By Aralin Warkentin
I don’t know about you, but when I log into my social media accounts I am bombarded with pictures of women flaunting abs or inappropriate body parts, claiming to be inspirational. Declaring that these features are the end ‘goal’ of working out. It seems that in the fitness world, vanity takes a front seat. So then how do we as Christians live out being good stewards of our bodies without self-obsession taking over? Is there a balance? And if living a healthy and active life makes you vain, then why in the world would you want to do it?
As someone who’s walked through the ups and downs of gaining and losing weight, it’s so easy to find my value in my body image. But God has used my pregnancies to show me how much He loves me just because He created me. You see, I ended up gaining a significant amount of weight during my first pregnancy and as an insecure young woman I was devastated. This was not how I wanted things to go, I wanted the adorable ‘belly only’ pregnancy. I hated myself, I hated my body. Little did I know that God was leading me on a journey of humility and perseverance.
After losing all the baby weight from my first pregnancy, I was determined to not gain it all back during my second one. I was trying to control everything again, but this was once again out of my control. As much as I tried to prevent it, the weight gain came and so did all the same insecurities as before; the social anxiety of people judging my size, self loathing, and a little thing called diastasis recti (ab separation). This led to me isolating myself and digging myself deeper into a pit of depression, loneliness and anger.
But thank the Lord for Selah! He used this community to dig me out of my pit and back to Him. I realized I wasn’t alone, that others were walking through the same struggles that I was.
With each baby, God has stripped a little bit of pride away and humbled me. I’ve learned that I am so much more than a body, I am a soul. I was created by God and He loves me no matter the number on the scale. He’s revealed how He created me, how He wired me for movement and that along with daily devotions and praying, staying active was a key component to fighting the depression and insecurities that lurk inside me. I’m human. I fail daily and I truly cannot do motherhood on my own. God is the air I breathe. Without Him I am a failure. He is my strength, joy, endurance and hope. This house, my body, was built by my Creator, my Jesus, not me. Why do I have to tear down His creation every time I look at my reflection? My body was built by His hands, and although the world tells me I’m not beautiful by their standards, He holds me close and tells me I am. I am loved and cherished by Him. And no matter what this world throws in my face, God’s creation is always beautiful. For all the glory goes to the Creator of all things, God. Praise to the builder of my home! Knowing this and having my identity rooted in Christ, I can fully pursue a healthy lifestyle without hindrance to become a better servant of Christ, wife, mother and friend.
“For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” Hebrews 3:4
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex. Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out, before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered. I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!” Psalm 139:13-18
My motherhood journey has led me to believe that God has wired us all for movement and that we all are important enough to take the time we need to be a good steward of this body He has created us with. Working out is so much more than rocking a swimsuit. It’s self care. It’s developing disciplines in your life and learning how to do all things with excellence. When we fuel our bodies with good foods and move, we have more energy to serve Christ in the way that He has called us to! Without my weight gain or diastasis recti, I would have never learned how vital exercise and healthy eating was for my spiritual and mental health or how passionate I am to help other mothers connect through fitness.
So, as we move past external reasons and dive into internal motivators, here are some other reasons to live a healthy and active life:
- We honour God when we take care of our bodies; God has given us souls and bodies, and we shouldn’t ignore either one.
- We learn perseverance and self control in all areas of our lives.
- We learn that God, not food, should provide us with comfort.
- It teaches us to run the race (life) with intense focus, purpose, and passion.
- “Our quest to discipline our bodies can also produce a spirit of humility as we see that we are not strong enough to accomplish many of the things we want to on our own. We need to ask God for His strength and help. When you include God in your workout, you realize how STRONG He is, and how weak you are.” – Gary Thomas
And here are some tips about getting moving and reasons to include your children in some of your workouts, and I say ‘some’ because we all need time just to ourselves. ;)
- It models to our kids that our bodies are a gift from God and worth taking care of.
- It improves their behaviour – an active child is a happy child! My children are a delight to be around (most of the time) when we are outside or exercising together.
- It teaches them exercise can be community based – working out around others is so motivating!
- It shows them that moving our bodies can be fun and enjoyable!
- It teaches them that hard work is worth the effort – that moving our bodies is rewarding and will carry on into all areas of our lives.
- They will keep you company with their giggles and sometimes whining ;)
- Try to be creative with your workouts with your children. Sometimes my kids are following along with my workout, doing pushups, burpees and squats, etc. Other times we pretend to be animals as we crawl, hop and run across the living room floor!
- Go to the park and maybe grab a friend and her kids to tag along! Run up and down some hills, roll down hills, chase your kids up the play structure or kick a soccer ball. These are all excellent ways to get you and your kids moving and bonding!
”Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8