Saturday, October 3, 2009

Eat, Pray, Grow

I announced about 6 weeks ago that I was changing my lifestyle habits. The old Sarah was gone forever and the new Sarah was now here. I was going to eat healthy, exercise, banish all my physical ailments and hopefully, live to 100. I had read a book by Joyce Meyer that taught me how to do it, step by step, and I was ready for a change. So Tuesday of this week I was at Applebees with my sister-in-law, Kirsti. My order arrived and she dubiously looked at my bacon cheeseburger and asked, "Is that ok by your book?" I assured her that since it was a whole wheat bun and I was drinking water, the meal balanced itself out. I'd like to think so, anyway!

I haven't done too terribly, although I'm not doing as well as I did at the beginning. I still haven't got the exercise thing down yet. I just cannot make myself get up before 7, dress, and walk in the cold. I have tried it and tried but I'm not a functional human being until about 7:30! I normally get up at 7 to make Paul's breakfast, but I'm not talking and I prefer to work without lights (he always flips them on and makes me growl internally. He says, "You can't cook in the dark!" You wanna bet?) It's really getting too cold to go outside anyway at that time of day. I want to look for something I could do with the tv - maybe an exercise video where I could use handweights and get in shape that way. These tummy rings and bulges aren't going to go away without some form of exercise. I may actually have to break down and start doing sit-ups. Oh, my stomach hurts just to think about it! Foodwise, I'm doing better, bacon cheeseburgers aside. I'm eating more fruits and veggies and I'm carefully considering almost everything I put in my mouth. I'm limiting portions. I've drastically cut down the amount of pop I drink. I still have a chocolate stash, though! I'm not giving up all my vices!

And yeah, I'm feeling better. When I really "fall off the wagon" I can tell now and it isn't pleasant. My body has gotten a taste of what true health looks like and it won't let me go back to the way things were.

I plagiarized the title of this post from an article in the last issue of Today's Christian Woman. I thought it was really interesting that this article came out just when I was attempting to make changes in my own physical life. The author is Sandra Byrd and she talked about how a developing a blocked artery forced her to make some radical lifestyle changes in her diet and exercise activity. And then she compared some of her lifestyle activities to things in the spiritual realm. I loved it! This article really spoke to me and I think I've read it at least three times already. I'm going to share some of the comparisons she came up with.

How We Eat: The author talked about how she was always in a hurry (sounds familiar) and so she stocked up on quick foods - lots of prepackaged items for lots of quick convenience (please don't count the frozen pizzas in my freezer!). Even when she and her family could actually sit down for a meal together, they were often up and running out the door within 15 minutes to get to the next activity. She compared that to her spiritual diet, saying that instead of savoring and pacing out her Bible study lessons, she'd often be cramming them in the night before Bible study, just so she could have all her blanks filled. I've been there! It's certainly better to prepare balanced meals and to eat them slowly and it's definitely better to digest slowly and savor the Word of God.

The author also compared the number of hours that she spent reading books or talking with friends vs studying the Bible or praying. Most of the books she was reading were good books and designed to complement Bible study. They "tasted" good and to a certain degree, nourished her soul. But she says it was "pre-digested" and didn't require her soul to do any hard work. For years I have taken vitamins, hoping they would compensate for my poor diet. But like books about God and the Bible, supplements are only supposed to supplement good nutrition, whether it be for our physical bodies or for our souls. Nothing compares to actually studying God's Word and spending time in prayer with Him.

What We Eat: I'm a sugar junkie - I admit it. My sweet tooth is huge. But one thing I have noticed is that as I have reduced the amount of refined sugar that I am ingesting, natural sweeteners, like in fruit, are becoming more appealing to me. In our spiritual life, it's very easy to insist on "sugary" experiences - immediate answers to prayer, great insights, "mountain-top" type of spiritual experiences, etc. But the author of this article points out that we need to develop a taste for simple spiritual experiences - Bible reading, daily prayer, and "long-haul trust without instant answers." I like that! She also talked about how sometimes we get "spiritual brownies", like an immediate answer to prayer, or a huge, unexpected blessing in our life of some sort. If we're only allowing ourselves a sweet treat every once in awhile, it's rarity makes it more special than if we ate the whole plate as soon as the kids went to bed. The sweetness is found in the rarity of the event.

And It's Not Just About Eating: She went on to talk about exercise (ugh!). She quoted an article from the New York Times that says, "Fitness isn't about working out at the gym or running a is important for coping with life's emergencies, big and small, whether it's running to make an airport connection or fleeing a burning building." The point of exercise isn't just to look good (although I'm sure hoping to see a reduction in my body fat if I'm going to put in that kind of effort!). And our spiritual muscles aren't to be used to make us look good at Bible study or in conversations with other Christians. They are what's going to help us endure when testing comes and what will give us the strength to flee sin in times of temptation.

One thing I am learning and one thing this article pointed out, is that there are no overnight cures. I'm not going to get healthy and fit overnight. It's a slow lifestyle change. And my spiritual life isn't going to develop overnight either. It's a slow and steady marathon. There are going to be times that I eat way too many greasy and fatty foods. I may continue to pull the covers over my head instead of getting up to do a work out. And I'm going to go through periods where I don't want to read my Bible and I'm going to sin. But as I make an effort with my physical body to make good, healthy choices, I'm going to also make more of an effort with my spiritual life to make the same choices. Neither are going to be what I always want to do. But they are what I what I need to do. And if I keep practicing and making good choices for a long enough time, I may just find myself eventually wanting to do the right thing. And the result will be a healthier and happier me, inside and out!

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