiness?

It’s essentially asking the same thing as Kelly:

If we are aiming to become the best version of ourselves, what does that look like? What does that person look like? When you look in the mirror, do you want to see someone who has made poor choices with regards to his/her life? I assume no. We want to see someone who will not only be happy in their own skin, but they inspire others to become the best version of THEMselves as well due to their consistent habits of choosing happiness over temporary pleasure.

So this is my challenge to my readers, my clients, anyone who wants to become the best version of themselves: Start to become constantly conscious of your surroundings, of your actions, of your habits. Once you have this constant awareness, you are much less likely to make poor decisions. And this includes more than just food. This includes LIFE decisions.

You only have one body, one life. Take care of it. Treat it like the gift that it is.dynamic

  • In need of someone to help coach you to the best version of yourself? Matthew Kelly sends out Daily Food For Thought via email. You can subscribe to that here.
  • If you’d like more of a hands on approach with regards to your dietary and fitness habits, I can help. Here’s a link to my online coaching services. If you’d like to ask more questions about my services, reach out to me! I’m always easily accessible through email. FromFitoFigure@gmail.com

-Michelle

An Apple Versus A Doughnut: How Science Helps Me Avoid Junk Food

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Back when I started studying to become certified as a Personal Trainer, I came across an article that sparked something in me.

Ever have that feeling? Have you ever read something or saw something or heard something that struck a chord in you or resonated with you in such a way that you never looked at anything the same way again?

Yeah, for me, with regards to junk food, it was this article.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you I hate science. I’ve never had a knack for understanding science, math, chemistry, pretty much anything with numbers and letters. 😉 But food? I understand food.

So when I read this article, I remember thinking it was a tad too “science-y” and so I had to read it about 3 or 4 times to truly get it. For those of you who aren’t into this whole biology thing, I have summarized the main takeaways. My point with today’s post is that perhaps those of you who are addicted to things like donuts and all around crappy foods and can’t seem to stop, maybe if you READ or UNDERSTAND how these foods differ, you’ll be more likely to make the healthier choice.

  1. An apple contains good nutrients like Vitamin C but also has calcium, phosphorus, iron, Vitamin A and a healthy dose of potassium. An apple skin contains a compound called quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that reduces cardiovascular risk.  The flavonoids and phytochemicals that it contains seem to help fight against cancer. AND the skin contains lots of fiber, which helps to improve bowel function and reduced cholesterol absorption. Woohoo! Lots of good stuff right??
  2. A doughnut contains none of these nutrients.
  3. The doughnut is loaded with saturated fats, trans fats and refined sugar and is largely devoid of any nutritional value, other than energy, which it has in abundance.
  4. The digestion process of the doughnut is quite lengthier than the apple. Healthier fats generally are absorbed via the liver, whereas saturated and trans fats pass through the villi and are converted into triglycerides, the main form of fat storage in the body. They are also coated in cholesterol (from the liver) and hence the fats in a doughnut will raise the bad (LDL) cholesterol and reduce the good (HDL) component.
  5. Trans fats do even more damage. They have been shown to wreak havoc with the body’s ability to regulate cholesterol and massively increase your risk of heart disease. They also get into the outer lining of our cells, causing them to harden.
  6. We shouldn’t be too harsh on the doughnut, some of their trans-fat containing friends are deep fried foods, such as French fries, cakes, cookies, biscuits, some breads (especially croissants and pastries), processed foods (especially pies, sausage rolls etc), snack foods (potato chips, some muesli bars) and margarine.

I would be lying if I said I haven’t had a doughnut since reading this post back in 2008. But I can honestly say I know I have had 3 in the past 7 years. Why? When I was presented with the option of having one, I ALWAYS remember this article. Like I said in the beginning, it was one that resonated with me. Maybe it will make an impact with you or someone you know that you think MIGHT take Doughnut Sunday at church just a little too far. 😉

As for the progress that’s been made since this article came out, the USA has taken steps to ban trans fats in most foods so it’s not as popular as before. But you can bet not ALL those popular doughnut chains are trans-fat free. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows companies to round down to 0 g in its nutrition facts label even if the food contains as much as 0.5 of a gram per serving. Some popular donut companies use the words “Trans Fat Free!” in their advertising legally even though they DO in fact, contain trans fats.

That’s just an FYI for you. I’m not the food police but trans fats are not something anyone should be eating on the regular. If you care about your body and your health, take the time to research what you’re eating.

In good health,

Michelle

P.S. I recently did a consult with a woman who found me through my other blog that has little to do with fitness. In case you wanted to read what truly matters to me, you can read my ramblings there too.

Spirit, Soul, and Body

The Second Reading for the Third Sunday of Advent is from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.

The last two verses are particularly interesting. It reads:

“May the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.”

According to a Bible Study Guide on these two lines:

“The spirit, soul, and body refer not so much to the distinct parts of a person as to the entire being of a person. This expressions is Paul’s way of saying that God must be involved in EVERY aspect of life. It is wrong to think that we can separate the spiritual life from everything else, obeying God only in some ethereal sense or living for him only one day each week. Christ must control ALL of us, not just a “religious” part.

Thoughts on this reflection:

How often do we think “As long as I go to church, I’m good in God’s eyes.”  Or maybe we say “I pray everyday, I’m religious enough.”

Why do we cut God out from our lives and only let him in when it’s time to pray or go to Church? The key to keeping God close to our hearts is to know Him. We should study Him more than once a day. We should talk to Him more than once a week. He’s the reason we are alive. We, our spirits, souls and bodies, are living proof of His creation. We need to care for what we are given.

How do we do that?

Our SpiritsThis is defined as the “invisible, nonmaterial part of humans.”

How does someone take care of their spirit if they can’t even see it or feel it? Perhaps it’s just a feeling, an emotion. It’s the part of us that maybe only people looking at us can see or feel. Maybe it’s just one action or one smile or one act of caring and kindness that someone else looks at in us and thinks, “This person has a truly good spirit in them.” We feed our spirit good things by saying good things, nothing self-deprecating. We try to treat others as we want to be treated. When strangers see you performing good acts of kindness, you are showing them who God is. They will remember that and always remember what a good-heart and kind spirit you have.

Our Souls This is defined as the “inner life of a human being, the seat of emotions, and the center of human personality.”

Have you ever just looked at someone and thought you could see into their soul? Or maybe someone looked at you and you felt immediately a little uncomfortable, because you thought they could see a part of you that you wished they hadn’t seen? It’s our soul. Our “inner life” as it’s called. What does your soul look like? Are you happy with it or could it use a makeover? Are you doing harm to your soul by sinning and making poor decisions? Remember what St. Paul said, our souls should remain blameless until Christ comes again.  A priest once spoke about sin in this way: “Every time we sin, we disfigure our soul.”  We can take care of our souls by confessing our sins. Picture your soul becoming disfigured every time you knowingly and willingly choose to sin. That is an upsetting visual and sometimes it’s enough to get us to cease with sinning and start praying.

Our BodiesThis is our physical body, our “physical essence.” We take care of our bodies by honoring God with it. This means we don’t intentionally harm ourselves. We don’t purposely engage in behavior that puts our body in danger of getting hurt. Simply put, our body is a temple. We need to treat it as such. For many this means being physically fit, eating nutritious and healthy foods, getting plenty of rest and not putting our bodies in harms way. But honoring God with our bodies can be difficult for some. Addictions to food, drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, and abuse can cause a lot of damage to our bodies (souls and spirits too!). The good news is we can reverse this process. We can surrender to God and give it all to Him if we have an addiction. He can set our path straight if we have taken a wrong turn. It’s never too late!

Fit in Your Faith Today: Honor God by doing one thing today that shows you are keeping your Body, Spirit and Soul blameless.

 

 

Fitness Idols

Where does the line between obsession with perfection and finally REACHING that level of perfection (at least in your own eyes) end?

When does achievement go from inspirational to boastful and bragging?

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Someone finally finds the formula for their success – and since I’m speaking about physical goals let’s keep the conversation to weight loss.  This person reaches their goal weight.  It took them a long time and lots of trial and error and now they are finally there.  SUCCESS!

They LOVE what they see in the mirror.  They LOVE that they can eat foods that are good for them while still finding the balance to allow themselves some “cheats.”  They purchase a new top, a new pair of jeans, heck a new WARDROBE and they might even snap some selfies and post them on Instagram or tweet out to their friends “Just fit into a size 4 jeans! Wow! YAY ME!”

Friends and family keep complimenting them “You LOOK amazing!  What’s your secret?”  So they tell them what they do and how they eat and what their workouts are like.  Maybe they start a blog or a FB page because everyone wants to know “How did you do it?  “I want to do what YOU did!  Tell me how!!”

This is all wonderful isn’t it?  What’s their next step?  They want to SHARE this knowledge.  They want you to follow them.  They want you to eat and drink what they eat and drink.   They tell you what they do everyday because after all, you asked for it.

Maybe you don’t know someone personally like this.  Maybe you know the more popular names.  Jillian Michaels, for example.  Or Bob Harper.  Or (insert famous celebrity spokesperson here). 😉

What does their website look like?  It has lots of buttons and icons on it right?

Subscribe to my newsletter!

Email me!

Follow me!

Pin me!

Tweet me!

Facebook me!

Instagram me!

Tag me!

So you do!  We all do.

So then the success stories get spread…and it’s fantastic!  What’s wrong with sharing the knowledge, right?

My problem, better yet, my opinion, is that this pursuit of “I want to look/be/act/ just like THAT person!” can become obsession to the point of idolatry.

Where is this in the fitness world?  Well, take a look at what we do these days.  And I am 100% guilty of this so I will use myself as the example:  I FOLLOW people and pages on social media.  I read every word they type in their status updates and tweets.

We each have our own ability to reach our goals.  We don’t have to rely on these idols.  I am torn because I find that some people I look up to (bordering on idolize) promote products that promise reaching this goal quicker.  And I don’t necessarily agree with that.  I feel like it’s manipulative.  And yes I’m speaking about the companies I mention in this post here.  But I’m not trying to pick a fight.  I also would put products like pre workout powders and post workout shakes in that category as well.  Of course weight loss pills, fat burners and any “quick fix” fad would also be lumped in there too.

Every product is a business out to make money and I get that.  Who wouldn’t want to run successful company where they get to spread the word and spread their products out to the masses?  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that is there?  It’s the American dream.

But it still bothers me.  It rubs me the wrong way.  It seems…dirty.

I guess in my pursuit to become a better person this past year specifically, I recognize how easy it is to become obsessed with perfection.  I’m 100% guilty of this and I suppose this post is my confession.  I have idolized those figures on stage.  Looking at those pictures of a competitor or even just a fitness model and thinking “I want those arms.”  “I want my abs to look like that.” “I am going to work incredibly hard to get those delts.”

It’s really important (to ME at least) that I remember that although those are REAL people with REAL emotions and thoughts and feelings, I am unique.  I am not like them.  I shouldn’t strive to be like them.  I might make a comment under their photo but I have to take a step back and think:

“Wait….I can admire them.  I can admire their work ethic.  But in no way should I idolize them.”

I have stopped following quite of a few fitness pages and people who I find don’t have the same values I have.  The ones with the selfies everyday that say “Look at me.”  They can easily they can be misconstrued to say “WORSHIP ME and WHAT I STAND FOR.”

Your body is your temple.  But too might time spent worshiping that body in the gym, in the mirror, can cross over into idol territory.

Being a role model is one thing; being worshiped is dark territory that I don’t want to cross over into.

Sidenote:  I’m well aware of the irony of this post as I use Social Media to post my own progress pics.  But that’s exactly what they are: progress pics.  Not perfection – far from it.  I still hope to use this blog as inspiration for others to become fit.  Not fitness obsessed.

The Comparison Factor

how-to-stop-comparing-yourself-to-others

Isn’t it odd that I choose to post about comparing myself to others when that’s exactly what I’m training to do?  I think that’s call IRONY.

But in all seriousness, it’s getting to that point in my training that I can’t help but look at other women who are in the same boat as me and think to myself “Wow, they are in SUCH better shape than me,” or“Okay no way my back will ever look that good,” or possibly“That chick is so much bigger than me! I feel so tiny!”   (This last one is meant as a compliment, trust me).

As someone who is trying very hard to put muscle ON, it can be quite discouraging as I scroll through Twitter and Facebook and Fitness Pages to see women showing off their hard work in the gym and showing off the guns, or their shoulders, or glutes, or abs.  And they have every right to of course!  It’s meant to be inspiring.  But at times, inspiration can lead to disappointment.  Especially if we have false hopes of looking exactly like that person we follow on social media or see on the stage at competitions.  And disappointment can be dangerous.  It can de-rail all efforts at what you’re trying to do.

So my solution to this problem has always been to bring it back home.  Bring it back to the initial goal of just getting on stage and presenting my best package.  To get up there and say “I worked my butt off for a year and here is the result.” 

It’s also important to recognize my efforts thus far.  I found a good “Before” picture that I think I need to look at to remember what I DID look like.

Well hello there belly nice to see you. ;)  At least my calves look nice.
Well hello there belly nice to see you. 😉 At least my calves look nice.

I’m not about to say anything negative about this pic because I was (still am) healthy but clearly, there is some visible change here.  This was taken in August of 2011 so it’s old but I didn’t look too different a year later.

So when I look at this, I think now THIS is a comparison I can be happy with.

afterphoto
Much happier in the new bod.

Small update on the BLT Challenge from my last post:  The challenge went fantastic and I only had one cheat the night before the challenge ended.  Just a combination of emotion before Mother’s Day, good old female things, and just the fact that I was hungry and wanted something BAD.  What did I cheat with?  Organic Fruit Snacks.  Yeah, I’m a real REBEL.  

But the best part of the Challenge was the 3 other ladies on my Team.  They all live in Canada and they all rock. 🙂  We became fast friends through our daily emails encouraging each other on for these past two weeks.  What a great way to stay on track.  Who knew emailing total strangers could be so helpful?

The lesson today?  To be Encouraging, not Comparing.

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