For seven weeks now, I’ve worked out 3-4 times a week. And just a week ago, my boyfriend and I committed to truly eating healthy. It’s hard (I’m on a greens and chicken overload and thinking about it makes me nauseous so thank goodness tonight was cheat night). But I am learning a lot about myself. I’m no health guru, and I don’t care about the likes my body gets on Instagram, which is why I don’t post those photos, and I wouldn’t even know where to begin with bragging about how much or little of this and that I consumed today. I’m just trying to be conscious of what my body looks like and what I put into it.
This wasn’t necessarily my New Years resolution. It’s not about this year; it’s about the rest of my life. And really, the wheels in my brain that wake me up every morning to go to the gym and divert my eyes from the excessive carbs and sweets started turning last semester when my boyfriend sat me down and told me, “Jess, you don’t take care of your body. You’re not healthy. That’s not okay.”
And honestly, in typical female fashion, all I heard was “Babe, I think you’re fat.” We fought about it, and I wrestled with what he had said in my mind until I could really hear his loving words the way he had said and meant them. I wasn’t even trying to take care of the body God gave me just eight weeks ago. I wasn’t healthy. And that really wasn’t okay.
I’m 20, and for a 20-year-old, I’m in pretty good shape. I’m 5 foot 10 and I’m not overweight, but I don’t like the pudginess on my stomach or the squishy part between my chest and my arm pits. I also don’t like the doughy-ness of my arms. I can tell a significant difference between what I looked like my senior year of high school and what I look like now: the pudge, the squish and the dough didn’t stand out so much back then.
I wouldn’t venture to say I hate what I look like. I don’t. But I do see my body as a blessing and I am not taking care of it, especially by the bad habit of eating junk food and sometimes fast food meals in bed as I watch Netflix. It’s not about being the skinniest, it’s about taking care of yourself and loving yourself so you can maintain the healthiest you for years to come. That’s what I failed to see when my boyfriend initially sat me down a few months back.
Today, I decided to write about this because so many people obsess over what they put into their bodies and how hard they’re going to work to get rid of it’s aftereffects. I believe in working out to see results and eating to feel energized, but I also believe that everything is good in moderation (thanks Mom), even the mornings you catch up on sleep and nights when all you really need is ice cream.
As I already mentioned, truly eating healthy started last Monday. My boyfriend and I did really well cooking just about every meal (and actually he cooks then I wash dishes because I’m not comfortable in the kitchen… which is something else I am working on and a story for another post), but then Friday came along. I have class Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but Friday I either have off or I get called to substitute teach. Last Friday, I got called to sub the night before, and being the scatterbrained, busy college student that I am, I didn’t event think about grabbing some sort of lunch until I was in the car at 7:00 Friday morning, clock-in just 15 minutes away.
I guess my heart said a silent prayer because God provided for me throughout the school day. I’m not kidding. THREE times staff and students brought me, the substitute teacher, food. The downside was that it wasn’t healthy, but how BLESSED was I that I didn’t go hungry? My sorority advisor who teaches at the school brought me a parfait from McDonald’s, another student in my first block was celebrating her birthday so she saved me a cupcake, and then two kids came in during third block with Scooby Snacks and some Reese’s. That was God, there’s no other explanation.
Throughout my new “healthy” mindset, a few bible stories have come to mind. The first and most obvious being 1 Corinthians 6:19, which says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” I am not my own, and I cannot continue to do God’s work and live out his plan for me if I don’t take care of myself.
Second, I thought about Jesus feeding 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish in Matthew 14:13-21. Truth be told, I found some cashews in my backpack that were a forgotten snack from earlier in the week so I threw in my sub bag on Friday morning. And truth be told, I started liking nuts last week (I’m a VERY picky eater, something else I’ve been working on) so I really didn’t want to eat the cashews. But for me, Jesus turned those cashews into a parfait, a cupcake, Scooby Snacks and Reese’s. Not anyone’s ideal meal (except maybe the kids in the class I subbed for), but I accepted and indulged in each of those treats with a thankful heart and nearly full stomach.
Tonight, I started thinking about communion and a message my former pastor shared with our congregation about Matthew 26:17-30 a few years back. The Lord’s Supper is a holy meal. I think many people, adults and children alike, forget that the sometimes-stale crackers and nonalcoholic wine AKA grape juice symbolize a whole MEAL. Followers of Christ are meant to share this meal in remembrance of the price he paid for our sins.
So many people see food as expensive, messy, just something else part of the mundane day, gross, something to lust for (shout out to everyone who gave up chocolate for Lent this year)… and all of those people are missing the point. All food was meant to nourish our bodies, and it was meant to be shared in meals with friends, with the people we love. Jesus was the first to say, in so many words, “Hey guys, wanna go get food with me?” And then he bonded with his brothers, the 12 Disciples, over what we know to be the Last Supper.
I’m not saying every meal we have has to include the spiritual weight of the Last Supper, but building that COMMUNITY with your friends over Chipotle or late night study pizza or whatever it may be leads to genuine love, spiritual conversations, and faith being shared. The message my former pastor shared was exactly that: community comes from communion, which brings me full circle.
I’m sad today when I hear about girls getting turned down by the sorority or guy of their dreams because of their body. I’m sad when I notice girls denying themselves a meal or just one sweet treat because of their body. I’m sad when teenage boys get mocked for having chicken legs. I’m sad when I notice a photoshopped Facebook profile picture attempting to imitate the “perfect” body image. I’m sad when I see body images plastered on Facebook silently begging, “look at me!” I’m sad when people look in the mirror and can’t see past the body they were given, whether they see it as “beautiful” or not.
I didn’t write this post for attention towards my new healthy habits. I wrote this because A) I needed to post something; it’s been too long! and B) I wanted to draw attention to the harmony between living healthy and living like Jesus. You are not your own, and whether you know it or not, someone is looking up to you, following your lead. In the same way, food isn’t meant to be a burden or an object to lust after, it’s meant to nourish your body and build community. And so, dear reader, my advice to you is to love Jesus, love yourself, and love your brothers and sisters, and everything else will fall into place.