New Year’s Resolutions are upon us! And one of the most common resolutions has to do with health.
That’s probably appropriate, because sooner or later, you are going to have to deal with your health.
Over the last three years, I’ve increasingly been confronted with the fact that I don’t move enough. My back kept going out–specifically my lower back. When my husband and I would go for hikes, I’d find that about 45 minutes in I’d be in incredible pain. And I thought to myself–I don’t want to live like this.
I started going to a massage therapist, and that would help temporarily. But the problem would return, because it stemmed from two things: how I sat during the day, and how I would stand when I did stand. I didn’t have a strong core, and my posture was all wrong.
After vowing for years that I would exercise more, I’ve finally started. I’m not doing high intensity stuff or anything. It’s more just an awful lot of stretching and a lot of core strengthening. And when we were in Costa Rica in December, I was able to hike without too much pain. My neck has stopped hurting. And my headaches have decreased.
I’m in my 40s. I could skate by with terrible posture in my 20s and 30s. But not anymore.
Our bad habits catch up to us.
Often they do so very slowly–we stop being able to walk as far, and then when we stop exercising as much, our endurance gets even worse. The idea of running out to the park with the kids starts to seem like so much work, so we become homebodies. Maybe your husband teaches your kids to ride bikes, while yours sits, gathering dust, in the basement. Because you just can’t keep up with the kids anymore.
You tell yourself that it’s just that they have more energy because they’re younger. A lot of your friends find all of this tiring, too. You’re not alone.
And so your life just gets more and more sedentary.
Your weight starts to creep up–maybe 5 pounds a year. But over 10 years, that’s 50 pounds. Over 20, it’s 100 pounds. Now moving becomes even harder. And so the downward spiral accelerates.
Each Wednesday in a month I like to talk about a particular marriage subject. And for the new year, I want to ask us this question: Are your daily habits preventing you from living a big life?
I believe that God created us for so much. We were meant to live in relationship with others. We were meant to have a big impact on this earth. In fact, there are specific things that God has planned, just for you individually!
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
But what if your daily habits are preventing you from living out the plan that He has for you? I’ll be talking later this month about time wasters, video games, and even pornography. But this week, over the next three days, I’d like to talk about our approach to health.
What if God has given you an amazing marriage, but you just aren’t able to enjoy it to the fullest extent because you don’t have the energy to do things together anymore, and sex has even become more difficult because of the excess weight that you’re carrying? This stuff matters.
When I was in Costa Rica last month, I saw this plant:
It was beautiful. I couldn’t believe how big it was. Can you tell what it is? (I know my ridiculous face is so distracting, but just look at the flower in the background.)
Yep. It’s a poinsetta plant. That spindly little thing they sell at grocery stores around Christmas, that often loses all of its leaves and looks kind of pathetic by the time December 25 rolls around. THIS, apparently, is what a poinsetta is supposed to look like, in its ideal state.
That’s what I’m talking about. Does your life resemble the spindly poinsetta, or the real poinsetta? Many of us are living very small lives. We’re still blooming, and we’re still pretty, but we’re not thriving the way we were meant to, because we aren’t giving ourselves the right conditions.
It’s very difficult to talk about weight in a healthy way.
I understand that some women have heard body shaming issues their whole lives, and this has triggered eating disorders. I am in no way trying to say that only a certain body type is acceptable, or that a husband has the right to get upset if you’ve gained weight. In fact, I once really went off on a commenter on this blog who said that his wife had “defrauded” him because she had gained 25 pounds since they married. That’s ridiculous. We do gain weight as we age, and especially after we have kids!
It is not my intention to “fat shame”. And I know that many of you are already feeling badly enough about yourselves.
But can I say something a little harsh?
Feeling badly will do no one any good.
And sometimes we excuse ourselves from addressing the issue because we say, “this is making me feel badly about myself, and I’m not supposed to feel badly about myself, so I’m going to stop thinking about it.”
But this is not about what you look like. This is about how we use one of the most precious resources we have–our bodies. It is with our bodies that we hug our children. It is with our bodies that we make love to our husbands. It is our bodies that carry us as we serve others.
I had to start stretching and exercising, every single day, just to stop the pain. I have to train myself to get up and move at least every hour when I’m working, or else I get headaches, largely from the muscles in my neck tensing and then those muscles triggering spasms all around my skull, through my temples, and into my eyes. It’s a huge hassle. But I simply don’t have a choice if I want to enjoy life and be able to have the energy to do what I want to do.
Feeling badly about it won’t do any good at all.
But making a plan will.
How to Think Differently About Getting Healthy
The main thing is this: Change your habits. I’ve been reading a book called Atomic Habits which has changed the way I think about this.
The author opens the book by talking about the British cycling team in the 90s, who were just so terrible the government was thinking of pulling funding. Then they got a new coach, who simply analyzed every tiny thing that went into cycling well, and decided that they would make each and every thing 1% better. And that team ended up becoming the best in the world, and winning the Tour de France.
It often isn’t huge changes that make the biggest difference. It’s taking everything you do and try to improve it by 1% all the time. So you don’t have to change your complete diet and start going to the gym 9 times a week and master yoga. But do something more today than you did yesterday. And do it repeatedly, in the same way, everyday.
I haven’t started a major exercise routine to help with my back. I’m doing small things, bit by bit, everyday. And I’m building up. Once you add small habits, it’s easy to build on them. And I’ve managed to keep going, far more than I have at other times in my life, for two reasons:
- I’m starting small, addressing small changes
- I know that if I don’t do this, the pain will get worse
I’m being realistic about what I can do. But I’m also being realistic about what will happen if I do nothing.
Many marriage problems are caused by poor health.
When you don’t sleep well, you get irritable and cranky. When you don’t eat a well-balanced diet, you get lethargic and you’re low on energy, and often burdened by headaches. When you carry too much excess weight, you don’t have energy to do the kinds of activities that could help you have fun and build your friendship. When you get out of shape, your libido often drops.
All of these things compound on each other.
Maybe one of the best ways to love your spouse this year, and to treat yourself right, is to decide to make small changes to your health.
Sometimes I think women resist doing this because we can feel righteous, saying things like “I know that beauty is on the inside”, or “I’m not going to give in to our culture’s influence, and I’m going to love myself just as I am!”
No one is saying that beauty is not on the inside, or that you shouldn’t love yourself. But can I just ask you to love yourself enough to do the hard work of getting healthy? God has given you these few decades on this earth, and He wants you to live them to the fullest. If you’re married, God has given you a husband to love, both with your heart and with your body. Can you love God enough, and your husband enough, to treat your body well?
Yes, it’s inconvenient. It will mean changing the way you cook. It will mean eventually having to meal plan. It will mean having to work up a sweat. You won’t get to do what you naturally want to do, all the time. But life is not supposed to just be about our comfort. Life is supposed to be about our growth, our potential, our giving.
You’re supposed to be that big poinsetta!
I don’t want to tell you HOW to get healthy; all of us have to find our own systems. So find new habits you can do, that you build on everyday. Start small. Do them repeatedly. And see what happens!
Let me know: Why is it so hard to talk about our relationship with food? What small changes have you made that really add up? Let’s talk in the comments!