A Healthier Me: Faith, Dreams, and Starting Small
I’m not sure when the struggle with my weight began. What I know is insecurity colors many of my childhood memories. Even now, as a grown woman, I still get anxious at the thought of buying a swimsuit. And that’s after adopting a healthy lifestyle. Like most, my journey to a healthier life began with (way too many) fad diets, exercise routines, and tears. Thankfully, I’ve grown past those trends. It has taken time, but I’ve come a long way in learning to love and care for my body. And I think it’s fair to say I’m still learning.
As a kid, I was what we refer to in the south as a “bean pole.” I had long legs and no fat to mention. Then one day, as if overnight, I was no longer a bean pole. In her place was a chunky ten-year-old. From there, I spent years trying to get the bean pole back. I didn’t know it at the time, but what I really wanted was to be whole. This road started long before I realized I was on it, and it began with faith. A foundation of faith opened doors of purpose, and before I knew it, I was taking small steps of health that led to the journey I’m on today
Growing up in a ministry family, I was aware of God’s love for me from a young age. My mom would read to me about God’s love and grace from Bible storybooks, and my dad, who had a knack for storytelling, would tell us exciting stories from the Bible with a little added flair. I had a great foundation of Truth, which I am forever grateful for. Still, I had to make my own mind up about what I believed. I had a journey of faith to walk.
When I was in elementary school, not long before I began to gain weight, God captured me with his love. I’m so thankful for that early foundation, but the road to loving me, who God made me to be, would be long.
My weight yo-yoed for years, as did my self-esteem. I would workout for a few weeks and get tired of it. I would try a new fad diet, believing this time it would be different, only to eventually give up. This went on from middle school into early adulthood. I was stuck in a cycle of defeat.
In believing God loved me, I somehow missed that He liked me just as I was- struggles and all. Because I was missing that connection with God as a friend, I didn’t know how to share my food struggle with Him.
God is so kind. He pursued me anyway. I grew in my relationship with Him, and though it took years, I began to see myself the way He sees me. Unfortunately, the weight did not come off immediately. There were other changes that had to take place.
I had to have a purpose that outweighed my desire for food. I began a journey of choosing my dreams over food on the cusp of turning the big 3-0. Though I had worked out on and off for most of my life (nod to workouts with my mom and Denise Austin), I was still struggling to maintain a healthy weight. In the months leading up to my thirtieth birthday, something clicked for me.
I started thinking about that dreaded thirtieth birthday. It wasn’t that I dreaded being thirty, per se. I just wasn’t where I wanted to be and my life goals were dependent on my living a long, healthy life.
There was a purpose I believed God had created me for. God had been working in my heart, and I knew that God was calling me to serve women in crisis. I had also known since I was a little girl that I wanted to grow up, get married, and be a mom. As I was turning thirty, I began to wonder if my unhealthy lifestyle would affect those God-given dreams.
Around this time, I was also getting serious about my family’s medical history. Diabetes, heart disease, and acid reflux are all present in my family. As someone who had been diagnosed with hypoglycemia in middle school and who loved sugary desserts, I knew I had the propensity to struggle with diabetes. Acid reflux was already a struggle. Something had to change for me to live a healthy life. At the age of twenty-nine, I finally began my journey towards that life
Remember, I was working out and fad dieting for all these years, but it wasn’t enough. My heart had to change. That process had already begun with my faith and now I was learning my purpose was more important than food. The next step on this journey was starting small.
With my dreams in mind, I began to experiment again with work out programs. That is when I came across HASFit. HASFit, though a great program (I highly recommend it), it was not what made the change. What changed was my drive. I found a reason to work out and I found a program that worked for me. I loved the workouts. It took discipline, but I was seeing results and those results drove me to be more disciplined. My relationship with food was also changing. I didn’t start a grand diet this time. I simply looked at food differently. I thought about what the food would do to my body and weighed the cost. My motto was, Sacrifice where you can, so you can splurge where you want. It worked for me.
This process of getting to my dream weight, which was not the goal when I started, took time. I never set the goal to reach this longtime dream weight. The weight came off as a natural result of the changes I was making. Not only was I seeing physical results, but I was also beginning to feel better in my skin, too. Losing weight played a role in my confidence, but it was not the true motivator. God had already done the work of revealing my worth. This work helped me to lose weight because I was working out and making healthy decisions from a place of already being accepted. I was no longer losing weight to be better. I was losing weight from a place of confidence.
Through this journey, I've learned to look at food and my body differently. I find myself asking questions about like, "How will this food affect my body?" and "Have I moved my body enough today?" These are questions I wouldn't have even thought of asking ten years ago. I'm also learning to be conscious of my body and of asking myself what my body needs when muscles and joints ache. For years I struggled with lower back pain. About three years ago, I finally learned that a lot of my back pain was due to weak back muscles and tight hip flexor muscles and hamstrings. So I began to focus on those muscles.
Today I am still journeying. Y’all, there is no magic way to live a healthy life. We are in the middle of a pandemic, and we are all a little more snacky these days, am I right? This journey is like any other journey. There are highs and lows, mountains and valleys. Sometimes you coast and sometimes you climb.
In the past few months, I have moved (for the third time in four years), I have changed jobs, and I have been confined to my house like the rest of the world. I’ve lost a few pounds here and gained a few pounds there, but those obstacles have only caused me to explore this journey more. I’m learning how to make healthy choices in the midst of major changes. And I’m giving myself plenty of grace when I don’t do it perfectly.
The major difference in this leg of my journey is a change in focus. Unlike my younger self, I don’t want to just be skinny. I want to be healthy, physically as well as spiritually and emotionally. In the process, I’m making healthy choices and occasionally not so healthy choices. I’m living an active life. I love weight lifting, hiking, and walks through my small downtown. I keep going because I want to live a life of purpose, and that means I need to be able to physically do what I’m called to do.
If you want to be healthy, here’s my advice:
Work on your heart first.
Know your “why.”
Do what you love.
When you’ve done the heart work and you know your “why” and you know what exercises are fun for you, you have found the formula for a healthier life.
It’s just that simple (and it’s just that hard).