I’ve been meaning to talk about this for a long time now and I’ve had a lot of concepts about health floating around in my head for some time that I wasn’t sure how to fit together. But alas, here I am. Before I begin I just want to state that I’m not a professional anything. I’m no dietitian or nutritionist (yet. Mwahaha.) so keep that in mind. I don’t claim to know it all, or really, anything for that matter. These are just my opinions.
Okay, we can continue.
I love health and fitness. Always have, and prayerfully, always will. For as long as I can remember I’ve adored exercise. I used to have to do weights or squats or sit ups while I watched TV because I couldn’t sit still for extended periods of time. I used to bike 6 miles to church at least once a week. Of course, that all changed dramatically once I was diagnosed with lupus and I began to have trouble breathing and what not. But still, fitness is my best friend. I have a tumblr dedicated to health, or as well call them, a fitblr; and my Pinterest is stacked with healthy nonsense and exercise ideas and cute workout tanks. My best friend/work out buddy and I regularly take trips to the Nike store or Sports Authority to drool over their sports apparel. And lastly, I would rather play volleyball than watch a movie. Honestly.
But health is such an important topic to me because mainly, I feel like its talked about in all the wrong ways. See, we tend to think “healthy” and “skinny” are synonyms. Or that working out 6 times a week is “healthy.” Let me just say, it isn’t. Is physical health worth the sacrifice of your mental health?
I work with kids who are struggling with eating disorders, so naturally, these things are important to me. On a daily basis I see people who have these sad relationships with food, and in tern, sad relationships with their own body. I am very aware of the problems that come with preoccupation with food as well as negative self image. And I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve not always had the best relationship with food. I’ve had self image issues and food issues for a long time and sometimes I still struggle with them. But one thing that helped me is my fitblr. Yes, my tumblr helped me out of self esteem issues. True story. On there I found a community who were dedicated, hard working, confident, and strong people. And they were people of all different body types. Some were vegan, some did keto, some had abs, some didn’t; some had been doing this for years, and still others were just beginning. But I learned so much about health and what it means through that community,
I used to think to be healthy you had to eat all the right foods and exercise a lot. But I found that it is so much more than that. I think a lot of people misunderstand health, and there are a ton of people who believe themselves to be healthy (and have the abs to show for it.) but who are weak mentally and spiritually. Health isn’t having a nice body, it isn’t feeling good, it’s not living off of lettuce; it’s being nice to your body, in every way. I went through times where I would beat myself up over eating unhealthy foods, or would eat right but only because I knew the guilt I would feel if I didn’t; this my friends, is called eating out of fear. This is so not healthy. I could be eating all the right foods but at what cost?
Something I have witnessed a lot in my life is people who are genuinely trying to turn their lives around and eat better and exercise more, but I think we gotta be seriously careful in that. There is such a thin line between dedication and obsession; and it is so easy to fall into the latter category, Sometimes we aren’t even aware when it happens.
So in case this wasn’t apparent, let me state it openly. Mental health is as important as physical health.
Paul addresses this issue beautifully in chapter 4 of 1 Timothy. He writes “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things.”
So many people get so caught up in trying to eat right that they end up becoming obsessed with food. It eats away at their mind and steals their joy. Many people won’t develop eating disorders, but many will develop distorted eating patterns and an unhealthy relationship with food. Food is meant to be fuel and to be your friend. It’s not a burden. One should never feel bad about eating and should never restrict their food intake. Please don’t beat yourself up over what you have eaten and please don’t stop eating because you feel fat and please don’t you ever think you’re not beautiful because you’re not “skinny.” Because health isn’t a number or a size.
You need to remember to feed more than your body; you need to feed your soul. I am a firm believer that chocolate is healthy. For your body? Not so much; but for your soul…it does wonders. I’m dead serious when I say that. There’s a difference between gluttony and eating chocolate every now and then. And trust me when I say that nothing tastes as good as a bit of chocolate after of a week of knowing you fed your body properly. I am 100% against food restrictions and diet culture, If I had my way, that D word wouldn’t even exist in my house; no matter the context. In my personal experience, restriction only leads to binges and guilt and self punishment. It’s harmful; not helpful. I think people need to stop labeling foods and good or bad and stop saying they “can’t” eat something. Because you can. But you should choose the foods out of self love. never self hate. I think we need to stop eating certain foods because its what we “should” do, and eat the right foods because its what we want to do. Don’t exercise because you hate your body; exercise because you love it. I also don’t believe in counting calories or any of that crap. Like heck to the no. When you count numbers it begins an obsession. I can’t do that to myself. And I am also of the belief that weighing yourself is bad too. Every now and then is fine; like I only do it at the doctor. But every day to every other day…it borders unhealthy. These are ways we start to get obsessed with numbers.
One last point; you need to know your body and your limitations. I can’t stress this enough. Each person is unique and we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and no one knows them better than you. So be very mindful of those things. Let me elaborate; for example, I know I have had a past with self image issues and I know I also have obsessive tendencies; if I were to completely restrict certain foods…it would be a disaster. I am not willing to risk my mental health for a nice body. So what are your weaknesses? Keep in mind some areas you may be vulnerable. And work on them. If you have self image issues, maybe things you see on tumblr might trigger you, so while getting a fitness tumblr was good for me, it might be bad for you. Either way, know your own body. Keep in mind what foods make you sick or what makes you feel good; how much sleep do you need? Can your body physically hold up after working out 4 times a week or do you need to start less and build your way up? It’s different for each individual.
I’m not trying to bash healthy eating. No way. I am all for it. I love how I feel after a healthy meal and I love working out and being active. I also love making cookies and eating the cookie dough and drinking coffee in the morning. What I want you to remember is to be aware of your mind and your spirit and your soul; they are the core of who you are. But please, please take care of your body. And do it out of love. Know that beauty isn’t a size and it’s okay to have a piece of cake. There is something so special about sitting down to have a meal with someone. (“There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good.”-Ecclesiastes 2:24.) I want you to be happy and love life and not worry about how much you weigh or what pant size you wear. I want you to have a healthy mind and a healthy body and I want you to love yourself and be confident and eat right and want to improve but to never stop loving yourself every step of the way.
You are worth it and your body is a temple. Love yourself.