• Amy Sotis

Luminaries Living Life


Who hasn’t experienced the disappointment of a resolution gone awry? Perhaps it is the driving factor that makes some of us not even want to try to make changes because of the fear of setting ourselves up for defeat. Well, striving and toiling for change is something that intrinsically sounds negative in nature, but as we know, it takes sacrifice from the comforts of the sofa to see improvement in most areas of life! On the opening night of retreats or events, I always share, “First we make our habits, and then our habits make us”. Additionally, “Dream Big; Set Goals; Take Action”. On a lighter note, I recently heard, “Life is like underwear…change is good” (this must have resonated with me because I am a mother of three younger boys)! So, to enact true change, what is required?

First off, group support and encouragement can be a significant factor for an external “pressure” to say “no” to the current lifestyle one may feel trapped in. Perhaps hunger or sweet cravings get the best of you every. single. day. and you just stop trying to say no because the feelings of failure are too great when you don’t live up to your own expectation nevertheless anothers'. Find a group where you feel supported rather than discouraged if you *fail*. Any striving for healthy lifestyle change should be met with encouragement for any baby steps rather than a focus on perceived failure to adhere to a specific plan. Our plan specifically recommends a sugar detox, consumption of nutrient-dense food and beverages and regular exercise. Although this sounds nice on a paper and not anything earth-shattering as far as a summary, the enacting of a sugar detox, nutrient-dense food and regular exercise is a lot harder than you might think at first glance! We give people the tools to live out this lifestyle for the long run rather than as a diet plan for a month or so.

Secondly, having the knowledge about obesity, nutrition, exercise, metabolism, etc will build a framework in your brain for setting yourself up for success when you are faced with approximately 200 food-related decisions every. single. day. Change toward healthier habits doesn’t have to be dramatic but it should be decisive, sacrificial, and joyful. If you don’t like the new lifestyle you won’t adhere to it for the long haul. I say repeatedly that Luminaries Retreat is not about another fad diet, its about lifestyle change because this lifestyle is something that brings joy, peace, and contentment (not depravation and a sense of punishment for so-called past eating “sins”). I try to put the focus on the blessing that our bodies are from God and if people feel trapped in their current lifestyles and unable to change, I always encourage them with the heart of a loving God who implores, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). It is comforting to know that in every resolve for goodness, God will help us achieve our goals, and we have nothing but gratitude to Him when positive change happens.

Cooking demonstration of a healthy Mexican Chicken Soup during a daytime retreat

Here are a few stories of change I’ve recently been made aware of. I want to thank each and every Luminary who has taken measures for healthy lifestyle change and for the encouragement to me personally to share them with our staff and now you.

Carol: I am still on track (with some detours) but want to share some exciting news with you all. So 2 1/2 years ago my husband and I signed up for life insurance. My rating came in as a non-smoker rating of 3 and the cost for life insurance was $1549 for a year. I asked if I worked hard on changing my lifestyle if I could be retested. So in 2015 I had labwork done and through my not following up and the paperwork getting lost, I again paid $1549. So this year when the renewal was coming up I again asked to be retested. My labwork came in as "normal"- no longer prediabetic, normal blood pressure and normal ECG. I received a refund check last week for $723 and am now rated as non-smoker rate of 1. Conclusion- better health does pay off big dividends and poor health costs a lot of money. Just wanted to share my encouraging news. My challenge remains to daily make these healthier choices and hope that the weight will start to come off too. Thanks for your support and encouragement- so needed!

(Carol has been her health journey for a couple of years and came on a Luminaries Retreat this fall. She and her husband also participated in our month-long challenge for locals where we did seminars multiple times a week as well as group encouragement for healthy resolves and a low-sugar life).

Kelly: This is my first time doing a sugar detox - although I went to the November Ladies Retreat I learned a lot and made some healthy changes but didn’t commit to a full-on sugar detox. While on the February Ladies Retreat I decided it was time to commit. On day 1, when I went to a family birthday party, my brother in law thought it was pretty funny that I would try this. He kept telling me there’s no way I’ll last even a day. All I had at the party was turkey, carrots, and guacamole dip. He even put a piece of my favorite pumpkin bread on my plate when I wasn’t looking. I know he was just being humorous, but I had to push through it, and I did! A bonus was that I had lost 3 1/2 pounds over the 3 days I was at the February Ladies Retreat! Day 2 has been tough. The toughest part is preparing food for the kids. Also, because I don’t like unsweetened coffee I have been only been having sips (normally 3 cups a day including many sweetened lattes). I am having headaches from caffeine withdrawals (minimal coffee and no chocolate which I eat regularly). I did have scrambled eggs, peppers, venison, guac and carrot sticks again, salmon for lunch, dinner was chicken and cooked broccoli. Day 3 my daughter ate a lettuce egg roll. She likes it and so do I! I would’ve never tried this if it wasn’t for this sugar detox. Prayer helps too! Day 4 my dinner was stir fried shrimp and veggies. I am still staying on track. Day 5 we had a birthday celebration at work today but I had brought Greek chicken soup with roasted cauliflower and cabbage. I was tempted to have chips and better than you know what cake, but I did not…not giving up. Too close. Day 7 the kids are having Valentines cookies and I feel I need a couple. I’m shaky and having cravings (Amy’s advice was to eat 150-200 calories of a high protein and good carb snack right away - thankfully the cravings went away and she didn’t eat the cookies). Day 8 - Wow, I have lost 10 pounds so far! Couldn’t have done it without you, thanks for all your support, encouragement, and inspiration! I have a ways to go. Maybe 20 more pounds - somehow my SAD (Standard American Diet) got the best of me. I rewarded myself with a new houseplant for the accomplishment rather than with food. Day 9 and following I will continue on with the sugar detox but add back in some dairy (cheese and yogurt). I might try a 6 days on plan and 1 day off a week to reach my goal.

"Here Mom, we have a treat for you"...Kelly writes, "How can I turn this down? Look what the kids just gave me for Valentines Day!"

"Disregard. Here is what I got instead."

YES. Having a sense of humor while on a sugar detox is very important!

Jacqueline: I first found Luminaries Retreat online while looking for a company or business that would merge my passions - faith, fitness, and an overall healthy approach to life, and truthfully Luminaries is all of those things - but so, so much more. Amy, (as you know or will come to find!) is an extremely inclusive and genuinely caring person, as a college student sending out a random email to Luminaries Retreat, I figured I would maybe receive a few answers or not hear back at all, Amy (and the Lord) had a different plan! Within a few weeks not only had she answered my "how did you get to where you are?!" questions and calmed my anxious heart about the future and God's plan for me, but I was signed up and ready for the February 3-5th Women's Weekend Retreat. I cannot say enough about my experience - I haven't stopped talking about it to friends/family since! The food and workouts, were amazing as expected, Amy, the fitness trainers, and retreat staff were wonderful at taking the guess work out of getting moving and eating well for the weekend and my body and soul felt at peace. What I did not expect was to meet such amazing and inspiring people along the way - from hearing their testimonies to just bearing witness to these women who are everything I am working to become someday, the weekend was truly a gift and I can't wait to return. If you are considering a weekend stay or longer - book it!

If you are sitting at your screen thinking of all the "I can'ts": I am too needed at home, at work, or at school, I am too busy, too sedentary, too anxious - will they have the right foods? Will I get enough rest? Will I fit in? Think no further. God brought you to this page, to this review, and He does not call us to do anything we cannot handle, or to do it alone! You will not regret taking this step for your self, your health, and your faith life.

February Ladies-only Retreat group

Sharon: I just had my blood work done and my cholesterol is down from 306 to 230 with no drugs.

Sharon previously wrote a blog for Luminaries about her experience in detail so this is a short recent update. It is thrilling to not only see emotional, mental, and practical change but also medical change!

Janita: So, I did measurements on Dec 28 and remeasured today (Feb 5)….Drum roll….I have lost 29 inches during this time! Give or take a few because I’m doing my own measurements and I may not be measuring the exact same place I did before. But, I’m still doing no sugar, good carbs, good fats, good proteins. Feeling great. God has given me grace and now it is time for me to be healthy. Weighing in once a month or every two months will be best for me. Thank you for using the tools that God has directed you to help make me a happier, healthier Mama for myself and my family! This is my lifestyle and the way I will choose to be from now on. I will be successful; please help hold me accountable. 2 weeks later (Feb 17), I am doing great - still eating healthy, no sugar still and feeling great! You have inspired me to change…and I am!!

Probiotics and Prebiotics seminar by LeeAnn Vitalis

S.G.: During the month of January my wife and I decided to go to the Luminaries Weight Loss and Wellness Challenge and we went full-on, with complete dedication. In 5 weeks I have lost 30 pounds and my wife has lost 17! Our favorite new foods that Amy recommended were substituting farro for rice and other grains and making one half of our plate full of vegetables at every meal. The other day, after 6 weeks on the Luminaries plan, I ate a chocolate peanut butter rice krispie bar, and instead of enjoying it, I felt a pit and pain in my stomach and I felt terrible for rest of the afternoon. I slammed my fist on the table and cursed Amy but I really did marvel at the fact at how much my body had changed for the better in a short amount of time! No going back now, we have goals and we are going to accomplish them! See below for pictures of the Valentines Day special dinner and dessert that S.G. made for his family. Seafood pasta made with Greek yogurt, whole-grain noodles, and a sprinkling of cheese instead of the normal heavy cream and roux sauce.

Valentines Dinner dessert of Luminaries Black Bean Brownies topped with berries and fresh cream (a treat with a few healthy twists). Its important to have go-to recipes that are reserved for substitutions on celebration days.

Jackie and Cindy will someday give us a full account of their recent five weeks in our residential program but for now please let me pass along that they have experienced joy and freedom previously unbeknownst to them by their time here and I cannot take credit for it at all but just to say how grateful I am that they wholeheartedly followed the Luminaries plan and each lost a significant amount of weight while in the program. However, a scale is just a scale and not the true measure of lifestyle change. Perspective and mentality toward life has been altered greatly and there is a new-found joy in exercise, cooking, living, and faith.

Jackie has been trying many new recipes for her loved ones back home (cauliflower crust pizza is a favorite!), walking and exercising regularly, and spreading her contagious joy with others.

Cindy recently wrote, "Thank you for pouring in to me, a much broken and crumbled person when I arrived here. I don't even feel like the pieces were put back together, but Christ made me whole again. A new beginning, story and journey. And, by the way, I weighed myself when I got home and I did lose the 20 pounds I had set as a goal before I arrived!"

Cindy won a cash gift for her participation in the January Weight Loss Challenge - she was the winner with a 7% body weight loss!

Kristin recently shared her entire story with the February Ladies Retreat group but just a quick shout out to her for completing 10 weeks of a sugar detox and no plans to go back to the old way of life! At recent count, in that time frame, she has lost 32 pounds and gained so much. We will be highlighting her story in an upcoming post!

Kristin shares her powerful and inspiring personal journey and experience with Luminaries Retreat at our recent Ladies retreat at Oak Forest

Theresa: "Exercise is kinda like flossing my teeth...I don't want to do it but I know its good for me so I do it anyway. Thank you for inspiring me! I did 25 minutes on the arc trainer, level 4, hill intervals. Then I did some lower body work - 12 reps for each exercise. Then, some arm work with light hand weights and that was just to start. I'm gaining some movement and strength after my previous injury. Came home from the gym and had a veggie scramble and eggs and a delicious orange. Not bad for an old broad like me!" (Theresa won a complimentary gym membership in our January Challenge).

Theresa's breakfast post-workout

Final encouragement for the day....

“Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:8-10

Group workout led by certified fitness instructor Anne Sinclear-Prokop


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