Why I Don’t “Work Out”

Post Grad Duck #11

It’s 2015. We live in the 21st century. We live in a time where we literally carry computers in our pockets and the technological advances being made daily are changing life as we know it. Yet, amid all of this positivity there is still the daily struggle many people face when it comes to their body image.

This is a hot topic right now because of a video that was posted on youtube about a week ago. The video was apparently supposed to be a satirical piece centering around the subject of body fat; however, many other YouTubers did not take the video lightly and were deeply offended by its contents. I too have watched the video and didn’t find it very humorous.

I’m upset because we live in the 21st century and we still don’t know how to talk to each other about the subject of weight, body image, being healthy, exercising, etc. We have projects and programs that have been put in place to help with this and that’s great! But I struggle with this subject having to be a part of some type of initiative. I struggle  with this subject having to be a part of a self help group. I do not mean to knock or dismiss the effectiveness and purpose behind these programs and projects, I’m just not a fan of the the assocaited connotations that they can produce.

When I think of a project, I think of getting together with 4 or 5 other people on a week night to finish an assignment that we have to turn in for a grade. When I think of a program, I think of something with a beginning, a middle, and an end. When I think of my body I don’t want to think of receiving a grade or it being a process that has an end game. My body is worth more than that. I’m worth more than that.

When I was in the 10th grade, I really started to become self conscious about how I looked. I was a bit overweight for my age and height and I was encouraged by my doctor to eat better and lose some weight. I wanted to feel better about myself, but I mostly wanted to look like the majority of my friends that I was comparing myself to. I started running everyday and eating more fruits and vegetables. I lost about 15 pounds and was really happy about it. I kept the weight off because I played sports in high school, but when I got to college I wasn’t as active and was afraid that I was going to gain the weight back. So, I started to eat less and less. I lost about 10-15 more pounds. I regained an appetite the following year of college, but I also regained the weight I had lost and then some. I wasn’t extremely overweight or anything, but I was unhappy. I kept thinking “I have to work out! I have to eat better! I have to be pretty!” In my mind, I was associating my worth and beauty with how I looked. If I couldn’t look in the mirror and feel good about myself, then there wasn’t much good about me. I understand now that this is entirely false, but at the time I was all too eager to agree with these lies.

There needed to be a shift. I needed to disassociate my worth from my body. And as a female, I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you when I say, “that’s really hard.” Because society essentially forces us to put so much stock into how we look, it’s very difficult to combat the masses and proclaim that our worth isn’t in the letter on our bras, the number on the back of our jeans, or whether or not we need 1 or 2 pieces to put on a swim suit. Claiming that my body is where my worth can be found is like saying that the quality of a book depends upon the aesthetic appeal of its cover–it’s not true. As cheesy as this next statement is about to be, it does hold some merit: it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

So why don’t I “work out”? Because I don’t like the way it makes me feel. I don’t like that I feel like I have to do X amount of things one day in order to be successful. I don’t like that I feel silly for not lasting as long as the person across the gym from me. I don’t like that I feel guilty if I skip a day or two. I don’t “work out” because I’m worth more than that. I don’t “work out” because my body isn’t a problem that I need to solve. I exercise because in my mind there is a shift. I exercise because there is no end goal, simply participating is enough. I want to be healthy and feel good. I don’t necessarily want to have the BMI of a gymnast.

Is it hard? You bet your bottom dollar. Have I ever had to affirm myself aloud? Yes indeed. Do I ever look in the mirror and get upset? Oh sure. I’m not perfect and my body isn’t either, but I absolutely am worth something and I want to take care of that something. Self care looks different for everyone.  For me, a part of that process looks like changing the way I word things so as not to shame who I am.

I’ll end with this. I have a good friend that has become my electronic pen pal because we live in different places now.  In our last correspondance, the subject of self care came up. How do we take care of ourselves in light of the Gospel?  I’m still learning, but here’s what I said in response to that question.

Mmmm…self care. I believe it’s unbelievably important, but I often don’t think we know exactly how to take care of ourselves. For example, sometimes it’s really good to be selfish with your time because mentally we need that. But we know that we are called to be good stewards of our time in addition to serving others. So what’ that balance? What falls under self care? Am I allowed to eat whatever I want? Should I only eat what’s healthy for me (fruits, vegetables, lean meats, etc).? How much should I exercise? How much alone time do I need? How long should I read my Bible/pray? What should I do? Where do I start? I get it. I have those same questions. The passage that comes to mind when I think about this topic of self care is: Matthew 22:37-40 which says this, “Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

So let’s break it down. The first part of this passage is pretty explicit, we are to love Jesus with literally all that we are. Every part of our makeup is commanded to love the Lord. I think that one of the best ways to do that is to take care of ourselves. If we’re not taking care of our hearts, our souls, and our minds, how can we truly love Jesus to the best of our ability? Next we are to love others, our neighbors. The passage doesn’t say that we are to love others with all our hearts, souls, and minds, but it does say we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. And what is it that gives our “selves” makeup? Our hearts, our souls, and our minds. So, in my finite understanding of this passage, it seems like in order to love Jesus and to love other people we HAVE to take care of ourselves.

Like most things, it’s a journey. But let’s keep truckin’ along.
[Jesus, thank You for my body. Thank You for my health. Thank You for the various ways in which I can take care of myself, and give me the strength to do so.]
❤ Amen

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