Father Andrew's Hot Body Gym

February 10, 2010

Lenten Fasts and Our Gym – For What Reason Do We Fast?

Filed under: real talk — Tags: , , , — frandrewrowell @ 2:33 pm

We quickly approach Lent, the 40-day season in the Church’s yearly recitation of the grand arc of God’s salvation story where we “go into the desert with Israel and with Jesus.” For 40 days, a period meant to echo Israel’s 40 years of desert living and Christ’s 40 days of desert temptation, we surrender many things that give us pleasure. We simplify our lives through abstention from some foods, some activities. We alter some of the normal patterns of our lives, praying more fervently, adding some additional time with the poor and downtrodden, remembering God’s command to us to find Him amongst the orphan, widow, alien and oppressed.

At the end of these forty days of reflection and contemplation, of abstention and preparation, we celebrate with loud shouts and the ringing of bells the “joy that comes in the morning” – the great Vigil of Easter where God’s salvation plan reaches its culmination, brought to dazzling light as we remember Christ’s resurrection from the dead. One of my favorite moments of every year is the eating of chocolate-covered strawberries and the drinking of a glass of champagne on Holy Saturday night/the wee hours of Easter Sunday morning. My tongue and my stomach get to tell my brain that joy has come, that the period of mourning and reflection has been cast aside! Easter becomes a full-body exercise, not just something I know in my brain or feel in my heart – my whole, unified self gets to join in the joy! The new light has dawned and the Church celebrates “Bright Week,” a week where NO FASTING is allowed AT ALL, because who in their right mind would fast when the Bridegroom in all His glory has come to feast with us?!

For most of the Church – both East and West – Lent is primarily practiced as a season of fasting. Accordingly, my Crossfit buddies are preparing to buckle down for Lent and get even more serious about their paleo/primal diets. In other words, they are going to do none of the regular “cheating” we all do. The chatter in the gym is that some are going from primal (roughly paleo + dairy) to full paleo by shedding dairy from their diets. Others have sworn that sugar will not pass their lips until Easter. These people are serious.

But are we being serious about the right things? For some of us, it’s hard to imagine becoming more serious about our diets. Some in our gym have commented that, in the quest for the “perfect” diet, food has become only fuel for the next lifting of the next weight. The pleasure that comes from food and drink has largely leaked out of some of our lives. This can’t be God’s plan for us. Indeed, the constant conversation we have about what we are or aren’t eating, the contempt we sometimes express over the lack of commitment some in the gym have to our espoused dietary strictures….all of it has become a bit obsessive and I keep wondering if we’ve left any conversation about the joy of food out of our conversation. Indeed, if we find no joy in food during the other 325 days of the year, what spiritual traction could possibly be gained by becoming marginally more miserable during Lent?

I’m worried. For one thing, I want us to be cautious about utilizing a holy season as the means to further worship the idol of “elite fitness and perfect diet.” This season is not about losing a few pounds or getting more sleep or reading more books and watching less media for the sake of the advantages that might accrue through such alterations to our normal patterns. It’s about quieting our hearts, shedding some distractions, reminding ourselves physically of the deep spiritual need we have for the dawning of redeemed history through the Resurrection.

For another thing, I’m worried that the joyous feast I’m planning for the gym on Easter Vigil night, the feast that is supposed to be joyous, is going to be a failure because we’ve forgotten how to find joy in our food! For that feast to be spiritually full, it cannot be a time for us to feel guilty because we find ourselves neglecting the idol of perfect diet that sits so prominently in our gym. I seem to remember Jesus turning 150 gallons of water into wine for a wedding…I hate to think about FAHBG folks standing alongside that celebration with our arms folded, calculating how much of that alcohol was going to convert to unhealthy carbs in our digestive tracks….I’d want us to join in the dancing joy of that wedding feast because surely the joy of the Christ’s presence outweighs the worries we have of body shape and image and supposed perfection.

I’m pondering writing a post discussing the potential spiritual benefit of having all of us add three Twinkies a day to our diet for Lent, such that we will only be allowed to return to Paleo when, in the Church year, Easter season dawns with all of its joy. That’d be a way to kick the idol of fitness and diet to the curb. Not sure how much theological traction I could get out of that since, to be clear, I think we ARE doing holy activities as we try to purify our bodies through better eating and the care for creation that may come through eating grass-fed beef and local vegetables. But we must be careful to not become Pharisees along the way, neglecting the joy of being in the midst of the One for whom all of this obedience is supposedly being done – being more in love with the rules than the One towards Whom the rules are supposed to be pointing our hearts.

Let me say this again so that we don’t miss it:

We need to care for our bodies by eating well and exercising for one purpose and one purpose only – so that we are better equipped to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

If we do it for any other reason, then we are merely worshipping our own physical form, caring for it for the sake of it, not the One who made it and redeemed it for Himself.

So here comes Lent. By all means, go crazy paleo….but do it to get ready for the revelation of the grandest chapter in God’s unrelenting plan to reconcile all things to Himself through Christ, not to make yourself more beautiful or more proud of your disciplined life. Bright Week better add a few pounds to our waistlines and we better not complain about it. I’m already stocking up the Cocoa Pebbles and whole milk.

November 3, 2009

A Primer on Initial Diet Changes for Newbies at FAHBG

Filed under: diet, real talk — Tags: , , , , , , , — frandrewrowell @ 8:51 pm

A few of you who are new to the gym have asked for some really basic first steps towards a diet change.  So, here goes…


Most of us have a shake for breakfast, right after we’ve done the morning workout.  My shakes look like this:

1.5 scoops of Champion Nutrition Protein Stack Whey (about 39 grams of protein)

1 scoop of organic cold milled flax seed (huge container from costco lasts me forever)

1 or 2 raw eggs (we get them from a local farm)

1/2 of a frozen banana

3 frozen strawberries (good ole’ costco)

1/2 cup of frozen blueberries (ditto)

1 cup of whole milk (we get it from a local dairy)

1/2 cup of water.

That’s usually about 2 shakes worth, but i never, ever complain that it’s too much for little ole’ me.

Lunch and Dinner

Here’s a huge first step – just don’t eat anything but meat and non-starchy vegetables and drink water (or maybe unsweetened tea) with every meal.  This means no bread, no pasta, no potatoes, no dessert, no cokes…try to stay away from bread and sugar/corn syrup like they are the carriers of the plague. Learn to make mashed potatoes out of cauliflower.  You’ll never go back.

Look around our blog – click on “diet” (see, especially this post (thanks, Micah and Mara!))and see some of our deeper conversations about how to eat at Chic-fil-a and not die (get the chicken salad without the bread or the strips and a side of fruit instead of the fries) or how to make a squash sing.  We also like www.marksdailyapple.com for receipes that help keep some variety in what we eat. Every now and then we’ll have a big feast where we all prepare some of things we’ve been trying.

Now we aren’t all crazy faithful about all of this – we probably stay in the zone of that suggested diet about 80% of the time.  But we’ve found that if you focus on making the vast majority of every meal involve a dead animal and some green, red or yellow veggies, you will see your body shape change along with our workouts very, very quickly.

We are mixed on the dairy front (some are primal diet folks with dairy, others are paleo adherents and stay away from dairy), but try to stay away from heavy cream based salad dressings and the ice-cream-gluttony that might have been a part of your old life.

Here’s the deal – after about a month, you’ll be so used to your suddenly limited diet that the little bit of cheating we all do by necessity goes a long way toward curtailing your sweet tooth (or whatever it is that you miss most).  The glorious thing is that the mantra “fat does not make you fat” makes you a lot less concerned about that yummy layer of fat on your brisket. Instead, you focus more on avoiding the insulin kick that sugar gives you that will SLOW DOWN the progress you’re trying to make in making your body into the (hot) temple of the Holy Spirit which God intends for it to be by His grace.


You will be hungry, all the time, when you are doing these workouts.  So try to snack on things like raw almonds, a spoonful of almond butter, and oreos.  I mean, not oreos. Dadgum, there’s a big package of oreos right here on my desk at the church….o…r…e..oo…sss…

Forgive me.

Almonds are your friend – i mean it – don’t go anywhere without them for your first month.  They are the rosary prayers of a radical diet change.

Good luck – feel free to ask some questions in the comments!


October 26, 2009

Hey! I found an important article about Coach Josh!

Filed under: random — frandrewrowell @ 7:51 pm

Micah and I have always wondered how it is that Josh can do the amazing things he can do in the gym.  Now we know.


Health care reform v. agribusiness – a wee bit of politics for our blog

Filed under: real talk — Tags: , , , , , — frandrewrowell @ 4:31 pm

Have you all read this scary thing Michael Pollan recently wrote in the Times?

As folks have asked to join our gym and thereby enjoy some of the benefits of Crossfit that we are beginning to see in our own bodies, we’ve essentially required them to change their diets and take on some form of Paleo/Primal even as they learn, say, proper deadlift form.  Who knows – we might be able to promise some lowered health insurance premiums as a cost offset to their gym expenses!  Wouldn’t that make sense?  Or will the US continue to support a system that would rather encourage (perversely) both the medical industrial complex (which is happy to treat, for example, Type 2 diabetes) and ADM (which, among others, produces the junk food creating a nation of diabetics) at the same time?  What an amazing thing it would be if insurance reform led our culture to finally question whether it’s acceptable that 15% of our adolescents’ caloric intake comes from the corn syrup in sodas!

It’s well worth the read.  Have any of you read “In Defense of Food,” also by Pollan?

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