[This is the last 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) and the second post here: Sources of unrest in your physical health (other than having kids)]
I thought I would be “at rest” with my body when I lost the last five pounds of baby weight. I didn’t realize that being at peace with myself had nothing to do with what the scale did or didn’t read. It also didn’t have to do with how many miles I ran, how many hard workouts I finished, or how perfectly I ate. And I’m so glad for that because I really love my nightly bowl of popcorn with a side of Theo dark chocolate.
When I decided to work on my physical health after my third pregnancy, I prayed that God wouldn’t let me lose the weight until I dealt with whatever was underneath. I didn’t want the scale tipping a few pounds in my favor preventing me from finding true peace in this area of my life.
To start the process, I found a boot camp that focused on more than just intense workouts to get back in shape. It didn’t require a strict diet of severely reduced calories either. (Deanna Schober, our coach, said many of us would even need to eat more to start losing weight). There also weren’t extreme workouts that lasted for hours on end. Everything was adjustable to our own abilities and circumstances. This wasn’t a place for the “no excuses” mentality found in most gyms today. In fact, we had to work on recognizing when we actually had a legitimate excuse and needed to learn to give ourselves grace and a little more rest.
This eight-week program had me looking and feeling healthier than I did while running marathons — and it didn’t come at the expense of my sanity. Instead, it actually brought me peace. It taught me that being physically healthy didn’t require extreme exercise, rigid rules around food, the *perfect* number on the scale, or way more sleep than I’m likely to get in the next two decades. Instead, it required that I have a positive relationship with my body, mind, food, and exercise. These are a few of the things I learned that helped me find peace in my physical health:
Six ways to find rest in your physical health
1. Ditch the all-or-nothing thinking
Until a few years ago, I didn’t realize there were two types of perfectionists. I relate most to the first type, which will drive themselves into the ground, trying to do everything to a tee. The second type realizes that they will never get it perfect, so instead, they never start at all. Both end up at the same place mentally: defeated.
All-or-nothing (a.k.a. black-and-white) thinking can wreak havoc on every area of our lives. It wasn’t just exercise for me. If I was going to make a cake, it had to be amazing. My home? Just buy out the Container Store, and don’t leave a crumb in sight. Nothing I did, no matter how insignificant, could be done half-heartedly. Which “worked” until I had enough kids that this became impossible – there will always be crumbs, and there will never be enough uninterrupted time to workout after 6 a.m. Something had to give.
I learned that I had to start living in shades of gray with things that weren’t of eternal importance. While doing nothing got me nowhere, doing it all would eventually lead me to a heart or panic attack. Finding a middle ground that was good enough was the only mentality that led to greater consistency and ultimately more progress.
2. Focus on progress, not perfection
Whether you can relate more to the first or second type of perfectionist, a shift in mindset can make a huge impact. Instead of focusing on how perfect (or imperfectly) we do something, it can be more helpful to think about the progress we’re making.
My coach shared something with us called the Progress Pyramid. It was a visual aid to help us understand how to move from a goal mindset to one focused on progress. When we have a goal of losing weight, we tend to focus a lot of our attention on the numbers on the scale. That’s what tells us if we’ve succeeded, right? But with the Progress Pyramid, that’s the last thing we should consider! Instead, we should first look at how we’re making progress in our overall health. Then, we move up to how we feel: do we have more energy? Do we feel stronger? Next, we might look at goals: can we run farther or faster than last month? Can we muster up an extra push-up or two then we could before? After, we might notice that our clothes are fitting a little looser (or differently if we’re gaining muscle). Soon, others might see that we’re looking more fit. Finally, the scale reflects the progress we’ve been making. But, when we look at our progress this way, the scale seems much less important.
What shocked me was that I actually never lost the five pounds I thought I needed to lose. Instead, my body composition changed after finding exercise I loved that only took up 15-20 minutes of my day. But more importantly, I healed my relationship with my body and exercise, and I was free from slavery to the scale.
3. Prioritize habits over outcomes
Andy Stanley said, “it’s not our intention that determines our destination; our direction does.” Our direction with our physical health is the habits we choose to embrace. We can desire a washboard stomach all we want, but if we don’t create habits that lead us to a stronger core and slimmer physique, we’ll never have one. Consider slowly incorporating one habit at a time to lead yourself to a healthier lifestyle.
4. Give yourself grace
While laziness isn’t something to aspire to, having “no excuses” can be equally damaging. Along with our inability to be perfect, we are also unable to go without rest. And there are times in our lives when we might need it more than others. One example is that our culture does not promote a gentle post-partum experience. Instead, it seems to expect that moms can jump out of bed after being up all night with their two-week-old while still physically healing from childbirth and somehow whip their bodies back into shape as if they’ve never even had a baby. This is crazy.
There are certain seasons of our lives, days in our weeks, and hours in our days when we need to give ourselves more grace. We can’t always push through. It doesn’t mean that we have an excuse to not exercise or not eat healthy forever. It just means, sometimes, we’re not at our best, or our focus is on something else that’s important, and we have to allow ourselves the grace to not make “perfect” choices during this time.
5. Practice suffering well
I’ve always appreciated that my husband has had to go first with all age-related things, being that he’s five years older than me. He always joked that it’s all downhill after 40. I always laughed and brushed him off.
Then I turned 40.
Between physical therapy for my knee from a random workout “injury,” a cystoscopy for never-ending UTIs, a round of COVID, and a surgery date scheduled for a gum graft for my lower incisors (that my dentist has terrified me into thinking will fall out), it has been such a humbling year.
What caught me off guard was that I arrogantly assumed that everything would go well in my health if I just did all the “right things.” The thing is, sometimes problems are unavoidable. Sometimes God allows things to go wrong because He is working for our good (Rom. 8:28). James reminds us that our trials are what produce perseverance and ultimately help us grow in maturity (James 1:2-4). There’s nothing like physical pain and suffering to remind us of Who is in control and the magnitude of Jesus’ work on the cross.
6. Understand your worth
While the above tips can be an excellent starting place, they will only take us so far. To find true peace with our physical health, we must understand our worth. If you missed the first article in this series, I recommend checking it out. We discussed a few reasons our physical health matters; our bodies are temples of God, and they allow us to do His work.
Our worth is not defined by the number written on the tag of our jeans. It’s not defined by how athletic or uncoordinated we are, how skinny or overweight we are, or even how healthy we are or aren’t. No, our worth can only be defined by the One who made us. No matter how many workouts we do, workouts we skip, diets we follow, junk food we eat, pounds we lose, or extra weight we carry will ever take away the fact that we were created in the image of God (Gen 1:27). That we were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20). That while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). That in Christ, we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) — a creation that is not a pawn of the diet and fitness industry but a beloved child of God (1 John 3:2). And our God has good plans for us – plans that give us hope and a future (Jer 29:11).
Finding your worth in God may be a lightbulb moment for some, but for me, it required an in-depth study of the Word, time to let those words sink in fully, and quite a few tearful prayers and moments of worship. It’s a process that took me until my late 30’s to understand. But, it’s never too late (nor too early) to discover this! The freedom God offers us, by finding our worth in Him alone, allows us to remove the shackles of our diet and fitness-obsessed culture and never look back.
- The Beginner’s Guide to Predicting Your Future, Part 2: Your Intention Please by Andy Stanley
- Built Daily coaching with Deanna Schober