During the summer months, it feels easier to pay more attention to your body. After tucking away the Bohemian sweaters and scarves, we’re left with swimsuit season, shorts and plenty of opportunities to compare ourselves to the girl next door.
Over the last few years, I’ve come face to face with growing older and a couple of common problems women face health-wise (PCOS and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis). While post-college-me had a very particular view of what the words “healthy” and “exercise” meant, the last few years have challenged me to adjust my view of health and exercise in order to live more in tune with the way God has made me.
Here are a few mindset shifts that have allowed me to have a deeper experience of taking care of my body — one that is, hopefully, more in line with the life God is calling me to live by giving the appropriate attention to my body.
Resisting the urge to idolize your body
As our world tends more and more toward the material and technological, it is harder and harder to resist the urge to idolize our bodies. Suddenly it seems our bodies are just raw material that we can work with and change into whatever we want them to be.
It took years for me to realize that the way I was exercising was a reflection of how I felt about my cross of infertility. If my body couldn’t bear babies, I was determined to make it submit to “perfection” by looking a certain way. Infertility may not be everyone’s experience, but once this clicked for me, I realized how much I was inadvertently idolizing my body by thinking that I should be able to maintain a certain physique or workout schedule.
Once I started paying attention to how my body felt, I realized how hard I was pushing myself despite thinking I should be able to push myself in that way. Listening to my body became a new way for me to approach working out (or not working out) and honor the limits we have as creatures. It also took my body off the pedestal I was putting it on.
Once I started paying attention to the limits of my body, it became much easier to recognize that limitations can be a good thing because God, our Father and Creator, made us in such a way. We don’t “earn” our rest or our “health” by ignoring the limitations of being human.
All of us are first and foremost creatures — loved into being by a God whose presence holds us in existence day in and day out. When I started to view myself this way, it became impossible not to see how we each have very particular limits. From health conditions to seasons of life, we live in the realm of limits, and for this reason, God has designed us to need, appreciate and enjoy rest.
This, combined with listening to my body, suddenly became a very easy way to guide my workouts. Rather than pursuing some temporal goal or a certain number on the scale, exercise and movement became a way of living life well. My workout routine wasn’t working against my overarching goal of knowing, loving and serving God, and my limits no longer felt like they were sabotaging my health.
Over the last few years as I’ve stretched myself to view my workouts in the context of an integrated Catholic life, I’ve realized that I have a new goal: functional living. Designing my workouts to help me fully live the life in front of me has become a much kinder guide than the one-size-fits-all approach we find as we go from trend to trend.
The Internet and social media provide easy blueprints to follow, but when we separate them from the reality we find ourselves in, our health goals can quickly turn into imitations of what we see other people doing. God has already designed me with a blueprint in mind, and I want my goals to work with his design, not against it. I realized I didn’t want to build up muscles to look a certain way anymore. Instead, I wanted to build up the muscles I need for my daily life —such as for walking, gardening, and taking care of my home and my husband for the long haul, God-willing.
This goal of functional living has provided me with more motivation and direction when deciding on the kinds of workouts I now let into my life. While not a perfect combination by any means, these mindset shifts have allowed me to experience a deeper peace and acceptance around my body and what it means to live well as an embodied soul, loved by a good Creator.