I was going to write about something else this week, but was caught by this passage I heard in church this morning, and was so enthralled by it, I thought this would be the proper season to share it with everyone. If you're reading this blog, I'm willing to bet it will also resonate with you, whether you are a Christian or not.

This phrase actually sums up everything that most of us are ever looking for. It is the reason we do everything from rising in the morning, to going to work, to building relationships, caring for our families, shopping, eating, taking vacations, giving to others, and all the myriad other things we do to feel fulfilled. Yet so very many of these things fall short in giving us the one thing we really want....

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a training conference in Orlando.  It was a wonderful change from the below-freezing temperatures we have endured in Ohio for the past month! I took with me to read on the plane, a book I've had sitting on my coffee table for months, but hadn't gotten around to reading yet. Shocking, funny, infuriating, and above all, eye-opening, The Omnivore's Dilemma, by best-selling author (and truly excellent writer) Michael Pollan, exposes things about your food you never knew - and once you know them, you'll never look at food the same way.

I didn't expect the book to be so engaging, and my alternate horrified gasps, frustrated sighs, and surprised laughter drew several odd looks from my fellow passengers. Not the least of which was my young seatmate and co-worker, who asked with interest what the book was about. I explained briefly, but then shared a few examples of what I was learning, after the last of which, she replied - "Never mind - don't tell me any more - I don't want to know!" When I replied, but "knowledge is power," my ever-quick-witted protege countered with "ignorance is bliss."

Witty though her response may have been, this sort of thinking frustrates me to no end, and I encounter it everywhere! Somehow we humans seem to have evolved away from our natural inclination to learn what is bad for us so we can avoid it, and into some strange ostrich-like mindset that, "what we don't know can't hurt us." When it comes to food and what we put into our bodies every day, nothing could be further from the truth!

If you've read my exercise blog before, you may know that I have struggled with chronic back pain for going on 10 years now.  As anyone who has experienced it knows, back pain is no joke, and no laughing matter either. In my case, I'm not aware of any immediate cause - my lower back just got stiffer and stiffer, until I could barely put on my shoes in the morning. Finally I started seeing a chiropractor, and things went downhill from there, as years of pent up tension and dysfunction were gradually released, creating havoc among the muscles that had been compensating for the spinal alignment problems for many years. After a year or two of regular chiropractic visits, the bouts of pain became less frequent, and less extreme. But I still have to be careful about what I do, and it sometimes seems the smallest thing will trigger a relapse. You may know what I'm talking about if you've experienced it yourself....

I've felt for some time that there has to be a solution somewhere. My body was made to move, and move without pain. No matter how it got to the state it had come to, shouldn't there be a way to reverse it, and get back to a normal, healthy, flexible and pain-free back? But what is the answer? It's certainly not drugs (a temporary aid at best), or surgery (one older lady I know just had her 5th back surgery; she is in constant pain and on several drugs for it, and has been for many years, having more and more of her spine removed and/or fused with each surgery; she has never been to a chiropractor or tried any sort of natural treatment, and probably never will. I expect soon she will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life).

I know that part of the answer comes with activity. I never had any such symptoms until several years at a desk job, sitting almost constantly for 8 hours at a time. Talk about unnatural! But such is the way of the world these days. Unnatural as it may be for our bodies, it is indeed normal in today's society to sit at a desk for 8+ hours per day. All we can do is find a way to move as much as possible even while working (such as is discussed in Dr. Levine's book, Move A Little, Lose A Lot). And we can also find ways to strengthen our muscles and joints so that they stay strong and flexible, and able to support our weight and handle other tasks we may throw at them unexpectedly.

The holidays come every year, like clockwork, but somehow so many of us still seem surprised by our credit card bills come January. We certainly live in a society of the moment, but if we truly want to take back control of our health and our future, we also need to take responsibility for our finances, and that means controlling our spending.

You may have heard the phrase, "the slavery of debt," and make no mistake, debt indeed makes you a slave, and the financiers of your overspending are your masters. I still remember vividly a scenario from my church quite a few years back, when they did a message on debt, and illustrated it with live-action scenes of people with shackles and nooses around their necks, being dragged around by those they were in debt to.

It certainly was a dramatic interpretation, but the point hit home with me hard - then still deeply in debt myself - and I never forgot it. Having experienced it myself for many years, I can truly say that being in debt feels like being in chains, and getting rid of that debt is like being set free. I will share my story of the long, arduous process of freeing myself at another time. But today I want to talk about what you can do, right now, to stop feeding your debt, and start building a freer future for you and your family - starting with your holiday shopping this season.