So the other day I was at the fitness center when I heard someone say, “Well, I HAVE to exercise today, I was SO “bad” over the weekend!” Almost without fail, when I am at the gym, whether I am exercising or teaching a class, someone makes reference to exercise being a punishment for their food choices or something they must do to be “good” or to counteract the “bad” genetics they feel are responsible for body parts not looking like the “should”. But how do we know what we “should” look like? What foods are “good” or “bad”? Why do we use exercise to punish ourselves for eating or looking a certain way?
I am the first to admit that, in my past, exercise felt like punishment for me. I worked my body to the point of exhaustion, to atone for “bad” eating, and, eventually, “earn” the food I wanted to eat. I crunched, squatted, lunged my body- trying to remove the body my genes had given me. Eventually, these behaviors contributed to an eating disorder that ultimately made it necessary for me to STOP exercising altogether. During the course of my recovery I had to learn to love the body God had given me and learn to trust Him to show me how to care for it. I also had to learn that food, in itself, was not “bad” nor was I “bad” for eating it. There was no need to “punish” myself with exercise….
So, why exercise?…Through my healing process, I became aware that if my body was strong and healthy, I could use it more effectively to bring Him glory!
Physical fitness is just one way to be good stewards of the gift that God has given us in our physical bodies. When I began practicing exercise as a discipline rather than a punishment, things that used to be excruciating or impossible for me, were now “possible”. Philipians 4:13 states, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”…ALL THINGS- whether it is spiritual strength for the trials of life or physical strength to climb a mountain, God can give you the strength to accomplish it. When we exercise, it should be with the mindset of discipline to build strength, endurance, power in the body but never for punishment.
Tomorrow, Part 2, How to practice the “discipline” of exercise.