It’s Mother’s Day so naturally I wanted to get a family picture. When I looked back at the few I had to choose from, I immediately noticed things like my swollen feet and double chin. Being one month from my due date, these things are perfectly normal for expectant moms but it’s still a hard thing to grasp when I look back at the pictures. I immediately thought, well I am not going to put THAT one on social media. However, the more I thought about it today I realized, on this Mother’s Day, that swollen feet and double chins are among the many things that moms are willing to endure to live sacrificially for the sake of their children. And when I put my thoughts into their right place, I remember that living sacrificially for others is a joy and honor because it is exactly how Jesus lived. He gave up his body, suffered greatly, and died for those he loved. So today, as I am tempted to complain about the many ailments that accompany motherhood, I am reminded to be thankful for the love of the One who has given the greatest sacrifice of all.
With social media, it has been so easy to make one’s “cause” known. The more we post about a certain topic, the more our social media identity becomes synonymous with our cause. For example, the more I post about healthy living, the more I become the healthy living lady. Or the more I post about my pregnancy, my sole identity becomes the pregnant lady (although if you take one look at me, that is pretty much all you’ll see). These are fine things to be and they are part of who I am, but I don’t want them to be all of who I am. There are various causes I care about, but lately as I have been feeling sucked into our world of false gospels, I have been wondering if the things I am shouting about are worth all the time and energy I spend shouting about them.
There is a phrase in Christian theological culture that goes like this: Major on the majors and minor on the minors. What this means is that there are some theological issues that are foundational and critical to Christianity, and conversely there are some things we can agree to disagree on. So let’s say I apply this principle to my social media posts. The more I make a big hype about the minor issues of the day, the more I start to lose focus on what the majors are. And I am not only talking about social media, actually. Lately, the words I have been speaking to others and the things I have been showing my passion for have been minor things. I, like many other human beings, have the tendency to lose my focus.
Therefore, I need to ask myself this: what is my major? What do I want to be known for? If I express my opinions and my dissatisfaction with the state of this world, what is it that I am speaking out for? At the end of the day, how have I used my voice? I have been mulling these things over for a few weeks now, but gained much clarity as I recently read this verse from 1 Corinthians 1:31, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” To boast is to speak with pride about something. Right now we live in a world where many people are very proud about their opinions to the point that they despise others who might disagree with them. I don’t want to be like that. If there is one thing that I am proud about…one thing that I will boast about, it must be in the fact that God has saved and redeemed my undeserving soul and showered his grace upon me. Of course I have thoughts and opinions on many things and very important causes, but the one thing that I want to most care about is the cause of Christ.
“I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.”
How Deep the Father’s Love by Stuart Townend
In general, most people exercise to be healthy. However, sometimes people exercise primarily to look good…to look sexy…to be able to show it off when the time comes to take it off. Think of the saying, “If you got it, flaunt it!” Women post pictures on social media all the time that shout of their desire to be desirable. Lately, I have been thinking about what culture says about women and where, as a Christian woman, I am to be different. For example, is it ok to want to be sexy and strive for beauty? I want us to explore what our motivations are for beauty, why we workout, and even for what we post on social media.
Culture might be all for sex and beauty, but for Christians, it matters where our hearts are on this issue. I think we can find in Scripture that we are encouraged, even commanded, to be good stewards of what we have been given–and our bodies are included in that (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). However, I have found it hard to draw the line between being a good steward by taking care of my body and becoming obsessed with my body. A helpful way to check out my heart’s motivations is to take an inventory of how I am spending my time and money, and what consumes my thoughts. Am I pouring endless thought and amounts of money into fitness and clothes that show off my figure or products that enhance my beauty? If so, this may be due to an unhealthy obsession with “looking hot” or being beautiful. When this obsession becomes an idol–something taking the place of God, something I think will “save” me in a sense by bringing me the utmost happiness in life–then I have likely crossed the line. However, there is nothing inherently evil in wanting to be attractive.
An important question to ask ourselves is who we want to look good for. I think cultivating intimacy in a marriage relationship is a wonderful, beautiful thing. However, reality is that as sinners we are hungry for attention and a desire to be noticed. If you are married and you find yourself wanting other men to notice you, a red flag should go up in your head. “Do not desire your neighbor’s wife” is a verse from Exodus 20 that applies to us too, because in the same way, when women are desiring the attentions of their neighbor’s husband, our hearts have gone astray.
Is the way that you exercise glorifying to God? God created our bodies to move, so I believe when we use them the way they were created to be used, it makes him happy. However, in our culture, exercise has become so much about maintaining the way we look that I think it is healthy to think about what our motivations are for working out. A way to check the heart is to think about how you would feel if you lost all your “sexiness”, or all your fitness. If you lost something that you held so dear to you–your beauty–would it devastate you to the point of despair? Right now being 6 months pregnant, I feel far from sexy. Weird things happen to your body when you’re pregnant, and feeling attractive is not how I would describe myself in my current state. And even when I return to my normal state, I am still aging every day that I am alive. The point here is that these treasures on earth–like toned abs and hot legs–will soon fade and our bodies will one day be destroyed. How can I be laying up treasures in heaven through exercise? It’s possible, but the heart has to be in the right place first. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (See Matthew 6:19-21).
I have taken the occasional selfie, for random reasons, but I think a challenge to women (myself included) is necessary. Most of the time, it seems like people post a selfie as if to say, “Look how good I look!” But isn’t there a signal that should go off in our heads when we, as Christian women, post for this purpose? Is my heart needing affirmation from others because I am failing to look to Christ for my acceptance? Is the amount of likes and comments that I get what I need to get me through the day? There is something inconsistent about this behavior and what we believe to be true in the Bible. We could talk about humility here, or especially about how our need for acceptance is met in Christ and not affirmation from others, but this verse comes to mind: “Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, do it all for the glory of God.” Not for the glory of self. (See 1 Corinthians 10:31.)
Striving for beauty is not a sin, and neither is taking selfies. But while people are looking at the outward appearance, God is looking at the heart. Where is your heart on the issues of beauty and acceptance? Mine has been off many times in my life, so let’s encourage each other to look to God’s Word to right our hearts as we seek to bring Him glory.
In a women’s Bible study group that I go to, we recently discussed how God is infinite and we are created with limits. In Jen Wilken’s book titled None Like Him: 10 ways God is Different From Us (and why that’s a good thing), she devotes the whole first chapter to this characteristic of God. My mind is wired to think of the human body and how it was created in any given conversation, so naturally in discussing how we should understand our limits, I jumped to thinking about the way our bodies were made and what does that mean practically for us.
Understanding how God has created us is crucial to understanding how to live healthfully. Take sleep, for example. God made our bodies to need it, and when sleep is off–when we try to ignore this limit we have as humans–it effects our state of health. Eating usually works the same way. God created our bodies to need food. When we don’t eat enough food, or when we eat too much food, our bodies respond in a way that deviates from a state of optimal health. Our bodies were also created to move, not to be sedentary. It is amazing how we can push our limits to exceed what seems to be humanly possible, but Olympians do it all the time. However, reality is that bodies break down and ultimately have limitations.
Our whole lives as Christ-followers are to be given over to the identification and celebration of the limits God has ordained for us. He lovingly teaches them to us through his Word, through trials, through discipline. He humbles us through these means to remind us that we are not him, nor is anyone or anything else we know.
Jen Wilken, None Like Him
We don’t like to think we have limits, but those limits actually allow us to be more free. My husband reminded me of this illustration: if a goldfish is out of water because he wants to be free from the confines of his bowl, he will die. But when the fish is in the environment he was created to live in, he can swim freely and live. When we submit to our Creator and live within the limits that he has given us, we have the ability to thrive! Unfortunately, I don’t like to be told how to live –even if it’s coming from the infinite and eternal Creator of the universe. However, to try to fight against him and the limits he has given would be foolish and futile because who can know the mind of an infinite God?? Who am I to try to defy the parameters he lovingly put into my life? Who am I to think that I can eat as much as I want to eat, sleep as little as I want to sleep, exercise only when I feel like it, and then still expect to thrive physically? David writes in Psalm 139 that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and therefore shouts praise to his God, his Maker. I want to celebrate — like David did and like Wilken writes about–my human limitations by living in a way that I was created to live and by giving our eternal and infinite God praise while doing so. I want to thrive like that little fish, don’t you?
It has been a long time since I have posted regularly on this blog. I couldn’t quite explain why I have lost motivation to write, but it just wasn’t there. For some reason, I was reflecting on it a little today and I think it’s becoming more clear to me what the problem has been. I tried to blame it on the tough year that we’ve had, going through 2 miscarriages and then being pregnant (due June 2017) which resulted in feeling sick and tired. But honestly, that has not really been the reason.
This blog has been about healthy living. The problem is, there are so many voices out there…too many. I didn’t really know what to say that hasn’t already been said by someone smarter, cooler, fitter, and more qualified than myself. I figured it was probably time to do away with blogging because I don’t like that I’ve been inconsistent over the past 7 months–but the truth is it is not always for you, it is also a way that I myself process and reflect on what it means to be healthy. I am not ready to call it quits, but I am ready to take the pressure off myself and just simply share those reflections with you. I am not the smartest person in the health/exercise field. I am surely not the coolest. I never desired to be the fittest person, and there are certainly people way more qualified than me to be writing blogs on healthy living. However, here is what I do want to offer you: healthy living from a Christian perspective. There are plenty of people who make health their god, but I want to look into what God says about health. Practically speaking, how does the gospel shape healthy living.
For some of you, you will stop reading anything I write now. That’s ok–I want to be up front with you about where I am coming from. For others, you will be encouraged and challenged by the things I will write in the future. My goal is not to get good traffic, make money, or get lots of likes and shares, but it is to use my background in fitness, my desire to write, and my love for God to bring you insights on what it means to live healthy.
Thank you for reading this honest post after months of silence…stay tuned.
There is a fascinating thing that happens in the human body when a person does some form of weight training. The muscle fibers are literally torn and broken so that they can build back stronger. I was reminded of this specific detail this week during one of my restless nights after reflecting on something that I read, “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us (Hosea 6:1).” Just as the human body can often be built back stronger once broken, I pray that our nation–torn apart in two right now–will grow to be united and healed once again. I pray that there will be a movement of those returning to the Lord and putting our hopes and trust in him, because we have strayed in putting our hopes in a presidential candidate.
This is a blog about different aspects of healthy living. My background is in studying exercise and its affects on the body, but right now I think the healthiest thing we can do is exercise the ability to interact respectfully with people who have different opinions than you. Let’s develop the skill of hearing other views without getting offended. Here is a TEDx talk by Brant Hansen with some thoughts on how to do this…it is what we need to do if we want to get to a place of health and strength again.
Recently, someone asked me about what I like to do for exercise. I answered with, “Well, lately I’ve been doing a lot of swimming because my kids have been taking lessons so it’s convenient.” I continued on to say that before swimming I was training for a 10K so I had been running a lot. I then finished with how I recently got my bike in working order again and foresee more bike riding this fall. As I reflected on this conversation later I realized that all my life I have been someone who is in and out of seasons when it comes to exercise. Sports started young in my family and I loved it. Fall meant soccer. Basketball started up Thanksgiving weekend and went right into softball season. Summer was more laid back, which meant gym visits and occasional runs on the beach. I liked having seasons.
Seasons are good for your body–doing new things challenge it so that forgotten muscle groups can strengthen. Cycling your workouts also can help you stay interested and motivated in fitness. If you are bored with your workouts, think about trying something new this fall!
Life is made up of seasons, too. In some seasons our calendars are busy, others they are more open. Sometimes life is relationally hard and draining, other times we are thriving and happy. There are periods when health challenges arise, and then high points when energy abounds. These seasons can strengthen faith muscles and increase flexibility–the kind where you realize you can’t control everything but have to trust in God’s sovereign plan for your life.
I have been anxious for fall to come this year, but not because I love boots and pumpkin spice latte. My family is coming out of a hard season. We have dealt with a second miscarriage as well as my husband’s 4-night stay in the hospital followed by 3 weeks of intense treatments for a staph infection. I was thankful that during all this it was also Olympic season. It was just what we needed–something to be happy about when we were sad and being able to watch our team win even though we were feeling the pain of our loss. However, as helpful as the Olympics were to us, they ended. That’s the thing about seasons–they finish. What has helped us most this summer is that we know that God is always good, in our hard seasons and in our great seasons.
As I move from less swimming to more biking, I will continue to be thankful for new seasons and for this constant truth from God’s word: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
I wrote a couple of posts about losing weight, because it is something that so many of us wish we could do successfully. The first post dealt with the fact that it can be a tough thing to navigate when talking about it and talking to people who’ve done it. The second one was about how to do it. This one is about how to thrive…because it’s one thing to actually lose weight, but it’s another thing to be joyful, satisfied, healthy and flourishing.
When I use the term healthy, it must be understood that there are many facets to the word health. Someone can look very healthy on the outside and actually be very sick on the inside. On the flip side, someone can look not so healthy on the outside but their numbers may be in the healthy range. Someone can be beautiful–the picture of health– on the outside but hurting and in a dark place on the inside. I was talking about my thoughts on this topic with a friend and fellow blogger at Fan and Flame, and he suggested that I title it “How to Thrive”. I think thriving encapsulates exactly what I want to discuss because simply looking healthy on the outside or reaching number goals can be unfulfilling. To thrive–and thrive once “health” is achieved–is what I believe should be the ultimate goal when losing weight.
So what does it mean to thrive? What does thriving look like? What are the obstacles that keep one from thriving?
- Thriving means freedom; free from the chains of bondage that addiction brings. Cre, a friend of mine who recently lost 60 lbs, said this, “I came to realize that food was a ‘drug’ to which I was addicted, and, as I believe was the case with any addiction, I was going to need God to show up in big and tangible ways if I was going to break free from it.” While many identify with this kind of bondage, there is another kind that exists on the other end of the spectrum. If gone unchecked, the bondage of structure and numbers–diets and calories–can be an obsession that can be a major obstacle in thriving as well.
- Thriving exudes inner joy. It is exciting to reach goals and receive encouraging comments about one’s appearance. However, when one’s happiness and mood is dependent on whether or not someone recognized how good they looked that day, or if their weekly weight loss goal was reached, or if they had cake at their friend’s birthday party last night, then a healthy balance has not been achieved. Happiness can change in an instant but joy can be constant.
- The biggest obstacle to thriving is self-confidence. Let me explain. By self-confidence I mean being confident that you can do it yourself and relying only on your own strength to do something–like overcome addiction. If I am honest, there are things in my heart that I simply cannot overcome on my own. Things like lack of self-control, or obsession with numbers, or the constant comparing of myself to those around me. These things are the result of sin in my heart, and I cannot win that battle on my own. When I sat down and talked to one woman about her weight loss journey, I started off with, “How did you do it?” The first thing out of her mouth was, “Through prayer and by the grace of God.” She knew that she couldn’t do it on her own, and God gave her the tools (like self-control) to lose the weight she needed to lose to be healthy. Another woman I talked to told me about how when she lost weight in the past, it went to her head and that self-confidence became her downfall. When she was successful the second time around, she said that she “wanted people to know about Christ’s love.” I think what she meant by that is that God cares about people and loves them. He wants us to thrive.
So…how do we thrive? Whether or not you are trying to lose weight, thriving begins with a look at the health of your heart. What is it’s diagnosis? The truth of the matter is that without a cure, we are all very sick. Tim Keller sums it up like this: “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” Thriving begins with understanding this truth, and clinging to it daily.
About 5 years ago, not long after giving birth to my first child, I joined a breastfeeding support group that played a huge role in surviving my first months –and years– of being a mom. There was a small group of us that ended up forming a playgroup. As our kids got older and welcomed new siblings, we’ve stuck together, celebrating our ups together and encouraging one another during our downs. This past month, the youngest member of the group turned 2 and for the first time in 5 years, none of us are in need of a nursing cover.
Last fall, one of the moms challenged the group to do the Hershey 10K together. I couldn’t commit right away because I knew that my husband and I wanted to go for baby number 3 so I had to play it by ear. Then, the miscarriage happened (you can read about it here). I decided to sign up for the race even though I planned to get pregnant again right away and figured that if I was in my first trimester and training, I would just do the best I could with the energy I had. It turns out that I didn’t get pregnant, but having something to train for and work towards was a good distraction for me…something to be excited about amidst the monthly disappointments that came my way.
Here’s the thing: a 10K (6.2 miles) might not be that big of a deal to some of you runners out there who have done marathons, but for me–someone who’s never wanted or needed to run more than 5 miles–it was an accomplishment. Not only was it a personal accomplishment after going through a miscarriage and turning 30* in the same year, but it was a unique thing for this group of moms to do together…something that seemed so un-achievable 5 years ago (because seriously, trying to run while having an infant was not happening for me–and please enlighten yourself and read about why here).
After I crossed the finish line my daughter said to me, “Mommy, you were fast!” I am so thankful that she was naive enough to speak that statement with such conviction, but all that mattered in that moment was that she just saw her mom accomplish something that was hard…emotionally and physically. What was once my nursing cover has now become my supermom cape. Running the mom race is hard, but it is worth all the sweat, tears, and sacrifice.
*I am actually 31 now, but being 30 was significant because when I turned 30 in 2015, I wanted to challenge myself in a new way. I achieved that goal before the race by running my fastest 3 miles (on my own time) and also by running the farthest I had ever run (6 miles during training). Thankfully, it happened while I was still 30 so I didn’t let myself down 🙂
I recently talked with a few people who have lost weight in the past year. Here is the first thing I learned about losing weight: it’s hard work. No matter what method you use, whether it’s a diet plan, an intense exercise regimen, or stomach surgery, there is no easy way to do it. Therefore, if you are looking for the magic formula that will help you lose weight in a snap, you won’t find it on this blog.
One of the things that I loved about the women that I talked to was that their goal was health. Their motivations weren’t superficial or to simply look better, but they wanted to improve the quality of their lives and avoid the diseases that were threatening their ability to live well. Here are 3 things to consider when trying to lose weight:
- Retrain Your Brain. When it comes to food, one of the things that each of the women said was that they had to look closely at what they were eating and have a period of strict structure to reteach the brain and the body how to eat appropriately for their body. I have never been a fan of diets (because if you go on them, then you’ll likely go off them), but always have encouraged healthy eating habits–a lifestyle that is more consistent than dieting. Many people who need to lose weight don’t have eating habits that work well for what their body’s needs are, so there needs to be a period of retraining the brain and body to learn what is best for them. Each of the women sought the help of a professional in this area, and I would recommend doing that as well if you are trying to lose weight in a healthy way. If you are local and need some recommendations, I would be happy to give them to you.
- Rework Your Body Composition. If you want to lose 1 pound, there needs to be a 3,500 calorie deficit. This ends up meaning that you need to burn 500 more calories a day than you are taking in if you want to lose 1 pound in a week. That is the very basic science behind weight loss, but your body has this thing called metabolism that can throw off the numbers. Metabolism refers to what goes on chemically inside your body to keep it going. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn at rest. Therefore, one of the best ways to improve your metabolism is to exercise. Add muscle to your body and improve your aerobic capacity, and you are on your way to healthy living. Talk to your doctor about this or find a fitness professional if you need help, but start by just moving your body more in the meantime.
- Reconsider Your Options. Have you talked to the doctor about all your options? Have you thought about if there is an emotional, spiritual, genetic, or health issue behind your weight gain or your inability to lose weight? The success behind the women I talked to has a lot to do with addressing these issues. There is a time when weight loss surgery might be the right option and there is a time when one needs to realize that their heart and mind is not a healthy place. I would recommend talking to close friends and family, or someone you trust, to help sort these things out.
Losing weight can be hard stuff. A lot of work goes into this process, and the best results come when the whole person is addressed: body, mind, and spirit. Find someone to help you, and feel free to ask me questions if you have them.
If you find yourself interacting with someone who has recently lost weight and you don’t know what to say, check out my previous post Losing Weight: What Not To Say.