This past spring, I knew something had to change.
I’m 36 (and– gulp!– I can only say that for another month or so). And I had started noticing my age. It was little things:
- groaning, with an additional “oof” or “oh!” when I got off the couch
- hearing clicks in my knees and ankles as I descended the stairs
- insomnia (waking up in the middle of the night without being able to fall back asleep, for HOURS)
- preferring to keep sitting on the couch rather than just getting up to grab something I needed
- a general lethargy and lack of desire to get up and DO the things that needed to be done
But it began bugging me: Is this inevitable? Am I destined for pain and groaning?
And of course, in some ways, yes, we all are. Our bodies are feeble and frail — no matter how strong when they sprout up, we all eventually wither like grass. We’ll all die, some of us in painful, sickness-ravaged ways. That’s reality.
There are choices we can make that affect the rapidness with which we give way to weight gain and avoidable health problems.
Instead of dwelling in the realm of ideas, philosophical approaches to life, analyzing relationship and home issues (all the places where my brain naturally goes), I began thinking about bodies. Aging. Weight gain in middle age. Strength in muscles and flexibility in joints. Hormones.
And the truth I began facing up to is this:
Generally, we are all moving in one of two directions: toward health & strength, or toward sickness & frailty.
It sounds oversimplified, but the more I’ve squatted on this idea, the more true I believe it is.
I have a simple choice:
I can choose to do things that move me toward health and strength, or I can choose to avoid doing things like that, and more easily slide into sickness and frailty.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need to think deeply on basic things, in order to take them on and take them in as my own core convictions.
And this is a basic thing I needed to take to heart: I SHOULD ACTIVELY CHOOSE TO CARE FOR MY OWN BODY.
In Ephesians 6, smack dab in the middle of a controversial passage of Scripture, the Apostle Paul says something he takes as a natural assumption of life:
“No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.”
DO WE NOURISH & CHERISH OUR OWN BODIES?
In one sense, we could honestly say that American women are encouraged non-stop to “cherish” our own bodies… but I think it’s in all the ways that don’t matter a hill of beans.
Too often, we choose to exercise control over our bodies in the easiest ways that are the LEAST likely to positively affect our long-term health and strength.
- We dye our hair, get injections, and pay for blow-outs and pedicures, all to trick the world into believing that we are younger and cuter than we really are, and that time has no effect on us.
- We follow diet fads that trick our bodies into losing weight in ways that leave us nutritionally depleted in the long-term.
- We turn and twist in the mirror, to trick ourselves into thinking that we don’t actually look the way we appear in pictures (even though we all know that everyone else, more or less, looks the way they appear in pictures).
These things do nothing to improve the actual health of our bodies… they just change the way things appear. Instead of buying into short-term, smoke-and-mirror “fixes,” I wanted to put my brain to work finding long-term ways I could choose to nourish my body.
CHOICE #1- I BEGAN CHOOSING SIMPLE, HEALTHY SNACKS.
If I reach for a snack mid-day, I opt for small amounts of simple foods: a slice of cheese, an apple, or a tablespoon or two of almonds.
Nothing earth-shattering… I didn’t start buying expensive nut milks and mixing up fancy smoothies… just made a determined shift away from carb-filled pantry-grabs.
CHOICE #2- I AIMED TO EAT LESS IN GENERAL.
Instead of justifying an extra “second” portion of dinner, I do something else first. I might get up from the table, fill up my water glass, head out to the garden and clip some flowers, and then often find that I’m plenty full and don’t actually need a second serving of lasagna. I’ve even realized many times that I honestly don’t want that dessert that sounded so good to me just minutes before.
I have learned, and now believe, that I can be completely happy and content without eating more.
I don’t weigh out my portions, count my calories, or do anything official. I am just choosing to be HONEST with myself about the amounts of food I’m eating, and purposefully work to diminish those portions.
CHOICE #3- I MADE A GOAL OF DOING SOMETHING ACTIVE EVERY DAY.
Listening to podcasts propelled me through morning walks. Sometimes I’d try to run for 1-2 minutes at a go, in the middle of those walks.
We went for short hikes as a family. On rainy days, if there was a quick break through of sun, I’d tell the kids to throw on their shoes and we’d go for a 10-15 minute jaunt around town.
Instead of sitting on the couch, I decided to get outside, add some garden beds, and build a pathway from our driveway to our front walk.
None of it was formalized.
And sometimes it didn’t work out, and I didn’t beat myself up about it. Nor did I let a few days of sedentary life sway me from this overall conviction: I need to be active in some way, most days.
NOURISHING MY BODY LED TO A HEALTHIER FAMILY LIFESTYLE
This summer, we set and achieved more active goals together, as a family (we even completed a 12-day backpacking trip around a mountain!). We saw and did things I never knew I wanted to do.
But that all wouldn’t have been possible if I had still been groaning, laying around, creaking, and giving myself excuses.
- It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t the varsity sports girl in high school.
- I’m not doomed to accept aches and pains because I’m 36.
- Being pregnant doesn’t mean I can’t make a purposeful shift in my activity level.
I can choose to work toward health. I can do things that make my body stronger than it was last month.
I can actively nourish and cherish my body.
And every day is a choice.
IN THE COMMENTS, CONSIDER THESE WITH ME:
- In regard to your body and health, have you given in to defeatist thinking?
- How are you thinking about these things right now?
- What could you do today to nourish and cherish your body?
11 thoughts on “How & Why I Started Nourishing and Cherishing My Body”
Eat less (and better, if need be) and move more. Simple changes that can make a big difference. This is something I’ve started paying more attention to recently, too.
Yes, I think we can make it harder than it has to be! For most of us, it really does boil down to those two things.
We may have to find the exact combo of foods that works for our body… or the right kind of movement that helps our body and works with our personality… but ultimately, for most of us, it’s that straightforward. We just have to DO it.
Ach, you hit one of my weak spots. This is a huge problem area for me, and I need improvement. Part of it stems from difficult pregnancies – I spend 4-5 months each pregnancy almost motionless (day-and-night morning sickness), and when I get through that, I have the endurance levels of a dying slug. I can’t even walk up the street without being out of breath. And by the time I somewhat recover, bam – it’s postpartum recovery time! So dealing with health and fitness has been my bane for some years now. I can say that I do have an awesomely healthy diet (not right now, but in non-morning-sickness times) because that has been part of my research into preventing severe morning sickness. So I’m not really worried about my diet – but activity levels, yes.
Thank you for a wonderful article!
“The endurance levels of a dying slug”!!!! That paints a rich picture.
I do get what you’re saying — there are absolutely seasons where I can’t make health and strength one of my top 3-5 priorities. Postpartum is definitely that way for me. I’ve found that if I fiddle too much with exercise in those early 6 months, it directly impacts (reduces) my milk supply.
That’s why, for me, I knew I needed to seize the opportunity this spring and summer- before I got too big to move around- to make the most of the time and what little energy I did have.
At first it was a choice to be active even though I didn’t feel like I had energy for it. After some trials I realized that I really wasn’t any more tired WITH the extra activity than I was WITHOUT the extra activity. Eventually, I started to have more energy in general. But at first I didn’t so I just had to choose to do it even without feeling like it.
I definitely don’t want to make other moms feel like they’re the worst if they aren’t active in this or that particular season- but I do want to share how being active was- first- a choice for me (during a season when I had the margin for it) and how eventually my energy levels and health (and ability to breathe while moving LOL) caught up.
I’m 29 and I really shifted my health habits at age 25. I’d never been overweight, but spent a lot of years eating unhealthy, not doing strenuous exercise, and struggling with insomnia and lethargy. I finally learned about basic nutrition and started working out regularly (Pilates and stroller walks!). I never felt better in my life! Being relatively in shape, being well nourished, and not being overstuffed with empty calories is SUCH an awesome feeling. I was pregnant with #2 at the time and my labor went so well with her. Now I’m one year postpartum after #4, and besides making healthy choices and exercising, I’ve learned to eat only when hungry and stop the moment I get that “full” signal. It’s taken the restrictive feeling out of eating and feels very light and freeing. If I want a treat, I wait until my stomach is literally growling, and usually try to eat something nourishing first. I’ve dropped the last several pounds of baby weight doing this. It’s been an answer to prayer to learn to just give my body what it needs, both nourishing it AND enjoying the gift of food without constantly feeling restricted. Love this post!
“Being relatively in shape, being well nourished, and not being overstuffed with empty calories is SUCH an awesome feeling.”
THIS is what I’m getting at! I loved hearing about your experiences; thanks for sharing.
Jess I missed you! So thankful you and your family had such a lovely summer. Both of your posts were so timely and fit into my perspective well. Thanks for the encouragement. In a world gone mad I’m so glad we are here for each other, even through the internet!
I didn’t know I missed it as much as I do, but since starting back to writing this week, I feel a flood of ideas in my brain again… in a good way. 🙂
I just hope this flood of ideas doesn’t drown out my plans to share about the hiking trip in greater detail. 😉 Cause I really want to do that. But anyway. It’s good to be back to writing, and particularly good to hear that it’s good for you, too.
These are some really cool insights. I have definitely struggled with defeatist attitudes about my health. “I’m always going to be addicted to sugar” “I’m never going to be able to like exercise” but I have found the more I keep actively fighting against these attitudes/lies the more healthier my perspective became. I have found my appetite for sugar is less (still there but less). And I have had days where I enjoy exercise (go figure!) I never thought I’d feel that way. There are still days where its super hard to get out the door but because I kept at it I reaped the rewards of tasting what it felt like to be strong enough to start liking exercise. What I mainly do for exercise is running and I have to say without Ben (my husband) helping me I don’t think I would’ve ever stuck with it long enough to reap the benefits. I think having someone to exercise and eat healthy with that will help motivate you and keep you going is essential. I could not have made these lasting changes alone. Right now I’m trying to incorporate core exercises to strengthen my core/abdominal muscles. Cause after having 7 pregnancies I’m surprised there’s any muscle left to strengthen 🙂 I made myself a chart but I feel defeated already cause I’m not doing them as regularly as I wanted to. I think its because I haven’t asked someone to help me keep doing them. That’s what I need to do. It’s also really easy to believe the exercises are not doing much because you aren’t able to see the results right away. Anyways, this is a novel but you hit a passionate button for me that I’ve seen success and defeat in my life as well.
This is such a good, crystalized idea:
“because I kept at it I reaped the rewards of tasting what it felt like to be strong enough to start liking exercise”
it’s true in so many areas… (parenting, spiritual growth, working on “putting off” a bad habit or sin)… too often, we harm our own long term goals by giving up on something hard before we’ve built up enough strength and muscles to begin the enjoyable parts of it.
Lol… oh my… defeated is indeed the correct description of my attitude. With healtn amd mental health issues and a cold wet winters that last 6 months of the year, i have all but given up on exercise as part of self care. If I am home, i often forget to eat…not good at all. No more excuses… i went out earlier andd walked… yes it was cold, it was snowy, but I did it.? Small victories. I am praying for God’s help to care for myself, even when I feel i can’t move. Dying slug no more!