I was a fat kid. I was teased relentlessly for it, and in sixth grade, I discovered this great thing called exercise, and I lost over twenty pounds. It felt like a miracle!
The thing was, though, I was skinny fat. I hated vegetables. I didn’t eat much fruit. And I loved carbs almost as much as I loved fast food. I discovered that I could eat what I wanted to, if I just did enough aerobic exercise. And so I did that, for a really long time. It didn’t matter that I felt yucky as in always, always tired, and that I got headaches constantly. All that seemed to matter to me was that I appeared healthy on the outside.
Even as I was destroying myself on the inside.
It caught up to me. Autoimmune diseases are knocking on my door. I’m not that dummy who says, “Huh, how did that happen?” I’ve had a conscience about this for years. For the last decade at least (told you I’ve been doing this for a while), I’ve been feeling guilty. I felt like an addict: after every cheeseburger and French fries from McDonald’s that I consumed, I’d tell myself it was for the last time. Next time I was hungry, I’d eat a carrot. Except I didn’t.
Joint pain, fatigue, and abnormal blood tests made me change my life around. I eat healthy now. Not that I didn’t throw a million tantrums in the grocery store when I realized EVERYTHING I ate before had tons of sugar, gluten, or chemicals in it. The first three months were the hardest, but I’d allow myself one cheat day a week, and I discovered after eating clean, I no longer liked the processed junk. I no longer understand why I liked it to begin with. And I feel amazing. I feel young, even if the date on my license tells me that I’m not.
My eating habits have reflected my spiritual life more times than I’d like to admit. I’d nurse that anger, focus on the negatives rather than the positives, focus on myself rather than consider anyone else’s needs, and overall let myself slip into habits that I knew weren’t necessarily practices I was proud of. But I still went to church. I still read my Bible. I still prayed (if praying, “Please let this crazy annoying driver in front of me turn left while I turn right” counts).
Semi healthy on the outside.
While decaying on the inside.
If doing the wrong thing makes us feel so horrible, and doing the right thing makes us feel so amazing, why do we keep chasing the wrong choices? For me, it was about habit. And comfort. Familiarity makes me feel safe. And, to be brutally honest, because I am, you know, incredibly lazy. So much so that it sometimes frightens me.
Creating my own illnesses scared me straight. I realized I was poisoning myself by being so lazy that I wouldn’t look up new recipes or buy unfamiliar produce or try something new. And each time I go out of my comfort zone and smile at a stranger and ask them about their day or do something selfless, I understand that my spiritual life is the same type of thing. While I may know what nourishes my body, it does no good until it is what I choose to consume. And while I may know the difference between wrong and right, it doesn’t do any good until I choose to engage in the better choices.
I don’t want to be fake. I want to be as real as I can be from my soul outward, and I want to shine a light that makes other lives better. Religious practices mean nothing if you aren’t communicating with the Savior and putting yourself out there as His vessel. What is right isn’t always easy. But it is always worth it.
But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:25 (NIV)
Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins