Are you looking after your body?
Here’s a question for you: What do you enjoy most – eating, exercising or sleeping? We need all three of course but rarely go without eating, often go without exercising and sometimes burn the candle at both ends, struggle with insomnia and miss out on sleep. All three are integrated and one effects the other. To enjoy a healthy life, it’s important to be mindful of what we put in our mouths, how we keep in shape and develop personal patterns for sleeping well. It is easy to get out of balance in each of these three elements.
1 Corinthians 6:19 ‘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.’
#1 Diet: This word has taken on a negative connotation to mean – spending time not eating the things I like! No wonder we go from one diet to the next, looking forward to when we can get back to normal eating which often means unhealthy eating. I would like to use the word ‘diet’ in a more positive way – What kinds of food do I have the opportunity of adding into my meals to make for a healthier diet, that will bless my body (not just my taste buds)?
I thought it would be important to hear from a millennial on this topic so the following paragraphs in italics are from my son Joseph. “Most of us use food as a drug, to make us feel better, and not as a way of sustaining our bodies. Whenever people at work see me drinking my plain oats and protein in the morning, they always ask me if I ever get sick of it. And I always think to myself, what’s to get sick of? I’m not drinking this because I enjoy it, I drink it because it’s exactly what my body needs after sleeping for hours. People can’t understand that concept – eating something they don’t necessarily enjoy for healthy purposes.
When people think of diet they often think of calories too. People’s concept of calories is generally negative and usually misunderstood. Everyone knows, for example, the average man needs between 2000-2500, and women range from 1500-2000. But what they don’t realize is that those calories are based on perfect percentages within a balanced diet. All calories are based on fats, proteins, and carbs. And it’s achieving the right blend of those 3. In general, Carbs will be the highest percentage, at about 50, with proteins and fats representing 30 and 20 respectively. (side note: however, if all someone wants to do is lose weight fast, bumping up protein and drastically reducing carbs works every single time – without question. If it doesn’t work it means people are lying or not understanding what they are eating. Because it’s science.)
This is why counting calories doesn’t work for everyone. I could count perfect calories, and eat a fried breakfast and a big mac every day, and still be within my calories. But we all know I would get fat, because my percentage of calories for fat would be around 50-60, which is a recipe for disaster.”
So, the bottom line with diet is, people generally know what to eat, and what not to eat, but they just don’t think about stewardship of their bodies.
Here are a few more simple reminders that most of us know already:
- Don’t drink your calories. For instance, a white chocolate mocha has 470 calories and 18 grams of fat. To put this in perspective, a large fries in McDonalds is 500 calories.
- Drink at least 1.5 liters of water/day
- Don’t cut out food groups because your body needs a balance of all 5 of them in order for you to get the nutrients you need: Vegetables & fruit; Carbohydrates, Proteins, diary and fats.
- Watch out for additives/E numbers
- Avoid processed foods
If you are going for some improvements then try to limit yourself to do one thing at a time and not try to change everything or go to extremes! For example: I made a simple rule for myself probably 25 years ago now, to only have one moderate helping of food for lunch and dinner with very limited snacks in between. I am not legalistic about it but it has become a basic rule of life for me.
#2Exercise: Do whatever you can. Most of us have an app on our phone that tells us how many steps we are taking each day. Well done to those who keep up their 10,000/day. That will take on average around 100 minutes. Pick an exercise that you will stay consistent in. If you love running, then run. Swimming, then swim. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you are active. I enjoy a 30-minute workout incorporating aerobic conditioning and strength training with weights. Others focus on one or the other. If that’s too much then make sure you at least do regular stretching to ensure your body stays flexible enough to do everything you want to do.
“Without a doubt, the best thing to do is lift weights, it’s proven a million times over. It increases strength, making every single thing in life easier. It prevents injury, as your muscles are trained to cope with lifting from all angles, and it increases the size of your muscles, which in turn will make you burn more calories by simply existing, allowing us to eat more foods we enjoy and not gain weight. For ultimate weight loss, lifting weights 3-4 times a week for around 30-1 hour, combined with 20-40 mins cardio, is the perfect blend. Obviously, people start slow, and build up to those times. Even 15/15 mins is a great start.
For me though, weight loss is usually the last thing I think about when I think about exercise. I do it mostly to de-stress. The endorphins experienced through exercise cannot be achieved through anything else, so you feel great for doing it, and have more energy throughout the day, and then sleep better. It’s also good for your heart, lungs, speed, reflexes, and flexibility.”
#3 Sleep: “This is really important, as it’s our body’s way of repairing everything from muscles, heart, blood vessels, skin, as well as improving our productivity, concentration and immune system. A lack of sleep on the other hand, is pretty much connected to almost everything bad you can experience.
The reality is, if you exercise and have a good diet, your sleep will improve. It’s all connected. You can’t have one without the other. No one with a terrible diet sleeps well. We all know the feeling of going to sleep after a pizza or Chinese take out. You usually wake up in the night gasping for water, or wake up feeling heavy and sluggish. These feelings aren’t normal. When we have a healthy diet, good exercise and deal with our stress then the result is generally a better sleep pattern. If we get into a good rhythm of going to bed at a regular time then getting up will be easier too.”
#4Emotional health: We all know that what is going on in our minds and emotions affects our bodies and either causes a disease or worsens the pre-existing disease in a person. According to the American Institute of health, it has been estimated that 75 – 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems. This is a huge percentage and even if it’s wildly wrong, it does point us to recognise that we need to deal with the excess stress in our lives, because it is having such a negative effect on our sleep patterns and causing our bodies to be more susceptible to all kinds of diseases.
What is a major cause of this? The hormone Cortisol is released in our bodies in response to stress, as a way for us to deal with it, and push through it. However, if our lives are overly stressful, cortisol levels can build, causing problems. High cortisol levels, in other words, high stress, has been proven to be linked with anxiety, depression, digestion problems, headaches, sleep problems and weight gain. Or as Simon Sinek puts it, when discussing the consistent drip of cortisol in our brains, “Our jobs are literally killing us”. Perhaps we are not aware of what stress does to our bodies. Part of the problem is we don’t necessarily feel stressed!
Here are a few verses:
- Proverbs 14:30 A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.
- Proverbs 16:24 Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.
- Ecclesiastes 11:10 So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy.
So, we have to think about our life patterns and put margins in place during the day – sabbath moments, sabbath mornings and sabbath days and weeks. Some spiritual disciplines will be helpful that involve silence, solitude, quiet meditation, worship and allowing our spirit’s to breathe. Establish times of exercise or walking where you can enjoy God’s creation and breathe fresh air – easier for some than others I know! Perhaps then we can begin to develop the ‘peace that passes all understanding…’ that Paul speaks of in Philippians.
Goals and accountability: Remember you are an individual and unique so don’t compare yourself with others. Something that works for someone else may not work for you. “Ultimately, in the area of diet, the goal is to eliminate certain foods for good and add in others, but obviously it’s easier to do that over time. For example, if people drink lots of pop throughout the week, try and slowly limit it to just weekends, or one or two nights a week. The more you take bad food out of your diet, the more you begin to understand how bad it makes you feel. You become more aware of how your body reacts to foods. For example, if I drink a bottle of coke now, or have a bag a sweets at the cinema, because I rarely eat sugar, I can feel the sugar rush(high) from it, and I always get a stomach ache. If you eat it regularly, your body learns how to deal with it better, and you don’t react as much.”
Most of us find it hard to make changes on our own. Our motivation isn’t strong enough and we just have to hit a bad day or a have a difficult season and all our goals go out the window and then it’s difficult to start again. So, one answer is to find some accountability – ideally have someone else with some similar goals to work with together and check up on one another, ask questions, pray and encourage one another towards a healthier lifestyle. Once you begin to see the changes, the need for accountability isn’t as strong and your new pattern becomes a lifestyle.
Until next month,