Getting fit, learning to eat well, staying in shape: these are hard things to do in our busy, time-crunched, convenience-focused lives. It’s easy to fall into a rut or to get so caught up in trying to do more or keep up that we forget to take care of ourselves. Learning to do that often requires just the right motivation. Is it peer pressure that gets us going to the gym? A desire to avoid the health issues that plague our parents? The challenge of running faster or lifting more or cycling a certain number of miles by the end of the month?
Everyone has their motives, things that inspire making the change from a temporary diet fix to a permanently different lifestyle, from just going to the gym to living an active, healthful life. And some people have several reasons. Some of mine include wanting to have enough energy to raise my family, being an example for my kids, finding out what my body is capable of achieving on the race course, and never wanting to weigh more than my husband (except in times of pregnancy). But perhaps the most important, if most subtle motivation is my belief that my body is a gift from God, and that He sent me to earth to enjoy it and to enjoy His creations from the view from the top of a mountain, to the feeling of running through a snowstorm; from eating delicious and nutritious fruits, vegetables and whole grains, to sampling the wonderful things that can be done with butter and sugar.
And while I believe that God has given me my body to enjoy, I also believe that He has specific things He wants me to do with it like being a wife and mother and raising my family with love, patience and gratitude, and helping friends and neighbors in need. Those things take mental, emotional, and physical strength. They require endurance and a clear mind. And I think it is really hard to know how to develop those things when we have so many competing messages and thoughts and obligations which is why I am grateful that God also gives guidance on how to nourish my body and what I should avoid that would prevent or impair me from doing what I need to do.
Some of that counsel is found in the Bible from stories like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who appeared to be healthier on their diet of seeds, grains, and water than those who ate the king’s meat and drank his wine. Other guidance is from The Book Of Mormon, which suggests that we use our energy well by not running faster than we have strength or taking on more than we are capable of doing. More specific counsel is given through modern revelation in the 1830s, including abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine (which can be habit-forming), and eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains while consuming meat in moderation all things that have since been scientifically proven to be better for your health.
I’ve found that as I have made this guidance a part of my lifestyle — to eat well, to use my body, and to be aware of how I am spending my time and energy that I feel better: healthy and energetic, of course, but also happy, grateful, and at peace. There are always troubling times and times of stress and anxiety, but even in those times I feel strong and capable. I feel fit to handle the tasks and trials that are a part of my life. (And I’m not the only one.)
My faith and fitness go hand-in-hand. Believing that the condition of my body is important for my spiritual well-being and my ability to live life fully has probably been the greatest motivator in helping me make the choice to eat well and to be as physically active as I can be. If I didn’t have the conviction that there are things that God wants me to do in my life and that being in good health is essential to being able to do those things my focus could easily be lost in the day-to-day struggles of life. But having a higher purpose keeps my efforts at living a healthy life purposeful. And that makes living healthfully and actively so much simpler.
photo: Lizzie Heiselt