PODCAST #5: What We’ve Learned in a Decade of Marriage

What We’ve Learned in a Decade of Marriage

In this current social construct that has over 50% of marriages failing, my husband and I often get this question: what’s your secret for being married over 13 years?

Politically correct response: Communication, trust, and friendship.

Madi’s response: Wine, Jesus, and friendship.

You could not tell us at the age of 25 when we married that we would suffer foreclosure on our home, paralyzing credit card debt,or the death of a child. All we hoped for was a long, happy marriage. The truth is, there is happiness (a lot of it) but man have we fought to find it.

So how did we do it? How did we survive so much pain, so many fights, and so many instances of lonely silence to become the couple that gets asked for advice?

For access to the podcast interview, click below.


So I believe one of the first things we tell new couples is to learn and actually show your spouse’s love language. We encourage new couples to read The Five Love Languages prior to marriage in fact. The Five Love Languages are as follows:

  1. Physical Touch
  2. Gifts
  3. Quality Time
  4. Words of Affirmation
  5. Acts of Service

Learning what your spouse’s language is means you have a responsibility to communicate in that language. For instance, Derick’s love language is overwhelmingly physical tough. I know that every day, I need to physically touch my husband (and this doesn’t just mean sex). I need to rub his back, hug him, rub his shoulders, etc. He needs the touch to fill that love tank.

My love language however is acts of service (and actually words of affirmation is tied also). Do the dishes and call me pretty and I’m yours forever!

Within the last two years, we have learned more about love using this method and we certainly avoid more fights too. We did not use this method when the accounts were empty. As empty as our checking was, that’s how empty our love tank was too.

But today I realize, there is something beautiful about him taking my car to fill the gas tank or him picking up a brush because I mentioned needing one. Likewise for how he feels when I take just ten seconds to rub his shoulders while he sits at his desk working.

It is our way of giving the other what they need, not just what we think is right.


We can’t stress enough that fun is an essential ingredient in your recipe of marriage. We truly are best friends. If I were to win concert tickets, he’d be the one I’d want to go with. Next week is my birthday and rather than a girls weekend in Vegas, I chose one with him. Beyond our romance, we have fun. I mean it. We can sit on a couch for hours watching t.v and laughing at funny memes or vines that come across our facebook walls. When something happens in life, he’s the first person I think to call and vice versa.

Friendship will keep your marriage fresh longer than any other date, sex episode, or promise you’ve made to one another. When times get hard, it’s your friendship that will carry you through. It’s also what stops me from sometimes saying those things that I know will hurt his feelings. He’s my best friend; why would I want to hurt my BEST friend?


Space. I know, I know. I literally just said that you have to be best friends, but even best friends honor each other’s space. Before my husband was here, I was my own woman with my own aspirations, friends, goals, and dreams. I love him more than anyone, but he will never be able to compete with how much I love myself. No one has the power to take her away from me. I fought too damn hard to find her. What I love about him though is he would never try. The independent, feisty, creative woman he loved when he met me is still here and he still loves her. He still wants her to find herself. He still wants her to go after her dreams. He still wants her to live her best life on her own terms.

And him? I still want him to love riding his motorcycle without me. I still want him to envision his dream of expanding his business, because every step he takes in finding his way is one more way we grow closer together. Distance is not a bad thing. Being alone is not a bad thing. It is essential to learning how to love someone else even more.


I think we haven’t mastered marriage. I know to many it seems like it, but I don’t think you can ever truly master anything because with every stage of growth comes more to learn. I do however think we’ve found our groove. I could say something lame here like “don’t quit on each other. Just stick it out and you’ll work through.” To some extent, I guess that’s true. But the truth is some things we do have to quit. We have to quit expecting our husbands to know what we are thinking at all times. We have to quit expecting our wives to give it up after she’s worked an 8 hour work day, cooked, cleaned, and did her motherly duties. We have to quit demanding so damn much and just give grace to our best friend.

Honestly in 13 years of marriage, where I’ve made countless mistakes and apologized more than complained, grace is the one thing I believe holds our marriage together. Grace and a sprinkles of Jesus and fun.

The Still PREP’n Experience

Welcome to The Still PREP’n Experience, hosted by Madi Still – author, blogger, marketing professional, and self-certified MomPreneur. This is a show where one mom has bold conversations about life, leadership, and business, while providing tangible take-aways to listeners of all backgrounds while PREP’n (Positively Restoring and Empowering People).

To stay in touch with all things “Madi,” you can check out www.MadiStill.com or follow me on social media: @MadiStill247.

PODCAST #4: Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

Three Simple Ways to Eat Simply This Holiday Season and Avoid Those Extra Pounds

We’ve all been there, standing in front of a mirror, realizing it’s January 1st and it’s time to face the morbid truth of our holiday splurge. We tip-toe to the bathroom and step gingerly on the scale (because maybe a lighter step on the scale means a lighter number also), peek through our fingers, and then in aghast, wide-eyed horror gawk at the number that appears. We take off our underwear, socks, and any jewelry and try again, becoming even more frustrated because the number actually went UP. Yes, we have all experienced this as well as the fleeting moment of regret and urge to just forego the entire plan and reach for the leftover cookies.  So how do we avoid this agonizing moment?

For access to the podcast interview, click below.

October begins the official holiday season with those aromatic pumpkin spice lattes, and with the season, many grapple with the over-indulgence of home cooked foods that they just can’t seem to say no to. Many approach the month with goals (which is great) but those goals fade with each nibble of whatever decadent dessert tempts them from the cubicle next door. So how do we enjoy those holiday parties and avoid the shopping trip for a bigger sized jean come January?

Here are three simple ways to eat simply this holiday season and avoid those extra pounds:

  1. First, understand the difference between “feeling like it and commitment.” In one particular Madi TV episode on YouTube, this topic is explored in more detail. “Feeling like it” means  we do things because it’s convenient. “I want to work out, but I had a long day at work, the kids have homework, and I have a slight headache.” Commitment means we do things, especially when the circumstances are difficult. “I will wake up at 5 a.m. to exercise because tonight is bound to be difficult.” Commitment means we drink that smoothie for breakfast and bypass the bagel with cream cheese, because we made a promise to avoid high fats/carbs. So to begin a successful holiday season, we must make a list of things we are committed to, and it must be a very serious contract one signs. Yes, sign the contract and then share it with someone who cares enough about you to call you out when you are not following your commitment list. Avoid choosing someone who will placate you (sometimes that can even be your spouse). Choose someone who will hold you accountable (another reason to seek out a wellness coach to aide in your success). Also, know that what you want most is more important than what you want now. I use this strategy when craving sweets. What I want most is a flatter belly. What I want now are these three Oreos. Sometimes, the now wins; however, most often, the most is victorious.
  2. Secondly, reward yourself for small victories. If you chose the carrots over the mashed potatoes, reward yourself. And no, not with food. You are not a dog, so stop giving yourself treats. Try rewarding yourself with something completely unassociated with food: a soothing bubble bath, a dollar per day that you exercise, etc. The point is, celebrate even small victories so you feel good about the progress you’re making and make sure you’re surrounding yourself with others who celebrate you too. When my sister was on her weight loss journey, she would give a new reward for every 10 pounds lost. Nail salon trips, a new outfit, a girls night out, or even a massage. You can even create a visual stimulus to remind you of how far you’ve come. For instance, set up two mason jars in your kitchen. One is empty, the other is filled with marbles. For every pound you lose, move one marble over to the empty jar. It stands as a constant reminder that you have achieved so much already, why mess that up?
  3. Lastly, you have to do the work of making smarter food choices as well as being more prepared. One rule to abide by is have a small snack or meal-replacement shake BEFORE heading out to celebrate with friends. This will help you avoid over-eating. You can also preview menus before heading out, bring healthier alternatives to the party you know are good for your goals, and prepare your day in a way that supports a fun night out.  Also, you are less likely to eat junk food if you eliminate junk in your home! You can’t reach for cookies if all that is available are crunchy vegetables!

Now, is this food-lover suggesting to avoid foods you love this holiday season all-together? Absolutely not. In fact, depriving yourself is worse than allowing smaller plates of what you love! Remember that you CAN fall in love with healthier foods however, and choose (more often) to eat those!

So this holiday season, when those pumpkin spice lattes, cream-filled donuts, and homemade “whatevers” tempt you, remember that it feels much worse to regret than to sacrifice. Do you feel like eating healthier? Most likely not; however, you will do this because you are committed to a healthier,happier you. No cookie will ever taste as good as success!

If you need help maintaining during this time, talk to me about our 12 Day Makeover and how you can transform in your mind, body, and soul.



The Still PREP’n Experience

Welcome to The Still PREP’n Experience, hosted by Madi Still – author, blogger, marketing professional, and self-certified MomPreneur. This is a show where one mom has bold conversations about life, leadership, and business, while providing tangible take-aways to listeners of all backgrounds while PREP’n (Positively Restoring and Empowering People).

To stay in touch with all things “Madi,” you can check out www.MadiStill.com or follow me on social media: @MadiStill247.

PODCAST #3: When Losing Weight Means Gaining Everything

The Still PREP’n Experience is LIVE!

I had the privilege of interviewing my sister, Jennifer Kirk, this week about her 65 pound weight loss. Facts I knew: My sister is a phenomenal wife and mother. My sister used a gastric balloon to alter her life (and weight). My sister is bold in sharing her story.

What I didn’t know however, was how her weight played a much bigger role in the woman she is. I didn’t know that she used her weight to hide in crowds, afraid to be noticed while she struggled with her husband’s addiction. I didn’t know that her insecurities grew larger as her waist line grew smaller. I didn’t know that she still struggles some days to get out of bed.

I believe this is one of those interviews that all women need to read/listen to. This is much more than an interview about losing weight; this is a testament to a woman who found herself and how we can all find freedom in letting go.

For access to the podcast interview, click below.


Madi: Tell me a little about yourself:

Jennifer: I always find this a tough question to answer. I am forever changing and learning. I feel like I am one person one day, and someone different on another. The basics though – I am a 43 years old woman, a Christian, the wife of a wonderful man and a PROUD mother of 4 children.

I am a daughter, a sister, a feminist and I value emotional health just as much as physical health. I value experiences & feelings far more than any material belonging. I love movies, yoga, cooking, and makeup.

Madi: What was your relationship to food as a child?

Jennifer: I grew up with a love/hate and complete denial of relationship with food. On one hand, food took center stage. Whenever there was a family gathering, there was always a huge food spread. Christmas, my grandmother made many varieties of cookies. Holidays were for special Hispanic foods that were reserved for only certain occasions. We didn’t grow up with money, and lived very meager lives financially, which played a huge role in how I viewed food.

On the other hand, the women in my family were constantly on diets. Each has gained and lost the same 30 pounds too many times to count. Each one greatly overweight, while insisting that they barely ate anything at all.

Food became both comfort and something to hate.

Madi: How did your parents educate you about nutrition growing up?

Jennifer: They didn’t. Living near poverty doesn’t allow for decisions such as nutrition; instead they chose to simply feed the family. I grew up on staples like pork-n-beans with hot dog pieces, pork chops, rice and corn, Kool-Aid, and other cheap options to make in quantity foods. As a child, my weekly highlight was getting a happy meal after church with my family. This set the tone for food being what families do, but taught me nothing about how proper nutrition fuels the body. Food became the center of family gatherings, but we were never taught food.

Madi: How did you initially gain the weight?

Jennifer: A few reasons. First, my family was going through an incredibly hard time. I was unhappy and unhealthy mentally. As a result of severe stress, and not caring enough about myself to pay attention, I was treated for migraines with medication. I gained my first 40 pounds in one year. It was very rapid.

Now that I am able to look back, it really came back to a combination of lack of self-worth and self-love and not being mindful of anything related to myself. When we are going through a rough time, it is easier to focus on everyone else, isn’t it? My husband at the time was facing addiction with alcohol and I was struggling with my own inadequacy. I never felt good about myself. Not as a wife, a mother, or a woman. I struggled with the idea that I was in a second failed marriage and showing my daughters to stay in hostile situations. I was not mindful in my life at all; I was not mindful of food, daily activities, rest, or anything related to myself. I waited for chaos to erupt everyday, so I never paid attention to myself.

I can say it was the medication, but the reality was I had long ago neglected to care for myself because I was in a co-dependent relationship. But to be completely honest – it is EASIER to be heavy. Heavy people can hide behind the scenes. It’s now, when I am thin that I have to be the most uncomfortable and vulnerable. I am shy by nature, and there is a lot of insecurity I still carry that is harder to deal with. I’m more fragile now, especially in receiving compliments daily. I’m still learning and growing!

Madi: If it’s easier to hide behind the weight, what was your “why” for losing the weight?

Jennifer: I have three daughters. I want them to be comfortable with who they are and never hide from their truth. I was never really happy or comfortable. Summers were hot, so I was physically uncomfortable, and I just decided I was finally desperate enough to change, especially once my own mother had her gastric bypass surgery and she came into her own. Selfishly, seeing our two weights get closer together prompted me into action. I wasn’t willing to be as heavy as she had been. Shallow, but that was my reason.

I decided to get an Intragastric Balloon, which not only helped me eat less, but also helped my body to correct hormones that can inhibit weight loss. I think everything works for someone. All my programs did have success initially, but boredom and self-sabotage always stopped me. It was a major decision and a humbling one at that. I had to ask my frugal husband for thousands of dollars, so I had to give it my all.

The balloon fills up 2/3 of your stomach, so it allows for 1 cup of volume at a time. The side effects are extremely difficult; your body in the first few weeks is trying to reject this foreign object. For me however, it motivated me to continue. I didn’t want to go through the bouts of nausea, diarrhea, and plentiful doctor appointments for nothing. I had six months with this balloon, so to me I had six months to change my life.


Madi: What did you learn on your journey to losing the weight? About yourself and about others?

Jennifer: Weight gain and weight loss is not about weight. It never was. It is a symptom of other emotional baggage, both old and new, in your life. It is a lifetime journey. I have learned the importance of macros, movement (I say that instead of exercise). I have learned the journey is mostly mental. We give ourselves many reasons and excuses to fail. Even people with a gastric balloon claim that it does nothing, that they are not limited and can eat just as much as they could before – just let that sink in. Physically and scientifically that is impossible. But it is another form of self-sabotage. I have also learned every scientific thing I could about how our body uses food and what foods fuel our bodies. I am a scientific/facts person by nature. It helps me make sense of it all. I taught myself to make “eating out” about the people and not the food. I used to go out to dinner and plan what I would eat. Now I eat what fuels my body. If I’m sad, I don’t feed that sadness with comfort food. Feelings are fleeting; I want to starve the sadness and fuel moving on.


Madi: What is one piece of advice you’d give to women on a journey to their weight loss and self-discovery?

Jennifer: Take time to decide. Really decide if you are ready to make all of the changes necessary to become a new you. You cannot heal others if you are broken inside. Be honest with yourself. Journal. Name all of those ugly, scary, inadequate feelings, names, thoughts, all of it. Acknowledge it all. Address it all. And begin to heal from it.

I want to tell women, just give yourself a break. You are learning and getting new tools every single day. You are doing great. You got out of bed and braved the world. You chose to love yourself. You chose no for others, and yes for yourself. Honestly, what else is there?

The Still PREP’n Experience

Welcome to The Still PREP’n Experience, hosted by Madi Still – author, blogger, marketing professional, and self-certified MomPreneur. This is a show where one mom has bold conversations about life, leadership, and business, while providing tangible take-aways to listeners of all backgrounds while PREP’n (Positively Restoring and Empowering People).

To stay in touch with all things “Madi,” you can check out www.MadiStill.com or follow me on social media: @MadiStill247.

PODCAST #2: De-clutter Your Life

So if you are anything like me, just looking at the above picture is causing you to itch or want to crawl inside and start cleaning. For many people, this room is a daily reality of what it’s like to live inside of clutter. Clutter isn’t just a mess; it’s the cause of stress and anxiety for millions of people today.

Featured in today’s blog is why clutter wastes more time and money, why it causes mental health issues and how you can de-clutter your life.

Clutter Affects Your Time


Studies show that clutter actually affects how much time you waste. Think about it . . . how much time are you spending in search of your lost keys, the $10 you swore you put on your dresser, the socks you wear for luck, or just one pen to sign your kid’s permission slip.

When we have clutter in our drawers or on our counter tops (or Gasp- on our desk) it is nearly impossible to see clearly. Your eyes have to visually adjust to every object you see in front of you and that tornado clouds your judgment. You could literally stare right at the lost item and not even realize it because it is surrounded by so much junk.

Tip to Fix It:

Take one day per drawer/cabinet in your home. I think the reason so many people are hesitant to start a purging process in their homes is because they are overwhelmed by the inordinate amount of work to be done. One drawer and cabinet per day however will take perhaps 20-30 minutes. Put on some happy music while you clean or a motivational video and use this time to think of it as “I’m doing this for me.”

Clutter Causes You to Lose Money

“Honey, where’s the mortgage bill?” you ask after searching frantically for thirty minutes in a monsoon of papers on your desk. Clutter does not just look bad; it can cause you to lose important papers or bills, therefore accruing late fees.

Tip to Fix It:

Now I will admit this is by far the hardest area to commit to cleaning. My husband (I love him, I swear I do) is a “Paper Hoarder”. The man saves bills from when he was 21 (He’s 39 now.) I mean, do you think they are coming back for that 21 cents you owe on your old flip phone?

What we have started in our household is the “clean and analyze” method. First, just like your drawers, you need to spend time daily cleaning your desk. Let’s face it, most people cannot keep their workspace clean if they go more than 5 days without tending to the influx of papers that pile up daily. Spending 10 “power minutes” to clean the desk will help keep the mess contained for longer periods of time. I also recommend doing this mid-afternoon when the afternoon slump hits you hardest.

The analyze method is for you to analyze everyday “will it be harmful to throw this away?” Current bills would cost you money to toss, but that birthday card your grandma gave you two years ago will not. Throwing things away is not bad; it’s cleansing. If this is really hard for you, ask a friend to help. Trust me, I have zero problems throwing away anything my husband deems as important (insert evil chuckle here.)

Clutter Causes You Stress and Anxiety


Before you say, “Oh I’m fine though,” think about if any of the above situations caused you to flinch a little (lost bills, lost items, etc).

I want you to think about how clutter in your home causes stress in certain situations:

  1. Ever have to spend all day cleaning before entertaining guests?
  2. Ever feel like you can’t think? You just feel like your mind is cluttered with thoughts and ideas and your head might explode?
  3. Ever experience mood shifts when you walk into a cluttered room? (I know when my son doesn’t clean his room, I’m instantly annoyed or agitated.)

A cluttered home, car, closet, purse, or desk = a cluttered mind. In order to think clearly and feel good about those thoughts, you need space to be able to do so.

Tips to Make This All Work:

First of all, know that some clutter is normal, especially if you are a parent or live in a home with a larger group of people. It’s unreasonable to expect that every space will be 100% clear (and if you are a mother of a young child and that’s so- write a damn book so we can all learn from you.)

But seriously, start to think about how your clutter affects your “feng-shui” and how that clutter diminishes your creativity. Once you identify what areas cause the most stress, put yourself on a 30 day “cleanse”. Purge your home, your car, your closets, your bags, etc. I’m not saying to do all of this in one day. Who has time for that? I’m saying tackle one task per day for 30 days. There are quite a few books and websites that have calendars meant for this (does anyone love Pinterest as much as me?)

Once you take the 30 days to purge, set up parameters for you to not fall victim to this again. A hook for your keys, a bill organizer, a trash can in every room . . .whatever the system, use it.

I also recommend doing this before 2019. In order to bring in new, we need to purge the old (especially before the 2018 holiday season starts and we begin collecting unnecessary things all over again.)

Oh yeah, and last but not least- things don’t bring you happiness. When we live a life of simplicity, it’s a lot easier to keep our homes (and our minds) clear.

Love and light,
Madi Still

The Still PREP’n Experience

Welcome to The Still PREP’n Experience, hosted by Madi Still – author, blogger, marketing professional, and self-certified MomPreneur. This is a show where one mom has bold conversations about life, leadership, and business, while providing tangible take-aways to listeners of all backgrounds while PREP’n (Positively Restoring and Empowering People).

To stay in touch with all things “Madi,” you can check out www.MadiStill.com or follow me on social media: @MadiStill247.

PODCAST #1: What I Learned About The Word NO

The Still PREP’n Experience is LIVE!

I’m super excited to announce you can now listen to The Still PREP’n Experience on Apple, Spotify, and anchor!

I welcome you to listen and share your thoughts! Episode #1 is about the power of the word “No.”


When I was a little girl, I watched my mother in awe of her kind heart. My mother was a true gem. She gave with such vigor and passion. You needed $20? My mom would cough it up with no problem. You liked her purse? She would take it off her shoulder and hand it over to you. She gave everything she had to people in need. The problem with this was when my mom lost everything from a job layoff, no one was able to give half of what she had given for all those years.

So what did this 37-year-old mom sitting here in total, random reflection mode learn from this? I learned that “yes” means “I love you.” Yes means, “I support you.” Yes means, “Will you be my best friend because I’m too scared that you’ll leave me if I say no.”

What kind of dysfunctional mess is that?? We live in a world where “No” is misinterpreted. So what do we do? We say yes to almost everything in hopes that we hold on to those we love. Problem is, we lose ourselves in the process. We say yes to that family birthday party, though we truly despise the way Aunt Bertha asks “when are you going to get married” and the way Susan lets her twin boys run around the house wreaking havoc and screaming “long live the twins.”

We say yes to that third date with the guy from the office because we don’t want things to seem “weird” if we just say “No thank you.” We say yes to loaning our sister money for the umpteenth time because we can’t bear the thought of saying no and her questioning if we are truly there for her.

So how do you break the cycle? How do you find your power and re-learn the word “no”? YOU JUST START SAYING IT. Better yet, say it, and don’t explain it. No is a complete sentence. We have to stop linking our “yes” with love. No is the most powerful word in our vocabulary because it not only strengthens our SELF-LOVE, it allows us to also express love in ways that matters . . . not just with material things or showing up to places we aren’t interested in going to, but truly releasing our love in powerful, internal ways.

You are worth your NO. Use it. Love it. Find power in it. Your life will never be the same again.

The Still PREP’n Experience

Welcome to The Still PREP’n Experience, hosted by Madi Still – author, blogger, marketing professional, and self-certified MomPreneur. This is a show where one mom has bold conversations about life, leadership, and business, while providing tangible take-aways to listeners of all backgrounds while PREP’n (Positively Restoring and Empowering People).

To stay in touch with all things “Madi,” you can check out www.MadiStill.com or follow me on social media: @MadiStill247.

My TEDx Experience: A Reflection

In the fairy tale, Cinderella, the clock chimes midnight. Her chariot turns back into a pumpkin. Her clothes become a disheveled mess, a stark contrast from the glorious ballgown she wore while dancing with the prince. All she has left are memories of the best night of her life.

I do not live in a pumpkin. I do not own disheveled clothes. I am still living my “happily ever after” complete with the prince; however the morning after my TEDx talk, I could relate to Cinderella. The magic of the night was gone, leaving a melancholy feeling in my spirit for at least one brief moment. A single glass slipper tucked away in my pocket, the memory of the magic tucked inside my heart. Then I began to reflect and smiled.

I knew that I was chosen to share the most powerful story of my life. What I did not know was how that story would creep back into my heart and peek inside my soul from deep crevices I thought were hidden. I forgot the pain of losing my first-born son. I forgot the darkness. I forgot the intense grieving. Reliving those intimate scenes reconnected me to my story – and my son – in a very powerful way for which I’m truly grateful.

It feels now as though my son has been reborn with renewed purpose. I expected to feel fulfilled in sharing his story, but I did not expect to feel such immense pride. I’m proud that I was chosen to be his mother. He died ten years ago and yet he continues to live on through his story. His purpose touches the lives of countless people grappling with their own pain. How did I get so lucky to be chosen as the communicator for his life?

Weeks leading up to the talk, I felt very much “over it.” I was just about one week out from presenting and sleep evaded me. 3:00 A.M. became my wake-up call, and I would lie in bed repeating and reviewing my talk no less than three times every single night. I would make minor changes, obsess over minutiae, then remind myself that I was chosen for a reason.

On Halloween, I took my son trick-or-treating with a knot in my stomach. I was honestly more nervous about rehearsals the next day than I was about the event itself. I was extremely anxious to present in front of the other speakers. If they heard my story in rehearsals, how would the story continue to impact them the day of when it had to count? I honestly resisted the idea, until rehearsals actually came.

Once I entered the auditorium, I saw the stage and oh, what a stage it was. It was not like the stages I’m familiar with. It was a global stage, and my excitement began to rise. The feelings of anticipation and even relief escalated when a few of the speakers “choked.” I thought, “Wow. As established as these leaders are in world, they are just like me: nervous.” I also truly appreciated the amazing coaching I heard from each speaker. I found it incredibly valuable and as each speaker presented, our group grew closer. We bonded through our stories, our nerves, and our need to be connected. Hugs were exchanged, along with tears, and heartfelt praise. Honestly, rehearsal day solidified my love for the TEDx journey and crew.

Many of the speakers in our group mentioned that they got no sleep the night before the main event; I on the other hand slept soundly. Perhaps it was the eight-hour rehearsal day. Or maybe it was the very personal hour I spent sitting inside the window frame in my hotel room in prayer. Either way, I felt as though I was truly ready.

The day was, for lack of a better word, magical. From the emotional highs and lows of each speaker, to the praise I received from the audience in a resounding standing ovation, I felt as though this “bucket list day” was everything I had hoped for and so much more.

All 36 speakers are now connected by our stories, our desire to succeed, and our experience of sharing the honor and privilege of standing on that red carpet. I can truly say I will never forget the way the rug felt under my multi-colored flats, nor the way I felt wiping away tears as I sat in the audience, listening to so many powerful talks. I  will never forget the kindness of the TEDx tribe, nor will I forget feeling a part of something far bigger than myself.

If I can impart any wisdom to someone wanting to share their own story on the TEDx platform, it would be to embrace their vulnerability. Something happened to me as I allowed my own story to touch me once again to my very core and I allowed those emotions to reverberate of the walls of an auditorium and into the souls of the audience. Let go, is what I would say to future TEDx speakers. Let go and be free.

Why Sleep Is the No. 1 Most Important Thing for a Better Body

As published on shape.com by Adam Bornstein

Imagine two women you know: One is your model of fitness success (She clearly knows how to slim down correctly and has the body to show for it), and the other is what you fear. This friend has her heart in the right place, but no matter how hard she works, she still struggles with the process and doesn’t have the body she wants. The troubling part is that when you talk to both, they share a common approach:

  1. They eat meals that focus on lean protein and vegetables.
  2. They exercise at least three times per week, focusing on both weights and cardio.
  3. They know which foods are truly healthy and which they need to limit—and they do.
And yet one friend—the one who continues to struggle—can’t maintain her focus. She has trouble controlling her hunger, always craves sweets, and, despite her biggest efforts in the gym, she doesn’t seem to achieve the same results as someone else following the same program.

The problem might seem obvious at first. After all, one woman strays from her diet more than the other. And if exercise “isn’t working,” it probably means she just doesn’t really know how to train.

Maybe it’s genetics. Maybe she’s lazy or lacks willpower. Or maybe, diet or exercise isn’t the real problem.

Sleep Controls Your Diet
The debate about the best way to achieve a healthy weight always revolves around eating and movement. If you want to look better, the most common suggestion is “eat less and move more.” But it’s not that simple, or even accurate. Sometimes you want to eat less and move more, but it seems impossible to do so. And there might be a good reason: Between living your life, working, and exercising, you’re forgetting to sleep enough. Or maybe, more importantly, you don’t realize that sleep is the key to being rewarded for your diet and fitness efforts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 35 percent of people are sleep deprived. And when you consider that the statistic for obesity is nearly identical, it’s easy to connect the dots and discover that the connection is not a coincidence.

Not sleeping enough—less than seven hours of sleep per night—can reduce and undo the benefits of dieting, according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In the study, dieters were put on different sleep schedules. When their bodies received adequate rest, half of the weight they lost was from fat. However when they cut back on sleep, the amount of fat lost was cut in half—even though they were on the same diet. What’s more, they felt significantly hungrier, were less satisfied after meals, and lacked energy to exercise. Overall, those on a sleep-deprived diet experienced a 55 percent reduction in fat loss compared to their well-rested counterparts.

Poor Sleep Changes Your Fat Cells
Think about the last time you had a bad night of sleep. How did you feel when you woke up? Exhausted. Dazed. Confused. Maybe even a little grumpy? It’s not just your brain and body that feel that way—your fat cells do too. When your body is sleep deprived, it suffers from “metabolic grogginess.” The term was coined by University of Chicago researchers who analyzed what happened after just four days of poor sleep—something that commonly happens during a busy week. One late night at work leads to two late nights at home, and next thing you know, you’re in sleep debt.

But it’s just four nights, so how bad could it be? You might be able to cope just fine. After all, coffee does wonders. But the hormones that control your fat cells don’t feel the same way.

Within just four days of sleep deprivation, your body’s ability to properly use insulin (the master storage hormone) becomes completely disrupted. In fact, the University of Chicago researchers found that insulin sensitivity dropped by more than 30 percent.

Here’s why that’s bad: When your insulin is functioning well, fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from your blood stream and prevent storage. When you become more insulin resistant, fats (lipids) circulate in your blood and pump out more insulin. Eventually this excess insulin ends up storing fat in all the wrong places, such as tissues like your liver. And this is exactly how you become fat and suffer from diseases like diabetes.

Lack of Rest Makes You Crave Food
Many people believe that hunger is related to willpower and learning to control the call of your stomach, but that’s incorrect. Hunger is controlled by two hormones: leptin and ghrelin.

Leptin is a hormone that is produced in your fat cells. The less leptin you produce, the more your stomach feels empty. The more ghrelin you produce, the more you stimulate hunger while also reducing the amount of calories you burn (your metabolism) and increasing the amount fat you store. In other words, you need to control leptin and ghrelin to successfully lose weight, but sleep deprivation makes that nearly impossible. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinoloy and Metabolism found that sleeping less than six hours triggers the area of your brain that increases your need for food while also depressing leptin and stimulating ghrelin.

If that’s not enough, the scientists discovered exactly how sleep loss creates an internal battle that makes it nearly impossible to lose weight. When you don’t sleep enough, your cortisol levels rise. This is the stress hormone that is frequently associated with fat gain. Cortisol also activates reward centers in your brain that make you want food. At the same time, the loss of sleep causes your body to produce more ghrelin. A combination of high ghrelin and cortisol shut down the areas of your brain that leave you feeling satisfied after a meal, meaning you feel hungry all the time—even if you just ate a big meal.

 And it gets worse.

Lack of sleep also pushes you in the direction of the foods you know you shouldn’t eat. A study published in Nature Communications found that just one night of sleep deprivation was enough to impair activity in your frontal lobe, which controls complex decision-making.

Ever had a conversation like this?

“I really shouldn’t have that extra piece of cake… then again, one slice won’t really hurt, right?”

Turns out, sleep deprivation is a little like being drunk. You just don’t have the mental clarity to make good complex decisions, specifically with regards to the foods you eat—or foods you want to avoid. This isn’t helped by the fact that when you’re overtired, you also have increased activity in the amygdala, the reward region of your brain. This is why sleep deprivation destroys all diets; think of the amygdala as mind control—it makes you crave high-calorie foods. Normally you might be able to fight off this desire, but because your insular cortex (another portion of your brain) is weakened due to sleep deprivation, you have trouble fighting the urge and are more likely to indulge in all the wrong foods.

And if all that wasn’t enough, research published in Psychoneuroendocrinology found that sleep deprivation makes you select greater portion sizes of all foods, further increasing the likelihood of weight gain.

The bottom line: Not enough sleep means you’re always hungry, reaching for bigger portions, and desiring every type of food that is bad for you—and you don’t have the proper brain functioning to tell yourself, “No!”

Sleep Sabotages Gym Time
Unfortunately the disastrous impact spreads beyond diet and into your workouts. No matter what your fitness goals are, having some muscle on your body is important. Muscle is the enemy of fat—it helps you burn fat and stay young. But sleep (or lack thereof) is the enemy of muscle. Scientists from Brazil found that sleep debt decreases protein synthesis (your body’s ability to make muscle), causes muscle loss, and can lead to a higher incidence of injuries.

Just as important, lack of sleep makes it harder for your body to recover from exercise by slowing down the production of growth hormone—your natural source of anti-aging and fat burning that also facilitates recovery. This happens in two different ways:

  1. Poor sleep means less slow wave sleep, which is when the most growth hormone is released.
  2. As previously mentioned, a poor night of rest increases the stress hormone cortisol, which slows down the production of growth hormone. That means that the already reduced production of growth hormone due to lack of slow wave sleep is further reduced by more cortisol in your system. It’s a vicious cycle.

If you’re someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy exercise, not prioritizing sleep is like getting a physical examine with your father-in-law as the investigating physician: It will make something you don’t particularly enjoy almost unbearable. When you’re suffering from slept debt, everything you do feels more challenging, specifically your workouts.

The Better Health Secret: Prioritize Sleep
The connection between sleep and weight gain is hard to ignore. Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that women who are sleep deprived are a third more likely to gain 33 pounds over the next 16 years than those who receive just seven hours of sleep per night. And with all of the connections to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure, and cognitive failure, the need to sleep goes far beyond just looking better and seeing results from your diet and exercise efforts.

While there’s no hard number that applies to all people, a good rule of thumb is to receive between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, and to make sure that one poor night of sleep isn’t followed up with a few more. It might not seem like much, but it could make all the difference and mean more than any other health decision you make.

I Can’t Work Out Because I Have No Energy

I hear this EVERY DAY: “I don’t have any energy!” “You don’t understand I can’t work out because I don’t have any ENERGY!”

I ask, “What have you eaten today?”

“I had three donuts for breakfast with a cup of coffee. For lunch I had two slices of pizza, a little Debbie snack cake and a diet coke. Before I got here I had a bag of Cheetos. I don’t know why I don’t have any energy…”

First of all you can’t eat nutritionally void food every day and expect to have any level of energy. If you don’t know what to eat or how to eat click here.

“I am so tired when I get home I can’t work out because I don’t have any ENERGY.”

I know you don’t have any time, yet you want to be in shape so badly! I am dripping with compassion for you. I feel so bad for you I am literally crying right now. Thanks to you, mascara is running down my face.

“Mascara claims it can make my eyelashes go from skinny to fat in five seconds, but all I can think about is how that describes what happens to me when I eat McDonalds.”

Let’s say I told you that I have two first class tickets to Hawaii, and when you get to Hawaii you will be picked up in a limo and driven to an exotic rental car service. There you will choose from one of three cars: a Rolls-Royce Phantom, a Land Rover Range Rover, or a Lamborghini Avenatador (these are the most expensive vehicles in their categories). You will stay seven nights at the Four Seasons. The vacation is all inclusive and contains unlimited excursions and services. The best part is I am paying for the entire trip. (I am using this for an example but stay tuned for challenges to win prizes)

You are leaving in 28 days, but it’s under these conditions:

  1. You have to eat from a list of foods I give you.
  2. You must workout 1 hour a day.
  3. You must log your food intake and workouts accurately every day.

Do you think you could do it? Absolutely!! Because PEOPLE HAVE THE ENERGY TO DO WHAT THEY WANT TO DO!

It’s not a matter of energy, it’s a matter of desire. If the reasons are strong enough the amount of energy needed to overcome any obstacle will surface.
People do what people want to do. If you don’t like what you are doing then decide what you want, and write down the reasons you want it. If the reasons are strong enough you will create the desire and ENERGY to obtain your dreams.

Thanks for reading.

Coach Don

As featured on strangesculpting.com by superuser on