Read an Excerpt
Total Heart Health for Women
By Ed Young Jo Beth Young Michael Duncan Richard Leachman
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Dr. Ed and Jo Beth Young, Dr. Michael Duncan and Dr. Richard Leachman
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Heart of the Matter It's your total heart, not just the parts, that matters. Ed and Jo Beth Young
Carolyn is the envy of the lakeshore where she runs five or six mornings a week. When she glides by, glistening bronze sculpture in motion, heads turn. She's trim, toned, tan, and twenty-eight. Less-sculpted women look at Carolyn and say, "She wears spandex to show off what she's got; I wear it to hold everything in."
Fitness is more than a hobby with Carolyn; it's her career. Having earned degrees in business and health, she owns a small, upscale fitness club in the city and teaches classes in cardiovascular health and nutrition. Carolyn makes very good money, allowing her to afford a nanny for her preschool twins. And with the little boys taken care of, she constantly pushes herself physically-running farther and faster, working out strenuously, expanding the limits of her endurance.
What no one knows about this fitness goddess is that she wakes up in a cold sweat several nights a week, heart palpitating, stomach in knots, struggling to breathe. Carolyn has never lacked for male companions. But they all leave her eventually, just as Brett left their marriage two years ago. She feels so alone. Her heart aches for someone to love her for who she is, not just for her hard-body looks.
And for all the good Carolyn's focused diet and exercise are doing her physically, she feels empty at the core, as if her spiritual muscles are atrophied and useless. It's an even deeper ache than her desire for human connection.
Angie, a fifty-something wife and mother of three teens, lives in a world vastly different from Carolyn's. Most members of the small church Angie attends see her as a sterling example of spiritual and moral strength. Angie is usually the first volunteer for service projects. And when she's not spearheading a project, Angie is just there for people in the church, especially the women-listening to their problems, praying with them, and sending encouraging notes and e-mails.
Angie is so busy with church and family that she doesn't have time to keep herself in shape. Nutrition and exercise just aren't on her agenda. The meals she plans for the family-and eats herself-are quick, tasty, abundant, and loaded with calories, carbs, and fat. As a result, Angie is overweight by forty-five pounds-and counting. She can't walk up a flight of stairs without pausing to rest halfway.
Then there's Rebecca, who could be the poster girl for women who aspire to succeed as working wives and mothers. In grad school, Rebecca-a law student-met and married Carlos. Four years into her law practice, Rebecca gave birth to their first child. Rebecca and Carlos decided together not to give up Rebecca's career in order to be a stay-at-home mom. So after a short maternity leave, Rebecca was back in the office, often with baby and diaper bag in tow.
Cynthia is four now. Rebecca and Carlos have a fine-tuned schedule for tag-team childcare, which allows them both to keep working full-time without relegating Cynthia to day-care centers. On Saturdays, either Rebecca or her husband spends a few hours at work just to stay ahead. The six-day routine is grueling and exhausting, leaving time for little else. But Rebecca is intent on achieving junior partner by the time she's forty, and Carlos is committed to helping her do it. The couple is just as determined that Cynthia, the joy of their hearts, will not be a casualty of their career pursuits.
But there have been casualties from Rebecca's drive for success as a lawyer and mother. Her once-fervent faith in God has grown cold. A demanding schedule pushes Bible reading and prayer to the bottom of her daily to-do list, and they rarely happen. Sunday is kickback day for the family each week, and Rebecca guards the day fiercely. Church attendance has been jettisoned in favor of leisurely outings with Carlos and Cynthia.
Rebecca is proud of her accomplishments as a wife, mother, and professional woman. But she senses that her life is out of balance, like a chair with four legs of different lengths. She would feel better about herself if she were more spiritual, but there is so much else in her life that needs her attention.
You don't know these three women, but you probably know women like them. In fact, you may see something of yourself in these brief cameos of Carolyn, Angie, and Rebecca. Edwin and I have met many women like them wherever we have lived.
Busy lives, segmented lives, fragmented lives-they seem to be a sign of the times, don't they? There are so many demands on our schedules, so many tasks requiring our attention and energy. How can we put our hearts into everything? There just aren't enough hours in the day, and we don't seem to have the energy for all we need to do.
In a way, we're all composites of the three women above. Like Rebecca, about 60 percent of today's women work outside the home. Add to the workweek a woman's activities with friends, activities at church, community service projects, and the endless list of chores around the house. Plus, we all have family responsibilities of some kind.
Then there is the side of life Carolyn represents. Who doesn't want to outrun the ever-encroaching pounds and expanding dress sizes? Who really enjoys getting winded in the first minute of a game of driveway basketball with the kids? In a perfect world, we would all still fit into our prom dresses when attending our twenty-fifth high-school reunions-and have the stamina to dance and party like teenagers. But for many of us in the real world, the treadmill and our prom gowns were sold in a garage sale years ago, and the battle against calories, cholesterol, and pounds is a depressing standoff at best.
No wonder women like Carolyn, Angie, and Rebecca tend to live with hearts divided. Better to have it together in one or two key areas than to flounder in everything, they reason. Segmented lives and fragmented lives are all too common among the women we know. But it doesn't have to be this way, nor should it be. You are not a collection of parts that operate independently of one another. God created you to be a whole person with many closely integrated facets such as body, mind, emotions, and relationships. These areas are all interrelated and cannot be parceled out into categories of success or failure. When one area of your life is neglected or stressed, the whole person suffers as a result. A divided heart is often a hurting heart.
We want women like Carolyn, Angie, and Rebecca-and you-to grasp the importance of living wholeheartedly. When it comes to a woman's heart, the heart of the matter is the total heart. We believe God designed us to experience wholeness and health in body, soul, and spirit.
We're not saying you need to become some kind of Wonder Woman, such as a combination of Carolyn, Angie, and Rebecca. But you may be aware of areas of your life where you would like to enjoy greater health physically, spiritually, and emotionally. You might want to lose a few pounds and keep them off this time. Maybe you want to draw closer to God. Or perhaps you're just longing for your life to come together in all areas, to feel your heart is whole, together, and heading in the right direction. If so, this book is for you.
We confidently make you this promise: if you will devote about one hour a day toward Total Heart Health for 90 days straight-roughly thirty minutes to strengthening your physical heart and thirty minutes to strengthening your spiritual heart, along with a sensible diet-your life will be changed. You will begin to enjoy benefits that will last you a lifetime. We'll show you how to get started on the 90-Day Challenge, which will launch you into that healthy new lifestyle.
An Undivided Heart
When I (Edwin) think of the journey of Total Heart Health, I am reminded of one of King David's prayers: "Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I'll worship in joyful fear" (Psalm 86:11 MSG). David apparently knew about the fragmented life and its pain. He cried out for God to pull all the pieces together so his total heart would be centered on God.
That's a great prayer, isn't it? "Lord, give me a whole heart focused on You." It so happens that such a prayer is completely in harmony with what God wants to do in every woman's heart. When you ask God for an undivided heart, get ready. That's just what He loves to do.
What will you discover on the road to Total Heart Health? Here are four important characteristics of the journey ahead.
The Health of Your Physical Heart Is Linked to the Health of Your Spiritual Heart
Our culture is very health conscious these days. Just take a stroll down the health aisle in your local bookstore and see the myriad resources on every facet of diet and exercise. Seemingly every week, a new TV infomercial is touting another calorie-busting weight-loss scheme, fat-burning workout video, or ab-building apparatus made of chrome and plastic. It's all geared to help your physical heart tick stronger and longer-and make piles of money for entrepreneurs who trade on society's obsession with the perfect body. You could lose ten pounds just thumbing through all the weight-loss books!
But there is more to us than bones, muscles, and tissue. In the Bible, the creation account says, "The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground." That's the material, physical part of us, but God wasn't finished. The verse continues, "and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7). "Being" in this verse literally means "soul." That's the immaterial, spiritual part of us-our thoughts, feelings, motives, choices, desires, fears, hopes, ideas, dreams, purposes, guilts, joys, and so on. And since the first woman was fashioned from the first man (see Genesis 2:18-23), we know women are made of the same stuff. But most men would agree that it's arranged much better.
God created us as whole persons with both physical and spiritual properties. We are physical and spiritual beings, and whatever happens to one part affects the other. No wonder the apostle Paul prayed, "May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole ... put you together-spirit, soul, and body-and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23 MSG).
God wants you to grow in health as a whole person. Physical heart health and spiritual heart health are tightly interlocked.
Gaining Total Heart Health Is a Process, Just as Losing It Is
Having steadily gained weight for ten to twelve years, Jenny knew she had to make some changes to improve her health. She acknowledged that exercise was as important as diet in controlling her weight, but she was not athletic and felt uncomfortable going into a gym. Developing a regular exercise program seemed an insurmountable challenge.
Then Jenny's brother gave her a membership to a private gym. Since she didn't want to waste his money, Jenny started forcing herself to go to the gym two or three times a week, early in the morning. At first, everything in her body and soul resisted working out. But after a month, it wasn't as difficult. And after three months, Jenny was actually looking forward to her aerobics class and her personal workout regimen. Her eating patterns changed, too, and she lost thirty pounds. She also noted improvement in her chronically high blood pressure.
Getting out of shape physically and spiritually happens over a period of weeks and months, so getting back in shape will take time too. Changing an unhealthy behavior pattern is nothing more than replacing it with a healthy behavior pattern. In the pages ahead, we will encourage you and coach you in the process of replacing unhealthy patterns with healthy patterns on the road to Total Heart Health-body and soul. This is no fad program guaranteeing instant success. It's a process in which every small step takes you farther from where you've been and nearer to where you want to be.
Total Heart Health Involves the Spiritual Heart and the Physical Heart
In this book, we address the health needs of the physical heart and the spiritual heart simultaneously. You will notice at the beginning of each chapter one or two symbols, which indicate the emphasis of that chapter. Chapters marked with the symbol below on the left focus more on the spiritual heart. Chapters marked with the symbol on the right emphasize physical heart health. And chapters marked with both symbols below are intersections of the physical heart and the spiritual heart.
Your spiritual heart will strengthen as you devote some time each day to reading the Bible and praying to God. Jo Beth and I will take the lead in helping you strengthen your spiritual heart.
As a young man, I dreamed of building bridges, so I enrolled at the University of Alabama to become an engineer. But as a freshman, my belief in God was challenged by an atheist, so I launched into a serious search for God's purpose for my life. Six months later I committed my life to being a pastor, and I've been at it ever since.
Jo Beth and I have been a team for almost half a century. In addition to being a wonderful wife, homemaker, and mother of our three grown sons, Jo Beth is a Bible teacher and women's speaker. She is also an accomplished artist whose paintings reflect the joy and peace she imparts to those who know her. We want to share with you biblical principles and strategies to help you grow a healthy spiritual heart.
You will strengthen your physical heart as you take care to exercise each day and maintain a healthy diet. Mike Duncan and Rick Leachman will be the point persons on the physical heart track. They have extensive clinical experience and insight into women's heart health. They will share with you from their vast knowledge and expertise how to pursue and achieve physical heart health.
As you pursue these two tracks simultaneously, beginning with the 90-Day Challenge, your total heart will grow strong and remain strong.
Total Heart Health Is Not a Fleeting Fad but a Lifelong Pursuit
The Bible teaches paradoxically that the total health of your spiritual heart will not be realized until your physical heart stops beating. For the Christian, death is the doorway into the fullness of life. So our spiritual heart health is always in process until we enter God's presence in heaven. As long as you pursue a deeper, more intimate relationship with God and His Word, your spiritual heart will improve in health.
As for your physical heart, you can look forward to a process of improving heart health over time-up to a point. But inevitably, age and perhaps disease or injury will weaken your heart, and it will stop beating for good. But in the meantime, you can and should pursue optimum heart health, both to extend and to enjoy the decades ahead.
This side of heaven, there is no point at which you can say, "I have arrived. My heart is totally healthy." There are always additional steps to take on this journey to maintain the level of heart health you have achieved and to lift your health to the next level. And every step you take is a positive step in the direction of Total Heart Health.
In part 1, we will explore the unique nature of a woman's total heart and why it is so important to pursue Total Heart Health. In part 2, we will unmask and disarm the deadly enemies of a woman's heart, those forces that can rob you of your health and even your life. And in part 3, we will look at numerous strategies for nurturing your total heart to constantly improve your health.
Here's to your health!
Key to Total Heart Health Chapter 1: The Heart of the Matter
Segmented, fragmented lives are all too common among women today.
God created you to be a whole person in body, soul, and spirit; and when one area of your life is neglected or stressed, the whole person suffers.
If you will devote about one hour per day toward Total Heart Health for 90 days straight, your life will be changed.
There are four important characteristics of the journey toward Total Heart Health:
1. The health of your physical heart is linked to the health of your spiritual heart.
2. Gaining Total Heart Health is a process, just as losing it is.
3. Total Heart Health involves the spiritual heart and the physical heart.
4. Total Heart Health is not a fleeting fad but a lifelong pursuit.
Excerpted from Total Heart Health for Women by Ed Young Jo Beth Young Michael Duncan Richard Leachman Copyright © 2007 by Dr. Ed and Jo Beth Young, Dr. Michael Duncan and Dr. Richard Leachman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.