It hit me one fall. My metabolism was slowing down! Being involved in youth work I’d been tempted to think I could still eat like the youth and not think twice. However I discovered I could no longer pull an all-nighter, eat junk with the youth and then be back to normal a day later. Furthermore, when I looked around at people in my profession (ministry), particularly those about 10 years down the line, I recognized we tend not to be a healthy lot. It hit me, if I didn’t take care of myself no one else would. It hit me, I needed to get moving. Here’s four reasons I’ve come to discover, from a Christian perspective, we need to care for our physical bodies. These reasons are more theological, about why this matters as followers of Jesus. More practical advice is at the end of this blog.
1. It’s a good gift! How I steward and care for this gift of my body displays both how much I appreciate the gift and how I’ll steward other gifts and responsibilities the Lord gives me. If I’m not taking care of this gift and responsibility, how ready am I really for greater gifts and responsibilities? And this gift can give big returns. How we treat this gift of our body greatly affects how it functions. Care for this body and it can last for years and is capable of amazing things – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I take care of this gift not just for myself, but to be better ready to serve the Kingdom and be available to those around me – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It’s difficult to be all I’m called to be for God and others if I’m not healthy enough for the task. If the first thought in your head when someone asks for your time or energy is “I’m too tired” it’s time to take a look at how you are stewarding this gift of your body.
2. You cannot separate the physical from the spiritual. We are embodied creatures. The two are inseparably connected. I know this is true! When I’m physically tired the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) just don’t flow as freely from me. When I am physically healthy, strong and confident, I am more likely to be wise, kind, strong and confident in my following and leadership. Furthermore I’ve found the discipline, lessons, perseverance and more I’ve learned through exercise and health have translated on many occasions to my walk with Christ and to leadership.
3. Jesus is renewing all things, including your body – One day Jesus is coming back to renew all things and line-up everything with His good Kingdom. It does not say Jesus scraps everything and start out fresh. Jesus is renewing all things. There seems to be some continuity with what is here now and what is going to be. Think of Jesus resurrected body, there was continuity between His earthly body and His resurrected body. He still had the scars in his hands and wound on his side, it took a bit for some people to recognize who He was, but they did recognize Him and Jesus ate with the disciples. Yet there were also somethings that were different in Jesus resurrected body, for instance He walked through walls! Recognizing that this body will be renewed, and that this earthly body has some connection to my resurrection body raises the stakes for me. God's Kingdom has already broken into this world, He is already renewing and redeeming all things, including our bodies. We can participate in the renewal of our bodies.
4. Our bodies were created to move. It’s amazing, we have joints, muscles, ligaments, lungs, hearts…all designed to work hard and move. When I sit at a desk all day I am not at my best and not being all I was designed to me. When I move it helps me not only physically, but I’ve also seen it help me think more clearly, gain a fresh perspective, deal with emotions, and hear from God. Running sure is a fun way to get to know my neighbourhood. Plus, on more than one occasion I’ve quickly pulled out a scrap of paper to jot down the sermon that just became clear on a run.
I’m convinced that building exercise and healthy eating into my routine helps me be a better follower, leader, neighbour, family member and friend. That is not to say it is easy! It takes effort, including making an intentional effort to guard the time and make short-term, daily decisions that will benefit my body and health in the long-run. People who know I like to run have assumed I just spring out of bed in the morning to go out early for a run. Let me tell you, some mornings when that alarm goes off just before 6 am there is still an internal debate. Each time I have to repeat to myself why it’s important and so worth it to get out from under the covers. However, I’m always glad when I get myself out the door.
Some of my top tips on how to get started on the path towards better health…
1. Write down your motivation for getting healthy and share it with those close to you
2. Set realistic goals and make them known. My suggestion would be, even more helpful than weight goals are setting behaviours goals around amount of time outside, or how many home made meals you’ll have, or how much fresh fruit/vegetable you’ll have in a day, or how much time you want to be able to walk or run for by the end of the month, how many times you’ll go to that gym class…
3. Aim to move. It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do, but get moving. Even 15 minutes a day can make a big difference. There are loads of apps, exercise routines and options out there. Two helpful apps are "MyFitnessPal" and "mapmyrun".
4. Put it in your schedule and make it as non-negotiable as any other important meeting. Something becomes a new habit after four to six weeks. Success comes more quickly if you make it regular, consistent, a similar time each day and non-negotiable. Decide when you are going to do ahead of time and lay your clothes / meal containers out ahead of time.
5. Start with one thing, make one change – cut out snacking, cut out pop, add in a walk, add a new vegetable/fruit to your diet each week, start an exercise video on youtube, only eat food where you can easily pronounce the ingredients, start a walk-to-run program...
6. Find a partner – either to do the exercise with you or to hold you accountable to your goals for each week
7. Get enough sleep – go to bed earlier and aim to set a regular bed time and wake up time
8. Drink water – Drink lots of water. Cut out the pop & juice and replace it with water. Sometimes when I think I’m tired or hungry, I actually just need more water. And I just don't need the sugar and calories in pop and juice, I'd rather eat my calories. If you get tired of water add some lemon or lime or orange slices.
9. Have fun – remember what it was like to be a kid and play outside all evening or the games you liked to play. Go play!
I’m cheering you on! Let’s get moving.