It was the summer of 2004. My husband Bill and I had just moved into our home in west Redding, California. We had spent the past 18 years of our lives pouring ourselves into the renewal movement that had taken place in our church. Life was busy, fast-paced, challenging, and exciting at the same time. A lot of nights, our church meetings would last until well past midnight. Then, we would take our tired bodies to a favorite restaurant and eat big meals just before heading home to go to bed. Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I was sacrificing my physical health for the sake of my spiritual health, rather than taking into consideration the importance of both.
It all caught up with me one day in my doctor’s office. Not only was 128 pounds overweight, but I had also developed hypertension, which had run in my family. A fancy word for high blood pressure, hypertension is a condition that causes the arteries to elevate your blood pressure—creating more work and tension for your heart.
As I thought about the road ahead of me, I looked back and remembered when I used to lead a fairly healthy life. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, my husband and I were pastoring a small church in the mountains of Northern California. Bill and I decided to change our diet, based on the nutritional knowledge that we had at the time, and we began to eat healthier. We involved our kids in our choices and began taking our two boys, who were old enough, to the gym to work out with us. Fitness and health became a lifestyle, one that we enjoyed immensely. Finally, I had come to a place where I was comfortable and confident in my body. So, what changed?
As I said, our lives had become very busy as the renewal movement progressed and little by little I had stopped taking care of myself. I was no longer exercising because I felt that I didn’t have the time, and I sacrificed life-giving foods for convenience. Before I knew it, I had gone from a size 5–6 to a size 12–13, in just a few years. Now, here I was in my doctor’s office facing the fact that my lack of self-care had resulted in weight gain and hypertension.
I decided that I didn’t want to resort to taking medications. I had witnessed the struggles of a family member who had taken that path and I knew that there were alternative ways to treat hypertension. I began to do my own research and I found that there is an abundance of health-related information out there. I knew that this was going to require me to lean into the Lord for His guidance and wisdom.
A few months had passed, and though I had made some changes in my lifestyle, they were not the right ones. One morning, as I began to go about my day, I heard the Lord say to me while I was in the kitchen, “I want you to get into shape because I need you around for the long haul.” I knew then that a drastic change needed to be made in my life. I couldn’t do enough to just get by; I needed to make changes that would fully sustain me. This became my reason “why.”
When people approach me searching for advice on the best way to get started on a healthy lifestyle, they expect me to tell them to cut out all sugar from their diet or to eat their weight in fruit and vegetables. While I do advise eliminating sugar and eating a fair amount of green, leafy vegetables, my first piece of advice is to find the reason “why” they are embarking on this journey.
Ask yourself this—Why do you want to get healthy? Why do you want to be strong? Why do you want to lose weight? I think it’s important to know why you are doing what you are doing. When the Lord spoke to me that morning, years ago in my kitchen, what He said became my “why.” I want to become healthy because I want to be around for the long haul. More times than I can count, remembering my “why” has given me the strength to push forward on my journey. It’s much easier to say no to a milkshake, a burger with a large side of fries and my old beloved friend, the donut, because I know that they won’t help me stay true to my “why.”
I remember one particular morning when I was reluctantly driving to the gym and everything inside of me wanted to turn my car around, go home and plop down in front of my television. To be honest, if I hadn’t had a meeting with my trainer that day; I don’t think I would have made it to the gym. But, on my drive there I was reminded of my “why.” I thought back to the day in my kitchen, and the way it felt when God told me so very clearly that He wanted me around for the long haul. Remembering His words and the way that they had resonated with my spirit, I made the decision to give my all at the gym that day. It ended up being one of my best workouts ever. I believe that my willingness to persevere pleased the heart of God and in turn He partnered with my strength.
As you begin your own journey, I can’t stress enough the importance of finding your “why.” I promise you that it will help get you through many challenges along the way. Maybe you want to become healthier because you’d like to be able to walk your daughter down the aisle at her wedding, or maybe you want your children to experience what it’s like to have a parent who can play with them. Everyone has a different “why.” Don’t wait until you are sick and the doctor has to give you your “why.” Find your “why” with God, now.