Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
Celebrity trainer Alex Penix shares the story of his awakening—and the physical, mental, and spiritual steps needed for our own transformations—in his new 43-day devotional, Seven Sundays: A Faith, Fitness, and Food Plan for Lasting Spiritual and Physical Change. The biblically-inspired book aims to help readers find the same higher power that helped Penix heal childhood wounds and achieve a deeper sense of wellbeing.
“I want people to understand that we are body, mind, and spirit,” he says. “But our bodies—and that includes our brain—have been conditioned for so many years. So by doing a process like Seven Sundays, we’re making new conditioning habits and new distinctions, shifting our nervous system and connecting ourselves with a healthier lifestyle and the way it makes us feel. It’s just changing the way you used to do things and walking into a new path—and understanding that we do have dominion over these choices.”
Why is awareness of what we eat—and, especially for emotional eaters, why we eat it—key to making a sustainable shift to healthier eating?
I say that awareness is the key to making any change in your life. Willpower can last for however long, but if we’re not really dealing with the wound—because with food it’s really as much emotional as it is physical—and really aren’t bringing that awareness to the surface and understanding why we are choosing this food rather than that food, then we aren’t going to make a shift that lasts long term. So I want people to start understanding why they’re making some of the decisions they’re making. Once that happens, as long as they desire that change, they have the education and awareness and knowledge to make that step forward and start creating that (lasting) shift in their lives.
How can moving to a diet of all-natural foods—namely those you call the 10 Faith-Full Foods—help in this transformation?
Whenever we’re introducing a food that isn’t man-made, that is healthy, that is good for us, I want the awareness to be, “this food is good for me, this food is changing my life, this food is making me feel alive and changing my body, changing my mind.” You start reconditioning the way you look at these healthy foods. And when you bring in (man-made) Faith-Less Foods, you start making those connections that will turn you away from them.
Once we start going through that process of reconditioning, we start making positive linkages to the food we want and negative connections to the foods we don’t want. This is the awareness I want when people bring these foods in—that they’re ultimately saying that this is the food that God has made. The other foods are ones that man has made, has reformed, has refined, and has taken out some of their nutritional value. Whereas this (natural) food is plentiful the way it comes. When we remind ourselves of that, that’s when I believe we begin to really see a major shift in our eating habits.
Which all-natural sweetening foods can help us cut out Faith-Less sugar?
Some of the natural sweeteners I turn to are stevia, the 100 percent extract, and monk fruit. Also, molasses and maple syrup are good options. If we introduce these natural options, even the maple syrup a little bit—which is okay (even though) there is sugar in it—our bodies will respond favorably. The body wants these natural foods, it knows how to digest these natural foods. So as long as we’re exercising and eating properly and sleeping, once we get our bodies on a rhythm, we can start incorporating some of these healthier sweeteners.
What are your favorite energizing snacks?
For a long time I didn’t have energy bars. But recently I found G2G or Good to Go bars and absolutely fell in love with them. As a trainer I’m always on my feet, so I need an extra source of protein and carbs that is all-natural. I can also turn to things like almonds, cashews, and walnuts. And I can also snack on any type of lean meat with some cheese. And there’s nothing easier than hard-boiled eggs with vegetables or low-glycemic fruits. There’s an endless amount of all-natural snacks we can turn to that will help us nourish that feeling of hunger and allow us to have that sustainability that I think we all desire throughout the day.