I conducted a survey earlier this year. My aim was to find out what, among women (Christian women, more specifically), are the biggest obstacles that hinder them from working out and eating right. It will probably come as no surprise to you that half of the participants answered that “Time” was the largest hindrance. Twenty-five percent answered “Kids” (or “KIDS!!!”), 15% confessed a general lack of motivation, and 10% said they were too exhausted to even think about exercising.
Next, I asked the respondents what their motivations are for wanting to be fit. Again, the results were not surprising:
- 50% wanted to be healthy for their kids/family.
- 20% wanted to feel more confident.
- 20% wanted to look better.
- 5% want to do a better job at keeping up with their kids.
- 5% want to be a good example for their kids.
What I did find surprising was the absence of one particular motivator, the most important one, if I may be so bold: to honor God with my body.
This survey was the catalyst for a message I’ll be delivering at my church’s women’s retreat next weekend. I blogged recently on the distinction between conviction and condemnation, and I wish to reiterate that though this talk may be hard hitting for some in the audience (and in the blogosphere!), it is certainly not my intention to demoralize or criticize. On the contrary, I want to uplift, encourage, and inspire women to embrace God’s plan for their bodies by surrendering all to Him: their eating habits, their excuses, their schedules, their self-consciousness, etc.
Being challenged and urged out of our comfort zones isn’t easy, and heaven knows it pains our egos. But in the end, it only strengthens and matures us in ways we never could have foreseen or imagined. But we must first cast aside our pride and let the Word of God and His Spirit minister to our hearts and, if needed, transform our minds.
My foundational verse for marrying faith and fitness is 1st Corinthians 6:19-20:
“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (NLT, emphasis mine).
So, as you have probably inferred, the “H.O.N.O.R. System” I’ve devised is in honor (no pun intended) of the latter part of the aforementioned passage. Below are five keys that I have found indispensable and truly life-changing when it comes to placing the Lord at the center of my fitness. I’m convinced that when He is Number One, all the workout/eating right obstacles you can think of will fall by the wayside, and more than that, you’ll feel more motivated than ever.
H: Have Time with God Every Single Day
Think of your time with the Lord as a shower for your spirit and soul. Just as the accumulation of dirt and sweat and germs makes us filthy every day, so too does the muck of the world that enters through our eyes and ears, and even our hearts and minds when we allow sinful thoughts to enter in.
Our souls (mind, will, and emotions) are constantly bombarded, no matter how hard we try to guard them, by filth that builds up over time and corrodes our motivation and desire to please God with our every action. His Word is the cleansing bubble bath, if you will, that we need to wash away the grime and begin each day fresh and invigorated to live life on purpose for the Lord.
A single day in your courts
is better than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God
than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.
He gives us grace and glory.
The Lord will withhold no good thing
from those who do what is right. –Psalm 84: 10-11, NLT
O: Obey God’s Word
When you renew your mind with God’s Word and refresh your spirit by learning and meditating on His everlasting love for you, His Spirit will begin to move and whisper within your heart. It will encourage you to prioritize the things that matter most, such as spending more time with your family and your Savior and taking care of His dwelling place—that is, your body.
Here are a few practical tips when it comes leading a healthy lifestyle through everyday obedience:
- Give yourself the same courtesy you would give others: The way we speak to ourselves can hold us back or move us forward. Don’t marinate in negative thoughts. We are all beloved children of God. Each believer in Christ has the power of the Holy Spirit within him or her. We are all part of a mighty kingdom. Marinate in that! When your thoughts are full of optimism, hope, confidence, gratitude, and blessings, so shall your life be.
- Don’t make food an idol: It is very common to “overthink” food. Sadly, we give it a lot of power. It can generate feelings of worry, stress, and guilt…and who needs that? We are always searching for the next best diet or magic pill. We put a great deal of hope, energy, and faith into these fads when our time would be much better spent giving it to God. Don’t let food become your idol! Stop overthinking it. Keep it simple by choosing the food God created for our bodies. And if you want a cookie from time to time, that’s absolutely fine! But don’t let it consume your thoughts. Don’t waste energy on guilt. Food does not have power unless we give it power.
Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. -1 John 5:21, NLT
N: Negate the Lies of the Tongue
I hear many women complain about their appearances. From “flabby triceps” to “thunder thighs,” no one seems to have anything positive to say about themselves. The good news is, God has plenty of good things to say! (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 139:14). I believe that if we could replace our complaints and curses with praise and thanksgiving, we wouldn’t have the physical hang-ups many of us wrestle with. If you find that the last few pounds you need to lose are just “too stubborn to leave” or that your knees just “can’t ever seem to feel right” while you work out, think back on how you’ve been talking; you may have inadvertently placed a curse upon your progress with your own tongue.
So what’s the remedy? Praise! Begin praising the Lord for redeeming you, for giving you a second birth by virtue of His Son, for blessing you with gifts, friends, family, and for everything He’s done, is doing, and will do in your life. These life-giving words agree with the Word of God and will replace the spirit of dissatisfaction, anxiety, and insecurity with assurance, peace, and confidence.
Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” The key word in that verse is, “continually.” No matter the circumstance, no matter your feeling at this moment, praise God with your lips and taste the delicious fruit it produces!
O: Optimize Your Time
There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of ways to overcome the “I don’t have enough time” excuse and exercise, from aerobics to Zumba—even boot throwing, which turns out to be quite a popular sport in Finland, according to a trivia game I played recently. But lately, mounting research is showing that the ideal form of exercise is something known as “H.I.I.T.”—“high intensity interval training.”
A H.I.I.T. workout alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less-intense activity, or even complete rest. An example is sprinting for one minute and then jogging or walking for two minutes. Repeat that three-minute interval five times for a very efficient, highly effective 15-minute workout.
The benefits of H.I.I.T. training are many:
- Little to no equipment required
- Short duration
- Provides health benefits you simply cannot get from regular aerobics, such as a tremendous boost in human growth hormone (HGH), aka the “fitness hormone”
- Leads to significant reductions in total abdominal, trunk and visceral fat, but also can give you significant increases in fat-free mass and aerobic power
- Improves cardiovascular endurance
- Promotes weight loss without muscle loss
- Boosts metabolism thanks to the increased production of HGH
High-intensity exercise, like CrossFit, is tough. But like you read above, the rewards make it more than worth it.
R: Repeat! (And Respect the Process)
Show yourself grace in your fitness journey. There will be days, I assure you, when a lack of motivation or perceived lack of ten or fifteen minutes will easily dissuade you from working out or cooking a healthy meal. Don’t let the enemy condemn you and tell you you’ve failed or that you’re displeasing God. God loves you, no matter what, but because He loves you, He wants you to be healthy.
On the days your diet is full of sugar, soda, or processed foods, and the only exercise you get is carrying in the groceries, thank God for His grace in loving you with an everlasting love, in guiding you to be fit and strong, and then ask Him to help you get back on track tomorrow.
“Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself … And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.” –Romans 8:33, 38, NLT
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 Proverbs 4:12