I started shedding tears over the number on the scale very early in life. In fact, I was following diets that involved lettuce with salt sprinkled on it, cans of tuna, and carrot sticks when I was in elementary school.
Suffice it to say that I worried about my weight my entire life. I compared myself with others my age and feared I would never be pretty enough for someone to choose me.
The thing about it was that I never had a “weight problem” according to anyone but the one looking back at me in the mirror. I’m not super thin but I’ve never been obese. I guess you could say I’ve always been average, and that should’ve been fine. But it wasn’t, and it consumed me.
I was raised in a Christian home, and I chose to follow Jesus at an early age. I heard and sang “Jesus Loves Me” more times than I can count. But there was some disconnect. I would have told you I believed it, but at the same time I was asking God why He hadn’t made me thin or pretty. I was consumed with negative thoughts about my body and my reflection in the mirror as well as my worth to anyone.
I could be free...really?
It took many years of inward battles and lots of prayers to reach a point when I realized I could be free of the noise in my head that constantly tore me down.
The first thing I had to do was acknowledge that this was actually a pride issue. I would’ve told you I suffered from low self-esteem and low self-worth, but at the same time my thoughts were consumed with how I (huge emphasis on I) looked.
It wasn’t until I was nearly 40 years old and read a book that included the scripture Deuteronomy 2:3 when I started finding freedom from this lifelong struggle.
You have circled this mountain long enough; turn northward
I realized that I had been dealing with this struggle for years, too many years. I had wanted freedom from this. I had prayed and prayed for it, but I never let it go. Until I did. That verse was the turning point. I had to get out of that desert and go a different way. The irony was not lost on me that the Israelites had wandered 40 years, and here was turning 40.
And so my new journey began.
I pursued this freedom daily. And I still do. I still have to spend morning quiet time to keep my mindset right as I approach my healthy living. The transformation didn’t happen on the outside. It was a transformation that needed to happen on the inside.
It started with believing I am okay as I am.
In fact, I’m more than okay. I practice a healthy lifestyle - drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet - but I had to believe deep inside that God didn’t make a mistake in how He created me.
I don’t need to work hard to alter this body, He simply asks that I be a good steward with the body He entrusted to me.
I had to stop comparing myself to others.
That included not reading all the magazine articles about how to get a flat belly in 5 days or how to tighten and tone this or that area of the body. I started celebrating how He made me unique and that’s better than looking like someone else.
Listen to my body
I do love my daily workout. I’m a runner and cyclist. I’ve always identified as a cardio junkie. But even my workouts were forced at times. I felt like I must exercise a certain amount of time or multiple times a day so I could justify eating something. Calories in, calories out was my motto. I had to let go of that. I had to begin to listen to my body and not push hard through injury or to the point of injury. And one thirty minute workout most days is plenty. I don’t have to exercise an hour to make it count.
You see, healthy living is all about mindset. Our approach makes all the difference. It’s important to be able to see ourselves as God does. He created us after all. He thinks you and I are perfect. He just asks that we take care of this one life, this one body, that He’s given us.
We have to view our healthy choices in a positive way not a negative way. That means that we look at regular exercise as an opportunity to celebrate our bodies and what they can do. It means that we see eating healthy foods as a way to fuel our bodies so we’ll have the energy necessary to do all the things and to enjoy a full life.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen
Changing your mindset about healthy living from one of negative self-image and that is diet focused isn’t something that happens overnight. In fact, it’s something that I still work on daily. Acknowledging the need to change and committing to it is the first step. Then it becomes a daily practice of filling your mind with positive words. Whether you choose scripture and prayer or affirmations and meditation, it’s up to you.
The point is to focus on the unique way that you have been made and then honor what you’ve been entrusted with.
In a simple sentence, I say that “I help women live fit and free.” Well, what does that mean? It means that I help you develop a healthy life that is sustainable so that you are free to live the life God has designed for you.
I wasted too many years and too many tears worrying about how I looked and what I needed to do to lose those last five pounds. I thought that if I could just lose a little weight then I could focus on something else and start enjoying life. Well, that’s not how it works.
We have this one body and this one life to live and it’s ready for us now. We don’t need to change our body, we just need to change our mindset.
Marsha Apsley is a counselor and is passionate about helping women live fit and free. She does this by focusing on whole person health and wellness with an emphasis on how women feel about themselves. She believes that a healthy lifestyle needs to be built on a firm foundation of faith. She is a wife and mom of two sons. She loves to run and bike and enjoys a little bit of chocolate and plenty of coffee everyday. For more support and encouragement on your faith and fitness journey, please visit her website www.marshaapsley.com or find her on social media @marshaapsley