Systems Trump Hopes & Intentions

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Everybody has hopes, dreams and good intentions.

Everyone wants to lose weight, get out of debt, get a degree, start a business, or start a hobby.

Churches want to grow, reach new people, see people start following Jesus, see new givers take that first step, see people get connected into community or serve.

W. Edwards Deming said, “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting.”

Put another way: systems trump hopes and intentions. 

This is true for every system.

The systems you have in place as a church are why you have the number of first time, second time and third time guests that you have. It is why you have as many people giving. Why you have the number of people serving or in community.

None of this is accidental and none of this “just happens.”

For Revolution, this is one reason we transitioned from small groups to missional communities. We found that small groups would give us a certain result and it wasn’t the result we wanted.

Think about it personally. What if you want to lose weight, get out of debt, get a degree or start a business. None of that will just happen. You have to have a system for it. Just hoping to lose weight won’t cut it. You can’t have the intention of getting out of debt without a system for it.

The reality of Deming’s words ring true in our businesses, churches and homes. We are getting the results our systems are designed to give us. It isn’t an issue or hope, wishes, intentions, but of systems and strategy.

At this point, once you realize this, the next step is having the patience for it to take root.

One of the reasons I see people not lose weight or get out of debt is they expect it to happen as quickly as they gained the weight or got into debt. 

That isn’t a reality. In the same way, after 10 years of unhealthy communication in a marriage, it will not change over night. It will take time.

What happens for many people is they put a system in place, that moves slower than they would like, so they give up and settle for the results they don’t want.

And then we are back to square one.

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How to Make Smart Food Choices When You Eat Out

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For anyone wanting to eat healthy, a roadblock is often what they do when they eat out.

You sit down with friends or your spouse, you are thinking in your head, I’ll make a good choice. And then something happens.

You open the menu and see all the choices and see all the pictures and boom. You make a poor choice.

Same goes for dessert.

You know that a dessert at a restaurant could feed a small family in terms of calorie count, but when you see the dessert menu or tray, you are done for.

What do you do? Stop going out to eat? Stop traveling for business or vacation?

In my journey of losing 130 pounds and keeping it off, I’ve learned a couple of things about how to eat out while on business, a date night, lunch meeting or vacation and stay healthy.

  1. Eat some protein a couple hours before eating out. Not eating enough protein is one of the reasons you get hungry in the middle of the morning or afternoon. When you eat out, this leads you to ordering an appetizer and then a meal that has way too many calories in it. Before eating out, grab a banana, a protein bar, greek yogurt, a smoothie. Something with protein in it so that you aren’t as hungry when you arrive at a restaurant.
  2. Know where you will eat. This is important if you are traveling or are on vacation or having a meeting. When I travel somewhere, I know the options near me that have healthier options. Don’t show up blind to a new city and just guess. That’s a way to make poor choices. I was recently in Orlando with another pastor and I had 3 options for breakfast and told him, “you can pick but it has to be one of these three.” Without this, you pull into the first place you see.
  3. Know what you will eat before you arrive. When you open a menu, if you don’t know what you want to eat, you will often order something very bad for you. Restaurants don’t put pictures of the healthiest meals in the menu. Also, things like salads are not always the best thing to order on a menu as they may have low amounts of protein (which will make you hungrier in a couple of hours) and high in sugar (so it tastes better). If you know what you want before you arrive at a restaurant, you are more likely to make a good choice.
  4. Order first. This came up in Tom Rath’s book Eat Move SleepHe said that the person who orders first at a table sets the standard for what others will order. This is often true. If someone orders a healthy option first, others follow suit.
  5. Box up half your meal when it arrives. A friend told me this one, but when your meal arrives, ask for a box. Put half your meal in the box and close it. Now eat.

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How to Reach Your Goal of Losing Weight

I got to share my story over the weekend at a health seminar. It was awesome to see the amount of people putting in the time and effort to live a healthy lifestyle.

If you don’t know my story, I used to weight almost 300 pounds and have a 42 inch waist. Over the course of 18 months, I lose 130 pounds and have kept it off for the last 5 years. It feels incredible. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about what does work and what doesn’t work to lose weight, keep it off, pass on healthy habits to your kids and enjoy life.

So, I put together all the blog posts I’ve ever written on the topic.

Being free from bad eating habits, a food addiction (and other addictions that lead to an unhealthy lifestyle) and poor body image:

  1. What to do on “Fat Days”
  2. Food, Weight, and Stop Being the Victim
  3. How to Examine Your Heart/Motives
  4. When Eating Becomes a Sin
  5. Why We Aren’t Healthy
  6. Women and the Cycle of Defeat
  7. Two Ideas that Should Change how We Think about our Bodies, Weight Loss & Food
  8. Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace

How to lose weight:

  1. My Journey of Losing Weight
  2. How I got to where I am 
  3. The idol of food (the spiritual side of weight loss)
  4. Have a plan
  5. It’s for the rest of your life
  6. The effects
  7. Do your homework
  8. The idol of exercise & staying in shape

Staying healthy (eating well, avoiding burnout, etc.):

  1. Every Time You Say Yes to Something You Say No to Something Else
  2. What I Wish I’d Known About Energy, Family & Mistakes
  3. Making Room for What Matters
  4. How I Structure my Week
  5. How to Know You’re Too Busy
  6. How to do Crossfit on Your Own
  7. 6 Ways to Stay Motivated to be Healthy
  8. Thoughts on Burnout, Sleep, Adrenaline, Stress, and Eating
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How to Set Goals and Accomplish Them

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This post originally appeared on The Blog of Manly.

Since we’re now at the end of January and the luster of New Years Resolutions has begun to wear off, I felt like its time to share some ideas on how to set goals and keep them.

Resolutions are just that, goals. They are hopes for the future. In December we look at our lives, the things we don’t like about them and set a goal to change that specific area of our lives.

No one makes a resolution to get into more debt or add 30 pounds (at least not that I have met).

Here are ___ ways to set goals, keep them and accomplish them.

  1. Be realistic. If your goal is to lose weight, losing 20 pounds in 2 weeks isn’t likely or realistic. Possible if you just stop eating but that sounds miserable. The excitement of what could be is easy to get caught up in, but the reality that you will all of a sudden get up at 5am 4 days a week when you have been struggling to get up by 7am isn’t realistic.
  2. Set goals you want to keep. I have had friends set a goal and they are miserable. Now, sometimes our goals will have some pain. When I lost 130 pounds, it wasn’t fun to change my eating habits, but the short term pain was worth it. The same goes for debt. It will require some pain to get out of debt. You have to walk a fine line here. If it is too painful, you will not want to keep it. This is why our goals are often more of a process than a quick fix.
  3. Make them measurable. Don’t make a goal: to lose weight, get out of debt or read my bible more. Those aren’t measurable. How much weight? How much debt? How much more will you read your bible? Make them measurable so you can see how you are doing.
  4. Have a plan. Once you have your goal, you need a plan. If its weight loss, what will you do? If its debt, how will you get there? What are the steps? If its bible reading, what plan are you using? No goal is reached without a plan.
  5. Get some accountability. Equally important is accountability. One of the things I did when I weighed 285 pounds and started mountain biking was I bought some bike shorts that were too small and embarrassing to wear. This gave me accountability to keep riding. Your accountability might be a spouse or a friend, but it needs to be someone that can actually push you. Maybe you need to go public with your goal and invite people to help you stay on track.
  6. Remove barriers to your goals. Your goals have barriers, that’s why you have to set goals in the first place. It might be waking up, food, credit cards, working too late or wasting time on Facebook. Whatever it is that is going to keep you from accomplishing it, remove it. Get rid of the ice cream, credit cards, move your alarm clock so you have to get out of bed. Whatever it is, do it. Life is too short to be miserable and not accomplish your goals.
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6 Ways to Stay Motivated to be Healthy

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I get asked a lot about how to stay motivated to workout, stick to an eating plan or just to be healthy overall.

It is a challenge.

Here are 6 ways that I’ve learned to stay motivated:

  1. Make it the next thing on your schedule. This is crucial. Put working out on your calendar. Currently, I workout 4-5 times a week. I put my workouts into my calendar each week. They are a scheduled appointment like the dentist or a meeting. When the time rolls around (whether that is 6am or 5pm), it is simply the next thing I’m doing. Over time this has helped me to get up and go to the gym. Believe me, I can fill that time with something else, but its a commitment I’ve made. The reality for many people is they aren’t willing to give the time it will take to be healthy.
  2. Pick a plan you like and will stick to. I don’t care if you ride a bike, run, do crossfit, zumba or something else. Pick something you will do and stick with. Too often I’ll see people switch plans or programs because they don’t see changes quickly enough. When I started working out, I saw a ton of changes fast. Then I went almost 2 years where I felt like I looked the same, but I stuck with it. Just recently have I started to see more changes.
  3. Set a realistic, attainable goal. Set a goal. Specific. With a deadline. Now, is it realistic? If you do nothing right now, working out 4 days a week at 5am probably isn’t the best first step. Maybe 2 times a week at that time and then build up. Get small wins as quickly as possible. If you lift, set
  4. Eating well is more important than exercising. This is something most people miss. Eating counts more than working out. Don’t kill yourself at the gym and then go home and eat like a guy living in a frat house. Eat well. Food is fuel. If you exercise regularly, you should drink at least 100 oz. of water a day. Limit dessert and other foods that aren’t great for you. You don’t have to cut out gluten like I do, but eat well. Here are some ideas on what I eat.
  5. Weight gain isn’t always a bad thing. If you lift weights, this will be something you need to learn. I stopped weighing myself 3 months ago. Our scale’s battery died and I never replaced it so it wasn’t a conscious choice, but it has been a good thing. Weight gain is not always a litmus for being healthy. If you lift, muscle does weigh a lot. Have a pair of pants that give you a test to see if your waist is growing.
  6. Health is a lifestyle switch. Don’t quit. I know this is the topic of this post, but don’t. Being healthy is a long-term choice. Sure working out feels good, but I do it to stay healthy for Katie and my kids, to have energy to lead well. I want to stay in the game well into my 80’s.

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How to do Crossfit on Your Own

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I get asked a lot about how I workout and motivate myself to do it. The other day I was talking to a pastor that goes to a Crossfit box and he said, “I don’t know how you motivate yourself to do crossfit by yourself. I have to have the people at my box to motivate me.”

I get it.

If you can afford to go to a crossfit box, get the coaching, etc. That is awesome and you should do that. It helps you stay motivated, on track and keeps you from getting injured from exercising incorrectly.

If you are like me, a crossfit box is out of your price range. I don’t have $200 a month for it. I know all the benefits from it, but my family goes to the Y for 25% of that and it has free childcare. Not as nice, but I can take my wife out for a few date nights each month from the difference.

I’ve done crossfit on my own for the last 16 months and have learned some things. Here’s how to do crossfit on your own:

  1. Be smart. There is a lot of debate about crossfit and injury. Most of the time that people get injured from working out, it is because they do it incorrectly or push themselves too much. Be smart about it. It will take time to to learn all the lifts. You won’t walk into a gym and do a snatch on the first try. That’s okay. It will take some time to learn double unders, kipping pullups and a whole host of other things.
  2. Have a plan. If you want the results promised in a workout program, you have to do it that way. For me, I follow a box. This helps me to get a workout program from a trained professional. Crossfit is a full body program and it is easy to overwork muscles when doing it. Following a training program helps me to keep that from happening. I also can see the times from that box so I’m able to see what I’m shooting for. This helps to push me when I start getting tired. Going along with a plan, you will need to learn when to go to your gym to do Crossfit. Since you will sometimes you multiple bars or multiple pieces of equipment, you need to go when this is more feasible.
  3. Don’t be discouraged. Most people quit exercising because they get discouraged. It will take some time. It took me 18 months to lose 130  pounds. It will take time to lose weight. Then as you lift weights, you will gain weight. At first, this can be very discouraging. Keep at it.
  4. Know your limits and when to push through them. This goes with being smart. But know what you can and cannot do. Yes, there are videos on line of people doing “Fran” in under 2 minutes. People can snatch 300 pounds. That probably won’t be you. If a WOD (workout of the day) is too heavy in the prescribed weight, scale it. Don’t be too proud to scale it. Scaling will also help you to build up strength and endurance to do the lifts at their prescribed weight.
  5. Eat right. Eating is more than half the battle when it comes to losing weight or putting on muscle. I do Crossfit 4-5 times a week. This means that I need to eat enough protein so that my muscles can recover. Especially if I do it 3 days in a row. You don’t have to eat paleo, although I’d encourage you to do that. You will feel a lot better if you cut wheat, bread and carbs out of your diet. Drink lots of water each day. I shoot for 100 ounces each day. Also, limit your alcohol intake. Yes, red wine is beneficial for your heart, but if you drink more than 2 glasses a day, you lose all the benefits. Alcohol also hurts recovery and has empty calories.
  6. Do research. If you don’t know how to do a lift or an exercise, watch it on youtube. Coaches have instructions for everything on youtube now. Then practice it. I still struggle with double unders so I do them several times a week in my warmup just to get better at them.
  7. Stretch. Stretch, a lot. Before, during, after. Do yoga on an off day. Your body is working hard and you need to keep it limber.

If you do crossfit on your own, what things would you add?

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Top Posts for the Month of October

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If you missed them, here are the top posts for the month of October:

  1. What our Family Does on Halloween
  2. What Now for our Family (And How You can Be a Part of our Lives Now)
  3. Beauty Comes out of Brokenness
  4. The Beginning of The End
  5. Sometimes, This is How Introverts Feel 🙂
  6. My Journey of Losing Weight
  7. When Eating Becomes a Sin
  8. 10 Gospel Truths about Homosexuality
  9. This is the End (Why Most Sermons Fail)
  10. A Simple Time-Management Principle

Eat Move Sleep

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Eat Move Sleep: Why Small Choices Make a Big Difference (kindle version) by Tom Rath. I actually read this book back in June, but it releases today, hence the review.

I’ve been fascinated by health and fitness for some time, ever since losing 130 pounds and keeping it off. So, Rath’s book was right up my alley.

Two things that are obvious about this book from the title:

  1. Every choice we make matters. They all impact every part of our life. 
  2. Tom Rath looks at how to eat, move and sleep so that those choices make the most positive impact in our lives.

As Rath states,

What seem like small or inconsequential moments accumulate rapidly. When your good daily decisions outweigh your poor ones, you boost your chances of growing old in better health.

Now, if you’ve lived a relatively healthy life, watch what you eat, exercise and sleep well, most of what Rath says will simply be a reminder. While I’ve read a lot about weight loss and health, I still found good tidbits I have never heard before and was reminded of some things that are easy to forget.

Here are a few things that stuck out to me as helpful:

  • The types of foods you consume influence your health more than your total caloric intake.
  • The best performers sleep at least 8.6 hours a day, almost a full hour more than the national average.
  • The top performers in every field typically work/practice in focused sessions lasting no longer than 90 minutes.
  • Losing 90 minutes of sleep reduces daytime alertness by nearly one-third. If you consider all the things that demand your attention in a day, reducing alertness by one-third is consequential.
  • A study of over 80,000 people suggests total intake of fruits and vegetables is a robust predictor of overall happiness.
  • When food is served “family style” from large plates, bowls or platters placed in arms’ reach, people simply eat more.
  • Anytime someone is hungry and in a hurry, it results in a bad choice.
  • The first to order food at a restaurant is an anchor for the rest of the table and sets the tone for what others order.
  • We eat based on the size of our plates.
  • We are more likely to make a bad food choice when a healthy option is available compared with when no healthy options are available.
  • Couples in which one partner has a commute longer than 45 minutes are a whopping 40% more likely to get divorced. 
  • The dish you start with serves as an anchor food for your entire meal. Experiments show that people eat nearly 50% greater quantity of the food they eat first.
  • People consume 167 additional calories per hour while watching TV.

An overall helpful, quick read.

Top Posts of September

In case you missed them, here are the top posts for the last month:

  1. Before You Criticize Your Pastor
  2. Revolution Church 5 Year Anniversary Video
  3. The Biggest Sin in Adoption
  4. A Mother’s Heart (From a Husband’s Perspective)
  5. The Most Important Minutes to a Guest on a Sunday Morning
  6. Does Homeschooling Deny the Missional Life?
  7. What to do on “Fat Days”
  8. Redeeming Halloween
  9. Get the Men, Win the War
  10. Rex Ryan: The Model Father?

What to do on “Fat Days”

Most you know my journey of losing weight. I once weighed close to 300 pounds. Over an 18 month time span I was able to lose 130 pounds and I have kept it off for the last 3 years. I’ve talked more about that here.

Even after losing all that weight I still have “fat days.” Days that feel like this…

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Everyone does, right? I assume so.

What do you do in those moments? Regardless of your weight and size you have moments and days that you feel fat. You may not actually be fat, but you feel it.

Feelings of guilt, shame hit you. You think back to what you ate over the last day or two and maybe beat yourself up for that extra serving at dinner, that late night snack or dessert, ordering the venti 3,000 calorie drink at Starbucks instead of the tall skinny water. And on and on it goes.

You maybe even vent to a friend in hopes that they’ll tell you that you don’t look fat but that doesn’t help because you feel fat. And let’s be honest, what we feel is what drives us.

Yet, as a mentor told me, what we know trumps what we feel. 

Here are some ways to handle “fat days”:

  1. Uncover why you feel the way you do. It is okay to think over the last few days, but go further back than that. Not to document what you’ve eaten but what has happened in your life to make you feel the way you do. For many people, food is an addiction like drugs, porn or smoking. Have you experienced abuse in your life that drives you to eat? Are you prone to worry when things get out of control and that drives you to eating? Is there something underneath the comfort that comes from eating? Until you understand why you eat what you do, it is unlikely you will find freedom from eating as a god you go to for comfort.
  2. What does Jesus actually say about you. The next thing is understanding what Jesus says about you. If you are made in the image of God as the Bible teaches, your body is not an accident. Sure it is frustrating that some people can eat at taco bell 4 times a day and lose weight and you gain a pound simply by walking by a McDonald’s, but God made you that way. I get it because I’m that way. If I don’t watch what I eat I gain weight fast, that is my DNA. If you need some ideas on eating, here are some things I eat.
  3. Do you need to make changes to your diet. Practically speaking, you might need to make changes to your diet. While eating is a spiritual thing and can be an addiction and a sin, it is also a practical thing. Keep a food diary, write down everything you eat. You will often be surprised at what you put into your body and how that adds up. We often eat mindlessly and very quickly, which leads to weight gain. Most Christians can quote 1 Corinthians 6:19 about our bodies being the temple of God as a way to say drinking and smoking is bad and then go to the next potluck and gorge themselves on dessert.
  4. What image do you have in your head that you aren’t living up to, how accurate is that image? When you think about your perfect body or the body that makes you feel “fat”, how healthy is that image? Is that the way God made you? Again, if you and I are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), then we need to see ourselves as made the way God intended. This becomes a trust issue with God. We also need to identify the sin of coveting that comes as we page through magazines or put workouts together in an effort to be skinnier or more muscular.
  5. Stop weighing yourself. On the days you feel fat, you weigh yourself constantly. Every 5 minutes to see if something changed. Did I lose weight in the last hour because of all the water I drank and all the food I didn’t eat? The amount of times we weigh ourselves show where our god is and what we find our identity in. Weight gain, weight loss and exercising can be a tricky thing and not always accurate to what is happening in your body. Recently, I’ve gotten into crossfit and have gained some weight. At first, I was frustrated by this. Then I started to wonder, my jeans still fit. I measured myself and found that my waist was still the same size it was just my chest and shoulders that have grown. Translation, that isn’t fat that led to weight gain. It is important to understand where weight gain comes from.
  6. Go easy on yourself. You can very easily beat yourself up, starve yourself or heap guilt and shame onto yourself. If you are a follower of Jesus, there is no guilt and shame to be had. That was nailed to the cross with Jesus and when he walked out of the tomb, he conquered the power of sin, guilt and shame. Now, followers of Jesus do feel conviction and sometimes this comes in the area of food, how we think about our bodies and how we look at ourselves. This is the Holy Spirit helping us become who we are created to become. If it isn’t from the Holy Spirit, go easy on yourself.

“Fat days” come no matter what size you are. But the gospel transforms those days.

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