Time to change my faith…

I was having a conversation recently with a friend about the how the Catholic faith is perceived from the outside.

We were coming at this from different perspectives. I am a “cradle” Catholic, meaning that I have been a Catholic since birth (or since my birth into the Catholic faith, so my baptism at 2 months old). My friend is a “convert” Catholic, meaning she decided to enter into this faith about a year ago.

These two perspectives will be interesting depending on what topic you start on, but this was talking about how MY perspective has changed in the past of the faith.

If I think way back, to when I lived in Ireland in the early 1980’s: our local Parish church mass was the highlight of the week for my Grandma. She used to insist on our “Sunday best” (another blog post is coming about church attire VERY soon), and the whole family would walk to the church and socialise outside the gate until near the start of mass.

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This is where it was different.

Men and women back then sat on different sides of the church. I have no idea why this was the case, and nor did I think it was unusual. All I remember was sitting next to my Grandma whilst looking out onto a sea of flat caps, trying to work out which tweed-clad farmer was my Grandad.

We then continued to whizz through mass at a pace. The prayers were said as fast as possible (I still cannot to this day get my head around singing the Our Father rather than reciting at speed with an Irish accent), the Priest stood red-faced and bored at the front, and I remember one time when he actually collapsed and a gaggle of women went rushing to his side. He had dropped the gospel and there was a collective synchronisation of people blessing themselves in response to this (I think I remember some people actually going to his aid as well).

At this time, there was no Children’s Liturgy. I was told sit, be quiet, and say my prayers. I was also told to bring my rosary as that would be said at the end too. I feared the Priest, the adults didn’t speak to me, and I struggled to understand the prayers as they were recited too fast.

Church aside, worshipping at home was a very solemn occasion. 6pm would come around and the telly would switch over to the statue of Our Lady whilst we recited half the rosary as quickly as possible, kneeling in front of our chairs. I remember having my heart in my mouth as my Grandma would ask me to say one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be as I was under immense pressure to get it right. I remember one particular time that I stumbled over the prayers and got the Our Father and Hail Mairy mixed up. My Aunt had to take over, but it was done with no sympathy. It was with a tut and a faint “Jesus” under her breath before she continued.

There is little wonder why I wasn’t keen on pursuing religious activities when I was left to my own devices (i.e. after my Confirmation).

Fast forward 30 years, and I sit now with my children in a congregation that is not only mixed sex, but mixed nationalities as well. We sit before a Priest who is welcoming, joyous, clever, informative, and delivers thought-provoking homilies. And, as yet, has never dropped the gospel.

And I look at my children and wonder how they would have coped in my era, and then remember – I knew no different. As they know no different.

They will no doubt bring THEIR children to church in 30 years’ time and tell them of the time when they had to physically receive communion, and not the dispenser that is there now (!!). Explaining this to my friend made me feel nostalgic as well as shocked at how far this faith has come in a few years.

Which is not too different to the fitness industry.

We have become a health conscious nation who now frowns upon smoking and a sedentary life, is open to MANY ways of eating (Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, plant-based, etc), and we are spoilt for choice at type of fitness classes we can attend.

We should be the fittest we have ever been as a nation but, in fact, we are the most obese and unfit ever recorded. Because we have SO much choice, we are conflicted.

How many people do you know who diet hop? Who change classes on a regular basis because it is the next best thing for fat loss, before giving what they do now a chance to work?

Quite a few I bet.

So whilst we have changed as a Catholic faith (for the better in my opinion), the fitness industry has just become more confused. Which is why it is important to choose one direction that you can resonate with, and stick with it.

Like faith.

What do you think?

– Colette

Do we now have God’s permission to binge?

As I write this blog post, it is Maundy Thursday – or more commonly known as Holy Thursday.

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This is where, as Catholics, we remember Christ taking his last supper with his disciples. No doubt you have seen hundreds of pictures representing this very occasion, and each week at mass, this is represented by the priest talking us through the ritual Jesus started with his 12 mates.

“The Last Supper” is literally that. It was the last meal that Jesus had before he was crucified on Good Friday (in accordance with the scriptures), but how many times have you had your “last” supper before starting again on a given day (normally a Monday…).

Take this weekend for instance. Lent marked an occasion of deprivation for many (not quite fasting, but as close as we can get to live normal lives), where we had to give up things such as chocolate, alcohol, biscuits, etc. All things that we feel are sinful and should not be indulged in.

Much like how the diet culture is today.

So, this weekend, Lent has finished, we are now able to indulge again, and many of us will be marking this occasion with one or two (maybe more?) Easter eggs. A big mound of chocolate that we will sit and eat in front of the telly and tell ourselves that its “ok” to binge, because it’s Easter Sunday, we are celebrating. It is the Resurrection of Jesus, the end of Lent, an end to the solemn time in Christianity.

And actually, it is “ok”. Because tomorrow we can stop.

We can get back on it and go for a long walk and all the calories and indulgences and the overload on our digestive system will be over… Until the next “last supper”

Lent is actually a very traditional version of the “binge – restrict – binge” cycle that I see many of my clients, old, new, and existing take part in ALL the time. Myself including (because I am human).

So, moving forward, lets look at the LONG TERM solution to this. To stop thinking of certain foods as indulgences (they are only that if you do JUST that with them – indulge yourself – gluttony, remember, is one of the deadly sins).

If you have these things little and often, there is no need to binge, or to restrict, because they are part of a healthy lifestyle.

The questions is, are you able?

– Colette

I bet you can’t guess which part of Mass helps you lose weight?

Up until about 15 years ago, if you had asked me (honestly) what my most favourite time of Mass was, I would have said “the end”.

The priest would say “ this Mass has ended, go in peace”, and the congregation would chant in joyous voices “THANKS BE TO GOD!”, which had more than one meaning.

I see my kids do it now…

But when we break Mass down into key components, I bet you won’t guess which part can help you lose weight?

The entrance hymn? OK, well, sang with gusto, this could responsible for burning a few extra calories, but certainly not enough to make a huge difference.

Standing for the Gospel? The Gospel and the homily which follow are certainly great for the mindset, and is something that I base my blogs around. But it’s not that.

How about when Mass has ended? And we all sing joyously, march out of the church, and meet the rest of the day with a spring in our step? Again, it could contribute, but it’s not the number one reason.

You see the most important part of Mass, when it comes to fighting the battle of the bulge, is when we receive Holy Communion and share our sign of peace. Why? Because this means that we are interacting and sharing our bugs.

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That doesn’t sound too great, I bet you are thinking! In fact, I bet most of you discreetly get the hand gel out after greeting each other with peace so that you can shed yourself of germs.

And I bet you avoid the blood of Christ, because you don’t trust the Minister’s dusty rag on the side of the glass to get ALL the germs off?

So let me explain…

You would be doing good to put the hand gel away, hold on to the person next to you a little longer, give them a hug if you want, if your partner or child is there, give them a kiss! And whilst you are at it take a good glug of the communion wine and be happy.

Why?

You see in our body we have trillions upon trillions of gut bacteria.

This HUGE army of little bugs in our system are responsible for all sorts of functions – one being keeping our immune system on an even keel, keeping chronic illnesses at bay, and also making sure that we can digest food properly. Not having a healthy number of these in our system will mean a sluggish digestive system, constant illnesses, and a tendency to hang onto body fat, because our metabolism decreases.

So, sharing living germs among us all means that the good gut bacteria is increased in our bodies. In fact, coming into contact with anything that is living, and have their own gut microbiomes, is good for us; animals, plants, small children (they pick all sorts up!)

This will keep us all tip top and healthy, and not forgetting our metabolisms working well. Which means we can eat more and not put on weight (which is what we all want right?!)

If you want to know more about gut health and how this can affect your overall health – not just weight loss -please feel free to contact me direct by emailing me at colette@collypowerfitness.co.uk where I will answer any questions you have!

– Colette

Exploring Women’s Power In The Bible

I am reading a book at the moment called The Power by  Naomi Alderman. You can read a full review over on The Bandwagon, but here’s a basic overview:

Women all over the world develop an electrical power that comes from their hands that they can use to defend themselves. All of a sudden, victims of various lifestyles change. There is a power shift, and how they use it is very interesting.

Part of the book talks about faith, and how this power has been given to the woman for a reason. There is a character in the book who is a runaway taken in by a convent. She hears an “inner voice” telling her that she is the chosen one, and that she must be the one in control to use this power for a reason.

Her fellow housemates see her as the second coming.

The Sister of the convent see this is the devil incarnate.

And it is good to see the different perspectives

You really should read this book!

One of the main characters gives a speech about shifting who we focus on worshipping.

Instead of focusing worship on Jesus, we should focus on the one who gave him life – Mary. Instead of focusing on the male “heroes” of the Bible, we should focus on the likes of Ruth, Rachel, Esther, Abigail, and, of course, Eve – the first woman on earth.

These are all strong women with strong core values that are celebrated in their own right in the passages of the Bible. Let’s take Ruth for example.

Her vow to stay with her mother-in-law Naomi after Ruth’s husband died was admirable, and showed immense commitment, loyalty, and dedication.

And Mary, her belief in God, her commitment to Joseph, and her dedication to bringing up Jesus in God’s human form.

These outline core values that I see in most of my female clients:

COMMITMENT

Booking a number of sessions with me so that they can commit to making the changes they need to.

LOYALTY

I am blessed that I have a high retention rate with my clients, often booking more sessions with me as they start to see results.

DEDICATION

Showing up week after week and DOING what they said they would do.

So this post is for the ladies, about celebrating what we are capable of (though not quite the electrifying “power” of the book I am reading!), and how we can draw inspiration from the key ladies in the Bible.

Let me know what you think – who are the most inspiring women you can recall from the Bible?

Colette

But I Really Should…

Whilst out walking the dog this morning, I was listening to one of my podcasts. This is where I do a lot of my learning, “reading”, and where I get my motivations.

This one is called Catholic Stuff You Should Know, and is led by two American Priests who speak the through their homilies. The subject they covered today was Catholic Guilt. Which many of us can relate to!

And whilst guilt is a wasted emotion, they do make a point.

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I often hear at the school gates “I really should get to Mass this weekend”. This normally comes out of the mouth of a stressed out parent, run ragged from a full week of school runs, carting the kids to various hobbies, and being taxi for parties and tournaments at the weekend.

So it’s no wonder they can’t be bothered to spend an hour at the weekend at Mass

I get it. I live it at the moment. So we go to Mass when it’s convenient.

In my parish there are 3 Masses at the weekend. 6pm on Saturday, 10am and 12noon on Sunday. Many will go to the 6pm one as it’s shorter, no hymns, and gets it over and done with for the Sunday. Many will go first thing Sunday to “get it over and done with”.

And the weeks where they go, they feel good. They leave with a spiritual high, and a tick off the “to-do” list for the weekend. But if they don’t go for a few weeks, the guilt sets in.

“I really should……”

For many reasons.

I need to sign my children in
The priest will start to wonder where I am
The children will be out of routine
My prayers may go unanswered

Etc…

I really do get this. I have had many weekends where I haven’t gone, and really felt bad when I went back to Mass and felt like the whole parish was judging me.

“Oh look, Colette is back finally….”

(They don’t by the way, this is the Catholic guilt kicking in.)

I hear this from new clients all the time when they first see me:

I really should get to be gym more often
I really should cut down on my chocolate
I really should get out for a lunchtime walk

Yes, they should.

But when they don’t, and skip the gym for a meal out that includes a chocolate pudding and glass of wine, THAT’S when the guilt kicks in.

And it shouldn’t. Like faith, a healthy lifestyle should be about balance.

Get to church when you can. And when you are there, make it count. But don’t feel guilty for missing Mass because you are tired, busy, or just not in the mood. Because you CAN pray at home, you WILL get there again to see the priest, and NOTHING bad will happen.

To stay healthy, skip the gym occasionally, have a lazy day and eat rubbish food. But know the next day that you will balance it out with diet and exercise.

Keep a sustainable head on your shoulders when it comes to faith and health, and you won’t go far wrong.

Colette

Putting Miracles Into Perspective

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As we move into the 4th Sunday of Lent, my trusted Cafod Liturgist sheets tell me the teachings I have in store for your cherubs at mass this Sunday.

The gospel (adapted from John 9:1, 6-9) tells the story of Jesus meeting a blind man:

Jesus was walking along when he saw a blind man. The man had been blind since he was born.

Jesus bent down and spat on the ground so that he could make a paste from the dust. He put the paste in the mans’ eyes and then told him to wash it off

The man did as he was told and when he had finished washing, he could see.

The neighbours couldn’t believe it.  “It’s not the same man”, they said. “It’s someone who looks like him.”

Then the man who had been blind said, “it is me.”

When reading this back, what we see on the face of it is Jesus performing a miracle – making the blind man see – and the miracle being witnessed by many. But what do you think happened next?  Did the man shake Jesus’ hand, move on and get on with his life with a whole new perspective?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

I have just finished reading a book about the brain (geeky – don’t judge me), and in it the author tells a story about a man who successfully took part in a cornea transplant. This man was a paralympic ski champion, a father, a husband, and a teacher, despite his blindness (since the age of 3). He knew no different

So when he took his bandages off (in front of the eager media), they all awaited his reaction to having his sight returned.

He looked at his children and smiled.

He looked at his wife and smiled.

He petted his dog.

He stood, walked to the door, and stumbled.

You see, he had his sight back, but his perception had drastically changed.

He no longer recognised his wife as now his brain was trying to process a new image AND match it with a facial image. He recalled being frightened in the car as these huge rectangular shapes came rushing towards him at great speed that his other senses TOLD him that it was traffic, but his perception made them scary, large, fast objects.

He was no longer a good skier. He was no longer able to recognise his children easily. Dog walks were not enjoyable.

So, with Jesus making him see, was this really the miracle we are all in awe of? Or was it just the start of something that Jesus would have assumed to have made the man happy?

I see this all the time as a trainer. For many, I am the “miracle” they are looking for.  Someone to change their lives and take them from being “fat and unhappy” (their words) to “skinny and happy”. But the reality is really quite different.

They realise that work needs to be put in – not just with diet and exercise, but with mindset and attitude. No longer can they decide to have their cake and eat it, but they have to be strong in mind and spirit CONSTANTLY. Abstaining on a regular basis (Lent anyone?!) to get the results they want. Or they think they want…

Quite often people “buy” me for the end destination – “skinny and happy” – and not the journey, which is the hard part.

John didn’t continue tell us what happened after.  But if he had done, would the end result been as clear as a blind man seeing?

Let me know what you think! Feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch on the Contact page. If you think this would interest someone else, please feel free to share.

– Colette