In a world so obsessed with body image and appearance, the issue of spiritual, physical and emotional health is very dear to my heart. Through years of cheerleading, softball, group exercise and thankfully, some truly gifted and wise counsel, I've acquired some knowledge on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Many people have asked me for tips on dieting or exercise, but I think it's extremely important that we set the record straight first.
It's great to be motivated to get healthy because you want to fit into that new outfit, or you want to lower your cholesterol, or even if you want to be more confident in your swimsuit on your upcoming beach vacation. However, we have to remind ourselves daily that my motivation should ultimately stem from the desire to please the Lord in all that we do.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17
When you accept God's gift of grace and new life, you truly are a new creation. Why not accept all that God wants to give you and let his grace permeate your physical health? With Jesus on your side, you can do all things. Set goals. Lose weight. Get strong. Get fast.
For those of you who are new to making a healthy lifestyle, these tips may help you commit to your decision and become a better you.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice - the kind he will find acceptable. Romans 12:1 (NLT)
Only 20 years ago, it was easy to be more active — not by choice — but because you had to be. You had to walk across the office to talk to your boss. You had to walk into the video rental store to watch a movie. Kids rode bikes instead of electric scooters.
Technology has totally changed things.
Because of so many conveniences today, you have to be intentional about getting your exercise in. For instance, I sit at a cubicle 8-10 hours a day. That's a lot of sitting on my butt! I often get up, go to the bathroom's handicapped stall, and do a set of squats or lunges. Sometimes, I'll stand up and stretch. The most important thing I do to be intentional with exercise is that I either wake up and exercise before work, or I pack a bag in the morning and go straight to the gym after work.
What helps me stay committed to fitting in physical activity is that I have a routine. Making a weekly routine for your workouts gives you structure and brings you ease of mind. You'll be less likely to give up after a couple of weeks.
Whether it's a high intensity cardio set in your spare 20 minutes or an hour on the elliptical, setting time aside every day to focus on working out your body is important. The act of focusing that time on you and your body actually helps your mind. Studies show that exercise releases hormones that decrease the amount of cortisol your body makes. Less cortisol means less stress, so a quick workout can benefit you all day.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
Sometimes, I have to remind myself that food is just food. It's not the succulent, mouth-pleasin' Holy Grail of the stomach that I tend to pretend it is. I often catch myself lusting after food like it's my ticket to paradise, and I can't eat it fast enough.
It's food, Amber! I think to myself later. Food is just another thing we have to do to survive. Changing your perception of food from one of pleasure and/or comfort helps you make the healthier decisions during meal time. God is your pleasure and your comforter.
Don't get me wrong. I love food, and I'm very thankful for the abundant food choices God placed on earth. He wants us to eat and live well, so we shouldn't feel like we can't enjoy one of his blessings.
One of the easiest ways to eat well is to eat clean. Eating clean, to me, implies eating food that grows naturally on the earth. This would include vegetables, fruit, meats, nuts, grain and other oats. I try to eat food in its most natural form — as in food that's unprocessed or at least less altered than other foods. Now, I'll be honest and say that I don't eat 100 percent clean. I'm a busy person like the rest of the world! Not to mention, I'm on a pretty tight budget. The occasional Lean Cuisine or equivalent ain't going to kill me.
Another big helper to stay on board with a healthy diet is to learn how to read the nutrition labels on foods. Know that most fruits and vegetables are kind've like free foods. They're all good for you. When you buy sauces, pastas, cereals, canned items and other things outside of the produce section, be cognizant of how many calories and fat it has. So many people will walk down the aisle at a grocery store and pick up the first bag of cheese they see. If you compare nutrition labels, you'll find there are big differences among all the cheeses and usually a low-fat or fat-free one. You can easily cut out big chunks of unnecessary calories and fat from your diet without totally eliminating certain foods.
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)
While making a lifestyle change is not for the faint of heart, maintaining that lifestyle shouldn't get between you and God. After all, being healthy should be a way to glorify God with your body.
My freshman year in college, I obsessed over exercise and nutrition. I counted calories. I exercised twice a day. And if I missed a day, my world crumbled to an end. My friends and family thought it was funny until they realized my "healthy lifestyle" was running my life. After a close medical call (and losing some of my hair), I realized it too.
A healthy lifestyle should be a way of life that brings joy to your life. If it's stealing your joy, you need to check your priorities.
CC Photo by fedro on Flickr