A Christian View of Dieting, Pt. 4 - The Exercise
Exercise is about personal health, not body image.
The Lure of Body Image.
I remember the episode of Full House when DJ felt that she needed to lose weight for an upcoming dance (or something like that). Her method was to not eat anything and to spend hours in the gym—two-a-days if I remember right— burning calories and sweating the weight off.
Unsurprisingly, her plan fails (and so does her physical health) rather quickly as it is unsustainable.
But, so many people try the DJ workout plan in one form or another…
Something comes along and makes you realize that you need to exercise…those pants don’t fit, you see an unflattering picture of yourself, someone makes a comment about your weight, etc.
So, you decide to exercise
You join a gym, buy a workout program, or head out for a run.
But, because you haven’t planned, or worked through what you’re going to be doing, it doesn’t last long and feels almost impossible.
You go out for a run, but if you're not an experienced runner, that first 1/4 mile feels like literal death. And If you don’t know much about weight-lifting, walking into a gym can feel like being in a foreign country …one that comes with aches and pains!
Exercise can be a real challenge.
Exercise is challenging physically and emotionally. It challenges our schedules and habits. It challenges our mindsets. It makes our bodies hurt and feel ways we didn’t know it could. And, if we’re honest, exercise can sometimes make us feel ashamed about our bodies…
It can be really intimidating walking into a gym where people seem to know what they’re doing and are in better shape than you!
It can be defeating as you turn on the workout video and see a bunch of people that look good in spandex and workout clothes.
Exercise is a total challenge: Heart, mind, and body.
Here’s the Secret to Successful Exercise...
There is no secret. Find what works for you, and do it. You've just got to do it.
Maybe that’s a really intense daily routine like Crossfit. And maybe, it's a morning walk around your neighborhood to get our heart rate up. .
Anything is better than nothing.
Exercise is discipline, and discipline, as Jocko says, is the path to freedom.
Exercise is a good thing. God created our bodies to move and be active. Some people have very active jobs and don’t need much extra exercise. And others, like me, have more stationary jobs and we need to get our bodies moving somehow during the day.
God made our bodies for movement and activity. He didn’t make us all be professional athletes, or clothing models with appealing lines everywhere. But, God did make our bodies for movement and activity. And bad things happen to us physically and psychologically when we don’t move.
When we don’t exercise in some way, negative things tend to take over: Weight gain, increased blood pressure, emotional mood swings, poor sleep, bad eating, bodily aches and pain, a declining sense of self. The list goes on…
I have found the best advice for diet and exercise to be the same: Find what works for you, and do it.
Not every workout program will work for everyone. Different programs have different goals, and require different levels of ability and availability.
Some people can push their bodies really hard on a regular basis. Others will need to gradually work up to those levels. And still others, due to various health issues, will need to keep things rather simple and low-intensity.
Either way, find what works for you and get your body moving. Movement does amazing things.
And, if you can, find a workout buddy. Accountability adds tremendously to your exercise.
Also, Stretch Your Muscles!
And stretch! Stretching has been a life-changing practice for me. And I don’t say that facetiously. It really has changed my life.
So many aches and pains have been solved, alleviated, and improved simply because I’ve learned to stretch.
There was a period of several years that I was convinced that I had severely injured my back. And I had! I had terrible back pain! So painful that for a time, my lovely wife had to put my socks and shoes on for me because I couldn’t bend down.
But, much to my surprise, it all came from tight hamstrings! How crazy is that!?
My hamstrings were so tight that they were pulling down on my pelvis, which was straining the muscles around my low back, making it feel like I had a serious spinal issue.
But with the help of physical therapists and personal research, I’ve learned the importance of stretching and how to stretch — and the pain that once kept me from putting my own socks on has been remedied.
Now, I know that everyone with bodily pain cannot solve it with stretching, but many issues can and people just never try.
Here's a guy I follow for stretching.
The Goal of Exercise: Health, not Image.
The goal of exercise is health. This is true. This is the truth.
This truth is also a personal struggle for me. I exercise regularly, and at a fairly intense level. I’m trying to eat in a healthy and sustainable way as well. I’m in the best shape of my adult life, and at my lowest weight…And it is still so very easy for me to discount everything I’m doing because my body is disappointing to my eyes.
-I can so quickly doubt the value of diet and exercise because of some arbitrary standard I have in mind for how I should look.
Exercise is about using and stewarding our bodies for the glory of God and our own good. It is not about engineering our bodies to meet our own subjective standards.
In reality, body image so easily becomes an idol. We get an image in our head; an image of our own making. And we easily start pursuing and valuing that image instead of stewarding the body God has given us.
My body is for God’s glory and My Good.
Exercise is about caring for my health and for the body God has given me. It's not about achieving some worldly standard or personal desire. We must remind ourselves of that. I try to remind myself often, and my wife reminds me as well.
Exercise is about personal health, not body image.