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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
Apr 2005
Harvest House Publishers

BASIC Steps to Godly Fitness: Strengthening Your Body and Soul in Christ

by Laurette Willis

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt



    Bad News, Good News

    Step One: Body

  1. Eating What’s Right Will Solve What’s Wrong
  2. Breakfast: It’s a Command
  3. Success Strategies
  4. Movement: Are You Sitting Down?

    Step Two: Soul

  5. Renewing Your Mind: Where Godly Fitness Begins
  6. Emotions: Forgiveness, the Key to Answered Prayer
  7. Stress: America’s Number One Health Problem

    Step Three: In Christ

  8. Prayer, Praise, and Fasting: God’s Power Tools
  9. PraiseMoves: The Christian Alternative to Yoga
  10. The Step-UP Program: 21 Days to a Not-So-Extreme Makeover by God’s Design
  11. BASIC Steps Recipes

    A Prayer to Receive Jesus Christ as Your Savior



Eating What’s Right Will Solve What’s Wrong

Eating what’s right? But I thought diets were all about what not to eat.” I hear you. Having been a compulsive overeater since childhood, I rebelled against the “don’ts” of dieting. I may have succeeded at following a diet for a few days, but I looked for loopholes and opportunities to sneak around the rules. If the rules said, “Don’t eat that,” I countered with, “Oh yeah? Just watch me!”

I’m sure you were never that bad, but did you ever think while on a diet, I’ve been so good, I deserve a little reward? Sound familiar? For some of us the little reward turned into an episode of “Lost Weekend in Bingeville.” I figured that since I already ate half the carton of ice cream I might as well polish the rest of it off. What’s the use? I’m hopeless, I thought. Burying the empty container in the trash, I’d dash out to the store to replace it before anyone noticed I’d eaten the whole thing. I could fool the family, but my waistline told another story.

Over the years, well-meaning persons offered suggestions about my choice of food. One might suggest, “How about eating a salad instead?” I’d grit my teeth and think, How about minding your own business? A less timid soul might have voiced their replies aloud, but all I could do was think them. I’ll never forget one relative’s remark at an outdoor birthday party when I was 12 years old. As I reached for a slice of cake, she said, “Honey, you don’t want to get fatter, do you? Why don’t you have a nice piece of celery instead?” I was so astonished (and hurt) by her words that I grabbed the slice of cake and ran to the garden shed to hide and eat the cake through my tears.

I was unable to offer a snappy comeback at the time, but I would go over and over these encounters in my mind, dazzling my offenders with clever retorts and cutting remarks.

Just like the alcoholic who “drinks at” the person who has angered him or the situation that troubles her, the compulsive overeater “eats at” her adversary or troubles, numbing herself with food to stuff down the hurt and anger. I discovered overeating was a convenient distraction, a form of procrastination. As long as I was stuffing myself with food, I didn’t have to face the real problem—at least not now. I’ll start the new diet on Monday, or after the holidays, or when things slow down, or when the kids go back to school, or—you fill in the blank.

In BASIC Steps, we’re not going on another diet. We’re not getting on another program or crusade or wagon we can just as easily fall off. Instead, we’re going to sow some seeds—healthy choices that help build our character—from which we will reap a harvest of positive changes physically and emotionally. We’ll also be sowing seeds to develop the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, knowing that “whatever a man sows [or plants], that he will also reap.”

Focus on What You Can Do

We experience great freedom when we focus on what we can do instead of what we should not do. When Jesus was asked by a scribe which was the greatest commandment of all, Jesus answered by giving two powerful, positive directives that cover all the bases: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.… Love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, if you’re doing the right things—loving God first and foremost and loving others with a pure heart—you will be keeping all of the commandments.

If you have children, you’ve seen this principle at work. Tell me which statement elicits a better response from a child: “You cannot go to the movies, and that’s final!” or “Which two friends would you like to invite over to play this afternoon?”

A Step in the Right Direction

If you will purpose to do four simple things every day, you will be taking

  • Fuel the Furnace: Goodbye, “Sumo Girl”!

  • Fuel Up with Veggies:What One Cup Can Do

  • Fuel Up with Fruit: God’s Design for the Perfect Snack

  • Fuel Up with Foods as God Made Them

some important BASIC Steps in the areas of health and nutrition. Some days you may achieve all four, some only one—or none— but remember, you’re not jumping on and off a diet. There’s no wagon to fall off. You’re sowing, watering, and nurturing seeds of health, faithfulness, and patience for a future harvest. You may notice positive changes immediately, or you may not.

I believe the first triumph you will experience is simply knowing you are taking a step in the right direction. You will have a calm assurance that says you are making progress. And progress, not perfection, is the key.

Fuel the Furnace: Goodbye, “Sumo Girl”!

We have a woodstove in our home and enjoy the warmth it radiates on a cold winter night. However, I have yet to see it give off any heat without us first adding the fuel it needs—wood. The same is true with our bodies. We can’t expect our bodies to burn fat unless we eat. “But I’ve been eating—that’s my problem,” I often hear. But the problem is not the act of eating itself. You need to eat. God designed your body that way. It has more to do with what and when you are eating.

Part of the answer to why skipping meals doesn’t help us lose weight can be learned from Japanese sumo wrestlers.

Quick Quiz #1:

How do sumo wrestlers get so big?

Japanese sumo wrestlers may be the world’s top experts in how to gain weight. They are devoted to gaining as much weight as possible because the heavier the wrestler, the more likely he is to beat his opponent.

If you want to lose weight, you’d be wise to learn from the sumo wrestler what not to do. Here is how an average 165-pound man becomes a formidable 400-pound contender. His day looks something like this:

He lives in a dormitory-style sumo training center with other athletes like himself and awakens around 6:00 A.M. For the next four or five hours he trains and exercises without eating.

Clue: Skipping breakfast will not make you slender.

Most overweight people do not eat breakfast. I was one of them—until I realized I was becoming a sumo girl. Skipping breakfast makes one more likely to overeat later in the day. It also causes a 5 percent drop in metabolism. No wonder I was so sleepy!

A sumo wrestler exercises a lot, so you’d think he’d lose weight. But his eating habits ensure that he keeps piling weight on regardless of how heavily he trains for competition.

Clue: Exercise alone will not cause you to lose weight. You must change your eating habits.

The sumo wrestler’s first meal of the day is around noon, after which he takes a nap for three or four hours. His trainers want him to conserve as much energy as possible so that most of the calories he eats will be stored as fat.

Clue: Going to sleep after eating puts on weight. In order to lose weight, do not eat within three hours of bedtime.

To gain the large belly for which sumo wrestlers are famous, he eats only two meals a day.

Clue: Infrequent meals equal weight gain. Eat smaller amounts every three to four hours instead.

Some women have told me, “I shouldn’t be so heavy. I only eat twice a day.” So do sumo wrestlers. You’d think they were nonstop eating machines to become so huge. But no, they eat just two meals a day—two huge meals a day. The average sumo meal would feed five or more average eaters!

Clue: Portion sizes do count.

In order to train his stomach to eat those huge portions, he eats past the point where he is no longer hungry. He continually ignores his “full signal.”

Clue: If you want to lose weight, stop eating when you are no longer hungry—rather than when you feel full.

The sumo wrestler’s diet is surprisingly healthy and low in fat. He eats the same dish at every meal: chanko-nabe, a meat stew with rice and vegetables. This traditional sumo dish is eaten with very little variation every day, twice a day.

Clue: Don’t be a boring eater.

I used to call myself a boring eater until I decided to stop calling myself names. We get into a rut with our eating sometimes, don’t we?

Fitness experts agree we should vary our workouts because the muscles adapt quickly. If we continue to exercise the same exact way all the time, the body becomes accustomed to it and we won’t experience the progress we’d like. Similarly, we should add variety to our food plans. This isn’t just to fend off boredom at the dinner table. When you eat a variety of different foods, you are more likely to get the broad range of nutrients your body needs. You also won’t get that horribly deprived feeling of being on a diet and become tempted to go running into the arms of the nearest Keebler Cookies elf.

To avoid becoming a sumo girl, remember this:

  • Skipping breakfast will not make you slender. You must eat breakfast.

  • Exercise alone will not cause you to lose weight. Eating habits must change.

  • Going to sleep after eating puts on weight. Do not eat within three hours of bedtime.

  • Infrequent meals equal weight gain. Eat smaller amounts every three to four hours.

  • Portion sizes do count. Use a measuring cup until you can estimate accurately.

  • Stop eating when you are no longer hungry, not when you’re full.

  • Don’t be a boring eater. Variety is the spice of life!

Fuel Up with Veggies: What One Cup Can Do

Five to nine servings of fruit and vegetables every day will nourish our bodies, help prevent disease, and control our weight. That means another helping of French fries and tomato ketchup for most Americans, but not for those of us seeking godly Fitness!

The USDA estimates Americans are eating 20 percent more vegetables now than 35 years ago (hooray!), but the increase is mostly in potatoes—half of that amount in French fries (boo!). The close of the twentieth century saw the largest consumption of French fries ever— roughly 28 pounds of fries per person per year! Considering that some of us seldom eat French fries, some folks are eating more than their share (perhaps two or three times as much). No wonder the obesity rate has climbed so dramatically over the years.

What is one serving of raw vegetables? It’s one cup of raw leafy vegetables, or a half a cup of chopped raw vegetables. A serving size is generally what you can fit into your hand.

If you are not eating any raw vegetables at all, start with one cup. If you are already eating a cup or two, add another cup (it’s really a lot less than you might think).

A great way to get a couple of servings of veggies into your family’s diet is to have one or two cups of a simply prepared salad at each person’s dinner place setting. But don’t go for the cellophane-wrapped iceberg lettuce. According to the March 2004 Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the most popular fruits and vegetables (corn, potatoes, iceberg lettuce, apples, and bananas) are not necessarily the most nutritious. Typically, the darker the color of the vegetable, the higher the nutrient content will be.

Go for Color!

Green: Leafy greens (spinach, lettuces, collard, mustard and turnip greens), asparagus, green peppers, broccoli, green beans, peas, green cabbage, Brussels sprouts, okra (not fried!), zucchini, green onions, cilantro, parsley, cucumber, celery, sprouts

Yellow and orange: carrots, corn, pumpkin, yellow peppers, sweet potato, butternut squash, summer squash, spaghetti squash (our favorite!)

Red: tomatoes, red cabbage, red peppers, red onions, beets

White: cauliflower, onions, garlic, mushrooms, parsnips, shallots, turnips

Blue and purple: eggplant

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and kale contain many nutrients, including glucosinolates (don’t worry, there won’t be a test on this!), which are being shown to lower cancer risk. (For those who enjoy the origin of words as much as I do, cruciferous means “cross bearer.” It comes from the Latin word for cross and refers to these plants’ leaves or petals, which form the shape of a cross.)

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, laboratory studies have demonstrated that eating cruciferous vegetables helps control an intricate system of bodily enzymes that protect us against cancer. What’s even more exciting is that elements of these “cross-bearing” vegetables have been shown to stop the growth of cancer cells, including tumors of the breast, endometrium, lung, colon, liver, and cervix. This is good to know because the American Cancer Society’s 2005 annual report reveals that cancer has surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States.

In our home we rarely have a salad without raw broccoli and cauliflower. For my salad dressing I use organic apple cider vinegar (a natural antibiotic that aids digestion and weight control) and flaxseed or walnut oil (rich in essential fatty acids). My husband prefers Italian dressing, so I add a teaspoon of flaxseed oil to his salad with the dressing he likes.

In a perfect world we’d stroll out the back door, pluck a juicy orange or peach off a tree, and gather organic vegetables and herbs from our garden for a tasty salad. But for most of us, it’s off to the supermarket for our family’s food needs.

Organically grown produce (without pesticides or chemical fertilizers) has become the choice for many shoppers. Even though a higher price tag comes with the USDA certified organic seal, most dyed-in-the-wool shoppers of organic foods believe the price is worth it to ensure their families are not ingesting toxic pesticides in their food. Whether you decide to go organic or not, be sure to wash all produce thoroughly.

Be willing to try new things. Never tried a raw spinach and veggie salad? Think you might hate it? We all have certain prejudices against food we think we don’t like (and ones we really do dislike, of course). I remember a childish prejudice I had against zucchini (Italian squash). I tried to feed my portion to our Shetland sheepdog, Lady, but she wouldn’t eat it either. While zucchini still won’t make me do backflips in the produce aisle, I’ve learned that lightly steamed zucchini and other veggies with cheese and herbs tastes great (and it’s good for me too!).

Dare to Sprout Your Own!

No matter where you live, you can grow crunchy, delicious sprouts in three to five days. Sprouts are loaded with disease-fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants, and antiaging compounds. Sprouts are great in salads, sandwiches, or stir-fry meals. All you need is a sprouting jar (or make your own with a jar, cheesecloth or piece of hosiery, and a rubber band to cover the jar opening), and some sprouting seeds from your health food store. Good sprouting seeds are alfalfa, mung beans, Chinese cabbage, and radish.

Soak the seeds for six to eight hours in your sprouting jar. Keep them in a dark place—but not so out of sight that you forget about them! I put mine in one of the cupboards I open frequently. Under a dish towel on the kitchen counter is also a good place.

After soaking, rinse the seeds in the jar, drain them well, and then set the jar on its side. I also put it in a bowl to elevate the base of the jar. Excess moisture drains out the sprouting jar lid. Make sure the seeds are not all clumped up in one space. Spread them out a bit to aerate them. Rinse them two to three times a day. On the third or fourth day expose them to indirect sunlight for three to five hours so the chlorophyll in the sprouts will turn them green. Now they’re ready to eat.

Sprouts can be placed in a sealed plastic bag or jar and refrigerated for several days. Some people like to rinse them once a day to help sprouts maintain their crispness, but mine don’t seem to stay in the refrigerator more than a day or two. We eat ’em up!

I was a former city dweller who had never planted more than pumpkin seeds in a cup for a fifth grade science project, so my first sprouting experience was semi-monumental. “It works!” I yelled to my husband, Paul. Obviously charmed by my exuberance, Paul quipped, “You’ll be beaming with vitality in no time!”

Comfort or Style? Nutrition or Lollipops?

Have you noticed the desire for comfort replaces the fascination with style as you get older? In the early ’80s I had a pair of silver shoes with platform heels six and a half inches tall— dancing shoes! All my girlfriends were taller than I was, so to keep from being called Shorty, I wore those ridiculous pumps when we went out to the discos (this was my B.C. lifestyle!). But now, give me a pair of lace-up tennis shoes, and I don’t care what you call me.

Perhaps good nutrition will become more important than how good something tastes as we mature too (lest we live on lollipops and ice cream sodas, and leave earth before our time). The amazing thing is that the “cleaner” you eat (eating more foods as God created them, fewer processed foods, and saner portions), the more your taste buds prefer the healthier fare.

Another vegetable on my grown-up hit parade has become spaghetti squash. Even Paul, the Pasta Prince of our household, loves it. As the name implies, it looks a lot like spaghetti when cooked, and it is so simple to make. Treat it just as you would cooked spaghetti, and even the kids will be willing to set aside macaroni and cheese once in a while for this healthier alternative. See the recipe section for my easy BASIC Steps SpaghettiOs! recipe.

Fuel Up with Fruit: God’s Design for the Perfect Snack

Are you already eating one piece of fruit? Make it two. Add some variety. When was the last time you made a big fresh fruit salad for the family? Check out the fruit smoothies and kid-tested Ice Dreams in the recipe section.

Who Says Ketchup and Fries Aren’t Found in Nature?

A neighbor of mine noticed his potato plant had begun sprouting tomatoes! Ed had been growing vegetables for years but had never seen anything like this before. His potato plants grew potatoes underground and tomatoes on the vines above the ground.

A state horticultural expert told him the two plants are related, and the birds may have cross-pollinated them, causing the confusion. Who knows, potato-tomatoes could become a whole new fast-food sensation.

Why do I want to sing, “Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce…”?

If you really want some spring in your step, eat one piece of fruit alone or added to a BASIC Power Shake (in the recipes section) in the morning and then have a piece of fresh fruit as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. By eating two pieces of fresh fruit and a big raw veggie salad with lunch or dinner, four or five servings of the recommended five to nine will be raw, uncooked produce.

Many low-carb dieters will turn up their noses at the suggestion of fruit for a snack when they can have a highly processed snack bar with artificial flavors and colors, unpronounceable ingredients, and questionable nutritive value—but with only five net carbs and a three-year shelf life! Hmmm. What’s wrong with this picture? I fell for the same line. Looking at the snack bar’s fine print, however, revealed 220 calories (90 calories from fat). I’d bought into the big sign on the label that said “Three Grams of Net Carbs” as if it meant the bar had only three calories!

One medium apple may have 17 net carbohydrate grams, but it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and all the natural zing God put in there from the get-go. It has only 81 calories, no fat, and no assembly required. It’s notable, tote-able, and even quotable (“An apple a day…”)! Okay, okay, I know—I shouldn’t play with my food.

Good for You

Why is eating fresh fruits and vegetables so important? Well, when was the last time you read about an important disease-fighting component being found in a candy bar or French fries or a box of sugared cardboard (cereal)? Fruit and vegetables contain important immune-boosting phytochemicals and antioxidants.

Phytochemicals are plant chemicals that contain protective, disease-preventing compounds. They are not classified as nutrients because they’re not necessary for sustaining life, but they’re associated with the prevention and treatment of at least four of the leading causes of death in the United States—cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.

Phytochemicals help prevent both cell damage and cancer cell reproduction, and they decrease cholesterol levels. Researchers have discovered more than 900 different phytochemicals, and they continue to discover more. Believe it or not, there may be as many as 100 different phytochemicals in just one serving of vegetables! Now doesn’t that sound like something God would make?

Antioxidants act as cell protectors against damaging cell byproducts called free radicals, which we’ll discuss in our section on avoiding processed foods. If left unchecked, free radicals weaken the immune system and may cause cancer, heart damage, diabetes, and premature aging.

Antioxidants do amazing work. They bind themselves to free radicals and transform them into harmless compounds (I wonder what would happen if you poured some on a rebellious teenager? Hmmm…).

Antioxidants repair damage done to cells. Not surprisingly, the highest concentrations of phytochemicals and antioxidants are found in the most deeply or brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Remember to go for color!

When should you eat your fruit snack? Why not take an apple or orange with you if you work outside the home? I find a juicy Fuji apple or crisp Red Delicious around 2:30 or 3:00 P.M. is great to ward off that 3:00 to 5:00 P.M. slump. Isn’t that usually the time we hear the Three Musketeers or Keebler elves calling our name? Keeping some little snack-packs of mixed fruit or applesauce in your desk at work or cupboard at home can stave off the Cookie Monster; and though a mini-box of raisins has more concentrated fruit sugar than an apple, it’s still better than a candy bar.

Convenience Foods vs. Making Healthy Food Convenient

If you make healthy choices convenient, you and your family are less likely to opt for poor quality, highly processed convenience foods when your blood sugar is low and you’re not thinking as clearly. I learned a long time ago in a 12-step program for compulsive overeaters to follow the wisdom of “HALT.” “HALT” meant we were to never allow ourselves to become too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. When we experience any of these states, our reserves are low and we’re apt to make poor choices. With food, that usually means going for whatever comes to a dull mind first, or whatever is close at hand. Having fruit nearby can keep us from a binge.

Fuel Up with Foods as God Made Them

As much as possible, eat foods in their natural state (as God made them), limiting processed foods.

Quick Quiz #2:

Which meal is closest to its natural state?

  1. fresh fruit cup, raw vegetable salad with lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar and flaxseed oil), whole wheat tortillas with beans and steamed veggies

  2. raw veggie salad with “lite” salad dressing, cooked salmon with lemon juice, frozen veggies with cheese, brown rice, fruit dessert

  3. iceberg lettuce and tomato with sweet and creamy Italian dressing, instant macaroni and cheese (just add water!), canned peas, Sara-licious Put-On-the-Pounds cake

  4. fast-food burger (with lettuce, tomato and pickle— those are vegetables, aren’t they?), French fries (medium-size, I’m watching what I eat), frozen dessert (what is that anyway?), diet soda (to wash it down quickly please, I’m driving)

Did I read anyone’s mail? I wrote from memory, believe me. You may have noticed our menu became increasingly more processed and further away from its natural state as our list progressed.

Okay, we’re modern people; we don’t live in ancient times. How can we possibly do what Jesus would do when it comes to food? Actually, it’s a lot easier than you think. You know what has helped me make changes in this area? Knowledge. Before anyone said “knowledge is power,” God said through the prophet Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Both knowledge (information) and wisdom (understanding how to apply that knowledge) are valuable, necessary, and available.

Let’s look at one of the blights of modern life: processed food. Some of you may be thinking, But processed foods are convenient! I thought conveniences were blessings, not curses! True—thanks to the joys of technology, most of us don’t have to till the soil, grind the wheat, and kill the fatted calf to feed our family. I’ll admit I’d rather reach for a box of raisins at the supermarket than grow, harvest, and dry the grapes myself. Many conveniences are blessings.

Certainly not all processed foods are bad for us either. In fact, processed food is mentioned in the Bible. Bread (processed grain) is mentioned as early as the third chapter of Genesis. Bread is meant to be a blessing; otherwise Jesus would not have referred to Himself as “the bread of life.”

But as food moves further from its original state, the more processes it goes through. More preservatives and chemicals are added to increase its shelf life, and it has less nutritional value for our bodies to use. Also, these nonfood items become potentially harmful as our bodies struggle under the weight of the toxic load.

Yeah, but It Costs More

According to the Economic Research Service of the USDA, Americans can meet the recommendation of three servings of fruits and four servings of vegetables daily for 64 cents per person. Sixty-four cents a day! That’s only $2.56 for a family of four to receive 12 servings of fruit and 16 servings of vegetables. That’s about half the cost for only one person’s fast-food hamburger, fries, and cola. Seems like a better investment to me.

We’re going to pay for health one way or the other. We can either invest time and money up front for Fitness and nutrition, or we can spend time and money later trying to fix what’s already been broken. I’m told good investments have good returns. Even if you’re recovering from an illness, you have many months and years ahead to enjoy a healthy return on the investments you make today. You can make the rest of your life the best of your life.

Yikes! Beaming New-Age Energy Waves?

While I was still a New Ager before I became a Christian, I would often eat with fellow metaphysical folks like myself who would hold their hands over the greasy fast food and “pray” that the gunk in it would be neutralized by the energy flowing from their hands. How different is that from the Christian who “blesses” the Super-Dooper-Sized Belly Bomber and fries with the 64-ounce Acid Wash over ice? By the way, did you know you cannot “rebuke” a calorie or cast the fat out of a triple hot fudge sundae?

Would I be mistaken in suggesting some of us may be coming up hard against the third commandment by using the name of the Lord in vain over our food choices? I’ve been guilty of thoughtlessness in this area myself. I have looked at an unhealthy meal I was about to eat— knowing it was full of bad choices for me—and asked God to bless it “in the name of Jesus.” At the same time, I’d sense that “check” in my spirit that something just wasn’t right—and I knew it.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” we’re told. How about the knowledge we recognize and choose to ignore? If you can’t say amen, say ouch. I did.

The Results of Oxidative Stress

When we look at the word antioxidant, we know the prefix “anti” means “against.” What then do antioxidants resist for us? Antioxidants resist the process of oxidation. Oxidation is what happens when an apple slice turns brown or metal rusts. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage stable molecules, leading to oxidation (oxidative stress).

We are exposed to free radicals when we absorb chemical additives or expose ourselves to sunlight. Even normal cellular processes produce free radicals. If we are not receiving sufficient antioxidant protection from fruits, vegetables, and dietary supplements, we can compromise our health.

Scientists have discovered that free radical damage weakens the immune system and is a leading cause of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. And there’s another cause for concern for those of us who don’t want to look or feel older than we are. Oxidative stress may also be responsible for premature aging, wrinkling of the skin, stiffening of the joints, cataracts, and more.

Make the Exchange

When buying processed foods, go for foods with the least amount of chemicals and preservatives. I heard of a gal who won’t buy anything with ingredients she can’t pronounce. That sounds laughable, but it may not be such a bad idea!

Instead of soda pop, drink water (add lemon or a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of raw honey for taste, added nutrients, and enzymes)—or if you must have a carbonated beverage, try sparkling water. Make sure it’s not sweetened with sugar or aspartame. Why? Here are some of the not-so-bubbly news items about sodas:

One can of regular soda pop has about ten teaspoons of sugar, 150 calories, 30 to 55 milligrams of caffeine, as well as artificial food colors and sulphites. But you say, “I drink diet soda.” Some nutritional experts believe the artificial sweeteners are worse than sugar, and they may actually make you crave more sweets and fattening foods.

The findings of recent studies published in the International Journal of Obesity showed that eating and drinking artificially sweetened foods and beverages may be causing people to underestimate their caloric intake. Laboratory animals that ingested artificial sweeteners overate three times more calories than those that did not.

Obesity rates in children seem linked to sodas as well. A study published in The Lancet, Britain’s prestigious medical journal, states that for every soft drink or sugar-sweetened beverage a child drinks each day, his or her obesity risk jumps 60 percent.

Water—a Miracle Elixir?

If you’re looking for a miracle elixir, water may be the closest thing you’ll find. The word water occurs 396 times in the Bible. It represents all that is clean, refreshing, wholesome, and life-giving. Notice that Jesus didn’t say He would give believers the iced tea of life!

Please don’t sell yourself short by saying, “I hate water.” You may as well say, “I don’t want to be healthy!” Even if you don’t like water now, be patient with yourself. By following the BASIC Steps program, you can regain your God-given thirst for water.

Less Water Equals Fat Gain; More Water Equals Fat Loss

Water also seems to be the single most important catalyst in weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. Decreasing water intake actually causes fat deposits to increase, while increasing water intake can reduce fat deposits. Why? The kidneys need water to function properly. When they are not receiving sufficient water, they’re not operating at full capacity, and some of the load is managed by the liver. One of the liver’s many functions is to metabolize stored fat into energy, but if it’s doing some of the work of the kidneys, it’s not able to function at maximum capacity. The result? The body stores more fat instead of metabolizing it.

Did you know that sometimes you only think you’re hungry? You may actually be thirsty. I call it “mouth hunger.” You know that sensation you have when you want something to eat but the desire isn’t coming from your stomach? Perhaps you want to change a taste in your mouth, and you know that eating a particular snack will change it. Next time that happens, drink water instead (not soda pop, juice, coffee, or tea).

Many women have told me they are rarely thirsty. Our bodies can become imbalanced from eating food when we’re really thirsty or drinking caffeinated soda, coffee, or tea, which further dehydrate the body. These physical imbalances can cause us to lose our natural thirst for water.

Water Retention Woes

What about water retention (edema)? Many women are concerned that drinking water will aggravate bloating and swollen ankles. Actually, the opposite is true. The best treatment for fluid retention is drinking sufficient quantities of water. Seems contrary, doesn’t it? It’s comparable to the “Fuel the Furnace” rule. When we don’t eat sufficient quantities of food every few hours, the body perceives starvation, lowers metabolism to burn fewer calories, and hoards fat. Similarly, when the body isn’t receiving enough water, it perceives this as a threat to survival. It holds on to as much water as it can and stores it in spaces outside the cells. This results in swollen feet, ankles, and hands.

Diuretics only worsen the condition. Stored water may be forced out for a time (along with nutrients the body needs), but the body will replace the water lost as soon as it can. Swelling returns, so diuretics are taken again and the cycle is perpetuated. If edema is a problem for you, first try decreasing salt and caffeine intake and increasing the amount of water you drink.

What Is a Sufficient Amount of Water?

“Does iced tea count?” “What about juice, coffee, or diet soda?” Even though juices and man-made beverages contain water, pure water is the only liquid that does not require the body to work to process it. Soft drinks have chemicals and colorings that have to be removed, and caffeinated beverages actually dehydrate the body, removing more water than the beverage contains.

Most nutrition experts agree that 64 ounces (eight eight-ounce glasses) of water each day is adequate for most people. If you’re overweight, one eight-ounce glass is recommended for each additional 25 pounds of body weight.

Want an easier way to remember? Take your weight and divide it by two. Drink that number in ounces of water each day. For example if you weigh 160 pounds, half that number is 80. Drink 80 ounces of water every day (or ten eight-ounce glasses).

Unfortunately, our water supply is tainted by chemicals and waste matter even in the purest of settings. Today water must be filtered, so purchase a good water filtration system (preferably steam distilled) or buy bottled water. See for the system we recommend and use.

Don’t like the taste of water? Filtration systems can do wonders, but until you can get one, refrigerating water improves the taste. Also try a squeeze of lemon, or two teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of honey.

Increase the amount of water you drink when exercising, in warm weather, or if working outdoors. Cold water appears to be absorbed by the body more quickly and may even help burn more calories (we like that!).

If you stop drinking enough water, your natural thirst will disappear. Your body fluids will go out of balance, causing fluid retention and mysterious weight gain. The solution? Simply increase your water intake to 64 or more ounces per day.

For something so simple to be so beneficial, you know it must be created by God! Pure water and lots of it—it’s God’s miracle elixir!

A Delicate Subject

Some researchers estimate that 70 percent of the population experiences constipation. Drinking more water and adding fiber in the form of vegetables, fruit, and psyllium seed husks (one to two teaspoons daily) will increase regularity. This is vital because as you lose weight, excess fat and toxins leave the body as waste. If constipation is a concern, you will have a difficult time losing weight, and you may be developing more serious problems. Laxatives such as pills, herbal tablets, or teas do not help the situation in the long run. The body can become dependent on laxatives, causing normal bowel function to suffer. Healthy probiotic bacteria needed for proper intestinal function can be washed out of the system by continued laxative use, causing chronic constipation.

Ask at your local health food store for a good probiotic supplement such as acidophilus to replace the good bacteria in your system. One excellent probiotic supplement is Probiotic Restore made by AdvoCare. These probiotic organisms assist in waste removal, acting like little “scrubbies” on the inside of the intestines. They aid internal cleansing, digestion, and weight loss, and they help keep a good balance of healthy intestinal flora.

Antibiotics destroy the good bacteria with the bad, so if you’ve taken them, you need to take probiotics to maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria in your system.

While we’re on the subject of intestinal health, did you know it’s normal to have several bowel movements a day? I know that’s not something we like talking about, but I have spoken with women who think one or two bowel movements a week is normal. It is not. Think of it—you eat several times a day, right? The excess food that’s not used by the body has to go somewhere. If the body is not moving waste, it is being stored, often lining the walls of the large intestines. Since nutrition is absorbed all along the digestive tract, old waste coating the intestines can keep the body from absorbing nutrients. In addition to impeding weight loss, constipation can cause lethargy, headaches, acne, hemorrhoids, even cancer. If this is a concern, I urge you to speak with a qualified health professional.

God Made Low-Carb Bars—or Did He?

Net-carb mania! Boy, I sure fell for that one. Eating chocolate bars with “Only Three Net Carbs” on the wrapper became an addiction. It’s as if the package read “Only Three Calories”! Something within us still jumps with hopeful anticipation at the claims of “Lose ten pounds in three days” or “No exercise, no dieting, no kidding….” And no difference either.

Regardless of what the bold little “Net Carb” circle says on the label, you should pay attention to the fine print in the Nutrition Facts section. Here’s an example from a tasty chocolate syrup that boasts “Zero Sugar Carbs” and “0.6 Net Carbs per Serving.”

Serving size . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 tbs

Calories per serving . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120

Total carbs per serving . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26.4 grams

Net effective carbs per serving. . . . . . . . . . 0.6 grams

How can something with 26.4 grams of carbohydrate end up with 0.6 grams net carbohydrates? The answer is found in claims that sugar alcohols such as maltitol and sorbitol produce a slower rise in blood sugar than regular table sugar. This is not a false statement, but it is misleading. Since they’re still carbohydrates, the body will either use them as fuel or store them as fat. Store them as fat? They didn’t tell us that on the label!

To get a more realistic look at what the low-carb treat will have on us, look at the total number of carbohydrate grams listed and divide by two. That will give you an idea of how many carbs are really going to affect your body, regardless of what the brightly colored circle says. In our chocolate sauce example, that would be around 13 grams. Any way you slice it, 120 calories in two tablespoons is still 120 calories in two tablespoons!

Remember that low-carb cookies, candy bars, and other treats are not meals. We’re better off eating real, God-made food whenever possible.

A Fad by Any Other Name…

Over the years, our desire for the quick fix and “having our cake and eating it too” have spawned a deluge of diet books and fads, a gaggle of infomercials, and a plethora of profitable pills, potions, patches, and pudge-busters. Yet the obesity crisis in North America has continued to escalate.

When it comes to fad diets, I’ve decided FAD is an acronym for Fat-Adding Demon. Here’s why. God designed muscle not only to give the body mobility and strength but also to burn fat. Muscle weighs more than fat, and muscle is often destroyed on fad diets. Catabolism results (sounds like cannibalism, doesn’t it?). This is the process by which the body breaks down its own tissue for energy. Less muscle equals less fat burned. The body, perceiving starvation, is more interested in surviving than in making you look good in a bathing suit. The Lord designed your body so that when starvation seems imminent, your metabolism lowers and you burn less fat. This means you’re more susceptible to gaining weight back quickly when you start eating normally again—and the weight gained back is fat, not muscle. Your metabolism can remain low for months after the crash diet is over, making your next diet more difficult because you have less muscle to burn calories. By continually jumping on and off diets, you can change your body composition drastically, gaining more fat and losing muscle—even if your weight does not increase sharply. This is where we get the term “yo-yo dieting.” Sounds like a Fat-Adding Demon to me!

How to Spot a FAD (Fat-Adding Demon) Diet

Any diet that guarantees quick weight loss or overemphasizes one specific type of food has a good chance of being a Fat-Adding Demon diet. Avoid extravagant claims that promise you’ll lose more than two pounds a week. These may seem to reduce weight quickly, but as mentioned previously, water and muscle are lost, and weight is regained as soon as the diet is over—often with extra pounds as well.

A prolonged FAD diet can cause more serious side effects, including dehydration, heart palpitations, and kidney problems.

Realizing that F-A-D is b-a-d, what really works? We’ve learned that fast doesn’t last. That’s why a quick fix is really a slow stall. It’s just prolonging the pain until we decide to do things the right way— God’s way. What is God’s way? While God does work miracles, His way of teaching us what is right takes time—until we learn it.

I spent 30 years following a series of quick-fix diets to lose the same weight over and over and over again (and changing my body composition to less muscle and more flab each time I regained the weight). I was like the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness because they refused to enter the Promised Land. I knew what science, medicine, and the Fitness experts had to say, but I wanted to avoid having to make sensible lifestyle changes. I wanted the “Abracadabra Diet”—poof ! You’re thin and can eat anything you want! I didn’t want to use discipline, eat normal portions of food, say no to some foods, and exercise on a regular basis.

In addition to ignoring nutritional science and Fitness rules, I ignored God’s rules as well. What are His rules? “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Hebrews 6:12, emphasis added).

People can harvest green fruit and vegetables and spray them with ethylene gas to force ripeness, but the ripening of the fruit of the Spirit cannot be forced. Maturity is a process. We take one step at a time, walking by faith and following the Lord. I’ve learned that anything that guarantees instant results offers empty promises. While FAD diets appear to work at first, good habits take time to develop. A healthful lifestyle isn’t perfected overnight. It must be practiced over time.

That’s why I wrote the Step-UP program in chapter 10 as an outline for healthy living rather than a rigid diet. You won’t fail as long as you are taking a step forward. Remember, aim for progress, not perfection.

Lasting change comes as we grow in our relationship with the Lord, follow His promptings, and yield to the fruit of the Spirit within us. It does not come from a particular diet or exercise program. We succeed when we stop looking for a quick fix, give up dieting, and start focusing on the Lord and His Word, cultivating the fruit of faithfulness, patient endurance, and self-control. Your habits will change—and so will you!

Bringing It Home

In this chapter, I learned this about…

fueling the furnace: ___________________________________


fueling up with veggies: ________________________________


fueling up with fruit: __________________________________


fueling up with foods as God made them: __________________


I can start doing this better today: ___________________________


Lord, I ask You to help me ________________________________


Excerpted from BASIC Steps to Godly Fitness by Laurette Willis. Copyright © 2005 by Harvest House Publishers. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.