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Family, Fortitude

ConQuer Your Past Pains

If you’ve been ALIVE for any length of time, then you have pains. I’m talking about emotional pain. We all carry some “baggage” from our past – things we’ve said and done, or the things that others have said or done to us. It hurts bad. Or maybe we’ve become numb to the pain and we just kind of exist with it, like a prisoner on a life sentence with no chance for parole. Such pains are impossible to forget and seemingly impossible to get past. There is a desire to “get over it,” move on, and no longer allow the past pain to affect our attitude, outlook, and behavior today, but it’s hard. Are you nodding your head with me?

So how do you get over the past? The million dollar question has a pretty simple answer. Simple, but not easy. The first step is to realize what you’re REALLY trying to accomplish. What does it REALLY mean to get over the past?

You can’t change what happened. There’s no time machine that can send you back to relive the past. What’s done is done.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that your situation is hopeless. What I’m saying is that you first have to be clear about what you can and cannot change. You CAN get over your past (as I’ll explain). But you can NOT change events that already occurred.

The good news is that you don’t have to change the past in order to get over it. What you have to change is the MEANING of the past.

Think for a moment. Was there ever a time in your life when something horrible happened and you thought, “Why is this happening to me?” But then a few years later you looked back and you could answer that question. In retrospect, you understood why it happened. At first, it seemed like the world was caving in. Later, it all made sense.

In fact, very often, we eventually realize that bad times are part of a process that leads to something good!

It’s the events that FOLLOW bad times that determine the ultimate meaning of those times. In other words, it’s your future that determines your past; not the other way around. And since YOU are in charge of your future, then YOU determine the meaning of your past.

It’s interesting to think about this in the context of an age-old question: Do we have free choice or is everything predetermined? The answer is YES. Everything is predetermined AND we have free choice.

It’s like when you play a card game. You get dealt a hand. And you have no control over the cards you get dealt. It’s predetermined.

But you also get to play that hand. You also have free choice.

Ultimately, it’s the COMBINATION of the hand you’re dealt and the way you play it that determines the outcome. And it’s the outcome that shapes your view of the original hand you were dealt.

God deals you a hand. There’s nothing you can do to change that. But you get to play that hand. You get to respond to the events of your life. And it’s your response, your actions in the future, which determine the meaning of the events in your past.

So how do you get over the past? You don’t have to get over the past. The past is over! What’s important is the MEANING the past has for you NOW. And the MEANING of your past is determined by your actions in the future.

The people who have the best lives/ marriages/ relationships are people who went through hell in some way. They “got over” their past because they used it as a catalyst to IMPROVE their situation. In other words, the painful events inspired them to change themselves.

If you make the right moves, you will come to view certain events as birth pains that led to a new AND IMPROVED life/ marriage/ relationship. THAT’S how you “get over” the past.

It’s strange how life works sometimes, but if you play your hand right, your hurts become part of your healing. And, in fact, when it comes to relationships, it’s usually bad times that awaken people to search for new ways.

Thanks to Mort Fertel for doing the heavy lifting on this article. I’m grateful for his insight on the illustration about the cards we are dealt.

faith, Family, Personal Development

Being A Student of Marriage

The following is direct from a trusted resource called Hitting Home with Dr. Raymond Force. He is a pastor, speaker, counselor, and coach who is passionate about helping people enjoy healthy relationships. I found the following to “hit home” with me because I’m an avid learner with special interest in personal development and human behavior. I agree very much with what he shares about his own experience, and am convicted to do a better job at sharing what I learn with my spouse as part of my leadership responsibility at home. I trust you will find encouragement from Dr. Force’s message as I have.

Consumers Consume Themselves – Dr. Force

Lately, I have been analyzing my own marriage. I have been looking at key components that have enabled us to connect at a very high level for the last 26 years.

One of those components involves a spirit of learning that has been present at almost every stage of our marriage.

The scriptures tell us “with all thy getting get understanding”. (Proverbs 4:7) In short, we are to be a people that covet and yearn after knowledge more than anything else in life.

By God’s grace, I believe my wife and I have been learners rather than feelers in life. This is important because when spouses are just feeling their way through life, they only tend to change once the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

There have been many couples that I have coached and counseled that are feelers instead of learners. One of my main goals with these couples has been to encourage a spirit of learning in their homes.

Some of these very same couples, however, proved to be slow at moving from a feelings-dominated approach to a principled-driven approach to living. Consequently, I was often left with one option with these couples: Provide listening support and wait for the pain of staying the same to become greater than the pain of change once their unlearned ways bore the fruit of bad feeling and disunity. Once this occurred, they would often change, but only after their poor choices would evoke difficult feelings in their lives.

Afterwards, these very same spouses would often admit that they should have listened to our original advice. However, since they were feelers instead of learners, the blueness of the wound was often required to cleanse away evil.

Trial and error may work, but it is often time consuming, unnecessary, and heart-wrenching.

My Wife and I

My wife and I read, listen, and watch people all the time. We try to be aware of 10 things happening around us at all times.

Upon seeing each other, we will often start a conversation by stating something that we read or noticed about other people or ourselves that day. Quite simply, we can often be found hashing out wisdom with one another, and this has proved to provide a number of pleasant unintended consequences for us:

1. It raises our marriage to a level outside of ourselves.

You will never be a part of something great unless you operate outside of yourself. We are mortals created to operate in an immortal atmosphere. If all you do is follow your flesh and the passions thereof, you will never quite function at optimum capacity.

2. It takes the focus off of our mistakes.

I say it all the time. If my wife and I wanted to, we could bring plenty of case files to our little emotional skirmishes that we have from time to time. However, setting our minds and conversations on things above (Colossians 3) has a way of making even our mistakes toward one another seem a little smaller.

3. It provides an incredible point of connection.

I feel so sorry for couples that are not learners. Without a spirit of learning in a marriage, couples are left to trying to find unity in merely mutual hobbies, exciting forms of entertainment, or fun activities. Though I am not against any of the previously mentioned bonding points, there must be something more than these in order for couples to connect at a deeper level.

A Charge to Men

I am a firm believer than most men need to shut the door on the man cave and go back to the study. Read, talk about what you are learning, and promote teachable moments in your home.

A family that only consumes will eventually consume itself.

Promote a spirit of learning in your home and you will be surprised at all the areas that are positively affected.

The word amuse literally means not to think. Though I am okay with vegging from time to time, I find that thinking in my free time yields incredible results, especially in marriage.

If you want to feel good about one another, start thinking a little more. It’s commanded. It’s needful. It’s more than beneficial.

– Dr. Force

Fitness, Nutrition

7 Healthy Habits for LASTING Weight Loss

7-Habits-of-People-Who-Lost-30-Pounds-—-and-Kept-the-Weight-Off--770x385

There’s a group of people out there who know the keys to losing weight and keeping it off. Lasting weight loss is about figuring out what works well in your life and making it into a habit. So who better to learn from than highly successful people who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept the weight off for at least a year?

Who Are These People?

The folks we’re talking about are real people who did real work to shed pounds — and now they’re willing participants in an ongoing research study that started in 1994. They lost the weight, kept it off for a year (or more), and then signed up for the National Weight Control Registry (NCWR), which aims to be the largest study of long-term, successful weight-loss maintenance.

The NCWR has registered 10,000 individuals since it began, and the average person in the registry has kept off 66 pounds for 5.5 years and counting. About half of them report having at least one overweight parent. Most are between the ages of 44 and 49, which could mean that it takes time to figure out just the right mix of diet and exercise habits.

What’s in it for participants? They get to help scientists figure out how they could escape the cycle of yo-yo dieting with which so many people struggle. While each person’s weight-loss journey is unique, there were seven common habits that worked for these weight-loss winners. Here’s where we think they got it right:

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1. They eat fewer calories than the average American

Most of the registry participants ate a low-calorie diet the average was 1,306 calories for women and 1,685 calories for men. For perspective, American women and men in their 40’s eat an average of about 1,873 and 2,520 calories, respectively.

The science behind eating fewer calories to lose weight is solid, but over the years, we’ve learned that a calorie is not a calorie. The quality of those calories matters significantly. That’s why 100 calories of fiber-filled apple slices can help you feel fuller longer than 100 calories of licorice.

Counting calories is helpful, but turning it into a habit can be a challenge. Calories do count, but you don’t always need to count them. You can achieve similar results (with less math) by learning how to control portion sizes. Something as simple as portion containers can help you learn what is the right amount of food (read: calories) for your body. And don’t forget about calorie quality: Aim for a balanced nutrition plan that includes plenty of fruits, veggies, whole-grains, lean proteins, and healthy fat.

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2. They eat often, up to five times a day

The registry participants eat more frequently than people who are overweight. They generally eat five times daily, which breaks out to three meals and two snacks. Science has a tough time making the final call on whether or not eating more often will hurt or help your progress.

Sure, eating often can mean more opportunities to overeat, but it’s also a good strategy to deal with hunger. Grazing on healthy snacks like fresh fruits, veggies, string cheese, and Greek yogurt is a no-brainer. Just remember that there’s a fine line between a snack and a full-blown meal.

3. They stick to a consistent diet

Most registry participants eat a fairly consistent diet whether it’s a weekday, weekend, holiday, or vacation. Results show that those who ate a consistent diet the entire week were 1.5 times more likely to maintain their weight within five pounds over the course of one year compared with those who ate a healthy diet strictly on weekdays.

While there’s not a ton of research in this area, this habit makes sense. Eating the same foods every day can help with self-control and keep unplanned temptations to a minimum. Keep in mind it’s perfectly OK to indulge in a cheat meal once in a while, but keep it to that: once in a while.

4. They don’t skip breakfast

A whopping 78% of those in the registry report eating breakfast every day, which is consistent with the trend that people who eat a morning meal usually weigh less.

Bear in mind that skipping breakfast won’t entirely make or break your weight-loss efforts. In fact, a small number of folks will skip this meal to lose weight through intermittent fasting. Fasting isn’t for everyone, so if that’s not your cup of tea, keep calm, and join the breakfast club.

A breakfast with a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates (high in fiber) like two eggs scrambled with vegetables and maybe 1/4 of an avocado, 1/2 cup of oatmeal, and one cup of fruit — can set the tone for the rest of day. I personally LOVE drinking Vegan Chocolate Shakeology blended with a banana, ice, and unsweetened almond milk. It keeps me full and energized all morning. And chocolate for breakfast…yes please!

A good breakfast may help cut down mid-morning hunger and decrease the chances you’ll be “hangry” by lunch. All this can build up to better food choices throughout the day, so you’ll be able to breeze by your co-worker’s batch of brownies.

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5. They prioritize daily exercise

Almost all (90 percent) registry participants exercise for about one hour every day. This habit is especially effective because nutrition works hand in hand with exercise to promote weight loss. Additionally, working out can help build more defined muscles.

The most effective ways to change your body composition is to add strength training and/or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to your workout routine. Besides helping you slip into that little black dress, surprising exercise benefits include improvements in sleep, mood, and productivity.

6. They weigh in weekly

The scale can feel like a constant reminder that your goal weight is far away. People dread weighing in mostly because they don’t like the number they see. Yet, 75% of successful weight-loss maintainers weigh themselves at least once each week.

That number on the scale can be the motivation to implement healthy habits and stay focused on your goals. Hitting an “all-time high in weight” is a common trigger for someone to want to lose weight. Monitoring your weight weekly can catch a one- to two-pound weight gain, as opposed to monthly, where you could gain a much more significant amount.

While it’s a good idea to weigh in regularly, guilt-tripping yourself each time you step on a scale is a big no-no. Instead, think of that number as a valuable data point that can help you troubleshoot and plan for the coming weeks. Also focus on non-scale victories like how your clothes fit, how you feel with energy and confidence, and choosing well when tempted with treats that aren’t part of your plan.

7. They don’t binge-watch TV

If you’re juggling work, friends, and family, you know time is precious and finding time for healthy habits can be a challenge. But unless you’re doing burpees while binge-watching HGTV, you’re not making much progress when you’re in front of the TV. And to add insult to injury, eating while watching TV can contribute to weight gain through mindless eating. This doesn’t mean you have to give up television to see success, but you should limit your screen time to about 10 hours a week. By limiting screen time, you can make more time for other activities (hint: exercise).

The Bottom Line

It would be nice to think that these people are privy to some super-secret way to lose a lot of weight and keep it off. But the simple truth is that there is no secret; it takes hard work, consistency, and patience to see results that last. There is no magic pill, patch, wrap, or chemical concoction that will get you long term, sustainable and healthy results. Eat right. Sweat often. Rest. Repeat. You can do this!

Many thanks goes to Trinh Le, R.D. and the Teambeachbodyblog for doing the heavy lifting on this article.

faith, Family, Personal Development

You Are Not A Failure | Letter To My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.

John Wooden

You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.

Johnny Cash

Son, you will fail; this happens. But this does not mean you are a failure. The assumption that “you are a failure” is a powerful and defeating thought that can paralyze a man. It’s a recording that sometimes plays in the mind that men struggle to silence. It’s one of the five powerful voices I believe all men hear (if you remember my previous letter on this subject). I think this is partially because many men falsely believe that to be a man, we must “man-up” by appearing strong, confident, and courageous, even when we feel weak, confused, and lost. This false belief thus devastates men in moments of failure. Which is why when we fail, we sometimes believe we are a failure.

Please note, experiencing failure and feeling the impact is a good thing for all men. The last thing we need is insensitivity to this pain. Appropriate levels of pain, in the form of regret and guilt, are good for all men. And why? Well, because pain is an indication of pending danger. Insensitivity to pain will only lead to callousness and other, more harmful decisions to self and others. Yet, inflicting needless suffering on ourselves by allowing a failure to convince us that we are a failure is also not helpful. While you and I are both sinners, we are redeemed by Christ and given a new identity as sons of God. Your identity is marked permanently not by your failure but by His grace, and your identity is forever changed. Accepting this is sometimes too good to be true, so it’s easy for men to go back to the perpetual failure of the former life and the old yoke of slavery.

..and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

As men, we live in this great tension, and here is how I describe it. First, our former identity is marked entirely by sin. In fact, the Bible calls us “sinners.” Yes, God’s Word is clear; our identities before Christ are marked by perpetual sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) So in one sense, and at one time, all men were perpetual failures. We were, (notice the use of the past tense of the verb,) a complete and total failure.

Second, yet we also know that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) And this gift results in us having the opportunity to believe in his name, giving us “the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) Jesus also says, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) So your identity has changed from sinner to son, from failure to friend.

Third, we must choose to live in this new identity as sons and friends. Yet we know, the voice of the past will call to us. In moments of failure, we will be tempted to listen to the voice of the former man and the old identity. It will call to you and say, “I am a failure.” Its call will be compelling and clear because only you will hear its voice within your mind. This voice will present evidence to you from your own life to support your incorrect perceptions. Do not doubt my words, son, the courtroom of your mind will offer a convincing case. And yet, the tension between a former identity and your new identity has a present reality. 

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

Think about that and ponder on it for a second—you are the “righteousness of God.” Let that set in. That’s your identity. You are not a failure. You are instead a son of righteousness

So the next time you fail your response should be to understand the pain, accept it, learn from it, and then before the failure begins to poison your thinking about your identity, bring to mind that Scripture says, you a “son of righteousness” saved by God’s grace. You are not a failure. Do not let that thought preach to you, rather let the truth preach to you. And why should you do this? Because the most important thought about you is not what others think about you, what you think about you, but what God thinks about you. This is the only thought that matters.

As you learn to do this, you will discover something about the fails in your life—that God is up to something. That he is working out something magnificent in you every time you fail. He is teaching you to trust more and more in him. Notice what the apostle Paul says about his perpetual failing.

But [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Do you see it? Failure gives way to opportunity—the opportunity to trust less in self and more in God. With failure, we encounter grace, discover perfect power, contentment, and the paradox of strength in weakness. For the man who is strong in himself is not strong; he is only pretending to be strong. Instead, the man who embraces his weakness (through failure) is genuinely strong because he is strong in God.

I love you son. Remember you are not a failure. Dad.

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest book and small group study Called to Act: 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.

Fitness, Nutrition

12 Fitness Myths Busted

Fitness advice abounds. Just ask Google. Or your friend. Or remember what you did in high school gym class many years ago. It’s hard to know what to believe anymore. Like the diet industry that tells you a new evil food, then later tells you it is healthy (hello eggs), fitness advice can be confusing. Read on to get the facts about 12 fitness misconceptions that will help you feel great and perform your best.

MYTH #1: STRENGTH TRAINING MAKES YOU BULKY

Truth: It’s pretty hard for women to bulk up from a normal strength-training routine because they don’t have as much testosterone as men (the difference in this hormone level makes men more prone to bulking up). In fact, if weight loss is your goal, strength training can actually help you lean out, but you must also keep your nutrition in line. Since muscle is metabolically active, simply maintaining lean muscle mass requires higher energy. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest. #science.

MYTH #2: A GOOD WORKOUT ALWAYS RESULTS IN SORENESS

Truth: While soreness and workout intensity are sometimes connected, how tired your muscles feel isn’t always a good indicator of a solid workout. Being sore just means that a significant amount of stress was applied to the muscle tissue. You can have a great workout and not be sore the next day. Proper recovery will help prevent achy muscles. Refuel within the first 30 to 45 minutes post-exercise, stay hydrated, and get enough sleep—all of these things can help boost recovery and minimize soreness.

MYTH #3: EVERY WORKOUT REQUIRES 100% EFFORT

Truth: Sort of. You should try your best to stay focused, be present, and give 100 percent during every workout. However, not every workout requires a high level of intensity. If you are sore every day, muscle recover is limited which can lead to overtraining and injury. Target going extra hard two to three times per week, or as often as your body can recover from excessive soreness.

MYTH #4: YOU CAN LOSE FAT FROM CERTAIN BODY PARTS

Truth: There is really no such thing as spot-training. Fat cells are distributed across your entire body. To lose fat from a specific spot, you need to lose overall body fat. High-intensity interval training can work wonders. After an intense workout, your body needs to take in oxygen at a higher rate to help it return to its natural resting state. This process requires the body to work harder, burning more calories in the process. Incorporating strength training can help you hit your goals too, since having more lean muscle will help your body burn more calories at rest. (Psst—here is an entire library of workouts that are insanely effective for weight loss. You can get them all for less than one lunch out per month)

MYTH #5: CARDIO IS THE BEST WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT

Truth: Yes, traditional cardio workouts will help create a day-to-day calorie deficit (with a healthy diet), which is essential for losing weight. But in the long-term, since having more lean muscle mass helps your body burn more calories at rest, you’ll be adding to this deficit without doing a thing. A combination of both high-intensity cardio and strength training is a good idea. And don’t forget, when it comes to weight loss, having a smart nutrition plan is essential.

MYTH #6: YOGA ISN’T A “REAL” WORKOUT

Truth: There is a broad range of yoga, so don’t be stuck on the “spiritual experience” and gentle, relaxing stretches. Speaking from personal experience, yoga is a legit workout, and should be added to your routine. Yoga is the ‘fountain of youth’ in that it helps to keep you flexible while stretching out the soreness that comes from other workouts, and the balance work is imperative for injury prevention as you age. If your vision of your future self includes keeping up with the grandkids and not waking up every morning stiff and creaky, then add simple yoga routines to your game. I learned yoga from the Beachbody Yoga Studio on BOD, so I never need to take a class. Yoga at home is the ticket.

MYTH #7: STRENGTH TRAINING REQUIRES HEAVY WEIGHTS AND MACHINES

Truth: Strength training simply means using resistance to work your muscles—and that resistance doesn’t necessarily have to come from a machine or a heavy weight. (Hello, killer bodyweight exercises!) Aside from your own bodyweight, you can also use tools like kettlebells, medicine balls, and resistance bands to add resistance. None of that around? Try PiYo – the program that launched my healthy living journey.

MYTH #8: WORK OUT EVERY DAY

Truth: Totally false—can I get an Amen! Exercise breaks down muscle fibers so they can rebuild stronger. Rebuilding muscle requires rest, so give your body time to recover from working out. Aim for one or two days per week of active recovery rest days— doing something that doesn’t put stress on your body, like gentle stretching or a walk. I’ve found a groove with 4 workouts a week taking Wednesday and weekends off, which gives me capacity to enjoy other activities without feeling too worn out.

MYTH #9: 20 MINUTES OF CARDIO IS THE MINMUM TO GET RESULTS

Truth: There is no magic duration to do cardio or any workout for that matter. If you are not an exerciser, ANY extra movement is better than none. Low impact, low intensity, short duration, long duration… these exercise variables are less important that just challenging YOUR body. Everyone is different in how they respond to exercise, their personal goals, fitness level, etc., so challenge yourself without comparison to others. And let’s be clear about results & weight loss: Exercise is only part of the formula. Your fastest weight loss results come from what you eat, so getting nutrition right is key. You can’t outwork a bad diet. Get your free Clean Eating Guide here.

MYTH #10: YOU NEED TO STRETCH BEFORE A WORKOUT

Truth: There’s an important difference between the terms ‘stretch’ and ‘dynamic warm-up.’ While it’s true that you shouldn’t just jump right into a workout, dynamic warm-ups are where it’s at—you can save those static stretches for afterwards. Your pre-workout goal should be to improve mobility and elasticity in the muscles. This is best done with foam rolling and a dynamic warm-up, where you keep your body moving (instead of holding stretches still). This preps your body for work and helps increase your range of motion, which means you can get deeper into exercises, work longer and harder, and reduce injury than without proper warmup.

MYTH #11: CRUNCHES ARE GREAT FOR YOUR ABS

Truth: Meh. Crunches do work part of your abs, but they’re not the most efficient exercise you can do to strengthen your midsection. Abdominal muscles are designed to work most effectively when you’re standing upright. Try Shaun T’s Focus T25 or Transform:20 on Beachbody on Demand for entire programs that will shred your core with zero crunches. My Progressive Plank challenge also works really well.

MYTH #12 I CAN EAT THAT _______ SINCE I JUST EXERCISED

Truth: Sorry to burst your bubble, but exercising is not a license to eat junk food. What you eat is far more important than how much or how hard you exercise. While it’s true that exercise burns calories, you will be disappointed to know how much exercise it takes to cover a donut (run a 5k) for example. It’s important to change your mind about making food a reward for good behavior, because you will always underestimate the calories in your food, and overestimate your calorie burn from exercise. Instead, think of food as fuel for the finely tuned machine that you are. And don’t be discouraged about having treats now and then. When planned into your day as part of a mindful, balanced nutrition plan the overall impact of your treat is pretty small. One day of bad food choices will not make you fat, just as one great day of exercise won’t make you fit. Take the long term approach and make healthy eating a lifestyle and you will see results.