In America, Fitness is a huge industry. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I appreciate a good amount of options when it comes to exercise resources, facilities, and nutrition and supplement availability. I also partner with a very large company in the fitness industry for my online health and fitness business. So I’m not against that! But where there is money, sometimes you won’t find actual wellness. You can be sure there are companies who are taking the most profitable route and offering options that tempt consumers with the empty promises of easy, quick fixes.
On the other side of that are the coaches, trainers, and companies who, even with excellent products and services, oversell the importance of physical fitness and the need for products. Yes, I said that. Life isn’t all about exercise or even physical health.
I love fitness! Exercise is one of my favorite things to do and one of the most beneficial things any of us can do for our mental and physical health on a very basic level. But therein lies the problem. Us humans — we can take the simplest thing and make it so complicated and all-consuming that instead of adding to our lives, it starts taking away. Exercise and nutrition should just be a part of life. Wellness is so much more and so much more important!
What we think health looks like
People are exhausted by the idea of health and wellness and I wholeheartedly believe it’s because they don’t know what wellness actually is. I didn’t understand it until I got so weary of it (what I thought it was) that I gave up and I started focusing only on my spiritual health and my relationship with God. That’s when everything shifted for me and I was able to move back into the physical aspect of wellness in a healthy and productive way.
It’s good to have goals, but we tend to obsess and attach our worth to the outcome. We can benefit from motivation, but we tend to envy or even worship the people we watch. It’s good to want physically healthy bodies, but we tend to prioritize the physical appearance over the heart, mind, and soul. The only thing that can come from all of that is a lot of disappointment. We think health and wellness look like…
Skinny doesn’t equal healthy just the same as a few extra pounds doesn’t equal unhealthy. We have been sold on this idea that as long as we look a certain way, we’re good to go. Skinny says very little about the heart, the muscular system, gut health, etc.
That goes for muscularity, too. I’m not speaking for all bodybuilding or even just regular strength training men and women out there so don’t come at me, please. I’m just saying, many people spend countless hours in the gym overworking their bodies. Their diet often focuses on a cycle of bulking then leaning out, neither of which target true health. Again, this is not true of every bodybuilder you see. But often those people put their lives into building strength (which doesn’t equal health) and creating that specific appearance. Their bodies are under an immense amount of prolonged stress, which is not healthy.
Many people (myself included for a long time), believe that living a healthy lifestyle means living a restricted lifestyle. To many, it means they can’t enjoy parties and family gatherings. It means they have to give up all their favorite things, cut massive amounts of calories, and feel hungry all the time.
I would say the number one objection I hear from people when I ask them if they want to join my virtual Fit Club is, “I just don’t think I have time right now.” The impression I get from that is that people believe that the acts of physical fitness and healthy food choices are time-consuming. Obviously, they can be, but they definitely don’t have to be and shouldn’t be — unless you just want them to be the main focus of your life. But exercise and food should just be part of life.
All or Nothing
When I say performance-based fitness I mean two things. First, the belief that a healthy lifestyle is all-consuming and the idea that you can’t stray from completely “healthy” choices at any time or you’ve failed. Second, the belief that the harder you work the better you’re doing the healthy lifestyle thing and that you can’t slow down or get off track or you’ve failed. The all or nothing mindset keeps people on a perpetual cycle of failure, overwhelm, disappointment, and shame.
What wellness actually looks like
Wellness is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
I talk about exercise all the time, but I also talk about spiritual, mental, emotional, relational, financial, and occupational health. Because overall wellness is what matters. You could be the most physically fit person in the world and even have the healthiest body on the inside, but if other areas of your life are lacking because of it, you still won’t be well overall. It’s like a recipe. To get the desired result, you have to add all the ingredients. If you leave something out, it just won’t be as good as it could have been. Sometimes, depending on which ingredient you miss, it will be all together disappointing when you get your results.
Overall wellness is spiritual, physical, emotional, social, environmental, and occupational. For a long time, I heard we need balance in all things. Now I’m hearing all the time that balance doesn’t exist. I have no idea. What I do know is that if overall, actual wellness involves all areas of life then we need to figure out how to manage them all successfully. From my experience, I believe that looks different for everyone and changes for each of us with each new season of life.
Understanding your body
The mind controls the body to the point that what you think can actually cause you physical pain. You can change the chemicals in your brain just by smiling, even if you aren’t actually happy. Certain foods eaten before bed can do anything from making you restless to actually causing nightmares. Nightmares! Isn’t that wild? When you’re stressed out, it triggers elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which stimulates appetite. A totally mental trigger that produces a physical response! I want to emphasize the significance of these things. It’s incredible the way everything is intertwined.
For us to think that something we do in one area of our lives doesn’t affect any other area is crazy. For us to believe that we can live unintentionally and that things won’t go haywire in our minds, bodies, and souls – also crazy. Every single thing we do creates a ripple effect in our lives.
Personal accountability and grace
This sounds super overwhelming. That means every decision counts and we’re personally responsible for doing better for ourselves and others in our lives. For example, going through life on auto-pilot with our not-so-great eating habits could be affecting more than our health. It could be affecting our interaction with our family. Maybe you don’t have the energy to play with your kids. Maybe your career choices are slowly driving a wedge between you and your spouse. It could be that your social life is suffering because you are ashamed of your financial health or just unable to do the things others are able to do.
After laying that heaviness on you, now I’m going to tell you to give yourself some grace. We’re just people. People with too much to do and sometimes we focus on the wrong things. Yes, we are definitely responsible for every decision we make. But you’re probably saying that you’ve tried, it’s all too much to juggle, and how on earth could anyone get a handle on all areas of life and have overall wellness?! The good news is, there’s help.
Making the mindset shift
As a Christian, I have learned that health in every area of my life begins with health in my spiritual life. That’s because a focus on what actually matters in this life will give you a healthy perspective on everything else. That’s not to say my focus is always in the right place, just so you know. I’m just here to tell you, if you haven’t gone through a ton of trial and error, maybe you can learn from me and save yourself a lot of trouble. The right mindset for a Jesus follower is Jesus first. Everything else can get in line.
And that’s what Jesus does, he put things in their rightful place. With Jesus there is order, there is peace, discipline, comfort, growth, and healthy choices. As we gain more and more of an eternal perspective, we start understanding how to prioritize and how to apply the Gospel to every area of our lives. That’s what brings balance. That’s what allows us to do all the [important] things and be healthy.
Living in actual overall wellness
Overall wellness doesn’t mean your life is perfect and you always make healthy choices in every area of life. It means your perspective is healthy. When you see things through the truth of the gospel in the everyday moments that make up your life, your life changes. I’ll leave you with a suggestion for a good resource to learn about applying the gospel to life for overall wellness. It’s a bible study from The Daily Grace Co. called Preaching the Gospel to Yourself.
I hope this has been a reminder or has started to shift your belief when it comes to what it means to be actually healthy. As always, reach out to me with any questions or responses you have in the comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts!