What is magical about January 1st that gives us renewed hope and energy to imagine visions, create missions, and sketch out new goals? For me, it’s the “New” in “New Year,” which reminds us to take a pulse on our lives and to evaluate how closely we are living the life we feel we are intended to live—the life God wants us to live.
It all sounds fantastic—spiritual even. So how does this moment to reflect on our lives turn into us being on diets, feeling frustrated, incomplete, not enough, and like failures? How does this natural chance to be renewed and refreshed in our life paths, laid out so generously by God, have the potential to make us feel deprived, listless, headachy, and . . . hungry?
Am I alone?
While eating healthy and taking care of our bodies are worthwhile pursuits, clearly this classic, white-knuckled, mean-and-lean approach to the January fitness trap many of us women fall into is missing something. (You think?) Where is God in how I watch my weight? How does Christ fit into my New Year’s fitness resolutions?
I’ll confess that if I could, I’d sleep in every day, never work out, and lounge around in stretchy pants that allow me to eat takeout Thai curry all day long. For me, staying in shape must be a deliberate commitment. But even when I have dieted and exercised, the minute I let myself take a break from the weight room, the soft flesh would creep back. Then I’d feel like I’d failed, and even if it was just a tiny bit, it was enough for the feeling of failure to take root and turn into stress and guilt. I am not proud to share it, but I have even struggled with hatred toward my body—I’ve felt my heart sink when I see too-thick arms in a photo and have cringed when I’ve felt an extra inch or two of my tummy fold over on itself. Why did my body stress me out so much?
About two years ago I had an experience that changed the way I think about my body. I was reading Philippians in my Bible study and came across chapter 4:6–7: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” I had read this verse before, but my heart raced as if I was reading it for the first time. Do not be anxious, about anything? Really? Could Paul mean it? Writing from prison, Paul had so much more than a little belly fat to worry about! Could it be that I was allowing the stress over my body to edge out Christ?