You long to be fit and strong (after all, “strong is the new skinny”), so you push your body to burn the almighty calorie. Even with all that effort to lose weight the “healthy” way, you’re still unhappy in your own skin.
What you don’t realize is that exercise and body image are the toxic couple that should never have gotten together.
In this guest post by Lisa Michelle Jones, you’ll learn why exercising for weight loss kills your progress!
I furiously bounced up and down on the stair stepper at the gym. With every step, I watched the number of calories burned going up while relishing in that familiar sense of satisfaction.
Sweat dripped off me, and I prayed the pounds were too. Glancing up from the numbers, my gaze fell on the mirrored wall in front of me. I desperately wanted the reflection staring back at me to be thin (and somehow more acceptable) enough.
With each determined step down, I revered that feeling of control. Then, as quickly as my leg rebounded up, my hopes went back down. I felt my grip slipping…that allusive grip of control over change.
A dusty recess of my heart knew this wasn’t sustainable. I ran several miles earlier in the morning and worked in some extra calorie-burning activity throughout my day.
It was late, the gym was closing soon and tomorrow would be busy, like every day facing me as soon as the rooster crows. If I hadn’t eaten that chocolate cake after lunch, maybe then I could have shaved the workout by a few minutes…..
I walked away with that “enough line” forever moving and “too much” hanging over me like a banner.
I was exhausted, deflated and no closer to my goals.
There is a Thief on the Loose…
I’m grateful that the body image and exercise tug-o-war is (mostly) behind me. But ironically, as I typed this, my Apple watch notified me, by name, that I didn’t make much progress on my exercise ring yesterday.
It beckons me back into that familiar trap.
And, it’s no accident.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”John 10:10 ESV
Sister, the enemy knows your name and he’s got your number. And, he taunts you and calls you by your weaknesses.
So, how do we move forward in these promises when it comes to weight loss, exercise, and body image?
How do we protect our hearts while moving our bodies?
The Thief Comes to Steal Your Joy in Exercise
The Bible says in Nehemiah 8:10 that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”
To give a little context, the leaders of Israel gathered the people together to declare the law.
After God’s words were read, the people were told to “go their way, eat the fat, and rejoice.” The Bible says that they went away with rejoicing because they understood the words that were declared to them.
Did you know that God declares words to us? They are beautiful words of who we are with His Spirit and His joy living inside of us– words that declare how and who we were created to be.
For instance, there are several places in the Bible where God commands us to be strong.
Years ago, I heard an amazing woman of God, Holly Wagner, after her successful fight with cancer, say– “The Joy of the Lord is like steel that runs through our body,” and I never forgot it.
The thief wants to steal that joy and strength.
If he can get us to believe lies woven through a culture of unhealthy dieting and compulsive over-exercising, then he will win that battle for our joy.
We must learn and know the Lord’s words and declare them over ourselves. The words that God declares about us in His Word need to be louder and more frequent to drown the lies.
There is so much joy to be found in exercising for health and strength. When we are saved by God’s amazing grace, His Spirit dwells within us and His joy is our strength.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)
When we exercise for weight loss, we’re robbed of the opportunity of experiencing the joy and pleasure that exercise can bring to our bodies.
God has called each of us to a specific purpose, and no matter what that purpose is, it requires a strong and healthy body.
The Thief Comes to Destroy Your Motivation
Who do you believe you are?
Whose do you believe you are?
Your answer is important to God and imperative to your purpose.
What we believe we become.
What we focus on, we get more of.
We must ask ourselves if we are focusing on the negative yo-yo cycle of what the world glorifies through diet culture, extreme exercise, and comparison images.
And, to combat the lies, we must know what our why is.
Most of our actions are done unconsciously out of beliefs and paradigms that we have built through life experiences.
So, we must ask ourselves what motivates us to exercise:
- Is it about health or looking “hot”?
- Is it about glorifying God or glorifying ourselves?
By doing some introspective detective work regularly, we can discover what we believe and why we respond the way we do.
And, of course, the Bible is a great mirror to do that. (James 1:23-24).
Trusting Him With Our Exercise
When we rest in God’s love and grace, we will trust Him to take care of our bodies, and we won’t be consumed with thoughts of exercising for weight loss.
Learning to trust God for our needs is a journey with many benefits.
Matthew 6:25-33 is paramount in learning to trust God in terms of food, diet, and exercise.
In these verses that encourage us to “not worry,” we’re reminded that God provides for our every single solitary need, including food and clothing.
Birds fly, lilies grow, and not one thinks about moving and eating.
As He promises “how much more” He will care for us, I think we can trust Him with our exercise.
A Prayer for Body Image and Exercise
So, how do we move forward knowing that the enemy wants to keep our eyes off of God (and on our body image) in our exercise pursuits?
How do we nix the anxiety over weight loss and find peace?
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
Through prayer God can do what we never could (and, aren’t you tired of trying?)!
Through four prayer-filled action steps, we can secure our heart against the thief and BEAT him at his own game:
Be grateful for how God made you.
Expect the best.
His grace is sufficient for us and His power is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Accept the rest.
Sometimes God’s answer to our prayer is “no” because he wants to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all we can ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
God’s Will for Our Exercise and Body Image
When we pray to BEAT the enemy, our prayers not only move the hand of God but, more importantly, they change our hearts.
And, when our hearts line up with God’s Word and will, so will our body image and exercise efforts.
Because, beating ourselves up on the stair-master is a) not fun and b) using up way too much of your precious time…God has amazing things for you, sis, and exercise is meant to strengthen you to go get them!
Meet Lisa Jones
Originally from Pennsylvania, Lisa spent most of her life moving around the world as a military brat; she graduated high school in Japan, then lived somewhat like a gypsy going to multiple colleges, was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina, chased storms for a few years doing catastrophe work with her husband, and finally settled down (for now) as a converted Southerner living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Married to Jamey for 15 years and the mother of three extroverted, strong-temperament children: Seryna 18, Skylar 13 and Ayden 8. Lisa and her husband, who also have strong extroverted personalities, have prayed for many years for God to insert into their immediate family someone of the analytical and organized temperament to help keep them all straight.
However, He has yet to reply.
In the meantime, they will keep blazing trails and having fun doing it! Lisa is an Exercise Physiologist, Strength & Conditioning Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and Life Coach who passionately encourages and equips women to be FITT by design by discovering and developing their divine design and finding the excellent life balance between extremes.
Brandice Lardner is a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, Author, Amazon #1 Best Selling Author, and Jesus Girl whose mission in life is to help women ditch the diet mentality and find peace with food and their bodies so that they are better equipped to do the great things God has called them to do.