Monday, June 16, 2014

Fitness Fetish

This phrase began a long, difficult, but 
journey through my fitness obsession.

If I don't look like this girl, I need to work harder, right?  Well I didn't want to be last so I guess I needed to work as hard I could in order to achieve this "perfect, fit bod".

This belief is where the 
idol of
began to control my thoughts.

Starting my sophomore year of high school, I knew I would be up against hundreds of other, very athletic women to try out for the high school volleyball teams.  I was following behind the legend of my older brother who had not only been crowned 'Homecoming King' and 'Mr. MC' (Midland Christian) but was also the star athlete and quarterback for the football team.   I walked into high school with pressure (I had placed on myself) to be the starting 'Libero' (back row specialist) for the Varsity team and be in the newspaper for any position I could claim for myself…only then, I thought, would I be content and valued.

This goal was exciting and good at first until it became my ultimate purpose.  My exercise addiction started with this goal and I would practice at 2-a-days for hours and come home and run or workout more.   I thought I hadn't done enough unless my body had burned up every ounce of strength and energy I had that day.

With the cycle of eating very healthy and working out anywhere between 1-5 hours each day for 2 years, my body began to eat itself.  Without realizing it, I had gone from
127 lbs. to 103 lbs.
and was on the verge of destroying my body.

I am convinced I had what is called Female Athlete Triad where you can have:

  • Irregular or absent menstrual cycles
  • Always feeling tired and fatigued
  • Problems sleeping
  • Stress fractures and frequent or recurrent injuries
  • Often restricting food intake
  • Constantly striving to be thin
  • Eating less than needed in an effort to improve performance or physical appearance
  • Cold hands and feet

I figured once I got to college "everything would go back to being balanced and happy again" because the high school pressures wouldn't be upon me anymore.  However, the obsession with working out had become so much a part of my life that I believed "if I miss a day I will be off, depressed or gain weight".  So, the idol of fitness continued into my freshman year and if I ran less than 5 miles a day, I thought I had failed that day.  One of my favorite things to hear was "Lindsay, you look SO GOOD and FIT/SKINNY".  I know most, if not all girls, LOVE this compliment.  The more I heard it, the more I accepted it as my identity.  I was the 
"fit/skinny girl" I had to keep this title or I felt like my identity was being taken from me.

Later in college, however, I had a wake up call.  From beating my body for years with under eating and over working out, my stomach decided it needed to riot and take over.  I was burning so many calories that I started giving into the carbs I had seen as "poison" before.  One handful of cereal...led to another...which led to another.  I wish I was kidding, but I privately or publicly would down an entire cereal box in one sitting almost daily because my body got sick of me not giving it the nutrients it needed.

I now thought I needed to work off MORE than this extra amount I was consuming.  In God's goodness and grace, He sent a trial to help me realize

I was slowly killing myself with my addiction to fitness.

I needed to stop and slow down before it was too late.

I was in a 5K race for my sorority in college and decided I wanted to get the fastest time I possibly could. (If you haven't noticed, I am a 
struggling perfectionist, and God is working on me daily:) )

I got close to the finish line and...."RIP"...I felt it send a tingle down my knee.  I tore cartilage in my knee and soon found out I wouldn't be able to RUN, for months!

My identity in being the:
"fit/skinny girl" 
who ran a lot was no longer.
 I gained a some weight and in my skewed self-image, I saw myself as a failure.  My emotions were everywhere...UP one day, DOWN the next.  I hated what I looked like and hated that I was so controlled by my fitness plan, that now, when I could barely walk without pain, my life seemed to lack purpose.

Where did I go wrong?
 This is where I went wrong:

I lived for a created thing 
(fit body, awards, achieved goals, positions, etc.) 

instead of our Creator.

I moved from standing on a Firm Foundation (God),

 to rocky soil (relying on working out for comfort).
-Matthew 7:24-27

Cheesy but true:
 "with every TEST there is a TESTIMONY

and with every MESS there is a MESSAGE."

My mess and trial of tearing cartilage in my knee ended up drawing me
  I experienced more internal joy and satisfaction once I learned to turn to God and not to fitness for my ultimate SOURCE and COMFORT.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8 NIV)

God soon taught me more about what it looks like to seek balance in my life.  He gave me this picture of running a race to help me understand what it looks like to have idols in my life versus running toward Him in this life:

What this looks like:

-over-doing -
 (Getting "off track")
 I run too far to the track by doing something too much and becoming obsessed with it.  The idol becomes something I must do daily, or I feel like a failure.  It becomes one of the first things I think about when I wake up and I would chose it over spending time with God or others.

(Getting "off track")
 After I wear myself so thin (physically and emotionally) from over-doing for too long,  I end up hating whatever it was I was seeking to satisfy me.  So, I become apathetic, lose motivation and give up.  Running in this direction, I start to struggle more with depression because whatever I thought would bring me joy (apart from Christ), sadly failed to satisfy me.

(Staying "on the track")
 This is where God wants us, because this leads to life and peace!  You aren't running off to the right/over-doing things or to the left/under-doing things but are fixing your eyes toward the end of the race.  This is when we are fixing our eyes on Jesus and God's Truth and not toward the crowd who yell at us to "do more!" or "do nothing!".

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us
run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 
fixing our eyes on Jesus, 
the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
(Hebrews 12:1, 2 NIV)

God took my MESS and made it a MESSAGE. He redeemed fitness from being an idol in my life to becoming an avenue for me to worship Him and know Him deeper.  I felt led to use my testimony to help other women who also struggling with finding balance in this area of fitness.  So, I recently finished my Personal Trainer Certification and am looking to use it to help women understand how they can also link their spiritual life to physical exercise.  Below are a few practical ideas of what this looks like for me.


1. Remind myself WHY I workout-

  -remember my "body is a temple"
  -it boosts my energy to serve God and others
  -it helps me sleep better
  -it can be super fun
  -it builds my realtionship with God and others
  -I grow stronger so I can serve and play with my husband & friends (and kids   

2. While I workout out, I read/listen to something that BUILDS
 my relationship with God-

-Listen to a sermon podcast (Mars Hills Church, Village Church, etc.)
-Listen to an audiobook about growing in your relationship with God
-Listen to music without cussing/sexual impurity (aka I stopped listening to secular rap while I exercised and 'Lecrae' Pandora became my jam)

3. Memorize scripture-
        -I write mine on index cards and put them on a ring to flip through them as I     

    "​​The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace." (Romans 8:6 NIV)

4. Set a limit on how much/often I would workout- 
-I committed to not working out more than 5 times a week
- ​​​A healthy range is to at least workout about 30-45 minutes for 5 days or average about 150 minutes/week.

  “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work. (Exodus 20:8-10 NIV)

5. PRAY-
-Use this time to pray for the world, friends, family, others and yourself.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is ​​​God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

6. Build relationships with people -
-Use this time to meet for accountability with a trusted friend
-Train for a race with others in order to grow a friendship with them

​​As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17 NIV)

7. Know your BMI and stay in the HEALTHY range-

I've tried many paths (with over-doing or under-doing fitness), 
and they did bring  happiness 
for a short season.  
But, the "race" in any area of life (food, friendships, family, fitness, future plans, finances and having fun) is only satisfying if you are
running toward Christ.


Be like Paul:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 
-2 Timothy 4:7

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