Have you ever struggled with body image and self-acceptance?
If you answered yes, you are not alone.
In a world with Instagram fitness models and perfectly toned bodies flooding our feeds, it can feel like an endless battle trying to fight the temptation to wish our bodies looked different. Men and women everywhere feel the constant pressure to look a certain way.
Whatever your story may be, there is hope. It IS possible to live a healthy lifestyle with Jesus at the focus rather than the pressures of physical appearance driving your desire to get fit.
And I can tell you this because I’m finally achieving a mindset where being healthy is not all about looking a certain way.
It’s been a journey and it definitely has not happened overnight. But I want everyone who loves Jesus and also has a desire to live a healthy lifestyle to know their is a way to do both while honoring God. I’m going to share with you my top tips to live a healthy lifestyle with Jesus at the focus.
1. Ask God To Change Your Mindset (My Story + How My Mindset Has Changed)
For as long as I can remember, health and fitness meant looking a certain way that fit our society’s standard.
In high school, I’d skip meals and eat the lowest calorie foods possible to look thin. My energy was always low and I wasn’t eating to fuel my body but rather limiting food to try to look “skinny”.
In college, I discovered lifting weights and eating healthy to fuel my body for my workouts and my day-to-day activities. Although my idea of being healthy changed in a positive way, I was still so focused on my body image and constantly trying to look a certain way. It was a constant up-and-down roller coaster of feeling really good about how I looked one week, and hating how I looked the next.
I married my husband a month after graduating college. During the first year of our marriage, I kept up the routine of eating healthy and working out, but was not nearly as strict with counting calories and working out every day. My body changed as a result and I fell into the trap of feeling like I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t look the way I wished I did. I was comparing myself to the fitness people I followed on Instagram and YouTube and was ultimately unhappy with my body, regardless of the fact that I wasstill eating healthy and working out.
It wasn’t until several months ago that I finally decided it was time to look to God in my health and fitness journey. I also decided to start following Christian fitness accounts on Instagram that were encouraging to me and my walk with Christ. Their focus for health was far beyond physical appearance.
What I feel God is telling me currently in my health and fitness my journey is this:
`There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be physically fit and healthy. God tells us to honor our bodies as a temple and I think that lazing around on the couch and eating fast food every day does not honor that.
“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; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
When our focus becomes how we look on the outside and not what our heart looks like, that is where we go wrong.
“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7
Instead of picking apart my body when I look in the mirror, I’ve learned to speak to myself in love and look at myself the way I think God sees me. I’m learning how to focus on the gifts that God has given me and use those to bring glory to Him because people see our physical bodies but God sees the heart. My ultimate focus should be living for Jesus and loving others, physical fitness should always take second place to that.
“For physical training is of some value, but Godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” – 1 Timothy 4:8
While I still have days I feel insecure, each day becomes easier to accept where I’m at. I seek Jesus to stay positive in living a lifestyle that honors and glorifies Him, not myself. I strive to make healthy choices by eating delicious, whole foods (fruits, veggies, whole grains, non processed food) that God has created for us to fuel our bodies. My focus for exercising my body is because it gives me energy, lifts my mood, and keeps me strong and able bodied to live life well and serve others actively without feeling fatigued or lazy.
I encourage you to give your health + fitness journey to the Lord. Make HIM the focus, not yourself. Ask God to help you honor Him with your body through healthy choices, both physically and mentally.
Of course it’s okay to want to be healthy to also feel confident in your own skin, but when appearance takes center stage it becomes in idol. The key to having a God-focused mindset in your health and fitness journey is putting God’s will for your life first. His greatest commandments are to love Him and love others above everything else. If we are consumed in living a lifestyle to make our bodies look a certain way, will we be loving God and others first or loving ourselves first?
“’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘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 22:36-40
Can you love others and put others first better when your body is healthy? In my opinion, the answer is absolutely yes! So let that be your focus. Caring about how you look is not a sin in itself, but vanity is. Ask God to help you keep the scale tilted in a way that being healthy in order to put Jesus’s will for your life takes a much higher priority than your physical appearance.
2. Give Your Journey To Him DAILY
Everything we talked about above in tip #1 is much easier said than done. Chances are this will not be an overnight fix. It’s extremely difficult to switch our mindset away from the physical appearance aspect of health and fitness and towards a God focused approach to a healthy lifestyle.
My best advice is to give it to the Lord DAILY.
We are human and humans very easily fall back into focusing on “me” rather than “Him”.
Pray about it in the morning, pray about it throughout your day, pray about it often. When you feel negative thoughts about your appearance sneak into your mind, give them to Him and remember WHO God created you to be! His purpose for your life goes FAR BEYOND what you look like, I can promise you that!
3. Read What God Has To Say About Who You Are In Him
I encourage you to look to the Bible and see what God has to say about who He created you to be and what His purpose is for you. As the Bible says, being physically fit and healthy has some value, but living a Godly life has value both now and eternally.
Here are some Bible verses I encourage you to read to dig deeper when it comes to God’s will for your life and who He created you to be:
1 Peter 3:3-4
1 Corinthians 6:20
In addition, my friend Cambria recently wrote a devotional on self-image called “Look Inside”. It’s a 30 day Biblically based devotional focused on ending your war with negative self-image. I encourage you to check it out here if you’re interested!
4. Take Out The Garbage
If you use social media, you know how negatively it can affect how you view your body. I have been guilty time after time of scrolling through Instagram and wishing my body looked like somebody else’s. There is no room in your life for that when you are a child of God who is living for Jesus. Take that garbage OUT!
Today I’m giving you homework. It’s the teacher in me, I can’t resist.
I want you to unfollow ANY accounts on any social media platforms that make you think negatively about yourself or your body.
Friends, this is so important. You DO NOT have to look a certain way to be “healthy”. I am currently 10 pounds heavier than I was in high school and guess what? I feel 10 times healthier than I did back then.
I have a healthy relationship with food. I no longer skip meals or eat ridiculously small portions to look “skinny”. I don’t view foods as “bad”, but rather treats to enjoy on occasion instead of as a main source of fuel.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also become aware of when I’ve had enough food and when I’m eating because I’m bored and should stop. My relationship with food is becoming healthier each day that I give it to God and am in tune with treating my body as a temple.
In addition, I’m stronger than ever before. I may not look like those instagram fitness models but I’m PROUD of what my body can do regardless of how it looks.
So keep that in mind as you look to others as “inspiration”. Our inspiration should be living for Jesus and being healthy so we can serve others well and glorify Him above all else.
5. Define Your “Why” and Refer to it Daily
Why do you want to be healthy?
My “why” is because I want to treat my body well. The Bible says our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit.
I exercise because it makes me feel good (hello endorphins) and gives me energy so I can take on other tasks in my day to the best of my ability. I eat healthy so I am well fueled to accomplish daily activities without losing patience (hello hangry) or feeling lazy/tired from too much sugar or unhealthy food.
When I’m healthy, I feel my best physically and mentally, which in return helps me to serve others better. I’m able to treat my body well without it becoming an idol in my life. Most of all, I can keep God my focus when a healthy diet and exercise aren’t the most important thing to me, but rather something I do to help me serve Him and others better.
Now ask yourself: What is your why?
I hope you feel clarity in how you can live a healthy lifestyle with Jesus as your focus. Please feel free to comment below any thoughts you may have or advice for myself or other readers. Let me know if this post encouraged you in your health + fitness journey! Love you all!