My struggle with body image plagued much of my high school and college years. It led to a mild eating disorder and years of crying in front of the mirror. Living in my own body became torture.
I could only see myself through the lens of criticism and imperfection. Just about every morning, I sobbed as I sat between piles of clothes that I had tried on for the day.
Ultimately, I had misplaced my sense of value in the way I looked. And it became my obsession—one that robbed me of happiness and joy.
After nearly seven years of God working on my heart and mind through this struggle, I was set free—God truly transformed the way I view myself. And I never want to go back.
To this day, I no longer struggle to look in the mirror the same way I did. One of my greatest victories was allowing a scale back into the house. But with such a great victory came another improper way of be viewing health.
Instead of obsessing over the way I looked, I moved to the completely opposite end of the spectrum. I never thought twice about exercise or nutrition. I didn’t realize how bad it had got until I looked at pictures and realized how much weight I had gained.
My new struggle became how to become intentional about nutrition and exercise in a healthy way.
I knew I didn’t want to go back to being obsessed with my body. But where I was wasn’t good either. In my process of dealing with body shaming, many people had expressed how I shouldn’t care what I look like and that God loved me for me. There’s some truth to these statements, but I wouldn’t agree fully.
Unfortunately, I think the Church has viewed any type of physical fitness as vanity or as a product of being overly concerned with material things.
On my journey to a healthy balance of physical fitness I have learned a lot about God.
Physical matter, matters.
To suggest physical fitness is born out of vanity or materialism is to misunderstand how God created us. Back in Genesis 1, God formed man and woman with flesh. They were not made only as spiritual beings that are disembodied. God created them with bodies.
If God didn’t want us to care about our bodies, why would He so intricately form them?
Think about how amazing the human body is. The way its very functioning is so strategically woven together. When God formed Adam he said it was “very good,” that meant his physical body too. So how can we possibly think the care for our physical well being doesn’t matter?
We were intended to live in bodies that were designed with everything we need to live. Food and exercise are spiritual issues. (You can read more about the spirituality of food here.)
Our bodies are gifts to be stewarded.
One of the most frustrating parts about getting old is the body—it doesn’t work the way it used to. Systems start breaking down. The body is truly amazing when it’s working at its fullest capacity. We were given the gift of life in the bodies created for us.
To not care about the well-being of your physical body is to be a bad steward of the gift God has given. Our bodies were created to thrive with certain types of macronutrients and exercise.
We wouldn’t expect a car to run if we filled it with lard instead of gasoline. Cars are designed to be fueled by gasoline, that is how they are sustained and refueled. Yet we put all sorts of things in our bodies that were never part of sustaining or refueling it.
We don’t need to be obsessed with the outer looks of our body. But we should be intentional about being good stewards of what God has given us.
Having a healthy body helps us live a fuller life.
For those of you who personally know me, you know I have a really bad sweet tooth. I love all things sugar.
As much as I enjoy eating sugary things, I know there are some terrible repercussions to my body. After a high day of sugar I usually feel sluggish, my skin starts to breakout, my mood irrationally fluctuates, and my stomach is not happy. These are all things I know that I suffer from if I intake too much sugar.
My body is literally telling me in so many different ways that I made a terrible choice.
On the weeks that I am consistently eating well (and I don’t mean dieting), I feel great. I have far more energy, my skin looks better, my brain is alert and less foggy. When I care about my nutrition, I can actually enjoy the benefits to my body functioning well.
And not only are there benefits from eating well, but there are also benefits from staying active.
One of the highlights of my day is CrossFit. My life has truly changed since I joined CrossFit Lifted. I enjoy working out in a community setting and challenging myself. It is absolutely amazing to see how my body is capable of things I would have never imagined.
Being physically active is about more than finding joy in working out. It allows you to find joy in relationships. I have two nieces and two nephews ages 2-5, and they have a ton of energy. I love being able to run around with them and not feel absolutely exhausted after five minutes. There is no way I can keep up with them the whole time. But being able to run around with them brings me so much joy.
What I am not saying…
It is important to be intentional about your physical fitness. But you run the risk of it being unhealthy if it’s where you find your value. We can only truly find our identity in is Jesus. We will never be satisfied if our life purpose and mission is centered on our physical fitness.
For me, I truly enjoy CrossFit and it has become a large part of my life. For my husband, he finds joy in running and both of us aim to stay consistent in the forms of physical activity we enjoy.
As intricate and necessary our bodies are, we were never meant to worship them. In no way should our focus on nutrition and exercise become greater than our focus on God. Our worship should be to the Creator and not the creation.
We were created with flesh and our bodies matter in their ability to live our lives to the glory of God.