Healthy Is The New Happy

I worked at a daycare in a gym throughout high school. I would always laugh after New Years, seeing each treadmill and bicycle seat filled with someone hopeful of living up to their resolutions. But within a month or so, it would thin back out to the regulars with a few new additional faces. 

I always wondered how those few new faces stuck it out. What’s the difference between someone who can stick it out vs someone who can’t make it to February.

Looking back at past New Year’s I have been both. Some years I don’t make it through the week and others I am able to make it until the following New Year. In my experience, my resolutions have only stuck when I truly want to better myself and invite God into helping me do so. 

Being healthy is my top New Years resolution each year. Unfortunately, living a healthy lifestyle isn’t just a decision you make once on January 1st that will carry over throughout the rest of the year. You have to wake up every morning and choose to make decisions that will better yourself.

I think that is the point of a New Year’s resolution. To make steps towards becoming the best version of yourself each day. You may not see any big improvements day to day, but by the end of the year you can look back and see all the fruit God has given you from your year of hard work.

Read about my journey with learning how to live a healthy lifestyle in step with God to help inspire your journey in making your New Year’s resolutions extend into 2022 and beyond.

Exercise? I Thought You Said Extra Fries

I’ve been nearly 6 feet tall since the 5th grade so everyone has always expected me to be coordinated and athletic. Every time I meet someone new I get the same rundown of “Do you play basketball? Well, how about volleyball? Then you must at least do track or something?” 

After answering no to all of the above questions a man once told me I was a waste of height. I wasn’t even slightly offended because of just how true it is. Beyond using my height to grab the peanut butter from the top shelf, I have no idea what to do with the 6-foot body God gave me. I’ve stumbled over my legs like a newborn deer since middle school. 

I think this is why I’ve always had such a deep-seated hatred for exercise. My PE teachers in elementary school all tried to help make me less clumsy but somehow I always left PE with a new scrape, bruise, or one less tooth than I came in with (seriously, I knocked my tooth out).  

I only grew to hate it more in middle school. I was always the last one to finish running the mile, if you can even call it running. It was mostly walking and then some light jogging when the gym teacher would look my way.

All the other kids would wait for me at the finish line, cheering me on after having finished their 5 laps around the school parking lot long ago. Which merely increased my embarrassment, having everyone stare at me drenched in sweat, red-faced, and gasping for air like a fish out of water. 

In high school I tried my best to avoid taking gym, but unfortunately, it was required for freshman year. I was so out of breath the first day of class I thought I was going to have a stroke.

The next day I was at my locker when a group of boys walked by talking about the tall girl in gym class who was wildly out of shape with a face redder than a tomato. I managed to make it to the nearest bathroom stall before letting my tears fall and vowing to never exercise again. 

I followed that vow for years. It wasn’t until the summer before I left for college that I decided something needed to change. So every night I started going on bike rides around the lake by my house. 

It was only a ten mile ride from my house around the lake and back, but those 10 miles became a sacred part of my evening. They grew my relationship with God immensely and became a direct path to my love for biking and exercise.

Something about it was different than any other time I had tried to exercise. I think it was because that summer was also when I began to truly seek God and develop a close relationship with Him. As the sun set over the water I would marvel at God’s creation and talk to Him. Each night I came back feeling more renewed than ever. 

Two years after that I went on my first run. I started by walking around my neighborhood and occasionally running for a block or two. Then one day I decided to try to run for as long as I could and I was amazed when I made it two miles without stopping. 

I felt so empowered. For so long I had it built up in my mind that running was simply something I would never be able to do.

Being able to accomplish something I thought was impossible, encouraged me in ways I didn’t know possible. It made me want to try all sorts of things I had convinced myself I hated, like tomatoes. I do still hate tomatoes but that’s not important. 

Food for Thought

Somehow my relationship with food has been a worse journey than my relationship with exercise. I am an emotional eater. This means anytime I’m feeling sad or angry or really any emotion I want to run to donuts, pizza, Ben & Jerry’s, cheeseburgers, cupcakes, fries, Snickers, mac n cheese, tacos, chocolate… I’m sure you get the picture, and you’re probably a little hungry now so I’ll stop.

In high school I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions. And that list of food is why I gained nearly 30 pounds in less than a year. Those 30 pounds wrecked my self-confidence. I felt disgusting and out of control.

My family gave me the nickname “Piggy” during this time which was partially because I snort when I laugh, but mostly because I had an uncontrollable appetite that could put both Scooby and Shaggy to shame.

I was fed up, no pun intended. So I swung to the opposite end of the spectrum and stopped eating anything remotely unhealthy. Due to sheer will-power I quickly shed the extra pounds, but I still felt the same lack of confidence in myself.

I didn’t understand why losing weight didn’t make me feel any more healthy and why I was still struggling with not turning to food anytime I was feeling down. I would manage to eat healthy throughout the week but anytime I had a bad day I’d find myself downing 10 cookies and a bowl of ice-cream.

I had to learn that health and wellness is about caring for your entire person rather than just eating the right food. That meant caring for my spiritual health before anything else and inviting God into my journey of seeking health.

Everyday He is still helping to teach me to run to Him with all of my emotions before turning to food or anything else. He is growing my confidence and teaching me more and more about what it means to be healthy each day.

Defining Health

When I first started learning more about how to be healthy I had a really poor view of what healthy meant. I bought into a lot of lies.

I read a book on developing healthy habits that really changed my view on this. It said that what you are doing today will eventually become your habits which will become the life you live.

Immediately after reading this I wrote down a long list of things I considered healthy, like taking my daily vitamins, drinking lots of water, and working out. Each day I would beat myself up anytime I didn’t manage to cross off one of those boxes.

While my intentions of developing healthy habits was good, it got me in the mindset that I had to be perfectly crossing off each box. It made things like my quiet time with God just another thing to rush through in order to cross it off my list.

This is just one of the many ridiculous habit trackers I used to live by. I lived for checking off those boxes and as a result my few on health was really skewed.

It made me feel like I wasn’t healthy if I wasn’t perfect in each of those areas, and when I would ultimately fail to meet my own expectations for myself I would simply altogether give up.

I realized like anything else in life, I couldn’t attain perfection. I used to feel that way about my relationship with God too. Like I couldn’t talk to Him or have a relationship with Him unless I was checking off all the boxes.

But God has been showing me that I’m never going to reach the level of perfection I’ve been trying to attain. I will fall, mess up, and eat cupcakes when I should’ve chosen to eat a salad instead. But instead of giving in and saying, “well I messed up once so might as well give up and live off of cupcakes for the rest of my life.”

In life we will most certainly takes steps backwards, but that doesn’t mean you turn around and start heading in that direction. You choose to keep striving forward, learning from each stumble, knowing that God is walking right beside you.

Finding Strength to Achieve Your Goals in the Bible

To truly find good health, I had to change my intentions. Before the only reason I wanted to get in shape was to look good. But growing closer to God helped me see just how worthless this was.

Health wasn’t about what you looked like, how many calories you ate in a day, or the number on a scale. It was about stewarding the body God gave you.

While I was learning this I made a list of reasons to be healthy that I would add to each day. I often refer back to that list now anytime I am tempted to run to food instead of God.

  • I want to be able to adventure and be free without being held back because I’m not in shape or am too self-conscious
  • I want to learn discipline now so one day I can teach it to my kids and be able to keep up with them and run and play
  • I want to obey God and eat in moderation, taking what I need not what I want and not letting my negative relationship with food get in the way of a positive relationship with Him 
  • I want to be comfortable in who I am (and in my jeans)
  • I want to find freedom and not be trapped in a body controlled by my appetite and I want to find this freedom through faith 
  • I want to give up my will for His to serve as a living sacrifice

If you find yourself struggling to find the motivation to keep going I hope you can use parts of this list and make your own to find encouragement.

I used to think the only way to follow your resolutions was through your own will power, but now I know the only way to do so is through God. He will give you all the strength you need to meet all of your goals.

Whatever you’re needing to keep moving forward – encouragement, motivation, inspiration – talk to God about it. Start disciplining yourself to bring your emotions and needs to God. Discipline yourself in the Word and in your quiet time with God and it will flow over to all other aspects of your life, and before you know it it will be January 1 2022.

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