Sitting with a friend of mine, I was roughly 6 months pregnant with my 4th baby. I was sharing with him that I was really struggling trying to teach my fitness classes because of an injury caused by a car accident months earlier that was being amplified by loose ligaments in pregnancy. He said, “Maybe you should stop teaching and just rest.” Frowning my eyebrows, it sounded like a terrible idea to me. “I don’t want to just stop exercising. I don’t want to be a whale.” His response was hilarious (not intentionally), but it was also insightful later. He said, “You were meant to be a whale.” Put that on a maternity shirt and see if it sells. Eyebrows raised, my chin tucked down and before he could pull his foot out of his mouth I said, “I know what you meant. Pregnant moms get bigger and that’s ok.” Of course, I made fun of him for weeks, but later, when we were going over the conversation again, he said to me, “Why are you worried about it?” I had to stop and think for a minute to formulate my answer. My answer was simple, but deep and I really didn’t want to “go there.” “I guess I have a fear of being fat.”
That insight was not a new revelation to me, but it was one that I excused myself from because I work in the fitness industry. I have wrongly believed it was appropriate for me to hold myself to higher standards for the sake of being a role model. The fitness industry and the media support this sort of thinking. How motivating would it be to have a “fat” trainer? I thought I’d fail my clients and disappoint them if I gained too much weight. And really, I thought they might discredit by ability to do my job well. Fear. That’s the easiest way to summarize my reasoning. Fear.
You’re thinking, “Why would she lose friends for sharing this personal thought?” It’s because I think many of you reading this are motivated more by fear than by love…love for life, love for your body, love for your uniqueness, love for God. I think many of you and so many others on Facebook, the internet and in our community are driven to eat healthy, detox, eat organic, avoid chemicals, exercise, avoid vaccines because of fear. When fear, anxiety, worry or the need to control is the motivation for making healthy choices, it’s wrong….even if the action itself is “good.” There will be very little lasting long-term benefits from those “healthy choices” if the motivation and drive behind them is out of fear. In fact, I am wagering to say that depression, discouragement, disillusionment and defeat will reign when life is lived with the need to control as the platform.
Before you get your panties in a knot, I am not saying that ALL of you are driven by fear or maybe not ALL of your choices, but if you take a second to think about why you have chosen to eat one way or another you might find fear is hiding behind a great facade of a “desire to be healthy.” Hear this…I am not saying that eating organically, eating Paleo, avoiding chemicals or detoxing is not healthy or that the research behind may support good reason for it. But did you come about the decision based on your desire to take care of you because you’re worth it or because you are afraid of getting cancer from eating GMO’s? Do you eat healthy because you know that you will have more energy to live out your purpose in life or because you feel fat and ugly and are insecure every time you leave the house in shorts (that’s fear of what others think)?
I’ve been in the fitness industry for 16 years and never have I been so agitated by all of the information out there for “healthy living”, exercise and “nutrition.” I’ve been through the “fat free” years, the Atikins years, and the Weight Watchers (point banking) theories. I’ve seen crazy trends and read silly articles, but I’ve been so bothered by the rampant spreading of information about detoxing, eating organically, the chemicals in our foods and all of the “how to” articles that suggest how it will save your life and your kids’ lives too if you change. Again, those things in isolation are not bad things and will probably give you GREAT benefits. I think I figured out the reason for my agitation. It’s because BEHIND those articles is an undertone of fear, anxiety, worry. There is a belief that we have some form of control. “Control” is an illusion. We cannot determine the course of the wind, but we can adjust the sails. We have a responsibility to steward or take care of what is given to us so yes, we SHOULD be looking for ways we can take care of our body, but it should be out of honor, respect and appreciation for your life and life itself NOT because of a fear of the toxicity in your body and environment or because of the diseases you may get if you keep drinking milk that came from cows given growth hormones.
I hope I am making my point clear. We are not in control. We do not decide when we die. We do not decide how we die. We CAN decide to take care of our bodies for however long we get to have them, but it’s JUST as important to not let the fear, lack of control, worry, or anxiety drive us. I believe these factors are more toxic than a pesticide on your apple could ever be.
I am betting some of you have read this much and thought to yourself, “Huh, that sound like my sister” or “That’s not me, good thing.” I would’ve said that about a year ago. I would’ve been honest enough to admit that there have been times in my life when it was very clear that fear or the need to control lead me to all kinds of anxiety, worry and discouragement, but I thought I was over that. No, it just hides itself in different ways. We’ve excused ourselves by hiding behind a seemingly good principle. For example, it seems like a good principle that a trainer should be a good example or role model of health. Yes, this is true. But does health come in a specific package that looks a certain way? No, it does not. Does pregnancy affect every body the same and can you decide if I’ve been healthy by how much weight I’ve gained? Not necessarily. Is it more healthy for me to not exercise to allow my injuries to heal and keep my baby safe? In this case, yes, it was. My fear was driving me to believe differently and I’m asking you to sort through your beliefs. What is driving your choices? Do you read articles and get a sense of dread about all of the things you’re not doing? Do you feel pressure to change something because of all of the negative press?
So, what’s the right way to look at this? I am still learning. I am still discovering. I am thankful that God is gentle in revealing all of the little hidden ways in which I have still not grasped truth. But what’s awesome about that is that He is more concerned about the process of learning and becoming than He is about the end result. Otherwise, He’d fast forward us to where we should be in the first place. It’s a journey…the destination is not the point. It takes faith to admit that you don’t have control, but it brings freedom. Instead of seeing our life like car where we fill it with gas, we step on the pedals and we steer it in the direction we want to go, it is much more like that sailboat. We make sure the boat is water ready and the sails are ready to catch the wind. Then, we wait for the wind. Sometimes, it’s still. Sometimes, it’s a light breeze. Sometimes, it’s a storm. We don’t control the kind of wind that comes our way, we just adjust the sails and take it as it comes.
Commit to this with me: be open to how you are letting fear or a need to control persuade your choices. Be humble and willing to let go. Be ok with feeling vulnerable and a little out of control, but rest assured that because God is in control, you don’t have to act crazy…you can rest in that. Admit that fear is toxic…to your mind and to your soul which affects your body! The reverse is true. Faith and hope are healing for the body. Acceptance is satisfying. Put things in right order. Love yourself and understand how much you are loved. Then, let that drive your choices for better health.