“Treat your body like an instrument—not an ornament.” —Gary Thomas
Our society struggles to find a healthy image of the human body.
On one end, we obsess over it. Americans alone spend over $10 billion dollars/year on plastic surgery. New diet fads surface and fade away at a dizzying pace. Magazine covers promise 6-pack abs in grocery store check-out aisles. The average woman spends 2 weeks a year on her appearance. And 77 percent of adult women complain about their physical appearance.
And yet, despite all the cultural fixation on beauty and outward appearance, 60% of Americans are either overweight or obese. Only one in five adults meet federal guidelines for both aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening exercise. We spend over $100 billion dollars/year on fast food and average 34 hours/week watching television. Even more of us see little connection between our physical bodies and the lives that we lead.
Both views lead to disastrous outcomes. On one hand, an over-infatuation with the body leads to an unhealthy relationship with it. We base our happiness on our physical appearance or use it as a means to impress others. But an unconcerned, dismissive image of the human body leads to an unhealthy lifestyle with unhealthy choices.
What approach might we take that balances both and keeps our physical bodies in proper regard? Or better yet, what perspective might motivate us to care for our bodies properly without becoming obsessive over it?
The key, I believe, is to understand our physical bodies are the instruments through which we accomplish our unique purpose in this world. (tweet that)
Our one physical body represents an important tool to accomplish important good works. In this way, they must matter to us.
No matter what our greatest pursuit is in life, our physical bodies are essential to accomplishing it. Whether I desire to be a good parent, a spiritual mentor, a world-traveler, a successful businessperson, or any combination of the above, my body is either an asset or liability.
This is an important change in our thinking. We do not care for our bodies simply for vanity’s sake or to fill a void within us. We care for our bodies so we can more effectively accomplish what we most want to accomplish with our lives.
This approach motivates us to make healthy choices in a healthy context.
How then, specifically, might we care for our bodies to keep them both healthy and effective? Consider these 7 intentional steps:
1. Fuel properly. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Their contribution to healthy eating cannot be overstated. The goal in our home is to make meat the side dish rather than the main dish.
2. Hydrate sufficiently. Every system in your body depends on water. According to the Mayo Clinic, you body probably needs 9-13 cups of fluid each day (depending on your gender, size, and activity level). Consider 8 glasses of water each day as a really good place to start. If you need some extra motivation, read this: Top 10 Things I Learned Drinking Only Water for a Month.
3. Exercise frequently. The CDC recommends 150 minutes/week of aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week—that’s just a bit more than one full-length movie and sitcom. If you are intentional about getting exercise, you are meeting this suggestion. If you are not intentional about getting exercise, you should probably start.
4. Rest regularly. Your body needs rest. Get some each week.
5. Eliminate unhealthy habits strategically. Eat less junk food. Drink less alcohol. Smoke fewer cigarettes. Read more labels.
6. Don’t compare foolishly. Your body is unique and your goals are unique. Care for your body as an instrument through which to accomplish your unique purpose—not as something to be compared to others.
7. Make changes slowly. Pick one item from this list you can improve upon. Start there. And experience some victories before moving on to the next.