Finding Rest in the City

Sources of Unrest in Your Physical Health (Other Than a Lack of Sleep from Having Kids)

[This is the second post of a three-part series. Find the first post here: Reasons Your Physical Health Matters (Other than Meeting Your Nutrition, Exercise, or Sleep Goals)]

If there was an ideal time to lose my last bit of pregnancy weight after having my third kid (and become more restful while doing it), this was not it. We were days away from gutting our kitchen in the first phase of our massive historical home renovation. Focusing on any physical health goal – honestly, any goal other than surviving, staying married, and finishing our house – was inconvenient at best. Did I really need to deal with those five pounds at this exact moment?

I felt my squishier body and cringed. If I wasn’t already harsh enough, I berated myself for being so critical of a body that had birthed three beautiful babies. Then, I started to worry about what my daughter would one day think of herself? Did I want her to criticize herself for any imperfections she found? The world and her peers would undoubtedly be harsh enough one day. Not only did I need to deal with this for myself, but also for my daughter (now daughters). I wanted her to feel confident and thrive in the body she was given. I resolved that this garbage was going to end with me.

Sources of Unrest with Our Physical Health

As I agonized over what felt like the sheer impossibility of losing five stubborn pounds, I found myself surrounded by women shedding weight on rigid and restrictive diets. But I just couldn’t bear any more rules. I had already spent nine months carefully selecting what I ate while nursing our colicky thirdborn (then there were all the pregnancy guidelines before that). But as I judgingly pinched my midsection, I berated myself for not being able to do it. How could I be so disciplined to run over two dozen miles at a time but not enough to give up a few extra calories to make the scale display my preferred number?

Then, I stumbled upon a blog by Deanna Schober, a fitness coach dedicated to helping women have fit pregnancies (and beyond). She shared her journey from being unfit and unhealthy during her first pregnancies and her desire to change. With extreme exercise and food restriction, she finally got the body she wanted. Yet underneath her washboard stomach, she was miserable. Instead of staying miserable, she started focusing on her relationship with her body and food, which required her to shift her mindset. She ditched her restrictive rules, learned to listen to her body, found exercise she loved, and earned herself a healthy body and mind. As I read her story, I knew I was in the right place. 

I started working with Deanna as my coach and quickly saw that the issue I had with my extra pounds* had a lot more to do with my body image than my actual physical health. We dove into what having a healthy relationship with our body, food, and exercise looked like. It required establishing healthy habits stemming from a healthy mindset. But to do this, I first had to get to the root of why I was so focused on getting myself to a certain weight. I didn’t expect how deep I would have to go to find the source of my unrest.

It’s not hard for us and others to tell when we’re physically out of shape and not caring for ourselves well. But not being at rest with our physical health can be more easily hidden – even from ourselves. Being immersed in popular culture or surrounded by people who have an unhealthy relationship with their diet, exercise, or body might prevent us from realizing there is a problem. How do we start investigating the level of peace we have with our health? Let’s explore a few possible sources of unrest that might be playing a role:

 

3 POTENTIAL SOURCES OF UNREST IN OUR PHYSICAL HEALTH

1. CULTURE

From a cultural standpoint, we’re fighting a losing battle to find rest in our physical health. There is constantly a new diet, supplement, product, or workout promising to make us thinner, healthier, stronger, or more attractive. Think of Weight Watchers, South Beach, Atkins, Paleo, Whole30, or Keto in the diet world – it never stops. And when the new thing that comes up contradicts the last, it can send us into another tailspin. How could we have been so naive? 

[Please know there isn’t anything wrong with investigating which foods, exercise, or amount of sleep that helps your body function at its best. This is important to do to best care for yourself! There’s also nothing inherently wrong with being on a diet, counting calories, or weighing your food. When we do these things without the intention of learning how to trust our own bodies, or we place these things on such a high pedestal that they become an idol, we can veer to a dangerous place.] 

We have to remember that our culture doesn’t care about our physical health. It cares that we buy the latest supplements, workout plans, and sleep aids. Ultimately, it cares that we buy into their ideals. Culture tells us our worth is based on our sex appeal and athletic prowess. It praises us for our discipline to eat clean and accomplish so much on so few hours of sleep. 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing, and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 NIV

Are there any patterns in this world that are taking away your peace in this area of your health?

2. COMPARISON

Want to know the easiest way to become anxious about your physical health? Compare how much you exercise, the food you eat, and the quality of your sleep with someone else. There will always be someone out there doing it better. 

Unrest might surface when we compare our postpartum experiences, “Ugh! How does the baby weight just fall right off of her within days of giving birth, and I can’t lose a single pound in months?” Or, we might compare our workout goals (or lack thereof) to someone else’s. “They’re running a marathon, and I can barely jog around the block.” 

The problem with comparison is that it rarely considers our unique circumstances, bodies, or preferences. That mom who looks so great might have a baby already sleeping through the night, and you’re still up every. single. hour. between 12-6 am. Maybe she’s breastfeeding and dropping pounds. Maybe she’s not. Maybe that marathon runner has been training consistently for years, and you’re running for the first time after signing up for a 5k. 

Ashley of Undoubted Grace says, “When we compare ourselves to others, we are agreeing with the plans of the enemy for our lives. Comparison is the thief of joy and the stretcher of truth. Comparison says, “I am ill-equipped for the task at hand.” The truth is God has given me everything I need for the plans he has set before me. The truth of his word says that he prepared us for good works, and every good thing comes from him.”  The best thing we can do is trust that God did not make a mistake with our bodies. We are all unique! If everyone ran marathons, who would be left to grace us with the beauty of their Biellmann spin or their pirouettes? Athlete or not, discrediting our own progress and circumstances will not help us find peace with ourselves. 

3. Ourselves

Sometimes we create our own problems. If we clean up this area of unrest, culture and comparison will have a much harder time affecting us. Here are a few ways that we might create our own unrest:

Negative Self-Talk

Remember the squishy body I told you about? Whether that’s true or not, it’s not a positive way for me to view myself. How often would you want to be around someone who constantly criticizes you and tells you that whatever you do could be better? I’m guessing not much. Now imagine this person is in your own head. 

Negative self-talk is not a sign of humility. It can be a sign of lack of faith, a sign of a lack of discipline, or a sign of allowing the default voice to have its way instead of allowing the redeemed voice in you to have its way.

Gary Morland

Would you tell a five-year-old that their artwork is ugly? I doubt it. But this is essentially what we do when we berate ourselves for not doing better. Don’t forget, we were made in the image of the Creator (Gen 1:27). We were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20).

Creating and staying in bad habits.

One of my favorite books about habits is “The Compound Effect.” In it, Darren Hardy said

Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = Radical Difference

Darren Hardy

Pastor and author Andy Stanley said that “direction, not intention, determines destination.” What does this mean for us? If we make enough small choices that aren’t good for us, even though we intend to be healthy, we will not end up where we’re hoping to be. 

Last winter, our whole family got hit with Covid. Besides being sick and missing my grandmother’s 100th birthday celebration, we also missed an entire month of ski season. While I’m already pretty exhausted having four kids between the ages of two and nine, Covid made it worse. I didn’t exercise for over four weeks – which is rare for me, even in the last month of pregnancy. When I started to gain a little energy back, I decided I needed small habits to move in the right direction again. Instead of forcing myself to wake up early and do 30 minutes of HIIT, I made a minimum routine of five-minute abs and 20 (knee) push-ups. Yes, that’s it. Those simple habits helped me feel alright and get through until I had more energy to start adding some running back into the mix.  

Small habits do add up. No matter how small, maintaining bad habits will not lead us in a positive direction. The good news is that we don’t need to replace our bad habits with a massive life change. Often, we just need to start making minor changes to tip our trajectory in a healthier direction. 

Basing our worth on an aspect of our physical health.

Whether we recognize it, we all base our worth on something. It could be how successful we are in our career, how good of a mom or wife we think we are, the amount of money we make, how well we keep our home, or how attractive we are to others. This was an issue I didn’t realize I had. My obsession with the scale had so much to do with where I was placing my worth. 

Misplacing our value on something in our physical health can look like: 

  • Our weight defines us; good or bad
  • Being attractive means that we’re worthy
  • Bouncing back from pregnancy says we’re more than “just” a mom 
  • Staying super fit, feeling “in control” of our health, or achieving significant athletic accomplishments means that we’re successful, even if it’s at the expense of our emotional health and relationships

None of these are true. Popularity, money, possessions, looks, abilities, health – they can all be taken away in an instant. If we’re not basing our worth in Christ alone, these other foundations will ultimately fail. 

Not putting our diet, exercise, or sleep in their proper place.

When Jesus was asked the greatest commandment in the Law, he did not respond, “Thou shalt sleep eight hours, eat clean, and exercise religiously.” No, he said,

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Matthew 22:37-39 NIV

Loving God and loving others does not mean that we’re not supposed to care for ourselves. It means that our physical health shouldn’t come at the expense of loving God and loving others. When we properly prioritize our physical health within our lives, we can avoid creating idols that lead us away from God’s purpose.

This is not a comprehensive list, but hopefully, it offers a starting place to honestly evaluate where we are in our physical health. It can help us shine a light on areas we might need to bring before God to better align ourselves to where He wants us to be to accomplish His purpose for our lives.

Next, I’ll be discussing some ways we can find rest in our physical health. Stay tuned on Instagram or Facebook for more on this topic, or sign up for emails to get the latest posts right in your inbox.

*Please know my personal struggles are not meant to undermine anyone who is facing serious health issues due to their weight. Whether it’s 5 pounds, 50 pounds, or something more, God wants us to have freedom from our unhealthy mindsets and habits surrounding our physical health.

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Hi, I'm Jen!

Nice to meet you!

I’m a homeschooling mom of four and recovering perfectionist on a journey to live a more restful life.

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