Treat your body like a temple, not an idol. Click To Tweet
My sophomore year of college, I decided I wanted to get healthy.
I didn't have much of plan, I just knew I wanted to be more toned, fit, and thin. So, I set out to burn more calories than I consumed. I quickly discovered the infamous “runner's high” and I was hooked.
I watched an ounce of fat I had on my body shed and I reveled at the site of my abs in the mirror.
After several months, I couldn't go a day without exercising. I tracked every calorie and loved watching the number on the scale decrease a little more each week.
I started taking diet pills and supplements to speed along the process.
One time, my roommate found them in my room and texted me, asking if everything was okay.
I assured her I was fine.
People commented on how thin I looked. I thought it was a compliment and it motivated me to push even harder! Later, I found out that it wasn't a compliment. In fact, it was out of concern.
So, what happened?
I was obsessing over my body and how it looked–not how healthy it was. In fact, it was malnourished. Why?
Because I got addicted to progress. Every time I saw the number on the scale go down by a pound or two, it fed the desire to keep going. It was never enough. Progress is a beautiful thing but it can also be an addictive thing.Progress is a beautiful thing but it can also be an addictive thing. Click To Tweet
Once I realized it was becoming a problem, it took me awhile to let go of my habitual running and secret exercise in my room. It took awhile to find freedom from obsessively counting my calories and just squeezing in extra steps just to burn off what I ate.
Photo by Brooke Lark
But slowly, by the grace of God, I slowly started to find a more balanced life and healthier relationship with food.
If you have an unhealthy relationship with food or struggle with obsessive habits, please realize that there IS freedom for you but that doesn't happen overnight. It takes time to break habits and addictions we've developed (yes, eating a certain way or exercising too much can be addictive and habitual). You'll need help from others and you'll need to take intentional steps to living a healthy life.
And if you're simply wanting to get healthier, I want to help you take the intentional steps to doing so in a way that won't push you over the edge or cause you to turn fitness into an idol. You have to look at diet and exercise as a part of your self care, not your self worth. When you get those mixed up, that's when you start obsessing over it.You have to look at diet and exercise as a part of your self care, not your self worth Click To Tweet
So, implement these ten intentional steps and you'll be able to treat your body like a temple, not like an idol.
1. Determine your WHY
Before you do anything, you need to determine and write down your WHY.
In other words, write down your motive for dieting and exercising. Why do you want to eat healthy? Why do you want to exercise? Is it to look better or be better than someone else? Is it so that you like what you look like on the outside or so that you learn to be disciplined on the inside? Is it to care for the heart beating and lungs pumping inside your chest or to impress people at your high school reunion?
Treating your body like a temple has to rest in the internal changes that will be reflected through external results.Treating your body like a temple has to rest in the internal changes that will be reflected… Click To Tweet
Did you catch that? We treat our body like an idol when our sole motive is to look good and impress people. We treat our body like a temple when our motive is to take care of what God gave us.
While a fit or toned body may make us feel a little bit more confident, that can't be our sole motivator or we will quickly turn it into an idol. We will go to extremes to get the look we want, as fast as we want. And that's actually harmful to our bodies.
If our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives IN us, and we let that reality be our driving factor in caring for ourselves, we will not only see changes on the inside but be transformed on the inside.
Pastor Rick Warren says, “God created it, Jesus died for it, and the Spirit lives in it. I better take care of it.”
So the question is, WHY am I doing this? Who really gets the glory here?
Write down your why and revisit your why each week to refocus and avoid obsessing over every ounce.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
2. Develop a REALISTIC routine and set a schedule
When I first started working out more, I didn't have a plan. I just knew I had to burn a bunch of calories. That's when I began to overdo it. While it's good to push yourself and challenge yourself, you have to realize when enough is enough. Set realistic, achievable goals and get your eating and exercise on a schedule that you can stick to.
Don't just go to into the gym with a workout plan for the day, go into the week or month with a set schedule and don't go over.
Monday: 30 minutes of cardio, 10 minutes of stretching
Tuesday: 15 minute abs, 10 minutes arms (lightweight/high rep), 10 minutes cardio, 5 minutes stretching
Wednesday: 30 minutes cardio, 10 minutes squats and lunges
Creating a plan, having realistic goals, and setting simple boundaries like this will help you get active but also stay focused.
Photo by Brooke Lark
3. Make it visual
That plan and schedule you need to map out? Don't keep it in your head. I've tried that and either one of two things happen: I forget what I planned to do and just wing it (usually overdoing it) OR I become undisciplined and lose my motivation to go.
Putting your plan on a big calendar or putting detailed reminders right where you'll always see it is almost like having a personal trainer looking you in the face–daring you to get off the couch and go but giving you structured guidelines to work within.
4. Get a workout partner or have a trusted friend hold you accountable
By my senior year of college, I wasn't so obsessive about working out but I still liked to run. Thankfully, I found a sister in my sorority who also liked to run and workout so we became workout partners. She had also noticed herself getting addicted to weight loss/exercise, so we were able to help balance each other out. We were hold one another accountable in more ways than one.
We helped each other stay motivated to eat healthy and exercise but we also helped each other take a break and call it quits when we had done enough.
If you don't have anyone in your life that could be your health and fitness buddy, ask a trusted friend to hold you accountable. My husband is great about reminding me to rest both my body and my mind. Having someone else speak the reminders you need to hear will help create more balance in your life.
5. Pick foods you actually like and workouts you actually enjoy
If you hate running, don't run. Dance or swim instead. Try Barre3 or Zumba or recreational soccer.
If you HATE beets, for heaven's sake don't eat them. Try carrots and hummus or cucumbers instead.
The point? Taking care of your body shouldn't a punishment. Even if you don't like what you see in the mirror, you have to learn to shift your perspective. Make this process FUN and enjoyable! When you learn to find joy in the disciplines of life, such as eating healthy and consistent exercise, you won't resent the number on the scale or what you see in the mirror so much. You'll be able to see your body as a temple and taking care of it will be joy, not a burden that drags you down.
Don't punish yourself because you hate the body you have. Take care of your body because you love the body God gave you. A simple shift in your thinking and motivations will work wonders in allowing you to be more consistent and less obsessive.Don't punish yourself because you hate the body you have. Take care of your body because you… Click To Tweet
If you're not sure where to start when it comes to eating healthier, my top suggestion is the Sweet Potato Diet (see photo below). My husband and I are currently doing it and I love it because I'm need a meal prep kind of girl (who has that much that much time?) so I love how simple and creative this has been for us. It's super doable, realistic, and works wonders without making you feel like you're starving yourself.
6. Build in multiple cheat meals and at least one rest day each week
Okay, look, you're not a machine. If you only give yourself one cheat meal a month, you're going to get sick of the routine and you'll likely burn out (unless you have the willpower of a superhero…I've not met anyone like that yet in my lifetime, though).
Photo by Christopher Flowers
For the sake of longevity, it's actually smarter to give yourself more frequent breaks and cheat meals. This doesn't mean cheat days or an extended period of off days but it does mean small breaks to keep you going. It's very difficult to quit old habits cold turkey. That means that it's very difficult to realistically turn your diet around overnight. At the beginning, build in 2-4 cheat meals a week so that you don't get frustrated (and therefore give up early on in the process).
Give yourself at least one day each week that you don't exercise. It's not necessary to run five miles each day to stay healthy. Let your body recover and your mind unplug from the routine so that you're refreshed and ready to go again. This will help you from feeling like you HAVE to workout while helping you stay motivated.
Again, this is not a punishment. It's about setting boundaries and developing disciplines that will last.
7. Journal your weekly activity
I used to obsessively track my calorie intake, burn, etc. It was exhausting but I was practically addicted to it. I felt lost without my numbers guiding me each day.
While I do suggest having structure and a plan with your intake and exercise, I'm not encouraging you to journal every crumb you eat.
Instead, track your ACTIVITY. Where are you spending the most time, talent, energy, and money–and how does that line up with the WHY you set? Is most of your time and energy spent looking in the mirror, pinching your cellulite, and trying to work it off at the gym? OR is it spent distributed evenly between your fitness commitments, your home life, your work life, and your faith life?
When our motive for getting healthy is to take care of ourselves, we will take care of all aspects of ourselves–our bodies, minds, and souls.
This doesn't have to be an elaborate journal entry but honestly taking inventory of and writing down your behaviors and activity will give you a clear visual picture of how you're doing with honoring your WHY and it will show you where you need to make adjustments.
8. Find alternatives/substitutions instead of depriving yourself
Let's say you love chips but you're trying to avoid them. If you just deprive yourself of salty, crunchy snack day in and day out, chances are you will cave. That can quickly turn into a vicious cycle of feeling guilty, then emotionally overeating out of guilt, then feeling guilty for overeating, then trying to deprive yourself again.
Last time I checked, that doesn't work.
So, if you have a craving or know your top favorite snacks, instead of not eating it at all, try healthy alternatives.
Here's a list of alternatives you can try:
Tortillas >> Lettuce Wraps
Pasta >> Baked Spaghetti Squash or Zucchini
Fried Food >> Baked and Seasoned Cauliflower
Crackers or Potato Chips >> Thinly sliced & Baked Sweet Potatoes, Salted Cucumbers, Apples, or Celery
Cookies/Cakes >> Bananas with Peanut Butter and Honey or Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate
There are two ways you can these substitute healthy options when you have a craving:
- HALF & HALF: substitute half of the junk food portion you were going to eat with its healthy alternative. This way, you still get a little taste of the chips but instead of eating a whole bowl of greasy carbs, you only eat a half bowl of greasy carbs and a half bowl of cucumbers. This is a good way to slowly make changes in your diet because it tricks your mind and satisfies the craving without totally blowing it.
- WHOLE: This is pretty self explanatory but this basically means to substitute the WHOLE portion (aka bowl of chips) with a WHOLE plate of a healthy alternative (aka salted cucumber slices).
You can mix and match these strategies but implementing practices like these will help you stay consistent, disciplined, and focused but also give you some wiggle room so that you don't obsess over every bite. Like I said, you're not a robot.
Photo by Cyril Saulnier
9. Switch up where you workout and limit your time on social media
For me, the two biggest places that comparison creeps in is at the gym where all the fit and healthy people are and on social media where all the posed pictures of healthy and fit people are. If I begin to compare myself to another woman with arms that are a little bit more toned or who has a smaller waste line than I do, it suddenly doesn't matter than I just did a killer workout AND ate healthy (talk about an accomplishment, right?) because she looks better than me.
I almost immediately forget my WHY and that leads into the downward spiral of making my journey to get healthy an obsession–not an opportunity to glorify God and be a good steward of what he gave me.
This doesn't mean never go to the gym or delete all your social media. It just means to set healthy boundaries. If you know you always compare yourself to the super fit girl in pink leggings at the gym, try going at a different time or do some at home workouts now and then.
If you follow a bunch of fitness accounts for motivation but there's one girl you constantly compare yourself to, unfollow her for goodness sake! Take a break from looking at how in shape someone else is and start reflecting on person God is shaping you to be.
This isn't to run away from comparison but to take every thought captive and fix your focus on treating your body like a temple, not like an idol or measure of worth.
10. Pray during your workouts
When we take care of our body because it's a temple, it's a way to honor and worship God with what He's given us. It's a thin line to walk and in order to not slip into obsessing over our performance, we have to speak Truth over our hearts and minds.
Talk to God during that long run. Invite Him to dance with you at Zumba class. Pray as you stretch. Throw on some worship music as you sweat.
You're aren't going to be perfect but you can be intentional. So, sweat, but don't sweat it.
This isn't about perfection. Don't worship the workout, let your workout be your worship (not your measure of worth).Don't worship the workout. Click To Tweet
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