I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you.
~ Joyce Meyer ~
I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been.
~ Winnie the Pooh ~
It seems that my life journey is a constant peeling of layers of poor self-image and self-condemnation. So, as I write yet another blog, or journal entry, or whatever this thing I keep doing has become, I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but living in China has deeply challenged my view of healthy. This has been a year of little to no weight loss, devastating and disappointing attempts at Whole30, yet areas of strength and growth physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Two and a half years ago, I began this journey of discovering new definitions and ways to be healthy. For me, it started out of obedience to God and doing a Whole30 challenge as I felt his prompting for me to do. It was wildly successful. I had a strong support system, and a lot of things shifted for me. I lost about 20-25 pounds, and did remarkably well on Whole30. I began to use that as a way to change my life. I had ups and downs for sure, and I learned many lessons in that period of time. A little over a year ago, I had been at my lowest weight in a long time. It was a total weight loss of 55 pounds, but then transition happened.
Transition made Whole30 and Paleo extremely difficult. It took so much time and energy for me to maintain that lifestyle, so when our life went up in the air, we gravitated toward the things that were comfortable and easy. And then transition led to a stressful year of teaching, in which, once again, we gravitated toward what was comfortable and easy. Healthy is rarely comfortable and never easy. Not only that, but I tried really hard to lose weight the way I used to, and I couldn’t do it here. Ingredient lists were in another language that was hard to translate. Eating out was impossible for the same reasons, and I was just flat too tired to put in the effort, especially if Stephen and I can both go eat cheap Chinese food for about $5-6 (USD).
And that essentially led me to this place of evaluating what healthy is. At my lowest, I was willfully eating junk food every day because it wasn’t worth the effort to fight it. Sandwiches, chips, chocolate, and cheese, all my go-to binges. Carbs, dairy, and sugar, repeat. That was right after I decided that without weight loss, it wasn’t worth it, and since I wasn’t really losing weight, I might as well give up. Then I wrote this blog, essentially coming to the conclusion that trying and failing feels so much better than not trying.
As I begin to still work out the details of what living healthy looks like for me, there are a few things I don’t want it to be, and there are a few things I want it to be. First, here is what healthy is not going to be:
- Healthy will not be counting calories, stressing over ingredients, and obsessing about every item that goes into my mouth. If we are out eating pizza with friends, I’m going to eat pizza. If we go to the movies, I’m going to eat popcorn. Life is short, and food is delicious. I want to enjoy both.
- Healthy will not be weighing in and checking my “progress.” Healthy is not weight loss. When the clothes don’t fit, I’ll buy some new ones and measure progress by how many sizes I’ve lost. Weighing in just leads to obsession, guilt, and shame. Weight loss is just a byproduct, and I will not make it the supreme focus of my attention. My mind and emotions will be the focus. My only reason for wanting to lose wight is because I do not want to be held back. Whatever adventure, I don’t want to be told no because of my weight.
- Healthy is not skinny. I will not chase a size. I will not chase a number. I will chase becoming better than I was the day before. I’m competing against myself because comparison to any other standard will only lead to defeat and frustration with the body God has given me. I can’t change me, but I can choose to make it healthier one choice at a time.
That said, here is what healthy is going to look like.
- Healthy is working out because it makes me physically and mentally stronger. It pushes out the negative self-image and self-condemnation and forces me to push against what I think I can do. And the biggest measure of progress for me is going to be how far I have to go in order to continue to push myself. Right now it doesn’t take much, but as I grow and progress, I will have to push myself harder and stronger in order to taste the painful yet healing process of exceeding my perceived limits. Pushing your limits doesn’t feel good, until you have overcome that limit. That is the victory I will fight for.
- Healthy is making healthy choices as much as possible and “unhealthy” choices that make me happy with careful attention and moderation. Cutting out all chocolate and sweets is not going to happen, but choosing when and how much is entirely in my control. One cookie is ok, the whole batch is not. And if I already had a sweet, I don’t need another later that day.
- Healthy is growth. It is changing the little things now and moving forward. In the wise words of Pooh, “I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been.” (Christopher Robin, 2018) Moving, growing, trying, are the only ways forward into my healthy life. That can be mental, physical, or spiritual growth, but just as a healthy plant continues to grow, so a healthy a me must continue to grow wherever I am planted.