In high school, I struggled with low self-esteem pertaining to my body. Not necessarily my weight but not having the same body type as most of my friends and the women I surrounded myself with. I weighed very little but just wasn’t as …… slim looking as I would’ve wanted to be. I was always very physically active, so I never had to worry about working out or watching what I ate nor did I ever have to step on a scale. Even though there was nothing wrong with my body, I still never felt skinny enough or pretty enough or worthy enough to be included in categories like “beautiful” or “fit”. The thing about low self-esteem is that it goes with you in every season of your life if you don’t deal with it, so it followed me to college.
College was the first time I had ever set foot in a gym. When I first started working out, it wasn’t even because I was nervous about my weight. I just had a couple of friends who liked working out and I wanted to try it. I then signed up for a pageant (something I had also never done before), so physical fitness became a priority for me. I was eating moderately healthy and working out A LOT! Not for the benefit of being healthy or being disciplined but simply to look good in a swimsuit to do well in the pageant. I would look at the changes being made to my body, and it was still never good enough. It was like there was no end goal. Because I was only paying attention to the health and wellness of my body to purely look good on the outside, none of the progress was ever enough. The gym was never a place I felt safe or felt stress-free. It was a place I compared myself to other women, pushed my body with no regards to emotional wellness, taught myself to hate my body, and taught myself that fitness was purely a physical thing.
So I did the pageant, I looked good, and I was in the best shape of my life. But because my motivation was gone, fitness wasn’t a priority anymore. Because I didn’t build my fitness journey around something lasting, it meant nothing to me after I had reached my goal. So my college experience became this cycle of not caring about my body or fitness and gaining a whole bunch of weight. And because I hadn’t dealt with my self-esteem issues, I now had a real problem to be self-conscious about. Gaining weight was a horrible experience for me. I had even more reason to hate my body and to punish it instead of to love it to health. Last spring, I participated in a fitness challenge and I wanted to lose weight so bad. I deprived my body of foods I liked and only ate healthy, I worked out a LOT, and I literally told my body the most horrible things. I lost 10 pounds but again was working toward a goal and not toward a lifestyle of health. So again, here I was in the same cycle. During this past Christmas break, I realized that I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life. I knew that it was time to do something different. I didn’t want to workout and eat heathy to lose weight. I wanted to do those things in order to really learn discipline and to really learn what it was like to live a healthy lifestyle. I wanted to love my body in all its forms and train it until I was at my healthiest. I had a different mindset and that has made all the difference. I realized that it is not God’s will for me to be unhealthy, overweight, or to let my physical appearance affect my self-esteem.
Since January 1st, the Lord had been teaching me so much about fitness, spirituality, discipline, and how all of these things work together. Fitness is not purely a physical activity. It is just as much a spiritual journey as it is physical. And the Lord has really used fitness as a catalyst to teach me about discipline in my life and what He requires of me. A few things that I’ve learned this semester:
- You have to find the right motivation in order for your fitness journey to mean anything to you and to be continuous. Instead of letting a weightless goal be your motivation or a dress be your motivation, let it be that you simply want to please God with how you take care of your body. Let your motivation be that you want to be healthy enough to do the things God has called you to do. Let it be that you want to teach your kids what living a healthy lifestyle looks like, so that they don’t have to struggle with self-esteem issues like you did. Let your motivation stem from God-things and not worldly things that are purely physical because that’s fleeting and does more harm than good.
- You have to come into the revelation that your body does NOT control you. For a long time, I ate bad foods because I just listened to whatever my body wanted. If my body wanted donuts, I ate donuts. If my body wanted pizza, that’s what I ate. I have now come into the understanding that everything my body wants and desires is not always good for me. Sometimes when my body wants candy, what it really needs is fruit. My body does not control me. I control my body. I train my body and tell it exactly what to do. I am not a slave to the unhealthy desires of my body. When my body tells me it doesn’t feel like working out, I can tell my body it needs to be trained. You have the power and the authority over your body – not the other way around.
- Your body is the temple of God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us that our body is a temple for the Holy Spirit, we don’t belong to us, and we have to honor Him with our bodies. We typically see the scripture being used as it relates to sexual sin and purity, but God has shown me how this scripture has a lot to do with your physical fitness and health as well. God lives inside of you. He gave you this body and you only get one. It’s your job to take care of this body, so that it can be holy and acceptable for God to live inside of. I don’t want God living in a sluggish, tired, overweight, unloved body. I want the best for God, which means I want the best for me. And I want the best body I can have during my time on Earth.
- Fitness and healthy living should be rooted in giving God the glory. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” You should do everything to the glory of God. You want to lose weight, do it for the glory of God. You want to be a runner, do it for the glory of God. If your fitness journey is rooted in giving Christ the glory, it won’t fail. It will always have purpose and meaning. And it’ll last.
I know I can’t be the only woman struggling with weight, self-esteem, fighting not to compare myself to other women, and trying to make fitness a lifestyle that glorifies Christ. Here’s a prayer for all of us:
Thank you for this body. Thank you for health, strength, grace, and unconditional love that allows me to live with this body. Thank you for the courage to train and change this body as I see fit. Thank you for my ability to pursue spiritual discipline in fitness. Thank you for being with me on this fitness journey as I pursue a lifestyle that glorifies you. I pray for restoration as I strive to lose weight, gain muscle, slim down, bulk up, or whatever my fitness journey consists of at this point. I pray that you would guide my hand, my heart, and my spirit as I try to make the right choices to aid me in my fitness journey. I pray that you would help me to make healthy choices and give me the strength and the courage to fight off destructive desires and cravings that would hinder me from reaching my goals. Help me to understand that my fight with food and fitness isn’t about what the outside of me looks like Lord. It’s about what I look like on the inside. This journey is just as much spiritual as it is physical Lord. Help me to use the concept of “congratulate not compare” when it comes to my fitness journey in relation to other women. Help me to renew my mind as it relates to fitness and to mediate on what your word says about health and nutrition. I thank you that I am free to choose, I thank you that I’m on my way to a healthy lifestyle, I thank you for food, I thank you that I am breaking free from bad habits, I thank you that I am breaking free from everything that has hindered my fitness goals in the past. In You, all things are possible – and that includes fitness. I praise you for these things now. It is in Your name I pray, Amen!
As always love God, love people, and love your body to health. Healthy fitness habits won’t always be easy but by the power and might of Jesus Christ, we can do this! Here’s to being healthy enough to accomplish and walk in the purpose Christ has created us for!