Hey guys! Soo I was planning to share this much earlier (aka April), but things got in the way and my work commitments were ramping up. But I’ve finally found some time to write this piece, and I hope it will be a meaningful one.
Being - and looking - fit is “in” right now. Thinness used to be the body shape that girls would strive for, but I’m glad that things have changed and there are big movements and voices all across the world that support body positivity and the fact that every body is a good body. I’m glad that I live in a world that celebrates curves and muscles and stretch marks and bodies of all shapes, colours and sizes.
In this post, I want to delve a little deeper into my personal fitness journey: what I thought being fit meant, my struggles with loving my body, how I met Jesus in the journey, and the workout routine I’ve established that works for me.
misconceptions i had about being fit
As a kid and all throughout my teenage years, I had always thought that being thin was ideal, and being fat was “bad”. I think this is something that society ingrains in us at a young age, to the point that I never questioned why I held such assumptions, how they had even been constructed, and how I could even begin to de-construct them.
I also had a love-hate relationship with working out. I wasn’t a fan of running and found exercising to be such a hassle. I signed up for memberships at my local gyms, only to barely utilise them because the thought of running on the treadmill already tired me out, and I felt intimidated by all that fancy gym equipment. But I did enjoy being active to some extent (I took up tennis in junior college and joined kickboxing classes in university). But I still never felt like I was “thin” or “fit” enough.
my body image struggles
I was pretty skinny in secondary school. But I remember a classmate saying to me once, “You seem to have put on weight” during the school holidays. I remember feeling embarrassed and brushing his comment off, but I suppose it must’ve had some impact since I can still remember it so clearly.
The thing is, I was at a healthy weight for my age at the time. Putting on a bit of weight did not mean I had become fat or even overweight. But yet, an innocent, casual comment like that made me feel like I had been judged, as if my body was now “ugly”.
In my first full-time job, I started counting my calories to ensure that I never went above my daily calorie limit. I would share a plate of food with my colleague so that I would not over-eat. Doing all this diligently did help me not to put on weight, but it was all so restrictive and it felt like I had to control my food consumption all the time (and believe me, I love eating).
In my second job, I worked as a writer for a lifestyle website. An opportunity came up to review a juice cleanse (a huge fad at the time) for a story . I volunteered because I saw no reason not to, and I wanted to see if it really did help in shedding some weight. Let’s just say that I discovered the power of hunger pangs through that experience - I constantly thought of all the food I could finally eat once the juice cleanse was over, and the food I was craving tended to be oily/fried stuff :p On the upside, I did develop a liking for drinking green juices after that.
After that, I moved to work as a writer in a magazine. It was a stressful environment, and I often sat at my desk all day and ate lunch in front of my computer screen frequently. I gained some weight during this period, and I did not like my body one bit.
The culmination of all these experiences led to this realisation: I had a toxic relationship with my body.
I would stare at myself in the mirror and feel repelled by what I saw. I couldn’t think of anything positive to say about my body. And I punished it by stuffing my face with fast food or unhealthy snacks.
finding jesus in the midst of it all
There is so much pressure on us to look a certain way, to appear “desirable”, and to look beautiful. A lot of the time, becoming fitter is tied to these concepts.
But I don’t see being fit as a way of becoming more attractive. Rather, being fit to me now means I am honouring and loving my body for what it is. Being fit is not about achieving a certain body shape, or being fitter than everyone else around me, or showing off my muscles or abs.
Because of this, it’s freed me to choose better foods to consume while indulging in ice cream or potato chips whenever I want to without feeling guilt or shame. It’s empowered me to wear a bikini even if my body isn’t in good enough shape. It’s allowed me to give myself permission to celebrate the times I can actually see my abs peeking out, and permission to continue loving and accepting myself when they disappear the next day.
This renewed perspective on fitness came about because I developed a right understanding of who I am in God, and who God says I am.
This Bible passage describes how intimately known we are and how every part of our bodies were so carefully stitched and created by God:
Another verse in the Bible again declares that we are God’s masterpiece:
I think the biggest struggle I had with all these verses was actually believing them. But once I recognised who I was in God, and once I allowed myself to trust in these God-given words, a huge burden was lifted. I didn’t have to abide by cultural and societal standards of what a “good” body was. I didn’t need my body to look a certain way or be something “more” or “better”.
Nonetheless, my toxic relationship with my body has not fully disappeared. Even now, there are times I still think and speak negatively of my body.
But when those thoughts come, I choose to declare His truths over them. And because of Him, I can say:
My body is good, because a good God made it.
My body may be imperfect, but I am learning to love it.
I love my body for what it is, right now in this moment.
my workout routine
As mentioned previously, I had a love-hate relationship with fitness. But all that changed when I went for my first barre class in 2016. The workout was fun and challenging, and I enjoyed the music and the variety of exercises during the one-hour class. I went for a 10-day trial, then took the plunge and bought a 50-class pack. Yup, that’s how much I loved it!
Since moving to Vancouver in 2017, I’ve been to most of the barre studios here (read my review of Pure Barre, Barre Fitness and more). In late 2018, I signed up with a studio that offered barre, HIIT and stretch classes so I could get a total body workout and pick up good stretching techniques too. I found my body getting stronger and fitter through this experience, and also had a newfound appreciation for how amazing my body was after every killer workout I put it through.
These days, I try to work out at least three times a week with a high-impact workout, a low-impact workout, and stretching or yoga. I fully consider going for a hike exercise too, so it’s always fun to plan for one and enjoy fresh air, sunshine and good company.
I hope my story will encourage you to develop a different perspective about getting fit, and help you to introduce new thought patterns about your body too.
My prayer is that we learn to love our bodies instead of punishing or demeaning them; that we see fitness in a more positive and less comparative light; and that we allow God to continue renewing our minds so that we can let go of toxic thoughts about our bodies.
I leave you with these powerful words by BC-based therapist/researcher Hillary McBride:
What are your thoughts on how faith influences fitness? How have you struggled in loving and accepting your body?
pin for later!