By Kelsey Klepper
There were countless mornings that I needed more sleep but went to the gym anyway because, you know, “health.” There were so many days when I desired rest but did the work out anyway because, you know, “health.” I said no to the dessert only to just let it consume my thoughts because, you know, “health.” For many years I woke up early on Saturdays to get to the gym but missed time with my spouse or friends because, you know, “health.” There were too many times that I felt hungry and unsatisfied with my meals and snacks but kept eating “clean” because, you know, “health.”
I cannot tell you how many times I chose what I thought was positive for my health and wellbeing, but in the end, it really wasn’t.
We are taught to believe that our health is black and white, that each decision we make is either for or against our health. Each decision is either good or bad, black or white. For example, we’re taught the healthier option is always getting the work out in, eating all the fruits and vegetables, saying no to dessert, or saying yes to more activity, and that doing the opposite of those things is sub-par or unhealthy. I want to challenge those black and white thoughts. Could the opposite things like skipping the work out, eating the cake, or getting drinks with friends actually be the healthier option for us? Yes, I believe that what society says is “unhealthy” can actually be what we need in that moment, and because of that, it’s the healthier option.
When I thought my health was at a high, it was actually at a low. I was eating the “healthy” food. I was making my workouts a top priority. I was saying no to the donuts and desserts the majority of the time. I was doing what we’re told to do to be healthy. But when we think health is only a one-way street, we aren’t able to see that our “healthy” decisions can actually start causing obsessive behaviors. I was obsessed about what I ate, my workouts, and my body. I felt mounds of guilt when I didn’t live up to my expectations. I started bingeing to then go back to restricting myself to “healthy” food rules again. My “healthy” eating was disordered eating, and my relationships were suffering because of it. My self-esteem was low. I was hurting. I felt trapped.
I was not seeing that my relationship with food, exercise and my body were actually worsening my health. I was making health decisions using external cues (what I read and was told to do to be healthy) versus making them based on internal cues (how I felt and what MY body needed in each moment).
“A cheerful heart is good medicine; but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22 NIV).
“A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired” (Proverbs 17:22 MSG).
In this verse, I hear God saying, “your health is important, but let’s remember that joy is just as important as movement or the food you eat.” When you feel like your behaviors are hindering your joyful spirit, maybe those behaviors aren’t what you need in that moment or season in your life. Maybe those behaviors that you think are having a positive effect on your health are actually leaving you feeling empty and defeated. And if those behaviors are doing that, then let’s step away and choose what our body needs. Let’s stop saying healthy behaviors are black or white. They can be both.
There’s not always just one way to improve our health.