I used to think I made healthy choices, but I actually had an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. This is how I completely changed my mindset.
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What did you have to eat today?
How did you make your selections? Was it based on whatever was most convenient? Was it based on whatever was most appealing to your taste buds? Or, like I did for years, did you make your choices based on whatever was lowest in calories?
There’s nothing wrong with being aware of your calorie consumption. They do matter. But they aren’t the final word in a healthy diet.
MY UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD
I struggled with poor body image for years. I constantly compared myself to my friends and other girls I saw and thought if I could just eat the right things, then I could look as good as they did. And then I would be happy.
But … it didn’t quite happen that way. I did eventually develop a consistent discipline of daily exercise, and I modified my diet somewhat. But while losing weight did increase my confidence and comfort in my clothing, it did not erase my body image issues.
That took a much longer journey than losing the weight required. A journey that came to a head when I read Beauty Begins, by Chris Shook and Megan Shook Alpha. I describe this journey in my post Winning the Battle With the Girl in the Mirror, and if this is a struggle you can relate to, I recommend clicking over to read it.
But as I adopted my new “healthy” lifestyle, I actually developed a very unhealthy relationship with food. As I made my food choices, all my focus was on what would help me lose weight and look good.
Every decision was based on calories, calories, calories. I ate whatever was lowest in calories, and most of what I ate was “low fat,” “fat-free,” “low calorie,” etc.
I gave too little thought to what would provide the most nutrition or what was best for my body. My only concern with fast food, processed food, desserts, and the like was whether they would put me over my daily calorie allotment.
Certainly, the number of calories you consume in a day is important. No fancy diets or complicated schedules negate the basic formula of weight loss: calories consumed – calories expended = weight loss/gain. At the end of the day, calories do matter.
But, although I was losing weight, my choices were not healthy. And I had a dysfunctional relationship with food and exercise.
HOW I CHANGED THE WAY I THINK ABOUT FOOD
The lessons on food and body systems revealed to me how my diet was affecting my body. I realized that while it may have been helping me lose weight, it was not making me healthy.
I started looking into “real food” and making the proposed changes to my diet.
That led me to 100daysofrealfood.com and Lisa’s cookbooks, 100 Days of Real Food and 100 Days of Real Food: Fast and Fabulous, where I learned even more about the effects of all my so-called “healthy” food.
For the first time, I deeply examined my motivations behind my food choices and saw that I needed a complete mind shift.
My Body as a Temple
I grew up in the church, so I have long heard about our bodies being “temples of the Holy Spirit.” I always thought of this as being a reason for sexual purity (which it is) or to avoid gluttony (which it is).
But I had fallen into the trap of false pride.
Just because I didn’t eat a lot of desserts or candy or junk food didn’t mean I was treating my body as a temple. I realized that eating low-calorie trash wasn’t any more respectful of my temple than eating cake every day.
By not paying attention to my body’s cues and neglecting to fill it properly with the nutrients it needed, I was disrespecting its potential, as well as the God who designed it.
I realized that eating low-calorie trash wasn’t any more respectful of my temple than eating cake every day.
MY NEW FOOD PHILOSOPHY
So what is my new food philosophy? My new food motto is “food for fuel (and fun).”
Rather than think about consuming whatever contains the least amount of calories, I now try to make food choices that will give me the most nutrients.
I ask myself, “What does my body need/want right now? What is going to best fuel me to do what I need to do?”
This includes eating mostly real food (meaning food that is free of artificial ingredients and as unprocessed as possible). This is a huge change from my former low-fat, fat-free, low-calorie focused diet, but it is much better for my body.
Do I hit my mark 100% of the time? Heavens, no. We do eat the occasional processed foods, and I’m not eschewing desserts completely. (Life does need to enjoyed, after all!) But I figure if I eat well 80% of the time, I’m not going to worry about the 20% that I don’t. Moderation is key, my friends.
An Unhealthy Attitude Toward Exercise
I also want to say a quick word about working out, because I’ve undergone a change in that area, as well.
I used to work out to lose weight. That’s the honest truth.
But after I had Andrew, life really picked up, and I didn’t have the time or energy to be preoccupied with vanity.
Did I still want to look my best? Absolutely, what woman doesn’t? But what I really wanted (and needed) was to develop the strength and energy to do everything I wanted to do in life. And I began to adjust my workouts accordingly.
First I went through the MUTU System so I could correct my diastasis recti and regain a core that worked for me, not against me.
Then I started to do more strength training. And in the process, I found new workouts that I not only enjoyed, but that left me feeling energized rather than depleted.
Then, a few months ago, I saw a quote that said something to the effect of, “Working out shouldn’t be a punishment for what you ate, but a celebration of what your body can do.” I thought about the number of times I’ve said, “I need to workout because I ate XYZ yesterday.” And it startled me. I had never thought of it that way before.
MY NEW HEALTHY FOCUS
This led me to a new (healthier) attitude towards exercise and fitness.
Over the last year, I’ve focused on strengthening my body, supporting its natural processes, and broadening its potential.
I’m not going to quit exercising — that would not be good for my physical or my mental health. But I’m choosing to view my workouts as a tool to improve my body’s ability to perform, rather than something I have to do to control it.
I’m going to choose workouts that stretch me and challenge me, but that also make me feel good afterward. Ones that boost my energy, not deplete it for the rest of the day. Ones that build my muscles, and as a result, support my bones, ligaments, and joints. Not ones that cause more pain (not your average soreness, but actual pain — I’ve done these in the name of “fitness”).
The bottom line of my new attitude is this: the purpose of exercise is to fortify my body and build my strength and endurance to carry out God’s plans and purposes. And because challenging myself physically encourages me to challenge myself in other ways, as well.
But it is no longer going to be used as punishment for past mistakes or out of fear for future weight gain. Because that’s not respectful of my body or of the God who created it.
Learning to love and respect my body has been a long and challenging journey. And it’s far from over! I still struggle daily with negative thoughts as I look at my I’ve-carried-delivered-and-nursed-multiple-babies body in the mirror.
But I’m making a very intentional effort not to let those thoughts dictate the way I treat it. And I’m changing the way I look at my diet and my exercise choices.
It’s no longer about what will make me the thinnest or look the best, but rather what will best equip me to fulfill my responsibilities, achieve my goals, and carry out God’s plans and purposes for my life.
You Might Also Enjoy:
- Winning the Battle With the “Mean Girl” in the Mirror
- 5 Habits for a Healthier You
- What Are You Feeding Yourself?
- The Dos and Don’ts of Exercise During Pregnancy