The Courage to Achieve Optimal Health

Disclaimer: The content that you are reading may be offensive to your current mindset.

During my nursing career, I worked in various areas, but Behavioral Health was my favorite. Performing the Intake interview, which included medical and psychosocial history, never ceased to amaze me. The two factors that all patients shared:

    1. “I know my situation is bad, but what can I do, I cannot change my circumstances.”
    2. Their past or background held them captive, and they repeated the same counterproductive habits every day with consistency.

An interesting fact that has me perplexed: Most individuals take care of their plants and animals better than they care for themselves. I have a neighbor with a beautiful pedigree dog with chocolate brown hair that shines like the sun. His first love (Puppy) is well-taken care of with toys, several walks a day, swimming in the river 2-3 times a week, and from the description of the food that Puppy eats, the cost of his food is my monthly food budget. One more fact, Puppy has a night-time dog sitter while his owner is at work. What a life!

Now let’s compare the lifestyle of Puppy’s owner: He is a chain smoker, drinks every day, eats from fast-food restaurants three times a day, never exercises, and works the night shift [research shows shorter life spans]. Since my neighbor lives alone without family in Florida, I often wonder what would happen to Puppy, who lives the rich and famous lifestyle, when his owner collapses from poor health.

I live in a glasshouse, so I am not throwing stones. Even so, at some point in life, I had to face the facts that I would have a premature death if I did not change my bad habits. My academic achievements and RN nursing license meant absolutely nothing regarding my addiction to self-gratification. I was not an emotional eater. I simply loved the great taste of food. And it was not the cheap fast food that is the craze of our nation. No, no, no, this was the high-fat, high-cholesterol meats like pastrami, corned beef, beef bacon, and lamb. Never really cared for steak, but I loved veal [the baby animals]. And the desserts, especially the variety of cheesecake, if it was created, then I had eaten it.

In 2017, my physician told me that he was very concerned about my health because of my non-modifiable risk factors and abnormal lab work [Diabetes and High Cholesterol]. When I heard that I was certain to have a heart attack sooner than later that I may not survive, the reality of my “do what makes you feel happy” lifestyle had to cease and desist.

There are two concepts that I was totally unaware of, and I did not learn until recently:

    1. Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
    2. “Without the desire to change, the courage to change, and a plan for change, we will not change.” (Johnson, 2021)

I could not apply the learned theories of anatomy and physiology and health principles that I learned throughout my lifespan because I did not possess the “desire to change.” When I desired to eat healthier, I did not have the courage or plan to change destructive habits. And for whatever reason, even with studying the Bible, I was unaware of 1 Corinthians 10:31. Where are the sermons on keeping our minds and bodies healthy?

Fact: Our bodies were created in the image of God to live a long, healthy, and fulfilling life.

We have discarded healthy behaviors for doing what makes us feel good and tastes great. And BIG PHARMA–pharmaceutical companies accommodate and feed our desires by developing and promoting their never-ending supply of pills. If we have the diagnosis, they have the drugs. We must stop our uncontrollable behaviors!

Identify the behaviors that are the root of your diagnosis of an unhealthy mind and body. Yes, we have the choice to live healthy by loving and taking care of ourselves. Begin today! Our past should not cripple our future! Pursue optimal health at all costs.

Our taste buds can be retrained. Discover fruits, vegetables, legumes, and the joy of cooking. Leave the cell phone, gaming, television, and laptop alone. Get outside. Take a walk, use your five senses to see the beauty of nature around you. If you live in the concrete jungle, find a scenic park. Do what is necessary to boost your endorphins and serotonin [research these hormones]. It takes exercise and bright light to make our mind and bodies thrive. Take control today!  

It’s still a beautiful world!

Prayer: God, we need to change our mindset. We realize that our behaviors are destroying our health. We ask you for the strength and wisdom to develop a life-altering plan to achieve optimal health. As we use courage and knowledge to change our lifestyles, please give us the desire to include you as our Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson (Edited version)

Enjoy the Here and Now

SHOUT the Cry of Victory 30 Days of Prayer Day 25–Preparing for Eternal Life One Day at a Time

The Lord cares about our lives now; He wants the best for us now.

In reading the story of Creation following the completion of days 1-5, we are told, “and God saw that it was good.” But on day 6, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” In Genesis 1:31, it is evident that God was abundantly happy and well-pleased with the final results of our earthly home. Only who would enjoy this more than wonderful place?

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Genesis 1:26-27.

Although our earth is no longer a Garden of Eden, we are constantly reminded of God’s love of aesthetic beauty and tranquility. We can explore the endless boundaries of the geographical phenomenon of nature. The plant and animal kingdoms were created for humanity. Only the human body, which is fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, places one in awe over the earthly home that the Master Designer lovingly gifted to us.

The kingdom Plantae includes organisms that range in size from tiny mosses to giant trees. https://www.britannica.com/plant/plant/Definition-of-the-kingdom. The foliage, species of flowers, the grassy coverings, most trees, and the vast majority of plants belong to this category, shrubs, vines, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Does God want us to enjoy our lives? Yes, He does! We are made in His image with the ability to utilize five [highly complex] senses to appreciate our earthly home. The animal kingdom includes all species of mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, and more. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. Genesis 1:29. We have the blueprint for the original diet, which provides a variety of healing nutrients.

So why aren’t we enjoying the here and now? We have become addicted to our home environment fixated on virtual technology. The hoarding of material possessions has nearly wrecked our sanity. We worry about money, careers, the opinion of others, success, etc. The statistics of Mental illness has far surpassed the COVID-19 pandemic–970 million people have a mental illness or substance abuse problems. We are taking a pill to function in every aspect of our lives, and Big PHARM is well-pleased.

You may not agree with my statements. However, I worked as a Behavioral Health nurse for many years. The Intake Assessment of 99% of patients with mental health disorders including morbid obesity revealed that they rarely enjoyed the benefits of nature or outdoor activities. Anxiety, depression, food and substance abuse addictions, and a variety of mental health challenges would improve with the adjunct therapy of time spent in nature.

It is time to challenge and change our current lifestyles. Get out of your indoor home and explore your outdoor home. God has provided everything that we need to enjoy our lives. We have God’s promises that He will supply all of our needs. “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?'” Matthew 6:31. Simplify your life by eliminating the toxic people, counterproductive places, and the overabundance of things [inanimate objects] that leave us empty, and always provoke the desire to have more.

Human Effort + Divine Intervention = A Victorious Outlook and Outcome

“We must live a twofold life—a life of thought and action, of silent prayer and earnest work. The strength received through communion with God, united with earnest effort in training the mind to thoughtfulness and caretaking, prepares one for daily duties and keeps the spirit in peace under all circumstances, however trying.”― Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing

Prayer: Please, help us, Lord, to have eyes to see and hearts to believe. Give us the strength to discard unhealthy habits and to live with a spirit of gratitude. We ask this prayer in the Worthy name of Jesus. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

Here’s to Your Mental Health: Desire a Peaceful Life?

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 2 Timothy 2:3-4

As I read this verse, I thought of the many comments on social media from Believers who are distracted by the annoying things of life that we have no control over. The annoying stuff has sticky fingers that will grab our minds, and before we realize it, we are entangled in a web of nonsense and stressed out. Most of the time, we are unaware of how and why our lives are in disarray. We cannot control time, but we can use it well. Nor can we restrict other people’s words, actions, and behaviors, but we can choose to eliminate unloving, toxic relationships.

Yes, each new day brings challenges. Even so, we possess the resilience to handle those challenges. We simply have to teach ourselves to overlook the petty [little] things and reserve our brainpower for tackling the essential issues. Expenditure of our time and energy on matters of priority results in mindset changes, chaos disappears, and we transition into peaceful living.

Honest reflections: Say a prayer of commitment to identify and develop strategies to eliminate all distractions and nonproductive habits. List the little things that wreck your inner peace. Then list your habits [habits are not considered little things] that must change, such as setting things down wherever and then when the item is needed you cannot find it. Always rushing and arriving at work with 1-2 minutes to spare? One of the most important habits that sets the brain in motion for an organized day is to make your bed every day. 

For families: Insist on everyone making their bed. No, the little ones will not get it right, but it is a vital teaching moment to establish a life-long habit. Also, every person cleans up after themselves. Expect resistance from children, but meet resistance with the no-option approach. You are teaching structure and discipline that will be required in every aspect of their lives. Think about your employer and their policies–there is minimal leeway on the expectation to adhere to the workplace rules. Your home is not a military base. But it should reflect cleanliness and a neat appearance.

Time to implement the action plan: With the advancements in technology, we rarely use our hands to write. Purchase a journal with an artful cover and identify a quiet place where you can relax in solitude. Taking the time to journal awakens a tired brain–thinking clearly produces deep thoughts. And writing enhances eye-hand coordination. Take a large desk calendar and make it a wall-hanging. Write in your daily goals, eliminate the guesswork, which provides a sense of control and empowerment to accomplish as much as possible. Remember to be flexible.

Sources of contention: Always running late? When working, I commuted at least 40 minutes from home to my job. I allowed 60 minutes just in case the unexpected happened. My clothing was prepared for the week and left-over dinner was packed along with other goodies in my soft cooler the night before.

If you have ever wondered how organization, structure, and discipline could change your life, read the Creation story in Genesis. God does everything with intent and purpose. Since we are created in His image, we have the innate ability to actively pursue a lifestyle that reflects godly habits. Our spiritual health is greatly impacted when we cannot overlook the annoying stuff. Without organization we invite chaos and confusion into our homes, which should be a safe haven and comfort zone.

The mind-body sympathizes with each other. If we expend all of our energy for unimportant issues, when life-changing events occur, we completely fall apart mentally and emotionally, and experience physical exhaustion–total burnout. How does this happen? Our relationship with God has weakened. We did not have time to study the Bible, our prayers were fast and meaningless, and we assumed responsibility for too many cares and burdens.

Pray, make a plan, present your plan to God in prayer asking for His divine intervention. Also, take frequent mini-mental breaks throughout the day. A short walk during the work-day or lunch alone in your vehicle can boost your energy level. We have five senses. Look around your environment at the trees or flowers, even look up. Are the cottony clouds hiding the sun? When you need to regroup, take a day off to have fun. Whether you make plans for your day or you desire spontaneity, ask yourself, “What can I do besides sleeping in for most of the day?” Find a reason to laugh, and most importantly, thank God for His blessings of grace, and mercy. Here’s to our Mental, Emotional, Physical, and most importantly, Spiritual Health!

Bible verse: And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8

Prayer: God, we need your divine intervention to restructure our lifestyles. We have neglected our worship with you and for that sin, we ask for forgiveness. Thank you for the ability to incorporate change into our lives. And thank you for fearfully and wonderfully making us in your image. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

Here’s to Your Health: Grades A-D

My career as a nurse mainly consisted of employment in non-traditional settings with two positions in the Criminal Justice system. The NJ State of Corrections had a minimal correctional facility in Trenton, where I served as Health Administrator. In my initial interview with Mr. Oliver, the Director was pleasant enough with only one warning, “If you get involved with any of the residents, your nursing career is over.” No chance of that ever happening!

The most interesting information he shared during the interview was that the Food Services Director was a chef. Mr. Oliver gave two reasons: 1. The foods you eat impact the spiritual, mental, and emotional components as well as the physical body. 2. The chef was also contracted as his personal chef and prepared his daily lunch and dinner.

Truthfully, I had never encountered a man like Mr. Oliver, who was always in a good mood but strutted around the facility on his rounds like a peacock. So, the other nurse and I dubbed him “The Peacock.” We accused him of being arrogant and decided that we would never marry a man like that. Keep this thought in mind. We will refer to it later.

One morning, I overslept. It was my habit to take my lunch, but I did not have time. Because of the re-entry process, the medical staff did not leave the facility during their shift. Lunch for the residents was from 12-1 pm, and for the staff from 1-2 pm. At 1 pm, I went to the dining area to ask for a plate [residents also had kitchen duty]. But then I heard the chef’s voice, “I will take care of the nursing staff.” 

Our conversation:

“Sister, how are you? What can I do for you?”

“I am hungry, overslept and did not have time to fix my lunch.”

“Sister, you do not want to eat this food.” I gave a blank stare and remained silent. “You know that I am a Chef?” “Yes,” I replied.

“Food is graded from A-D with D being the lowest that is not fit for human consumption, it is usually fed to animals, and our food is grade D.” I ended up eating a peanut butter sandwich and drank bottled water.

Fast forward 20 years, and 98% of my food is organically and responsibly grown. Many argue that organic food is a waste of money, and that’s okay. Nor do I eat food from fast-food restaurants, as the majority of individuals frequent. I am not here to judge. But this is what I know. At 62, I am in optimal health. I have several diagnoses that are stable. The Grade A nutrients that I feed my body, along with the power of God, have healed me mentally, emotionally, and physically and have resulted in increased cognition and energy. My spiritual relationship with God has reached a deeper level because my total health is optimized.

Back to Mr. Oliver, I was wrong. It was not arrogance that made him strut around like a peacock, nor did he take happy pills or drink energy drinks to make it through the day. No, this was self-love that honored God for creating him in His image. Twenty years later, I fully understand Mr. Oliver’s enthusiasm about life. I also enjoy happiness [inner joy], the high-energy level, increased mental acuity, and the knowledge and wisdom of taking care of one’s temple. In fact, I, too, find myself doing the “Peacock strut.”

Bible verse: I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well. Psalm 139:14

Prayer: God, we thank you for making us in your image. Help us to start and maintain the journey to achieve optimal health. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

© 2021 Sonya Johnson 

Here’s to Our Health: Vegan?

I have been eating vegan, plant-based for two years. The physical transformation and healing of my body have been unbelievable. But within the past couple of months, I have experienced increasing fatigue. Why? This week, I had an annual physical with a new primary care provider [I relocated to Florida]. Much to my surprise, she also specializes in weight loss, no surgical bariatric procedures. All of my lab work was normal, except for Vitamin D [found a vegan supplement].

As I relayed reaching a weight loss plateau and feeling more fatigued since relocating, my Dr. began to ask about my dietary intake. When I responded that I was vegan, plant-based, we explored my sources of protein. I eat legumes, nuts, my own recipes for veggie burgers, and nut-loafs. However, when looking up the nutritional value of the legumes and nuts, I was amazed at the low count of grams of protein in a serving.

The question, “What changes have you made this year in your diet? I gave up all prepared veggie meat substitutes…too high in sodium, and reading the last five or six ingredients, I am not interested in feeding my body with things that I cannot pronounce. Still, my protein intake was only 25% of what my body required.

And over time, a lack of protein can make you lose muscle mass, which in turn cuts your strength, makes it harder to keep your balance, and slows your metabolism. It can also lead to anemia when your cells don’t get enough oxygen, which makes you tired. WebMD.

Adding to the equation of increasing my protein intake is my pre-diabetes diagnosis. Nope, I did not care for my body for five decades, and now my pancreas will not secrete enough insulin for a carb overload.

Last year, through research of credible resources, I have changed my lifestyle to lose additional weight and develop discipline. I have incorporated daily intermittent fasting for the past year, which means I only eat two meals a day with a fruit snack. If I am not hungry, then I can’t eat. 

But my physician is impressive. She does not take the cookie-cutter approach with her patients. Instead, we developed a patient-focused life plan to increase my protein intake, eliminate fatigue, incorporate daily exercise, and facilitate further weight loss.

Goal: 100 grams of protein and limit carb intake to 100 grams daily. 

Plan: Incorporate a plant-based, no-whey protein shake 1-2 times a day made with almond milk. Choose legumes and nuts that have the lowest carb intake–still exploring my options. So far, almonds, avocados [she is a fruit], and black beans are at the top of the list. Also, use an app (Lose it) that identifies the nutritional value of the foods that you eat. 

Outcome: Within four days, I have lost four lbs, and I have my energy level back. Awakened, ready to take on the world and did an early morning walk. 

I have been asked the question, “What does one eat when following a plant-based diet?” There are endless possibilities. I can assure you that my food intake is not mundane. I never eat food prepared the same way. You do not have to have the skills of a chef, but you have to have an open mind and explore your creativity.

Love God, Love Others, Love Yourself 

©2021 Sonya Johnson

The Celebration of Our Health

I was born into a family with a mother who had southern roots. Although we lived in the Northeast, we acquired the taste for the mouth-watering, high-calorie foods that were home-cooked dinner every day. Entering my father’s background from Upstate New York with a passion for pastrami, corn beef, and steak meant that there were no boundaries for the delicious meals served. Mom made sure that we ate a variety of green vegetables. Still, the meal always consisted of cholesterol-packed meat and a kid’s favorite, macaroni and cheese, and scalloped or fried potatoes. You would think that nothing else could be added to the table. That was far from the truth. We lived for dessert, homemade cakes, cookies, brownies, and pies always topped with a scoop of ice cream.

As to be expected, at the young age of 11, I had childhood obesity. My mom is 88 years old, which makes me a “Baby Boomer.” So the norm was to have plump and happy children. Even so, my childhood was not like the new age children playing high-tech games or watching television until their body is in a state of sleep deprivation. No, I roller skated, jumped rope, played tennis and badminton, and was a swimmer. Nor did I eat all day long. We were allowed regular meals with a snack.

Fact: Weight gain or loss is 80% dependent on your food intake. Exercise for hours, but if your nutritional intake is saturated fat and empty, high-calorie [non-nutritional junk foods], your body will begin to decline regardless of your physical activity.

Fast forward to my mid-fifties, and my overtaxed pancreas started a revolution. I was diagnosed with Diabetes type 2 to partner with a prior diagnosis of controlled Hypertension. In 2015, I was also diagnosed with End-Stage Osteoarthritis in both knees, defined as “Bone-on-Bone. No cure. Total knee replacements are the answer. I made a few changes in my diet but still enjoyed the foods that I loved including desserts after every meal.

In 2017, my physician relayed that he was very concerned about my health due to our family history of Heart disease, Heart Attacks, High Blood Pressure, Asthma, Diabetes, and Breast Cancer. My cholesterol was abnormally high, with the good cholesterol at its lowest point and the bad cholesterol waging war. Now, I had Asthma, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Osteoarthritis, and High Cholesterol. The probability of me surviving a heart attack was slim to none.

When the Doctor recommended three additional medications with a fourth on hold to add in one month if my body did not respond appropriately, would you believe that my emotions kicked in? I felt angry. Surely, he was over-reacting by bombarding me with all of these prescriptions. In that moment, I transitioned from a health care professional to a resistant patient. I agreed to take one medication–the daily injections for Diabetes that would kick start my pancreas to produce more insulin. My Dr. soon realized that I was overwhelmed and began to speak to me from a Doctor-Nurse perspective, forcing my rational nursing mindset to rise above my emotions. I asked him to give me 30 days to make a change.

The Downward Spiral:

My job required visits to physician offices that involved extended driving and long walks from the parking lots. Texas is a big state. My knees worsened as my mobility decreased, and my joint pain hit an all-time high. At my Ortho visit, I was told to resign, use the custom knee brace, and a cane for stability. I secretely laughed. Yes, I would wear the brace, but there was no way that I was leaving one of my best jobs. We know that life does not work according to our plans. Soon after, as I was walking to a provider’s office, my knee buckled, and I fell to the ground on both knees. The rest of the story, I had to resign.

Challenge #2: Our insurance carrier had annual testing for four tests that identified high-risk subscribers for Diabetes, Hypertension, and Heart Disease. I failed all four tests. The penalty was an increase in the already expensive monthly premiums for the following year. 

My Journey

I desperately needed help. I was enslaved to my tastebuds. Was I willing to play the game of chance and keep destroying my body? No, I took this life-long problem to God in prayer. It was then that divine intervention began. Within two days, I received a call from the insurance company’s Health Coach, who was assigned to develop strategies for a healthy, new lifestyle. Our church Health Ministries Dept. had previously scheduled a “Reverse Diabetes” seminar with a medical missionary to teach the principles of healthy living [that I did not plan to attend]. Even so, I had to change my lifestyle or face serious consequences.

God did not forget that I could no longer work as a nurse. In 2017, I received SSD approval–total and permanent disability within one week of self-filing although there was a three-year waiting period in the state of Texas.

    1. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well. Psalm 139:14
    2. Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in your body as you are strong in spirit. 3 John 1:2
    3. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Human Effort + Divine Intervention = A Victorious Outcome

Lifestyle Changes:

As of today, I have lost 70 lbs. My journey still continues to lose the final 40 lbs. The orthopedic surgeons who were ready to give me bionic knees have been waiting since 2015. With the weight loss, I am free from the chronic knee pain that required cortisone injections. I walk in the early mornings, one mile every day, which allow time for Jesus and I to have our little talks.

The most significant change that led to further weight loss is that my tastebuds have been retrained. All of the childhood foods that nearly took me out, I have not eaten in four years. Currently, I enjoy eating a wide variety plant-based diet. I have developed vegan recipes that include a pecan loaf and delicious veggie burgers. Yes, I still have the sweet tooth and must have a dessert after dinner. No more cakes or pies, I enjoy popsicles made with fruit, almond milk, coconut whip, and agave that are perfect for anytime treats.

God taught me not to focus on my physical limitations. At times, I cannot walk a mile. Still, if it’s only two blocks for that day, I have accomplished movement. My energy along with increased mental alertness allows me to laugh out loud. God has given me the ability to practice self-control. I am no longer too tired to study the Bible, and pray. Every day I celebrate my health by expressing my gratitude to God for fearfully and wonderfully making the human mind and body. Thank you, God!

Considering the five decades of self-destructive behaviors, I know that I am blessed. When I reflect on my mind-body changes, I pray that you can understand why I love God with all of my heart, soul, and mind. The transformation from certain death to optimal health did not happen without divine intervention. I could have never accomplished these changes on my own, even with a Health Coach. God truly answers our prayers. Whatever your health challenge is, take it to Him in prayer, and exercise the faith to believe: I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 10

Prayer: God, we thank you for the ability to change the counterproductive habits of our past and present. We thank you for your love, grace, and mercies that we receive every day. Please give us the strength to achieve optimal spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. 

© Sonya Johnson 2021